Dungeon World – Alignment

Dungeon World

I have considered removing alignment from Lost Worlds and replacing it with something more fluid, such as a distinction that asks the characters to describe personal outlooks, motivations, or attitudes of their character. As an ode to old-school D&D, Dungeon World keeps alignment, although it simplifies things a bit. In Dungeon World, the alignments you can play include: Good, Neutral, Evil, Chaotic, and Lawful. The system does not use a two-axis system, instead relying on these five choices for alignment. A Good character may have lawful tendencies (or chaotic tendencies), but the choice of alignment forces the character to select their dominant personal attitude towards life.

The next thing that the system does is award experience for following your alignment. Each alignment has a series of movies that the system believes embody the spirit of the alignment. For example, if you’re a good Character, an alignment move might include “show mercy.” When you create your character, you will select an alignment move based on your alignment, and at the end of a session, if you have performed the action, you gain an experience.  As your character evolves, you can change alignments (which represents a large shift) or you can simply change alignment moves (which represent a smaller shift in focus within an alignment).

The basic alignment questions are:

Lawful

  • Uphold the letter of the law over the spirit
  • Fulfill a promise of import
  • Bring someone to justice
  • Choose honor over personal gain
  • Return treasure to its rightful owner

Good

  • Ignore danger to aid another
  • Lead others into righteous battle
  • Give up powers or riches for the greater good
  • Reveal a dangerous lie
  • Show mercy

Neutral

  • Make an ally of someone powerful
  • Defeat a personally important foe
  • Learn a secret about an enemy
  • Uncover a hidden truth

Chaotic

  • Reveal corruption
  • Break an unjust law to benefit another
  • Defeat a tyrant
  • Reveal hypocrisy

Evil

  • Take advantage of someone’s trust
  • Cause suffering for its own sake
  • Destroy something beautiful
  • Upset the rightful order
  • Harm an innocent

In addition, the game places alignment restrictions on each class, but each alignment listed in a class comes with its own alignment move for that class.  For example, the Druid class can be Chaotic, Good, or Neutral.  Each of these three alignments come with an alignment move specific to Druids, such as:

Chaotic
Destroy a symbol of civilization

You could easily implement this kind of system with the classic two-axis alignment. My thought though is that I can use this in an even more deconstructed way – because the real cleverness here is that each alignment has a series of actions that grant it experience. So instead, you could select your own set of actions that you think embody your character’s outlook on life – and they could be anything. Then, the system could reward you for playing to those actions. I can foresee some difficulties with this, and it is really the same difficulty I have with backgrounds: generic choices meant to allow wide interpretation of use. Having an “alignment” or attitude aspect that is generic could be advantageous for a player for advancement, but would be worse for the game. Still, I think this is a route worth considering, because it gives players the flexibility to play characters with depth, with significant differences between them (since you’re not limited to 5-9 options), and if interesting actions are encouraged and bought-in by the group, I like that the system will encourage players to think about their character’s depth and motivation in play.

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