An Alternative Alignment Approach for D&D and other RPGs

The alignment system in Dungeons & Dragons has found its way into many Role Playing Games. Most retro-clones and lots of other systems uses the system. I don’t think it needs an introduction here, but to just bring everyone up to speed it is the chart you might see floating around in memes with Lawful Good and variations of Lawful, Neutral and chaotic coupled with good, neutral and evil. Some have expressed how inadequate this system is in reflecting real ethics or human behavior.

I think this traditional style of alignment has a place in many games still to this day. AD&D and earlier versions of the game had alignment in the game as more of a mechanic. It impacts things like magic by targeting certain characters or even how weapons and spells work. It has a big part with the mechanics of clerics, if a character strays too far from their deities alignment they can fall out of favor with their god. There are many reasons for game play purposes to keep the traditional alignment system. I am not trying to go against it. At the same time, not all games or campaigns will find those mechanics as important to what they are doing. Perhaps you are looking to find new forms of alignment that more accurately reflect a person’s ethics and the complexities of morality or how a character behaves. Perhaps one that could even reflect the contradictions of belief and behavior could be helpful in defining and fleshing out a character.

I have a few alternatives and sheets I have used in the past, and I am going to post a few here. The first is an easy way to define ethics and alignment of a character. It could be used in conjunction with the traditional alignment system with a little thought, or it could be used to replace it. That is entirely your call. This first system I am presenting is easy to adjust, just simply by changing the different questions or definitions that are being defined.

This alignment system has a rating system. I use 1 to 10, you can do 0-9 or 1-20 or even 1-4. You can choose the ranking number to perhaps create a roll system to determine behavior by a random roll. Simply define the spread and what die is needed to roll on the ranking for the given ethical element that is being charted. At the same time, you do not need to use a die mechanic with this, it could simply be used to define how a character behaves and used as a decision making tool for the player when trying to role play the player character. There are a lot of options with this.

Each pair of options in this chart lays out an imagined dichotomy illustrating two personality traits that are involved with behavior, belief, and ethics. If you want to use a ranking system choose which of the two you lean towards and place a number there. If you lean one way the number will be higher. Let’s use a D20 for the mechanic. A 3D6 could be used to define each one randomly by rolling and assigning the number. In this case, a 10 would pretty much be a 50/50 chance, so going over 10 would give a higher likelihood you will roll under that with a D20, if you prefer an ascending system, make the tendency a lower number. Remember the coupling of the two should be one number difference, and the chosen tendency should be circled or notes as to which way the PC leans. Really, this tool if for you to play with and adjust as you feel works best for what you are trying to accomplish with it. I personally prefer it to be used by players to consider who their character is as a person and not as a mechanic. This is because I tend to think there are too many rolls made in game, and part of role playing is players making those decisions themselves.

If you want to use it, just go ahead and copy and paste the following:

Alignment Sheet

My Character Values:

My Character Strives Against:

My Character Strives To:

My Character Is Ignorant Of:

Selfish 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Selfless
Selfish: Acts in own self interest
Selfless: Puts others needs before their own

Practical 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Idealistic
Practical: Pursues feasible and useful goals
Idealistic: Pursues high and noble principles

Responsible 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Capricious
Responsible: Honest, reliable, uses sound judgment
Capricious: Unpredictable, fickle, may cheat or mislead

Anarchist 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Lawful
Anarchist: Follows ethic over law
Lawful: Follows law over ethic

Tolerant 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Intolerant
Tolerant: Respects differences among people
Intolerant: Dislikes others who differ from expectations

Progressive 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Traditional
Progressive: Favors change and progress
Traditional: Preserves old ways of life

Chaos 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Order
Chaos: Spontaneous unplanned
Order: Organized well planned

Hate 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Love
Hate: Acts out of anger against another
Love: Acts out of compassion for another

Posted by No Dungeon Masters!

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