Alignment, Good, and Evil

So, when I switched to my home-brew rules I left the old and problematic AD&D alignment system behind as being “not realistic enough” and switched over to the Paladium RPG’s system of alignments that I found much more useful because of the guidelines given as to what people with certain ethos would actually act like and would do under various circumstances. And then, over time, I ended up expanding out the PRPG style of Ethos into a nine-fold list that replicated (in some ways) the old AD&D system.

But as I start looking at my campaign world I realized that I sort of wanted to either return to the AD&D system or somehow merge the revised Ethos system with the AD&D alignment system.

I think the merge is the best answer, because the original AD&D system was so black-and-white in some ways that it really made running alignments or figuring out how it would approach some regularly encountered dilemmas (poison, torture, lying, etc) difficult at best – and the PRPG system explicitly told you how the various Ethos would handle these situations.

What I’m finding amusing is just how much words matter (HAH! Relational Frame Theory and Narrative Construction proves itself again…) and when you think about Ash the NPC as “Lawful Evil” instead of “Abberent” it really puts a whole new spin on that character and his attitudes towards everything. In “the good old days” I usually had an NPC or two that ran around with the party, and they were invariably Neutral Good and provided a bit a moral compass (or goad) for the players – the one notable exception was a True Neutral mage who ended up becoming the arguably the most powerful mage in history and his power-focused drive was a real shock to a group that was pretty “good” for the most part.

It is also an interesting comment on how much my campaign changed after I changed the game I was using to run it – it became a much more morally grey. It didn’t immediately do this. In retrospect I can see how my divorce had a huge impact on that – I was not exactly a happy camper there for a couple of years. But I had always looked at my fantasy game as a bit of morality play for the players t o explore, and I really explored what evil is comprised of and what makes acts or people evil – plus additional layers of Lovecraftian existential amorality – in the context of the game world.

One of the major plot-points of the metaplot revolved around the idea there are things out there (ala GOO’s – “Great Old Ones” like Cthulhu) that are so evil or so bad that pretty much everyone, Good, Evil, and Neutral will band together to fight it.


Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Alignment, Good, and Evil

  1. 1d30

    There’s an interesting spin on alignment out there that has the Law-Chaos axis focused on a great cosmic struggle, with Good and Evil being the down-home morality of people. So if you’re Good you will tend to be selfless and giving and caring, while Evils are selfish and cruel and greedy. Lawfuls are the ones aligned with humanity and civilization, while Chaotics are aligned with monsters and the Wilderness (or else the foreign – the fairy realm or the great star empire or Cthulhu or whatever).

    In this scheme, most PCs will be Lawful or Neutral, and any Chaotics in the group are the strangers and mysterious huntsmen etc. They might be Good or Evil or Neutral.

    When some great Evil surfaces, such as an Evil Queen of Elfland, all the Good folk may band together. The Lawful Goods will especially fight against her, and many Chaotic Good Elves might too. But Evils will tend to work for her, especially the Chaotic Evil Elves and possibly many Lawful Evil Humans. It’s like you have zero, one, or two ties of alliance or enmity to the Evil Elf Queen. Neutrals of course have fewer ties of alliance or enmity and so participate at a reduced intensity.

    • Another interesting point in AD&D is “good/evil” as opposed to “Good/Evil” – the idea that you can be good or evil but not so strongly that you register on a Detect Good/Evil spell. I do wish there was a more elegant way to model this ion the system.

      In my own world I end up kind of modeling this with a third axis rated along “Otherness” – Demons are Other, Undead are Other, Cthulhu is Other – Elementals are less Other, Elves even less Other, Dwarves and Gnomes barely other at all. I don’t have any specific mechanic to replicate it, it just comes out in the way things are set up and described. But that is how you can have the Lawful Evil Shadow Elves of the Shadowlands fighting the same fight that thier Chaotic Good Wood Elf brethren of the Golden Wood are fighting – against the incredibly bad for eveyone minions of the Dearth (undead, demons, etc). But it also preserves the sense of incredible ideological (and practical) differences in how the nominal allies pursue the ‘War Without End”.

      Otherness is the sense of how in touch you are with things not of the Mortal Realms – and that makes you suspect in many people’s eyes – unless of the course you are touched by an Other that they approve of (ala Paladins, etc).

      I’m also reminded of a comment by a player and GM I used to know that said that while “normal folks” tended toward extremes (LG, CG, LE, CE) as they grew older and became reactionary and polarized, mages tended towards TN as they were forced into a more mediated view of the universe by the study of magic. I’ve always liked this and it has stayed with me for years now.


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