Posted by: Opinicus | May 23, 2010

Alignment Restrictions

Opinicus here, I was going to write about how to attract sexy members of the opposite sex with D&D, but I lied, because Opinicus can only be neutral evil…

Actually, an Opinicus was a Chaotic Good Psionic celestial Monkey-camel-eagle-lion (man-bear-pig) found in 2nd ed (Monstrous Compendium vol. One). It also states that opinicus is both the singular and the plural form of the word (as I had initially typed Opinici, cactus cacti, octopus octopi).  But if you Google search Opinicus, you get a lot of pictures of Gryphons.

But this is besides the point.

I was always annoyed at some of the Alignment restrictions in Dungeons and Dragons, 3.0 and 3.5.  Now some of them make sense, Lawful good for a paladin, well, good in general for a paladin makes sense to me. Cleric alignment similar to their god, perfect sense. No Lawful good worshipers of Erythnul (CE God of Slaughter from the core book and GreyHawk).

But I find it aggravating that you can’t have a lawful barbarian, or a chaotic monk.  Do they mean to say that Barbarians can’t be honorable and keep their word? Or that monks can’t be wild and head strong/ deceitful and adept at lying? What about drunken masters? What part of drinking unhealthy (or perhaps Too Healthy, winky blinky) amounts of liquor and going carousing about town Lawful?  They did away with Rogues not being able to be lawful from 2nd ed to 3rd, why these alignment restrictions now?

So a monk has to practice and meditate every day, his devotion to his training and discipline is his “lawfullness.” Well, what about the Barbarian that prays to his ancestor spirits every day and gives offerings and sacrifices? Is that not adhering to a code? What of the barbarian that will never betray his friends and will always keep his word? No, barbarians must be unpredictable and untrustworthy, because they can fly into a rage.  And yes, you can always hold a monk to his word, he’s lawful, well, unless he wants to keep leveling in monk (actually, I’m not sure why he would… perhaps some esoteric goal, like getting Evasion and the Monk AC bonus, or perhaps Roleplay reasons, whatever, I’m not here to judge, but that won’t stop me from doing so).

Lets look at other Alignment restricted classes.  Bard, Any non-lawful.  Yup, Bards will never value the law, makes sense, ever since I started playing the violin, I started becoming a hoodlum.  The fact that he constantly practices his art so he never loses his touch with it is but a minor thing, not at all like a monk’s dedication to his physical training.

Druid. Never trust a Druid, just as you can never trust one of those damn dirty neutrals.  I guess this is a throwback to 2nd ed, where Druids can only be True Neutral, though they’ve changed that to just Neutral, yet I will forever refer to that alignment as True Neutral for the rest of my days. Every other alignment gets two words in its name, why not Neutral?  Again, I digress, I blame the cheap Tequila sitting next to me. I’m not drinking it, but it’s volume keeps getting smaller… odd.  I’m okay with Druids being neutral, all the animals in the game are neutral, and they are trying to be in touch with nature, which is above most lofty goals such as good and evil.  Their Deity is nature, who is TN (I guess), they may be one step away from the alignment of their deity.  I’ll bite. But they’re still dirty neutrals…grrrr…

Wizard. They don’t have an alignment restriction, but does the fact that every day they must prepare their spells, preform strange esoteric task to fulfill their art, not constitute a form of discipline? Does their devotion to learning and bettering their art mean nothing compared the will of a monk?

Hexblade.  Now here’s a weird one.  Any non-good.  You can’t have a benevolent Hexblade.  In fact, from the wording, it implies that most Hexblades are evil “Even the friendliest are at best Neutral”.  It also goes on to say that their powers are not gained through learning and an actual desire for this skill, but it is more like a sorcerer’s, where it develops naturally.  This implies that a Hexblade is born evil, or at least their powers drive them to evil. Other than the fact that they curse people, nothing they really do is all that evil sounding.  Aura of unluck? How is that evil? It makes it harder for people to hit him.  Why are they trying to hit him in the first place? Probably because he’s evil.  His spells aren’t that evil either.  worst I could find at the early levels are cause fear and Summon swarm, and by then he’s a 8-10 level Hexblade?  I seriously think that they made him out to be evil just to prevent paladins from multiclassing into it and getting 2x their charisma modifier to saves.  It specifically says that a Hexblade that becomes good loses all Hexblade abilities.  Instead of making it all evil, why not just say that Arcane Resistance and Divine Grace don’t stack and be done with it.  Instead what you get now are paladins of slaughter or tyranny taking a splash into Hexblade for Arcane res and Mettle, now watch them laugh at mages trying to kill them (Laugh evilly mind you).

