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I've recently started out a Basic Fantasy campaign with several new players. In this campaign, I want their characters to gradually gain their alignments based on they actions they take. For example, one of the PCs seduced the daughter of a potion seller and she stole a potion of healing for him. In my notes, I gave this character one 'chaotic' point and one 'evil' point. When the party rescued several kobold women instead of attacking them, I gave them each one 'good' point.

I like how the system has worked thus far, but I'm unsure about some of the fine details, like how many points a character should accrue before they're considered a specific alignment. Are there any game-systems that use a similar, very granular alignment/morality system?

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My advice: Keep it simple, and communicate it to the players. Maybe even give them "alignment chips" or a slider or something. –  C. Ross Mar 7 '13 at 18:06
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It seems promising for character to gain the alignment this way. But what will be alignment impact on the game/mechanics? –  eklam Mar 7 '13 at 18:07
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I would stop and really be sure you want to have a law/chaos axis. While people can usually come to at least a vague agreement about which acts are good and which are evil, law/chaos is usually much more contentious. Heck, at one point the D&D3.5 devs admitted in a published book that their law/chaos axis was so poorly defined as to be nearly useless. –  Oblivious Sage Mar 7 '13 at 18:09
    
The AD&D DMG actually uses a graph like this to track alignment change over time, but it has no quantified system for how much of a shift actions should cause. –  SevenSidedDie Mar 7 '13 at 22:08
    
One of the tricky issues is that declaring that any given act is worth such-and-such a quantity of alignment points can lead to some odd results, if you're not careful. For example, a character who sacrifices innocents for demonic power but believes the large amounts of money they give to charity makes up for it would not, normally speaking, be considered "good" - but under a system such as you propose, they could be. There are various ways to avoid this, but they all involve either copious GM fiat or a more complex method of grading the alignment of acts than "Murder is worth 7." –  GMJoe Mar 8 '13 at 3:53
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Examples

I can't think of pen-and-paper game that uses a system like this, though even AD&D encouraged DM's to suggest to players to change the alignment if they seem to really be acting outside their alignment. Some of the White Wolf games also track alignment by points, but the path(s), like Humanity, are still normally chosen and laid out ahead of time. Probably the closest is the old Star Wars RPG that carefully tracked dark side points and declared that a character had gone over to the darkside after receiving too many of them.

Video games do this frequently though. Infamous used it, and many Star Wars based games let you choose Light v. Dark entirely based on actions.

Ambiguities and Justifications

But, as others have pointed out, you'll run into the question of what constitutes evil. Look at the examples you gave. In the first case, you have the daughter being seduced. Now, if she was already a part owner of the potion selling shop, then seducing her and asking for a potion isn't necessarily evil, its more neutral...The character had a pleasant night of passion with another character looking for the same and received a gift from his new lover afterwards, that is neither good nor evil. At least not to a liberal Western attitude...In certain more conservative, fundamentalist societies seducing her without marrying her could merit more than one evil point and could lead to one or both of them being executed.

Similarly with the kobolds, it may have been a very kind, generous, and good act to save them...Unless you are using the trope, common in many fantasy works, that kobolds are almost universally evil. In that case, there might be a bounty for killing them. Saving them might then actually be an evil act. Or the middle ground is saving them could be an act of mercy, but an illegal one so they would get both a good point and a chaos point....

Objective Approach

In short, if you want a system like that you may want to make it more objective. There are a number of ways of doing this:

  • Set up a code that is at least somewhat independent of good or evil. Light v. Dark in Star Wars is deliberately tied to morality to a degree, but only a degree. A dispassionate light jedi can calmly do evil acts (and do in cannon! In The Clone Wars annimated series in particular the Jedi often take actions that at least require an "ends justify the means" atitude if they aren't downright evil). In Vampire, most Vampires with high Humanity will be good, but its more about compassion and control than good per se. So you can wind up with evil vampires with high humanity and good but reckless ones with low humanity.

  • When you see an action with moral implications, flat out ask the player how they view their action and let that be highly influential, if not the final word. This lets intentions shine through and minimizes debate.

