Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Beyond Good and Evil

I fucking hate the (A)D&D alignment system.
It pisses all over the system, limits players and DMs in their abilities to play their roles, and turns whole races into cardboard.
The only good thing that ever came out of it was Planescape‘s multiverse structure.
But that is not a problem for a DM, is it? It should be so easy to get rid of it, shouldn’t it?
But then of course one notices how damn ingrained alignment is in the system. It just lingers there. Spells on the spell list, random artifacts, character concepts, stuff.
And yes, the easiest way is to just strip that out.
But that does not feel right either.
Is it really still D&D then? Well…
In the end for me it boiled down to a revolutionary concept: old is the new new. Basic D&D had lawful, neutral, and chaotic. And this actually is beauty in simplicity. It gives basic guidelines for NPC and setting design, without the problem that it makes all orcs and gobbos evil by nature.

Maybe it’s just because I am such a bleeding heart liberal, but I cannot see any larger group as evil by nature. It just feels wrong. I cannot see them as good either.

I have none of these inhibitions with lawful, cahotic,  and neutral though, because I know criminals who are wonderful people and policemen who are assholes, just as I know people who are the exact opposite. And sometimes these people are the same. Individuals are never easy to cetagorize in these ways, and everytime I try it with the good and evil spectrum of D&D the resulting characters fall flat.

Ok, that rant was a bit stupid, I just wanted to get this off my chest.


2 responses to “Beyond Good and Evil

  1. micahblackburn March 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Yeah, I always had a similar problem after I’d move away from D&D and to other games. When I came back to it, they seemed trite and a bit simplistic…and like you, I hated the idea of ‘evil races’ so much, I went so far as to remove humanoids from my campaign.

    Recently though, I’ve softened a bit on the idea. I think it was a foray into Runequest and reading lots of Glorantha stuff… I began to think in terms of myth and wondered why in games it wasn’t possible to have a more mythic setting. In myths and faery tales, you don’t stop to ask why the ogre is evil, you just understand that it is and react accordingly.

    Still, for most of my campaigning, I prefer the Chaos vs Law spectrum and the unspoken idea that there are just as many good people following Chaos as their are that follow Law and ultimately, it’s Balance that’s the true way.


  2. Geoffrey March 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I think that there is a use for the Good and Evil spectrum, even though it is a very limited one. It fits perfectly into the Planescape setting, mostly because Planescape was designed with exactly this in mind. It also would fit into what you describe: a more mythic setting in which there is a clear boundary between good and evil. But I have never managed to play such a mythic setting.
    I guess one of the problems is that I started with a game (The Dark Eye) which never had anything like an alignment system. The idea of alignments never came up until I first encountered AD&D. And even then it seemed to be a bit off. It was even more off when I started playing it (and my longest running campaigns were all AD&D and D&D 3rd). While DMing it I always felt that both me and my players were limited in what we experienced there.


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