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    Canonfire :: View topic - Alignment Interaction in Societies
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    Alignment Interaction in Societies
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    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 1:22 am  
    Alignment Interaction in Societies

    In everyone's campaign, how do they handle alignment interaction within a single society? In most of the campaign/adventire material I've read, the society seems to have fairly homgenous groups of alignment, with one or two "bad (or good) apples" who usually are secretly in league with the enemy of the larger group. Is there anyone else using a different model? I know this is a game, but I'm trying to fit different groups into my campaign society in a way that makes some sense. Let's assume a major kingdom, like Keoland, is under major attack, for example. There will be evil people living within its borders, and not all of those will be some kind of demon worshipping saboteurs. Many will be drafted into the army to fight, thrown together in whatever expedient group makes military sense with neutral and good people. The standard way I've seen this get handled is the evil guy is trying to sell out the rest of the group to save his skin, but I don't think that really makes sense. I mean evil doesn't mean cowardly loner. For a historical example, look at Otto Skorzeny, the German super-commando of WW2. He was an unrepentant Nazi until the day he died. He also was brave beyond all possible belief, and did not leave his comrades behind. For a fantasy one, look at the Knights Protector of the Great Kingdom. In normal times, do most people have the alignment groups in their societies act as mutually hostile power blocks, along the lines of rival street gangs? How do DM's represent this in their societies?
    Master Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:30 am  

    When it comes to the alignments listed for various populations I don't interpret them as being the "standard" alignment for individuals within the group, nor do I interpret them as being the alignment held by the majority of the population. Rather, I interpret them as being the general alignment of the group as a whole. That is, I assume there are all sorts of alignments in the population which, when "averaged out", equal the listed alignment. So within, say, a NG population every alignment might be present but the general tendency of that population will be toward NG.

    I use a somewhat similar approach to individual characters. Rather than use alignment to dictate how a character (PC or NPC) must behave, I use it as a general descriptor of how a character does behave. That's a subtle thing, I realize, but it makes a significant difference. Here's how it works:

    The first part of the alignment (C, N, L) describes the character's general view of personal order and discipline, and by extension, of societal laws. Thus, a lawful character is disciplined, orderly, and respects laws. A chaotic character is entirely undisciplined and tends to rebel against authority. A neutral character simply does what seems expedient at the moment.

    The second part of the alignment (G, N, E) describes a character's views on morality. This is where things sometimes get tricky, since people have different views on what is "moral", so IMC I make it clear that I (the DM) am the final arbiter of what is right and wrong. This is not a power play on my part - it simply helps everyone stay on the same page and prevents arguments about religious and philosophical topics. That said, I doubt you need much help deciding what's right or wrong in your campaign; good characters tend to do what's right, evil characters tend to do what's wrong, and neutral characters tend to do what's practical at the moment.

    To further complicate things, I've added a third element to the alignment system in my campaign: commitment. A "committed" character has gone beyond mere "general tendencies" and is fully committed to one aspect of his alignment. For example, a CN character who is "committed" to chaos will deliberately perform random acts, even going so far as to do foolish things, merely for the purpose of advancing the cause of chaos.

    Mordenkainen is the perfect example of a "committed" character. The average True Neutral person is one who simply doesn't concern himself with Law, Chaos, Good, or Evil. He focuses on what is expedient in the current circumstances, and his general tendencies fall somewhere between the extremes. Mordenkainen, though, goes far beyond this. He goes to great effort to make sure that neither good nor evil, law nor chaos triumphs, striving to keep these forces in balance. If necessary to maintain the balance he will deliberately perform evil acts, good acts, or whatever else may be necessary. He is "committed" to neutrality.

    "Uncommitted" characters are usually not willing to go to such extremes. For example, a character who is evil (but not "committed") will tend to do bad things but only when they think they can get away with it, when they think it won't cost them much, or when they think it's necessary. A character who is good (but not "committed") will tend to do good things but won't go out of his way to give to charity, won't risk his life to save a damsel in distress, etc. Thus, general tendencies do not equate to committed actions.

    But how does this apply to your question? Thusly: most populations will be filled - almost exclusively - with "uncommitted" individuals. These individuals will have a general tendency toward various alignments, but that does not necessarily mean they will go to great effort to pursue their alignments. The army (to use your example) will have both good and evil soldiers, often fighting side by side in perfect harmony. The differences arise not in that the evil soldiers are seeking to betray the good ones but in the way those soldiers generally behave. The evil soldiers may take pleasure in chopping up their enemies while the good ones don't. The chaotic soldiers may have trouble obeying orders. The good soldiers might not like the idea of executing prisoners, and so on. But all of the soldiers will realize they're fighting for their homeland and thus will tend toward loyalty to the cause. No character will betray his friends, fight for the enemy, or whatever, unless you deliberately make it so.
    Master Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 7:34 am  
    Alignment choosing.

