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JasRonq

SP RPG Moral Alignment

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What do you guys think about including alignment in single player RPGs? Im talking about the traditional D&D model with a Lawful<->Neutral<->Chaotic axis and a Good<->Neutral<->Evil axis. I might make the positions more fine grained than that if I used it but I'm wondering what you guys think could be done with it in modern games. One note, If I used it, I would have player actions control your position and dialogue options available be based on your current position. It gets to messy to allow a full range of dialogue options with the player using them to pick alignment.

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So did no one really care about using D&D style alignments in current generation RPGs? 119 views is a lot for no replies...

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Well, one-dimensional alignment systems seem to be fairly popular in modern single-player RPGs - Fable 2 had its good/evil (or feared/respected) mechanic and Mass Effect has its "paragon"/"renegade" system (which is more akin to lawful/chaotic than good/evil).

However, it doesn't seem that two or n-dimensional alignment schemes are popular in mainstream single player RPGs these days. Perhaps this is because introducing another axis results in a potentially exponential increase in the number of dialogue and story options which need to be provided in order to support the system. Since content creation is no mean feat and comes at a considerable cost it is understandable that, in the mainstream at least, such systems are neglected.

I have very little experience playing D&D style RPGs with such alignment systems, and so I can't really offer much insight into how it might be applied today.

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Original post by JasRonq
So did no one really care about using D&D style alignments in current generation RPGs?
It is probably worth pointing out that D&D 4th edition axed the 2-axis format in favour of a single axis with five values: lawful good, good, unaligned, evil, and chaotic evil.

I think a large part of the rationale behind that change is that 9 alignments + 8 blended alignments were just too many for the game designers to cope with. If all of them need separate dialogue trees, the content side starts to get hairy...

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Original post by WavyVirus
Well, one-dimensional alignment systems seem to be fairly popular in modern single-player RPGs - Fable 2 had its good/evil (or feared/respected) mechanic and Mass Effect has its "paragon"/"renegade" system (which is more akin to lawful/chaotic than good/evil).

However, it doesn't seem that two or n-dimensional alignment schemes are popular in mainstream single player RPGs these days. Perhaps this is because introducing another axis results in a potentially exponential increase in the number of dialogue and story options which need to be provided in order to support the system. Since content creation is no mean feat and comes at a considerable cost it is understandable that, in the mainstream at least, such systems are neglected.


Pretty much, the in game choices have to be shallow to avoid having to create two separate games. You could try creating something similar to a rouge-like that relies on procedural content but even then it would be hard to simulate something like a character that's evil but in a less blunt way than Vlad the impaler.

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Were you thinking of using this for a single character or for a party the player controls?

I think it's fine for games where you control a single character but I find it very jarring for multiple character games unless you put in at least a small amount of work to simulate the expected conflict. I liked that in games like Jade Empire or Baldur's Gate the characters would argue or show rapport if they were in tune with one another. But if it's quite blatant (like you switch from your mass murdering thief to your holy paladin just to get past the conversation at a gate) then it doesn't resonate well.

If there's multiple directions with a fine gradient I think you need to work hard at presenting the gray areas. What, for instance, are the real choices between being Neutral Good, Neutral Evil and True Neutral? What situations would highlight the moral choices between being Lawful Neutral, Lawful Good and Chaotic Good?

I think if you can present enough situations and choices it could work well, but I suspect that a game would actually have to based heavily on this to justify the work. If you're Ye Olde Dungeon Terminex, Inc., surrounded by black and white evil, what good is being morally gray?

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Original post by JasRonq
119 views is a lot for no replies...


Haha, I can sympathize, but don't feel bad. Somebody pointed out to me recently that it's not that they've no interest, it's that they can't think of anything helpful.

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Well I'm glad to see some helpful comments now at least.

One thing I am thinking may be an issue is really dividing the options properly. In most cases, evil acts are outlawed, so for instance, while I may say that stealing is chaotic but not evil, murder is both, torture is both, in fact, most evil acts are both. Good and lawful are hard for another reason. Doing good is easy, but being lawful is simply not breaking the law. Unless I provide a way to uphold the law in a contrived way, its difficult to measure lawfulness.

Assuming that somehow the actions that determine this could be worked out though, its influence should be in the flavor of the dialogue options available and in some of the options you are given. This is helped in that I have no intention of voicing the dialogue and will be lucky to have vocal sound effects of any good quality. At such a point it then becomes writing and creativity, and not voice recording and money to pay for it that would limit me.

Since this is single player, I don't need to worry about disharmonious parties, and even so, I could simply have party member come and go depending on how far you are from them with some stock responses about how far you are from their alignment (and not what alignment you are.) As I say though, this is single player.


Anyway, these are all some pretty big hurtles in making it workable. I was hoping for another way for the player to act out his character and describe his personality in a way the game world could react to. I've been reading about low level stories and such an alignment system basically becomes a way to think of the game keeping track of the overall pattern of actions you follow. Sure the game can react to a single instance of a house being robbed, but how does it react to your long term pattern of chaotic behavior?

If that were a realized goal though, I'm not sure this particular alignment system or any alignment system is the way to go about it. Perhaps a trait system...

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Original post by JasRonq
Well I'm glad to see some helpful comments now at least.

One thing I am thinking may be an issue is really dividing the options properly. In most cases, evil acts are outlawed, so for instance, while I may say that stealing is chaotic but not evil, murder is both, torture is both, in fact, most evil acts are both. Good and lawful are hard for another reason. Doing good is easy, but being lawful is simply not breaking the law. Unless I provide a way to uphold the law in a contrived way, its difficult to measure lawfulness.


