Alignments and XP in old-school D&D

edited January 2015 in Story Games
I've generally been of the opinion that Alignment is a fairly useless limb in OSR-style, dungeon crawl-which-challenges-the-player-rather-than-the-character, find the treasure and get out challenge-based adventuring.

Out of curiosity, I started thinking what aligment could be used for in that situation, and I came up with this simple idea. (I've been going on a kick of trying to redesign old-school D&D in a way which makes sense to me while trying to keep as much of it intact as possible, somewhat inspired by Eero's Primitive D&D discussions.)

Cosmic or Metaphysical Alignment

This represents a character's alignment with cosmic forces.

Most people and creatures are unaligned, or neutral: you do not claim any stake in the great Eternal Conflict of Law and Chaos. (Presumably some ancient and cosmic battle of forces which is important to the backstory of your campaign, if you're into that kind of thing.)

However, some people and some creatures intentionally declare themselves (or perhaps undergo some kind of ritual) to attach themselves, to henceforth belong to one faction or another.

Law: aligned with deities of light and order, obey tradition, follow cosmic tradition, seek to rebuild the old ways.

Chaos: aligned with deities of chaos and growth/change, disobey tradition, seek to bring down the old and move into the new, look ahead to the future.

This is relevant if:

a) You have active deities in your campaign.
b) You have spells, items, and effects which require alignment to function (something like "Protection from Evil" would, instead, be "Protection from Chaos", and help defend against anything specifically aligned with the forces of Chaos and associated deities).

Otherwise, it seems pretty safe to scrap it altogether. The next bit is more relevant:

Moral Alignment

We all know adventurers are out to collect treasure and get rich. Not the highest moral pursuits in the world.

I believe strongly in the value of a D&D which is premised on XP representing successful adventuring: you effectively "score points" for being clever and lucky enough to collect treasure under challenging circumstances. This applies to all characters, or the game no longer functions as written.

Still, there is variation in adventurer outlook on the world, and it affects their view of life and their goals as adventurers. This is represented by how these characters' players score XP in the game.

Good characters get XP for treasure recovered (i.e. it is now rightfully yours), and for lives saved (10 XP per commoner saved, 20 XP per noble-born, 50 XP per royal).
(Alternately, they score half the XP for treasure recovered, and then the full amount again if and when the treasure is returned to its rightful owner.)

Neutral characters get XP for treasure recovered under challenging circumstances, and then half again when they spend or invest it. (As some OSR circles handle experience.)

Evil characters get XP for treasure... of any kind. You can steal, extort, kill or murder, for instance; so long as you end up with the treasure, you get the XP for it.

This gives different alignments roles to play which are aligned with the way XP functions in the game (whether it is balanced remains to be seen, of course - perhaps the numbers or ratios may need to be adjusted). If alignment is supposed to create intra-party conflict and lead characters to advocate for certain actions ("No, let's just kill the hostages and take their stuff for ourselves!"), then this should accomplish that function nicely.

Any thoughts? Would you use this in a D&D game?

Have you ever used something like this?


  • Yah, I've considered various variations on Alignment Keys for D&D, certainly. It hasn't seen much use for me because of the way questing protocols have developed to sort of undermine and expand into the territory, until Alignment has little space to live in. I'll expand on what I mean:

    In my homebrew players "predict" or "commit" to various goals as part of planning in their adventuring. These plans are called "quests". If the quest is motivated by greed for riches, then the default rules pretty much apply, but if the characters are going adventuring to catch all the pokemon or whatever, we'll have to negotiate for the xp scoring scheme (200 xp per new type of Pokemon, 500 for each new element, 1,000 for a successful evolution or breeding, whatever).

    This approach means that characters essentially have localized mini-alignments - motivations - that are written out and clarified in advance, because otherwise we can't allocate experience points. We can't know what to score if we don't know what characters are attempting to do! (Specifically, you can't just accidentally rob somebody's Pokemon collection and then a posteori try to claim that your character always intended to become a Pokemon trainer, and should therefore gain xp for this major step forward in their goal.)

    As it happens, one half of the purpose of Alignment (exactly as you analyze it in your breakdown) is already being perfectly served by these questing motivations. This little piggy has "Greed" written down, this one's here to save the princess, and this one's waiting for Anakin to show himself so as to seek for a bit of redemption. Sort of like Alignment, isn't it? We could theoretically just scrap Alignment for that other purpose as well and have all the magical traps and whatnot activate on questing motivations instead of fundamental underlying principles.

    Probably more interesting to keep both, though; I certainly can think of uses for both a defined inner nature as well as a defined momentary goal, when it comes to a full-panoply grand campaign. As I've probably described sometimes Alignment is something that only comes up in my homebrew in the mid-levels, anyway - characters only actually choose an Alignment at 3rd level. It is therefore not underfoot as a character generation complication, which I like just fine.
  • I like the idea of more concrete Keys as well, Eero. Much more human and targeted.

    Here I was looking for "the closest thing to D&D as-written which still made sense to me".

    What do you in situations where some kind of personal motivation might apply, but hasn't been chosen yet? (For instance, your hypothetical trap which activates whenever someone whose heart is set on robbing the tomb of its treasures enters.)
  • I'm someone who was generally pretty comfortable with the D&D alignments as a simplified guide to roleplaying for newbies, as well as some of the mechanical elements (spells, class restrictions, racial tendencies, etc). That being said I always thought there was room for more to be done with alignments, and it makes sense to use experience for that in some way.

    I feel almost exactly the opposite about the two axes however. I think law & chaos are the overwhelming constants, and the moral compass axis is more subjective and dependent upon deities and such. Nearly everyone has both good and bad in them (or the judgment of such is dependent upon warrants and dynamic criteria), but quite frequently people are wholly lawful or chaotic. It is that axis which is the more likely determinate of character actions and directions.

    I also disagree that the purpose is to collect treasure and get rich. While it certainly had a far greater focus in pre-3rd edition D&Ds, even there I think was plenty of room for variety (and even mechanical support for such). Treasure was certainly made to matter, especially with the experience awards for it...but then not everyone used or wanted that aspect in their games. As such I don't know that there's value in hard-coding it into the game. As an option, certainly, but maybe not as a definite.

    So, I'm on board with experience awards tied to alignment, but not sure I'm on board with the specific system you're outlining. I'll think more on it. Definitely something to it though, so stick with it.
  • Ah! Yes.

    My little "hack" only makes sense in a view of D&D where XP comes from treasure as the focus of play (a pretty old-school approach, granted, but the only approach to D&D that really makes sense or appeals to me).