    While I realize that I may not be directly answering the O.P., I want to make a supporting statement to what bubbagump posted.

    Alignment is not just some kind of rules-lawyer invention to dictate the way a character must act ... rather, it is the player's description of how he believes the PC would react in most situations. As bubbagump said, it's how a character does act. (Note the use of "most".) This is summed up in a simple little statement in the PHB,

    PHB wrote:
    "Choosing an alignment for your character means stating your intent to play that character a certain way."(emphasis mine.)


    The Book of Vile Darkness, Book of Exalted Deeds, and the Hero Builder's Guidebook all discuss this, and also go on to say that alignments aren't hard and fast ... both lawful and good people lose their tempers, Nuetral people can be tempted to occaisionally commit noble deeds, and evil people can do things that benfit others.

    More to follow your question, with your example of gangs, .. evil seldom gets along with evil, and good can conflict with good. (Just ask various groups of Trithereonites, and cuthbertines, or pelorians, as well.) There may well be many different alignments for individuals in a given nation, but, (once again, as Bubbagump said) that is just a generalization. An example ... "Swedes are tall and have blonde hair." While this is *very* much likely to be a fairly accurate statement, their are still short brunettes. While the most typical Swede fits that stereotype (for lack of a better word), there would be just as many people that go against an alignment as there are brunettes.

    So ... think of alignment as a descriptor that covers most things, and not a specific deliniation of the requirement for the ways things *must* be, and I think your game will come off better for it. That having been said, I also am a strong proponent for DMs making a PC stick to their stated alignments (within reason) when the player declares it to be so.

    Oh, ... and always stick it to the evil ones. Shocked Wink
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    GreySage

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:36 am  
    Re: Alignment choosing.

    Icarus wrote:
    Oh, ... and always stick it to the evil ones. Shocked Wink


    "Vengence is mine," sayeth the Holy DM Icarus, "and you Evil bastards will pay!" Shocked

    Icarus -- love the way you think, my friend. Happy Evil Grin Laughing
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    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:28 am  
    Alignment Interaction in Societies

    Icarus-

    This isn't strictly on point for the post, but I think it's a good example of what you're trying to say. You picked the Swedes as an example. Many years ago and in a different life, I had to interact with the Swedish military. I saw different units come in, and like you said I always figured all Swedes are blond haired and blue eyed. At different times I saw units with Oriental soldiers and several black troops, one of them a guy with a name something like Thorvaldsson. Definitely breaking the mold, and reinforcing your point.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:56 am  

    Even evil beings have families and such, people near and dear to their slimey dark heart.

    Plus I normally taunt my good players (clerics and paladins) with evil people who arent actually commiting evil in front of them and who they on occasion have to deal with for information and such. Drives my neutral good players up the wall.
    In my current game theres an ambassador from a lawful evil nation in town who they just hate but hes also a sage and they grudgely turn to now and then for information.

    And the example of the knights is a bad one because if I remember right wasnt Kargoth a protector?
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 1:48 pm  

    Yes, Kargoth was once one of the most respected of the Knight Protectors.

    Regional alignments on the folio/83' map simply represent a general trend in the area- half or more of the folks in that area are probably of that alignment. Take Iuz for instance. The population tends toward chaos and evil not necessarily because the people there want to be that way(though a lot do and gravitate towards the area for that reason alone), but because that is what it takes to survive in such a horrid place. In this instance, you simply aren't going to find too may folks who don't have an evil or chaotic component to their alignment, and more often than not you are going to find both components in their alignment. Imagine how it is for children there, them not likely having a very strong moral and ethical compass in form of proper parents. Now, ramp that up with generation upon generation of reinforcement and you've got a whole lot of people with a totally different outlook on life.

    "Timmy! Quit torturing those animals in the house! Do it outside, or I'll make sure you'll be just another skull on the Skull Road!"
    "Aww! Just you wait. One day soon I'll wear your finger bones as a necklace, mother."
    Shocked
    Okay, maybe things normally aren't quite that bad, but there are assuredly a lot of messed up folks living in the Lands of Iuz, hence the chaotic and evil tendencies of the average people living there.
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    Master Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:44 pm  

    One other thing I forgot to mention:

    In some cases, I differentiate between the general alignment of an area and the alignment of the government and its policies. In the previously mentioned land of Iuz, for example, while the book says the area is CE, I don't hold that as the alignment of a majority of the inhabitants. Knowing what little I do about the real world, I've assumed that while the government and its policies are thoroughly despicable, and while there are lots of evil monsters and humanoids running around, many of the (human and demihuman) inhabitants aren't evil at all - they're just oppressed. Thus, I've amazed quite a few players who have infiltrated one of Iuz's towns only to find the people there are quite helpful as long as none of Iuz's agents are around.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:14 pm  

    Cebrion wrote:
    Yes, Kargoth was once one of the most respected of the Knight Protectors.