  • Make it about reputation instead of real alignment. Then its not a matter of "I acted this way, so I am this." Its a matter of "I acted this way, so everyone sees me as this." This takes intention entirely out of it, and also makes it less personal. You avoid questions of what is good and instead are asking about how the populace with their particular culture views the acts. It also avoids arguments about, "What do you mean I'm evil? I was playing good, everything I did was justified!" (Or the reverse, "I'm not good. It just so happened that in every situation the most profitable action also helped other people. I'll stab Joey in the back right now if it would advance my goals, it just hasn't yet!") Of course it does open up questions about witnesses and how everyone knows, but there are various ways of handwaving that.

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If I could give you an extra +1 for the reputation idea at the end, I would. L5R's Honour stat is a good example of it too. –  Simon Gill Mar 7 '13 at 23:32
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I assume for your question that you want to use the classical D&D alignment.

In Neverwinter Nights, they implemented this. Alignment were based on points: 0-30 chaotic, 31-69 neutral and 70-100 lawful and 0-30 evil, 31-69 neutral and 70-100 good. You started the game with a number of points based on your chosen alignment, and the videogame actions added or subtracted alignment points. If you crossed a threshold, your alignment changed.

NWN is a videogame, but this mechanic is easy to translate to a D&D game. Here you have the details. I don't remember how many points were added or subtracted, but I think this is best determined by testplay.

Elric! had also an alignment system, but obviously not for the D&D alignments. Characters scored points in the primordial forces: Law, Chaos and Balance. Starting with zero points (I think) they gained some advantages with great quantities, and could attract god's attentions or even become a champion of that force.

Also, you can see the moral degeneration rules from Vampire the masquerade and the new World of Darkness games as a more deep and psychological system of moral tracking, if you want a measure of how evil a character is.

I will end with a two questions interesting for anyone that wants to implement a moral/alignment system. How many people must an evil person help to become good? How many innocents must a good person kill to become evil?

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Note that for NWN, your actions impacted the whole group if playing in multi. Every time you gained more than 1pt in an alignment, everyone in the group gained 1pt in the same alignment (so you threaten someone and gain 5 Evil, everyone in the group gains 1 Evil). It was... interesting :) –  Scrollmaster Mar 7 '13 at 18:29
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@Scrollmaster I didn't know. But you know what they say. The worst are not the actions of the wicked, but the silence of the good ones. –  Flamma Mar 7 '13 at 19:02
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Keeping track of numbers leads to the "yo-yo" effect of being Neutral (often seen in video games). If the character does a bad thing for every good thing does that make them neutral? I believe that no, it does not — it makes them amoral (and perhaps insane). A player whose character is not sticking to one moral path is just not playing very well. Keeping track of the numbers is a good way to help such a player to improve.

As an aside, I believe that "breaking the law of the land" is not necessarily Chaotic. Law and Chaos have to do with self-discipline, consistency, belief in structure, boundaries, sticking to one's moral code, honouring commitments and promises, predictability. For example, Monks require high self-discipline so cannot be Chaotic. Lawful characters can be trusted, Chaotic ones cannot.

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Well, in AD&D that would make them neutral, since they defined True Neutral as someone who wanted balance between the axes. –  Cthos Mar 7 '13 at 22:54
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The Michael Moorcock flavored versions of the Chaosium Basic RPG system (i.e. Elric, Hawkmoon etc) uses a system similar to this, although perhaps not as detailed as you might like. I only own Elric, but I believe the others would have a similar system.

Elric has three Alliegances - Law, Chaos and Balance. (although, note that the index has an entry for Alignments that refers you to Alliegances :) All characters have a rating in all three Alliegances. Different actions will increase or decrease a rating in Alliegances. Sometimes, the changes are related to each other, sometimes not - for instance, freeing someone gives both Balance and Chaos, while speaking with the dead increases Chaos but decreases Balance. A table lists about 30 examples, but the GM is encouraged to make up his own.

This is all based on Elric, copyright 1994. Dragon Lords of Melnibone (2001) contains a d20 version of the same basic system.

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Although not strictly an alignment system I'd recommend having a look at the Pendragon system. Characters have a number of opposing traits such as:

Chaste/Lustful
Energetic/Lazy
Forgiving/Vengeful
Generous/Selfish (and so on)

Each of these is rated out of combined total of 20 for each pair.
I.e. if you are Generous 5 you would be Selfish 15.

This type of system can give you a personality/alignment overview that is a bit more dynamic than just plain "Good/Evil Law/Chaos". You don't even really need to look at the book, just take a look at one of the systems character sheets (plenty online).

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