Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nature is not Neutral

I've really been dying to sit down and do a REAL write up on alignment. But, everytime I start I realize that's time I could spend on my own material... George's Children... Vampire... King of Storms... Raavnia... campaign stuff... whatever.

While I think there are some useful nuggets to Alignment, I've never seen it presented in a well-thought out light. Certainly, the philosophical and ethical debates that take place about the alignments is great. But short of self-editing and self-regulation, the only class that suffers from a strict adherence to code of conduct ... is the paladin.

Even clerics aren't held to too high of a standard. Which actually makes sense, because the aim of most religions is to spread the word, not actually believe what you're selling... use any corrupt minister as an example of this.

But. I'm getting off topic.

Today's post is about how Nature is often regarding as NEUTRAL in the alignment diagram, when in actuality is it the most powerful Chaotic force in the world. Now, I understand that when you introduce DEMONS and UNDEAD into a game, pushing against the LAW of civilization, you force nature into the center... but nature can be GOOD fighting against undeath, but it cannot be NEUTRAL against the mankind's attempts to chop down every tree and mine every gem.

So. We can conclude, at the very least, that alignment is relative to the environment of the game. If the PCs never encounter a DEMON... or if demons could care less about trying to twist the sounds of trees, birds, and chipmunks, than Nature's role in the alignment wheel is perfunctory. Right?

It would seem, on the surface, that the original doctrine took this into account. Nature isn't involved in the war between good and evil, so it stays out of the way. Afterall, mankind is a parasite that needs to learn to live in accordance with nature. However, trees do not grow... neutrally. Animals do not forage in a place convenient for farmers. Lightning does not skip "nice towns."

Nature, at the very least is Chaotic Good... and at the very worst Chaotic Neutral. Nature has an agenda... and a will that is very strong. Nature cannot be ignored and thrust into the role of Switerland. It must be taken into account. And if CIVILIZATION and all its unnatural LAWS are the cornerstone of a gaming campaign, then the NATURAL LAWS of the forest and the plains must be at odds with those who would dig up stones and build walls from it.

Roleplaying environments where man must fight against the ugly side of nature (Princess Mononoke, an Inconvenient Truth) have just as much potential as campaigns where a Lich is about to release the power of an undead World Eater.


Richard said...

I have never been a fan of alignment. I always scrap the concept no matter what game I am running. What I find easier is have the player pick 6 personality traits (adjectives) that define their character. These are easier to run and keep in mind.

jim pinto said...

I agree 100%. I really don't play D&D anymore, but I still see the bad design ideas and I think something like alignment is well passed the point of useful.

qualistarian said...

Playing Devil's advocate here...

I wouldn't say that neutrality means you stand and watch while Law or Chaos stomps all over everything. I think it means that you either ignore the concept entirely (in the case of Good vs. Evil in regards to nature), or you have a balance and attempt to uphold it.

There are such things as Natural Laws, after all, and a lot of the "Force of Nature" critters in D&D are based around upholding them.

I think the reason they kept alignment in D&D is to reinforce the "epic fantasy" aspect of the game, and clear-cut Good vs. Evil has always been a major facet of the genre. Consider Lord of the Rings (books, not movie) - the main reason Sauron's evil is because the narration says so.

Dave said...

If you want replies, talk about alignment. Much like religion and politics everyone has an opinion.

Mine is that as long as there is room for conviction and faith as well as the lack thereof then any alignment system will be okay so long as you allow it to flex.