- Ultimate Campaign on Alignment
- Forced Alignment Change
- Free Will
- Defining Deeds
- Changing Alignment
- Evil Characters
- Motivations for Evil Characters
- Making Evil Fun
- Moral Challenges and Dilemmas
- Timing and Focus
- Shifts and Affirmations
- Going Cosmic
- Alignment Feats
- Removing Alignment
- Affected Classes
- Creatures, Spells, and Effects
This game assumes good and evil are definitive things. Evidence for this outlook can be found in the indicated good or evil monster subtypes, spells that detect good and evil, and spells that have the good or evil descriptor. Characters using spells with the evil descriptor should consider themselves to be committing minor acts of evil, though using spells to create undead is an even more grievous act of evil that requires atonement. Creatures with an evil subtype (generally outsiders) are creatures that are fundamentally evil: devils, daemons, and demons, for instance. Their redemption is rare, if it is even possible. They are evil to their very core, and commit evil acts perpetually and persistently. Mortals with an evil alignment, however, are different from these beings. In fact, having an evil alignment alone does not make one a super-villain or even require one to be thwarted or killed. The extent of a character’s evil alignment might be a lesser evil, like selfishness, greed, or extreme vanity. Having these qualities might not even cause the character to detect as evil when subjected to detect evil, as creatures possessing 4 or fewer Hit Dice do not register to the spell (with the exception of clerics or other characters that radiate an aura).
A creature’s general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, or chaotic evil.
Alignment is a tool for developing your character’s identity—it is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two characters of the same alignment can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent.
All creatures have an alignment and alignment determines the effectiveness of some spells and magic items.
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.
Good Versus Evil
Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.
Good Good implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
Evil Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
Neutral People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent, but may lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others.
Law Versus Chaos
Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties. Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.
Law Law implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include closed-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, self-righteousness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.
Chaos Chaos implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.
Neutral Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has some respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is generally honest, but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.
Occasionally the rules refer to “steps” when dealing with alignment. In this case, “steps” refers to the number of alignment shifts between the two alignments, as shown on the following diagram. Note that diagonal “steps” count as two steps. For example, a lawful neutral character is one step away from a lawful good alignment, and three steps away from a chaotic evil alignment. A cleric’s alignment must be within one step of the alignment of her deity.
|Good||Lawful good||Neutral good||Chaotic good|
|Neutral||Lawful neutral||(True) neutral||Chaotic neutral|
|Evil||Lawful evil||Neutral evil||Chaotic evil|
The Nine Alignments
Nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations of the lawful-chaotic axis with the good-evil axis. Each description below depicts a typical character of that alignment. Remember that individuals vary from this norm, and that a given character may act more or less in accord with his alignment from day to day. Use these descriptions as guidelines, not as scripts.
The first six alignments, lawful good through chaotic neutral, are standard alignments for player characters. The three evil alignments are usually for monsters and villains. With the GM’s permission, a player may assign an evil alignment to his PC, but such characters are often a source of disruption and conflict with good and neutral party members. GMs are encouraged to carefully consider how evil PCs might affect the campaign before allowing them.
Alignment is a tool to aid players in creating personalities for their characters. It is a guideline for a character’s morality, and Game Masters should not use it to unduly hamper characters, nor should it be used to straitjacket PCs in regard to determining the relationships between them. Just because two characters are of good alignments—possibly the same alignment—does not guarantee they can work well together. Other personality traits ultimately affect the type of relationship formed, not just similarity along the good-evil alignment axis.
The good alignments are shorthand codes indicating that characters generally have some of the following characteristics: they oppose evil, respect life, defend the innocent, and sometimes make personal sacrifices to aid others. In contrast, characters with evil alignments have no qualms about killing innocents and sacrificing others as a means to achieving their own goals. The alignment rules are indeed part of the game, and they should not be ignored, but they need not spoil your fun. GMs and players should discuss alignment’s role in the campaign, making sure that all agree or understand how the system works within the game, how much alignment will be stressed, and what its ultimate role is in the game. In such conversations, your GM may want to provide a procedure for changing or deviating from an alignment and for any character effects that might result from doing so, particularly in regard to paladins or monks.
The following sections present several examples of each of the good alignments, showing that characters need not be cookie-cutter versions of each other but rather can include a variety of opportunities for roleplaying. Additionally, they detail significant advantages and challenges for each of the alignments, while discussing character possibilities and ways to deal with moral quandaries. versus its actual text. Or perhaps you believe one’s own daily life should be planned and controlled to the tiniest detail—you have your daily rituals, and these cannot be disrupted. Order in life leads to a clear, peaceful mind.
If you want to take on the role of a good character, you can make your job easier by planting a strong motivation at your character’s core. The following ideals can help define your good character’s personality and guide her actions.
Motivations For Good Characters
Use the following motivations to help focus your character’s purpose in the game and build your champion into a world-renowned hero. Then consult the appropriate alignment section in the pages that follow to see how you can differentiate your character from other individuals of the same alignment.
- Equality: No individual is better than any other.
- Freedom: People are meant to be free. Nothing incites your ire like witnessing slavers buy and sell others, hearing stories about raiders kidnapping people to bring them to market in other lands, or learning about leaders who subject their people to harsh treatment or impose severe restrictions on their people’s liberties. You abhor slavery in all its aspects, and seek to release the downtrodden from dictatorial rulers and eradicate the slave trade—or at least disrupt and curb it where you can.
- Honor: The true measure of a person is her honor, how she responds and acts, whether in the midst of war or in everyday matters. You follow a strict code of behavior that guides your path in this world, and you expect others to do likewise. While your strong sense of honor may lead you to be a cavalier or paladin, you could just as easily be a wizard with a code of honor regarding magical duels—or maybe there is honor among thieves, and you are a rogue who regulates the thieves’ guilds, ensuring only those who abuse the less fortunate with their excessive wealth are relieved of it.
- Justice: It is important to you that others receive the punishment they deserve for wrongdoings, and the law must be fair to all. You might fight to protect the civil rights accorded under the law, tangling with politicians who seek to disregard or outright abuse them. Or you might make it your goal to hunt down wanted individuals and groups, returning them to face their just punishment in a court of law. You insist on capturing such individuals and bringing them to justice, though you may also see yourself as the hand that metes out deserved punishments.
- Mercy: You believe all beings should be treated with compassion, even if they are transgressors. For instance, you would rather imprison a murderer than kill him outright for his crimes. Also, you do not believe in exterminating the offspring of wicked creatures when they are encountered, as you believe the innocent young should not be punished for the crimes of their elders. Instead, you might seek to find a place for them to be taken in.
- Order: Good can only be achieved through order, no matter what other philosophies espouse. In this regard, you might hold laws to be absolutely necessary for the good of all, and refuse to participate in actions that would bring you into conflict with the law. The law is black and white, so you brook no conversations regarding its spirit
- Security/Safety: You grew up in a contended area, and you learned early on that security and safety were paramount to your community. You have dedicated yourself to ensuring and defending the safety of others ever since. In addition to protecting them in times of need, you might help train a village’s militia, assist in building walls, and provide tactical advice to leaders of such communities.
