Friday, September 28, 2018

An Alignment System

I greatly despise the alignment grid, I could go into detail but many others have succinctly pointed out it's myriad of issues already. I feel better about the original three option one, but grand cosmic conflicts aren't something that has grabbed me that much. My brain has formulated a system that is grown from the personality determining parts the gird has grown over the years and taken into a completely different direction.

An Alignment System

People don't exist as islands, they cannot exist in isolation. They require a connection to something beyond them to function, it's simply how they are wired. This connection is refereed to as alignment, it is a mystical pull between an individual and something greater and usually somewhat abstract force that greatly influences their life. Alignment is written on a person's character sheet like it in usual D&D and has the three following effects on a character.
  • Alignment Shapes Character: The alignment of a character is a central pillar around which their personality is built. This doesn't mean that everyone aligned with the same things have similar personalities, only that they all care about the same thing. The connection between a character and their alignment can be reverent, matter-of-factly, antagonistic, subconscious, positive, it doesn't matter as long as it's important. A authoritarian and an anarchist can both be aligned to Law just in different ways. The sailor who cannot swim and the mermaid tempting him beneath the waves can both be aligned with the Sea.
    • Players are free to interpret their alignment any way they wish. They can have as shallow or complicated relation with it as they like.
    • Everyone with shared alignment shares a kind of kinship and understanding between each other. Which results in them either getting along splendidly or terribly.
      • Reaction rolls where someone talks to someone of the same alignment are shifted one step away from the neutral response. In ItO make the reaction roll have more extreme results.
    • When writing your alignment feel free to include and adjective to describe your relationship with it. "True Lawful", "Begrudgingly Lawful", "Un-Lawful" Go nuts.
  • Character Shapes Alignment: A character's alignment will favor them due to the kinship between them. These are subtle and unreliable shifts of fate that could easily pass off as coincidence to the skeptical. Things like managing to was ashore alive rather than dead for the Ocean, not getting lost in your city if your're aligned with your City, having a knack for not getting small burns for Fire. You can have consistent and blatant protections and powers related to your alignment but that requires sacrifice.
    • Alignment is a valid reason to rule some things in a character's favor, but it's still within mundane and normal limits.
      • If the players ask, they know if they have favor. The character will feel it intuitively.
    • The sacrifices can justify magical(or psychic,mystical, etc.) class powers, be part of an ItO style Order or Mark.
      • Needless to say, make it a serious Dilemma. 
  • Destined Death: As a character's life is intertwined with their alignment, so must their death be. This doesn't mean that you can't die in a way unrelated to your alignment, but it does mean if you do than they will become restless, and become unquiet dead until they are properly buried. This is one of the purposes of burial ceremonies.
    • Surprise, this was secretly a continuation of my previous post all along!
Your alignment can change and evolve if you have a significant life experience, but generally it's going to be a change in your relationship with the alignment not switching to a completely different one. It should be rare and impactful enought to be ruled on a case by case basis. Maybe you can have up to two alignments per character? I don't know maybe one is complicated enough. If two alignments are on one character than the destined death would probably involve them both.

Un-Definitive List of Alignments:
Kind of Person Boons Proper Deaths
1. Family
A normal person who cares about the people closest to them. A lost son. Being able to accurately predict things about your family, having a better time talking with them. Dying to save one's family. Dying surrounded by your loved ones. Funeral with all of them attending.
2. Home
Someone who loves the place they lived. Someone who is indebted to where they live. Knowing if something is wrong and not as it should be. Being buried at home, possibly with an apple tree planted on top.
3. The City
Someone who lived in the city all their lives, and connects with it. Sam Vimes basically. Navigating through confusing streets or losing someone tailing you. Being buried within the city's cemetery or rotting in it's gutter depending on your class.

4. A Community 
Someone who extends empathy towards a group beyond their family or a pariah of said group. Getting a reaction you want out a crowd from this community. Dying for the benefit or despair of a community. Being buried by their traditions.
5. A Dream
Someone with a grand goal that they strive towards, or a cynic who lost that drive, but can't let it go. Convincing others that the dream is a good/bad idea. Ignoring the penalty of sleep deprivation for short while.  Dying with the dream achieved or handed off for someone else to do it. Dying secure in the futility of doing so.
6. Love
A romantic who has found true love or someone who vehemently denys such a concept. Somehow guessing the vague direction of where one's love is. Being buried side by side. Going full Romeo and Juliet is only necessary if your a teenager.
7. Law
Someone who believes in the value of order or someone preoccupied with determinism. Getting somewhere on time. Dying without any unfinished business or loose ends. A neat and formal funeral. 
8. Chaos
Someone who believes in personal freedom or someone painfully aware and afraid of Murphy's Law. Being able to find something in your own messy room. Dying unbound from some bullshit. Who cares about the funeral.

9. The Game
Someone who views life like it's a game, and people as players in it. Gamblers, Machiavellian schemers, the meta aware.