    I'd like to hear more about your interpretation of the law/chaos and good/evil axes, however. How does that pan out for you? What does it look like in play?
  • It's easier for me to approach from an academic social sciences spin.

    USA vs Prussia/Germany circa 1700-1950

    Good v Evil axis - Not much difference. Yeah, you can point at the holocaust, but really slavery wasn't much better. There's good and evil in individuals, governments, etc. It's a crapshoot, and what's more it's open to interpretation based on warrants and differing opinions.

    Law v Chaos axis - Germany was ordered law, USA was fairly chaotic (though not wholly of course). People in the US valued individuality, freedom, the frontier, and so on. People in Prussia were the very definition of ordered society (giving Imperial Japan a run for their money in this respect).

    When I take this example and then turn it to roleplaying I see that again it's usually the LvC axis that's most descriptive of player actions, and even races or classes.

    What are the differences between archetypical dwarves, or barbarian humans? No necessity of good or evil, but again one of law or chaos. A character abides the traditions and values of their society, or they make it up as they go, and whichever they do gives us the macro description of their behavior compared against their racial norms.

    A thief isn't necessarily evil, but he IS necessarily chaotic (even a scout is neutral at best). By definition what a thief does opposes law. The opposite is true of Paladins, who would obey the law even if it allows evil to 'win'. Monks follow a more personal (or monastic) form of law, but it's similar.

    If deities/churches (or governments, societies, and cultures) play a significant role, then the individual teachings likely make the good/evil axis higher value. Law is already foregone since following the teachings of a religion (or traditions of a culture, or literal laws of the state) is law by definition. What that law defines, and subsequently rewards, as good or evil is the emergent property that wasn't necessarily present before.
  • edited February 2015
    One thing that has come to me about all this: is there value added by itemizing alignment rewards like this over using the EZ form of 'good roleplaying reward'? I mean, the DM can award a blanket 100xp (or whatever) for 'good roleplaying', which includes playing to alignment, or they can reward 10 for this and 20 for that, and so on. Either way you're rewarding the same thing.

    Maybe this is more of an itemized list to provide examples upon which to base the blanket reward? Not sure, just spitballing.

    EDIT - nvm, just realized that I was viewing this from a standpoint that largely disregarded treasure rewards. It's more of a how/what/why with the treasure, than a how/what/why of general xp rewards. Carry on.
  • The difference between a quest reward and a good roleplaying reward is massive and fundamental to my understanding of D&D. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that if a given group does not see a difference, that alone is strong evidence for them already having abandoned goal-oriented play, which to me is a key feature of how old-style D&D works.

    The good roleplaying reward belongs in the family of "zombie rewards" in the sense that it is available no matter what happens in the game, no matter whether success is had, and there is a great pressure on the GM to award it routinely because doing otherwise would require them to personally condemn the other players for being bad players. Gary Gygax maybe enjoys deciding that you're a bad roleplayer and therefore should lose half your xp and all your money (those AD&D alignment/class good roleplaying rules are just abusive), but for me that's a tad too much stress to rely on it as a fundamental cornerstone.

    Along these lines, I generally account for two elements doctrinally when considering alternative xp schemes for D&D: if an alternate scheme is goal-oriented (it hinges on accomplishing feats in the game) and analytic (it can be determined reasonably objectively and easily from the facts on the ground), then it has potential to replace the xp-for-treasure arrangement. "Good roleplaying" fails both, "kill monsters" is mediocre in the first regard (it's not really a goal unless your characters are some sort of pokemon hunters), traditional quest xp is notoriously vague analytically (it is difficult to say how much xp you should get for successfully laying the ghost of the miller to rest).
    What do you in situations where some kind of personal motivation might apply, but hasn't been chosen yet? (For instance, your hypothetical trap which activates whenever someone whose heart is set on robbing the tomb of its treasures enters.)
    This hasn't really come up (such traps are rare), but I imagine that if an adventure text had such, I'd query the players on the spot about the true motivations of their characters. (They'd presumably tell me honestly.) Of course one might ask whether we should write down quests on the spot while we're at it, but presumably the players have already explicated on their goals sufficiently before they ever got to the tomb. Still, such a trap would be a good opportunity for revision and clarification. Would be an interesting conceit to play, in fact, if only those who are there to save the princess could enter, in which case ironically the characters with the least motivation for grabbing the treasure are the ones capable of accessing it.

    In truth I don't consider my questing rules to have truly crystallized into a clear and unchanging form. More play and consideration is surely required.
  • So the distinction between the way you handle quest XP and the way it is traditionally handled is that you negotiate up-front how much XP a particular quest is worth? Or something else? I mean, I agree with your "miller's ghost" example, but that sounds like something you *would* do in your play.
  • I've tried out various strategies regarding quest xp. Here are some of them:
    * Pre-negotiation to base the valuation on prior case history and player demands (also known as "how much does it take for you to grab the hook"), rather than GM whim. This works better and better as the campaign progresses and case history widens, allowing for less bickering and more objectivity.
    * Scaling the rewards according to a notional quest "level" based on an equal weighting of the stakes and the challenges involved. Unlike objective measures such as "1 gp = 1 xp" this is universally applicable regardless of the fictional goals involved, but also not very interesting - if the scoring is calculated directly from challenge, there's no opportunity of performing over the curve or danger of under-performance.
    * Applying alternate measures instead of the xp for money or xp for monster death scales already familiar in the tradition. For example, I've got a pretty solid "good deeds" scale that I can use to calculate the proper quest xp reward for saving a village of 400 civilians + a 3rd level Magic-User from a nigh-certain death :D

    As I mentioned above, I don't exactly consider my methodology on this question sharp and finished. For actual play it's not a huge problem to have some vagueness to arbitrary quest xp rewards, but it does cause GM stress (a prime example of an unhygienic practice; it can be used, but you have to pay attention) and increased negotiation, and it makes it a tad more difficult to retain fog of war in some cases, so I see further development as definitely worthwhile.

    One thing to note is that often so-called quest xp rewards are not actually "quest" per se, as they're secret and arbitrary rewards, and the players do not know of them in advance, not even in fictional terms. As an example I'm reminded of the Pearl of Pirate's Cove; a very worthwhile adventure, but it just happens to be the case that putting the pirate ghost to rest gets your cleric an extra xp reward which is not hinted about anywhere in advance. Even though that kind of thing is usually termed "quest xp", it's really more of a secret and ultra-focused roleplaying reward, as the players couldn't know in advance that this particular action among the multitude of possibilities would reward a quite hefty additional xp lump. Without pre-knowledge there is also no intention to act, and therefore no questing - the player is rewarded for playing according to secret norms prescribed by the GM and module author, which is pretty much what roleplaying reward means.

