Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Musings on Alignment Abuse

Look in your heart, you know it to be true...
Last year, I wrote a short post about the alignment system present in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder (which you can find HERE). In that post, I mentioned how I'm rather fond of the alignment system as a concept and like how it gives the player a starting point for their character's personality and personal philosophy. I also like the idea that forces of absolute chaos, good, evil, and law exist within these fictional settings and how mortals who might not meet up to those same standards might interact and align themselves with them.

With that being said, I understand why some people would love to set the alignment system on fire so they can just watch it burn. Alignment is one of the most easily abused systems in D&D and Pathfinder. I've heard numerous horror stories about the Lawful Stupid paladin forcing the party to play a certain way or the Chaotic Evil douchebag who does terrible things and uses the classic excuse: "I'm just playing my character."

While there are a few ways one can try and prevent these problems from occurring, I believe it usually boils down to two different approaches. The first approach is to simply remove alignment from the game. This would include removing any spell or effect that deals with alignment, probably banning the paladin class, reworking certain elements of the cleric class. While it might seem like a daunting task, its actually relatively easy to accomplish if you set your mind to it.

The second and most likely easier approach is to just sit your players down at the beginning of a campaign and have a quick discussion about alignment with them. In this discussion, you would present your view of alignment and allow the players to do the same. After a few minutes of back and forth, you would come to a definition that both of you can agree to during the game. Due to my already mentioned fondness of alignment, I generally prefer this option.

However, both of these options assume you aren't playing with dicks. An asshole will ruin a game, whether alignment exists or not. I know this is probably really obvious, deciding to not play with dicks can make your entire gaming experience a lot better. Before dealing with any problem, you should first look at your group and see if you have a dick in your mist. If you do, you should probably remove him as soon as possible. Trust me, its for the best.

Alignment can be an interesting starting point for a cool character or it can be a straight jacket that you struggle against. Its all based on how you perceive them and actually handle them at the table.