A knack for understanding rules. This soul will rest if win or lose, they've played well.
10. The Show
Those who see the world as a spectacle. Actors, glory seeking leaders, bards, storytellers.

A knack for the dramatic. What matters is that there is a good story around it.
11. The Open Road
Wanderers, traveling merchants, drifters and postman. People who can't settle down. Being able to sleep in traveling scenarios, Good sense of direction. Dying while traveling. Funeral treated like a pit stop for another journey.

12. The Sea
Sailors, sea creatures, coastal people. Those drawn to the sea.

Being able to hold your breath for longer. Drowning. Burial at sea.
13. The Earth
Dwarves, miners, spelunkers. Those who aren't afraid of going into the Veins of the Earth or are fascinated in their fear of it.  Not falling to panicked claustrophobia. Dying in a ravine. Being buried in the ground.
14. The Sky
Airheads, Blue Folk, pilots. Those who look at the sky's big wideness with wonder.
Feeling changes in the weather ahead of time.
Decomposing under the open air. Ashes scattered to the wind. Throwing a corpse from a really high cliff.
15. Fire
Pyromaniacs, smiths and fire fighters. People who can stare at an open flame for hours. A knack for avoiding minor burns and handling hot objects. Cremation, intended or otherwise. Pyres.
16. A Forest.
Druids, lumberjacks, elves, rangers. Trees and and forest critters. Not getting lost in the woods, guessing which berries are poisonous. Decomposing in the woods. Having one's body nourish a tree.
17. The Sun
Early birds, outdoorsy people. Shockingly The Children of the Sun. Getting a nice tan rather than terrible burns. The service is held during the day, at a higher elevation preferably.
18. The Moon
Werewolves, literal lunatics, people who's emotions are influenced by the pull of the moon. The witches that dance naked under moon light. Night owls.

A bit of luck under the moonlight. The service done under the moon's glow.
19. Darkness
Creatures of the night, secretive folk, weirdos who always wear black. Also those never stopped fearing bogeymen under closets.

Good night vision, tendency to blend in well into darkness. Rest the body somewhere nice and dark. Even better if it's hidden.
20. None- no great cosmic connection.
Listless and adrift. A person who is isolated and alone. Nothing, except they aren't registered by alignment based divination. There isn't one. They are bound to be a aimless specter.

Ideally, the table that is properly weighted so that more adventurer friendly alignments would show up more often than the less friendly ones. However since this is a un-definitive list, it's more meant to give you a gist of what the the alignments entails. The Boons table is meant to bring up examples rather than explicit bonuses, it's also the thing that is going to need the most playtesting, telling people to "adjust for taste" is a bit of a cope out. Even with the OSR's DIY mentality a system should have knobs to adjust and details to ignore.

World Building Implications:

  • Rather than a setting with a grand cosmic war, it leads to a complicated and messy world with various forces and people that care about their own personal problems and bump heads through that.
  • Aside from violence, the dead can be laid to rest by figuring out who they were as a person and by honoring them correctly.
    • Shamans, exorcists and so forth do this professionally.
  • Funeral rites are made important in a way that is obvious to players.
    • There is knobs and options in what they do that can be messed with, space for both hijinks and discovery.
  • Knowing things about someone's personality can give you insight in how to mess with them magically or how you don't want to mess with them.
  • Beings of the same alignment have come into conflict and that can be exploited by third parties.
  • The line between the mundane and the supernatural is more of a gradient that a solid line.
    • Does a mother tear someone to pieces in defense of her children because of a sudden burst of adrenaline or due by mystically evoking that it's her Family? Does this matter, is there actually a difference between the two.
    • Is that guy just very good at acting or is he's performance taping into something divine.
    • Magic is less of it's own force, but more what happens at the extremes of other forces.
      • That guy isn't lighting a fire without any implements because he's manipulating the aether, but because Fire likes him a lot.
      • There isn't a correct Unifed Theory of Magic, same way there isn't a Unifed Theory of Science.
      • Spells have alignments, that's why they can manipulate the world.
  • Friendship power is a thing.
  • Some great monsters are the direct decedents of great forces, and killing them will is tricky because of it.
  • The nature of these forces, whether they are beings, mediums we exist in, both, neither so forth, is the great topic of theological debate in the world.

Design Notes:
Like my last post this is more of synthesis of various tropes and ideas rather than anything new. It also associates these common tropes with each other in a way that would not be obvious otherwise. As a game mechanic it leans the game closer to storygame, by giving more focus to the internal lives of the characters. It also establishes relationships between various npcs and monsters that can be interacted with in interesting ways, so it doesn't stray to far from OSR design. Plus, it adds a fun element of character identity. There are a lot of questions about how this would work. How many alignments does a person get? Is it really necessary to have both Law and Chaos if you can have an antagonistic to either of them? Should alignments be more organised? Are some of these a bit too redundant? Is this system to convoluted to explain to people at the table when everyone is sitting around and making their characters?

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