Unconventional Alignment
Alignments that subvert the expected format.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-04-10 14:22:03 sponsor: Pig_catapult edited by: Melkior (last reply: 2013-07-09 02:38:26)

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Because Dungeons & Dragons is the Trope Codifier and Ur Example of so many Tabletop Game tropes, the two-axis alignment system (Order vs. Chaos and Good vs. Evil) is considered the default, even when it wouldn't make sense. We have The Great Character Alignment Debate that deals with using the system in places where it doesn't work or matter.

Some systems/works, however, subvert our expectations of the alignment system by replacing or adding new scales (and not just the same scale by a different name). Perhaps the system cares about how sane a character is, or how famous they are.

Another way to subvert the expectations is to replace one or both scales with a single word. We use the word "stupid", usually, based on how other characters have behaved in stories and Real Life. See Lawful Stupid, Chaotic Stupid.

Unique alignments can add both nuance and often humor to what would otherwise be a dry description of which predefined box someone sits in.

Subtrope of Character Alignment.

Examples:

  • Some DMs have suggested a 'naughty and nice' alignment system.

  • FATAL just copied the alignment chart from D&D and subbed Ethical-->Unethical for Lawful-->Chaotic and Moral-->Immoral for Good-->Evil. (Presumably because some versions of D&D refer to law/chaos as the "ethical" axis and good/evil as the "moral" axis of the chart.)

  • Jade Empire uses 'Open Palm' and 'Closed Fist' as stand-ins for Lawful/Good and Chaotic/Evil. They're presented as subtle moral principles [[note]] Open Palm stands for harmony, accepting one's position in life and helping others accept theirs by supporting them, while Closed Fist stands for chaos, seeking to rise above one's station and encouraging others to do the same by teaching them self-sufficiency, harshly if necessary[[/note]], but in practise most of the alignment-related decisions boil down to 'Do I want to be a Nice Guy or a dog-kicking Jerkass?'. Though if you believe the Big Bad's Motive Rant, he's an example of how Open Palm can turn someone into a Light Is Not Good Knight Templar.

  • Mass Effect aligns its Karma Meter with the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, respectively called "Paragon" and "Renegade". Unusually the two are counted as separate stat bars so it's common to have a mix of the two, hence the Fan Nickname "Paragade" for one common choice described in this forum post as:
    TMALIVE: You're a smart mouth asshole sometimes, and you express frustration when angry with a character. But you also have a heart, and mostly do the right thing.

  • The Order of the Stick has a tie-in adventure game which lists the main cast's alignments as Beleaguered Good (Roy), Chaotic Greedy (Haley), Foolish Good (Elan), Arrogant Neutral (Vaarsuvius), Selfish Evil (Belkar), and Lawful Bland (Durkon).

  • In Fate/stay night all the servants have one specific alignment of the regular axis, with the Exemption of The Berserker Class, wich Exchanges the sanity of the servant for a Stat Boost, overriding the Morality Axis for the simple "Mad" Label, and for example Lancelot, the Berserker servant of the Fourth Was was "Lawful Mad" while Herakles, the Berserker servant of the fifth was "Chaotic Mad"

  • On This Very Wiki: The Stupid axis.

  • Seventh Sanctum has a "Realistic Alignment" generator that churns out such things as "Nerdy Evil" and "Frugal Good"
  • Fable II has the standard Good/Evil axis and a not-so-standard Pure/Corrupt one, described by in-game text as essentially "be healthy vs. enjoy yourself". Charging high rent is also corrupt, for some reason.

  • The classic Ultima games from Ultima IV onwards featured an alignment system consisting of eight theoretically independent Virtue scales: Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality, and Humility. "Theoretically" because in specific situations Virtues contradicted each other, forcing the player to prioritize one over the other, but ultimate achieve perfection in each of them to become the Avatar.
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera features the eponymous five Tides instead of a classical alignment. The Tides represent the inner values less than the outcome and the impact of your actions.

