Dungeons of Dragoning
Homebrew Alignment Rules
I don’t like the alignment system, because it seems like it was just copy pasted from old editions without extra thought, and is never explained in what it means in the universe. Books only ever talk about how to ‘correctly’ play a certain alignment.
These changes are to try to fix that, and make alignment a believable, understandable fixture in the universe. Some opinions will go directly contrary to how alignment is typically portrayed.
Playing a character’s alignment
Players do not choose an alignment, and shouldn’t play as if they are a certain alignment – just act like what makes sense for your character to act like.
I feel like this makes more believeable characters instead of thinking “Oh I am Chaotic good, I can’t do that.”
If an effect is need that is based on alignment, the GM determines what the character’s alignment is. This could result in situations where you think you are one alignment, but detect as another, and that is intended. After all, many villains think they’re doing good.
If your character class does rely on alignments, I will give you notice if you are starting to stray from that alignment. Gods will send divine messages, you will see visions and nightmares, and eventually I will flat out say “You are on the border of losing class features due to alignment.”
I will never take away class features without warning, unless it’s super obvious – your paladin should not slaughter the orphanage of crippled bi-racial children whose continued life is the only key to stopping the end of the world.
Alignment in Game World
Alignment in game world terms (not game mechanics terms) is the collection real forces in the world – good, evil, law and chaos. They are not based on morality of a society, and are directly linked to what the gods deem good and evil. A tribal society where eating the dead is accepted and normal is still ‘evil’ because evil gods approve of those actions, and good ones think it’s wrong.
Good is often related to selflessness, and helping others without need of reward. Evil is often selfishness, being out for yourself, and egoism. Law is related to keeping one’s word, having a certain code of conduct, being reliable and structured. Chaos is being unstructured, following ones whims, and being unreliable or flighty.
These forces are embodied by creatures in the world such as Celestials and Demons – creatures actually composed of these forces of good and evil. Locations such as Heaven and Hell (the outer planes) are the sources of good and evil, ruled over by deities.
When a creature does good or evil acts, links are formed between the creature and the outer planes. These are essentially the gods claiming your soul for themselves once you die. The more powerful creatures are, the more the gods try to claim your (high powered auras), so they might become angels or demons in the afterlife.
A neutral character has equal link to either plane or no links, and is generally sent to purgatory.
Both intention and result have sway on an alignment – a greatly evil deed performed for good intentions may still be evil, and doing good for sole purpose of wealth and fame may lessened in the eyes of the gods.
Risen Demons, Fallen Angels
Aligned celestials are made up of these forces, and thus are heavily inclined to do acts that match them, but risen demons and fallen celestials are possible. Similarly, undead are often instrinsically linked to evil acts, but may fight against their nature in rare cases. In these cases, the creature may detect as both alignments – they are made out of evil, but good has very strong ties to them, as they attempt to redeem themselves. Effects targeting either alignment could effect these creatures.
Example: A goodly man is turned into a vampire unwillingly, suffusing him with dark evil magics. He finds a rare magic that allows him to survive without draining blood, or to do so only from willing subjects (without turning them). He continues his immortal life fighting vampires so the same cannot happen to others.
Result: A creature that detects as both undead and evil, because of the magic that created him, but also as good, because of his actions since then. Both smite evil and smite good would work on this creature, and ‘detect alignment’ would reveal both alignments at once. A paladin’s ‘detect evil’ would detect only evil.
In general it’s a bad situation to be in.
Mindless and created Undead
In this setting, negative enegy is not an innately evil force, and is instead just the opposite of positive, like a yin-yang relationship. While it is not inherently evil, many evil creatures and gods favor it because it can kill living creatures, and most average people assume it is some force of evil. More educated characters might understand this is not the case.
Undead are powered by negative energy just as the living are powered by positive. This does not make them evil. Intelligent undead are usually evil because they were created through a dark ritual that relies on the help of an evil god, or dark arcane magic to accomplish. Those rituals infuse them with dark magic, and may warp their mind to do evil acts, but the negative energy is just allowing them movement and undeath.
Mindless undead have uniqe situations based on the alignment of the creature or effect who created them.
Neutral mindless undead act a bit like computers or a construct. They have no goals, desires, or opinions. If never given an order by its creator, neutral undead will simply wander the world until they turn to dust. They do not need food, and will not attack other creatures unless attacked first. When a neutral mindless undead is given an order, they follow that order until given a new one, they accomplish it, or they are destroyed. Their last order continues even if their master dies. If they complete their order and are not given a new one, they wander aimlessly as described above.
Evil mindless undead are closer to the ‘classic’ undead theme. The thing that differentiates them from neutral undead is that they were created by calling on an evil source. When their master dies, they default to “attack closest living creature”, even if they had another indefinite order. They will attack any living creature, including animals, just like a zombie movie.
Clearly, alignment is determined by an extremely case by case, as with the above, i’ll give a few examples.
A lawful good paladin is in a country where slavery is legal. There are a few actions she may choose: She could immediately and forcibly release all of the slaves. She could purchase as many slaves as possible and grant them their freedom. She could work to fight the government and change the laws. If she is already on a mission to do good in the world, she might leave. To the gods, any of these are acceptable. Some are more good than lawful, and some are more lawful than good, but all are acceptable actions.
A level 1 commoner stalks a small city, killing men, women, and children at random. A paladin uses detect evil on him – it turns up as not evil. This is because he is such a low level and so weak, that his ties to hell are nearly imperceptible even to that spell. Hell wants him, but only a bit – he’s mostly worthless. Through other means, the man is caught and executed. He goes to Hell.
A level 1 cleric does the same thing as above, and worships an evil god. The paladin immediately detects evil because the cleric has direct ties to an evil god. He is executed and goes to Hell.
A celestial azata starts to turns to evil. It begins as ignoring the deaths of innocents to destroy evil. His massive link to good means he still detects entirely as good. As he falls farther, Hell’s forces realize that they may be able to turn him entirely, and when he is finally evil aligned, it detects as a very strong presence because Hell really wants him. But he is still composed of good forces, and detects as good still. Eventually he may turn into a full demon and that would change.
A lizardfolk tribe is located near a human village. The lizardfolk viciously defend their territory, but do not stage attacks on the human village. It has no effect on their alignment.
The humans dump poison in the swamps to kill the lizardfolk in order to raze the swamp and build a church of Sarenrae. Despite the intent (building a church of good), this still might still be an evil act. At the least, it would be morally gray, and not recommended by the gods, but perhaps not punished.