Alignment as an Indicator

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Alignment as an Indicator

Postby teh603 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 8:37 am

I'm not really sure where this goes, so I'm putting it here. If there's a better place, feel free to move it.

I got to thinking about SWSE's Dark Side Point system, and how its more similar to the White Wolf Morality system than the D&D "alignment straightjacket." The DSP system seems to be pretty good, but it only goes in one direction and assumes that a character starts at 100% light and (for some characters at least) progresses to 100% dark. The alignment straightjacket implies that thoughts and words are more important than actions. So ultimately both systems are not that realistic.

SWSE punished characters who strayed from 100% light by not letting them get force point bonuses on [light side]-tagged powers. By the same token, all it took was one DSP to get access to almost all of what the Dark Side had to offer. Morality is just a straight-out punishment system, designed to destroy a character who doesn't go to extreme lengths to maintain theirs. As for the alignment straightjacket... well, its best put by the example of the Chaotic Good character who does what Chaotic Good is supposed to (standing up for the oppressed, I believe it was) over the course of a level, but is judged as having been acting Lawful Good by the DM. So she alignment leans to Lawful Neutral, and loses about half of the XP needed for her next level. So the player makes a conscious effort to get back to Chaotic Good... and immediately loses the rest of her XP. So she's now a level behind, wondering what the hell is going to happen next, and the other players are probably laughing at her.

So instead of punishing someone for playing their alignment, why not come up with a system that rewards playing their alignment, and rewards taking a side?

There's a series of boxes at the bottom of a character's sheet. (I'd provide a pic, but I'm not sure if board policy allows me to just yet. My posts still have to go thru a moderator for some reason.) There's a center box with a double-headed arrow above it. The counter goes left and right equal to your Wisdom score, with the word Good over the right side and Evil on the left (or Light and Dark in a Star Wars game, you get the idea). Characters generally start at zero, but in some cases can start elsewhere. Members of the Jedi Order would begin eight squares toward the good end, while members of the Sith Order would begin at eight squares toward the evil end.

You indicate where your character is by bubbling in the indicator square that marks their current location, and then erasing its original position. Simple.

Good or evil acts push the indicator left or right. Not good or evil thoughts, but good or evil deeds. Actions speak louder than words, right? Now, what exactly constitutes an evil act is somewhat dependent on the setting. For example, Anikin's indicator moved a square toward evil when he murdered Count Dooku, although Obi-Wan's didn't move at all when he killed Darth Maul in self-defense. In a White Wolf-based setting, a similar self-defense killing is still an evil act.

Cause-effect chains are where intent can matter. If a character does something good for someone, but the desired end result is an evil one, then the act is still evil. Two examples:
  • At age six, Adolf Hitler comes down with the measles. His mother takes him to a doctor, who cures him.The doctor's indicator moves toward good (or doesn't move, because after all he is just doing his job), despite the fact that young Adolf will grow up to be one of the real world's greatest villains.
  • Darth Bane is looking to kill a certain Jedi. He tracks the Jedi down to a local cantina, and then starts buying drinks for a Dashade berserker knowing its only a matter of time before the Dashade goes berko and starts a bar fight, which will result in the Jedi's death. Darth Bane's indicator moves toward evil, even though giving out free booze is arguably a good act.

So, how can we use this to improve the system? Well, one thing it allows is for a setting to require characters to be good or evil enough to unlock certain powers or abilities. Force Light is one of my least favorite Force Powers, because its seen as standard "BBEG equalizer" and aside from being a [light side] power has no real limits on its use. A Jedi character who has to stay at ten points on the good side to use Force Light, however, will have to work hard to keep that power unlocked.

I'd also suggest giving attack bonuses to evil characters and Persuasion and Treat Injury bonuses to good characters, for any setting. Evil characters are likely to be just that much more bloodthirsty, and good characters are that much more social. That, and I've found that most d20 derivatives don't let players stack enough attack bonuses anyway.

As for falling off either end and becoming an NPC... I think that should be setting-dependent. Let the module writer decide what happens if you try to push past your Wisdom in either direction.
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Re: Alignment as an Indicator

Postby lucasjung » Mon Jun 06, 2011 3:36 pm

We've already implemented a new alignment system, and it does share some qualities with your proposal. We're still using the term "alignment," but in a completely different way. I didn't write up the rules and I haven't seen the actual write-up yet, so I'm a little sketchy on some of the details, but I can give you a rough idea of how it will work. Alignments are people, ideas, organizations, causes, etc. that your character is dedicated to, and they come in different strengths. For example, you might have a strong alignment to a country and weak alignments to your employer and an association you are a member of (I'm not sure how many degrees of alignment there are, or what restrictions, if any, are in place on the number of alignments you can subscribe to). If you act in accordance with your alignments, you get rewards (I know that action points are definitely on the menu, I'm not sure about what else...maybe XP); if you act contrary to your alignments, you are penalized (my understanding is that the bar for penalties is significantly higher than the bar for rewards, so penalties will be relatively uncommon).

In Star Wars, Dark Side and Light Side could be treated as alignments (possibly with extra setting-specific mechanics to go with them), but they wouldn't be the only alignments. For example, Luke Skywalker is aligned with the Light Side, but also with the rebel alliance (and later with the new republic and the new jedi order), and his strongest alignment is probably to his close friends and family (in the movies, at least; later it's probably the Force).
"You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts."
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan
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Re: Alignment as an Indicator

Postby teh603 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 4:04 pm

First off, I'm typing this reply before I get a lot of other replies, because for some reason the moderators are still having to approve my posts. So if I don't reply quickly, its because my posts take longer than everybody else's.

lucasjung wrote:We've already implemented a new alignment system, and it does share some qualities with your proposal. We're still using the term "alignment," but in a completely different way. I didn't write up the rules and I haven't seen the actual write-up yet, so I'm a little sketchy on some of the details, but I can give you a rough idea of how it will work. Alignments are people, ideas, organizations, causes, etc. that your character is dedicated to, and they come in different strengths. For example, you might have a strong alignment to a country and weak alignments to your employer and an association you are a member of (I'm not sure how many degrees of alignment there are, or what restrictions, if any, are in place on the number of alignments you can subscribe to). If you act in accordance with your alignments, you get rewards (I know that action points are definitely on the menu, I'm not sure about what else...maybe XP); if you act contrary to your alignments, you are penalized (my understanding is that the bar for penalties is significantly higher than the bar for rewards, so penalties will be relatively uncommon).
Honestly, this reads a bit more like the Clan/Covenant/City Status mechanic from Mind's Eye Theater, where characters are given in-character perks for kissing up to the Prince or Archbishop. Course, it could also be like the motivation system in Burning Wheel, which I haven't really been able to do much with because the rulebooks are a bit expensive and only awkwardly portable.

It also doesn't seem to include a mechanism for restricting player access to NPC-breaking spells like Protection from Evil 50' Radius or Force Light, or "awesome cool" powers like Force Lightning.
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Re: Alignment as an Indicator

Postby Sabin Marcus » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:16 pm

It reminds me most of all of the allegiences from d20 Modern, but with much better mechanical support in the system. Allegiences were practically an afterthought.
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