Alignment as a Stat
by Kevin Schwenk

Disclaimer: Having just joined RPGSIG, please bear with me if I bring up a topic which was discussed recently.

One recurring problem of many RPGs is striking the right balance between real roleplaying and hack & slash, especially when the gaming system only grants experience points and/or other rewards for beating up monsters. I recently devised a possible partial solution to prod players to roleplay: treat alignment and/or quirks as a statistic. An AD&D character, for example, would now have 7 or 8 numbers instead of 6, with either Alignment or Quirks each as separate stats or collapsed into one stat. That is, 7 (or 8) numbers would be rolled, and freely allocated to Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and Alignment (and Quirks). Note that there is not a simple relationship between the number and whether the character is good or evil; the number would determine how inconvenient is a character's alignment/values (and/or quirks), with low numbers representing more inconvenient beliefs.

Examples of very low-number (3 or 4 on a 3-18 scale) Alignments: all Paladins (they won't ever collaborate with evil characters, they tithe away at least 10% of their income, don't ever use poison or other 'dishonorable' weapons, etc.); an evil cleric whose god demands regular human sacrifice; a kleptomaniac thief. In general, any alignment played to its extreme (except perhaps for Chaotic Good) would be very 'inconvenient' and would be a low number. Likewise, any beliefs which cause the PC to forfeit a large amount of goodies (tithing, supporting one's clan/family) or expose the PC to excessive danger (save anyone in danger, seek immediate profit without considering the consequences, kill anyone who is insufficiently polite, never retreat) will reflect a low Alignment score.

A character with a 14 would be a utilitarian, doing whatever was necessary to ensure long-term survivability and profitability. A higher score than that could either reflect an alignment that was convenient to have (perhaps the ability to go to any temple of a similar alignment and receive free or cheap spells, without doing much in return), or even the ability to switch alignments. An 18 would be a pure utilitarian who, upon discovering a powerful intelligent sword, would immediately switch to that sword's alignment, convincing himself and the sword of his sincerity, at least until the sword is lost. (I doubt any power/wargamer would ever dump a high number into Alignment, so this paragraph is probably moot.)

Quirks could work in a similar way, as a separate number or folded into the Alignment stat. A low number would reflect inconvenient quirks (severe alcoholism, blindness, overpowering sexual attraction to dwarves, very talkative, claustrophobic). Higher numbers would reflect beneficial quirks, which could be mental, physical, or even magical.

Alignment/Quirk scores could always be voluntarily lowered. Some classes would have maximum scores; I would suggest the following: Paladins-4, Clerics-7, Monks-8. Monks and Paladins should also have a minimum of 10 in Quirks. Certain demi-humans (dwarves, elves) could be at -1 or -2 to Alignment. A player should, within previously existing game rules, be allowed to choose his PC's alignment, beliefs, and quirks, subject to approval by the DM (who much bear in mind that the numbers reflect practical inconvenience, not unusuality).

If a player fails to adequately roleplay the PC's alignment/quirks, the DM should severely punish him/her (severity proportional to the size of the failure, of course) through experience point penalties or worse. Any cries of "Unfair!" can be met by saying, "I wouldn't be punishing you if you'd put that 15 into Alignment like I'd suggested, but no... you had to have that extra hit point...."

The purpose of the above system is to introduce non-roleplayers to the joys of roleplaying, as well as building in a reward for good roleplaying. An experienced roleplayer would be happy to dump his/her lowest numbers into Alignment and Quirks, resulting in higher other stats. If a player strongly objects to this system, he/she could be offered a 'free' 14 to be put into Alignment and Quirks, and could only roll for the regular character stats. I suspect most players will be too tempted by the possibility of other high stats to do this. After all, rolling 8 numbers rather than 6 results in one-third more 18s....

Any comments on this system would be welcome. I would especially like to hear from anyone who tries it out. I plan to try it as soon as I find enough local players to run a Rolemaster campaign.

(Originally appeared in Re:Quests!, issue #32, December 1993, pp. 19-20; Mary H Kelly, editor.)

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