The Worlds of Adventure campaign uses the same basic concept of alignment that Dungeons & Dragons has used for decades. However, the implications and effects of that system play out differently in every campaign setting, so a few alignment-related issues bear discussing.

Alignment As Motivation

In the Worlds of Adventure campaign, the player characters' alignment is unlikely to motivate their adventures, or to drive the plot. (The alignment of NPCs, of course, may be a different matter.) Your characters will probably be motivated by ambition, greed, curiosity, and perhaps things like duty or vengeance.

Nonetheless, the PCs' alignment still matters, because on a smaller scale, alignment affects their actions, and is affected by them, in many ways. Whether your characters are good or evil in their day-to-day behavior, in the course of their adventures, has various consequences. The nature of these consequences is not symmetric across the good/evil divide, so we'll look at good and evil separately.


Being good-aligned is difficult because it requires sacrifice. This is not the defining characteristic of the good alignment1, but it is that characteristic which creates conflict and makes it challenging to be good.

This "sacrifice" need not be the lofty sacrifice of one's life, or even one's prized possessions, but may be something so simple as one's time, convenience, the chance of a bit of extra treasure, or other such small things. Small they may be, but giving them up is still painful; and for what? The good-aligned character answers: "because it is the right thing to do; because helping people, and saving them, is worth this sacrifice". If such a sentiment does not motivate your character, then your character is not good. (They may be evil or they may be neutral, depending on whether they are willing to harm others in pursuit of their goals.)

So that's the price of being good. What's the benefit? The desire to do the right thing may be an important character trait, compelling for role-playing purposes, but it is not an incentive. Are there incentives to be good?

Yes. There are two: mechanical benefits, and social benefits.

The mechanical benefits again break down into two sorts: character abilities, and interaction with the world.

Character abilities. Paladins must be good-aligned, or they lose their class abilities. Certain magic items work only for good characters. Certain feats are available only to good characters. Certain spells benefit only good characters. Mechanical benefits of this type are relatively rare in the Worlds of Adventure campaign.

Interaction with the world. Some things that you will encounter in your travels, including objects (such as a sacred altar to Pelor), artifacts (such as the book of exalted deeds), and magical effects (such as the force field barring the entrance to the crypt of Barov and Ravenovia) react in a special way to good characters, usually by working only for them, or harming any who are not pure of heart (i.e. not good-aligned). Some locations (from particular temples to entire planes of existence) affect good characters in special ways: a temple might have a forbiddance spell allowing entrance only by the pure of heart, while the environment of the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia is physically painful to evil creatures (imposing penalties, interfering with powers) but congenial to the good-aligned (granting them bonuses and boosting their power).

So much for mechanical benefits. Social benefits, on the other hand, boil down to "being good-aligned makes the character's interactions with people in the world — whether individual NPCs, organizations, or entire societies — go better for the character".

The Argos Trade Consortium, of course, cares little about your characters' alignments, so long as you don't violate the One Rule. However, you will have to deal with many other people, who have nothing to do with the A.T.C., nearly every time you step through the gate. They are the merchants who buy and sell your magic items and mundane supplies; the people, high and low, of the lands where you establish your base and where your followers carry on your affairs; informants, sages, and other folks who have information that can help you find the most valuable treasure; and even certain people or creatures whom you might encounter in the direct course of your questing. A reputation for honor, fairness, charity, respect of others, and a good heart will take you far with most people you'll encounter.

Though I call these benefits "social" in contrast with "mechanical" ones, actually there are mechanics in the Worlds of Adventure campaign that represent how your character is seen by other people. These mechanics have a range of effects on your interactions with NPCs, organizations, and societies. They are described on the Reputation page.


Just as evil is the opposite of good, so the implications of having an evil alignment have the opposite structure from those of having a good alignment. Where being good means incurring direct, immediate, practical inconveniences, but reaping a variety of rewards (from the minor and mechanical to the major and social), being evil is substantially more convenient in the short term, and its detriments are felt only on the larger scale.

