Friday, January 16, 2015

Alignment: A fragment of an idea

As mentioned in previous posts, I don't normally care about alignment in D&D games. I think its a silly concept. That said, it is a class component of the game system and maybe deserves some thought...This is not a whole though, just a bit that I thought up while driving and listening to NPR this morning.

One of the things I really like about the latest edition of D&D is that it downplays alignment to a great extent. Paladins no longer have any text specifying that they "must" be Lawful Good, or even good at all, and the "Oath of Vengeance" and "Oathbreaker" Paladin archetypes even strongly imply the existence of EVIL Paladins (who are still Paladins). This makes me very happy. Similarly, the classic Protection from Evil (or good) spell has been changed to no longer actually take alignment into account at all, instead becoming Protection from Evil AND Good, and granting protection against all manner of "supernatural" creatures (all aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead) but having no effects on humanoids regardless of alignment.

So, basically, in 5e D&D Alignment has no mechanical value whatsoever.


But...what if you do want your players to have alignments and you want it to actually matter that they picked a specific alignment? Here is where my fragment of an idea comes in...

5e D&D has a very ability-score focused mechanics--basically everything is an ability check (all attacks, saves, skills, spells, you name it). So what if Alignment affects ability scores?!

Every character has to pick both a Good-Evil and Lawful-Chaotic component to their alignment, at the time of character creation, which has the following effects on their starting ability scores. As usual, no starting ability score can be less than 1 or greater than 20.

  • Good vs. Evil: A kind person's inner beauty will be reflected without, but "Evil will always triumph because good is dumb".
    • Good: +2 Charisma, -2 Intelligence
    • Neutral: no change
    • Evil: +2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma
  • Lawful vs. Chaotic:  Chaotic characters are usually played as having no common sense or employing "scream and leap" tactics and react quickly making snap decisions, but Lawful characters are literally "inflexible".
    • Lawful: +2 Wisdom, -2 Dexterity
    • Neutral: no change
    • Chaotic: +2 Dexterity, -2 Wisdom

I'm still trying to think of some similarly punny modifiers for the Neutral alignments, to avoid True Neutral being the default get-out-of-mods-free option. Leave your ideas in the comments.