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Alignment Tendencies


Anyone familiar with the Outer Planes will have already been exposed to the concept of alignment tendencies. In fact, there are almost as many Outer Planes that exemplify such "in-between" alignments as there are planes for the nine canonical alignments. Alignment tendencies are a further refinement of the alignment system.


The Alignment Chart

This chart represents all possible alignments. The nine basic alignments have no parenthetical "tendencies." The other eight around the outside of the square are alignments which are between the basic alignments found around the perimeter of the square. The remaining eight ringing True Neutral represent certain tendencies of True Neutral characters to behave a little more like another alignment than True Neutral would allow for.

Lawful
Good
Neutral
Good
(Lawful)
Neutral
Good
Neutral
Good
(Chaotic)
Chaotic
Good
Lawful
Neutral
(Good)
Neutral
(LG)
Neutral
(Good)
Neutral
(CG)
Chaotic
Neutral
(Good)
Lawful
Neutral
Neutral
(Lawful)
True
Neutral
Neutral
(Chaotic)
Chaotic
Neutral
Lawful
Neutral
(Evil)
Neutral
(LE)
Neutral
(Evil)
Neutral
(CE)
Chaotic
Neutral
(Evil)
Lawful
Evil
Neutral
Evil
(Lawful)
Neutral
Evil
Neutral
Evil
(Chaotic)
Chaotic
Evil

The color scheme shows how the various alignments begin to "shade" into other alignments when Neutrality comes into play. Moving from left (Law) to right (Chaos), note how the colors become more red (and less blue), indicating movement towards Chaos. Moving from top to bottom, we see a similar shift from light to dark indicating the slide towards Evil.


Nomenclature

By convention, alignment tendencies are given in parenthesis and are described as being more extreme than a certain neutral alignment not having the tendency. Thus, a character cannot be called "Chaotic Good (Neutral)," which might be read as "Chaotic Good with Neutral tendencies." We might ask "What Neutral tendencies?" Is he (a) a bit more morally Neutral than Good or (b) a little more ethically Neutral than Chaotic or (c) Chaotic Good with tendencies to behave in a True Neutral fashion? We can't tell by this description. If we refer to a character as Chaotic Neutral (Good) then we know immediately that he is a morally Neutral character, but he tends towards Goodness. A Neutral Good (Chaotic) character is definitely Good, but he tends to be a little more Chaotic than characters having a Neutral Good alignment. Likewise, a Neutral (Chaotic Good) character is pretty much True Neutral, but he has a tendency to behave in a Chaotic Good manner when he does act out of character. So, the corresponding alignments for each description above is (a) Chaotic Neutral (Good), (b) Neutral Good (Chaotic), and (c) Neutral (Chaotic Good). In short, Neutral should never appear in parentheses when describing alignment.


Using Alignment Tendencies

A tendency can be used to indicate one or more of the following:

"Not Quite Neutral"

An alignment tendency could be used to show the preference of an ethically and/or morally neutral character to favor one "side" of his neutrality a little more than the other.
Example: a Neutral Good (Lawful) character is essentially Neutral Good, but exhibits more lawful traits than most Neutral Good beings, but not enough to be considered Lawful Good.

"Not So Extreme"

Conversely, an alignment tendency could be used to indicate the alignment of an extremely aligned character who emphasizes one aspect of his alignment more than the other. The four extreme alignments are lawful good, lawful evil, chaotic good, and chaotic evil.
Example: a Lawful Neutral (Good) character could be one that is essentially both lawful and good, but will choose to uphold the law over performing a good act if both cannot be accomplished by one deed.

"Pious Enough"

An alignment tendency might be assigned when a neutrally-aligned cleric's alignment is one step away from his deity's.
Example: a Lawful Neutral cleric worships a Lawful Good deity. That cleric's alignment would be Lawful Neutral (Good).

"The Hypocrite"

An alignment tendency could show when a neutrally-aligned character believes in the general philosophical tenets of another alignment, but does not take action to support those beliefs.
Example: a True Neutral character decides to become a worshiper of a Lawful Good deity, but he continues to behave in a mostly True Neutral manner. That character's alignment could be considered to be Neutral (Lawful Good).

"Birds of a Feather?"

When a character prefers to associate with characters of another alignment, an alignment tendency might be noted to indicate the preference.
Example: a certain True Neutral character generally adventures with and prefers the company of good creatures. That character could be called Neutral (Good). If he preferred to associate with evil characters (perhaps because it's more profitable), he would be Neutral (Evil).

"The Chicken or the Egg"

An alignment tendency could also show that a character believes that one alignment naturally leads to another.
Example: a Lawful Neutral (Good) character believes that an ordered society naturally promotes weal for all, while a Neutral Good (Lawful) believes that a good society naturally becomes more ordered and harmonious. A Lawful Good character, by contrast, believes that harmony and altruism are both extremely important and the two must coincide in society.


Game Effects of Alignment Tendencies

At least four options are available for handling alignment tendencies in the campaign. The first option is probably the best to use and other options can certainly be created by the enterprising DM.

"Commented Out"

For the purposes of the game system, ignore the alignment tendency. Thus, a Lawful Neutral (Evil) cleric would be not detected as evil by a paladin using a detect evil spell. This character would take 6d6 points of damage when touching a Talisman of Pure Evil because he is Lawful Neutral. The alignment tendency is simply a part of that character's description and has no effect on game play.

"Sittin' on the Fence"

For the purposes of the game system, consider each character's alignment to be the one that will give that character the least beneficial (or most harmful) result when alignment comes into play. Thus, a Lawful Neutral (Evil) cleric would be detected as evil by a paladin using detect evil (as if he were Lawful Evil). However, if a lawful evil outsider were detecting that cleric's alignment, he may not be detected as evil (assuming the outsider would be friendly to him if he found the cleric to be evil). This character would also take 6d6 points of damage from touching a Talisman of Pure Evil (as if he were Lawful Neutral). This option punishes the fence-sitter and discourages the use of alignment tendencies.

"Best of Both Worlds"

For the purposes of the game system, consider each character's alignment to be the one that will give that character the most beneficial (or least harmful) result when alignment comes into play. Thus, a Lawful Neutral (Evil) cleric would not be detected as evil by a paladin using detect evil (as if he were Lawful Evil). However, if a lawful evil outsider were detecting that cleric's alignment, he would be detected as evil (assuming the outsider would be friendly to him if he found the cleric to be evil). This character would be able to use a Talisman of Pure Evil (as if he were Lawful Evil). This option rewards the use of complex alignments and encourages players to assign alignment tendencies for their characters.

"Half and Half"

For the purposes of the game system, consider each character's alignment to be exactly the alignment as written and halve all effects based on alignment. Thus, a Lawful Neutral (Evil) cleric would be detected as evil by a paladin using detect evil, but the cleric's aura would only be half as strong (since he is only "half evil"). This cleric would be able to use a Talisman of Pure Evil, but would take 3d6 points of damage from touching it. This option is the most complicated and requires the most DM adjudication, but is perhaps the best option to capture the flavor of alignment tendencies.