What's so great about being evil? In a word: options. An evil character can do anything a good character can do3 4, and can also do much that the good character cannot do. That's really the whole point: morally speaking, an evil character can do anything. Total freedom. Of course, just having options, merely being able to do anything (including evil things), doesn't make you evil. Actually doing evil things makes you evil. So, what are evil things, and why would you want to do them?

Evil is harming innocent beings to benefit yourself. Why would anyone do this? Simple: sometimes it's easier, simpler, quicker, more convenient, or otherwise better than the alternatives — better for you, that is. And if that's what you care about — yourself, and your own interests — then this is just fine. Innocents are harmed? So what? You do it anyway. That is evil.

There are other benefits to being evil — evil people get invited to all the coolest clubs and parties (and cults and councils) — but this is the core: being evil is easy, effective, convenient. (An evil person might say that what the good folks call "evil" just is effectiveness and optimal action, without the arbitrary constraints of morality.5)

So that's the benefit of being evil. What's the price? The realization that you are a villain and a right bastard; the voices of your victims screaming in your dreams; the knowledge that your soul is damned for all eternity — these may be fascinating struggles to roleplay, but they are no barriers to action. In any case, many evildoers are not tormented by pangs of conscience, and sleep like babies. So, what are the practical consequences of evil behavior?

They are, again, of two kinds: mechanical and social.

Mechanical consequences

(the beauty of D&D alignment is that even if you do evil where no one sees, and thus where it can't affect your reputation directly, the universe notices; i.e. your evil deeds are recorded in the akashic records, so to speak, and affect your alignment)

(law vs. chaos: the real story — i.e. the Gygaxian notion)

Moral Quandaries?

Because player characters in the Worlds of Adventure campaign are unlikely to be primarily motivated by the high ideals of alignment2, and because party makeup is entirely voluntary and as temporary as the players desire, the party will probably have few, if any, moral arguments and philosophical debates. (Why have long debates if your character can simply leave the party, and never see them again?) Does this mean that the player characters will never face ethical challenges or decisions? (But then how can they have an opportunity to distinguish themselves as good or evil, and gain the social benefits or consequences I mentioned above?)

Quite the contrary. Consider the situation described in the sidebar, "The Delver's Trilemma". Morally, there's nothing to debate. It's just a question of doing the right thing, or not. Do you take the risk? Or avoid it? Are your characters willing to sacrifice for the sake of others? Or do you mind your own fortunes, and let the fate of others take care of itself? If you do rescue the villagers, what do you get out of that? Well, they may offer to repay you, but they're so poor that even considering accepting their meager reward would be embarrassing to all concerned. ("We have little to give you in reward, but here is a old set of my grandmother's silverware, worn but well-made; you could surely get a few coins for it in the market..." "Don't mind if I do!") On the other hand, the rescued people will surely tell everyone of their terrifying experience, and of your heroism; the townsfolk will hail you as the saviors of their friends and kin; your reputation as paragons of goodness will spread, and social benefits will accrue.

Of course, it's possible that your characters rely only on themselves, have no interest in interacting with the rabble or using social capital to achieve your goals, and care very little for their reputations, preferring to do everything personally. That's fine. These are the sorts of choices that you face in the Worlds of Adventure. Whether your characters choose the difficult, but socially rewarding, path of good; the easy, but socially challenging, path of evil; or the disengaged, self-reliant path of neutrality — that is up to you.

1 The good alignment, at its core, is defined by concern for the rights, freedom, and well-being of sentient creatures.

2 Not even paladins? Indeed not; paladin player characters in the Worlds of Adventure campaign are likely to be more akin to questing knights-errant, eager to prove themselves against what evils fate and the gods may set in their path, than to determined and goal-oriented crusaders for the cause of Good.

3 Committing a good act does not endanger your evilness, and even if it did, what do you care? Evil people don't care about their alignment, because they're unconcerned with morality. One generally does not try to be evil — rather, being evil is the result of not caring about whether you're evil or not.

4 The reverse is not true, of course.

5 Whether this is actually true is way, way beyond the scope of this document. Please feel free to not have your characters engage in lengthy debates on this topic.