My “official” ruling on alignment.
The 3.5 alignment system is a good way to get a basic handle on your character. It lets you strucutre yout thoughts about their opinions of the Authority and System and also how they would respond when facing the Enemy. Where the systems fails, however, is in murky situations.
The situation at New Years is a good example of this murkiness.
A band of enemy fighters is discovered preparing to murder a pair of children who wandered into the wrong forest glade. These fighters represent a cruel, oppresive power which recently usurped the true local Authority and has been using force of arms to steal from, abuse, and murder the local populace. The Heroes immediately attack in order to save the children. All but one of the enemy fighters is killed and the last, having been stunned by a harsh blow, is restrained and interrogated.
What should the party do now? Release him? Cripple him? Kill him?
There is no right answer to quandry. Ideally, the alignment system should be able to guide everyone’s responses and a quick debate should lead to a solution. Unfortunately, the system lacks the necessary specificities to allow for such clear options. As such, I have a proposal to suppliment the alignment system and to give everyone better options when faced with such situations in the future.
Several players have picked a class which has a built-in expectation for some sort of honor code. I would like everyone to take some time during the intial character development process to write out or at least outline their character’s personal code of honor.
Paladin: As representatives of holy orders, Paladins are expected to follow their mother body’s code of honor and conduct. Violation of the code can lead to a number of penalties depending on the seriousness of the offense — up to and including banishment from the order.
Sorcerer: Use of arcane magic comes with a price. Casting the wrong spell or using arcane energies for the wrong purpose can lead to harsh penalties for the caster. In addition, many schools and teachers of magic enforce harsh discipline to keep their students from straying into dangerous territories.
Barbarian: The lack of a written language scarcely inhibits barbarians from maintaining discipline and order within their tribes. They have strong oral traditions, moral authorities such as elders and shamans/druids, and the edicts of their particular diety to guide them.
Fighter: Outside of military service, past of present, fighters rarely learn more regimented forms of discipline or honor. As warriors faced with the nitty gritty details of medieval life, though, they soon learn where their personal boundries lie. One may be willing to stab someone over a card game after protecting a child from a tyrranic guard — one known for holding grudges. Some make a point to avoid taking any job that deals with slavery theft and others care only for their own outcomes.
In addition to penning the requirements of your holy order/oral history tradition, I’d like everyone to start considering how their code would apply to the other members of the party.
Don’t try to come up with a response for every possibilty — this should grow organically as the campaign progresses and specific incidents arise that require stepping back and truly pondering what needs to happen next. Consider the following:
- What happens when someone in the group commits an act that violates your personal code? A minor pickpocketing or a swift execution?
- What can your character ignore? What makes them roll their eyes, grind their teeth, or attempt ot interfere?
- Is there a point of no return? What would happen once that point is reached? Would the band simply break up or would there be a physical challenge? A betrayel of any kind?