Friday, April 1, 2022

The Secrets of sha-Arthan: Alignment

(The following is an excerpt from the current draft of the rules for my Secrets of sha-Arthan science fantasy setting. I typically only share excerpts like this with my patrons, but, in this case, I thought it might benefit from a wider audience. In addition, I think the ideas in this draft might be of value even to those without any interest in sha-Arthan.)

In sha-Arthan, alignment represents one’s loyalty to a person, organization, religion, realm, or philosophy. An alignment thus represents what a character values in life. Choosing an alignment is entirely optional; no character is required to have an alignment. However, there can be benefits that make aligning oneself attractive, just as there can be drawbacks that make it less so. Consequently, a character may have no alignment, preferring to be a free spirit or lone wolf, or he may change his alignment as he goes through life. 

Choosing an Alignment

A newly generated character begins with no more than one alignment. He may eventually have up to three alignments at one time but no more. In general, a character can discard an alignment at any time, but may only gain a new one after attaining a new level, though, as with many things, the referee is the final arbiter of these matters.

Below are a three examples of alignments suitable for newly generated characters. Additional alignments, including those a character might adopt as he acquires more power and influence, are described on pXX. In addition, the referee is encouraged to create new alignments, using those present in this book as models.

Dran Jir Dynasty

The Dran Jir Dynasty is one of about a dozen aristocratic families that have dwelt in da-Imer for centuries. Once possessed of great power, the coming of the Chomachto has diminished their influence, particularly since the King-Emperor abandoned the First City for his new capital at Tamas Tzora. Now, the Dran Jir look for ways to regain their status – such as the sending of their servants into the Vaults in search of artifacts of the Makers. 

Requirements: Magically binding oneself to the Dran Jir as a kruva hijai (or “servant of the house”) in an ancient Ironian ritual. 

Benefits: A character with this alignment gains the trust of the current head of the Dran Jir. He also gains limited access to dynastic resources and, more importantly, to an entrance to the Vaults unknown to the authorities of da-Imer. 

Drawbacks: The binding ritual prevents the character from directly acting against the interests of the Dran Jir Dynasty or its members. Likewise, use of an unapproved entrance to the Vaults is a crime with potentially stiff penalties.

The Light of Kulvu

The philosophy known as the Light of Kulvu (see pXX) is an ancient one, whose Unquestionable Precepts animated the empire that bore its name. Those precepts survived the wreck of the empire and are now held by many who find them a sure guide to understanding reality and living in harmony with it.

Requirements: Public acceptance of the precepts of the philosophy as outlined in The Mirror of Virtue.

Benefits: A character with this alignment gains a +2 reaction bonus with those who share it. If the result is Friendly, the character may gain access to food, accommodations, or information from his fellow Kulvuans. This, in turn, may lead to alignment with a specific school within the philosophy (e.g. Bejandrai, Ruketsa, etc.), some of which offer additional benefits. 

Drawbacks: Except in those few lands that proscribe the Light of Kulvu (e.g. Alakun-Tenu), there are generally few drawbacks to adopting this alignment.

Viceroy Tiaken

Since King-Emperor Trelu vacated da-Imer, he placed its administration in the hands of a trusted viceroy. The current holder of that position, Tiaken Charsuna, is a very ambitious man in need of agents to further his own ends (which, some say, include the usurpation of the Solar Throne). 

Requirements: Swearing a personal oath to the Viceroy of da-Imer in which the character agrees to undertake certain special tasks in the Vaults and the First City on his behalf whenever commanded to do so.

Benefits: A character with this alignment gains a reduced exit charge to any Vault Warrant (see pXX) to which he is a signatory. At levels 1–2, the charge is 15%; at levels 3–5, 10%; at levels 6+, it is waived entirely. In addition, the character may be able to obtain preferential treatment by viceregal guards and officials with da-Imer.

Drawbacks: Viceroy Tiaken is constantly scheming. A character aligned with him will often find himself entangled in all manner of stratagems – whether he wishes to become involved or not.


  1. It is somewhat reminiscent of the cults of Runequest. I would very much prefer to play with these kind of alignments than the 9-way personality test that the standard system has evolved to.

  2. I was gonna reply what Terje wrote and very early when I started working on my own world for AD&D 1e in 1987-1988 I replaced the alignments with traits (beneficial and detrimental) according to their date of birth à la Astrological signs (with my own twists of cours) but this is very constructive and brings in the player more into the world-building.

  3. Interesting mix of patronages and religious/philosophical beliefs, and I like the recognition that you can be aligned to multiple (possibly incompatible) people/groups/schools. I imagine any sufficiently important institution or individual could be aligned too, and that you could also find you alignment involuntarily terminated by sudden deaths or other shakeups. For that matter, you might not be able to just choose to walk away from some alignments, either due to magical effects, lingering reputation for your actions, or mafia-style "membership for life" deals.

    Like it better than the D&D alignment system for sure, but I think I still prefer the Iconic Relationships from 13th Age, which are more freeform in terms of defined benefits, drawbacks, and how often and how much they intrude into gameplay.

  4. I thought of GW's Cryptic Alliances

  5. I'm not a big fan of alignment and cut it out completely from my last DCC campaign in order to focus on Patrons, which are very similar to this.

    Should your system be called Allegiances instead?

    1. Perhaps. However, I kept the term "alignment" both out of respect for what I read the OD&D take on it to be and as something of a provocation. So many people irrationally hate alignment, or what they think alignment to be, that I feel there's value in offering an alternative interpretation of the concept under the same name.

    2. I would worry that using the term 'alignment' could be confusing especially when some of the above are clearly changeable 'allegiances' rather than core 'beliefs' or 'values'. That said, I like the idea as it ties a character into the setting.