    It's in fact the common practice in old style D&D to keep quest xp reward norms hidden, if adventure modules are any measure. They always only discuss the rewards at the end of the module as something the GM reveals to the players as a nice surprise after the fact. A highly suboptimal method to my mind, as not knowing that you'll be separately rewarded for getting the hostages out alive makes guess-work of questing.

    What I meant with my aside about the miller's ghost was mostly just that the "traditional method" of assigning the specific value of the quest is vague, so the issues about whether quests are declared in advance or not doesn't even enter into it. As far as I can figure, people come up with these numbers on a whim, probably based on some consideration of probable level of the character performing the feat. So if you exorcise the old mill in a 3rd level adventure, perhaps that's worth half the xp a 3rd level Cleric would need to get to 4th level. Aside from my not knowing whether the numbers are based on something like that, it's not a particularly satisfying method compared to the "1 gp = 1 xp" elegance of economic incentive. I don't have a simple rule to suggest as a replacement, I'm just aware that I'm not satisfied with the traditional way.
  • Yes, Eero's got it here.

    I'm either turning into a serious OSR grognard (in certain respects), or I've been brainwashed by Eero's seamless logic, or both. For my tastes, the "heroic adventure" or "epic fantasy" modes of D&D play are better served by other games or other systems (e.g. The Shadow of Yesterday, Dungeon World, Burning Wheel, In a Wicked Age..., etc.).

    This means that my fundamental understanding of D&D is of the firm "treasure for XP, measure along an objective scale" variety. I have the same objections to "good roleplaying" rewards as Eero does (not to mention that one could be a very effective D&D player without doing any "roleplaying" at all - "roleplaying" in this context is fairly orthogonal to the goal, and I like having the freedom of being able to drop it when it would slow down gameplay or cause us problems in play).

    That makes the "law/chaos" continuum pretty hard for me to draw on: does a Chaotic character collect and distribute treasure differently than a Neutral one? How does this actually impact play?

    I like the idea of tying Evil or Good to cosmic, supernatural forces, like I did with Law and Chaos, above. In some kind of Tolkienesque milieu (with clear "sides" taken by anyone involved in the overall conflict), that makes a ton of sense.

    I could see making an exception for Eero's "quest XP" as a secondary form of rewards. (I have it worked in to the "Good" alignment, above, for example, where I have objective rewards for saving people lives which can be used to get a GM and players on the same page in the same way that XP=treasure does.)

    I'm also not 100% convinced yet that it is a fully robust idea. (As Eero points out, how does a group assign objective value to "quests", instead of subconsciously assigning a value based on the current XP needs of the group? Not obvious. In basic D&D, you can, for example, increase your chances of acquiring treasure by hiring lots of hirelings. However, this is limited by your Charisma, costs you money in the first place, and then your rewards must be shared with the hirelings, reducing the expected payoff. This is great: as your odds of success presumably go up, your reward goes down, as is appropriate to a challenge-based game. With "Quest XP", however, you could get some help achieving the quest and it would, most likely, not lower your expected reward - you just made it easier for yourself to score more XP, in other words. So things can get a bit wonky at the edges. Treasure balances "help" very nicely, however, since all helpers get a share.)

    I do like the idea of "Exploration XP". This is how I use monster XP in D&D, in fact: you get an XP reward not for defeating a monster (whatever that means), but just for encountering it.

    I could see instituting XP rewards for exploration activities. For instance, if you're sailing around the Narrow Sea, perhaps you score 200 XP for each island found and visited. Finding the tomb of such-and-such, or discovering the secret of such-and-such, could be worth some XP, as well.

    Still, the idea (like monster XP) would be that these are small rewards, completely dwarfed by the XP you score by collecting treasure (which is, of course, the reason you go to those places in the first place).

    And you could set up a scale for these rewards before the game even starts, so characters naturally outgrow certain challenges (once you've visited ten different islands and leveled, the reward seems much less attractive, after all).

    Discovering the secret of the Pharaoh's Staff of Pyramid-building is only worth a little, in other words (thought still an achievement). But the whole point of the game is that you might be able to to leverage that Secret into acquiring some treasure later on; that's the true reward. A PC who discovers the Secret and then just sells it to the local Magic School still gets a small reward, but nothing earth-shaking; that shows the player isn't that interested in this particular resource.
  • edited February 2015
    *nod* We're diametrically opposite in our playstyles concerning the treasure thing, making me a poor sounding board for that aspect. Even without it though I think you're on to something with alignment and XP. I'll certainly continue to consider it for applications in non-treasure related ways. That's also why I keep mucking up by overlapping alignment/treasure/roleplaying stuff...I'm projecting the idea into my own paradigm.

    About the only thought I'd have on the law/chaos application of treasure is that a lawful character would earn for support of law/order (social/cultureal charity, taxation, tithing, monastic support, guild or order dues, etc), whereas a chaotic character would earn for personal goals or perhaps any new ventures. So something like 1.5 - 2 times the award for acting in alignment, but .5 - .75 for spending out of alignment, with neutrals always able to earn 1 regardless. Not sure, as its an entirely different sphere of thought for me. I'll post any further thoughts though.
  • A quick note on the "prenegotiated reward" - several recent video games recently have had options where you can make things harder for the player intentionally, in exchange for bigger rewards. Some in the form of tying one hand behind your back ("without using magic" "while only using this simple piece of equipment"), some in the form of beefing up enemies. I do think this is a strength of challenge-based D&D play that is underused. "How hard do you, the players, want to be fighting today?" Sometimes it's answered in sandbox games by the choice of where to go. "Well, this opportunity sounds pretty easy, and I'm in the mood for a casual game tonight, so let's take it." But making it explicit is another option to think about.
  • Jason,

    I love that idea. I agree that it's a particular underused form of challenge-play.

    But how do we make it work in a D&D context (where XP rewards are tied to treasure values and/or monster strength)?

    I can see Eero's "wager" system applying here (the GM basically tries to tempt the players with a particular reward, and they negotiate until they can reach a level they both find interesting - "Ok, an extra 1000 XP if you can rescue the Princess without using any magic. Deal.").

    Are there better or more interesting ways to do this, though?
  • edited February 2015
    I'm about to drop XP altogether from the game for my current starting 5e campaign, as well as alignment for humanoid characters in favor of the bonds/traits/flaws mechanic.

