Sunday, January 22, 2023

Some Game Design Fundamentals - Alignment

In thinking about foundational game elements, one of the things I've tinkered with is the idea of alignments and good/evil. In going back to the Greeks for my source material, one of the things is that a character often became synonymous with the adjective associated with that character. Shakespeare then borrowed this and used it sometimes. Odysseus is not just Odysseus, but always 'the clever Odysseus'. It becomes his character trait, but also his philosophy - Odysseus will always do what is the most 'clever' in any situation. Sometimes his actions come across as lawful good, and sometimes as chaotic neutral - but always as clever. "Brave" Macbeth is always brave at the start of the play, showing that his descent into madness is most characterized by his growing cowardice. His character arc is largely defined by the loss of his 'brave' aspect. This is also useful for monsters; the descriptor can also serve as helping the GM make play decisions; devious goblins behave differently than warlike orks or savage ogres might. This replaces an ebtire alignment system, but also provides more concrete roleplaying guidance.

However, 'good' and 'evil' (or 'holy'/'unholy' might work better) are useful tags for mechanic purposes. Good objects and creatures have specific game effects, and so do evil. However, while undead and demons are evil, goblins and giants are generally not. 

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