The debate about character alignment of late has driven me to give my thoughts on the subject. In the original edition of the D&D® game, all characters were told that it is not only necessary to select a role, but it is also necessary to determine what stance the character will take. To the new hobby of fantasy role-playing, character alignment was an important concept. Not only did it state what the imaginary player character believed, but it also served to help the player to better take on the role of his or her persona.Now you can see why The Forum was eventually abandoned. This guy couldn't have been any more than 17 or 18 years old and his knowledge of the history of D&D is clearly lacking (He seems to think OD&D was released in 1975 -- madness!). And the pseudo-intellectual verbiage is the mark of someone overcompensating for the vapidity of his thought. What a moron.
In later supplements of the original rules set, alignment was taken a step farther. It was used as a means (along with ability scores) to determine whether or not a PC was eligible for one of the more specialized (and often more powerful) subclasses. In this way, alignment was a tool used by both the players and the Dungeon Master to relate to the characters beliefs, ways of acting, and to restrict entrance into certain sub-classes.
It has been eleven years since the original D&D game appeared. While many of the ideas found in those little brown booklets and supplements were expanded and revised for inclusion in the AD&D game, alignment was not one of them. Even though the number of possible alignments has been tripled and more detailed descriptions of each ethos given, they are used as little more than tools for the players and Dungeon Master, in much the same way as was done over a decade ago.
My belief is that alignment should be used to restrict entrance into certain character classes and to determine how a player character will act in most circumstances. For example, an assassin, no matter how evil or chaotic he or she may be, would not attack the first group of good and/or neutral adventurers sighted simply because of their conflicting alignments. The assassin character class as written is composed of very intelligent individuals who make a living by killing those individuals who are deemed troublesome by the assassins employer. Being as intelligent as he is, an assassin would know when a particular job was over his head. Intelligence, not only alignment, should dictate how a character reacts to certain situations. Similarly, paladins do not charge the first demon prince they see, even though such a creature is diametrically opposed in its beliefs and actions.
Thus, alignment has been around with fantasy role-playing games too long simply to be forgotten. It is still an integral part of the game. Alignment, like other aspects of the game, needs only to be restructured in order to once again take its place of importance among the minds of players and their fantasy personae. Remember that all that needs to be done is use your head!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
So, I was looking at back issues of Dragon thanks to my CD-ROM collection and, while reading issue 105 from January 1986, I come across this fascinating piece of "wisdom" in The Forum, which was a section where they let any gamer with an opinion voice it