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Author Topic: A "D&D Alignment System" inspired campaign setting...  (Read 1985 times)
Brian Leybourne
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Posts: 1793


« on: March 24, 2010, 12:55:41 PM »

This is actually a *campaign* first thought rather than a game system. Looking for a sounding board I guess.

Ah, D&D. How you shaped most of us in our early days. I still fondly recall the hours, weeks and years poured into that game, loving every aspect of it because it literally WAS fantasy and there wasn't really any other RPG at the time (showing my age here). These days you're spoiled for choice but back then, well...

But of course, there was that kludgy alignment system. You were Lawful, or you were Chaotic. Later, the Good/Evil axis was added in; Wow, such depth! The alignment system was one of the parts of D&D that never really worked and few - if any - modern RPGs other than new editions of D&D have ever tried anything similar (I don't know if it still exists in 4th edition, I haven't bothered picking it up)

But there must be SOME use for that 4 point alignment axis, right?

So, musing over the alignment system and trying to work out how else it might be incorpora6ed into an RPG (just because) I've been mulling this over.

There are actually 4 earths. They're in their own universes or their own dimensions, whatever. Each has an aspect of the alignment system that it embodies and the shadow of the others fall over it as it's shadow falls over them. Law/Order, Chaos, Good, Evil. I wont draw you a little + diagram, I know you get it.

So, our earth, this familiar one, is the earth of Law/Order. It is the centre of Order but has a tiny amount of Chaos shadowed from the Chaos earth on the other side of the spectrum. Good and Evil earth's are equidistant so there is an equal blend of Good and Evil here. We're order, so technology is rampant, societies are generally structured and ordered, the people are generally law abiding and rational. It's in all ways the Earth you see outside your window. THere is some chaos here of course, the unpredictable weather systems for example. Good and evil can be seen everywhere you look in roughly equal portions (more good than evil in some areas, but more evil than good in others)

The Chaos world, on the other hand, has the same amounts of good and evil as us, but Chaos reigns and law/Order is in small supply. Thus magic dominates and technology doesn't really function well if at all. Societies are fleeting, people are unpredictable and often unreliable, there may be more variance in what people look like because of the effects of chaos, so there may even be sub-species of humanity in different areas of the globe, etc. This would essentially look a lot like a typical fantasy world, conveniently.

The good world is a place where Magic and technology are equally prominent, and exist in harmony, and people of all spectra can be found. This world is, in fact, heaven. Our religions got a few things right. The evil world would presumably feature constant warring (probably magic versus technology) and strife and anguish. As the counterpart of heaven, it's basically hell.

In between, well, that's where the souls go when people die. And as a new person is born on one of the worlds, a soul goes to inhabit the body. Where you go for your next life is determined by whichever of the 4 aspects was more prominent in your previous life. More good than any of the other three? You're going to heaven. More chaotic than anything else? You'll be reincarnated on Chaos Earth, and so on.

No, there are not 8 worlds, there are only 4. No "Chaotic Good" et al worlds. Why? Because I said so :-)

But, just to blow my D&D alignment analogy out of the water, I kind of like the idea of a third axis, but I can't think of anything that makes sense. It has to be something that exists and doesn't exist in equal proportions in each of the other 4 worlds of course (if you imagine the + now three-dimensional). I was thinking along the lines of Purity versus corruption for a while. They're a little similar to good/evil for my liking, but not really - you can have pure good and just as easily have corrupt good (think of Dragonlance's kingpriest or our earth's catholic church). but I don't really like pure/corrupt. Any other ideas for a third axis?

The campaign I'm planning will be around our earth which has been damaged. The small amount of chaos present has allowed someone to create a ritual that has opened some kind of portal to the Chaos earth, and chaos is leaking in. This has led our earth to aspecting more chaos than it should. The campaign will thus be an x-files/investigative style where the characters are FBI or similar who investigate "stuff that should not be" and fix it as best they can. Longer term they'll learn of the truth of the cosmos and probably travel to the other Earths in order to fix things, yadda yadda.

System? I don't know. I'm looking for ideas. WOD makes a certain kind of sense, this is similar to a Hunters campaign after all, but our group have played WOD a number of times in the 15 years we've been together and we're a bit burned out on that system. Any other thoughts as to a system that would fit this genre nicely? For obvious reasons, I considered a modernised TROS ruleset, but then I was hosed so badly on TROS and never paid for the sourcebooks I wrote so I'm a bit down on it these days :-/

So, a few questions in there, and open to suggestions/comments if any are to be had...

