Alignment is like Communism: It sounds like a good idea, and in principle it could work, but in the real world it just falls flat.

In every RPG I’ve ever run or played that has an alignment system, I’ve found the following to be true:

  • Alignment is a shortcut past real character development.
  • There’s always at least one “do whatever you want” alignment.
  • Evil = you can kill it without feeling bad.
  • Even if the game says it’s just a guideline, someone takes it as a rule.
  • As a GM, alignments color my expectations about PC actions, often to my detriment.

In games where character development doesn’t matter (an old school hack-and-slash dungeon crawl, for example), neither does alignment. In games where character development does matter, alignment discourages it by painting everyone with broad brushes.

Does alignment ever work the way it was intended to work?