Shifting Alignment Variant (v 1.1)

Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Ed. Variant Rule (v 1.1)
Updated 10/27/2011

It’s high time I came to accept it.  Third Edition D&D is gone.  Yeah, I could still go and play it with some friends, but with no new books being released, it’s time I move on.  I prefer 3rd to 4th.  Don’t get me wrong, 4th is great.  The power system is very cool and really gets more of that “Look what I can do!” feel into the game that 3rd didn’t do so well.  But part of that lacking is what made it better.  3rd was more open to change and manipulation.  It’s much harder to make a new class in 4th, unless you want to spend days making enough powers.  In 3rd, it was much easier to make new rules and classes and such.

Anyway, that’s not really what this post is about.  If you read through the last D&D post I made, I mentioned how I love to take a small, mostly inconsequential part of the game and build it up into something bigger.  That’s what I’ve done here.  I took alignment and made it more involved.  I never much liked the idea that you can choose your alignment.  For most people, they don’t really consider being an alignment that isn’t how they view themselves, to some extent.  I’ve always said “You don’t choose your alignment, it chooses you.”  Super deep, right?  My main problem with alignment was, except Paladins, there was no major penalty for acting outside your alignment.  On top of that, a lot of people claimed to be Chaotic Neutral, but I found most of them were actually more leaning toward Chaotic Good.  This system really helps with people actually having the right alignment.  So, I wanted to make a mechanic that would make alignment more dynamic.  So I did.

This variant takes alignment to a new level.  Each and every character has scale on each axis of the alignment chart: Good v. Evil, Law v. Chaos.  A character’s alignment is based on the balance of his alignment scales.  Each time a character performs an action toward a particular alignment, he shifts on the scale, based on the action itself.  Any action has potential to shift a character’s alignment slightly, based on the DM’s discretion.

Sample Actions Effects
Cheating in a game +1 Evil
Being unnecessarily kind to a stranger +1 Good
Upholding a tradition for the sake of tradition +1 Law
Defacing public property +1 Chaos
Using another for personal gain +2 Evil
Helping another at the a cost or risk to yourself +2 Good
Telling the truth regardless of the negative consequences  +2 Law
Acting recklessly +2 Chaos
Killing an innocent +3 Evil
Giving mercy to an enemy +3 Good
Improving a town’s bureaucratic system +3 Law
Attacking an authoritative figure +3 Chaos
Performing a sacrifice +4 Evil
Building a house for the unprivileged +4 Good
Bringing a famously known criminal to justice +4 Law
Destroy a large structure +4 Chaos
Committing mass murder +5 Evil
Sacrificing yourself to save another +5 Good
Bringing order to a lawless town +5 Law
Starting a revolution +5 Chaos
Shifting the alignment of another to yours +3 *
Doing nothing for a long period of time -2 **
Casting an aligned spell 1/2 spell level, rounded down
Wielding an aligned weapon +2 ***
Performing a kill with an aligned smite +1 ****

* When changing another’s alignment to yours, choose one axis.  You gain 2 points to further yourself on that axis.

** If a character does nothing for a long time, he starts to lose his alignment.  At a certain point, the character shifts 2 points on both axes towards 0.  The length of time required for this to occur is based on the DM’s discretion, but should be a reasonably infrequent occurrence.  For instance, even a devil who stays in solitude for several years would eventually become Neutral.  However, if he spend his time thinking of evil things or plotting revenge or something similar, he would not risk losing his Evil status and would likely keep his Lawful as well.

*** Wielding an aligned weapon only grants alignment shift after the weapon has been used for long enough that it is considered your “primary weapon”. The specifics of what that means are up to the DM.

**** Killing a creature with an aligned smite will always grant +1 to the alignment of the smite, regardless of current alignment strength. However, only up to +14.

Aura Strength
Lv. 1: Feint Lv. 2: Moderate Lv. 3: Strong Lv. 4: Overwhelming
Creature 6-11 12-18 19-26 27+

At each level of aura (as per detect spells) on a particular side of an axis, the amount you gain from each action on that side of that axis is reduced by the strength of your aura.  Therefore, for a Strong force of Chaos to shift a point, he would have to do something on the level of destroying a large structure.  Even still, he would still only shift 1 point.

