Choose Your Language

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Alignment Talk (Part Two)

This is a copy of another post I made in a forum when discussing alignments. It is comprised two sections, the first in response to someone who said they "used the law intuitively" in their approach and the second in response to the full post included below.

I think we’re seeing the “intuition” (mine) vs “rationale” (yours) modalities here.

Well, it may be that what you refer to as “intuition” is actually what I (because it says so in the Bible) calls “the law written on their hearts” : -

Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

We are basically being told that because the law of God is “good and right” and of God, everybody (including non-believers who God created too!) knows what is right and wrong according to God’s law because God has placed the law in every man’s heart.

Basically, they have enough knowledge of the moral law of God in their hearts by virtue of being created in God’s image (morality) so that their consciences are conflicted: sometimes approving, sometimes disapproving. (Moral Law: Ten Commandments. Not the Mosaic Law.) Also …

Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 10:15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

This speaks about how God makes a new covenant with His chosen, that enables such believers to have a new heart and no longer find the gospel offensive and believe it for what it is: That Christ died for their sins. The new heart with the Holy Spirit inclines us to obey the word of God, which includes those moral laws that all know. We become submissive to God’s law, because of our new heart.

So, in summary, both believers and non-believers are aware of a moral conflict (due to having been created in God’s image) and having the law in our hearts. But, the converted heart (only possible by God) is given a new heart of acceptance and has a new covenant where sins are no longer held against them … and the believer also no longer wishes to commit!

Pretty much just what I am getting at, we can’t say “picking pockets = always evil act” in dnd. There are valid rationales for situations that make otherwise negative behavior the “good”. As a builder, we are not in a place to judge why for many things a player might choose to do or say.
Maybe the rogue picked a commoners pocket to be able to afford the gizmo they need to defeat the villain, and they had to do so because there was no other work available (no quests, no more random evil monsters to kill or things to hunt for sellable pelts).
Much of my Crimmor rogue specific module is this way, if you play a good pc there is a questline that shows that you are a member of the Shadow Thieves (an evil group) because you are infiltrating them for a good organization, and you report back on what is going on internally with them. You are essentially an undercover agent, doing some bad things because it’s necessary for a greater good.
The “middle area” where we shouldn’t automatically assign alignment points is much larger in a module without a DM. Some things are going to be evil no matter what, randomly killing some good orphans for example, or good no matter what, but the middle space is much larger without the DM to know the intentions of the player.


This actually reveals the whole point I am trying to make about the responsibility of the builder, and which KevL answers very well and quite succinctly in his post that followed.

However, to expand on KevL’s post, we, as builders know the full story and (as a responsibility to the player) should be building the module in such a way that the player should be able to tell when actions they take are going to be “good” or “evil”. And the builder consequently (who knows all), rewards alignment shifts according to the actions the player takes while trying to complete the quest. A very quick example: Man has key I want: (a) Kill man and get key (Evil). (b) Ask man and man may or may not give key. (Neutral?) (c) Go to authorities, plead case in law and win right to key. (Lawful) NOTE: This is a very simplified example, because it does not take into account whether the law is a good or evil one, or if the man killed was an enemy of the good refusing to hand over a vital key. However, The builder definitely knows, and any well designed module would have given the player enough clues to allow the player to know what type of action they are making too.

"Member of a Group" ... does not specifically reflect the moral nature of the person in question. Sadly, I have met many who call themselves “Christian” whose moral nature is severely challenged … That does not necessarily reflect the group (unless they all hold to such bizarre morality, which then begs the question of the label) … nor does the group affect the person in such circumstances. A label does not reflect the nature of the one carrying it, but their actions do.

“Greater Good” … I believe this to be misleading, as there is no such thing as a “greater good”, even though I have heard it a great deal and have probably (to my regret) used it myself from time to time. Note to self: Must stop using the term. However, that said, I can see how easily it can be used as a “plot device” in any fantasy world, simply because in such a world we have no real definitive “good” like we have in our own real world. Basically, for myself, I will try to keep my own story straight forward and that actions are either simply “good” or “evil” … and hope that the player will work out the right actions to take to complete a quest for good or evil.

Good V Evil : Another point that is often missed, because it is so subtle in our own world (and simply un-believed) is that there is such a thing as Holy War. In our own world, this war has already been “won”, and was arguably always the case, but from a human perspective, the “war” continues in what we see as conflict due to “good” and “evil” that men do. Therefore, if we are able to emphasise this point in our own modules (which many do of course when they involve the gods of the mythos), then the “order of things” especially with respect to what is good and evil becomes clearer. We gain perspective, as does the player, if they know what they are fighting for!

Example: Evil god hands over 1000gp to PC and says go and give everybody a 1gp to join my cause by worshipping me, knowing souls that worship him are destined to servitude in death. Consequently, a good god takes everything from PC and says go and do likewise to all that you meet by gentle persuasion, knowing that by doing so, all that do will be cared for by the good god. Now, the player PC knows that doing the evil gods deed is fundamentally evil, but for those he meets not in the know, this looks like a benevolent god, giving gold and so don’t ask questions and serve. Consequently, the requests of the good god look totally unreasonable and require a step of faith to follow. Subject to which action the PC takes, to serve the evil or good god, by either giving gold or relieving peoples of their goods (not by force like a thief I hasten to add), dictates the heart and mind of the PC … and hence their alignment shift that the builder handles for them. The bottom line is knowing with clarity from the start and ensuring a player knows what they are doing.

The “Middle Area”: My tag line “Even a shade of grey is made from black and white” was written for this so called grey area. Basically, the builder should know every possible outcome and way to achieve a quest because they built it! And at every step (that makes the grey), the builder then assigns alignment shifts accordingly, so the player “learns” what is and is not acceptable according to the steps they are taking. This is exactly what I mean by making every effort! Designing and awarding alignment points should not be arbitrary, but can be made of small adjustments here or there, as long as the more significant steps come with the more significant awards. E.g. Killing is evil. Theft is evil. Destroying evil is good. Taking back goods that were stolen is good.

NOTE: The same actions may be employed in every situation (taking life or taking goods), BUT the heart, mind and law behind that taking is what defines it as either: “killing”/“theft” (both evil) or “execution”/“seizure” (based on good laws of a good god). NOTE: The evil nature of hearts like to change and manipulate words for their own benefit, so it takes a discerning heart not to be manipulated by words that appear “good” to do an “evil” act. e.g. Judas reasoned he was “doing good” when he sold out Jesus to the local law of Pharisees (who had become a “brood of vipers” by this time), and so it is obvious to all (and he as well afterwards as he went and committed suicide - another sin) that his actions were evil, even though he argued (at the time and agreed with the Pharisees) that he was doing good!

A lot more could be said, but that’s enough for now.


"As a builder, we are not in a place to judge why for many things a player might choose to do or say."

As builders that is exactly the kind of responsibility I am talking about! However, to be in a position to make such “judgement calls” we (as the builders) need to be absolutely clear in our understanding of the actions that our story is leading the player to take … and thereafter, award the alignment shifts.

The point being, we are not using our own judgement, but that judgment that we know is right and true … Gods! Which is written in the bible … and in our own hearts if we care to listen to our consciences … if they have not become seared. (Hardened heart!)

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