PDA

View Full Version : Alignment Points System

not.a.newb
2014-09-09, 06:34 PM
The Issue

As a GM and player in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder, I've taken issue to some extent with the alignment system as it is, as I'm sure everyone has. It's not perfect, and I don't suppose I could make it perfect, but one thing that has always bugged me is that there doesn't seem to be a way to accurately measure alignment. Now, I'm aware that alignments are labeled, but they aren't accurately measurable. You can have two different lawful good characters, and one of them could be nearly as close to neutral as good, whereas the other is as good as you can possibly be... And you'd never know the difference, except of course by observing their actions.

My Solution

Alignment Points (Karma and Order)

Under this system, each player character and non-player character has a number of alignment points on two axes, each ranging from 1-1000. Alignment points on each axis come in two forms: On the Good-Evil axis, you can gain Good alignment points, or Evil alignment points; we'll call these Good and Evil Karma. On the Law-Chaos axis, you can gain Law alignment points, or Chaos alignment points; we'll call these Order and Disorder points. Even though you have two kinds of points on each axis, you will only have one score; opposite points cancel out, resulting in points of the opposite alignment functioning as 'negative' points. (A character with 500 Good Karma who gains 50 Evil Karma now has 450 Good Karma.)

The two axes of Karma and Order reflect the flexibility of alignments. On each axis, the 2000 total possible points are divided into 3 groups:

1000 Good Karma - 1 Good Karma = Good
500 Good Karma - 500 Evil Karma = Neutral
1000 Evil Karma - 1 Evil Karma = Evil

1000 Order - 1 Order = Lawful
500 Order - 500 Disorder = Neutral
1000 Disorder - 1 Disorder = Chaotic

At the outset, characters are assigned Karma and Order based on their class and alignment. Characters with no alignment restriction are placed in the middle of their range; a Lawful Good fighter has 500 Order points and 500 Good Karma. Characters with a class alignment restriction are placed in the middle of the 'pure' range for their alignment; a Lawful Good paladin has 750 Order points and 750 Good Karma. This represents the fact that even among those with the most pure of alignment, there will be some variation.

Over the course of a game, characters will commit actions that alter their alignment; some slightly, some greatly. Committing any action of external consequence has an effect on Karma, Order, or both. Before we go further, I will clarify the definitions I am using for Good/Evil and Law/Chaos. Good, in the sense of an alignment system, is to help someone. Whether it's picking up a dropped toy for a child, speaking an encouraging word, or saving a kingdom from destruction, it is Good to help someone. Evil, in the same sense, is to harm someone. Whether it is stealing a child's toy, taunting and tormenting someone, or murdering the inhabitants of a village, it is Evil to harm someone. It is Lawful to obey the laws of the land you are in, be it by paying taxes, submitting to inspections, or following a certain code of conduct. On the other hand, it is Chaotic to break the laws of the land, whether by stealing, dodging authorities, or breaking codes of conduct.

Obviously there are times when an action, by these definitions, is both Good and Evil, or both Lawful and Chaotic, and actions can be viewed differently depending on knowledge and intent. In these cases, the greater impact, and your intent, are weighed by the Game Master. If you provide medicine to a dying man, but that is what allows him to finish casting a spell that destroys a nearby village, you have committed an action both Good and Evil. If you were aware of this, a Game Master would likely rule that the impact of your action was decidedly evil, and the deaths of those villagers will likely be what affects your Karma. If you were not, the Game Master may rule that your action was Good, but the Good Karma is outweighed by the death of the villagers, resulting in no change. As always in matters of alignment, each action must be individually weighed.

Implementation

Actions are grouped by how significant of an effect they have:

+1 Good Karma: Directly provide an individual with minor help, such as first aid.
+5 Good Karma: Directly provide an individual with significant help, such as aiding them in an unprovoked fight, or returning stolen items for free, or provide a small group (<20) of people with minor help.
+10 Good Karma: Directly provide an individual with help that poses a serious risk to your own safety or career such as aiding an innocent man in hiding from the authorities, provide a large group (20-100) with minor help, or provide a small group with significant help.
+20 Good Karma: Provide a huge number (100+) of people with minor help, provide a large group of people with significant help, or provide a small group of people with help that poses a serious risk to your own safety or career.
+50 Good Karma: Provide a huge number of people with significant help, or provide a large group of people with help that poses a serious risk to your own safety or career.
+100 Good Karma: Provide a huge number of people with help that poses a serious risk to your own safety or career.

+1 Evil Karma: Directly cause minor harm to an individual, such as stealing a few gold pieces.
+5 Evil Karma: Directly cause moderate harm to an individual, such as assaulting them without permanent damage, or cause minor harm to a small group.
+10 Evil Karma: Directly cause serious unprovoked harm to an individual, such as permanently injuring or exiling them, cause minor harm to a large group, or cause moderate harm to a small group.
+20 Evil Karma: Kill an individual in cold blood, cause minor harm to a huge group of people, cause moderate harm to a large group of people, or cause serious unprovoked harm to a small group of people.
+50 Evil Karma: Directly cause moderate harm to a huge group of people, cause serious harm to a large group of people, or kill a small group in cold blood.
+100: Directly cause serious harm to a huge group of people, or murder a large group in cold blood.
+200: Murder a huge group of people in cold blood.