I personally think that you are always going to run into problems trying to 'measure' alignment. Too much depends on information which your game will not have access to, such as player motivation.

For example, an ambitious, evil character might want to make his way into the king's personal court. He might be prepared to do all manner apparently altruistic acts to worm his way up the ranks, attract the attentions of the king's daughter, and then at the last minute, betray the king in a subtle way which cannot easily be blamed on him (for instance, by not helping him out in a difficult battle).

Another character might do exactly the same thing, but with good intentions, simply failing to help the king out of misfortune rather than intentional malice. How can you tell the difference?

In my experience, games often award good/evil points in incomprehensible ways. You might do something believing yourself to be doing the right thing, only to find that the game hates you for it, and vice versa.

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Assuming that somehow the actions that determine this could be worked out though, its influence should be in the flavor of the dialogue options available and in some of the options you are given. This is helped in that I have no intention of voicing the dialogue and will be lucky to have vocal sound effects of any good quality. At such a point it then becomes writing and creativity, and not voice recording and money to pay for it that would limit me.


The problem with this is that once the evil, ambitious courtier in the previous example takes the throne and chooses to reveal his evil plan to the poor king's daughter just before he sacrifices her to the dragon, he won't be able to, as the game has decided that he is a champion of truth and justice and consequently limited his dialog options to those that reflect that.

I really don't think you can attempt to second guess the alignment the player is going for - unless you can invent some kind of mind reading device to determine his motivations.

My advice would be to let the player decide what his character's alignment is. The game can keep track of what his alignment appears to be to the game world. This means that you can modify the NPC's reactions to the player according to alignment, but you can't modify the player's reactions - the player still needs to be free to choose the Evil option no matter how saintly the game thinks he is.

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I think at this point I must agree that this alignment system and probably most would not be workable unless the player were specifically choosing it himself. In almost any system it would seem that there is a large risk of the player feeling the whole system is very black and white, and even too systematic.


Something that occurred to me when thinking about measuring lawfulness though, what if the system just measured the presence or absence of specific traits.
Selfishness, altruism, etc. could be a list of traits that the player selects when he starts the character and that is communicated through the game. Would this or soem other system add much to the play experience?

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Here's my beef with quantified morality systems: they were fine in traditional roleplaying games, because the point of the game was to role play, and the players are expected to conform to the characters. In videogames, the main character is almost always a surrogate for the player, and so the character conforms to the player. A lot of the mechanics do not translate. The game with the best morality system I've encountered yet is Ultima IV, and I'd still say that's far from ideal. This isn't to say you can't have roleplaying morality in a game, but it would have to be a "traditional" roleplaying game instead of a "videogame" roleplaying game to fit in properly.

That said, the best way to go about it is to leave morality up to the player, and just have the world react based on what they can know. If you kill someone in secret, it does not have a direct impact on their impression of you. If you hurt a guy's enemy, even if the victim don't deserve it, the guy might like you better. If you help someone, they might not be able to reward you. If you steal from someone and are caught, they might tell others and you may eventually get a reputation as a thief, possibly more or less than you deserve depending on the person.

In short, don't use a morality system, but make characters act human and not like videogame NPCs. Players will project their own morality, which is going to be more effective than a "good vs evil" bar.

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Original post by Sandman
My advice would be to let the player decide what his character's alignment is. The game can keep track of what his alignment appears to be to the game world. This means that you can modify the NPC's reactions to the player according to alignment, but you can't modify the player's reactions - the player still needs to be free to choose the Evil option no matter how saintly the game thinks he is.


Rather, let the game track what the PC(s) reputation is, rather than alignment. It is quite possible to be working towards a very evil goal while maintaining a basic front of good. I dislike using strict "alignment" systems myself, and instead focus on writing and content. I'd have to spend the next three hours to explain how I'm doing so, and I'm not doing that tonight, so I'll leave it at that.

I'll agree, alignment, or rather moral value and "good and evil" are hard to build simplified mechanics for, without either half ignoring the mechanics to fit the story, or compromising the story in order to fit the mechanics.

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Original post by Sandman
In my experience, games often award good/evil points in incomprehensible ways. You might do something believing yourself to be doing the right thing, only to find that the game hates you for it, and vice versa.

I can attest to that. In Kotor 2, I played a fully good charactor. On one of the planets, I encountered a group of mercanaries (Mandalorians), who were forming a rebellion against the queen. I had to choose sides, and was unsure of who was good and who was evil. Since the Mandalorians were kind to me, had shiny armor, and told me the queen was a tyrant, I helped them. Apparently they were the bad guys, but I didn't know that until the game forced me to execute the queen and kill her Jedi guard.
Because I killed the Jedi and the queen (forced to, because of a decision I made an hour prior), my 'alignment' bar flipped completely, from ~80% good, to ~60% evil, and because I was near the end of the game and evil, the game locked me into that path, forcing me to slaughter an entire enclave of good Jedis, which, ofcourse, pushed my alignment more toward the Dark Side, while I struggeled to find oppurtunities to save my alignment (Slaughtering the Jedi council doesn't look good on your resume, unless you happen to be a Sith).
By the time the game ended, I was almost dead center neutral (only like ~10% good), from one mistake/choice (me getting the politics confused, and being distracted by shiny armor). I ended up getting a lame ending, since I wasn't good enough to get the "Good guy ending", nor was I bad enough to get the "Bad guy ending".

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