[House Rules]House Rules 4-Alignment

Alignment has always been a bit of prickly thorn in the side of D&D since it’s initial inclusion.  Gygax went for a more Moorcockian ‘Law vs Chaos’ model over the more traditional ‘Good vs Evil’, and nothing but debates and arguments have come from it since.  The Nine Point Alignment system was probably an attempt at a more nuanced system, where someone might believe in order, but be a tyrant (Lawful Evil), which was difficult with the three-fold model.  However, this has led to an even greater degree of conflict.  I don’t know if it was the intent, but the alignment model probably brought more philosophical discussion and debate to D&D than anything else.  Games might grind to a halt as players and DM’s wrestled with the questions that philosophers through the ages have been unable to answer: what is good?  What is evil?  Does the end justify the means?

To further complicate things, while it was implicit in the mechanics of the game that alignment exists as a ‘tangible force’ in the universe (I.e. there is such a thing as an objective good and objective evil that could be manipulated through various magics), very little was done to spell out what the cosmological rules were.  In a pantheistic universe,  there are a number of different ideological beliefs about what is ‘proper’ and ‘right’ yet there is only one Good and Evil.  In a modern world where moral relativism is a far more prevalent philosophical view, it’s often hard to conceive of a universe in which things are objectively black and white.  Such an idea is often viewed as ‘quaint’ or at the very least out of touch.

To avoid this kettle of fish entirely, I always stuck with Moorcock’s Eternal Struggle (as Elric was one of my earliest and largest creative influences).  Good and evil, such as they were, existed in the daily struggle of mortals more as a relative notion.  One nation’s good was another’s evil (much as in reality).  Meanwhile, the gods and their servants, fought the eternal battle between the philosophies of Law and Chaos.  This gave me the best of both worlds…people could have their shades of grey while still have a concrete system that can be effected (or at least detected and warded against) by magic.

But something was always missing.  Namely, there was little connection between the divine forces and those that follow them. I needed an actual mechanic.  I also needed something for those who didn’t follow any of the three factions.  So, this is what I’ve come up with…

Elric…one of my largest early influences.


Alignment is a specific metaphysical alignment of the character’s soul.  It is not a philosophical stance, though they are often one and the same.  An apostate character’s soul still belongs to their former alignment, even if they no longer accepts the alignment’s tenants.  Usually only a conscious act of devotion to a new creed will ‘free’ a soul by pledging it to another force.

Alignment has nothing to do with value judgements of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Lawful characters can be murderers and reavers, and Chaotics can be saints (though this is rare).

There are four alignments.

Unaligned-This represents the vast majority of children and animals, as well as atheists and secularists who refuse to participate in the great struggle.


Balance (Neutral)


These three alignments represents a conscious choice to serve those specific forces in the Elder War.  They often imply a set of behaviours, but people are both good and bad at following creeds and ethics.

This soul connection is what spells detect when alignment is detected or protected against.  These spells have no effect on an Unaligned soul.

Benefits of Alignment

Cost-When a character is a known devotee of a faith, they receive a discount on temple services if the temple can afford to do so.  The prices listed in the book for spells are for followers of the faith that are known (either from years of service within the temple, vouched for by an upstanding member of the faith, or have had their validity tested by spells).  Unless the character is a known quantity, temple services will at cost at least double the price listed in the book.  Sometimes they cost 3 or more times the listed price if the temple has reason to doubt the nature of the buyer.

Healing-If a Cure X spell is cast by someone of the same alignment as the target (even if not of the same faith), roll the die twice and take the highest result.  Casters healing themselves DO NOT benefit from this.  Note that items that heal do not benefit from this effect, nor do Arcane healing spells.

Tampering with Mortality-Casters add their level to the Tampering with Mortality Roll if the target is of the same alignment (instead of half).  Further, if the target is not of the same alignment, they automatically suffer the effects of a Quest spell from the God (DM) to serve the interest of the faith should they return at all.  There is no saving throw versus this effect.

 See house rules part 3


2 thoughts on “[House Rules]House Rules 4-Alignment

  1. Chris B says:

    I like the separation of balance from unaligned. Keeping them together caused no end of confusion in my games.

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