    For one thing, I've never been sure about having players upgrade their skills at different paces according to who does more of X and less of Y. If I solve it by choosing an appropiate end of an arc to announce "Ok, level up everyone!" it serves the purpose but may break the inmmersion if no additional explaining if offered, as in "you spend the next month training -insert training montage with epic music- "

    The method suggested in the book to balance encounters is the only thing that I would keep XP for. but for the rest, due to the things that my group of players is doing and enjoying right now, I doubt I'd need XP as a currency when the joy of watching and sharing the setting creation and it's developement seems to be so far a currency with a greater value for the players. I'm even afraid that throwing XP in the equation could ruin it.

    I don't know if it's your case, but often when I recall the better moments of a campaign, I remember using X skill, some planning and/or sheer luck to overcome an interesting challenge, but only remember XP when it gives a measure of what I overcome, as in "yeah, and I got 1000 XP for that"

    I believe that the key of what's my group doing and why it's working so far is that I'm barely forcing them to take anything created by me. Each one of them is right now actively involved in creating the world, it's gods, villains and NPCs. They will have a chance to play each of them and keep some things secret for everyone. So while I'm still GMing the game, the material is mostly coming from them. I just help them connect things here and there and throw glitter at it.

    About the alignments as a roleplaying guideline, it makes sense, it has worked before and it will keep working; but I believe that the bonds/traits/flaw do a better work about keeping the character coherent without forcing an archetypical roleplaying of principles.

    I put up to vote if players wanted to be good or evil to avoid having a party with opposite alignments and they all asked to make it neutral or something around that, and now I'm thinking it was a natural reaction. No sane person will be totally okay (or being honest) about behaving in a way that doesn't suit themselves. I can't be nor a good nor a bad person all the time, most of the time I'm neutral and only go into one extreme or the other when my current mental health state collides with the state of the world outside. I can roleplay, of course, but I'm aware not everyone at my table enjoys acting as much as I do, and even at that it's usual that actors roleplay themselves instead of becoming a different person. That's why there are different acting schools anyway.

    So in this campaign I'm ready to try letting players go wild on their characters. I'm gonna relax and watch them build, destroy and remade the world they have built, and find out what story comes out from that. Wish me luck.
  • Jason,

    I love that idea. I agree that it's a particular underused form of challenge-play.

    But how do we make it work in a D&D context (where XP rewards are tied to treasure values and/or monster strength)?
    Well, like I say, it's solved in sandbox play by establishing that this area of the world is really tough/dangerous and has tough/dangerous monsters in it, and that other area of the world isn't so bad. In non-sandbox D&D play it might make sense to make it more explicit.
  • Oh, yes. It works quite easily from the GM side (make the challenges more or less difficult; communicate to players by, for example, establishing "dangerous" areas).

    I thought your unusual idea was that the players could adjust the difficulty by accepting handicaps. This is a fascinating idea, but I'm not sure how to quantify it in order to turn it into some kind of reliable/objective XP award.
  • Oh, yeah. The versions of D&D with balance as even a passing goal actively work against that type of thing.
  • Hey.

    So I was flicking though B/X to see what it said about Alignment and came out with some things:

    Firstly, that alignment is the cornerstone of roleplaying in D&D. Nothing else on the player's character sheet suggests how their character should respond to events in the game. It's a prompt to the player to try and be in their character's head, which seems pretty crucial to the whole roleplaying thing inside an otherwise tactical exploration game.

    Secondly, each alignment has "a secret language of passwords, hand signals, and other body motions" that all players and intelligent monsters (is that excluding NPC civilians?) understand innately simply by being of that alignment. Hm. So I guess we can chalk this up to alignment being an immutable cosmic force in D&D - if you're Chaotically aligned in puts you in touch with a huge variety of Chaotic beings. I don't know if that now means you're automatically allied with them in the fight against the forces of Law but at least you make make some assumptions about their motivations and communicate which means - to take it back to the dungeon - you at least can attempt to avoid a fight. There's an implication that a balanced party might try to have at least one character of the three alignments to increase its chances of talking its way out of more fights.

    There are no rewards to linked to playing to your alignment well and failing to do so results either in an alignment shift or vaguely defined "punishment or penalty." Hmm. I guess this is why alignment feels like a useless limb. It doesn't feed back into the game very well. There's potentially a solution in hooking alignment up to the "1GP = 1XP" system but in a way that encourages roleplaying. I like to call it Aligned Treasure. It involves a bit more book-keeping but it's basically awarding XP bonuses for how GP are recovered from the dungeon.

    Aligned Treasure

    Lawful characters get +%5 to earned XP from treasure...
    ...obtained as part of legal trade or sale.
    ...rescued on behalf of it's true owner.
    ...given to aid their quest
    ...delivered from the possession of chaotic monsters.

    Neutral characters get +%5 to earned XP from treasure...
    ...discovered on the long dead.
    ...stolen from the deserving.
    ...pocketed when no one was looking.
    ...offered as gift or tribute.

    Chaotic characters get +%5 to earned XP from treasure...
    ...looted from the recently slain.
    ...taken under treat of violence.
    ...gained by lies and deceit.
    ...won from the possession of lawful monsters.

    Any takers?
  • Mike,

    Good comments. That whole "alignment language" thing has always been a total mystery to me, and, as far as I can tell, to everyone I've ever played with. I don't recall ever being in a D&D game where people actually used that rule in any way. As far as we were concerned, it just didn't exist.

    You point out one potential use of the rule: communicating with monsters. But then that seems to obviate the "languages known" rules, making Intelligence a total dump stat for anyone but a magic-user (and maybe even them). Hmmm.

    As for your modification of the XP rules, I like the gist of it, but find it a bit fiddly for just a 5% adjustment. We have to keep track of every little source of treasure?

    My own rules (the OP here, up above) were an attempt to get that same behaviour you describe, but in a much simpler way. Do you feel it fails in that respect? How so?

    Your rules have an interesting implication: that most Thieves should be neutral.
  • I'm well known for using most rules in D&D, even widely disliked ones, but I never used alignment languages. I agree that it seems to indicate a 'centrality of cosmic forces' but I just couldn't get behind it.

    I disagree that early (basic, 1st, 2nd) editions of D&D didn't reward alignment play, I think it just didn't highlight it or do it well. They offer guidelines for additional XP awards for things like 'good roleplay' which seems to obviously include playing in alignment. It also forms a central role in character advancement by aiding in determination of their player rating, which dictates how many weeks of training are required to advance to the next level (at a fairly high monetary cost per week btw).
  • Who knows how alignment languages work or they've ever seen the light of day. I guess being able to make hand signals at a group of elves is a very different thing communication-wise to actually speaking Elvish?

