2012-06-19 Alignment, Paladins

Here are some comments I left on various discussion on Google+:

Mike Evans wonders about paladins and suggests “What if you take your oath and drink the blood and poof you gain certain abilities to your class.”

That’s exactly how I handle it in my game. Plus, the abilities vary between gods. At the moment only one character ever swore to dedicate this life to the service of Mitra and thus various minor at will abilities were offered in return: light fire at will, a halo at will, detect the presence of liars at will, preventing the utterance of lies in your presence at will, the ability to make any oath by willing participants binding.

I also tied this to a separate subsystem of reputation – you needed to perform a service for Mitra to qualify for the fire making ability, you needed to save a person for Mitra to qualify for the halo, you needed to save an entire village for Mitra in order to qualify for the binding oaths. (See 2011-12-20 Magic Without Spells.)

If you don’t want to do that, you could also tie it to levels: light fire at will (minimum level 1), a halo at will (minimum level 2), detect the presence of liars at will (minimum level 3), preventing the utterance of lies in your presence at will (minimum level 5), the ability to make any oath by willing participants binding (minimum level 7).

(The picture shows a self-declared paladin of Arden, a dead elven god that does not grant any powers at all. He threw himself into a bottomless pit as the other character who had fallen into the pit had been carrying the Chalice of Arden. I love my players.)

Scrap Princess wondered about Law vs. Chaos and asked “why is the original neutral/chaos/law alignment system such a beloved artefact?”

I said: Law vs. Chaos is beloved (ie. popular with some, reviled by others, discussed by all) precisely because it is contentious. All the simple things are easy to decide. The undecidable things attract our attention and focus our emotional energy. I think JRR Tolkien said something about all good stories needing unexplained things to keep people interested and that is why there is no explanation for Tom Bombadil – and see how he pops up again and again even though he seems to be unrelated to the greater story. So much so in fact that he didn’t make it into the movies.

I also happen to think that contentious, unexplained elements fuel discussions and thus these items remain in the popular consciousness. I think there is little contentiousness around ability scores. There is some contentiousness but it’s all explainable when it comes to hit zones. But the stuff that is actually discussed endlessly are levels (vs. skills), saving throws (abstract vs. Poison or more concrete Fortitude saves), hit points and alignment (as opposed to the simple ethics of good or bad deeds). I don’t believe these issues can be “settled” and therefore they keep getting discussed.

Thus, I don’t think there’s anything special about the alignment discussion. Alignment just happens to have these properties: contentious and unexplained.

As for myself, I want to like Law vs. Chaos but find that it rarely has an effect at the table.



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