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Is sticking to an alignment a limitation on your roleplaying?

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What my hubby told me when my paladin was created was that a lawful good paladin was lawful first to his/her diety, second to the morality of good, and last to the laws of the land. Playing a paladin who ignores the suffering of innocents at the hand of the law because doing something would break the laws would not be playing a paladin, because as someone else said, paladins are champions of good.

 

So my paladin is a rather vain girl, who wears dresses instead of armour, and has flaggrently violated the law of the land (yet we still haven't really been throw in jail this campaign... weird), but is still as devoted to the precepts of good and order as ever.

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I agree with the statement that alignment is a description of the character.  If you keep finding problems with the alignment you've put down for your character, maybe it's time to revisit your choice of alignment.  That's not to say that a character won't have in-character challenges with his moral stances -- that's generally good roleplaying.

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Paladins and lawful clerics are the hardest ones to figure out action based on alignment without violating their alignment, or being cookie cutter characters. You have to think what they would do based on what their gods would want first and foremost, and then try and fit that in with the things the character might want as well. It's a part of the reason I never play lawful characters, I think too much in the 'neutral good' category of 'do what is best and most right' That said, I think if your alignment choice is stifling your ability to play that character as a character, you really need to adjust how you view alignment

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Xenomorphs (aliens) aren't evil. They're animals and are just doing what instinct requires them to to further their race. They're more like true neutral. It's like describing the wolf who's eating your face as evil. He's not, he's just hungry and you're conveniently there.

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So, in an epic failure of my Google-fu to find some record of how Wizards of the Coast did or did not flub its advertising of Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 to earlier D&D players, I ran across a blog post unhappy with various aspects of the game.

 

I was particularly struck by the issue the blogger had with the Alignment system:

You can't play a Paladin unless you're Lawful Good at all times. How do you make a Paladin interesting then, while still remaining a Paladin? They're all going to be shining paragons of justice and virtue.

I found it interesting that the author considered keeping to the lawful good alignment to be boring and a limitation of player creativity. I happen not to agree, but I wonder how common the attitude is.

 

I'll start with an admission that the alignment system is artificial and a little silly, a relic of Gary Gygax's infatuation with the work of Michael Moorcock and his whole law and chaos thing. But it is part of the rules, and it can be fun and challenging to take it up.

 

I've played with lots of people over the years, and most of us have gotten as much entertainment out of the alignment system as any other aspect of D&D rules. We've played characters of all alignments, and I've seen my friends be inspired in all sorts of interesting ways by trying to act in accord with them.

 

A paladin, to take one example, could be priggish, or boisterous, or slightly off-key and carrying a book of etiquette for every occasion, all while faithfully adhering to the lawful good alignment. He or she could be stern, merry, contemplative, ambitious, humble or pushy, all the while promoting justice and questy stuff the way the rulebooks say paladins should.

 

Sometimes they don't quite make it. I'll just put in a mention here of poor Dudley Didwrong, the post-mortal not-quite paladin from a friend's campaign. He tried, the poor dope.

 

My thesis is that playing to alignment rather than stifling individuality and creativity can be liberating and open up new possibilities in roleplaying.

 

What are other people's opinions?

 

 

I'll preface this by saying that I have ran my pally since D&D 3.0 when I really started getting into the game. My group is pretty combat heavy but the research/clues/context/rp that we do take up is very in depth, just usually for shorter periods, or one long drawn out period prior to heading out to adventure.

 

As I leveled my pally I learned that many time, because of your alignment you become a spokesmen of the group by default (along with other reasons but I won't delve into that). I had two friends who had leveled pally's before me as well so I had some guidance and ideas on how I could make him and shape him. We now run Pathfinder but it's the same alignment system. One thing they always told me as I leveled up was that I was Lawful Good. Not Lawful Stupid. There is a line.

 

Another concept that we had developed over years (and as random group mates came and went) was that if someone in the group was a total D-bag (in character, of course) then they would lose "brownie" points with most if not all members. If it got bad enough (nuking group mates, stealing loot, deceiving the party for personal gain etc etc) we would ask the question "Why are we even grouping with you?" Not you as in our RL friend but you as in the character you felt was needed to make and drive the group crazy with. The answer we came up with is: we wouldn't. In one major campaign we ran one of the Lawful Good Church's hired us to do work for them. So, by default, my pally was a "leader" of the group as I was a trusted liaison between the group and the church as it was the deity I worshiped. That along with the fact that I was the only LG person in group made me a bit of a moral compass. But we didn't have any chaotic neutral members either (we don't allow evil characters to be played in "good" campaigns because the question of then "WHY" would we be with this person always outweighed the need we would have for that specific skill set). Anyhow, we had quite the campaign, there was some breaking and entering, some that I was not made aware of, some that I was eventually let in on because of evidence against certain NPCs.

