Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alignment in 5th Edition: Throwing out the 4e baby with the bathwater?

Now that we have the Basic D&D rules online, I see they have the familiar old alignment system, though alignment doesn't seem to have any mechanical effects. I think this is a little mistake, though I'm going to call it a missed opportunity rather than a tragedy.

See, the 4e notion of unaligned is missing, replaced with boring neutrality. There's no real benefit to being aligned with any cosmic force, and now effects like protection from evil will only really affect undead and demons.

So what might have been the better solution? Keep unaligned and make aligned creatures rarer.

Here's how it would work.

There are five conflicting cosmic forces one could "align" oneself with: Good, Evil, Law, Balance, and Chaos. Ok, rename Balance as Neutrality as you like. If your character is doing things which are so aligned with one of these forces, you become aligned with those elements. Thus most creatures are unaligned, but tyrants might become aligned with Law or Evil while noble heroes might become aligned with Goodness. You can even become aligned with multiple forces as long as they don't conflict, giving Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil, etc. Now unaligned becomes the norm, but truly evil things are marked as Evil. Maybe then the Paladin smite evil bonus kicks in, and they're really a little better at battling the big-bad and his minions.

As an aside, I don't like the neutral element on the good-evil axis. I find it difficult to rationalize at times: someone who legitimately thinks we need to balance soup kitchens with a little mass murder now and then? If we dumb down good to helping others and evil to being selfish, then I can surely see neutrality then, but if alignment means you're in-line with the cosmic forces of good or evil (a la Planescape, Elric!, etc.)... I just don't think it works well.

Alignment could play such a nice part in the narrative too, after the PCs hit 5th level they go through a a divine investiture ceremony with the Cleric's church, or that moment when the paladin senses evil intent after the thief has crossed the last line into evil with no turning back...

Obviously this might have little benefit for much of the game, but I think it gives a few more options at little to no cost since we're choosing non-binding useless alignments by the book (well, by the pdf) right now. Thankfully this is a simple fix.

1 comment:

  1. I had a comment on this post and then it just got long and became it's own blog post...