Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gygax on Alignment

XKCD Tribute to E.G.G.
There's been some posting on alignment going on recently, Eric over at the Tavern, and Talysman at 9 and 30 Kingdoms, have been musing on the subject.  Which made a reader dig up an old post of mine that I had forgotten writing. 
Because of that this interesting advice about Chaotic characters caught my eye while researching a future post in Supplement I - Greyhawk from 1976.

"While there is no rule to  apply to groups of chaotic players operating in concert, referees are encouraged to formulate some rules against continuing co-operation as fits their particular situation, but consideration for concerted actions against chaotic players by lawful ones should be given."

Wow, the good guys should gang up and smack down their erstwhile party member(s) before they can backstab them.  This is one page before the paladin is introduced, with the prohibition against associating with Chaotic characters.  "They will associate only with lawful characters."  Emphasis in the original.
Essential he declared open season on any chaotic character, with no side effects even  for paladins.

Alignment in The Big Lebowski
A couple of years later he had switched to the Nine Alignment system. Which for all of the discussions it has spawned over the years, takes up two pages in the DMG and three in the PH (counting the chart as a whole page).  Yet, I've never seen discussion on why the switch was made.

One of the items in the DMG which struck me was the half column on Graphing AlignmentIt is of importance to keep track of player character behavior with respect to their alignment.... It is of utmost importance to keep rigid control of alignment behavior with respect to such characters who serve deities who will accept only certain alignments,...failure to demand strict adherence to alignment behavior is to allow a game abuse.

Wow? E.G.G. is using some pretty emphatic language here and mandating some secret meta-gaming bookkeeping on the part of the DM.  Now there's lots of bookkeeping that the DM and players are mandated to do, in terms of time and light and to some extent encumbrance.  These are all things that affect the characters.  As far as my memory serves, this is the only mechanic that he ever mandates that is aimed at controlling the players.

And it wasn't there in 0e.  It makes me speculate that the Nine Alignments, like the Grappling were someone else' idea that he was talked into.  The game was developed to allow the players to take the part of heroes; villains as said above, were to be ganged up on and defeated, even if they were party members.  However with the introduction of the Assassin as a class, obviously they couldn't be heroes - and in terms of the broader society, Clint Eastwood's anti-hero movies were dominating the decade, at least until the release of Star Wars.  Could that have influenced the change in systems? 

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