Firstly, this article is not going to discuss the virtues or lack thereof of any particular alignment, nor their interpretations. All of that is left to the capable hands of the game master. What this article will cover is a mechanical method to track the often nebulas ebb and flow of a character’s behavior and how and when it impacts their alignment.
For purposes of this article we will be using the following alignment oppositions: Good vs Evil. This particular scale should be very familiar to many gamers, but note that this system can easily be applied to any number of various alignment systems.
First we need to define each scale. First the good and evil opposition. This system assumes that on one end of the scale you have Pure Good and the opposite end lies Absolute Evil, what lies between is Neutral. Pure Good will have a score of 20, Absolute Evil a score of 1 and True Neutral a score of 10. That being defined, this is a scale, therefore any score between 20-16 is considered Good aligned, while anything between 1 and 5 is considered Evil. The range between 15 to 6 is considered Neutral.
Character may choose their initial alignment as normal. If they choose good then their initial alignment will be 20 (or Pure Good). If they choose evil then their initial alignment will be 1 (or Absolute Evil). If they choose neutral then their initial alignment is 10 (True Neutral). Yes, technically 10.5 would be the absolute mid-point, but 10 is used for simplicity’s sake.
Do the same thing for any additional scales you wish to use e.g. Lawful and Chaos and assign initial values accordingly.
Through play characters often act in a manner that may cause their alignment to shift. When such an action occurs, roll a D20 and compare the result of the roll to the character’s alignment score. For example, Urtol the Paladin (currently has an alignment score of 16) decides that his piety has been lacking lately and thus devotes an entire month to selflessly serving the local orphanage, taking only simple meals as payment and spending any free time in devoted meditation. The GM decides that this warrants an alignment check and rolls a D20. He rolls a 18, since the roll was attempting to determine if the good act would affect Urtol’s alignment to the positive, the roll needed to exceed his alignment score. It did (Urtol’s alignment was a 16). So the score increases by 1 to a 17. Had Urtol instead decided that he had enough with all the bowing and scraping and rather than serve the local orphanage he simply walked in and robbed their donation box. Then a roll would be made to see if the score was impacted negatively and any result under Urtol’s alignment of 16 would cause it to drop a point.
Now the example above is an extreme case and the GM could (and should) simply alter a character’s alignment for blatant acts (like robbing the orphanage) a number of points in the proper direction. A good scale for this is for blatant acts are +/- 5pts, extreme acts are +/- 10pts. Beyond this, plunge the scale to the other end directly. The alignment check is meant more for those incidental or minor occasions that may or may not shift the character’s alignment. It should be apparent that it is harder to increase one’s goodness or evilness the closer to the poles one gets, though it is easier to slip toward the opposite end. This is again by design. It serves a two-fold role in this capacity. First, as one becomes more devoted to an end, it should require effort to maintain that devotion, and secondly incidental acts should have lessening impact, thus again the devotion requires more direct intention on the character’s part.