View Full Version : A Linear Alignment System

2010-11-25, 02:04 PM
I've been mulling this idea over in my mind for some time.

The consensus seems to be that the D&D 3.x/Pathfinder alignment system is a broken mechanic and useful only for fluff and class restrictions. It's great if you want to play a character who is generally evil or good, but once you start mucking around in whether or not your character is specifically aligned to law or chaos it kind of gets messy. Is this a lawful act? Does my character fall because they didn't conform to what the rules say is good or evil, or can we debate this?

I'd like to present a more linear system for alignment. There is no "lawful good" or "chaotic neutral" or whatnot; simply good, neutral, and evil.

A graphical representation, more or less:

Level 1: True Neutral
Level 2: Outspoken Activist (Good); Sitting the Fence (Neutral); Minion Material (Evil)
Level 3:
Level 4:
Level 5:
Level 6:
Level 7:
Level 8:
Level 9:
Level 10:
Level 11:
Level 12:
Level 13:
Level 14:
Level 15:
Level 16:
Level 17:
Level 18:
Level 19:
Level 20: Beacon of Good (Good); The Ultimate Scale (Neutral); Emperor of Evil (Evil)

The idea is this: At level 1, you are True Neutral. You are just starting your adventuring career and have yet to make your mark on the world. As you progress through the campaign, your actions are noted and recorded (mentally or actually by hand) by yourself and the DM; whether or not you decide to count every little action or just your major decisions is up to you and the DM. When you get to level 2, you and the DM review your character's journey so far. If you acted more evil, you take a step toward the Evil branch and obtain the title, "Level 2: Minion Material"; if you were more good, you would get, "Level 2: Outspoken Activist," and if you were more neutral you would take, "Level 2: Sitting the Fence."

As you gain levels, you review your character thus far and choose whether your next step will be Good, Neutral, or Evil, and gain titles in the process.


This could be tricky. I don't think, except in the case of major character development, a character should be able to jump across the entire board and go from Good to Evil or vice versa; like in the D&D 3.x/Pathfinder alignment system, where a jump from Lawful Good to Lawful Neutral would be more acceptable than Lawful Good to Chaotic Neutral. That would largely be up to the DM.

A character who is decidedly Good, Neutral, or Evil shouldn't have too many problems staying along their own path. A Neutral character will undoubtedly have made decisions and acted both Good and Evil from time to time, or simply strode the path of neutrality without any complications; just as a stalwart Paladin will have no problem being a beacon of good. However, in the case of characters whose personalities and decisions are changing over time, this is something that would be discussed at leveling up. If your Good character has recently been making more Neutral or Evil acts, then their next title should be on the Neutral path.


When you level up, there should be a spot on the character sheet (if one gets made for this, anyway) where you can record your titles. Level 1, obviously, is True Neutral. Let's say that your character then achieved Minion Material. Then, we'll say that they started acting more toward Neutral than Evil. At level 3, they would take the level 3 Neutral title. When your character goes to a different path (such as Evil to Neutral), they do not start out at the lowest title on that path -- they simply take the one that is appropriate for their level. Imagine a man who is standing on the third rung of a ladder, and there is a ladder beside him that he decides to take instead. Assuming he is a metaphor for this alignment system, the man will not climb down the ladder and then begin climbing the next one; he will, instead, jump over to the fourth rung of the next ladder without descending to the bottom. You don't need to start from the bottom when you switch paths, as the titles are merely a way of illustrating the way your character has been acting.


Classes and other character mechanics that are restricted by alignment (such as a Bard, who cannot be Lawful) no longer have to worry. Because there is no law or chaos, characters can take classes, prestige classes, and races that are simply restricted to Good, Neutral, or Evil. A Bard could be any alignment; an Assassin would still have to be Evil...


...Which brings us to Paladins.

They have frustrated me for this project. Because characters start out at True Neutral, they technically cannot be Paladins until they step on to the Good path. Also, because of the ability to jump paths depending on your overall actions, it makes it easier to "fall" if a player isn't paying attention.

I have three ideas for this, and I'm looking for more ways to make it work:

1) Create a homebrew Paladin class that is tailored to this alignment system. This Paladin would have three versions, one for each path, and if a player jumps paths then they would simply take the appropriate version at that level. They would have to start out as a Paladin of Neutrality. The problems with this are that a) they are able to acquire the class abilities for each path and stack them up, so a Paladin of Evil could have both Smite Good and Smite Evil in his repetoire, or b) you have to erase your class abilities and replace them every time you take a title on a different path. I also find this option to be very restricted.

2) Simply have three different classes -- Paladin for Good, Knight for Neutral, and Blackguard for Evil -- and when you "fall" you have to take the appropriate class if you want to keep playing as a Paladin-type character, more or less multiclassing. More problems: Not everybody likes multiclassing, and what title would you take? Since you are technically level 1 in your new class, would you take True Neutral again, or would you take the title appropriate to your overall character level? This option could be a little confusing.

