Aug 29, 2017

Posted by in RPG | 1 Comment

Interesting characters through alignment

Alignments are a strange thing. The idea of an absolute alignment doesn’t quite fit into our modern world, where we see everything in shades of grey.

Most people don’t like to think about it a lot, unless they play a class that requires a certain alignment. They also cause a lot of discussion, since pretty much everyone has a different idea of how a certain alignment should behave like – ask any Paladin player, if you doubt that.

This article is not meant to change this. All I want to do, is give you an option to use your alignment to make your character more interesting. This is also just a suggestion and my opinion. But it’s much more easy to write out these ideas “as facts.” Even if this could not be any further from the truth.

There are nine different alignments that have been used in games like Dungeon & Dragons, Pathfinder and Starfinder.

The first thing to note is, that these are absolute alignments. You are not “mostly good” or “a little evil.” You are either good, evil or neutral. Or Lawful, chaotic or neutral.

Here’s my suggestion: Treat these alignments, as what the character wants and desires. What drives him, not necessarily how she behaves, but more how ¬†she would like to behave.

A good person will want to help others and better the world and enjoys displays of kindness. An evil person likes to make people suffer or see them suffer.

Esp. this idea of evil will cause some discussion. Please remember that this does not mean that they always act like cruel murder hobos, but that is what he’d like to do when faced with opposition or for “fun.”

On the outside, they might smile and be nice. If they spill their drink, because someone bumped into them, they might want to slice his throat open. This doesn’t mean they do. Maybe they just shout at them. Or they apologise, because they fear the repercussions of being more aggressive in this situation.

A lawful character is driven by order. He wants things to go by the rules. He might update his rules over time, but he will not change his rules easily. When faced with Chaos, he’ll try to change it to a more ordered state.

A chaotic character wants to make things more interesting and doesn’t want to be hindered by rules. If they see a display of order, they want to break the monotony of that. When dealing with law and rules, they want to break them by principle, to show how pointless they are or argue that they don’t help at all. Again, this is their nature, not how they act. They won’t go on a killing spree just because murder is against the law. But they might tell people that such a law is pretty pointless, since people set up on killing another person won’t normally be the kind that worry about breaking the law in that moment. But they might break conventions, unless they think that this would be a bad idea. Again, they are chaotic, not stupid.

These driving forces work well for good/ evil and law/ chaos. They don’t work as well with “neutral.”

I am still trying to find good motivations for a true neutral character. Striving towards balance might be an option, but how does this translate into motivations? If you have any idea, please let me know. The other option is that “true neutral” means, that you have no deeper desires, and simply try to get along. True neutral characters might worry about having food and shelter, but not care much about luxury, people and the state of society.

tl;dr: You can use alignment as source for your characters ideal version of events. You can use this as a starting point for your roleplay. In most cases, they won’t be able to behave exactly like they would like, which will cause inner conflict. An evil person might start a list of people to get back on. Or build up hate until he finally snaps. A good character having to do less then good tasks might have to fight his conscience. And remember: Having a certain alignment doesn’t make you stupid. It just drives you in a certain direction.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know. This includes pointing the obvious flaws in this idea, and where my idea of a certain alignment is way off.

  1. Really liked the write up! Gives some interesting things to consider.

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