Thanks guys,
Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
bleybourne@gmail.com

RPG Books: Of Beasts and Men, The Flower of Battle, The TROS Companion
Mobius
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2010, 12:58:50 PM »

What are you trying to achieve with this third axis? Are you just fleshing out the cosmos or do you want it to impact game play in some way?

Just from your post it seems like the only thing the players are likely to see is some weirdness spilling over from chaos earth.
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Mobius a.k.a Charles
Vulpinoid
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2010, 05:01:12 PM »

The alignment system was one of the parts of D&D that never really worked and few - if any - modern RPGs other than new editions of D&D have ever tried anything similar (I don't know if it still exists in 4th edition, I haven't bothered picking it up)

Not true at all.

I've ported the alignment system across to many other games because it gives a simple and concise idea of the characters true objectives. I've even used it to replace "nature" in White Wolf's Nature/Demeanor system. The demeanor is the open aspect of the character's personality, what other people see when they first look at the character. The nature is simply replaced by the alignment, and this gives an indication of the true character within.

It's worked successfully with at least three different groups over the years.

Similarly, there are plenty of other game systems that have toyed with the notion of alignment. Sometimes it comes in the form of character traits...if you rack up enough traits of a certain type you are expected to act in a certain way and you will be perceived by the world around you as sharing an affinity with that trait. Other times it comes in the form of a numeric sliding scale (consider humanity in White Wolf).

My own Quincunx system has a 3 dimensional alignment system, but it's elemental.

Air (superficial, fast, ephemeral) vs Earth (structured, slow, solid)
Fire (passionate, intense, active) vs Water (contemplative, reasoned, reactive)
Metal (occult, arcane, disturbing) vs Wood (open, primal, empathetic)

Players choose a dominant element which really defines their personality (they strongly resonate with these traits), and a deficient element which defines the things lacking in their life. If a player chooses a dominant element and a deficient element that are naturally opposites (eg. Air and Earth), then they end up with someone who is really focused in one direction, but it becomes more interesting when they choose elements that aren't naturally opposed.

Using this methodology, you also get away from the "Good" and "Evil" ideas (but then again my game is about conflicting ideologies and the notions of the modern world versus the occult myths of the past...so good and evil are purely relative depending on your perspective).

This might be useful to you, it might not. I just thought I'd share.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Finarvyn
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Posts: 83


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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2010, 11:31:39 AM »

Remember that historically the Law-Chaos axis was really "us against them" with the notion that good = law = us, while evil = chaos = them. There was no original intent to overlay persona and motivation onto the alignment axis, other than to give a cause for one side to battle with the other.

Examples of this are found in the Lord of the Rings (Felloship v. Sauron) or the writings of Michael Moorcock (actually called "Law" and "Chaos"). Many of the earlier fiction sources didn't use anything of the sort (e.g. Conan had no real alignment, although he disliked sorcerers and they were protrayed as the "bad guys").

I guess what I'm saying is that the alignment axis was a somewhat artificial construct superimposed onto a game system in order to reduce complex social behaviors into simple stereotypes. When the AD&D rules added the second axis I thought it became a lot more vague because suddenly Chaos-Good and Neutral-Good had to somehow be different enough to justify those additional layers of detail. Personally, I prefer to go back to the early days of "us" and "them" and get rid of the other parts.

However, your basic notion of using alignment to differenciate the various groups is somewhat intriguing and I'll have to ponder on it some more. Having alignment determine the type of being on each Earth (plane?) certainly can be nice if you are building up a system where various factions are continually working against one another in some political type way, and that third axis would make each Earth less predictable to the players.

Just me thinking out loud....
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Marv (Finarvyn)
Sorcerer * DFRPG * ADRP
I'm mosty responsible for S&W WhiteBox
OD&D Player since 1975
Luminous
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Posts: 43

Master of mayhem...


« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2010, 09:11:26 PM »

The third axis should be time.  You could really create some interesting scenarios where each world is in a different time frame.
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Brian Leybourne
Member

Posts: 1793


« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2010, 02:13:26 PM »

Sorry for the delay in replies.

Mobius: I was really just looking for a 3rd axis because I thought it might be interesting, and it would give me 2 new "Earth's" to imagine and for my players to explore.

Intially, yes, the only thing they will see is weirdness spilling over from Chaos Earth, but the idea is that as the campaign progresses, they'll actually get to visit and explore the alternate Earth's. I want to exploer (through them I guess) how Chaos Earth would look. How Good earth would look, etc.

Vulpinoid: The problem I have with alignment systems (yours included) is that I dislike te notion of labelling a character and saying "you're Chaotic Good, now go be that". It's a set of rules for the PLAYER to follow, and that just doesn't gel for me. I want the player to play his character however he likes. Others may then look at his characters actions and label them, but that's not the same thing.

