First Steps to Alignment

In a space setting where the major currents are the silent war between two groups of metaphysical warriors modeled on the Jedi and the Sith seen from the back of a sandworm with analogs of Greek Oracles, Bene Gesserit, Mentats as non-aligned (or both aligned) metaphysical players the Law/Neutral/Chaos system of OD&D seems to be a poor fit. Expanding it via Good/Neutral/Evil doesn’t seem to help.

I was looking for an idea of what the Imperial position would be and considered “anti-life” but not in the sense of death but in terms of the Anti-life Equation of Jack Kirby’s New Gods comic. Knowledge of it allows one to dominate others by removing free-will. At the end of the Wikipedia article on the topic (linked above) I found this note:

The Anti-Life Equation is similar to Nietzsche’s Aristocratic equation, Good = Humble = Powerful = Beautiful = Happy = Loved by God.

For those unfamiliar with Nietzsche one key idea is social evolution from a Master morality to a slave morality in society. A slave morality is the Judeo-Christian morality of charity, faith, and sacrifice. The Master morality is one that values wealth, strength, health, and power which is also, interestingly enough, a good summary of the Classical (Greek and pagan Roman) virtues. Interesting notes for a game with a heavy Greek mythological patina.

Another Nietzchean idea is “the will to power” which can be variously interpreted to mean internal power (self-mastery) or external power (ruling, being a master). A key idea in Dune is maximizing human potential, which fits very well with the first interpretation. If we take both interpretations and filter them through the Greek heroic virtues the Imperial clans see themselves, through their ability to master both themselves (metaphysics) and others (the metaphysics the Clans call “anti-life”) as the natural rulers of everyone else.

So my Imperial alignment is “The Will to Power” but what would the Hidden Clans be and how do I give that a mechanical importance.

Well, what other wills can we think about? The will to live, to serve, to survive, to achieve, to master, to transcend, and so on. Hold that thought.

In thinking about classes and abilities it’s been clear to me that traditional Vancian magic is inappropriate to this setting. I had decided to represent them by either using the OD&D/AD&D psionics, importing force powers from the various Star Wars RPGs, or some combo of the two. While I’ll take some notes I’m going to hold off given a reworking of the Eldrich Wizardry psionics rules is in progress. One thing I wanted to do was to find a way to insure that Imperials, Clansmen, Oracles, Sisters, and Muses took different powers.

Now I have it. Alignment will be replaced by a system of wills. A character will select one or more (probably two, three at the most) compatible wills from a list (both with each other and class). Each will gives access to certain psionic powers and some powers require a combination of wills. Characters with drift will find their powers failing yet or, as appropriate, having different effects.

Of course, as always, the devil is in the details but I think I’ve got the basic framework in place.

3 thoughts on “First Steps to Alignment

  1. I -really- like this idea because it directly links “alignment” as a concept in the players’ mind to actual success/fail behavior if their choices don’t line up with their espoused ideals. Something too many other systems lack because alignment is too de-coupled from other mechanics of player health and combat.

    Very cool.

  2. yeah – this is REALLY neat! I'm trying to think of other “wills to…”

    I like the idea of using alignment with mechanics, making it 'mean' something in game terms. Alignment was only ever vaguely satisfying to me in D&D (various eds.) and I generally ignored it.

    will to social cohesion?
    will to transendant experience ?
    ???

    I'm interested to see how this develops!

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