    Yeah, it is a lot of book-keeping and your way is much more elegant. The only implication is that all PCs would want to be Evil or Neutral as there are no restrictions on what treasure grants XP for Evil Players and 50% bonuses for most Neutrals. I felt my take pushed the roleplaying buttons a bit harder with a little less ambiguity about what actions award alignment XP.

    Maybe all non-magical treasure recovered awards should grant XP as normal but playrs gain half again XP on treasure spent in accordance with their alignment. Donations, investments and alms give Lawful characters XP, etc. This puts the players in a good position to invest back into the game world but I'm having a hard time thinking about what the Neutral might meaningfully spend their money on.

    Aren't the best thieves neutral? ;D
  • AD&D certainly "rewards" alignment play, it's not just an empty tag! You can actually lose up to 75% of your xp total if the GM determines that you have misplayed your alignment and should switch to a different one. If the change is actually voluntary (your character was not forced to it in some manner) there is no way to reverse the effect, either. Playing to your alignment and class is absolutely essential for success in AD&D, ignoring them gets you nowhere in terms of character development.

    "Immediately upon alignment change actually occurring, the character concerned will lose one level of experience, dropping experience points to take him or her to the very beginning of the next lower level..." (p. 25 of DMG)

    Aside from the rather draconian alignment penalty rule, the other big fat roleplaying penalty system involves character class: the GM gives each character a training time coefficient on a scale from 1 to 4 through their adventures according to how well they hew to the tropes of their class (so thieves gotta seek for traps, clerics gotta heal, etc.), and this is the number of weeks of training the character needs to level up when the time comes. As each week of training costs 1,500 gp per level of the character, this is a serious issue at low levels; a thief, for example, assuming they save up everything they gain in adventuring, cannot afford their training for 2nd level before they're ready to hit the 3rd or 4th level, not unless they ace the roleplaying test. (This is all on p. 86, for those interested in the details.)

    Whether these matters should be mechanized via penalties instead of rewards is, of course, a different matter. It is clear, however, that the way Gygax's vision for D&D developed over the '70s was increasingly towards concern for pure character play. Alignment and class were useful fencing for challenging player action and keeping them within acceptable bounds.

    It would sort of be interesting to put these rules to the use, although I'd expect the people I play with to not take them exactly seriously despite the crushing mechanical weight they allow the GM to bring to bear on the players with the temerity to break character. We'd see a lot of 0-level jackasses, I suspect :D
  • I used them, or at least a variant of them, for decades. Fortunately my groups tended to be serious roleplayers so they largely dug it. In our new version of D&D alignment is somewhat relaxed, but training is even stricter and far more central to the game.
  • @Potemkin:

    Yes, agreed on all counts. I'd love to hear from some people who had "proper" alignment language experiences! How did that pan out, and what did you use them for? How did "alignment languages" manifest diegetically? (i.e. What did they look like in the gameworld itself?)

    As for my particular suggested rule, certainly a balancing of the features involved would be necessary. It depends so much on the particular gamestyle that I'm sure some playtesting with your particular group would be necessary.

    Perhaps Good/Lawful characters would score twice the XP when returning treasure to rightful owners or donating to good causes, and earn XP for lives saved, while Neutral characters would score half again when spending (in any way they like).

    What I like is that these rules seem to generate the kinds of character decisions that we are "supposed" to get from alignment play, as far as I can tell:

    Imagine a sandbox where you have the options of a) trying to rescue the sailors of a grounded ship, laden with (some) treasure, from pirates, b) exploring an old tomb and pilfering whatever wonders lie there (presumably more treasure), or c) ambushing and attacking the King's caravan, which is bringing gold back from the Far East (the most treasure).

    A Good character would argue for the first option, since the saved lives would net her more XPs, whereas the third option would be almost entirely hopeless and unappealing.

    A Neutral character would prefer the old tomb, for the best XP reward/risk ratio, but could choose either the first or third options, as well.

    An Evil character has little interest in participating in the naval rescue, could do OK with old tomb, but would be seriously tempted to rob that caravan.

    If they were all in a group together, they'd have some interesting choices to make and potentially a very involved debate over the costs and benefits of each option.

    (There might be a better way to do this than the precise details I outlined in the first post, but I think that's a fairly rich metric for character decisions for very few actual added rules.)

  • @phoenix182:

    What does the training look like in your game? Is it a cyclical process of "engage in adventure, collect XP" and then "spend money to hire trainers to earn your next level", repeated like that?

    How does alignment factor in? (In the basic rules, it doesn't seem to be involved here.)
  • AD&D sounds like it's all stick and no carrot.

    Paul, I like the idea of Good/Lawful characters getting XP for rescuing people, but shouldn't that mean that Evil/Chaotic characters get XP for enslaving or imperilling people? :D I mean, it'd make getting roleplay bonuses for Evil characters all about the moustache-swirlling villainy. You'd always be looking for princesses to kidnap and towns to burn.

    Can we have a play with coming up for a better third alignment than Neutral?
  • Some common third alignments follow, for reference. These have all been called "neutral" in their own contexts.

    Balance: The character serves the balance between Chaos and Law, or between civilization and nature, etc.

    Greed: The character serves their own impulses. Animals are like this.

    Humanism: Instead of the abstract and inhuman concerns of Law and Chaos, the character serves the interests of humanity in an inhuman cosmos.
  • You guys didn't use alignment languages???

    Man, y'alls' games must have been harder than ours.

    The Lawful guy who speaks goblin can speak with goblins. The chaotic guy can speak with goblins and all other chaotic anything.

    It's like speaking Nerd. Or speaking Football. It isn't just the weird words and phrases, it's the attitude that goes with it.

    As for playing alignment, I would think it has indirect XP gaining effects. Chaotic? Lots of leeway on where to steal from. Lawful? Less theft opportunities, can't go murderizing your Chaotic surrendered opponents. OTOH, they're Chaotic! Of course they're lying once ransomed! Of course they'll stick around and seek revenge! Of course you can defeat them yet again and rob from them justifiably! Neutral? Do what you feel is right for you, right now! Don't want to take that job for the sheriff? Screw it! You can't browbeat me- I'm Neutral! Almost as good as being Chaotic, but you might be allowed in civilized areas!
  • @phoenix182:

    What does the training look like in your game? Is it a cyclical process of "engage in adventure, collect XP" and then "spend money to hire trainers to earn your next level", repeated like that?

    How does alignment factor in? (In the basic rules, it doesn't seem to be involved here.)
    We wrote both a simplified system and a more detailed option (for most aspects, not just leveling & training). Most groups have opted for detailed initially (try out the new and shiny I think), but after a few games many see that it's more record-keeping and separate adventuring and so switch to the more familiar aggregate/symbolic nature of the simplified system and fiat that the other process is just taking place 'away from the table'.

