Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dungeons and Pendragons

Much has been said about the alignment system in D&D and many have tried to 'fix' it. One take I haven't seen yet, or at least not fleshed out, is the Pendragon personality traits system converted to D&D.

For those of you who don't know, in Pendragon you play a knight, or, more accurately, everybody plays a knight. You might wonder, how much fun is it to play a party consisting of only paladins, but let me assure you, it is totally awesome. In fact, it is so awesome Pendragon is one of my favourite RPGs, despite the fact that I totally love D&D and its derivatives.

Yes, you play 'only' a knight, but the game system is built in such a way that you will play your knight to the limit. It is one of the rare systems that the decline and final down-fall of your character is something inevitable, memorable, and something you are in a certain way even looking forward to. The campaign can have epic proportions, covering decades, if not centuries, of game time. Your character will grow, age, and die ... and then you will continue play with one of your own heirs!

But, I digress. Alignment. The way Pendragon handles alignment is by defining a set of opposing personality traits: Honest/Deceitful, Merciful/Cruel etc. The score of each lies in the range 1-20, but the sum of a pair is always 21. So, if your Honest=14, then automatically your Deceitful=7.

In Pendragon these scores may prevent you to perform certain actions: a honest knight might not be able to tell a particular lie. This is probably not the way you would like to handle decisions in D&D where players are used to unlimited freedom, albeit that actions can have undesired consequences. But these consequences are based on the whims of the DM and especially in case of alignment, where do you draw the line for an actual alignment change?

But there is one aspect to the Pendragon trait system that can be used within D&D and that is that the scores can change based on your actions. In Pendragon these changes happen at most once per game year, which corresponds roughly with once per adventure. For D&D I would like to propose to check if the score changes at every relevant occasion. The rules I propose are the following:

- Whenever a character performs a benificial action corresponding to a trait with a score of 10-, she must roll higher than her score on a d20 to gain a +1 on this trait (and consequently a -1 on the paired trait).
- Whenever a character performs a action not benificial to her, but corresponding to a trait with a score of 11+, she must roll higher than her score on a d20 to gain a +1 on this trait (and consequently a -1 on the paired trait).

So, basically there must be a choice: some in-game benefit vs. trait score. For example, if a character with Deceitful=7 is lying to gain something, she must roll a d20. If the die result is 7+ she will permanently change her score to 8 and consequently lower her Honest score to 13. In the opposite case, if she decides to be truthful and therefore forefeit the gain, she must roll a d20 against her Honest score. If the roll is 14+ her Honest score will now become 15 and her Deceitful 6.

In this way characters can do whatever they want to but immediately see the consequences of their actions back in their personality scores.

The main question is now, how to implement D&D alignment rules into this system. Of the top of my head alignment restrictions, spells dealing with alignment, and items usable by only certain alignments, need to be addressed and will be the subjects of the upcoming posts.

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