Regular Critical Hit listeners will note that I am the token “old guy” of the group, even moreso than in some of our other programming, as my fellow forty-something, Stephen, didn’t partake of role-playing nerdery in his youth.  Of all the changes from the AD&D of my youth to today’s shiny 4th Edition, the scrapping of the traditional nine-point alignment for the streamlined five-point spectrum is the one that is the hardest to get used to.  (Granted, many times, alignments ended up being just a one-note performance piece wherein the allegedly “chaotic” character would spout some nonsense or do something ‘wacky’ to justify their supposed alignment, but still…)  Most of the characters that I have most enjoyed playing fall under Lawful Neutral alignment, which under the new system means that I’m boringly somewhere left-of-center in the vaguely dull ideological temperature gauge of 4E.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) would like to remind all potential chart-makers that The Fourth Doctor is CLEARLY chaotic neutral, especially in the Douglas Adams seasons, asking: Do you see any need (other than the fun of chart-making) to return to the more complex nine-point alignment chart?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. July 15, 2013 at 11:59 am — Reply

    It’s useful as a starting point for describing how your character acts, and that sort of thing. But in my experience, that generally falls by the wayside pretty quickly as players start actually playing their characters.

  2. July 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    It serves as a good metric for asking my PCs, “Would your character REALLY do that?” when they fall out of RP and turn back into the sociopaths they are in their heart of hearts.

  3. JoeM
    July 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm — Reply

    Heh, my group tends to play their characters as chaotic evil, or chaotic neutral at best regardless of what their character sheets say. Trying to play the chart always lead to arguments about the alignments mean, which is always more trouble than it’s worth. So it always tended to mean nothing aside from game mechanics (spells mainly).
    But me, I tend to dislike rules that are designed to force roleplaying. They usually have, it seems to me, the unintended consequence of repressing it.
    So from those two statements, I would say I don’t think it needs to be there.

  4. July 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    I’ve always been of the opinion that if good/evil and law/chaos are active forces in the world/cosmos then a characters’ immersion into any of the 4 axis should be quantifiable as well. Well…maybe not exactly quantifiable, but at least have an understanding on where they stand within those active forces.

    I think having limitations on a characters’ behavior based on their beliefs (clerics/paladins/rangers etc) isn’t a bad thing but adds to role play-some of my best memories are being conflicted about some moral question and worrying about shifting alignments….it can add levels to your gaming that just aren’t there without these things.

    • XantharTheFlame
      July 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm — Reply

      I totally agree with you. I think it added complexity and depth to the game. 4e’s system seems too simplified to me. Bring it back in D&DNext!

  5. Sean
    July 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm — Reply

    I had a very tough time wrapping my head around 4e’s alignment system, possibly because it *kept* the 2e/3e terminology while, seemingly arbitrarily, eliminating points from the grid. I think the 9-point system serves 3e well, where alignment a description of the physical universe: it can be seen (detect alignment) and affected by spells (protection from alignment).

    In 4e, I’m not sure any of the rules ever referred to alignment, so it becomes, at best, a role-play aid; at worst, an attempt to get old timers to shell out for a game that still has *some* of the old terminology.

  6. Rui M Almeida, aka Ariamus
    July 18, 2013 at 6:57 am — Reply

    Matthew,

    I prefer the nine-point alignment system. So much so that I’m currently running two 4E campaigns wherein I have advised the players to use the nine-point system instead of the 4E rule. I use it as a tool to dialogue with the players about the actions their characters take that contradict their alignment. I find that it’s a good tool for starting conversations about what “role”-playing really means.

    That said, I understand the motivation for simplifying the system. I’m completely oblivious of anything pertaining to D&D Next so I have no idea where alignment is going to go there but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they scrapped alignment for PCs entirely.

  7. July 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm — Reply

    All above comments have great points, and I must say I agree with them all on some level. speeach has a great point about roll playing the alignment. After all, that’s what we all like about AD&D (oops… forgot what year it is) is the roll playing aspect. Getting to be in an unbelievable place, seeing and experiencing things in the mind’s eye that shouldn’t be possible and reacting to and “living” with choices made about your character’s reactions, mindset and morals are what make great stories one day told to your grandchildren.

    Alignment of a character is as important as the race or class. The player makes a choice of what mental and moral stability their character has by making this choice. In reality, we all deal with this on a daily basis with ourselves and everyone we meet. Who knows if the guy behind you standing in line at the grocery store is a murdering lunatic or a non-sleeping podcasting junkie (no offence Stephen =P)

    Bring back the nine-point alignment system! It adds a whole different level to ROLL playing. Trelle and Torq seem to be the only two characters in Critical Hit with REAL beliefs and morals in the forefront.

    Long Live Critical Hit!

  8. Adam C.
    August 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    I slightly prefer the nine-point system, but honestly, I don’t think it matters. Alignment is just a (weak, and in many ways flawed) mechanic on which people can hang a conception of a character. I haven’t noticed inability to come up with viable characters in 4e, and it really doesn’t matter whether alignment is even part of the game, IMO.

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