I Want to Open a “5 & 23” Store

I mentioned in the last post my idea of how to write PDFs and how it falls into Zak’s “how I want to know about your setting” post. Yet, it came from much more random ideas on my part.

The idea behind a “5 & 23” supplement is fairly simple. Take an idea: character generation, artifacts, the Hierarchy, whatever and create two sets of things. First, you create 5 of something about the idea. These five are longer items like an essay or other exposition text. For example, with character generation you could make an outline of character generation, an alignment chart with explanations, a brief set of common knowledge, and a couple of other things. Then you make 23 shorter things, like sets of random tables, on the same idea. A logical one for character generation would be 23 sets of Devil in the Details tables. These might have some exposition but the core idea is these are at the game table usable things. In fact, they should be laid out so the GM can print out the charts on one page, complete and alone, and just pick the one he needs out of his notebook. For example, you could hand the elf tables to the player creating an elf while the one creating a cleric could pick the Hierarchy one or The Cults of the 1,000 Saints One.

Why 5 and 23? Because they are sacred numbers to Discordians and I’ve discussed before how influential Discordianism is for me and the setting. Influential enough that when thinking about making a product or two Discordian numbers guiding the form of product.

I was discussing this in early March with someone. While I won’t claim independent creation it’s nice to know I was at least thinking along similar lines to people much smarter than me.

A new alignment chart

One of the most influential books in my life is The Principia Discordia. I read it thanks to gaming and unlike many read it before I read The Illuminatus! Trilogy, although that is as much an accident of availability as anything.

Like most people influenced by it I have a particular favorite section, The Curse of Greyface and the Introduction of Negativism. The core idea of the section just, that we could put order and disorder as well as creation and destruction on perpendicular axes and get four state, just grabbed me. As a diagram it looks like this:

For those who were around for Holmes or have read the Strategic Review issue with the five alignment chart you’ll realize they’re somewhat familiar.

I have used this chart in designing games, specifically a Mage: the Ascension game set in Berlin either in the mid-60s or the early 80s. I saw the four factions of MtAs in terms of this chart. The Traditions were disordered creation and the Technocracy was ordered creation. The Marauders were the brutal, chaotic destruction and the Nephandi, the cool ordered destruction. I liked the idea both because in casting the Technocracy as a whole as a force for good it changed the nature of the war somewhat. I also thought layering order/disorder and creation/destruction on top of Cold War Berlin had the potential for some exciting interactions. Sadly, this is another random campaign idea that didn’t come about.

It would be easy to map the chart to D&D alignments, especially the Holmes five section chart, with creation equal to good (the rest should be obvious). While easy I’d consider this a cop-out to a degree.

More interesting to me is layering this chart on top of something like James M.’s thoughts on the three tier alignment. Now we have both creative and destructive civilization set against both the rampaging destruction of demon inspired hordes (human and otherwise) as well as the beautiful, alien, and artistic fae. In fact, this chaotic creativity version of chaotic good would open the door to elves drawn more from fairy tales or games like Changeling than the bog standard Tolkien derivatives. In fact, the original D&D elf, with the ability to change classes every day, seems to fit this model more than the happy go lucky freedom fighter chaotic good of today.

Alignment is a place where the OSR can really make their mark much like the Indie scene has with ideas like humanity. Philosophical books serious, humorous, both, and neither abound and they aren’t always non-fiction (anyone think Starship Troopers isn’t a philosophy book?). Trying mining one for its core moral conflicts instead of just taking the alignments we’ve inherited. You’ll be surprised what you find.