Classic Dungeons and Dragons and Old School Gaming

D&D etc.

"Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of rust: to rituals' footprints ankle-deep in stone."

-Mervyn Peake

"...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped."

-Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Horror Movie Alignment

BX DnD does some funny things with alignment. Moldvay calls the three alignments "ways of life" and implies a link to morality but glosses over life and death choices of good and evil. I believe this is an attempt to keep things light for the intended gamer, "adults, ages 10 and up" and at the same time it allows for a simplification in the game. The alignments sorts monsters and NPCs into groups: the ones that are here for you to kill and take there stuff, ands the ones who aren't.

I don't use alignment in my games. The folks I play with aren't in it to act out sadistic fantasies, but their also not going to flinch at harsher tactics so it's not really an issue. I like the idea of the kind of cosmic alignment that LotFP uses, but by requiring Magic-Users to be chaotic and making Lawful characters rare (and boring) LotFP reduces the number of decision points that relate to Alignment and I think that's unfortunate because Player decisions are what make role playing interesting.

Looming large in the background of old school DnD are the old Universal and Hammer Horror flicks.  From the monster list to the equipment list and the Cleric's primary power it's pretty clear that these movies were a major inspiration. I think the mileu of classic horror could help inform the alignment system in an interesting way.

The following alignment system was made with these goals:
  1. Make explicit what is only implied in Moldvay BX because we don't need to worry about what moms in the 1980's are going to think anymore.
  2. Help to make the choices that are made in game interesting by having consequences for those choices.
  3. Redirect the imagined spiritual foundations (the gods and their impact on morality) of the game back towards something that would fit right in a classic horror movie  as opposed to the somewhat bland pantheism that has become the default for DnD. 
There are three alignments: Good, Neutral and Evil.

Good characters: 

  • Will talk or take other non-deadly action first before resorting to violence unless facing a known enemy or unintelligent creature.  
  • Will not torture.
  • Will not kill a helpless foe.

Neutral characters:

  • May kill to achieve goals.
  • May kill or torture enemy combatants.
  • Will not kill for fun.
  • Will not torture or kill innocents.

Evil characters:

  • Are bent on dominating or destroying their surroundings.
  • Will kill or torture for any reason.

Any character committing an act prohibited by their alignment must change their alignment from Good to Neutral or from Neutral to Evil. The DM must warn the Player of this prior to the character completing the action.

Good characters with a belief in God may pray for temporary Protection from Evil. By making a Saving Throw - the Evil foe's Level or HD a Good character will be protected for 1 round. Praying with a Holy symbol will allow a roll with advantage and the duration will be the Praying character's Level.

Evil characters with a belief in an Evil God may make a Saving Throw upon death to return as malicious undead. After animating they may Save again to remain as permanent undead. (At the DMs option this may be reserved for special creatures or creatures with one or more Levels in a character class)

Good and Evil characters receive a +1 to reaction rolls with similarly aligned creatures and -1 with creatures of the opposed alignment.


  1. This seems to do what you set out to do, which is no mean feat.

  2. Good characters with a belief in God may pray for temporary Protection from Evil.

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