 

Anyhow, to my point just because you are LG doesn't mean your an idiot or are naive. I do have a moral code and as we have leveled our characters the ones who have ran with my pally know what he allows and what he expects. In the end if a Chaotic Neutral rogue was bound and determined to break that code it would either come to blows or that person would be excommunicated from being in the group with my pally. And some will say "Well why wouldn't your pally be excommunicated instead of the rogue" and the answer is that because, by and large, most characters are going to be good or lawful of some type. If a CN rogue or fighter or wizzy continually screwed the group for their own personal gain, we would just simply find the services of someone else not of that alignment with a matching skill set.

 

I don't know if this answers the question correctly, but it's just always been my group's thought process the past 15+ years of playing. I love my pally and think the class is great fun. I think many times people who play pally's constrict themselves into the LG mindset of lawful stupid.

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You might find this real life race, class, alignment test interesting: http://www.easydamus.com/character.html

Been a long time since I used that... and the answer has changed.

 

I have gone from a 12th level Lawful Good Elf Bard to 16th level Lawful Good Human Wizard/3rd level Sorcerer.... :huh:

 

The Auld Grump

Edited by TheAuldGrump
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Personally I see Lawful Good as a potentially awesome opportunity to pit Lawful and Good against each other (if the player's into it).

 

There's no reason Lawful Good can't be lethal or even frightening, provided he (or she) is convinced he's in the right. Certainly it is not exceptional even in early modern combat to accept surrender only under certain conditions; and in the middle of a bloody, chaotic melee is not one of them. For someone who had surrendered, re-armed, and attacked from behind, I don't see why Judge Dre... Lawful Good Paladin couldn't charge them with attempted murder and execute them.

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You might find this real life race, class, alignment test interesting: http://www.easydamus.com/character.html

 

I have gone from a 12th level Lawful Goof Elf Bard to 16th level Lawful Good Human Wizard/3rd level Sorcerer.... :huh:

 

 

"Lawful Goof" perfectly describes a paladin character in one of the games I ran years ago, who was kind of blatantly patterned after "Gowry" from the "Slayers" anime.  (I.e., well-meaning, more than a little naive, prone to being the butt of jokes from other, less-principled members of the party -- and especially prone to being sent off to guard something or hunt snipes while less-principled members of the party did something ... less than principled.)  I'll have to save that term for later.  :)

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Personally I see Lawful Good as a potentially awesome opportunity to pit Lawful and Good against each other (if the player's into it).

 

There's no reason Lawful Good can't be lethal or even frightening, provided he (or she) is convinced he's in the right. Certainly it is not exceptional even in early modern combat to accept surrender only under certain conditions; and in the middle of a bloody, chaotic melee is not one of them. For someone who had surrendered, re-armed, and attacked from behind, I don't see why Judge Dre... Lawful Good Paladin couldn't charge them with attempted murder and execute them.

 

Whenever I've played in a game with a paladin character (whether mine or someone else's), it seems that the DM can't resist coming up with situations to pit "Lawful" vs. "Good" and watch the paladin squirm.  I've seen so many conflicts in games where a player's ideas of the alignments didn't mesh with those of the GM's -- I think it might do well to discuss it a bit to make sure the players understand what the GM is expecting, so there aren't any nasty surprises later.  

 

For instance, I really think that a paladin shouldn't implode the moment he comes across a kingdom ruled by a Lawful-Evil wicked tyrant who delights in imposing laws that, if followed, would force Good characters to do Evil things (and which one could not disobey without being less-than-Lawful by the GM's reasoning).  Neither should a paladin be forced to follow ridiculous rules of chivalry after repeated demonstrations that a bad guy is NOT going to honor the rules.  (And, "We must take him to the authorities!" doesn't work in the seemingly typical "Wild West" fantasy setting where it seems that there ARE no authorities in most of the areas where dungeons are found.)

 

Now, if the GM just flat-out thinks "paladins are stupid, and I hate them," it's a good idea to find that out before you start playing one.  ;)  Ditto for making sure that your fellow players aren't going to hate having a paladin in the group to the point of distraction.  But then, that can apply to any character concept.

