Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

During my AD&D game last night, the magic-user was using Detect Evil on a number of objects the party had found within the Citadel of Chaos. While using the spell, which lasts 5 rounds per level, the magic-user decided to sweep the rest of the party, as it contained two relatively new characters. He discovered that the "fighter" who recently joined them is evil.

"Don't ask, don't tell, motherfucker!" the assassin's player exclaimed.(Out of character, naturally) This, by the way, is one of the funniest things I have heard at my gaming table in recent memory. (Though perhaps it was one of those "you had to be there" moments...)

It has been a well known fact that one of the party members is an evil elf assassin disguised as an elderly human fighter. The magic-user, whose player is known for advocating party harmony, has decided to keep the information to himself. (That is, the whole group knows, but in-character, only the magic-user knows, and all he knows is that the "old codger" is evil.)

I make it no secret that I am not a fan of AD&D's alignment system. In fact, of all alignment systems, the only two I really like are Palladium's, as it clearly spells out what is expected of each alignment within the game's framework, and basic D&D, since good and evil have nothing to do with it. (Though many writers of older D&D material seemed to just use Law and Chaos as synonyms for Good and Evil...) In my campaign I have largely ignored alignment, but until now we haven't had characters of opposite alignment in the same party.

Since only one character knows the truth, and he is not of a character class that has restrictions on what alignments he may associate with, it appears that these characters might actually be able to coexist. The assassin has acted in a more or less neutral fashion, as he wants to maintain his disguise. From what I understand, he is evil because of his profession, but doesn't intentionally screw other people over for no reason. I consider the next several sessions to be an experiment on the vestigial nature of the alignment system.

Interestingly enough, I'm told that the original purpose of alignment, dating way back to Chainmail methinks, was simply to indicate which types of creatures could be in the same army. 

Now...what about you, my dear readers? Have you had alignment coexistence in your games?


  1. Not in UWoM, having the Elemental Bloods somewhat as a stand-in.
    --In different form of the game, I have (and may yet add) Nature: Active, Passive, Reserved, and as a 'rider' to any of the three, Detached, hat when indexed with the character's Elemental Blood, determines the character's Spectral Frequency. That was the closest thing to an Alignment.

    I do like Palladium's Alignments, including those offered in RECON, which differ from the standard ones.
    --I am a great fan of Aberrant, and Anarchist --ironic given my line of work.

    In AD&D I added the 10th Alignment, False Neutral, as proposed by a letter-writer to the editor.
    --It allowed for a recognition of the reality of deities in system, but the FN character simply didn't care to worhip them, and likewise was essentially an Objectivist (Ayn Rand) posterchild.

    I don't have a drop of problem with AD&D Alignments, and have run some really fun adventures dealing with the Alignments as powers above the gods, who are essentially chosen reps of them.
    --The Pillar of the Nine formed a tenth facet and that basically was the denouement of that particular campaign.
    ---A second version of that event took place in a Spelljammer marathon session in which a LG society transitioned over millennia to LN to FN, with the Abyss, Hades, and Hell doing their best to carve out a toe-(hoof?)-hold before the entire place disappeared from the 'Great Wheel'.

    So, do what you like, but realise that it will affect a lot of magic, magic items, class abilities, and creature-relations.


  2. I think you done did it wrong; detect evil does not detect character alignments unless they are hardcore high level types (see DMG, p. 60). This is a really common mistake, though, so much so that it is effectively a popular house rule.

  3. I play with a floating alignment system, in which, after creation the only person who really knows what alignment anyone is, is the DM. For the most part, I am very forgiving, but if someone acts too far out of alignment on a regular basis, then I'll enforce an alignment change which costs XP, and if it is really bad; a level. Enforcing an alignment change is so rare though, that I've never had to do it.

  4. Darn skype! I missed that comment.

  5. @Matthew- I have always done Detect Evil this way... though unless you are very high level or an evil cleric/anti-paladin or whatnot, you generally just "ping" a little to the spell.

  6. I've never had players who cared about a PCs alignment. If the character is a self-involved ass, it's hardly a consolation that they are LG, & as long as the CE cleric heals you and the NE thief doesn't fudge his share of the loot, what difference do their alignments make?

    "What's inside doesn't matter." ~Patrick Bateman

  7. Now I want a "Don't ask, don't tell, motherfucker!" bumper sticker.

  8. @rainswept- The Patrick Bateman quote has me thinking some truly disturbing thoughts about alignment interaction now. :)

    @Christian- YES!

  9. Personally I use a tweaked alignment system, but I only use it to dictate how the character feels inside..not how they are. I like to strip out or tone the hell down the availability of alignment detection.