View Full Version : Fate - An alternate Alignment system

2009-08-15, 09:39 AM
Alignment in D&D is something of a hassle. It's often understood as a deterministic system that enforces a characters actions and limits his possible descisions and oppinions. Also the idea that there's a cosmic good and a cosmic evil which even manifest in physical locations and creatures doesn't really fit with some settings. Also though good and evil are nominally equal, it's almost always assumed that good is right and evil is wrong.
But most people won't deny that alignment can often be an entertaining aspect of fantasy and it's an invaluable useful tool for gms to get a general outline of a characters personalty in just two letters.

So here I came up with something similar to alignment, which is heavily influenced by the old germanic belive of Wyrd and the Open Palm/Closed Fist philosophy of Jade Empire. The later one is an interesting idea, but then ends up as just another Light Side/Dark Side variant.


The ancient greeks had the believe, that there exist three incredibly powerful godesses known as the Fates, who possess a great loom that weaves the threads of fate into history. These godesses were also known to the germanic tribes and called the Norns. Though the greek somewhat believed in the inevitability of the fate that destiny has chosen for them, the germanic concept was somewhat diferent.
Everything that happens is the result of events that happened earlier, and will be the cause for event that will happen later. This endless net of cause and effect is the Wyrd and it is impossible to escape from it. But one highly important aspect is, that a person who posseses great wisdom and cunning can use the Wyrd to his own benefit. If you understand how people will react to things that are happening now, you can prepare for the future and sometimes even take actions to create a different outcome. And if it is already to late for that, you may find ways to use the results for your own benefit. You can't escape the wyrd, but you don't have to take everything that is coming to you and instead shape your own fate and that of others.

A characters Fate is not his inevitable destiny, but rather how he faces fate.
A character who is purely passive and takes everything life presents to him has a Fate of "none" or N. This applies to all animals and most lesser spirits, as well to a great deal of humanoids. Though many humanoids don't shape fate in any way, they don't have to be the majority or even the greatest Fate group.
There are two basic aspects how characters face fate:
- A character can take actions to shape either his Individual fate or the fate of a greater group, or a Communal fate. Most great events in history are the results of actions by people who are interested in communal fate, but every so often there are events, when the selfish actions of an individual can drasticaly change the fate of entire nations. Such an event might cause a person to move their attention away from their own personal fate and towards a greater good (or evil), but the scope of the results of his action alone doesn't make him a person focued on communal fate.
- Independent of the fact that a character is concerend about a communal or his individual fate, he may approach it either Agressively or Subtle. Agressive characters have strong tendencies to take control of things, stand in the foreground, speak their mind and enforce their own ideas by a variety of means. They may be kind and respectful or brutal and uncaring, but in either way they take active control. It does not mean that their plans and actions would not be sophisticated or complex, but they usally make their presence known.
Subtle characters favor less direct routes to shape fate in their prefered direction. They are more likely to manipulate events from the background and assume less prominent roles. They are less likely to demand obidience or even sympathy for their cause, but might not be above tricking people to help them regardless of that. Sometimes subtle characters see the need to take up public offices or become leaders to others, but they usually don't desire such a kind of power or authority. Some subtle characters are very kind and gentle people, but others can be sneaky bastards and cheats.

This allows for five possible fates:

None (N) - These character don't shape fate at all. They are completely passive and rise in the morning, do what is expected from them in the day, and go to bed in the evening. They usually lack any real ambition and rarely rise into positions of influence. Those who do usually were placed there by others and didn't feel the need to object to it.
I don't know of any good examples, as such people usually don't leave any impression or would be noteworthy in any other way.
Communal Agressive (CA) - These people are born leaders, or at least would like to be. Many of them aspire to power and fame, but what good are these things if nobody cares? Others are completely selfless and don't care at all what happens to them, as long as they serve their community or their leader. Characters with Communal Agressive Fate are often refered to as Solid Rocks.
Examples: King Arthur, Julius Ceasar, Aragorn
Communal Subtle (CS) - Characters with this Fate usually believe that they should take actions to make a difference. Things can't go on like this and if someone has to do something, it probably has to be them. Some are interested in gaining great power and influence without most people knowing, while others offer their assistance where it is needes and welcomed, but don't seek out confrontation where it can be avoided. But this is just what they prefer. If their goals require it they may take direct control and lead from the front, but their greater plans usually try to avoid this. Characters with Communal Subtle Fate are often refered to as Gentle Rivers.
Examples: Darth Sidious, Yuna, Sam Gamgee, Jaina Proudmoore
Individual Agressive (IA) - Charactres like these are mostly interested in their own personal benefit and gain. Positions of leadership might help them, or be actually required to archieve their goals, but their followers are merely tool they don't pay major attention to. Individual Agressive characters are the most likely to become an anoiance to the people around them, but they don't have to be troublemakers or even evil. Among these people are also many artists who crave fame and wealth and they may occasionally be inclined to offer their help to others. Even if it may just be to boost their egos. But this Fate also includes monks who seek reclusion to archieve greater states of mind through meditation. Characters with Individual Agressive Fate are often refered to as Blazing Flames.
Examples: Darth Vader, Sigurd, Beowulf, Han Solo
Individual Subtle (IS) - These people tend to be reclusive people who keep to themselves and a few other close ones. Many of them are carefree and don't worry too much about things that happen in the larger world, but unlike people without fate, they do have goals in life, and often great ones. But they don't need the approval of the masses of faceless strangers. Other simply hate about everyone, but don't bother to worry about them. Characters with Individual Subtle Fate are often refered to as Spring Breezes.
Examples: Frodo Baggins. That's the only famous one I can think of. ;)