Good Characters in Bad Situations
In many games, playing good characters is the norm. However, some GMs like to interject ethical quandaries into the game from time to time to keep players on their toes and to test their characters’ resolve—and because real life isn’t always so cut and dry, why should your fantasy campaign be? This section presents a few topics that often rear their heads during the course of play as elements for your consideration. You may want to discuss some of the following quandaries with your GM and other players. This will allow you to see where everyone stands in regard to the idea of alignment.
Ethics For Adventurers
If complicated ethics that challenge a character’s concept or force her to make difficult moral decisions is an element of play you would rather avoid, discussing this with your GM is important. It makes for a better game when everyone knows the expected boundaries in terms of what is considered fun. Some players, in fact, do not want to have anything that too closely resembles real life appearing in their fantasy games! Decide together what your group considers to be fair game.
One of the many quandaries good-aligned characters face during their adventuring careers is what to do about the progeny of evil humanoids. For example, shortly into their adventures, an adventuring party encounters a group of goblins who have been raiding a village, leaving a swath of death and destruction in their wake. The PCs track them to some caves and kill them—but the dead goblins leave behind babies. What should the PCs do with those? Kill them? Leave them be? What is the best and most appropriate thing for a good character to do in this situation? Just as there are varying good alignments, there are different solutions to this problem. One good character might believe the children are not inherently evil, that their behavior is learned, and round up the young ones to take them to a higher power like a church, a monastery, or an orphanage set up to deal with the issue of raising humanoid children. Alternatively, he might decide to raise them himself! This could be viewed as the most saintly thing to do. Another character might decide not to do anything, leaving the children to the whims of nature—either the children will survive in the wild on their own, or they will not. Lastly, a good character who believes the younglings can never overcome their innate evil might kill them all outright, viewing the action as good, just, and the most merciful option.
Another quandary might be the presence of a party member or strong, supporting ally who is actually evil. For instance, can the party’s paladin continue to work with the evil wizard in the group, or is it morally wrong to do so? This situation would certainly disquiet the paladin, but rather than refusing to work with the wizard, she could insist on trying to reform the person, who must surely have some ounce of goodness in him if he continues to aid the group. It might become her goal to bring this individual to the light, and she could work tirelessly to make it happen. Non-paladin members of the group, depending upon their fervor toward goodness, might choose to ignore the issue entirely, unless the evil character does something overtly harmful to the group or an innocent person. Otherwise, they might accept him more as “neutral” until he shows his true colors, whether or not a detection of his true alignment indicates otherwise.
Good Characters From Bad Places
Nations often run the gamut from benevolent fledgling democracies to brutal and tyrannical dictatorships. Characters can find their origins in any of these nations, and while it often makes sense for a good character to come from one of the more virtuous countries, it’s equally reasonable that a good character was born in a bad place. Growing up in conflict with your homeland can lead to interesting situations and provide a compelling background for a good character, particularly one driven to bring good into the world and improve the situations of oppressed or tormented fellow citizens.
Paladins And Moral Quandaries
More than any other character class, paladins face challenges in dealing with moral quandaries and shades of gray because of their alignment and code of honor. Those playing paladins should not be fearful of these ethical dilemmas; instead, such moral issues should be viewed as opportunities to open a dialogue with the Gamemaster to discuss the nature of the paladin’s code and how it would affect her role in the situation at hand. The GM, likewise, should take the time to fully explain what might cause the character to lose her special abilities or force her to seek atonement. The GM and the player should also discuss how and if the GM will warn her in future gaming sessions if her actions warrant repercussions. A quick and easy solution to this potential problem is the oft-overlooked phylactery of faithfulness. This inexpensive magic item (1,000 gp) gives the wearer a way to keep her behavior in check, providing a clear indicator of whether she is straying from her faith or is about to engage in immoral behavior. This simple item has prevented many a paladin’s fall.
- Lawful Good
- Neutral Good
- Chaotic Good
- Lawful Neutral
- True Neutral
- Chaotic Neutral
- Lawful Evil
- Neutral Evil
- Chaotic Evil
Alignment is a tool, a convenient shorthand you can use to summarize the general attitude of an NPC, region, religion, organization, monster, or even magic item.
Certain character classes list repercussions for those who don’t adhere to a specific alignment, and some spells and magic items have different effects on targets depending on alignment, but beyond that it’s generally not necessary to worry too much about whether someone is behaving differently from his stated alignment. In the end, the Game Master is the one who gets to decide if something’s in accordance with its indicated alignment, based on the descriptions given previously and his own opinion and interpretation—the only thing the GM needs to strive for is to be consistent as to what constitutes the difference between alignments like chaotic neutral and chaotic evil. There’s no hard and fast mechanic by which you can measure alignment—unlike hit points or skill ranks or armor class, alignment is solely a label the GM controls.
It’s best to let players play their characters as they want. If a player is roleplaying in a way that you, as the GM, think doesn’t fit his alignment, let him know that he’s acting out of alignment and tell him why—but do so in a friendly manner. If a character wants to change his alignment, let him—in most cases, this should amount to little more than a change of personality, or in some cases, no change at all if the alignment change was more of an adjustment to more accurately summarize how a player, in your opinion, is portraying his character. In some cases, changing alignments can impact a character’s abilities. An atonement spell may be necessary to repair damage done by alignment changes arising from involuntary sources or momentary lapses in personality.
Players who frequently have their characters change alignment should in all likelihood be playing chaotic neutral characters.
Alignment shifts have little mechanical effect on characters of classes without alignment restrictions, so they can be as simple as the GM mentioning a drift one way or another. For some, though, redemption can be a driving force for character development or plots within a campaign. And for others, the desire to take a prestige or base class that requires characters to be good, or to use a good-aligned item, might encourage them to seek a purer path. This system presents guidelines for tracking a creature’s path toward redemption. It allows for a great degree of customization and alteration to ensure it feels natural for players and fits comfortably into an ongoing campaign. But keep in mind that certain classes and other rules require a more demanding form of redemption, such as a paladin seeking atonement or a cleric or druid attempting to regain her spell powers. This system does not circumvent such requirements.
Each character has her own unique path to good. Many creatures are set in their ways and don’t vacillate between distinct ethical philosophies, making such a fundamental change in thinking and acting an arduous road. The notion of good is as much about intention as it is about action. Simply committing a series of good acts is not enough to change a creature’s alignment—it must want deep down within itself to be good. As such, finding true redemption involves the creature passing through a number of stages on its path to goodness.
Intention: Determining a creature’s intention is largely a roleplaying task. Creatures that truly seek redemption should display genuine remorse over evil acts they’ve committed and must be willing to embark on the difficult road to becoming good. If you are actively seeking to redeem a creature, there is no guarantee of success, but by offering it examples of mercy and decency you might spark a desire to do good in its heart. Many times, confessing one’s past sins and evil deeds is the first step toward redemption. Purposefully completing at least one penance (see below) and succeeding at a Will save as outlined in the following rules should prove a creature is ready to begin its journey.