3) DM fiat. The DM can either choose to not make the Paladin fall, or can come up with their own ways to make it work (such as switching out Smite Good for Smite Evil).

Good players (as in skilled players, not as in alignment-wise Good) won't be jumping all over the map with this, but you have to think of everything.


I'm on the fence about this. Should the different titles give unique abilities as you gain them? However, this might cause players to want to jump all over the map just so that they can acquire their favourite abilities. An option would be to have a unique ability for every x number of titles gained on one path.


By eliminating law and chaos, there are less alignment-based restrictions on classes, races, etc.

Players who like games where they gain titles based on their achievements will enjoy getting titles for their characters.

It's easier to switch alignments without sparking debates -- it's easier to determine whether your character has been acting good, neutral, or evil rather than lawful, neutral, or chaotic.

It's a looser system and caters more to the players who like fluff, but the inclusion of gaining titles (and, possibly, abilities) will also appease players who want something more crunchy.

The player and DM have to discuss the next title that their character will get upon leveling up, which may connect them more to the game and to the characters and it encourages communication. This can also lead to group discussion on character development (or undevelopment) and show the player what their actions look like from a different perspective.

While D&D 3.x/Pathfinder is what I'm most comfortable with, so it's what I made this for, the linear alignment system can be used in any game that is based on leveling up -- and, even then, I'm sure somebody could find a way to translate it into a skill-based game.


Paladins, Paladins, Paladins. Until there is a good solution, they remain a con.

Because of the existence of rules lawyers, some people will attempt to follow this to a T and make it a miserable experience while not realizing that it's merely a fun, new way to observe your character's actions.

It's easier to switch alignments without sparking debates -- this means it's also easier for players to jump all over the map and pick up their favourite titles.

There's more bookkeeping, or just generally more to be aware of. In the normal alignment system, you just have to be conscious of how you're acting; in this system, you have to remember how you acted in different situations so that you can figure out which title your character is worthy of.

The player and the DM have to discuss the next title that their character will get upon leveling up, which may cause arguments and other players will inevitably feel that the decision wasn't fair in their case.

This obviously isn't complete -- I don't even have most of the titles written up yet -- but I feel it's something worth working on. Thoughts, ideas, criticism?

2010-11-25, 09:24 PM
Honestly, if your only issue with this is the paladins, and your group wants this, then by all means use it.

Personnally, I believe the alignment system is useless and has no purpose, because the characters still roleplay their characters the way they want to (some people like crusading omnicidal paladins...).

As for the spells that are alignment specific, I don't really think they have their place in D&D. In D&D, there are only your allies (or those you think are your allies) and you enemies, and maybe some in the middle. Why should your protection for evil stop your greedy friend from reaching you? Since when do paladins have to fear divine fury every time they smite a heretic just because he happens to be of the same alignment? Why not just replace them with spells that affect your enemies (or those you perceive as being your enemies) or your allies?

Epsilon Rose
2010-11-25, 09:36 PM
Since when do paladins have to fear divine fury every time they smite a heretic just because he happens to be of the same alignment?

Always. Smiting someone just because you don't agree with them is bad and reflects poorly on your good and/or lawful god.

2010-11-25, 10:11 PM
Alternate approach: you can decide your character starts at level 1 on the Good or Evil path instead of everyone starting as Neutral. This fixes the paladin problem neatly.

I'm a little uncomfortable with every character being a paragon of good/neutral/evil at level 20. One possible solution is to make things more granular, which would allow you to be Neutral 6 Evil 2 Good 12 at level 20 if you're a generally good wizard but sometimes didn't care and were rarely malicious. A paladin could instead be Good 20 because they almost always picked Good over Neutral or Evil and they're devoted to their cause. A downside of this is that it makes things more complicated.

2010-11-26, 04:06 PM
Always. Smiting someone just because you don't agree with them is bad and reflects poorly on your good and/or lawful god.

Yes but if they're heretics, then they deserve to BURN!!!!

They just had to decide to be GOOD like you are, and to follow the true GOD (which happens to be yours).

In the end though, it's really a fluf thing. In some settings, it's ok for gods LG gods to let their dudes burn a few thousand "heretics" here and there, and in some others, LG people have to be goody-two-shoes daisy pickers.

2010-11-26, 05:17 PM
In the end though, it's really a fluf thing. In some settings, it's ok for gods LG gods to let their dudes burn a few thousand "heretics" here and there, and in some others, LG people have to be goody-two-shoes daisy pickers.

Pelor is the prime example of burning hatred, hence his title, The Burning Hate. :smallamused:

super dark33
2010-11-27, 02:21 PM
Make Paladins autumaticly level to 'Good' when they level up

2010-11-27, 05:39 PM
Good ideas

I agree. A grid is more complex, but it allows for more iffy cases.

And paladins-you can say that no more than 1/10 of their "points" can be evil, and no more than 1/5 of them can be evil. It could help represent paladins who brushed with evil but continued on their quest, and those that nearly settled down in [saved city X] as a hero before returning to their holy quest.