Samurai. Aside from being a crap class, I totally see why they’d have to be lawful. They’re all about a code and following their master and stuff. But then, what about a dishonorable samurai? turns out they lose a bunch of their abilities and pretty much turn into a warrior.  Now, traditionally, the whole super honorable, belly splitting, only use the family sword thing is an ideal derived from fiction and a time of peace.  Last Samurai? The satsuma rebels that were glorified in the movie had tried to stockpile guns and ammo, and lost when they ran out of bullets.  Death before dishonoring your lord? A popularized concept that came about after Japan was unified.  But this is fantasy, we want the stereotypical samurai, not some Asian dude with levels in Fighter wearing fancy silk armor and wielding expensive weapons.

Dread Necromancer. Assuming Necromancy is evil, I guess this is a no brainer that any non-good is the requirement.  But here’s some food for thought.  What about a society that does not see necromancy as evil.  One where the dead are animated into a public labor force, one that deals with unsavory or dangerous task where regular people would get hurt.  A society that has its citizens volunteer their bodied after they die to be animated in order to keep giving back to the community.  You may think this is wrong and backwards, but the Tibetans cut up their dead and leave them out for the vultures to devour, in our (or at least my) western originated way of thinking, that sounds almost wrong and disrespectful, but this is their culture. They may feel the same about us, burring our dead.  So, in this society of necromancers, could you not have good aligned necromancers?

While I find that quite a few alignment restrictions make sense, the ones that don’t really stand out, I’m mostly talking about the Monk and the Barbarian (Hexblade is a magical class so it’s easier for me to suspend my disbelief).  Because of this, and also because I enjoy morally ambiguous characters, I don’t actually ask players for their alignment.  I may ask them for a general idea for their character, but I never make them choose one.  I’ve seen too many people play what I thought of as awesome monks (roleplaying wise) and get reprimanded for not playing lawful.  Why does discipline in your training and devotion to your philosophy require your to obey the law? Hell, I find the whole Lawful/Chaotic aspect of the alignment chart confusing. we’re all shades of grey on that spectrum, why make someone choose it for their character unless they are one that will really play it the the extreme.

Qpinicus passing out.



  1. First of all, when it comes to Paladins, I would throw out Paladins of Freedom and Slaughter, change the alignment requirement to any lawful, and also add in personal codes that are customized according to the creed, order, or ruler the individual serves.

    Also, I feel like alignment is really fluid and determined by perspective. Just looking at some of the characters I’ve played in the past, I’ve seen the alignment system fall apart first had.

    Look at Endymion (True Neutral Fighter-Rogue-Master of Chains). How do you categorize someone who has set a bound up gnome on fire just because they were angry with the army said gnome served, but is willing to sacrifice everything for friends and family, generally fights with honor, and has spent years helping the downtrodden? That’s a mix of decidedly good acts and decidedly evil acts, but somehow just blending them to neutral doesn’t quite seem to explain things well enough.

    Or look at Alex (N/NE Rogue-Thief Acrobat-Spy Master). I’ve pretty consistently played him as a character whose level of evil has varied according to his interactions with the party. You treat him like he’s an evil asshole, he’ll act like one, but if you don’t, he’s generally an ok guy.

    That’s the main problem I have with anything alignment based, like Smite Evil or Detect Good. What about the generally decent person that’s committing an act that might be viewed as evil? Or the two good organizations that fundamentally oppose each other to the point of seeing each other as evil?

  2. Oh my GOD we get hung up on alignment here a lot, don’t we? 😛

    My favorite use of the alignment system is when I made Jey, the misanthropic NE human ranger who hates other humans. I went with evil because in 3.0 you had to be evil to choose your own race as a favored enemy – something they removed in 3.5. But I already made the decision, so Jey stayed evil 😛

    I don’t really have a huge problem with alignment in play – generally if it’s a bad guy who thinks he’s good and doing the right thing, he’s still evil on the inside, and if he ever bothered to have a Detect Evil cast on himself he’d know that. Some people probably just come to grips with being evil, like having a weird fetish or something. “Hey, so I’m evil, can’t we just get over this already?” seems like a legitimate POV to me.

    • Weird fetish? Really? Because now I’m picturing Verminard surrounded by sexy, tied up feet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: