Good vs. Evil: Why Alignments Don't Work

In many TTRPGs alignment is a big part of creating your character. We have all seen the memes that label certain zodiac signs or types of people as a specific alignment, and it is fun to joke about tendencies and behaviors. But, as a game mechanic, alignments don’t work because they severely hinder creativity. It is rare to find a person 100% good or evil. People will do good things and bad things throughout their life, and are multifaceted and complex. You will have more personal flexibility, creativity, and fun with a character who can choose specific limits that allow them to respond to particular scenarios with specific behaviors. Then you get the joy of discovering the deeper nuances of your character, which leads to a much more in depth story. With alignments predetermined, you end up with more shallow characters, unless you bend rules or push to create something out of the ordinary.

This is why we implemented motivations and personal goals in the Rupture RPG system, and have no alignments. Now your actions have more to do with the result you desire and not a predetermined moral stance.

Here are the top four ways alignment stifles creativity:

1. Forces certain races/classes to all act the same

The traditional TTRPG world is full of stereotypes for specific character concepts like the seductive bard, the grumpy wizard, or the hippy druid that are further reinforced by alignments that are required for specific classes and races. For example, a paladin that always is a champion of good, unless he specifically follows a modified rules set to be otherwise. Why not instead have a paladin that champions a specific belief, and behaves in a way that supports that as his personal goal. Sometimes his behavior leans good, sometimes evil.

2. Hinders personal limit exploration

When faced with a difficult decision in a well crafted TTRPG session, alignment makes it too easy to default to a set behavior. Rather than dig deep and find what limits your character has. It is easy to say “Since I am good I would…” unless you are a particularly innovative player and probably a rules lawyer’s nightmare already. By removing alignments in exchange for personal goals, your character has to decide what makes the most sense for them with challenging situations and has no preset behaviors to fall back on.

3. Limits diversity within a certain character type

One of the earliest conflicts I had with alignment in TTRPGs is the notion that to be a certain race/class, you have to be a particular alignment. It never made sense to me that all Drow are evil, for example. It felt very discriminatory that all characters of a certain type have to be a certain alignment. With alignments, you create a lack of diversity within certain character races/classes that ripples into discriminatory practices within the TTRPG community as a whole. So, eliminating alignment helps the table be more diverse and accepting of each player and each character exactly as they are and exchanges unfounded judgments for observations of actions within the game.

4. Dissuades out of the box creative solutions

If you are used to how a character of a certain alignment behaves, now you are just choosing your character based on what alignment allows you to act the way you imagine your characte acting. This writes the same scene for most of the story before the adventure even begins, in an almost cut and paste fashion. If you eliminate alignments, each character is a blank slate and often surprises the player how they develop with each scenario. Your character should have as much freedom of self expression as you do, and when the creative juices are flowing, they might surprise you about who they really are.

So, create a character that is as unique as you are, not one that has to fit in a certain box because the alignment said so.The concept for your character is only limited by your imagination. Come join us and let’s create epic stories together in Rupture.