Saturday, 9 June 2012

OSRIC: Religion, Morality and Alignment

One thing's for certain, I really need to find a new name for my War of the Roses OSRIC campaign. Something a little catchier. OSRIC: Age of Anarchy, perhaps. What do you guys think?

Anyway, one of the (slightly) different things about this campaign is the way I'm treating alignment. Rather than doing away with the concept altogether, except for extremes of good and evil (as I often do) alignment with be replaced by moral codes and religions. This is still a work in progress at the moment, but the options at present are:

Religious Alignment Choices:
  • Medieval Catholicism
  • Medieval Islam
  • Medieval Druidism/Paganism
  • Medieval Judaism
  • Medieval Orthodox
  • Servant of the Dark One (NPC Only)
 The religion based alignments are the most nebulous of all in a very real sense. For example, most of the major religions have a variant on "though shall not kill". As mentioned in a previous post though, Catholics believe that only humans have souls, so this rule only counts towards killing humans. That being said, for a Catholic it's perfectly acceptable to kill a human if he (or she) is a non-christian, or if you're a member of the knightly and noble caste (because god has ordained that you are born into a role that requires killing) and have a fairly good reason for doing so.

So, these five choices aren't quite the straight-jacket they might first appear to be.

Then we have the (sometimes) more restrictive, properly fixed moral codes:
Rashi, perhaps the best known medieval Rabbi and Scholar

Moral Alignment Choices:
  • Athiest/Agnostic
  • Chivalric Code
  • Humanist
  •  Irreligious
  • Secular Devotion
The Humanist and Chivalric moral codes are perhaps the most tightly restrictive in a sense that they have fairly well defined limits. Like everything else, of course, there are loopholes to exploit, but the Chivalric code especially is fairly well defined. The irreligious and atheist/agnostic alignments give the greatest freedom of action of all, perhaps equivalent to true-neutral in the traditional D&D alignment spectrum. Basically, such people are limited in their actions only by the actions and the beliefs of the authorities around them.

Lastly, we have Secular Devotion, which implies an utter adherence to an NPC secular authority such as the King, a Duke or Earl or even simply a friend or loved one. The limitation here is that the character won't do anything to act against the interests of the object of his devotion, but at the same time the character would be reluctant to disobey any instructions from this same NPC, regardless of how abhorrent. Most of the lower-end bad-guy NPC's in this game will have this alignment, which is very similar to lawful neutral in many respects.

Finally, we have good and evil
Salahadin: A great example for Islamic Paladin characters

Good and Evil:
Good and Evil, Law and Chaos no longer exist in an alignment sense, but they do still have a place in the game world. Generally, for a creature of being to be affected by such as a spell, they must have a history of routinely acting in a certain way. For example, angels and demons are always affected by spells that affect good and evil creatures respectively. A knightly character who consistently acts to uphold the law and maintain stability in the land (regardless of his actual alignment) would be affected by spells such as Protection from Law. A robber-knight on the other hand (or one notorious for changing sides during the Wars) would be affected by Protection from Chaos and so on.

Alignment and Clerics:
Clerics, strictly speaking, can be of any alignment, not just the alignment of their religion. However, if they wish to retain their spell casting abilities, they had better ensure that their actions remain consistent with the tenants of the religion they represent. Thus, a Catholic cleric might have the Secular Devotion alignment, and be devoted to the service of his brother, an NPC Lord. He might politic and preach on his brothers behalf without effect, but if he arranges the assassination of his brother's enemies, he can kiss those clerical abilities of his good-bye.

This helps to explain why so many priests in the historical time period (and setting) can act contrary to the interests of their religion and still remain priests. In a gaming sense, the ones that manage to obey the tenants of their religion can perform minor miracles. The ones who betray their religious beliefs in favour of more secular or personal concerns, lose their powers. Often very early in their clerical careers. The few who manage to exist in the secular world and remain true to their faith are essentially minor miracle workers, moving to become widely recognised as living saints (or prophets) at higher levels.

Pope John XXIII. A fine example of a priest who most definitely would have lost his cleric powers in this setting.
 All these concepts are just skeletons at the moment, in need of a great deal of fleshing out. But that's where the alignment system remains at the moment.

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