D&D YouTube Roundup 5: Alignment, West Marches, and Online

Posted: 2023-12-08
Word Count: 731
Tags: d20 osr rpg

Table of Contents


Listen to a calm, British voice explaining why the 3 alignments of “Classic” D&D – Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic – are superior to the 9 of AD&D, 3rd, and 5th.

To summarize, using only those three allows for ambiguous or impulsive moral choices while defining a “core personality” of rule-driven (religious or not), flexible, or unreliable. In reality most characters (and people) are a mix of “good” and “evil” tendencies, and classifying them by the flexibility of their beliiefs more accurately models real behavior than classifying everyone as Good, “Neutral”, or Evil all the time.

Granted, this is not how I interpret the three alignments, as I’ve indicated previously. I prefer Moorcock’s original cosmic principles of absolute order, absolute willfulness, and a balance between them. (Add in an “Unaligned” category for those unaware or unconcerned with the war across the multiverse.)

Still, the BECMI Berserker’s intepretation is more reasonable than, say Gygax’s own conflicting interpretations.

As Bob World Builder notes, categorizing alignment as alternately “stances”, “ethos”, and beliefs only vaguely defined merely obfuscated what, if anything, alignments were, and triggered fifty years of arguments at tables and online. The nine-fold alignment system in particular devolves either a set of irrelevant beliefs or a justification for pathological behavior: “it’s what my character would do”.

My solution is simply to measure the characters’ allegiance to Law, Balance, or Chaos, but Bob’s solution also sounds like a decent alternative: Law/Chaos describes how characters behave (as in BECMI Berserker’s interpretation) and Good/Evil describes why (i.e. for the good of the many or out of pure self-interest).

West Marches

As discussed previously, D&D was once run as a Surprisingly Multiplayer In-Person Table-Top Role Playing Game (SMITTRPGer). Then Ben Robbins, the creator of the Microscope RPG, reinvented this style as “The West Marches”.

The (long) video below explains one way of organizing this style of campaign:

In brief, though, “Enter the Dungeon” cites three pillars to this kind of

  1. Flexibility: A variable number of players and Game Masters schedule sessions, and GMs quickly
  2. Exploration: All players start with no map and gradually explore a shared region of the game world.1
  3. Serialized Format: Each game session is self-contained in that adventurers start and end at their Home Base within the span of a single session.

Other notable points and suggestions not explored in a previous article:

I would definitely like to play a campaign like this, and I might even be mad enough to run it. Now to recruit players …

D&D Online

I’m still a little leery of online gaming.

Despite using Discord for Cypher System games and D&D Beyond + Discord for one D&D 5e game I resist switching fully to online TTRPG games. I miss seeing people and rolling real dice, and more importantly I read E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” and I know how this will end. So I practice the Old Ways for the day the Internet and cell phone telephones just turn out to be a long-lived fad, and we’re forced to return to paper, dice, and tin cans on string.

Or, as I put it in a YouTube comment

[…] you’ll pry my funny-shaped dice, character sheets, dice tray, dice roller, index cards, battle mat, dry-erase markers, wood and plastic counters, cheap wooden pawns, and sundry other visual aids from my cold, dead hands

  1. The vlogger, however, later suggests that the GM(s) consider sharing sections of their true map, rather than let players fumble around making a possibly inaccurate one or, worse, hoarding map information. ↩︎