Alternate Alignment System for D&D

I’ve never liked the Alignment system in D&D, but on the other hand, it is hard to extract because it is reflected in so much, like the ideas behind Fiends or Celestials, or spells like Detect Evil or Protection from Law. I’m also not convinced that it’s unsalvageable.

The idea I have is to keep the system as it is but to add the idea that under the categories of Good, Evil, Law, Chaos and Neutrality there are a variety of traits that these things represent. There are a lot of ways to play Chaotic Neutral, for example, though I often disallow this Alignment because it is so often used as justification for a character doing anything with no justification whatsoever.

A character in question chooses at least one descriptor under each of their two Alignment categories. For every session where the player roleplays these descriptors well, they get extra experience points. This is also a way of explaining what is meant by each Alignment in question and for justifying Alignment changes where appropriate. Here are some descriptors I came up with off the top of my head that would make some sense based on what I think of Alignments:

Good: Generous, Chaste, Humble, Peaceful, Honest, Empathetic, Loyal, Kind, Merciful

Lawful: Righteous, Upright, Respectable, Orderly, Legalistic, Disciplined, Authoritarian, Honor-bound, Oath-bound, Traditionalist, Obsessive

Neutral: Balanced, Disinterested, Lazy, Agnostic, Skeptical, Egotistical, Conscientious, Harmonious

Chaotic: Rebellious, Inconsiderate, Individualistic, Iconoclastic, Criminal, Visionary, Innovative, Mad

Evil: Violent, Sadistic, Masochistic, Selfish, Hateful, Intolerant, Vengeful, Deceitful, Backstabbing, Greedy, Megalomaniacal, Machiavellian, Corrupted

Obviously, a given DM can add or subtract whatever they want, and players should be encouraged to come up with their own descriptors.

One thought on “Alternate Alignment System for D&D

  1. I think the alignment system in D&D is problematic, as least for role playing in the true sense of the word, because human beings, are generally not aligned to a particular mode of moral thinking permanently, or even in the space a short period of time.

    Various things will make people do virtuous or evil things, or have corresponding thoughts. They can also deceive themselves and possess subconscious minds.

    Also supposedly virtuous people, who are law abiding or moral in outlook will do, or allow to happen some shocking things such as church folk who do not disdain cruel acts or behaviour towards those they disdain or are prejudiced against. Conversely, ruthless characters can be surprisingly tender.

    These are examples or polar opposites, and the alignment system in D&D is a little more flexible than that, but still, role playing, ultimately relate very strongly on many levels to characters creation in fiction, something I have done quite a bit of, and I can certainly say that the best characters are contradictory and you never quite know how they will end up, it is the events they experience and the evolving dynamics of their personality that shape them.


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