Calculating the Path to Good: To alter its alignment toward good, a creature must pass through a number of stages, depending on its starting alignment. A creature with an evil alignment must first shift its alignment to neutral before shifting its alignment to good. To make this shift, the creature must perform a number of penances equal to double its total Hit Dice. This number of penances must be completed for each stage of shift in alignment, from evil to neutral and again from neutral to good. If the creature seeking to become good gains additional Hit Dice or levels during the course of its redemption, the number of penances to be completed should reflect its new total Hit Dice. For example, if a creature with a total of 7 Hit Dice completes 14 penances to shift from evil to neutral, but gains a level before completing its path from neutral to good, its total Hit Dice rise to 8 and it must now complete 16 penances in order to complete its path of redemption. For exceptionally evil creatures, a GM may wish to increase the required number of penances to reflect a life of utter depravity. For creatures with the evil subtype, their alignment is ingrained into their very soul, and the GM may rule that they are beyond redemption of this sort or at the very least a difficult and exceptional series of tasks must be completed to facilitate the change in alignment.
Penances: To pass through each stage of its path to good, a creature must perform a number of good deeds equal to double its total Hit Dice. The GM decides exactly which penances are appropriate, but examples of such acts are included below.
When a creature completes the penances required for a stage, it must succeed at a Will save to overcome its nature. The DC of this save is equal to 10 + 1/2 the creature’s total Hit Dice + its Charisma modifier. If this save is successful, the penances have taken hold and the creature has completed another step toward becoming good. If the creature fails this save, it must complete another deed in order to gain a chance to attempt another save. It can continue to complete additional deeds after each failed save until it succeeds.
Sponsorship: It is far easier for a creature to change its alignment with the tutelage and support of another. Someone who wishes to become good can seek out the support of a good creature to improve its own chances of success. At each stage, a creature may enlist the help of a number of sponsors up to its Charisma modifier. Each sponsor aiding a creature on its path to redemption provides a +1 bonus on the creature’s Will save (or saves, if the first save is unsuccessful) to complete that stage of its redemption.
To be a sponsor, a creature must absolutely believe in the penitent’s ability and sincere intention to change its alignment. This certainty may arise from friendship, divine guidance, the application of divinations or mundane interrogation, or any other source that results in absolute conviction that the subject desires to be good.
Relapse: Each minor evil act a creature performs (casting spells with the evil descriptor, praying to an evil deity, using an evil magic device, mind controlling good creatures to commit evil acts, and so on) counts against whatever penances the character has already performed, effectively canceling one out. Any major evil act (knowingly slaying an innocent creature, spreading a disease among a community, inflicting pain on an innocent subject, or animating the dead) undoes all of the good work done for the current stage, and the creature must begin that stage anew. A GM may rule that a particularly heinous act reverses all work done, and shifts the creature back to its original evil alignment.
The list that follows represents examples of penances that you can use to pursue redemption or assign to a penitent that you’re sponsoring, with your GM’s permission. Your GM should avoid presenting too may options for redemption at once, as doing so would allow you to choose the easiest penance over the one most appropriate to the situation—those who truly seek to repent shouldn’t shy away from a good deed because it is difficult, expensive, or not their idea of fun. It is equally important, however, to work with your GM to ensure that penances are achievable, relevant, and available at a sufficient pace, so that the process of redemption doesn’t interfere with the adventure and group dynamics. Getting this balance right may be tricky, particularly if you are in a rush to become good.
- Confessing your past sins or evil acts to an appropriate good-aligned agent.
- Healing a creature you don’t know from a disease, affliction, or poison when doing so gives you no personal advantage.
- Willingly submitting to a geas/quest, mark of justice, or similar spell to show you are committed enough to the process of redemption to risk harm if you fail.
- Casting a spell with the good descriptor. This penance can be completed only once per stage.
- Donating at least 50 gp to a good organization or faith. Each time you do so, the amount needed for the donation to qualify as a penance doubles.
- Sacrificing belongings gained through evil means.
- Freeing an oppressed, enslaved, or abused creature.
- Preaching a sermon of no less than 1 hour on the virtues of good behavior. This penance can only be completed once per week.
- Turning a creature that has committed a crime over to a good-aligned authority.
- Completing a task or quest for a good faith or organization without accepting payment. A GM may decide that a particularly challenging encounter may count as two or more penances.
- Fasting and praying for 12 hours (leading to fatigue).
- Creating a good item and giving it away for free.
- Showing mercy to a vanquished foe.
- Completing a task for a stranger and accepting no reward.
- Refraining from blasphemy or bad language in private or in conversation with others.
- Instructing other characters or NPCs in pure courses of action.
- Ignoring or not responding to insults or challenges from foes.
- Attempting a Diplomacy check to try and resolve a situation peaceably instead of resorting to combat.
- Refraining from lying or deception for an entire week.
Many other actions that may come up in play could be considered penances, and your GM should feel free to count such deeds when they occur. The process becomes much more natural and genuine if penitent characters seek out ways to be helpful and pure, rather than simply working their way through a set list.
A Note On Atonement
The atonement spell might appear to be a quick and inexpensive route to alignment change. The spell has little if any effect on creatures with the evil subtype, however, and perhaps most importantly it stipulates that “the creature seeking atonement must be truly repentant and desirous of setting right its misdeeds.” You may wish to make a creature pass through at least one stage of redemption as listed below in order to prove its intention and desire beyond question before it can become a subject of this spell.
Ultimate Campaign on Alignment
Source Ultimate Campaign
Over time, a character might become disillusioned and drift toward a different alignment. This section describes an optional system for tracking incremental changes to a character’s alignment.
Every character has a 9-point scale for the lawful-chaotic alignment axis, with 1, 2, and 3 representing lawful, 7, 8, and 9 representing chaotic, and the rest representing neutral. Each character has a similar scale for the good-evil alignment axis, with 1, 2, and 3 representing good and 7, 8, and 9 representing evil.
The player decides where the character’s alignment is on the alignment track. For example, a mischievous rogue with a good heart may be a 7 on the lawful-chaotic axis and an 2 on the good-evil axis—a chaotic good character who is more good than chaotic. a cruel but honorable knight could be a 1 on the lawful-chaotic axis and a 7 on the good-evil axis, a lawful evil character who is far more lawful than evil.
When a character performs an action that is out of character for his listed alignment, the GM decides whether the action is enough to shift the character’s alignment on the appropriate alignment track, and if so by how much. Executing a captured orc combatant so the PCs don’t have to haul it to a distant prison may only be 1 step toward evil; torturing a hostage for information may be 2 steps. For minor infractions, the GM can just issue a warning that further actions will cause a shift on the alignment track. Extreme, deliberate acts, such as burning down an orphanage full of children just for the fun of it, should push the character fully into that alignment, regardless of the character’s original position on the alignment track.
When a character’s position on an alignment track shifts into another alignment (such as from 3 to 4 or 7 to 6), change the character’s listed alignment to the new alignment. The character takes a –1 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and checks because of guilt, regrets, or bad luck associated with abandoning his previous ethics. After 1 week, this penalty goes away. Note that the character is still “on the border” of his previous alignment, and later actions could make him shift back to his previous alignment, with a repeat of the 1-week penalty, so after an alignment change, it is in the character’s best interest to act in accordance with that new alignment, embracing his new beliefs and philosophy. This penalty is in addition to any other consequences of changing alignment (such as becoming an ex-cleric or ex-paladin).
