After much deliberation, I have made a decision regarding several fundamental issues with Alignment in both D&D and Pathfinder (which is based off 3.5 D&D). Firstly, I feel it encourages a heavy amount of meta-gaming on a very fundamental level. I recently had a player who was trying to guess a player's alignment within 5 minutes of knowing the character; which almost broke out into a discussion about what is or is not X or Y alignments; when it really mattered diddly.
Alignments have always existed merely as a guideline to general behavior of creatures within the game. In the oldest versions of D&D, they didn't even have Good and Evil as alignments; but Lawful and Chaotic only; representing order and cohesiveness. Good an Evil came later. The alignment system has been further complicated to the point that it is useless for roleplaying purposes. Books intended to clarify have only convoluted the issue, and have contradicted themselves and the core rules frequently; often changing what is or is not good or evil several times across several books. Realistically, this isn't surprising. WotC used a lot of freelance writers on different projects; some of which obviously didn't even know the game (for example, Complete Psionics has feats for Illithid cross-breeds; but Lords of Madness show that Illithids don't breed that way; etc).
Because Alignment only functions half-correctly in terms of game mechanics (such as determining what gets the boot when you cast holy word) I have decided to remove it as a moral indicator of a character's affiliations, and partially from their mechanics. This allows a much broader scope of character concepts within the mechanical realm; and also within the realm of roleplaying.
Replacing alignment will be in-world factions. Regions, religion, social norms, laws, and so forth will be the standard by which people and their actions are judged in a role-playing sense. What is considered normal in one region may be illegal in another, while some cultures will have taboos against things (such as cannibalism) while other cultures may embrace them. Because of this, here is a preview of what will be instated for the Heroes of Alvena games and your characters.
Spells with alignment descriptors may be cast by characters of any alignment, even if they could not previously. A lawful good cleric may for example cast Deathwatch or Protection from Law. With the removal of this mechanical limitation it creates role-playing opportunities where characters have access to certain powers that may or may not be permitted by their own orders; and opens up opportunities for social intrigues - including rival churches subverting or infiltrating one another.
Casting spells with aligned descriptors merely reflects mechanical portions. They do not make you more or less of a particular alignment mechanically. The summon monster spells likewise may be used to summon creatures outside your given alignment at the caster's choice; but with social or religious repercussions as appropriate. For example, summoning fiends or undead within the Omas Region is strictly forbidden; regardless of intentions.
A class that gains channel energy (such as a cleric or paladin) may choose ether type of energy; regardless of alignment. Likewise, clerics may choose to spontaneously cast either cure or inflict spells. A character may decide on what sort of energy they can spontaneously channel when they rest and prepare spells. See class changes below.
Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Monks, and Paladins are released from alignment restrictions. As noted above, a cleric may cast any spell, and may choose which type of energy to channel and spontaneously cast when they prepare spells.
Paladins: Paladins may be of any alignment and champion their causes for their respective factions, beliefs, and so forth. Paladins may choose to channel negative energy or use Lay on Hands with negative energy. Paladins must choose an ideal to life by, be it good, evil, law, or chaos; or a combination thereof. Paladins gain an Aura and Subtype of the appropriate alignment. Thus a Paladin of Law and Good possesses the Law and Good subtypes. Paladins loose Smite Evil and replace with Smite Enemy. Smite Enemy functions as Smite Evil (as described in the standard Paladin) except it is half as effective against neutral or unaligned opponents; while being fully effective against creatures with the opposed subtype (such as other Paladins of different ideals).
Lawful Paladins deal full smite damage against Chaotic enemies.
Good Paladins deal full smite damage against Evil enemies.
Chaotic Paladins deal full smite damage against Lawful enemies.
Evil Paladins deal full smite damage against Good enemies.
Paladins gain no benefit from their smites against an enemy who matches their alignment. If a Paladin's smite target shares an alignment subtype with the Paladin, and also has an opposing alignment subtype as the Paladin, then the Paladin treats the target as a neutral enemy for the purpose of his smite. Thus if a Lawful Good Paladin smites a Devil (law and evil subtypes), the Paladin treats the Devil as a Neutral opponent; whereas a Good Paladin could smite Devils and Demons fully.
Creatures without alignment subtypes are for all intents and purposes neutral. While a character may exhibit strong traits of the prime alignments, they lack enough of a connection for it to manifest in a way that reacts strongly to magic and effects based on alignment. For this reason, most humanoids will not register on spells such as detect evil; and likewise are only half-affected by effects that target extreme alignments. Characters who gain an alignment subtype (such as Paladins) are so strongly connected to the primal essence of that alignment that it manifests in physical ways (such being able to overcome damage reductions, and being detected by spells such as detect good).
Characters are therefor encouraged to play their characters as they feel is appropriate.
In Alvena the power of good, evil, law, and chaos can be harnessed into real tangible powers. These are similar to prime fundamentals of consciousness, and several beings either are born from these prime elements, or embody them through particularly strong devotions. Alignments are generally viewed based on traits they exhibit.
Good = Altruism, Love, and Kindness
Evil = Selfishness, Hate, and Cruelty
Law = Justice, Order, and Logic
Chaos = Freedom, Change, and Emotion
Certain creatures are naturally tied to these primal traits. Succubi for example are born of raw chaos and evil, and exhibit strong traits of selfishness, cruelty, emotion, freedoms, and so forth. Such creatures may break away from their fundamental aspects; such as a "Fallen Angel" acting with evil traits or even becoming a champion of darkness.
Organizations, Factions, and Regions
While characters enjoy great freedoms within the system when it comes to alignment mechanics, certain things are frowned upon, feared, or banned by different people in different places. People tend to react harshly to certain things almost universally; or at least frown upon them; such as necromancy or conjuring fiendish outsiders such as Devils and Demons. Such things are generally Region specific and noted in their locations. Below are a few things that are at least frowned upon in most places.
- Mental Domination: Generally considered a terrible offense except within special circumstances (such as in self defense or in defense of another, assuming you relinquish control of the subject to authorities). When used maliciously, such spells and effects are often on similar ranks with acts of Rape within the law; and using mental domination to commit additional crimes multiplies the offenses within the law. Note: Charm effects are not covered by these laws, and while often frowned upon do not rob people of free will (more as alter their perceptions), while most generic compulsions (such as suggestion) vary based on use.
- Necromancy: Necromancy is feared and often seen as a fringe art among the general public. Animating the dead is a serious taboo for most societies and if not illegal is often feared and distrusted. In the Omas region, animating the dead is a crime that is equated with murder; and jail sentences for animating undead creatures can quickly add up; and such spellcasters are generally branded with a mark of shame by the Omas law enforcement upon sentencing. Such marks impose a -6 penalty on social checks within the Omas plains, and a -3 penalty in most other locations.
- Demonology: A catch-all term for conjuring, summoning, calling, or otherwise associating with evil outsiders (particularly devils and demons). Such actions are considered acts of treachery against most civilized nations, communities, and so forth. Memories of the horrors of the Demon Wars last even to this day centuries later; and such spellcasters are generally jailed for extended periods (usually a few months at least) and often branded with the same mark as Necromancers.