Monday, November 18, 2013

What Alignment is the Universe?

More "History of NOD" coming very soon, but a brief thought on alignment in games today.

Is there a God (or gods) and how does He/She/It/Them want people to behave?

This is the big religious question, of course, and one I don't want to answer here (or have answered in the comments - hint hint). But it got me thinking about religion/mythology/alignment in game worlds.

In many game worlds, the presence, identity and even ultimate aims of the divine powers is rarely in question. In most campaigns, a list of gods and goddesses is provided, each with a portfolio and an alignment, and players with a cleric pick their favorite and off they go.

What, though, would be result if nobody (no players, anyhow) really knew anything about who ran the universe?

Sure, there might still be pantheons that people worship, but what if those pantheons were just collections of names and mythological stories. What if what actually lay beyond the Material Plane was unknown to 99.9999% of the population, and those who did have some knowledge of it were super high level and thus generally unavailable for consultation? To put it in other terms, what if nobody knew what the universe's alignment was? Clerics and players would have to creep along, wary of breaking an unwritten divine law and suffering the consequences if they did - loss of spell access, no healing, no resurrection, visits from divine enforcers, general bad luck, etc.

You could still have the different angels/demons/devils/demodands/modrons/etc. - you just don't know which faction is in charge of the universe and which faction is just pretending to be control of the universe. Imagine too the excitement of stepping into the Outer Planes not knowing what you would find or who's religion (i.e. alignment) was the One True Alignment. Maybe the Universe is Lawful Neutral, maybe its Neutral Good, maybe its Chaotic Evil, maybe it is completely unaligned. You won't know unless you ascend to the Outer Planes and knock on some doors. In the meantime, players collect clues and interpret portents in-game and do their best to figure it all out, just as folks do in the real world.

However you structure such a game world, it could be for an interesting place to adventure.


  1. I have long thought similar thoughts. What if the reality of the divine wasn't laid out in a rulebook for all to see, and most of what the player characters could know would be truly on faith, without definitive confirmation...

    I would love to play in such a world -- or run it for players who would love it.

  2. So how would you do it? Hide the protection from evil spells?

    1. With this idea, evil is still evil ... it just might also be the alignment that controls the universe. The mystery is which alignment faction is actually supreme, and which are rebellious.

  3. I think this is a great idea! Think of the vast difference between a world where deities actively intervene and carry out their will - sometimes even walking the earth in physical form - versus a world where religion is a "construct" of the worshipers who only think they have an idea of what's going on.

    I love the idea of a universe that drifts between Neutral Good <= Neutral => Chaotic Neutral. It's not out to get you, but it doesn't exactly care whether you make it or not. There exists the natural order of seasons and the stars above, but there are also disasters that come out of nowhere and destroy whole countrysides.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...