The mechanism for strengthening a character’s position within a particular section of the alignment track requires greater effort than acting out of character. a person who is a little bit good (3) has to work hard to become very good (1)—even a lifetime of mildly good acts is insufficient. If a character makes a great effort toward promoting or maintaining that alignment, the GM should decide whether that merits a shift toward one of the “safest” points on the alignment track (1, 5, and 9) where most out-of-alignment acts don’t risk an immediate alignment change. This helps prevent players from gaming the system by offsetting minor evil acts with an equivalent number of minor good acts to remain within the good section of the evil-good alignment axis.
A forced alignment change, such as from a helm of opposite alignment, shifts a character’s position on each alignment track to the corresponding opposite position (1 becomes 9, 2 becomes 8, and so on); a true neutral character jumps to an extreme point on both alignment tracks (1/1, 1/9, 9/1, or 9/9).
Unlike a deliberate alignment change, a forced alignment change does not incur the normal 1-week penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and checks.
Using an atonement spell moves the character’s position on the alignment track the minimum amount to return the character to his previous alignment. For example, a fallen paladin using atonement to become good again shifts her position on the good-evil track to 3, even if she originally was at 2 or 1. The spell is a means of reversing the worst of an indiscretion, not for gaining a safe buffer within an alignment zone on the track, and this gives the character an incentive to work toward entrenching herself within the tenets of the restored alignment. Using the “reverse magical alignment change” option of atonement does not give the target the normal alignment-change penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and checks, but accepting the “redemption or temptation” option does.
A GM who wants a grittier campaign or more flexibility in changing alignment can alter the size of the alignment zones (where everything but 1 and 9 are neutral), use a scale with more than 9 points to allow more granularity when quantifying alignment acts, or create transition areas between the alignment zones where characters can slowly change alignment without penalty.
Forced Alignment Change
When a forced alignment change is purely arbitrary (such as from a curse or magic item), some players look upon this change as a chance explore the character acting in a different way, but most players prefer the character’s original concept and want it to return to normal as soon as possible. GMs should avoid overusing forced alignment changes or make them only temporary (such as a scenario where the characters are dominated by an evil entity and are freed once the entity has accomplished a particular goal). Remember that if players wanted to play characters of other alignments, they would have asked to play them, and radical shifts ruin many character concepts.
Some classes lose class abilities when a character changes alignments. Alignment changes may be interesting for a short adventure, such as freeing a monk from the curse of a chaotic monkey god, but these situations should be unusual. For some characters, changing alignment is a character-altering concept akin to destroying a wizard’s spellbook or amputating an archer’s arm—the scars are long-lasting, hard to reverse, and end up punishing the player.
Gamemastery Guide on Alignment
Source GameMastery Guide
Alignment is easily one of the most debated topics in roleplaying, and straddles the line between descriptive element and rules element. How it is treated varies wildly; for some GMs it’s merely a two-letter description, while for others it’s a web of permissions and restrictions. Sorting out how this system works is important; it determines how players portray their characters, and how you as GM adjudicate certain aspects of the game.
Alignment exists primarily to define and summarize the moral and ethical tendencies of characters in a game, for both PCs and NPCs, and finds its roots in the fantasy literature that inspires most roleplaying games. Many characters in such stories easily fall into the camps of good or evil, but others straddle the line and seem good in one instance and evil in the next. Additionally, the relationship and outlook of these characters toward matters of law, justice, freedom, and anarchy further divides them. Just as one character might ignore society’s rules in order to do what he knows is right, another might work great evil by manipulating laws to his own ends. Alignment interpretations are endless, and ultimately lie with you as the GM at a mechanical standpoint, and with your players in how they define their characters’ morality. Some gamers favor strict alignments and black-and-white judgments, while others prefer a gritty, “realistic” game in which morality is relative, and well-intentioned “good” characters are capable of terrible atrocities.
Many of the debates spawned by alignment arise as the system moves beyond mere description to taking on a role that affects the game’s rules. While no real-world humans can say they’re entirely good or law-abiding, there exist creatures that are fundamentally good, evil, lawful, or chaotic, and some magic depends on judging a character by its alignment. Because game effects are associated with an ultimately subjective system, you should make sure your players understand your interpretation of alignment ahead of time. The following are a few ways you might handle alignment in your game or use it to help players develop their characters.
The simplest way to view alignment is as nine literal personalities. If a character is lawful good, he always obeys the law and always does the “right” thing, while a chaotic evil character always shirks the law and acts maliciously. This is a system of absolutes, where free will and context mean little, everything is preordained, and every creature has a path. Players who view alignment as predestination might wear alignments like straitjackets, but at the same time, they always know how to roleplay their character’s reaction to situations. This proves both helpful and comforting to many players new to or ill at ease with roleplaying. This approach also renders alignment-based rules easy to arbitrate, turning every matter of determining alignment into a simple yes-no question. Problems with this method tend to arise when a game ventures into sketchier moral and ethical situations. A player might become uncomfortable when his lawful good character feels forced to obey the laws of an evil society, or might have trouble in a campaign that requires him to work with those whose alignments differ from his own.
Many players tend to focus more on creating characters with consistent, specific personalities rather than alignments. These players envision their heroes’ backgrounds, personality traits, attitudes, and goals, and only then choose an alignment that best reflects these facets. A character’s alignment then becomes a way of categorizing his personality, rather than defining him and channeling his actions. As long as the player understands the impact of his choice on gameplay, this approach works smoothly. For example, a player who chooses the chaotic neutral alignment needs to understand that certain elements within the game world will judge him based on this decision (as with any other alignment). Some temples might deny him healing because the biggest threat in the region is chaotic monsters, viewing her alignment as grounds for suspicion. This method is also problematic when it becomes too general. Accepting alignment as a broad category can render it almost meaningless and make it difficult for you as the GM to judge whether a character is acting outside of her alignment and arbitrate any game effects associated with doing so.
Another way to see alignment is as a series of concentric rings. In the center ring are all the behaviors that are obviously acceptable according to a character’s alignment. Around that is a middle circle that covers the gray areas—actions that might be allowed under certain circumstances or are unclear. On the outside is the forbidden area of extreme actions that obviously violate the alignment. Taking prisoners offers examples of all three circles. Accepting an opponent’s honorable surrender is clearly good. Torturing that prisoner for information might be in the forbidden area for a given good character. But what about threatening torture, if the PC doesn’t intend to carry out the threat? That falls into the middle circle. Taking this route means players must remember their characters’ alignment and act accordingly. At the same time, while this route goes far toward suggesting how characters might act in specific situations, debates might arise when group members don’t see eye-to-eye about which acts are permissible. Additionally, some characters might have varying access to the gray areas of their alignment, and GMs should discuss where this line exists for characters who face repercussions for deviating from their moral code.
While alignment is often a static trait, options and effects exist that might cause it to change, and players might seek to change their PCs’ alignments for a variety of reasons.
Voluntarily: Aside from merely having misunderstood what a specific alignment means, PCs might seek to change their alignment in light of game events or to qualify for some alignment-related goal. How this change takes shape should be determined by the player and GM. Often, some quest, trauma, rehabilitation, or other life-changing event triggers the alignment change. Players should be sure of their decision, as changing alignment should be the result of an extraordinary effort, not a whim, and a PC with a shifting personality risks losing definition as a character and might begin to seem like he’s trying to exploit the rules.