    We use 6 tiers of 6 levels each for character experience, and a 6 tier system for proficiency, spells, etc. There's more that plays in than detailed below, but space requires brevity.

    Simplified: Level gain is fixed and automatic with enough general experience, but to crest tiers requires either training (which is most often paid for in coin and requires a successful roleplaying element), or a period of self-discovery (which is paid for in age and with a similar roleplaying element as trained characters). The cost (in coin or age) is determined in part by a player rating system similar to AD&D, which hinges on roleplaying (including playing to alignment). There are other factors however (exponential base cost per tier, attributes, rarity, etc).

    Detailed: The detailed seems a bit complex on first pass, because it uses elements from several different editions and other game systems. Once used in play it actually goes pretty easy, so long as the people involved are detail oriented and enough game time is possible.

    Experience is only earned for specific elements in certain ways, and completion of all are required to earn level advancement in each (at the players discretion). When all level requirements are complete an additional set of specific requirements, all of which are adventured for, are required to achieve tier cresting. This cresting still requires training or self-discovery aspects, but they are generally accounted for in the course of standard adventuring.

    As an example:

    Simplified: A lvl 1 character earns enough xp and becomes level 2 (earning what comes with it), then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6 (earning the fixed benefits at each level). With each element (proficiencies, spell casting, etc) he has to seek training or self-discovery to crest to a new tier as needed. He then earns the experience to reach level 7, but in order to crest into Tier II the player chooses either to seek training or to pause adventuring for self-discovery. He pays (either coins or time off his life) most likely according to his personality and the story as its evolved thus far, and a bit of roleplaying/story-development occurs with the DM. He now levels up and the process repeats. Essentially this is D&D as we know it, just with training requirements for anything mechanical 'gained', rather than as options.

    Detailed: A lvl 1 character wants to earn greater proficiency for their first level-up (instead of waiting til their 4th level, as usual). The 6 points will be spent on two-weapon fighting style and moving silently, both of which will crest to tier II, and on gaining tier I proficiency in riding and undercommon. To level requires the standard 1000xp, but they have to fulfill the requirements for each proficiency as well. That means either finding a trainer or successful self-discovery in each of the 4 proficiencies, and earning 100xp in attempts related to riding and undercommon, and 200xp in attempts related to moving silently and two-weapon fighting. So 600xp have to be earned in a particular manner, leaving 400xp earned any way they can. When all requirements are met the character levels up. This is repeated for each level. When the character is ready to crest into Tier II (level 7) they have to have met the tier requirements for their class, same as they did with each level. The process then repeats for the new tier. These requirements usually aren't problematic as they're encountered as a normal part of adventuring.This still has D&D elements, but also some gleaned from BW/MG, and others. The biggest differences from the simplified version are the need to look forward to an advancement path, escalating Tier requirements, and ensuring that the character is actually using the changes they want to acquire (and of course, tracking those uses via earmarked experience).

    While we don't give experience for treasure, we do allow spending money on trainers or research to earn XP without 'adventuring'. This works out well for us because of the MUCH stricter distribution of wealth (Tier I characters generally acquire copper, silver mostly at Tier II, etc). Alignment figures in through general 'good roleplaying' experience awards, and with regards to player rating determining costs to crest tiers. However I'm still toying with some of the ideas presented here, about more detailed experience awards based on alignment issues.

    I'm a bit tired, so not sure if any of that was lucid, but I think it gives the general idea.
  • Mike,

    An interesting idea (and fun discussion of what "neutral" means; I've never quite understood that myself, which is a major part of the reason "alignment" never quite made sense to me).

    I don't really see "enslaving people" as a very D&D-ish task, though. Did you do that in your D&D? It doesn't seem like something adventurers really care about.

    Collecting treasure, defeating traps and puzzles, and fighting and killing monsters are all D&D-ish. So is discovering various secrets (which includes researching spells, creating magical items, and that kind of thing). None of those are terribly alignment-relevant, unless we get into really specific details (e.g. are you researching necromantic spells?).

    In addition, of course, we have "adventure hooks", and that's where finding information, exploring places, and saving people seem to be fairly staple D&D "quests", from my perspective. "Go to this place where no one's been before!" "Find the dingus/treasure of the Lost Temple!" "Help protect this village from the Orcish invasion!"

    I was trying to plug in alignment rules, given that basic framework.
  • @komradebob:

    Thanks! Did these languages have any diegetic (in-world) rationale, or was it just like, "Hey, lucky us! Those slimes are Neutral, so I guess the halfling can communicate with them, uh... somehow. Let's roll a reaction check!"


    Thanks! I'm not 100% sure I followed that at all, but I get the idea. Interesting, but way too involved for my interests with this kind of game. Thanks for typing that up!
  • edited February 2015
    We didn't get that deep about it honestly. You got alignment language, you could communicate. It was kinda more like Alignment-dar. If you share an alignment, you grok each other, though you don't necessarily like each other.

    OTOH, I don't think anyone ever attempted to talk to a slime. We would have likely treated that as more of an animal or plant, and some other means of communication would have been necessary. Alignment languages were more for other humanoids and intelligent critters.

  • Humanism: Instead of the abstract and inhuman concerns of Law and Chaos, the character serves the interests of humanity in an inhuman cosmos.
    I like the implication that demi-humans might be excluded from this alignment. Intraparty racial tensions are what I need at my table.

    A lvl 1 character... greater proficiency ... will crest to tier II, and on gaining tier I proficiency... To level requires the standard 1000xp, ...fulfill the requirements for each proficiency as well... self-discovery in each of the 4 proficiencies, and earning 100xp in attempts related to ... to be earned in a particular manner,... repeated for each level... crest into Tier II (level 7) ... tier requirements for their class.. The process then repeats for the new tier. ...advancement path, escalating Tier requirements... and of course, tracking those uses via earmarked experience.
    Whew. That's quite the process you have there.
    I don't really see "enslaving people" as a very D&D-ish task, though. Did you do that in your D&D? It doesn't seem like something adventurers really care about.
    Hey Paul.
    I've never enslaved anyone in D&D but that's probably because I've never played an Evilly-Aligned character. The alignment-appropriate actions of Evil characters tend to be pretty unD&D in principal, flouting the image of the Heroic player character. Besides, if Good/Lawful characters are supposedly rescuing people all the time who's doing the abducting in the first place?