Any thoughts?

Dragon Elite
2009-08-15, 09:49 AM
I like it, but it might be needed to add it to the 3.5 alignment system for alignments like LE, IA to make a difference between an IA who wants to stop war and an IA who wants to kill all elves.

2009-08-15, 09:54 AM
I think the elemental association feels a little off in most settings. That said, I like it; it's less ambiguous than Good/Evil/Law/Chaos. I am a bit miffed, though; I was waffling over whether or not to write up the Yin-Yang system I'm producing for Avatar right now! :smallwink:

2009-08-15, 10:05 AM
It's primarily developed for a setting in which there are no alignment planes or creatures with alignment subtypes.
Of course, there's nothing from stoping any character from having a personalty that fits Lawful Evil. But it has really no consequence at all. As a result alignment is subjective. Good is what people agree what is good, but theres no higher authority that would define what good and evil is.
Okay, as it is, Fate also has no consequences at all, but... ;)

I think the charm of such system lies in the fact, that it givs you a starting point how to flash out a characters personalty. And I think if you start with other basics than those of alignment, you might end up with quite different and new characters.

The elemental descriptions are pure fluff. I think they might be appropiate for my setting which has lots of elemental magic and spirits, but you could just drop these lines if you want to use it in another setting.

2009-08-15, 10:20 AM
I really like this idea, this makes alignment really more subjective. The only problem is, how will Paladin abilities work? In my campaign setting, I don't have alignment at all, and so the Paladin's Smite works on Demons, Devils, and those whose ideology is opposed to their own.

2009-08-15, 10:21 AM
I really like this idea, this makes alignment really more subjective. The only problem is, how will Paladin abilities work? In my campaign setting, I don't have alignment at all, and so the Paladin's Smite works on Demons, Devils, and those whose ideology is opposed to their own.

Take a page from the Crusader. Make Smite work on anything.

2009-08-15, 10:54 AM
Good question. My homebrew setting doesn't have any paladins. :smallbiggrin:

I guess you could have deities which essentially have Lawful Good as their personal dogma. But it would include much more ad hoc judgement by the gm to determine what creatures are affected by the paladins power.

For my homebrew setting I'm working on a system of unaligned Taint. It's mostly based on taint, but the corruption it causes only becomes harmful at higher levels and can even be used to do great good at lower levels. It is the essence of the Astral Plane and the Outer Planes, and the Material Plane and the Inner Planes are not meant to be exposed to them. All outsiders and their influence cause corruption, both Celestials and Fiends.
The astral essence can grant an individual impressive powers which can be used for good and evil. But it is a corruption of reality in either case so it's best to use it only when really neccessary and only at levels which are required. It's a powerful tool, but one that is easily abused. Fiendish cultists don't have this problem, as they want to use the power for bad things to begin with.
Paladins could be champions who use this astral essence to fight the coruption it causes. Those who fail would turn into blackguards.

2009-08-15, 10:58 AM
Sounds neat. Do you have more written about this somewhere?

2009-08-15, 11:08 AM
Unfortunately, no. There are a couple of text files on my HD, but they are severly outdated. And most things are general concepts of which I havn't even thought about how to translate them in game terms.

Also, I'm constantly revising my concept. It started out more or less as a Silmarilion RPG with other locations and NPCs. But in the last years I had a lot of contact with indian, chinese and japanese mythology and I'm willing to throw a lot of traditional fantasy tropes over board to make something unique with depth. For example Indo-European pantheons of deities, knights, clear concepts of good and evil, stronger focus on a spirit world instead of outer planes, and others. I want to get all it written down at some point, but I'm currently rearanging the locations and sizes of the countries and such, and that really takes some time. :smallamused: