Episode 10 — “A Series Discussion”

Alignment, world building, morality, player investment. This episode is a grab bag of stuff started off by your comments and feedback. We respond to questions about point buy vs. rolling, talk about one-page RPG systems, and even top it all off with news from Amazon.

Brian: https://twitter.com/Fiddleback
Scott: https://twitter.com/TheAngryGM

Website: http://www.DigressionsAndDragons.com
Email: DigressionsandDragons@gmail.com

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The voice and producer of GM Word of the Week, he is also a Freelance Tabletop Game Editor and Writer as well as a long time podcaster. He has written and edited for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPGs, Modiphius Entertainment's Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPGs and several others. He is currently working on his own Transit RPG.

11 thoughts on “Episode 10 — “A Series Discussion”

  1. Re: morality system

    I think my favorite alignment/morality system in an RPG is from Pendragon. (very similar in some ways to Ultima 4 like Scott mentioned as his favorite)

    For those who aren’t familiar, you have a list of 13 opposed personality traits/virtues/vices.

    Chaste / Lustful
    Energetic / Lazy
    Forgiving / Vengeful
    Generous / Selfish
    Honest / Deceitful
    Just / Arbitrary
    Merciful / Cruel
    Modest / Proud
    Pious / Worldly
    Prudent / Reckless
    Temperate / Indulgent
    Trusting / Suspicious
    Valorous / Cowardly

    Each pair has 20 points, but it’s zero-sum, so you’d be 14 Trusting/6 Suspicious, or 7 Pious/13 Worldly. These traits increase by chance on use, and it’s harder to improve a higher score, so becoming more virtuous really requires you to focus on being more Merciful (for example) and avoid being cruel.

    I like systems like this, or others where players state their ideals up front, and then the GM has a pain point to challenge the character on. If you are trying to be an Honest character, and there’s a real mechanical representation of that, the GM has opportunities to challenge that. That’s the only way I’ve found such systems to be of real use in a game, when they provide another avenue of challenge.

    1. That seems awesome! Do the system have built-in consequences for each moral value score, or is more like a “freestyle” tool for the GM?

      1. There are a few things.

        First of all, these traits as basically your skills. If you are trying to act bravely, you roll your Valor. So the higher your trait, the easier it is for you to act out on these virtues or vices.

        Second, if you have a score of 16 or higher on a virtue, you gain Glory for it and are particularly well-known for that trait.

        If you are a Religious Knight, you get bonuses for keeping all the virtues associated with your religion above 16.

        There are also traits that can modify these scores for certain rules. For example, you can have a weakness for blondes, meaning you add to your Lustful roll when blondes are involved, or Mistrust of Romans, so you add to your Suspicious roll when interacting with Romans.

      1. It’s a bit long, but it basically acts as the skill list for the game so it’s not overly long.

        I love the mechanic of these skills/traits existing on an opposed continuum though, and have played around with other ways to use that idea in games.

  2. I know Im going to get some hate, but Scott’s definition of good – in RPG, at least – seems to be simply “Don’t be evil”. He even says that, in real life, most people would be good aligned because they follow the rules and try not to harm one another.

    But when I played D&D 3.5 – that is, when alingnment still mattered – I used the guidlines on the “bibles” of good and evil: The Book of Exalted Deeds and The Book of Vile Darkness (even if the last was a 3.0 Book).

    Basically, for a character to be good he has to be selfless. He has to put others interests before his own. This can bem done by donating part of his loot, working for free, stoping a robbery in the streets, or stepping foward to fight the Dragon who terrorize the village.

    A neutral character would get in dangerous situations only If he saw something to gain – treasure, respect, fame etc. A neutral character would bargain about the price.of the bounty over the capture of the mountain bandits, would refuse a mission to rescue a farmer’s daughter without a promisse of loot (or booty), but would not lie to the Bishop about the evil nature of the powerfull artifact the party discovered in the catacombs.

    An evil character is one who does not shy from harm anothers in the pursuit of his goals. Torture, lies, robbery, or even genocide, all this are valid tools for an evil character to achieve his goals.

    But where I think Scott is right on the spot os when he says that alingnment, while an objective truth of the game world – should be a goal. Even if is dictated by your actions. One of the best examples I can think of is from Order of the Stick, when a character is in the celestial realms facing trial


    As for law and chaos, I do believe that most people in the US could bem classified as Lawful, but in Brazil we are definitly a neutral population, leaning towards chaos 😁

    Anyway, thanks again for the awesome podcast. Also, its great to hear Scott instead of Angry, for a change!

  3. Scott, I always love hearing about the Angryverse, would a setting book based on it be something you may or may not be working on ;)? Or may or may not have considered it?

  4. I was happy to hear your positive opinion of John Carter! I really enjoyed that movie. It was especially interesting to learn that any of its cliches were there essentially because the books invented them!

    For the bird story, you both sounded pretty incredulous. If you haven’t seen it, check out a flock of birds scaring off a hawk! Small and annoying beats fierce predator, apparently!

    1. Hellooo Fellow Barsoomian!

      And yes, little birds can be quite intimidating when they put their mind to it. It’s one thing to watch it on a video, and quite another to have it happening in your front yard. 🙂

  5. Nice episode as always.
    Im kinda late to the party, but had a few thoughts regarding Scott’s take on the difference between sorcerers and wizards. It’s something that always bugged me in D&D… why are the Arcane casters defined by their method of aquisition of power (learned / innate / bargained)? Whereas other caster classes are more strongly defined by the source of their power (gods, nature, their own mind). It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, specially considering D&D has so many types of magic that gets relegated into Arcane (like elemental magic, shadow magic, and fey magic).
    What a mess.
    In my mind, a much better division could be made by linkin each caster class to a power source or plane. Clerics draw power from the gods in the astral plane, and druids from nature and the material plane. Then you could have sorcerers as the Elemental casters, necromancers drawing power from the Shadowfell, and Warlocks as being purely Infernal casters (drawing power from the Abyss or the Nine Hells). And you could add new classes: a Beguiler, that draws powers of illusion of enchantment from the feywild, and maybe even some class that ties into the Far Realm (Cultist, maybe?). And lastly, keep Wizard as the Arcane class, being the master of pure, unadultered magic, with the ability to tap into all other power sources to a small degree.
    I think such definitions would give each class a more distinct identity. What do you guys think?

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