  • Missions in Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries will give you either "nobility" or "infamy". Nobility is usually earned for defense-oriented missions like convoy escorts and reinforcement, letting defeated opponents flee, protecting optional objectives, and also fighting the Clans or Capellans. Infamy is gained for aggressive missions like raids and convoy interception, destroying retreating enemies, and assassinations. The two numbers are measured side-by-side, and usually go exclusively up (and the game notes that it's practically impossible to not get a fair bit of each), but one mission does decrease your infamy - after a mission as honor guard at a peace conference (which get bombed, to nobody's surprise), you have the option to escort the delegates off-planet, provided you do it free of charge.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game, Dark Heresy, is set in the the morally gray 41st millennium, substituting a system of Insanity and Corruption to determine how crazy or Chaos influenced you are.
    • Meanwhile, spin-off game Black Crusade replaces these with Corruption and Infamy; Corruption is how warped by Chaos you are, while Infamy is a weird combination of how strong your spirit is, how notorious you are, and how much notice the Chaos Gods pay to you. High Infamy is the key to becoming a Daemon Prince, while Corruption maxing out will transform you into a Chaos Spawn.
    • Inquisitor's alignments (for the 'Inquisition' leader characters) are Puritan and Radical. Although it is a very grey area, Puritan generally refers to characters who refuse to use tactics or equipment tainted by Chaos or Xenos, while Radical factions will use techniques further on the edge. The backstory involves Inquisitorial factions that fight over the idea of resurrecting the Emperor. This is not good or evil, but merely the methods that they might use while being good or evil.
  • The summoned champions of Fate/stay night each have the standard D&D-esque alignment. This trope comes into play with the additional axis (Mad) for the Berserker class. For example, Saber is Lawful Good, Archer is True Neutral, Gilgamesh is Chaotic Good, and Berserker is Chaotic Mad.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne the previous system of alignment is discarded in favour of three specific philosophies: Shijima (which is closest to Law, except that the Knight Templar tendencies take a different form), Musabi (Neutral, but focusing on individuality and freedom of choice) and Yosuga (Chaos with a heavy dose of the elitism that Law was previously known for). Two more spoiler endings; screwing them all and either returning the world to the way it used to be, or leaving the Vortex World the way it is, and in the Maniax edition, True Demon, in which you say "fuck that noise", give up your leftover humanity and join Lucifer's army in order to take out God and keep this stuff from happening over and over again
    • Games outside the main continuity tend to ditch the alignment system completely. Devil Survivor, despite having Multiple Endings, bases your ending on who you ally with to gain control of Babel and end the lockdown.
  • In Mass Effect, the character is rated on an ethical axis rather than a moral one. Forced to play the hero by the plot, the character can decide to be a nice guy and play by the rules ("Paragon" lawful/neutral) or be a huge jerk that gets the job done ("Renegade" chaotic). Interestingly, the character is rated on both criteria independently, so Paragon acts do not overwrite Renegade ones or viceversa. This can lead to interesting situations: a popular playing style known as "Lawful Angry" involves being a Paragon in a situation first - and then punching people when things inevitably go downhill. Essentially a Beware the Nice Ones alignment.
  • The Four Humors theory of personality.

  • Magic The Gathering uses a five-colour system. While the five colours have been mapped to the conventional D&D style alignment, it isn't really a 1:1. Intentionally so, alignment to a colour philosophy is the focus of both flavour and mechanical design.
    • Characters who use magic tend to be judged more based on what colour of mana they would prefer to use.
    • Cards are limited to what the colour can do mechanically. Such as the "Flying" ability for Blue, and the "Deathtouch" ability for Black.
    • Alara shows five planes where two allied pairs are missing from each plane, and the effects on the environment.
    • Ravnica features a Guild for each two-colour pair, any two-colour card is automatically aligned to that guild's philosophies.

  • In a rare non-comedic example, all servants in Fate/stay night have one specific alignment of the regular axis, with the exemption of The Berserker Class, which exchanges the sanity of the servant for a Stat Boost, overriding the Good/Evil for the simple "Mad" Label. For example, Lancelot, the Berserker servant of the Fourth War, was "Lawful Mad" while Herakles, the Berserker servant of the Fifth War, was "Chaotic Mad"

  • 7th Sea has alignment as a division between heroes, scoundrels and villains. Every NPC has a line in their stats, listing whether they are heroic or villainous. But not Mad King Jack O'Bannon. He is listed as "The O'Bannon", not "Hero" or "Villain".
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