Involuntarily: All manner of events might lead a character to have an involuntary alignment shift. Some are truly involuntary, as some force overrides or corrupts the PC’s personality. The GM should work with the player in such cases, perhaps making an unnaturally compromised PC a confederate in an ongoing story. Stepping out of the norm and playing her own character in a contradictory fashion can be fun for a player and delightfully unnerving for the rest of a group.
Characters also risk having their alignment changed if they continually act in accordance with an alignment other than the one they chose. For many characters, this matters little, but in the case of characters bound to a specific alignment for rules-related purposes, an alignment change might mean having to reimagine their entire character. Instead of springing this on a player, make it clear when an action risks violating an alignment-related requirement. Sometimes this will be seen as the voice of the character’s conscience, and allow the player to refrain from the action or suitably justify it to themselves (and you) to bring it into accordance with their values.
Many GMs refuse to allow players to create characters with evil alignments, as is their prerogative if they feel such a character might disrupt the game or hinder the story. Occasionally, though, your players might have intriguing ideas for antiheroic characters, or you might have a great idea that requires evil characters to play out. Evil characters present more than just an excuse to engage in offensive behavior or play homicidal maniacs; rather, they allow players to mimic some of the classic cads and antiheroes of legends and fantasy literature. Just like good characters, evil characters have goals and desires and understand the consequences of their actions. Those who do whatever they want without consideration for the rest of the party risk undesirable repercussions. Adventurers who routinely steal from their companions or betray their compatriots are likely to find themselves abandoned or slain. But evil characters who are more than just psychopaths can prove to be valuable members of a group should their goals parallel those of a party. Talk with your players and discuss what makes their characters evil, their goals, and how allying with other adventurers might aid those goals. At the same time, players of good characters should think about why they might travel with such ne’erdo-wells (perhaps out of desperation, responsibility, or the hope of rehabilitation).
Motivations for Evil Characters
One way to develop evil characters is to examine their motivations. Below are some underlying motivations for adopting an evil alignment, and some questions your character may face in the course of play.
Appetite: Driven by curiosity, obsession, neurosis, or the search for pleasure, your desire for certain experiences or possessions lies outside the bounds of so-called morality. Maybe the first taboos you broke were minor, but your inner urges push you to ever more extreme violations. Costs mount, and sometimes tastes change—how much can your appetite endure?
Despair: You see yourself as a realist. You wish things could be better, but they can’t. Hope is a cruel illusion, and the kindest thing you can do for everyone (including yourself ) is to shatter that illusion whenever it appears. Given such a grim outlook, what keeps you going?
Entitlement: You’re special. Reality rightly bends around your desires. When people tell you otherwise, you either crush them and put them in their places, or persecute others to reassure yourself of your power. What makes you think you’re so important? Could anything convince you otherwise?
Expedience: You can see how playing by the rules could be nice, but it’s so complicated and restrictive! You just take the simplest path to your goal no matter who or what is in the way. If that makes you a monster, so be it.
Ignorance: You commit horrific acts because you genuinely don’t know better. Either you were raised to adhere to a set of monstrous values, or something in your past left you unable to empathize with others (or with creatures of a certain group). Is this willful ignorance? What could change you?
Need: For some reason, you cannot survive without sinning. Perhaps you have succumbed to lycanthropy or vampirism, or have become so addicted to something that you’ll do anything to get more. How much evil does lack of choice excuse? How much of your need is real, and how much is all in your head?
Power: You love power for its own sake, and any attempt to bind you with morality is an unreasonable burden. What will you do when you encounter a foe you cannot defeat?
Purpose: Your mission might not be inherently evil—it might even be noble—but it’s too important to compromise. If atrocities will get the job done, you don’t hesitate. But are you sinning to serve your purpose, or are you drawn to your purpose because it gives you license to sin?
Rage: Maybe the world hurt you, and now you hurt it. Maybe this wrath is focused on particular groups, maybe particular groups are exempt from a general hatred, or maybe you just hate indiscriminately. Is there some final vengeance or absolution that could quench your fire?
Terror: Something scares you, and you’ll do anything to escape it. Fear of death might drive you toward undeath. Fear of powerful forces might trigger blind obedience, frantic attempts at appeasement, or Pyrrhic victories. Can you ever truly escape your fear?
Making Evil Fun
The great gift of roleplaying is that it allows people to temporarily experience what it’s like to be someone else, and sometimes it can be fun play someone very different from yourself—a person who may transgress your own morals and taboos. Playing an evil character can be a safe and entertaining way to explore humanity’s darker urges, as well as a way to help us better understand the motives and basic person-hood of those people we might otherwise write off as simply “bad.”
Yet while playing an evil character can be rewarding, it’s also challenging. As a member of an adventuring party, an evil character may see other characters as adversaries, victims, or expendable resources. That same selfish, potentially abusive mentality between players can ruin games, or even friendships.
The key to playing evil well is making sure everyone in your group is on the same page. While not every party member needs to be evil, every player does need to be comfortable with both where the story may go and the potential interpersonal dynamics. Just as there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play an evil character, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to play that way, either. Above all, be honest and open—a conversation where people feel judged or pressured will only set your group up for failure.
First, your group should create guidelines for player interaction. For some groups, PC versus PC scheming, in-character insult battles, and even PCs literally backstabbing other PCs can be as much fun as working together against a challenge. Other groups feel the team bond is central to play, or just don’t like interpersonal conflict in their leisure time; the line between attacking a PC and antagonizing the player can be hard to find, so talk about it up front.
Regardless of your play style, things will run smoother if you determine from the outset why the group works together. If you’re the only evil character in a party, decide why your particular brand of evil makes you a good fit.
Your party’s paladin might take pity on a dangerous addict or tolerate a power-hungry noble if she’s working toward the same goal as you are, but she probably can’t work with someone who kills innocents for fun.
Perhaps most importantly, both your group and your GM need to agree on basic boundaries. Many people may have triggers, or situations that they absolutely don’t want to come up in a game—examples might include rape or cruelty to children or animals. If someone voices such a concern, there should be no discussion—just leave those situations out of the game. Other things might be okay if they take place off-camera: a player could be fine with the story of torturing an enemy for information, but might not want to roleplay every grisly detail.
It’s best to discuss these boundaries at the beginning, but bear in mind that comfort levels vary from person to person, and may change over time. If you or someone else stops enjoying the game, pause the action and adjust accordingly. And whatever guidelines your group agrees to, respect them—and each other.
Variant Alignment Rules (Unchained Variant)
Many campaigns treat alignment mechanically—as a class prerequisite, a rough concept of moral standing (often open to much bickering and debate), and a benchmark for letting you know what weapons and spells to avoid. Others treat it with more reverence, with each player delving deeply into her character’s alignment and the PCs becoming exemplars of their respective moral philosophies.
The following variant system treats alignment as a storytelling mechanic, giving you guidance on creating challenges, tracking shifts, and presenting rewards to those who champion their alignments appropriately.
For each character in the campaign, you’ll need a copy of the alignment diagram reproduced below as Table 3–1.
Whether the characters’ positions are tracked by the GM or the players is up to you. There are two general ways you can start using this system. The first is the relative alignment method, which starts a character at neutral on both axes (or as near to neutral as his class’s starting alignment allows). Alternatively, you can use the standard alignment method, which allows each character to start with the alignment he wants, though he will begin closely bordering neutral and must work to fulfill the true ethos of his chosen alignment.