    Thinking about it, I did have a Chaotic-Good Half Elf be silently complicit in the enslavement of a goblin, shackled and forced to guide the party through his labyrinthine home at knife point. But who hasn't made poor moral decisions in subterranean Vietnam? Maybe it's those moments of hard choices dungeoncrawling should be pushing? (Maybe I should go read Torchbearer, who knows?)

    It's true that slavery is a bit too dark for most high fantasy games but it's pretty Appendix N.
  • I agree it's a good Appendix Item. It just doesn't seem like a Fundamental D&D Task, you know what I mean?

    I've never played in a D&D game where "Hey, there are some people over here you could enslave" was an adventure hook.

    The only counterexample I can think of is Charmed monsters and Summoned monsters/demons, but that seems... rather different somehow.

    It's certainly a very interesting angle to *include* in a D&D game, and fodder for thought. I don't feel any need to put it into a fundamental experience-gaining category, though.

    I thought the "XP for treasure gained, no matter how" would align character priorities and player priorities nicely, though. "Hey, you're traveling from the woods from the dungeon where you killed all the Orcs who burned down the castle and took all the Royal gold,, when you come across the King's son! It turns out he's still alive, what a miracle! Which means that all the treasure you just found actually belongs to him. What do you do?"

    A good character goes:

    "Great! I can return the treasure to him, and score some extra XP!"

    An evil character goes:

    "Maybe I'd better kill him before the rest of the party catches up to us. Then I can keep the treasure and the XP for myself."
  • edited February 2015
    I remember various editions of D&D suggesting that no one be evilly aligned for this very reason. Sure, it's a cool roleplaying situation but it's going to be PvP from here to Christmas.

    A problem with the text I'm reading and the idea that "XP for treasure gained, no matter how" is that they don't properly distinguish between the actions of the Chaotic and the Neutral. Both read as self-interest.

    I grew up on Warhammer so I'm a big fan of investing cosmic significance to alignment. Chaos should be an allegiance you swear to dark gods who are themselves the prime movers of universal entropic forces. Chaotically aligned creatures seek to enact the desires of their masters on the material plane, tearing down civilisation and order where it arises in hope of reward when the Chaotic Gods shred the fabric of reality and plunge the world back into the elemental Chaos. Of course, the Lawful creatures have the opposite view and work tirelessly to defend civilisation and the natural order with more Heavenly aspirations in mind.

    D&D has a lot of useless limbs. I'm fine with alignment being one of them; it's there for groups that want it, and fades away for those with bigger fish to fry. It's less important that Alignment gets procedurally worked in with XP than getting worked into the setting the group is forging. Perhaps better questions would be to ask what alignments the gods are, and to which do you pray? Maybe they will award XP bonuses to deeds done in their name; maybe they'll reward their own in some other way.

    My preference would be a clutch of Lawful and Chaotic gods with the typical demands and maybe a few more cosmically lesser Neutral gods of specific things - like Travel, Hearth, Magic, Theft - who might reward feats accomplished in their name. But to each group its own.
  • I remember various editions of D&D suggesting that no one be evilly aligned for this very reason. Sure, it's a cool roleplaying situation but it's going to be PvP from here to Christmas.
    I've seen this sentiment millions of times and I still don't get it.

    Why is PvP guaranteed?

  • Nothing in life is guaranteed, just somewhat probable given the mutually exclusive motivations of a Lawful character and a Chaotic character in a party. One wants to give the Prince the treasure, and the other wants to Kill the Prince for more treasure. Either there's going to be PvP or we're having some strenuous OoC negotiations.

    "Relax," says Jon the Neutral, "we give him half his treasure and take a limb."
  • That makes sense to me:

    If you don't want your adventurers to have arbitrary disagreements about stuff, don't include alignment. What else could be the point of saying "Hey, we have a team of people working together... but some of them have completely opposite goals/wants/moral stances, and different allegiances?"

    (Mike, I love that example. Ha!)

    A problem with the text I'm reading and the idea that "XP for treasure gained, no matter how" is that they don't properly distinguish between the actions of the Chaotic and the Neutral. Both read as self-interest.
    The idea here is to read the Neutral's goal is very strongly prescriptive. It's the default "challenge-based adventuring" mode as Eero has described it: the game is all about overcoming challenges, and, therefore, the group should always be on the same page about that.

    The Neutral (default) adventurer gains experience by collecting treasure in dangerous and/or challenging circumstances.

    If Jon the Neutral meets a wounded soldier on the road, carrying a bag of gold, he gets nothing by killing him and taking his treasure: that's not a meaningful challenge, and, therefore, not "on the gameboard". He cares nothing about that, but can decide to help him or not, as he wishes (but gets no experience points either way).

    The Evil character says he doesn't care about this. He can take Jon's gold and grin all the way to the bank.

    (The Good character would have an incentive to save or protect poor Jon, however.)

  • Then it's always best to play the Evil character, opposed to a Neutral one? As any gold acquired - so long as the means of acquirement are Evil - is valuable bonus XP even if the activity of collecting is unchallenging. Plucking the gold from the hands of a dying man gives my Evil character XP but the same wouldn't be true for a Neutral one?
    Surely XP only being awarded as a part of challenging play is the base line for all characters and Alignment awards are bonuses? If so, is a Neutrally aligned character simply opting out of the alignment-XP subgame?
  • Nothing in life is guaranteed, just somewhat probable given the mutually exclusive motivations of a Lawful character and a Chaotic character in a party. One wants to give the Prince the treasure, and the other wants to Kill the Prince for more treasure. Either there's going to be PvP or we're having some strenuous OoC negotiations.

    "Relax," says Jon the Neutral, "we give him half his treasure and take a limb."
    That's more an issue with conflicting alignments than with the Evil alignment as such.

  • edited February 2015

    The idea would be to balance it somehow. Perhaps the Neutral character would receive a larger bonus upon spending/selling gold than the Evil character.

    (As I wrote it above, the Neutral character receives x1.5 XP for spending the gold, whereas the Evil character just scores the straight XP. I *think* that would do the job nicely, but it would require some playtesting to see, of course.)

    In this mindset, the Neutral character is a default adventurer in "challenge-based adventuring" mode: she pursues challenges and tries to overcome them, and is rewarded with XP.

    The Good character is the same, but receives a little less XP in general, which is balanced by XP awards for either a) giving away/donating the wealth, or b) saving people's lives.

    The Evil character is the same, but receives a little less XP in general, but is able to effectively circumvent the default XP rules if they can find an "immoral" way to score treasure. The player of the Evil character gets the leeway to say, "You know what? This adventure sounds cool, but I think it would be even more fun to just rob the King's Men who are hiring us; we might score even more treasure that way - rather than take the adventure and claim the reward, we can just take it from them now! (Effectively a different sort of challenge. Presumably the GM would then make efforts to make sure that unguarded treasure belongs to someone, as it would/should under most circumstances anyway.)
  • I like the idea of a big cosmic alignment and then D&D moral stuff in D&D. I haven't tried the OP Moral XP but it might be fun.

