CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cult of Personality

Alignment, one of the biggest divisive issues in gaming. Argued about, not just in games that use the alignment system, but among all gamers. The thing is, I think a lot of people have a very narrow view of what alignment represents. They see alignment as a cage that traps a player into being a certain thing all the time. Personally, I think that misses some fundamental points and I’m going to touch on few of them today.

The first thing I want to talk about is the fact that a lot of people think your alignment determines what you do. The truth of the matter is that what you do determines your alignment. This is one of the reasons  the first thing I do is determine how he would react to certain situations when working on a new character. Seeing what he would do when tough choices need to be made helps me make a determination as to what alignment he might be.

I really enjoy one of the alternate methods proposed in Pathfinder Unchained.  These alternate alignment rules start all players at True Neutral, except in cases where the class has alignment restrictions. From there the character’s actions determine their placement on the alignment scale. This allows the player to settle into the alignment that closest suits the character’s actions.

Speaking of actions, some think that every little action determines alignment movement. Really, it is the tough moral challenges and dilemmas. Not paying your fine once doesn’t change the fact that you’re lawful. Turning yourself in for a crime you didn’t commit to try and prove your innocence would shift you toward being lawful. The tough moral decisions, the things that could be detrimental to you even if you do them, these are the things that make us who we are.

The last thing I want to talk about is alignment and personality. Too often people feel you can only play an alignment one way. As much as I hate the sentiment, because usually it means people want to be a jerk to the rest of the party, Lawful Good does not equal Lawful Nice. Your chaotic evil character is allowed to love animals. He’s allowed to have a wife and kid. Your alignment does not equal your personality; it may in cases influence it but it does not determine it. I’ve even already taken a stab at non-psychotic ways to play Chaotic Neutral.

Alignment may not be for you and that’s fine. There are plenty of games that don’t use it. And the same alternative rules sections posits ways to remove alignment. But if you do want to use the alignment system or you’re even on the fence about it, maybe these musings will help you get a better grip on how you can use alignment in your game.

Do you use alignment? Would these ideas make you reconsider using alignment if you don’t? How have you used alignment in your game? Do you enforce alignment shifts only on major moral dilemmas, or for every little action?

Looking at gaming ideas from another angle is what the CRB is all about. If the CRB has helped you look at something new and differently then please consider contributing to my Patreon. And don’t forget to check out the video message from me to you on the Patreon homepage. If you’d like to chime in with the rest of the CRB community check us out on Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Feel free to ask any questions, I’m more than happy to give more personalized advice on any gaming topic.


  1. It jut seems to me that if Alignment is so open ended then what is the point? It really requires a strict definition to have any meaning.

  2. One of the reasons it doesn't have a strict definition is because our on morality isn't as black and white. So in my game I might think of something as being an evil act that you wouldn't in your game. The agreed upon morality of the group will be different at every table. There are very few things that the developers have decided to say this is definitively good and this is definitively evil so that each group can decide on what their morality is. But then once the morality is chosen its pretty simple to figure out where on the moral axis you stand.

    And as for meaning. In pathfinder and to some extend D&D there is a war going on in the outer planes. The choices you make that lead you to a life of good or evil, order or chaos but you squarely on one side of this war, even if the character doesn't realize it. Hell and the Heavens are scrambling for more souls to join their armies so the choices you make aren't just important to you in the here and now on earth. They matter after you die as well. They are of the utmost importants and have true meaning to the cosmic balance.

  3. @Ian Shannon - The point is that alignment is how others perceive you currently.
    But your actions would influence that perception.

    Your alignment does not dictate what you can or can't do, it merely reflects what you have done.
    As it lists, an evil character can still love animals or have a family. Infact to those animals or family the character may not even be viewed as evil.
    But to the rest of the world you could still be the one that sold out the entire town so you could get that very family out safely or the one that let a bunch of poor defenseless peasants die just so you could get away with the loot.