Saturday, February 25, 2017

The General Line-up

Yes, that's right, its time for another web log post about alignment. Not that I have ever done one before. This is my first. But I suppose it was inevitable!

Some preliminaries

The abstraction of “Alignment,” corresponds to the battle “line up,” drawn by the King of Heaven for the Last Battle. Alignment is therefore archetypal and mythomorphic. The primordial chaos monster, Mater Chaos, is Leviathan, Tiamat, Yam, Cyclone. Monsters and Fell are her wicked spawn and brood.

• Lawful = good for flourishing of all free races, e.g., both human and fay, thus implying a kind of "universalism:" “Universal Law of heaven against the Chaos”
• Neutral = good for local family unit, clan group, in-group and thus a kind of tribalism, still trying to keep chaos at bay: “pagan struggle with immanent forces for survival”
• Chaotic = bad for the flourishing of free races and therefore monstrous, fell: “of or having to do with the primordial chaos and the entropy of things”

Three-point alignment

Law, Chaos and Neutrality represent one's orientation to one of the the fundamental principles, defining, therefore your own goal, and what you believe to be the goal of reality.

Law = Order, beauty, structure, form
Chaos = Power, energy, flux
Neutrality = The Void

All the great philosophers, and even some of the theologians recognize these three fundamental principles or archetypes to exist. But they only name one as truly primordial.

There is Lex Pater, the God of Law, Mater Chaos, the goddess of the gods of Chaos, and then there is the Void.

You could understand the hierarchy of these fundamental principles in many different ways:

Law then Neutrality
Law then Chaos
Chaos then Neutrality
Chaos then Law
Neutrality then Law
Neutrality then Chaos

End and means

So the first alignment principle would represent a character's ultimate goal and the second would represent the characters chief means for attaining that goal. If the character is philosophical or at all self-reflective, it might represent their understood chief principle or deity, and then the key subordinated archetype.

You could be lawful / lawful. Clear enough. But here are some other outcomes:
My character is lawful chaotic! That means he thinks order is fundamental to all things and should prove our true aim. But this takes energy and embracing the flux to empower our ride there!
My character is chaotic lawful! That means he thinks all is flux and the best thing to do is seek to release all energies. But this takes order and study and strict hierarchies to achieve well.
My character is neutral. That means he thinks he is a chance formation out of the Void and to the Void he will return. If he is Neutral Lawful he thinks that order will sustain him on the way to the Void. If he is Neutral Chaotic, he thinks that the release of energy will take him back to the Void by the surest (and perhaps most fun) route.

In this way, neutrality is not "half way" between law and chaos. It becomes a "3 point alignment." A kind of triangle defining a continuum or set of continua along which people and creatures "align" themselves.

Some philosophy

Notice that this description of the general line-up may roughly be compared to the six classical philosophical schools:

LN = Platonism
LC = Aristotelianism
NL = Stoicism
NC = Epicureanism
CL = Skepticism
CN = Cynicism

Now that seems possibly ripe for some fun campaign stuff! Seems like it would be fun to abstract and fictionalize some of these things in some crazy old books they find and some crazy old sages they encounter.

"Look here," says the crazy wizened old man, "here be the scrolls of Epictirius [Fictional fantastical Epicurean, NC]. He tells the true nature of things, 'From the Void erupts the Flux, out of Flux men fashion laws. So eat, drink and be merry. But do so in moderation, for your dissolution is sure to come in time and you will take no enjoyment if you journey to quickly along the way of all things. For the way of all things is also the way of all the Cosmos: total dissolution in the great final conflagration!' Ha ha ha ha!" he laughs robustly, darting wild eyes at each of you.

Alignment for characters

Alignment is nevertheless descriptive rather than prescriptive for characters. Thus alignment changes easily based upon character decision. Alignment terminology does not describe a character’s personality or their relative predictability, as in Advanced Edition Rules. Lawful is definitely not “goody two-shoes.” The Lawful often rule with an iron fist (some of them, sometimes). Do they want to slay the primordial chaos monster and establish cosmos out of chaos? Then they are Lawful. Do they want to unleash the primordial chaos monster and revel in the supposed riches unleashed and go down in flames as long as that might last? Then they are Chaotic. Have they not yet heard that there is such a thing as a universal Law (still pagan), or are they skeptical of this new "universalism," worrying that it might wash out what is unique about their tribe or race or people? Then they are Neutral.