The basic principles for each method are detailed below.
Relative Alignment: In the relative alignment method, many, if not most, characters start out as truly neutral on both axes of the alignment charts (the number 5 position on both the law/chaos axis and the good/evil axis). If a character’s starting class has an alignment restriction, the character starts at the nearest border to the neutral range on those charts as she can without breaking the class’s alignment restriction. For instance, a monk would start at the 3 position on the law/chaos axis, but would still start at the 5 position on the good/evil axis. A paladin, on the other hand, would start at the 3 position on both axes.
This method makes moral conflicts dangerous for low-level characters. For a character who must adhere to a specific alignment ethos to keep certain abilities or progress in her class, an early slip might have her searching for an atonement or rethinking her chosen career path.
Standard Alignment: The standard path is less restrictive than the relative method. A player chooses his character’s alignment normally, and the character is positioned on the chart within that alignment but as close to the border of neutral as possible (either the 3 or the 7 position on each axis). If the player chooses neutral on either axis, then the character starts right in the middle (the 5 position) on that axis.
This method can also make early levels and moral conflicts precarious, but it does make it easier to stay on track and gain the rewards allowed later on.
Moral Challenges and Dilemmas
During the course of play, characters fight monsters, find treasure, and decide to take the left fork or the right, but there are other choices that come up in a game as well—moral choices. In most games, these choices are fairly straightforward. Do you help vanquish an ancient evil from the kingdom? Do you stop the raiders from pillaging? Do you put down the hungry troll raiding far-flung hamlets?
Without mitigating circumstances, all of these can be seen as good (and probably lawful) moral choices, and can count as such when you are using this system. But this system really shines when the choices are not nearly so clear-cut.
Real moral conflict occurs through either moral challenges or moral dilemmas. A moral challenge occurs when something assumed to be a clear moral path is shown to be false or more complicated, requiring the characters to reevaluate based on the new information. What do characters do when they find out the ancient evil threatening the kingdom is actually a rebellion trying to feed the poor?
What if the raiders are hill people who were displaced by a dragon and are just trying to survive? Perhaps that troll is seeking revenge for the slaughter of its mate and children by the hamlet-dwellers. What the characters do in these situations, and their reasoning for their actions, may cause individuals to shift on either of the alignment axes.
Consider, for instance, a situation in which a group of characters is tasked by a monarch with ridding the kingdom of an ancient order of cultists threatening the status quo. The act of taking the monarch’s quest poses no real moral challenges or dilemmas, and thus does not have a chance to push a characters’ alignment in any direction on the two spectrums, though an argument could be made that the characters’ obedience to their monarch might be an intrinsically lawful act. But for the moment, let’s assume the characters are being amply rewarded for such a quest (as they usually are), so unless a particularly lawful-minded character turns down such rewards, the characters can be seen as pursuing their own self-interest, which is intrinsically neutral within this system. Through the course of their quest against the disruptive cult, the characters find that while the cult is indeed working to undermine the monarch, its reasons for doing so are not even remotely evil. The cult is chaotic, yes, but good, and it seeks to throw down the status quo as a way of relieving the social injustices the ultra-lawful king pursues to keep his power nearly absolute.
What do the characters do? If they blindly follow the monarch’s commands, and even find themselves agreeing with the throne’s more draconian methods for keeping the peace, they will slide toward the lawful side. Depending on their level of support for some particularly heartless policies, they might also drift toward the evil side of the spectrum. If they throw in their lot with the cult and actively fight their former employer, they’ll shift more toward the chaotic end of that spectrum, and depending on their motivations, they could also drift toward either end on the good/evil axis. These are not the only options, of course! The characters could try to get one or both sides to recognize the concerns of the other. This would be the ultimate peacemaker role and, if accomplished, would be a major victory for the good of the kingdom as a whole (and thus a large shift toward good on that axis). It is possible they could also play the sides against one another, pushing them into a deeper and more bitter conflict, then take advantage of the power vacuum created by such strife, which would be evil and probably also chaotic.
Regardless of the outcome, it is only in moral conflict that characters have a chance to make decisions about competing moral goals on both the good/evil and law/chaos axes, and it is those kinds of challenges this system requires.
More difficult to design, and often harder to adjudicate, is the moral dilemma. Moral dilemmas are like challenges, but they contain moral paradoxes, meaning there is never a clear solution, and the PCs must struggle to find the solution that is best for them. A group of adventurers sworn to protect the king and the royal line finds out that the king is a power-hungry demoniac who is opening a gate to the Abyss, and the only way to stop the plan is regicide. Killing the king would mean a bloody civil war, and the characters would be branded as traitors. Not killing the king, though, could lead to deeper suffering, or force the PCs to try to defeat an army of demons before the fiends tear the kingdom apart. The adventurers must decide the best course of action when neither is optimal. Naturally, the point in these situations is not to make the “right” decision, but to see what decision the characters make, and adjust their alignments based on that decision.
Timing and Focus
Nearly every adventure has the potential for moral conflicts, but you should be careful not to spring them on your players too often; otherwise you risk creating conflict fatigue or lessening the dramatic impact. While moral conflict can be a fun and thought-provoking part of a campaign, remember that some players like to focus on more concrete aspects of the game, and the best sessions often feature a diverse selection of moral, strategic, and tactical challenges. Moral challenges are often nuanced, and moral dilemmas can be frustrating with their “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” nature. Both can be just as stressful as a challenging battle, and can ramp up tensions at the table—for better or worse.
In addition, over-saturating a game with moral challenges and dilemmas may have the unwanted effect of cheapening them. Try to think of these conflicts as something akin to the classic “boss fight” in a combat-oriented game: a momentous occasion of great struggle, as opposed to the more common nuisance of a trap, which can be foiled quickly once the mechanism is understood. Consider limiting these types of challenges to once per character level, at most. Some groups may thirst for more, and you should give them what they want, but once per level is a good place to start.
While it may be fun to constantly challenge strongly aligned individuals, try to create moral challenges that the whole group can participate in. In these situations, characters will act as individuals and put forward many points of view and desired actions. This inter-character strife is often enough to create the framework for spin-off moral challenges, and give individuals the opportunity for alignment shifts and affirmations through interactions with other party members. Be ready to assimilate such spontaneous moral challenges and gauge them as appropriate. Even more so than the moral challenges you design into your campaign, these interactions can be visceral and fulfilling to players because they come from natural character interaction.
Shifts and Affirmations
When faced with a moral challenge or dilemma, use each character’s response to inform whether he or she gains a shift or an affirmation. It’s up to the GM to judge whether a response warrants a shift on the alignment axes. Often, this will be easy: Did a character act in a selfish and uncaring manner? That may cause a shift toward evil on the good/evil axis. Did the character uphold the law of the land over the rights of its citizens? That may cause a shift toward the lawful side of the law/chaos axis. Particularly severe actions may warrant a 2-step shift. However, you should never allow more than a 2-step shift for a single action. As the GM, the final decision is yours, but keep in mind that players may disagree with your initial judgments. Allow them to appeal your decision. Take their arguments seriously, and don’t be afraid to change your mind.
