Save My Game
Crossed Alignments
By Jason Nelson-Brown

This column provides advice for DMs whose campaigns are in trouble. Do your players constantly bicker or complain about issues both inside and outside of the main campaign action? Do your best ideas fall flat? Have you set up a situation that you now wish you hadn't? Worry no more, because Jason Nelson-Brown has the answers to save your game!

How Can You Stop Alignment Abuse?

What's a DM to do when the players declare that their characters have alignment A, but all of their actions scream alignment B? And now the players are asking for even more alignment A bonuses! This installment of Save My Game examines ways to address the question of cross-aligning.

Problem: Should Prestige Classes be Readily Available?

One of my players is running a half-elf cleric (Lawful Good, his deity is Heironeous) and wants to become a Shining Blade of Heironeous (prestige class, Complete Divine). But his behavior is more as a chaotic neutral or neutral evil than LG. How can I manage this, allowing him to be what he wants, even if his alignment is not exactly what it should be? - Karota, Wizards message boards

You asked, "How can I manage this, allowing him to be what he wants?" But you are allowing your player to be what he wants. That's what's causing the problem! What he wants is to play his character as CN or NE while reaping the benefits of being LG. You are allowing him to do that now. He should be overjoyed at the slack you've already cut him.

Your player's stated desire to be a Shining Blade of Heironeous is at odds with what he is willing to do to achieve that desire. Becoming a Shining Blade of Heironeous means doing what is necessary to become one, not simply wanting it. Saying "I want a new car" means nothing if you aren't willing to work for the money to buy that new car. Without effort to make something happen, your player's desire is just an idle fancy. He is not willing to do what is necessary (i.e., actually play the character as LG and a follower of Heironeous's teachings). These actions speak louder than words and demonstrate that he doesn't really want it that badly.

Why not have the PC switch patron deities to Hextor or Erythnul or something more accommodating to his attitude and behavior? If what your PC really wants are the class abilities of the Shining Blade of Heironeous, think about adapting the class to fit with one of these deities instead.

Players can play their characters any way they like, but they have to deal with the consequences of their choices. One consequence is a forced alignment change by you to one more in keeping with their actions. They can hop up and down all they like while declaring that their character is Lawful Good, but if their actions scream Chaotic Neutral then it doesn't matter.

The player may still have LG written on his character sheet, but if he refuses to accept your judgment about alignment and behavior, then everyone and everything in the game will respond to the character based on what you consider his actual alignment. This applies to aligned spells and items as well as NPCs for whom alignment and behavior is important. It is very unlikely that the PC would persuade anyone in the church of Heironeus to accept his petition for training and induction into the order of Shining Blades. Even if prestige classes are an individual thing, not related to organizations, no amount of bluffing is going to convince Heironeus that the PC really is Shining Blade material when the God of Valor can look right through the character's soul and see that he's more of a Tinfoil Blade! After all, he gets to roleplay his character -- as DM, you get to roleplay Heironeus. If the deity does not accept the character's worship and lip-service, he can't be a Shining Blade. It's that simple.

HOWEVER, having stated all that, also consider that this is fundamentally a communication problem, and the bulk of the blame falls on your shoulders. Maybe this player has no idea what alignments really mean. As DM, it's your job to educate the player on this score. By letting the player get this far supposedly as a LG Heironeous cleric, you've showed him that you think his actions are appropriate behavior for that alignment and deity, even if inside your own head you think that it's inappropriate, CN/NE behavior. He's not a mind reader, either, so unless you tell him that you don't like what he's doing, and then enforce that statement with game-related consequences, he won't know.

About the Author

Jason Nelson-Brown lives in Seattle with his wife Kelle, daughters Meshia and Indigo, son Allen, and dog Bear. He is an active and committed born-again Christian who began playing D&D in 1981 and currently runs one weekly campaign while playing intermittently in two others.

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