    The way I interpret and play (when we are doing that sort of style) OD&D or AD&D alignment is like that third belief in Burning Wheel. It’s a grand philosophical/cosmic statement about where you the player sees the character. As you play towards that on a big scale you rack up the sweet, extra XP. The day to day moral stuff is all up to you. There is a large amount of wiggle room. Over time you might shift alignments do to your actions on that big scale.

    Alignments also have some interesting stuff tied into them. When all other languages fail you can speak your alignment language to avoid a fight. A good way to rack up XP by dodging a fight.

    You have to find a priest of your same alignment to resurrect you or perform pretty much any healing on you. Fun side quests here.

    If you get reincarnated you have to roll on the alignment table to see which creature you come back as. This gets at the cosmic significance of alignment.

    There are places you can not go if you are of a certain alignments. Temples, ruins, and even small passages may not permitted certain aligned characters to pass.

    Also there are items you can handle depending on the alignment of the artificer and purpose of the item.

    Thing like Protection from Evil were not alignment based. Merely providing protection from enchanted/summoned creatures and evil acts.

    In OD&D alignment gave you the fourth character class, the anti-cleric.
  • edited February 2015
    I like the breakdown of all the uses Alignment has. Maybe it's less atrophied than this thread has been supposing.

    Can we broaden discussion to XP rewards for Roleplaying (Or maybe I should start a new thread)?

    Basically, when I was younger and hadn't any experience of RPGs I had assumed that D&D involved picking a class as your character (as you would in a board game, like Talisman) and attempting to embody that class as best you could. The idea that you would roll a unique PC and one thief would be different from another didn't occur to me - I would be "The Thief" and my goal would be to steal all the treasure, find all the traps, go about unseen and I'd get rewarded by the game system for doing so. I'm still not totally unconvinced that D&D wouldn't actually work better this way.

    Anyway, are XP rewards for alignment play just a part of roleplay rewards? XP for roleplay always seemed Pavlovian to me and so transparent and arbitrary as to be mildly insulting. Is there a way to make roleplay rewards function more happily, or is that all down to how player actions are inherently rewarded by a principled system that supports characters going with their class or alignment?
  • A great breakdown of the uses of alignment in D&D-as-written, thanks!

    I still find it very oddly disconnected from all the other moving parts of the game: why do we have rules for languages, but then another sub-rule for "alignment languages"? Shouldn't this kind of thing deal with the same rules, rather than two overlapping sets?

    Most importantly, it doesn't interface at all with the whole XP/level/survival focus of play.

    XP rewards for roleplaying I find, as Potemkin says, "Pavlovian and mildly insulting". Who's to judge who my character is better than myself? And, in any case, what does my portrayal of this character (who often is nothing but a short list of randomly-rolled numbers and some equipment) have to do with us surviving terrible dangers and overcoming challenges?

    I'd happily participate in a new thread about that, though.

    Using character class as a central role (rather than alignment) makes a lot more sense to me. If you want to play a good guy, play a Paladin. If you want to play an opportunist, play a Thief. These roles say a lot more about who your character is and their role in their party than alignment, in my opinion.

  • I still find it very oddly disconnected from all the other moving parts of the game: why do we have rules for languages, but then another sub-rule for "alignment languages"? Shouldn't this kind of thing deal with the same rules, rather than two overlapping sets?
    Oh yeah. Part I am guessing is how disorganized OD&D and AD&D are. The two languages get used the same with the only difference being that your alignment language can change. In Moldvay this is cleaned up a little bit. As in alignment languages and languages share the same section on languages.
  • Most importantly, it doesn't interface at all with the whole XP/level/survival focus of play.
    Languages (including alignment) function as a mitigation/avoidance mechanic. When you first encounter an NPC you roll a reaction check (modded by Chr). If you speak the same language you can reach a bargain, gain an alley, or be allowed to pass. If you lack the language of the NPC you can fall back on your alignment languages (Chaos is a good bet). By not engaging in a fight can extend your ability to gather treasure, form alliances, gain info, pick up side quests, which all feed back into the XP/survival thing.

    This directly translates into less loss of HP, spells, supplies, and reduction in wandering monster rolls.
  • At high level, it could also feasibly affect what critters you can have as allies in your army of conquest. Don't you want ents in your army? Of course you do.
  • As you play towards that on a big scale you rack up the sweet, extra XP
    I fucked this up! This was from our play style maybe yanked from AD&D, not sure. In the past couple of years our group doesn't use this.

    AD&D introduced (I think) the judging good roleplaying. I never played in a group that used the AD&D roleplay awards. They seemed like a pain with some much other stuff going on in the logistics phase.

    Both OD&D and Moldvay texts are totally silent on this matter of good roleplay.
  • As you play towards that on a big scale you rack up the sweet, extra XP
    I fucked this up! This was from our play style maybe yanked from AD&D, not sure. In the past couple of years our group doesn't use this.

    AD&D introduced (I think) the judging good roleplaying. I never played in a group that used the AD&D roleplay awards. They seemed like a pain with some much other stuff going on in the logistics phase.

    Both OD&D and Moldvay texts are totally silent on this matter of good roleplay.
    There were discussions and rules for roleplaying rewards in BECMI, 1st, and 2nd editions, but I think you're right about it not being mentioned in the earlier basic editions. Some suggestions included 1/20th the amount needed to level, 50xp, 100xp, etc. They discuss earning it for contributing to the mission, supporting the party, playing to alignment, staying 'in-character', creative thinking, having fun and making the game fun for others, etc. Was never a huge focus...most xp was always for combat or treasure. But it was in there if you looked for it.
  • Most importantly, it doesn't interface at all with the whole XP/level/survival focus of play.
    Languages (including alignment) function as a mitigation/avoidance mechanic.
    Oh, definitely! My "it" (in the above quote) was referring to alignment, not languages.

    Alignment does play into that, but in a really weird way. Knowing more languages (which is very important, as you described nicely) is a big advantage for anyone with high Intelligence.

    However, then we have this confusing "alignment languages" thing. Does that mean any party can make sure to have one lawful, one neutral, and one chaotic character?

    Is that supposed to incentivize inter-character conflict?

    Does that negate the need for any Intelligent characters at all, then, so long as you have at least three players in the game?

    It doesn't seem well thought-out.

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