Only law and chaos are "active." Neutrality is for equilibrium, balance, homeostasis. It will fight to preserve this, but it will avoid sides when it comes to the "conversionalistic" tendencies of law and chaos.

This makes sense of why there might be neutral adventurers - or even whole civilizations. Gone is the description of neutral as "selfish." No way. It also makes sense of why there are no "neutral" clerics. Clerics are crusaders. They are forcibly bringing their cause to those they "convert." This is a law / chaos thing only.

Okay, that's what I've got so far!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Questions for a Campaign

Somebody (sadly, I can't remember whom) pointed me back to Jeff's Gameblog's list of twenty quick questions for your campaign setting.

As with just about anything I run into, I can't take it as is -- I have to play with it and make it fit my way of thinking and my way of campaigning. So, inspired by Jeff, here are my questions.

Please note that they can work for every level of campaign scale: cosmic, setting, territory, settlement. (I think however, a different set of related questions are necessary for generating dungeons and the underworld. More on that to come.)

Questions for Campaigns at Each Level of Scale

What is the name of this place?
  • ·       Why
  • ·       Backstory
  • ·       Size
  • ·       Population
  • ·       Army and size

What race is in charge here? Really?

Do they speak common? Something else?

Is anything illegal?
  • ·       Weapons
  • ·       Magic
  • ·       Something odd or absurd?

Who is in charge? Really?

Secret societies? Cults?

Who is the wealthiest? Different from above? Really?

  • ·       Motte & Baily
  • ·       Castle & Keep
  • ·       Curtain Walls
  • ·       Wood
  • ·       Stone
  • ·       Enchanted

What is the religion? Really?

Who is their cleric? Really?
  • ·       What are “clerics”?
  • ·       How do clerics “work” here?

Is this place for law, chaos or no-side?

Can we change alignment here?

Who is the most powerful?
  • ·       FM
  • ·       CL
  • ·       MU
  • ·       TH
  • ·       Dwarf
  • ·       Elf
  • ·       Hobbit

Who knows the most?
  • ·       Book knowledge
  • ·       Experience

Is there a _______ here?
  • ·       Tavern / inn
  • ·       Stable / livery
  • ·       Jail / Prison (Who is in it?)
  • ·       Church / Temple
  • ·       Bank
  • ·       Town / Guild Hall
  • ·       School

Can we buy?
  • ·       Supplies
  • ·       Equipment
  • ·       Weapons/armor
  • ·       Magic Items
  • ·       Transportation

Can we find?
  • ·       Healing / potions
  • ·       Antidote
  • ·       Cures
  • ·       Raise dead
  • ·       Curse / remove
  • ·       Lycanthropy cure

Can we hire hirelings? Retainers?

Where is the nearest treasure to recover?
  • ·       Is it legendary
  • ·       Will it make us famous
  • ·       Will it make us rich

Are there any problems around here?
  • ·       NPCs
  • ·       Monsters
  • ·       Will it make us famous
  • ·       Will it make us rich
  • ·       Will it make us landed

Is this place its own problem?
  • ·       Deception
  • ·       Intrigue
  • ·       Corruption

Does anyone need something done?
  • ·       Are they rich
  • ·       Powerful
  • ·       Will they pay:
  • ·       In kind
  • ·       In coin
  • ·       In land

Is this place at war?
  • ·       With whom
  • ·       How long
  • ·       Is it just
  • ·       Who is winning

Where is the nearest dragon? And hoard? Or any creature that:
  • ·       Petrifies
  • ·       Paralyzes
  • ·       Drains Energy
  • ·       Poisons
  • ·       Breathes a weapon
  • ·       Contagious condition
  • ·       Regenerates
  • ·       Enchants

How do PCs find out about these things? Rumors?