Early in a campaign, you will likely have many shifts as the moral dimensions of characters take shape. Later, as those moral characteristics start to gel, some characters will settle at the extreme ends on one or both of the alignment axes. At this point, they’ll likely commit acts that support their alignments, but since they’re already settled on one or more extreme ends of the alignment axes, there will be no movement on the charts. In these cases, the character is awarded one or two affirmations—small, temporary benefits keyed to the affirmed alignment—based on how many steps you think the action would otherwise have shifted the alignment. A character can spend an affirmation she has gained once within the next 24 hours; any affirmations not spent within that time disappear. Spending an affirmation is usually not an action, but a character must be conscious to do so. The following are benefits gained by spending affirmations.
Chaotic: When attempting a Reflex or Will save, you can spend a chaotic affirmation to roll twice and take the higher result. If you already have an ability that allows you to roll twice and take the higher result, you can spend this affirmation to gain a +2 bonus on both rolls instead.
Evil: You can spend an evil affirmation to gain a +2 bonus on the damage dealt to or healed for all targets when you use an inflict spell or channel negative energy, or you gain a +4 bonus on a single weapon damage roll you make in pursuit of your own desires.
Good: You can spend a good affirmation to gain a +2 bonus on the damage dealt to or healed for all targets when you use a cure spell or channel positive energy, or you can impose a –4 penalty on the damage roll of a weapon attack made against one of your allies or an innocent.
Lawful: You can spend a lawful affirmation to gain a +4 bonus to AC against a single attack. You must choose to spend this affirmation before the attack roll is made.
Note that neutral characters do not gain affirmations—this is because neutral characters already have the advantage of not being targetable by alignment-based spells and effects.
As players advance in level and become more invested in the system, feel free to create your own affirmations based on a particular character’s emergent moral dimensions.
For instance, if one of your players is playing a paladin, it’s reasonable to allow her to use a lawful affirmation to grant an adjacent ally her bonus to AC. You can also design your own affirmations based on the action that led to the affirmation.
Morality and alignment are about more than just everyday actions. When you truly pledge yourself to an alignment, you become part of a timeless struggle of ideas that transcends mortal life and the physical world, a conflict so vast and eternal that the gods themselves are caught up in the fracas. As characters increase in level and power, they can play correspondingly larger roles in these cosmic struggles.
These larger ideological battles also involve moral challenges as already outlined, but the individuals participating in them tend to be powerful extraplanar beings like angels, demons, proteans, and inevitables—creatures that in many ways exist as physical manifestations of their alignments.
As characters enter the larger cosmic struggles of morality and alignment, they are able to gain new tools to help them champion their philosophies.
Alignment Feats: If you have at least 10 Hit Dice, you can take any alignment feat that matches your alignment. You cannot have more than one alignment feat at any time, but after changing alignment, when you reach a new character level, you can freely switch your alignment feat to your new alignment’s feat. Most alignment feats have a Residual entry that allows you to benefit from some part of the feat even when you no longer meet the alignment prerequisite for the feat, usually aiding you in a small way to regain that alignment. Most alignment feats also allow you to store affirmations for later use. If you shift alignment and no longer have the ability to store affirmations, any affirmations stored by that feat are lost.
Champion of Anarchy (Alignment)
You spread chaos wherever you go.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, chaotic neutral alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to cast lesser confusion as a spell-like ability as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your Hit Dice. The duration of this effect on a failed save is 1d4 rounds. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but are no longer chaotic neutral, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage against lawful creatures.
Champion of Balance (Alignment)
You are dedicated to perfect balance in the multiverse.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, neutral alignment.
Benefit(s): You gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against good and evil creatures. You also gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful and chaotic creatures. These bonuses stack with each other.
Residual: You gain no benefit from this feat if you are not of neutral alignment.
Champion of Destruction (Alignment)
You would destroy the world if it were within your power.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, chaotic evil alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can also use an affirmation to treat an effect on you from a spell, magic item, or other alignment-based effect as if you were neither chaotic nor evil. You can choose to do so after any attack roll hits you with such an effect or you fail a saving throw against such an effect. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful and good creatures (or +4 if the creature is both lawful and good). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer chaotic evil, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful and good creatures (or +4 if the creature is both lawful and good).
Champion of Freedom (Alignment)
You believe that beings can thrive only when free.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, chaotic good alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can also use an affirmation to gain the effects of freedom of movement for 1 round. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil and lawful creatures (or +4 if the creature is both evil and lawful). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer chaotic good, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil and lawful creatures (or +4 if the creature is both lawful and evil).
Champion of Grace (Alignment)
It is your mission to do as much good as possible.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, neutral good alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation and touch a creature as a standard action to remove a single condition or harmful effect from the list of paladin mercies (using your Hit Dice as your paladin level to determine which mercies you can use and their effects). Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer neutral good, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil creatures.
Champion of Malevolence (Alignment)
Things would be better if everyone just did as you wished.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, neutral evil alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation and touch a creature as a standard action to bestow a single condition or harmful effect from the list of antipaladin cruelties (using your Hit Dice as your antipaladin level to determine which cruelties you can use and their effects). Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against good creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer neutral evil, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against good creatures.
Champion of Righteousness (Alignment)
You know that good must be tempered with order if it’s going to prevail in the long term.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, lawful good alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to treat the effect of a spell, magic item, or other alignment-based effect on you as if you were neither lawful nor good. You can choose to do so after any attack roll hits you with such an effect or you fail a saving throw against such an effect. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and evil creatures (or +4 if the creature is both chaotic and evil). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer lawful good, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and evil creatures (or +4 if the creature is both chaotic and evil).
Champion of Tranquility (Alignment)
The harmony of law is your highest ideal.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, lawful neutral alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to cast calm emotions as a spell-like ability as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your Hit Dice. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer lawful neutral, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic creatures.
Champion of Tyranny (Alignment)
You must beat down the masses to have true order.
Prerequisite(s): 10 Hit Dice, lawful evil alignment.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to cast hold person as a spell-like ability as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your Hit Dice. You gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and good creatures (or +4 if the creature is both chaotic and good). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer lawful evil, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and good creatures (or a +4 bonus if the creature is both chaotic and good).
Alignment is a cornerstone of this game. In its most useful form, alignment is a shorthand to help players learn more about their characters’ personalities. But sometimes you may want to play in a world where there is no absolute good and evil. Perhaps the only lord willing to send troops to aid the PCs’ fight against an undead horde is an oppressive dictator who will use the situation to further his own power and oppress his subjects—but without his help, everyone will die. Or the PCs must face an infernal foe, but the only available way to take him down is to imbue themselves with demonic power.
In the following rules variant, the PCs can test their convictions against impossible situations and make decisions without players feeling constrained by the mechanical consequences their characters will suffer if their alignments change. Alignment is replaced by a new character aspect called loyalties, and class alignment restrictions are redefined in those terms. Several options for handling alignment-dependent spells and effects are presented here.
When you use the loyalties system to build a character, whether a PC or an NPC, decide on three loyalties. These can represent ideals, people, organizations, or anything else to which the character is loyal, and might be as abstract as “my honor” or as concrete as “my beloved mother.” Rank these loyalties from strongest to weakest. One easy way to decide the order is to ask yourself what your character would do if these loyalties came into conflict. For a more simplified game, you could use one or two loyalties. These loyalties then replace alignment as the standard by which characters’ actions are measured.
During play, a character might take an action that causes him to change loyalties, just as a character in a game with alignment might have to change alignment. Whether this has any mechanical impact depends on how the GM has chosen to deal with loyalty-based restrictions and effects.
Certain classes depend on alignment features. Below is a list of changes you’ll need to make to classes if you decide not to use alignment—you can use these as a guideline to change other classes as well. These assume that you’ve replaced the default alignment system with the aligned loyalties option outlined below under Creatures, Spells, and Effects—if you have gone further and removed even these basic alignment elements (as in the subjective morality option), then ignore all references to loyalty restrictions in the classes below.
Barbarian: Remove the alignment restriction. A barbarian may not have a loyalty to law, order, or any similar concepts.
Cleric: Remove the alignment restriction. Clerics must have a loyalty to their deity, though not necessarily to a church hierarchy or other clergy. Remove the restriction against casting spells of certain alignments (since such spells no longer exist), but create a list of spells that each deity would ban based on his or her portfolio and personality. For instance, a neutral good deity would not tolerate spells involving consorting with outsiders from the Lower Planes. Remove the Chaos, Good, Evil, and Law domains from all deities’ lists, and replace them with appropriate domains so each deity has the same number of domains.
Druid: Remove the alignment restriction. Druids must have a loyalty involving nature or the druidic code of conduct.
Monk: Remove the alignment restriction. A monk who ever has a loyalty to chaos, imbalance, or closely related concepts becomes an ex-monk for as long as he has those loyalties.
Paladin: Remove the class’s alignment restriction. The paladin’s code of conduct becomes “A paladin’s code requires that she respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use the help in a way that betrays any of the paladin’s loyalties), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents.” Remove the Associates section under the code of conduct. A paladin must have a loyalty to the concept of good, and most paladins also have loyalty to a deity. For changes to the paladin’s detect evil ability, see the Creatures, Spells, and Effects section, below. Creatures whose loyalties are in opposition to the paladin’s gain no benefit from the paladin’s aura of justice ability.
The paladin’s smite evil ability works against any foe whose loyalties are directly contrary to the paladin’s highest loyalty. She can also recover one use of smite if she accidentally smites an invalid target. She can do this a number of times per day equal to her maximum uses per day of smite. This means the paladin isn’t punished for having to guess, but she also can’t use her smite class feature on every opponent as a de facto loyalty detector. If the paladin’s highest loyalty is to good, she can smite foes with a loyalty to evil, but if her highest loyalty is to her king, her smite might instead apply to foes with loyalties to the jealous baron’s rebellion.
The GM has the final say on how the ability works, since only the GM knows the NPCs’ true loyalties—a mercenary who works for a cause might not have a loyalty to that cause, for example. The GM can decide to simply have smite work only on foes with a loyalty to evil, or to require the paladin’s highest loyalty be to the concept of good.
Creatures, Spells, and Effects
Many spells and effects rely on alignment, such as detect evil, holy weapons, and blasphemy. Below are five suggested options for dealing with these abilities.
Full Removal: You can remove alignment-based spells and effects entirely. Consider replacing monster spell-like abilities with others of similar power. You’ll need to replace other abilities that affect creatures of particular alignments (such as the heavenly fire ability of a sorcerer with the celestial bloodline) or restrict character options to avoid such abilities.
Aligned Loyalties: You can allow alignment-based effects to instead apply to characters who have loyalties to the concepts of chaos, evil, good, or law (or any concept close enough).
Outsiders Only: You can keep the alignment subtypes for outsiders and allow alignment-based effects to apply only to them. In this style of game, mortals live in a world with shades of gray, but true evil does still exist in the multiverse in the hearts of daemons, demons, devils, and the other evil outsiders.
Radiant and Shadow: You can instead have alignment-based effects apply to everyone, or nearly everyone. Remove the alignments and replace “good” and “evil” with stand-ins that lack moral implications, such as “radiant” and “shadow.”
These are then treated as simply two more forms of energy that exist in the world, and any creature can wield a weapon that deals radiant or shadow damage. You’ll need to make appropriate changes, such as changing DR 5/good to DR 5/radiant, making unholy weapons shadow weapons, and so on. Creatures that were once strongly defined by their alignment become more unpredictable. Maybe some angels are just as corrupt as devils, despite their celestial forms, and the PCs must team up with a noble demon and wield shadow weapons to defeat their foe. You can choose to grant certain creatures immunity; for instance, perhaps angels don’t take radiant damage from radiant weapons or radiant smite, the stand-ins for holy weapons and holy smite.
Subjective Morality: You can make your world extremely complex by replacing all alignment-based effects with subjective morality based on loyalties. In this kind of game, everyone is the hero of his own story, and the only alignment-based items and spells that exist are the ones named after the good alignment (such as holy weapons and holy word) plus detect evil. However, these effects apply not to good in the usual sense, but instead depend on the loyalties of their users. When someone uses detect evil, it detects others who have loyalties that oppose the caster’s. When a character wields a holy weapon, it deals extra damage to those with conflicting loyalties, and so on. It’s up to the GM to decide when loyalties conflict. For instance, if a magus decides that his primary loyalty is to himself, he could not reasonably claim that everything that ever attacks him has a conflicting loyalty, but an enemy who constantly abused him in the past would have a conflicting loyalty. Against this enemy, the magus’s holy attacks would strike true. This world might even do away with the idea of loyalties to the concept of good and allow paladins and antipaladins alike to use the paladin class and smite each other. Since even outsiders no longer have an alignment subtype, you’ll need to add other subtypes to the list of choices for abilities such as bane or a ranger’s favored enemy class feature. This covers subtypes such as demon or devil, but some outsiders have no non-alignment subtype. If you want such creatures to be subject to these abilities, you could lump them together under a new subtype (such as “independent”), or add subtypes on a case-by-case basis—the astral leviathan might have the “astral” subtype, for example.Section 15: Copyright Notice
Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. © 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.
Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Cam Banks, Wolfgang Baur, Jason Bulmahn, Jim Butler, Eric Cagle, Graeme Davis, Adam Daigle, Joshua J. Frost, James Jacobs, Kenneth Hite, Steven Kenson, Robin Laws, Tito Leati, Rob McCreary, Hal Maclean, Colin McComb, Jason Nelson, David Noonan, Richard Pett, Rich Redman, Sean K Reynolds, F. Wesley Schneider, Amber Scott, Doug Seacat, Mike Selinker, Lisa Stevens, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, Penny Williams, Skip Williams, Teeuwynn Woodruff.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign. © 2013, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Jason Bulmahn, Ryan Costello, Adam Daigle, Matt Goetz, Tim Hitchcock, James Jacobs, Ryan Macklin, Colin McComb, Jason Nelson, Richard Pett, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Patrick Renie, Sean K Reynolds, F. Wesley Schneider, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, and Stephen Townshend.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained. © 2015, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Ross Beyers, Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, Robert Emerson, Tim Hitchcock, Jason Nelson, Tom Phillips, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Thomas M. Reid, Robert Schwalb, Mark Seifter, and Russ Taylor.