Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What Kind of Rat Bastard Are You?

Alignment is a touchy issue with some people, more from various DM's dunderheaded interpretations than anything in most rulesets. A while back I proposed my own dunderheaded alignment system based one picking a home team in the great cosmic battle of good versus evil. Here's another alternative.

First, let us begin by assuming that nearly all PCs are Rat Bastards in some way or another. (Do I really need to justify this position? We're talking about a game where core PC activities are tomb-robbing and orc-murdering.) Alignment under this system is determined by the particular manifestation of Rat Bastardliness.

Example 1: Why are the PCs sneaking around a dungeon, killing monsters?

Lawful: Monsters are evil, so sneaking into their homes and slaughtering them in their sleep is completely justified.
Neutral: The bad guys have all this gold. I like gold.
Chaotic: If I killed things back home, I'd be arrested.

Example 2: Having defeated the orc warriors, what do we do with the orc-mommies and orc-babies?

Lawful: Kill them so their orcish evil will not bloom anew.
Neutral: Kill them so none of those orc kids grow up and start looking for vengeance.
Chaotic: Kill them. They go great with potato salad.

Example 3: A kender wants to join the party, should we let him in?

Lawful: Yes, just periodically turn him upside down and give him a good shake.
Neutral: Yes, he'd be great for testing items to see if they're cursed.
Chaotic: Yes, stealing from other party members is a snap when someone else is such an obvious suspect.


  1. Yay Absolute Bastards!

  2. Tacoma10:56 AM

    The next time I play a Thief I'm going to put "rat bastard" in for alignment.

  3. Seems like you've been reading the latest batch of Dragonsfoot alignment discussions. :)

    Anyone else remember the letter someone wrote to Dragon magazine proposing a 10th Alignment: False Neutral?

    Sort of Nietzsche meets Ayn Rand.

  4. I've never liked neutral as an alignment option, GET OFF THE DAMN FENCE!

  5. I never liked alignment as alignment! In all things, I cleave to the Great Fence of Neutrality!

  6. Examples 1-3 accurately describe every moral discussion that has occurred in my current campaign. Like, to the letter.

    Jeff- funny anecdote. I told you before that the thief in my campaign had discovered your Mountebank's Quill from the Cinder book. Now that he's figured out how it works (which nearly got him killed), he insists on using it to write up lengthy contracts for all the party's hirelings!

    A true Rat Bastard, and a truly great magic item.

  7. What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or are they just born with a heart full of neutrality?

  8. Thinking of it, Ogre shows you how this would look like in AD&D and 3E:
    Example 1:
    Lawful Good: Plunder the dungeon for the greater glory of you Lord and God.
    Neutral Good: Plunder the dungeon for more gold, in order to hire more orphans and starving peasants as mercenaries and lackeys.
    Chaotic Good: Plunder the Dungeon for more Wine, Women, Songs, and another lavish goth - style +5 leather armor
    Lawful Neutral: Plunder the dungeon, because the King's Code, book IV, Chapter III, Article XII says that any congregation of three and more beings that do not pay taxes, are considered to be rebels to the law, and regarding to the King's Code, Book III, Chapter V, Article VII, you may keep all of their belongings of slain rebels for later taxation through the crown.
    True Neutral: Plunder the Dungeon to restore balance to the local currency deflation.
    Chaotic Neutral: As chaotic good, except for more alcohol, cheaper women, and more spikes on your armor.
    Lawful Evil: Plunder the dungeon to get more, More, MORE POWER!
    Neutral Evil: Plunder the dungeon, and make sure that you are the only one to survive it.
    Chaotic Evil: Plunder the dungeon to get enough gold to found a bank, and then invent the Ponzi Scheme in your world.

    Example 2:
    Lawful Good: Kill the orc mommies swiftly and vailantly because it's the just and right and shiny thing to do. And to use up the remaining Smite Evil attempts left for this day.
    Neutral Good: Kill the orc mommies for the greater good. And to better befriend elves and orcs.
    Chaotic Good: Kill the orc mommies because they are fat, ugly, hairy, and smelling crones.
    Lawful Neutral: Kill the orc mommies, because the King's Code of Law, chapter XVIII, article VIIIa, says you have to.
    True Neutral: Kill the orc mommies, because their pestering presence taints your inner harmony.
    Chaotic Neutral: Kill your orc mommy.
    Lawful Evil: Kill the orc mommies, SLOWLY. And clearly in front of your henchmen.
    Neutral Evil: Kill the orc mommies, MORE SLOWLY. And make them believe you have no other choice.
    Chaotic Evil: Kill the orc mommies, because they refused to beget half - orcs from you.

  9. "Chaotic Neutral: As chaotic good, except for more alcohol, cheaper women, and more spikes on your armor." -- [Big Thumbs Up]

  10. "If I killed things back home, I'd be arrested."

    Nice Chaotic(Evil) description. Too many view C/CE and CN as "I'm a psychotic murderer."

    No, you just don't value life other than your own.

    This one's funnier but I still prefer your first system.

  11. This is the best explanation of alignment in D&D ever.

  12. It's really disorienting when Kender suddenly appear in the context of single-axis alignments :)

  13. What makes someone go neutral?

    Perhaps disillusionment with both law/order and chaos/anarchy?

  14. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry outlined out the most workable alignment system nearly a decade before D&D was published:


    Throw in a "neutral" or "unaffiliated" option, and do you really need any other alignments?

    *Yes, spelled like that: if you're really chaotic, why worry about traditional spelling?

  15. CONTROL vs. KAOS*

    Throw in a "neutral" or "unaffiliated" option, and do you really need any other alignments?

    Indeed. I also like the Get Smart alignment system because it labels the extremist team-sport ends in ways that highlights their extremism :)