    Right. I think the Knight Protectors are the best example of cooperation between alignments that might otherwise be hostile to each other. Before and after Kargoth's betrayal, both LG Heironean Knight Protectors and LE Hextoran Knight Protectors cooperated with each other. Even after all the historical animosity between these two cults they managed to come together for the best interests of their nation, well, and to smite chaotic evil foes. Of course that didn't keep the Hextorans from eventually stabbing the Heironeans in the back once they decided the best interests of the nation lay down a different path.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:30 am  

    Another issue to add to the mix is racial alignment tendencies, which also aren't hard and fast but probably have more to do with an individuals alignment than the region in which they live. Both culturally and genetically a person's race can exert a lot of influence on their outlook and behavior.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:56 am  
    Alignment interaction in Societies

    THanks everyone for your ideas. My take is that an "normal" fantasy society would not be some kind of street gang style warfare between different alignment groups. Different people would simply have different outlooks on life and how to live it. Even people in the same family might have radically different alignments, but still love and care for their family members. In my example of Keoland under attack, many of the evil people might even be very patriotic, even willing to sacrifice their lives for the nation. Some of the good ones might actively cooperate with the enemy, even be willing to fight against their homeland. Anyhow, thanks again for the input.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:27 am  

    You're most welcome, Gman. Sounds like your'e on the right track.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:35 pm  

    king_joshua wrote:
    Even evil beings have families and such, people near and dear to their slimey dark heart.

    Plus I normally taunt my good players (clerics and paladins) with evil people who arent actually commiting evil in front of them and who they on occasion have to deal with for information and such. Drives my neutral good players up the wall.
    In my current game theres an ambassador from a lawful evil nation in town who they just hate but hes also a sage and they grudgely turn to now and then for information.

    And the example of the knights is a bad one because if I remember right wasnt Kargoth a protector?
    Fair enough but as my Paladin always had to remind our morally challenged PCs, "Lawful Good is not Awefully Stupid." Political considerations, keeping the peace and following the laws do have their effect but a PC of the LG persuasion is more than happy to do a little "sting" to tempt those evil NPCs who just can't resist a sucker.

    Neutral Good for my higher level Ranger PC was easier as he was less concerned with the niceties of a perfect process so log as justice was done from a moral POV. He also could bribe the local gaoler to overlook a little fronteir justice where the Cleric and Paladin would never play the game that way.

    Just sayin"
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:54 pm  

    Excellent points, cyberknight. This is one reason I think it behooves DMs - at least, those in whose campaign alignment may become an issue - to discuss what alignment does and does not mean with their players before play begins. I've found that many time-wasting "discussions" and hurt feelings can be avoided by establishing a simple understanding from the beginning. This is especially important in contemporary society, in which morality, good, and evil are so often discussed in relative terms. One can no longer say, "This is right and that is wrong," and assume others will understand or agree.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:17 am  
    One proviso about blonde7alignments

    I want to put a single proviso in here ...
    I made a comparison earlier of national alignments being similar to a stereotype of Swedes being tall, blonde haired and blue-eyed. My point (which I think was clear and coherent enough in that post) was that there are always exceptions to the rule.

    I would like to point out that while there are always exceptions to the rule, especially in the case of alignments, individuals are not always giong to be different. One can assume, with a fair amount of accuracy, that the majority of a population is going to match up with cultural tendencies. It's listed that way for a reason. For example, if the Caliphate of Ekbir is listed as LG*, then we can expect the majority of the population to match that (arbitrarily say 70%), and the rest of the population to be something like 7% to 8% each for NG, N, and LN.

    This isn't to say, however that there aren't still variations within those ranges ... bad guys have to come from somewhere. But more to the point, you aren't going to have wild variances where every NPC that is met has a different alignment. In a close family, for example, it stands to reason that most of the people are going to have been in the same region, with similar if not identical cultural influence, environmental stimuli being raised, and similar morals being instilled by their nurture. There may be a "black sheep" of the family, but not all families have one, and certainly not every family is comprised of all black sheep.

    Just continuing the conversation a little more ... adding a little nuance, as it were.

    Oh, and those "black sheep"? That's the evil ones, and that's the ones that we make into lamb-kabobs. Shocked Laughing
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