Saturday, 12 December 2015

Alignment in Erce

Being a write-up of how alignment works in Erce and a few ponderous notes on said write-up.

Pic unrelated.


Alignment in Erce runs on either a 2 or 4 point axis. The most fundamental and unavoidable one is Law vs Chaos – This is an either/or disposition. If you are not Lawful you are, by definition, Chaotic – There is no in between. This alignment axis is more of an allegiance, or even obligation, than an ethical or philosophical outlook that dictates ones actions – It is most fundamentally choosing sides in a cosmic battle. An adherence to a metaphysical, but very much tangible, faction.

The other polarity is an ethical one: Good vs Evil – Unlike Law and Chaos, most people are not strongly aligned with these to be truly considered either. Though good is known and valued all across the West, the notion that people ought to be guided wholly by ethical choices is not a universal one. Being morally upright is a value that must be weighed against other values like honour, bravery, social standing and reputation as the weights on the scales of what is good in life. Many acts are committed that might not be considered morally 'good' but can be justified according to other acceptable values and as such can not be considered “evil” either.

For example, killing a person who attacked your honour in public might not be “Good”, but it would not be considered evil either, since you had good reason. Nor would killing for profit (though you could well be punished for the latter). Having someone murdered covertly for a public slight on your honour, or enjoying killing outside the battlefield for the sake of killing, would be considered reprehensible and “Evil” in most places. 

For many outside the Hearthstone Lands, a moral paradigm such as good and evil is something relative to conditions, subjective and fundamentally worldly in nature. Praiseworthy perhaps, but not an absolute value. Whereas Law vs Chaos represents more primordial values, a paradigm of cosmic import. The very nature of the Middle World, and maybe all existence, depends on the balance of power between these two forces.

When "good/evil" are secondary concerns, pretexts to do stupid shit, like fighting each other, are easier to come  by.

Lawful: A lawful person follows, or at least pays lip service to, the Conventions of Gods & Men. Oaths are something significant and breaking them is likely to result in divine retribution. Names have power, and 

A lawful person is generally opposed to Chaos of all kinds.

Chaotic: A Chaotic person has either forsaken, or never adhered to, Lawful convents. Concepts like truthfulness are secondary, or even meaningless, compared to results, 

Personal power. Freedom. Individuality. Outlaws.

A chaotic person is not necessarily opposed to law – though he could well be if it stood in the way of what he feels he should be free to have or go to. But then, the same could be said for many forces beyond Law in this world….

Good: “Good” as something that ought to be pursued above all other values is something mostly seen in the codex of the Hearthstone Church that combines its philosophy of aspiring to moral purity with a strong adherence to the cause of Law.

It is mostly only such evolved beings as angels, paladins, high clerics of the White Goddess and Heart Masters who are morally pure enough to tangibly register as Good. 

Evil: “Evil” is generally reserved for the most reprehensible of beings and people. 

The sadist torturer who also abducts innocents just to practice his craft on them, the coward who would deceive and betray his family for profit and demons of all kinds (who are known to revel in human suffering) are examples of people who could be considered genuinely committed to Evil.

This guy might be deranged enough to be "evil" in Erce.

Ponderous Notes

This outlook on alignment is strongly inspired by celtic and viking age worldviews, where things like honor, reputation and such were tangible qualities and less the vain affections they have become today.

As you can see, the law/chaos angle is one players will have to wrap their heads around, whilst good/evil is left in the optional category (in-world, this perception of good/evil as tangible forces similar to law/chaos is a modern development). 

Given that it was the gods who basically invented Lawfulness to impose some order on this part of the cosmos, alignment is defined by the perspective of law - If you are not with us, you are, per definition, Chaotic. Those who try and pass off as 'neutral' are just chaotics who deny the name.

That means Chaotic runs a pretty wide spectrum. There are factions of Chaos that probably have more in common with Law than they do many other factions of Chaos. And other cosmic themes run across these spectrums as well (primarily life/death). 

But for the purpose of the gaming setting, Law/Chaos is the pivotal axis, as it is this that defines the safe lands to protect and the borderlands and mythlands that adventurers go to adventure in - It is essentially the Raison D'etre for Erce being eminently adventurable. Some may say, a world of murderhobos shouldn't need such metaplot, but I don't agree. It's as open-ended a metaplot as you can find and takes the world exactly where it should go: From the looting sandboxy style of Keep on the Borderlands to the epic quest of Three Hearts and Three Lions. In other words, a good wide spectrum for adventure that handily avoids the issues good/evil sometimes presents for D&D adventurers.

A Song of Ice and Fire is actually a decent analogy to where I am going with this, though they are not explicit. Westeros is Lawful. Full of treacherous and selfish assholes sure, but they all follow the conventions that one obeys one lord, etc. At the very least, they pay lip service to it. And on the other side of the wall are the chaotic wildlings. They may be good and honourable (though just as likely to be perverted murderous psychopaths), but given that they bow to no ruler and acknowledge no law, simply can not be trusted. They are, a priori, "Other".

Jon Snow is a bit of an odd one out, because he doesn't actually follow this paradigm. He is simply "Good" and will align himself with any lawful or chaotic man who has similar tendencies. His battle with "Evil" makes the battle between law and chaos irrelevant in his eyes. Which of course is anathema to those who are Lawful. Jon Snow would be a Paladin in Erce and an excellent demonstration of why Paladins are not really trusted by society (and much less the clergy - Paladins are also godless)  - Their fight is not necessarily the same fight as that of all decent law-abiding folk. They are too purely "Good".