Conversely, for each level of aura that opposes an action, the amount shifted is increased by that much.  For instance, if a +11 Chaos Rogue were to tell the truth when he knew it would only work against him to do so, he would shift 4 points toward Law (2 for telling the truth, 2 for his Moderate Chaotic aura).  This would place him at +7 Chaos.  The stronger a character’s aura, the more he is affected by actions out of his alignment.

Starting Points
A newly created character chooses his or her alignment.  Based on the alignment chosen, the character shifts 7 points toward each extreme chosen.  For instance, a Lawful Neutral character is at 0 on his Good v. Evil scale, but +7 Law on his Law v. Chaos scale.

Any creature with an alignment descriptor starts with as many points on the descriptor’s axis as the creature has Hit Dice.  For example, a creature with the Good and Chaotic descriptors has as many points on both the Good and Chaos axis as it has Hit Dice.

Changing Alignment
If a character drops to 5 or below on either alignment scale, he drops to Neutral for that axis.  This could, perhaps, have devastating effects for a certain characters with alignment based abilities.  A fighter who dropped to +5 Good becomes Neutral on his Good v. Evil axis. The fighter stays Neutral until he performs some act that would push him above 5 on the Good v. Evil axis.   Note that using another for personal gain is considered Evil.  Therefore, if the fighter went and gave money to the church when he dropped to Neutral, he is doing so solely for the purpose to gain his Good status back.  He would still shift +2 Good for the donation, but he would shift +2 Evil for the selfishness of his actions.  This catch-22 makes gaining a Good status rather difficult.

There is no penalty for changing alignments, other then the specifically written ones, as for the paladin, monk, barbarian and so on.

Alignment Restricted Classes
Paladins, monks and several other classes are restricted by their inability to perform certain aligned actions.  Any time a character of these classes shifts even 1 point towards his restricted alignment, that axis (and only that axis) is locked and he can not shift towards his unrestricted alignment until he receives an atonement spell or repents in some similar way.
For example, a Paladin performs an Evil action and her alignment shifts several points towards Evil.  Until she atones, her alignment can continue to become more Evil, as well as Chaotic or Lawful, but she cannot become more Good.

Certain spells work differently with this variant.

Detection Spells
Detection spells work, basically, just as they always have.  However, the strength of the aura is no longer based on the HD of the creature, but rather the amount shifted on the particular axis.  Detection spells for objects work as they always did.

Note that being a cleric, outsider or undead no longer affects detection spells.  With this variant, all creatures have the capacity to be extremely Good, Evil, Chaotic or Lawful.  Meaning, a commoner who goes around helping people and performing good deeds, while never even gaining any levels, can become an Overwhelming force of Good.

It should also be noted that, with this system, each character has two auras.  Good v. Evil and Law v. Chaos.  It is possible to be a Strong force of Good and, at the same time, a Feint force of Law.

The Redemption or Temptation aspect of the spell, if successful, places the affected character at +6/+6 on your alignment.  Unless the affected character was further along in one of the axes, in which case, it keeps its original value.  From that point on, the character is free to do as he pleases, with his new alignment in mind.

Alignment Flipping Spells
Spells or effects that automatically flip one’s alignment to its opposite, do so by shifting completely to the other side of the axis.  A monk with a +7/+5 Lawful Good alignment who undergoes a complete shift, becomes +7/+5 Chaotic Evil.

As with atonement, any spell that changes a character to a certain alignment, does so by placing it at +6 of whatever the new alignment is.  A demon who turns Good, is going to be pretty new at it and will need time to learn his new ways.

Aura Empowerment Variant
A variant within this variant is the idea of Aura Empowerment.  This is the idea that the stronger one’s aura is toward any one particular axis, the more strength they have when using abilities based on that aura.  This gives bonuses to those characters who stay within their alignment and do what they can to further it.

If a character has a Moderate aura or better (as per the detect spells), their aligned spells and abilities are enhanced.  This bonus applies to any aligned spell, smite damage, bonus aligned damage of an aligned weapon and any similar effect that deals damage based on aura.

Aura Strength
Moderate Strong Overwhelming
x1.25 x1.5 x2.0

I hate making tables in HTML.  It’s the worst.

Anyway, this variant could work in 4th as well, but you’d have to bring back the 9 alignments.

1.01 Updates
– Added more specific sample actions

1.1 Updates
– Edited ranges of Aura Strength
– Added better examples

This entry was posted in 3rd, alignment, dragons, dungeons, shifting. Bookmark the permalink.

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