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Building Blocks 32: Alignment 1

Alignment 1: Overview, History, and Gameplay

Alignment is a way of describing a character, creature, society, or organization’s ethical values and moral compass. It can be thought of as their outlook on life or a predictor of how they will respond to certain situations. Players were encouraged to decide how their characters would behave, choose an alignment reflective of that, and then play their characters accordingly.  However, alignment is not an immutable unchanging declaration of character.  It is meant more as a guideline for players to role play their characters and some allowances have been made for characters to change their alignments both by voluntary and involuntary choice. Both rules and DMs often impose ramifications for such changes however.

In Dungeons and Dragons this is represented by 2 axes: Law vs Chaos (ethical values) and Good vs Evil (moral compass).  Every character, monster and group of individuals has an alignment that is represented by either 1 of the extremes or the middle ground of “neutral.”  This gives each of the axes 3 possibilities which gives a total of 9 alignments.  These alignments are often shown in a grid:

  Good Neutral Evil
Law Lawful Good Lawful Neutral Lawful Evil
Neutral Neutral Good True Neutral Neutral Evil
Chaos Chaotic Good Chaotic Neutral Chaotic Evil

 

When D&D was introduced it initially only had the Law vs Chaos axis.  The Good vs Evil axis was added with the release of the second box set.  In AD&D some class alignment restrictions were added and changing your alignment would impose a penalty requiring more experience to be gained to level. 3rd edition removed this penalty but added more alignment restrictions to classes and penalties (usually loss of key class abilities) for alignment changes. Spells and some abilities also became alignment dependent both for use and for their effects on different creatures. 4th edition saw some simplification of the system by reducing alignments down to 5 on a single spectrum: Lawful Good, Good, True Neutral (Unaligned), Evil and Chaotic Evil.

DDO uses the 3rd edition alignment set and class limitations but does not allow players to be evil.  Because DDO lacks the innate freedom from a table top game and its dialogue options are mostly preset, alignment does not factor heavily into the game outside of class and item restrictions.  Additionally, since making choices is limited you can not just arbitrarily change your alignment.  To change your alignment you must purchase an alignment change tool but you will not be allowed to change alignments to one that is not allowed by one or more of your classes.

The alignment restrictions for classes provide a key element to build balance.  It limits several build combinations that otherwise could be considered overpowered.  Most restrictions are based on the Law vs Chaotic axis.  Barbarians and Bards cannot be lawful while a monk must be lawful. Druids must be neutral on at least 1 of the 2 axes.  Paladins are the most restrictive and require a lawful good alignment.  This will likely be your determining factor when choosing an alignment.

Some weapon enhancements are aligned and may not normally be used by characters who do not meet those restrictions. These restrictions can typically be bypassed by using the Use Magic Device skill but using an weapon that opposes your alignment will bestow a negative level on you until you switch to a different weapon.  Additionally, some items are “tainted with evil” and while they do not restrict their use, good characters will suffer a negative level while using them.

Some items (typically armor and shields) have one of the stability enchantments. While the benefit varies (+2, +4, and +6), these enhancements all give bonuses to deflection AC (same as a protection enhancement) and a resistance bonus to saves (same as resistance enhancement).  However, these bonuses are only given to characters with a true neutral alignment.

Other uses of alignment in DDO are aligned spells and a limited number of dialogue options. Alignment spells are limited to divine casters and are few in number.  Most do not even use these spells.  DDO does make some use of alignments in dialogue, most notably in the lawful chamber of Prison of the Planes.  However, the most interesting use of alignment is the riddle of Litany of the Dead.  In this quest you come face to face with a black dragon who asks you a series of questions in a “battle of wits.”  The answers you give to him determine which of the 4 optional bosses you will face (you must defeat all 4 to flag for the Abbot raid).  The answers you need to give to his questions are determined by the alignment of the boss you wish to face. Should you give the dragon conflicting answers he will spew acid in your face.

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