Alignment Changes

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Alignment, especially race-restricted alignment, has always been a sticky issue, not just for Avendar but for pretty much every game that uses it. Modern game design has been steadily moving away from alignment as something that is important or even exists due to the baggage and complications to storytelling it introduces. While alignment is baked too much into Avendar’s setting to excise entirely (nor would we want to) what we can do is adjust it so it makes more sense in-play and open up some roles that have until now been unavailable without extreme penalties. This should help with contextualizing things like genocide being an act that a good-aligned person can advocate, or an evil-aligned person being a kind and charitable individual, as well as avoiding the quagmire of saying that a race with certain characteristics reminiscent of real-life cultures cannot be good-aligned.

So with that out of the way, here is the broad, sweeping vision of alignment going forward:

Good and Evil in the sense of alignment are not merely references to the personal morality of individuals or even most societies, but rather sides in a cosmic-scale war as begun by Jolinn and Ashur at the beginning of creation. On one side, you have the purity of Jolinn as the font of life and ordered creation, and on the other you have the stillness of Ashur as the force of death and entropy. As other deities arrived on the scene, many of their personal concerns and portfolios overlapped with one of these two deities and they took a side, but just as many did not, either because the war does not interest them or they believe both of these forces need to or should exist in balance or harmony.

The concerns of cosmic alignment are vast; it is deities doing deity things, and though this is often through mortal agents by necessity due to the Compact, deities think about things on a larger and more far-reaching scale than most mortals are able to. By nature this makes their actions and positions morally incomprehensible and even alien from a mortal point of view; evil tends to be self-explanatory in that respect, but this is why you also have good-aligned gods like Calaera saying “yes we should annihilate every single evil person and wipe out the shuddeni race,” because that is a reasonable position for a good-aligned deity to take; most people actually living in the world with a nice quiet shuddeni neighbor upstairs are not going to take that kind of extreme position.

Individuals who do fall to either side or another are indicating that their values do in some fashion align with those respective positions though. A Good character will care about things like purity, light, unity, harmony, generosity, cultivation, and life. Conversely, if your character is Evil, there is something of their values that reflects the principles of stillness, death, entropy, destruction, selfishness, or endings. Your character may not care about all or even most of those, but one or more of them is where their morals will be rooted, and from there a wide range of behaviors is possible and justifiable for both alignments; a good person may be cruel and abrasive, and an evil person can be quite kind and friendly, though of course these values will tend to attract certain kinds of people. The observant may notice that a functional world as we know it needs both of these extremes to exist, which helps lend traditionally problematic deities like Enirra more weight as they are able to point to both and say “these are both necessary and must be kept in balance,” a stance the original creator deity Iandir seemingly agreed with.

The upshot of this is that most individuals in the setting of Avendar end up being neutral. They will certainly have their own systems of morals and value and things they consider right and wrong based on their culture and upbringing, but they do not have a vested interest in the cosmic-scale conflict happening and just want to live their lives. In addition, most people (with the noted exceptions of races like shuddeni and ch’taren) will not be wholly invested in one to the exclusion of the other; in a single character there may be a mixture of values from both ends of the spectrum, even in one who is good- or evil-aligned.

This approach also helps to define adventurers as a class of people. We certainly have adventurers who are disinterested in gods and this won’t apply to all of them, but a *ton* of adventurers are people touched by gods or who throw in with gods, which naturally sets them apart as they have essentially declared that they are agents of cosmic forces and/or that normal person morality does not or should not apply to them. This does not mean that a character must follow a god to be good or evil, but it does mean that the sensibilities of that alignment have captured a character in some fashion enough to shape their thinking and the way they interact with the world. This is particularly relevant with regards to magic, as every magical sphere is connected to these cosmic powers in some fashion and your ability to access it is limited by how you think about the world. For example, water magic being unusable by evil-aligned magicians is as much a statement about a character’s thinking and values rendering that kind of magic inaccessible as it is how Jolinn feels about it.

I hope this has been a helpful rundown of our approach to alignment going forward, and also helps explain some of the changes we’ve made to both various magical spheres as well as racial alignment options. I know this represents a fairly big departure from how things have been handled in the past, but our hope is that these changes will allow for more robust, nuanced, and interesting storytelling and encourages people to explore roles that have never been explored before.

As always if you have any questions you may reach out to us on Discord. Thanks!