Alignment: Pondering Good and Evil (in RPGs)

I’m in a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign at the moment, and the players recently had an ethical debate about something that happened a couple of sessions ago. This debate wasn’t about Alignment but, when talking ethics in D&D, Alignment is impossible to avoid.

The concept of Alignment elicits some very powerful emotions among roleplayers. I am not immune to this. I have strong feelings about Good and Evil in particular, but my headcanon is largely incompatible with the way that Alignment is used in D&D itself.

D&D Alignment does double duty as a reflection of your personal morality as your position in a great eternal conflict between cosmic forces of unimaginable power. It has accomplished this serviceably well for decades, but I think that this splitting of focus can sometimes confuse gamemakers and players.

However, if we narrow down Alignment’s focus to just character morality, removing any link to a heavenly absolute Good or infernal absolute Evil, then it can become a lot more nuanced. What if individuals didn’t have a fixed Alignment, but one that varied according to how much they cared about other people? Would this make it more useful as a tool for analysing characters in other games, or more generally?

To examine this, let’s have a look at Sir Brad Starlight (pictured) and some other characters from the series Wander Over Yonder, then talk about another way we could think about Alignment.

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Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part 4: Unleashing the other strangeness (long-running campaigns)

Ninja Turtles (Mirage vol 4) by channandeller (Ryan Wilton)
This fanart by Ryan Wilton shows how the TMNT look in volume 4 of the comic (by original creater Peter Laird). Front row, left to right: Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo. Back: Raphael.

This is my fourth and final blog post about adapting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) to the roleplaying game Fate. I’ve previously discussed systems (part 1), player characters (part 2), and written a one-shot adventure (part 3).

Now I want to talk about how I’d run longer TMNT campaigns.

As I mentioned last time, the shorter your campaign, the tighter and less fantastical your TMNT game should be. For a one-shot, I focused on a simple rescue tale with a single villain. But the TMNT franchise is a vast kitchen sink world (with, for example, ninjas, mutants, mad science, aliens, robots, magic, time travel, ancient civilisations, ghosts, Lovecraftian monsters, parallel dimensions, and superheroes), so in this post I’m going to explain just how bonkers I’d want to get if my players and I were committed to a significant number of sessions.

For one thing, they’re not teenagers any more…

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Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part 3: When the evil Shredder attacks (one-shot adventure)

The TMNT surrounded by Foot Clan by blackbat
In this third part in my series about adapting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) as a roleplaying game, I outline a one-shot adventure and a handful of featured NPCs. (In part 1, I explained why I was using the system from The Three Rocketeers, a World of Aventure for Fate Core. In part 2, I produced character sheets of the four main characters to use in a campaign.)

Although I made a big deal about making the character write-ups flexible enough to apply to multiple versions of the characters, in this post I largely throw that out of the window in pursuit of a different goal: streamlining and simplicity. This involves featuring one main threat (the Shredder), focusing on one main plot hook (Splinter is kidnapped), and cutting out everything that doesn’t support these (sorry, April).

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Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part 1: Introduction to Rocketeering

TMNT (2003 versions) and supporting cast (1987 versions). Print by Khary Randolph and Emilio Lopez

I have a big soft spot for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). I grew up watching the old 1987 Fred Wolf cartoon (“Heroes in a half shell! Turtle power!”), and fell back in love watching the 2003 4Kids! cartoon. I’ll defend the 1990 Golden Harvest film as a cinematic gem until the day I die.

For years, I have been thinking about how I’d go about running a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles roleplaying game. I’m probably never going to run a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles campaign, since I only run games in person and I don’t know many roleplayers who are fans of TMNT. But that’s never stopped me from thinking about it and now, finally, I know how I’d go about setting up such a game.

In this series of blog posts I’m going to set out the process by which I would adapt TMNT to a roleplaying game. In this introductory post, I discuss game mechanics and explain why, for a shorter campaign featuring the four turtles as PCs, my prefered system is The Three Rocketeers, an aspects-only variant of Fate Core. In later posts, I’ll present character sheets for the turtles (part 2), lay out at one-shot adventure and stat up some major antagonists as NPCs (part 3), and talk about how I’d set up a longer campaign as a GM (part 4).

I hope that any GMs and players who are interested in a TMNT game will be able to follow what I’ve done and use it to play something that kicks ass. (And if any of my roleplaying friends want to play such a game, please let me know so we can make it happen!)

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10 things I learned running Dungeon World (part 2)

Ziggurat by malachi78 from DeviantArt

2015 was a pretty good year for my roleplaying, all told. It’s the year I started this blog. It’s also the year I started attending a monthly RPG Book and Brunch Club, which introduced me to games like Breaking the Ice, Sorcerer, and Swords Without Master (plus games I never reviewed, like Microscope). I’ve run and played a variety of games, both one-offs and campaigns.

And, of course, it’s the year I started and finished running my campaign of Dungeon World, which I started reviewing in my previous blog post.

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10 things I learned running Dungeon World (part 1)

Skeleton mariachi band. DIA DE LOS MUERTOS by RM73 at deviantart

Last night I ran the finale session of my Dungeon World campaign, and boy did it end on a high note. The first half of the session was relatively sedate and character-focused, and the second half was an all-out battle against a monstrous dragon.

There were three player characters at the end of the campaign:

  • Clovis the Giant, later Clovis the Dragon-hearted, a halfling barbarian from the great desert to the north-west who longs to kill the Great Horned Dragon that wiped out his people.
  • Rurgosh, a bald dwarven cleric of the god Fade, who presides over rocks and forgotten things. Rurgosh secretly longs for fame and glory, despite the precepts of their god.
  • Enrico, elven bard of Lothlorenza, who is composing the Ballad of Clovis the Giant upon his father’s mandolin as they travel.

(There had originally been a human wizard named Morgan, but he left before they became famous.)

These characters, with their hirelings and a local town of (skeleton) civilians, came together in the final session to defeat the Great Horned Dragon. ‘Twas truly a tale for the ages.

The campaign started in January, so it ran for almost exactly a year. In that time, I’ve learned (or been reminded of) a few tricks not just forĀ Dungeon World, but other roleplaying games too. Here are the top 10 things I learned from the game.

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