Besides, it's irrelevant to the idea being floated here. I'm not saing that everyone on Good earth is Good, everyone on Chaos earth is Chaotic. People are still people and will have every variation in moral compass imaginable; but the TREND on each world will be apparent, because that's how those souls got there in the first place.

Finarvyn: See te apragraphs above - I'm not saying that the people in those worlds are necessarily all that alignment, I'm saying that they trend that way and that the world itself seems to roughly fit that mold.

Luminous: Time as an axis would be interesting if it was a spectrum of good through evil, chaos through law and then a time axis. But I'm only using those concepts as guides - there are 4 discrete worlds, not a multiverse of variances between them. The 3rd axis would allow 2 more worlds (each of which would be 50/50 for each of the other axes), which doesn't really fir a time concept.

Cheers,
Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
bleybourne@gmail.com

RPG Books: Of Beasts and Men, The Flower of Battle, The TROS Companion
Mobius
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2010, 07:32:59 PM »

Sorry for the delay in replies.

Mobius: I was really just looking for a 3rd axis because I thought it might be interesting, and it would give me 2 new "Earth's" to imagine and for my players to explore.

Intially, yes, the only thing they will see is weirdness spilling over from Chaos Earth, but the idea is that as the campaign progresses, they'll actually get to visit and explore the alternate Earth's. I want to exploer (through them I guess) how Chaos Earth would look. How Good earth would look, etc.


That is a good start so maybe you can use it to find an answer.  What else besides good/evil and order/chaos interest you?

You could do life/death.  One world where nothing ever really dies and another where nothing is living--or at least lives long.

Divine vs "natural law".  A world where even the smallest things happens do to the will of some god, likely full of little gods where the god of lamps is responsible for every lamp turning on and off and who lamp makers pray too (Exalted is sort of like this).  Opposing it a world where no one even has the concept of gods or a God.  Everything happens as a result of an identifiable law and there is no mystery to life.
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Mobius a.k.a Charles
Vulpinoid
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2010, 09:56:41 PM »

Vulpinoid: The problem I have with alignment systems (yours included) is that I dislike te notion of labelling a character and saying "you're Chaotic Good, now go be that". It's a set of rules for the PLAYER to follow, and that just doesn't gel for me. I want the player to play his character however he likes. Others may then look at his characters actions and label them, but that's not the same thing.

Then maybe you're looking at alignments backwards...or maybe you're looking at them forwards and you should be looking at them backwards.

I'm running a D&D campaign now (old school 2nd Ed AD&D), we haven't mentioned alignments once, but players are taking on certain consistent mannerisms for their characters.

These mannerisms are lending themselves to alignments; we've got the cleric who's always trying to keep the party organised, working toward common goals and with the good of the local town always firmly set in his agenda (It's not specified, but it's obviously a Lawful Good frame of mind). We've got the ranger who wants to bring down the corrupt parts of the local authorities, flaunting laws when he can and trying to expose the corruption in the system (a Chaotic Good mindset). Then there's the fighter who's pure agenda is the cause anarchy and revolution...she's always at odds with the cleric, but her motivations aren't greedy, she just want's change for the sake of change (Chaotic Neutral). Then there's the gypsy who just likes to keep a low profile, she's willing to break the rules of the society around her, but her people's laws are sacredly adhered to, her aims are usually to improve the lot of the world around her, but she wants no credit for it (I'm making the call that she's Neutral Good).

Each player has developed a pattern of actions for their character through pure roleplaying, not through an arbitrary word written on a character sheet. Within your game this concept could easily be overlaid. The cleric in the example above would find more allies on the Lawful or Good worlds, and if he were to travel to the Chaotic or Evil worlds he find a lot more enemies and people opposed to his actions. If the warrior went to the same worlds, she'd find more potential allies on the Chaotic world, and more people resistant to her revolutionary ways on the Lawful world; for her, the good and evil worlds would be relatively neutral with people considering the outcome of her actions rather than the chaotic appearance of them ("Is the action beneficial for the wider community and therefore good? Is the action predominantly selfish, and therefor evil?").

My game system reinforces this by ensuring the elemental affinities/alignments are constantly in a state of flux. If a character has a resonance of fire, but the player keeps performing actions in line with water, the character's elemental affinity/alignment gradually shifts across to match the actions performed.

If you've got other ideas along these lines, tell us.

Otherwise we're just throwing darts in the dark.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Luminous
Member

Posts: 43

Master of mayhem...


« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2010, 10:21:01 PM »

Luminous: Time as an axis would be interesting if it was a spectrum of good through evil, chaos through law and then a time axis. But I'm only using those concepts as guides - there are 4 discrete worlds, not a multiverse of variances between them. The 3rd axis would allow 2 more worlds (each of which would be 50/50 for each of the other axes), which doesn't really fir a time concept.
Time could still work.  The other two worlds could be Progressive and Regressive.  The Progressive faction could be called the Vanguard and be a corrupt, technological focused culture that seeks to dominate the past timelines to increase their own power and control in their timeline.  The Regressive faction would be a more ecological/biogenic faction focused on living in harmony with the world and dominating the timelines to secure their future and the prosperity of their world.  They could be called the Bastion or Wardens.
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EdEdEd
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Posts: 9


« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2010, 11:58:15 AM »

How about a Society Earth and an Individual Earth? The former in which all people (or person-like entities) are inclined to form communities and see individualism as suspect, and the latter full of hermits who happily go weeks at a time without seeing anyone else? Or a Constructed and Natural Earth, one which is almost entirely built environments (be they skyscrapers or castles) and the other having virtually no artificial constructs.
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Draco
Registree

Posts: 2


« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2010, 09:15:45 AM »

Thread's a bit old, but well:

Some ideas:

Magic / Technology
Light / Darkness
Nature / Machinery

You might take our world and find 2 opposite but yet relevated things that are equally shared on our world.

But the Problem I think is:
the old 2 axis are both some sort of moral or behavioral coding.
A third one should be moral/behavior focused as well, or it will never truly fit.

But how could moral be diversified else?

Order = Rules, Law, personal Codex, making plans, Traditions
Chaos = Spontanity, Impulsive, following your own way
Good = Selfless, helpful, cooperative
Evil = Selfish, mean, cruel, "sneaky"

and Huh

Maybe Order and Chaos could be splitted again somehow.
But I really have no clue ATM.



Something different:
I was working on the alignment thing too, but sticked closer to the D&D idea:
In my idea, the Outer Sphere (consisting of all 9 alignement planes) is parallel to the material plane
and their Outsider-Inhabitants constantly fight about the neutral plane and try to permanently shift those worlds into their realm.
Why? Because the Outsiders can only exist, where mortals of the corresponding alignement are grouped together.
Magic can help and assist to keep an Outsider a limited amount of time in the material world,
as do the prayers of hundreds or thousands of true believers.
In the end, it's all about the FINAL CONFLICT, and the more worlds an alignement possesses the more warriors it can rally.

Just a little inspiration.
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Baenlynn
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2010, 06:47:34 AM »

How about abstract versus concrete?

Concrete would be somewhat similar to lawful in that everything has a purpose and a cause, but it would be ENTIRELY deterministic (i.e. you could extrapolate all relevant information about the universe now and in perpetuity from a piece of fairy cake).  Beings in concrete world would largely resemble the inhabitants of 'mechanus' in classic DnD Cosmology: no emotion, no personality, a machine-like self awareness etc.

At the opposite end of the spectrum the abstract world would consist entirely of pure thought, inhabitants would resemble memes given form but the entire universe would be highly mutable to the thoughts of outsiders. Perhaps consisting of multiple simultaneous layers like Xoriat in Eberron, and/or the formlessness of Limbo in standard DnD.
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flammifer
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Posts: 22


« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2010, 01:21:09 PM »

Going off on a tangent here, but I like the idea of using different axis for different "ideologies".

For the people of the city, there is Order and Chaos. Order is the law abiding, civilized people of the cities and the fields, and Chaos is the demon-worshiping barbarians from the hills.

For the people of the hills, there is Light and Darkness. Light is being true to your word and open in your intentions, and never dissimulating anything - the honest tribes of the hills. Darkness is the sorcerous, treacherous and idol-worshiping people of the cities.
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Baenlynn
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2010, 10:57:24 PM »

Brian, Just had a thought, you might want to look at 'The Chronicles of Amber' by Roger Zelazny for ideas. A friend recommended the books to me a while back and I finally found a copy of the collected edition recently. While in amber there is only one main axis (law/chaos) the way in which amber handles the influence of these primary realities is quite interesting (and not a bad read either) Essentially, only 'Amber' and the 'Courts of Chaos' are real worlds. But, in the parlance of Amber, they cast 'shadows' of themselves. Every other world between the two extremes combines various elements in a virtually infinite number of ways. Only those of the royal bloodline of Amber are able to travel between shadows picking various elements of the physical look of each world to keep and switching between others.
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2010, 02:27:26 AM »

Of course, if you were going with Amber, you might just want to have a look at the existing brilliant RPG, modify it to suit your needs rather than reinventing the wheel.
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
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