 

(I still regret the game I played where I was the paladin-type, and my fellow heroes were named -- and I do not paraphrase -- "Killer" and "Slayer."  I offered to go back and write a more COMPATIBLE character, but the GM at the time insisted that "You should play what you want to play."  In the ensuing chaos, I learned that there are certain disadvantages to everyone in a game group writing their characters in total isolation from each other and then bringing them to the table and somehow we're supposed to pretend that these guys are all buddies.)

 

...

 

Anyway, if it looks like I've got a player with a paladin character about to take a non-lawful, non-good action, I feel obliged as a GM to do an "are you really sure you want to do that?" inquiry.  I likely WOULDN'T bother doing that for the party's thief/rogue or wizard/magic-user, for instance (though I might question why the player wrote "Good" on his sheet if he regularly does things that are "not-Good").  It might be that the player has an honestly different moral take on the situation, and a rationale, and I need to hear it.  

 

But in any case, if he's playing a paladin who went through squire training and all that, SURELY moral questions would have come up before.  It shouldn't be that as soon as we start adventuring -- *BAM* -- you took an action you thought was justified, but the Divine Powers do not, so you are PENALIZED!  The paladin ought to have a pretty good idea where the boundaries are.  If I haven't conveyed that to the player, then I ought to amend that ASAP.  And if it's a case of a player who signed up to play a paladin just for the cool perks but deliberately wants to see how far he can push Good and Lawful for kicks, then I need to stop things and work out with the player, "How the heck do you expect that your character ever made it to Paladin-hood in the first place?"

 

Ditto if I've got a druid who regularly starts forest fires for tactical advantage and drops summoned Nature's Ally animals from the air (the DMG says that dropping a 2000-lb rhino on my enemy's head from this height should cause this much damage, and there's no listed Save to avoid it, and nothing that says I can't summon my ally mid-air, so there!).  This is a role-playing game, not a video game, after all.  

 

If the PC acts too far outside the expected norms, we need to either work out some justification for how the PC got to this point -- or else I need to figure out if I'm out of touch with my players on MY expectations for what the "norms" should be.  (I admit that I've sometimes gone a bit overboard on my definition of the requirements for "Good" in the context of a fantasy adventure game.)

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Oh, I don't think there's a conflict between "Lawful" and "Good" if the ruler is plainly Evil and writing twisted horrors into the laws. Playing personal morality versus honour was a lot of fun in Legend of the Five Rings, but that's a slightly different animal'; and it's all too easy to turn the Paladin player's fun time into misery if he/she isn't interested in that.

 

I mean really, people talk about "Lawful Good is boring" but the samurai, the knight, the One Good Cop, are all Lawful Good. The archetype has plenty of "fun" in it if you dig that.

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Overthrowing unjust laws in a country is Lawful Good (example, fighting against legallized slavery).  Blindly following the law because it is the law is Lawful Neutral, not Lawful Good as some would have you think.

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To answer the question in the title: Yes.  But not in the way that's often complained about.

 

The complaint I've seen most often is code for 'Aww man, I have to follow rules to play (class)?  I can't get these awesome powers while being the same video-game-mentality sociopath I am every game?', rather than 'LG is a narrow path with little room for variance'.  The latter is patently false...the naive do-gooder, the zealous crusader, the selfless champion, and the unwavering leader can all be Paladins.

 

The attitude seems to come up most often among the "If it has stats, we can kill it", "If the DM mentions it, it's significant enough to kill", "If we weren't supposed to kill it, the DM wouldn't have put it on the table", "if the DM mentions it, there's no repercussions for looting it", and "you're doing it wrong, you don't just loot the chests in the dungeon.  You take the chests, what's in the chests, all the fixtures, every floor tile, every sconce, every trap, even the doors and door hinges" crowd.

 

As for being interesting in the DnD alignment system...gotta ask yourself a couple questions.

 

- "What does this character mean by Lawful?  Follows the laws of every given land?  Follows a strict code of behavior (knightly order, monk's teaching, etc) even when it's illegal in some lands?  Works within the legal system [investigations, evidence, trials, etc]?"

 

- "What does this character mean by Good?  Selfless charity?  Stands up for the weak?  Fights for nebulous concepts like Truth or Justice?  Puts themselves in danger for total strangers?"

 

What DnD did to make alignment such a hot mess was combining several conflicting concepts into a single axis of the scale.  Good/Evil can be selfless/selfish, benevolent/malevolent, earnest/manipulative, generous/greedy, etc.  Law/Chaos can be king rules/anarchy rules, compulsive/impulsive, follow the code/hang the code, set roots/wanderlust, legal justice/vigilante justice, etc.  Neutral is 'no strong feelings' or its logical extreme, 'strong feelings about balance'.

 

And we wonder why there's interpretation issues.

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