+1 Order: Obey a minor law or regulation, such as keeping your weapon sheathed in public.
+5 Order: Comply with a difficult, non-mandatory request from a minor law enforcer, such as a recruit in the local town watch, or obey a serious law or regulation, such as paying taxes on money you've earned
+10 Order: Comply with a difficult, non-mandatory request from a significant law enforcer, such as the captain of the local town watch, or obey a troublesome law or regulation, such as turning in your weapons or other goods to the local rulers temporarily.
+20 Order: Comply with a difficult, non-mandatory request from a major law enforcer, such as a magistrate or judge, or obey a potentially dangerous law or regulation, requiring you to place yourself or your friends or family in moderate danger.
+50 Order: Obey a tyrranical law, such as one forcing you to permanently hand over valuable property, or place yourself or your friends or family in serious danger.
+100 Order: Comply with a difficult, non-mandatory request from a King, Queen, or other ruler.

+1 Disorder: Violate a minor, obscure law or regulation, such as bowing before nobility in public.
+5 Disorder: Refuse to comply with a simple order from a minor law enforcer, violate a minor, well known law or regulation, such as keeping your weapon sheathed in public, or commit another moderate violation of local legal codes, such as registering for citizenship.
+10 Disorder: Refuse to comply with a simple order from a significant law enforcer, such as the captain of the local town watch, or violate a minor burdensome law or regulation, such as paying taxes on income, or commit a serious violation of local legal codes, such as assaulting an innocent person.
+20 Disorder: Refuse to comply with a simple order from a major law enforcer, such as a magistrate or judge, or discreetly violate a serious law or regulation, such as one requiring you to turn in weapons or possessions to local rulers.
+50 Disorder: Refuse to comply with a major, standardized law, such as one requiring you to turn in weapons or possessions and flaunt it openly.
+100 Disorder: Refuse to comply with a simple order from a King, Queen, or other ruler.

Players are given the option to change their alignment when they enter an overlapping alignment range; a Neutral Evil character will have the option to become Lawful Evil when she has 1 or more Order points. If a player character is not intentionally changing the course of their actions, they may decline this change, as long as they do not have an alignment restriction. A character with an alignment restriction, such as a paladin, must stay within the 'pure' segment of their alignment, and as such, if a Lawful Good paladin reached 500 or fewer Order points, their alignment would change to Neutral Good and they would lose paladin abilities. Otherwise, a character's alignment does not change against their will unless they have left the range of their current alignment. For example, if our Lawful Good character were a fighter, she would be allowed to maintain her Lawful alignment until she no longer had any Order points. It is crucial that both the Game Master and the Player are clear on the intentions of player characters when determining the Karma and Order impact of their actions because of this.

This is, of course, a system I'm still working on, and I'm open to any and all feedback. Have you ever used an alignment points system in Pathfinder? What did that end up looking like for you? How does this compare? What would you change in my system?

1pwny
2014-09-09, 07:09 PM
This seems legit. I would need to playtest it in order to figure out how fair it is.

Finally, you didn't put in anything about removing karma. Technically, I could have over 500 Good and evil karma at the same time, and end up being Good and Evil?

not.a.newb
2014-09-09, 07:16 PM
Under this system, 500 Good Karma and 500 Evil Karma would cancel out to a net 0 Karma, so your alignment would have to be Neutral, because 0 is outside the range of Good or Evil... You have to be at least a little bit more of one or the other to not be Neutral, know what I mean?

But as an alternate way of keeping track of it, you could keep a running total of both numbers, and just subtract the smaller one from the bigger one to find your current Karma, rather than cancelling them out... Mechanically it'd be the same, my suggested method just means smaller numbers.

IamL
2014-09-09, 09:39 PM
There are a few large problems with this, though it's a fairly decent system. Firstly, it will quickly become a pain in the butt to measure the exact amount of Karma or Order/Disorder each individual character has as the result of each of his actions, especially with the order/disorder axis. After all, even the most Chaotic of characters won't, for example, randomly decide to jump out into the middle of the street and start doing the chicken dance because it would put themselves at a serious risk. They'd also be following safe traffic laws, but they didn't do it because they wanted to follow the law. Likewise, as with your sheathed weapon example, they would keep their weapon sheathed in public because it's a pain in the neck to carry a several-pound sword or axe around with you. Or maybe an ultra-paranoid Lawful character keeps his swords unsheathed because he is always fearful of an attack. These examples have obvious solutions to them; go by their intent combined soth their actions, in this instance, the chaotic character shouldn't gain order points, nor should the lawful character move towards chaos.

But basically, as previously stated, having to make that call every time somebody makes a decision would slow down gameplay significantly, a problem that tends to happen the more complex and real-life based your house rule is. I personally prefer the five-axis system because I think it's found a happy medium between too complex and time wasting and too simplistic to be an accurate model.

not.a.newb
2014-09-09, 09:55 PM
These two portions are where I would direct you for that issue, and the related issue of moral ambiguity.

Over the course of a game, characters will commit actions that alter their alignment; some slightly, some greatly. Committing any action of external consequence has an effect on Karma, Order, or both....

...Obviously there are times when an action, by these definitions, is both Good and Evil, or both Lawful and Chaotic, and actions can be viewed differently depending on knowledge and intent. In these cases, the greater impact, and your intent, are weighed by the Game Master.

The Game Master doesn't need to assign Karma and Order values to all of a character's actions, only those of external consequence. This removes the issue of a chaotic character's unintentional obedience to minor laws (there's no real external consequence to that, s-/he will still be judged based on their more significant actions) or similar problems, and also of the GM assigning values to every little thing. As a general rule, the GM should only, in a system like this, consider deliberate choices, or actions with a significant external impact. I do agree, though, that it would add an extra level of complexity for the GM.

Additionally, my personal implementation of this will be, and I would recommend it to streamline the system, to simply jot down on a notepad additions to each character's Karma and Order score, and inform the players of total/net changes at the end of each session, eliminating issues during gameplay and also providing players with a sort of overview of how their actions played out during that session.