Dwarf Fortress Alignments

In D&D, alignment is a trait of your character that you use to help decide how he reacts. How he feels about things. A Good character will do good things. An Evil character will do evil things. Defining this simple split has been done only imperfectly by thousands of years of philosophers.
But now you’ve got D&D’s Chaos / Law axis as well.

In all, the system allows for nine separate alignment combinations. But these are often vague and similar to each other. And defining what each alignment axis means can be difficult. Instead, what if you chose or rolled character traits on a table?

Dwarf Fortress features characters who, rather than alignment, have a long list of personality traits.

These include Man vs. Man things like “finds helping others rewarding”, Man vs. Nature such as “is entirely adverse to risk and excitement”, and Man vs. Self such as “often feels discouraged”.

The full list of traits can be found at the wiki here.

Anyway, the sum of these, plus preferences in items, materials, and creatures, along with chosen faith and level of piety, becomes that character’s alignment.

Effectively, instead of a two-word alignment to act as a guide for behavior and feelings, you get a more complex character with a guideline for each type of decision he might need to make. Basically you get an alignment system with 30 axes instead of 2. Obviously this is too complex for normal play.

It may be worthwhile to note only those traits that fall outside the middle range, and weight the roll to give more results to the middle range. That way each character would have to note only 5-6 of the 30, assuming all the rest are “normal”.

I’m prepared to ignore forever the question of what constitutes a “normal” level of modesty 😉

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4 Responses to “Dwarf Fortress Alignments”

  1. PatrickWR Says:

    Plenty of indie games like Burning Wheel and Spirit of the Century have players create a list of traits or catchphrases that define them, rather than picking an alignment (or even a class, or archetype). I’m definitely in favor of this, as it helps fine-tune roleplaying encounters and can even grant bonuses during combat.

    That’s pretty sweet that DF has a ready-made list of traits for fantasy gaming!

  2. 1d30 Says:

    I’ve found that the game is pretty resourceful and inspiring in general. Definitely something people should play.

    Of course, in the game your dwarf’s preferences are brought into the game mechanics seamlessly. A dwarf who has low altruism (helping others) becomes less happy if he has to provide medical care or feed a wounded dwarf.

    Complex game. Too complex to create a tabletop version, sadly.

  3. PatrickWR Says:

    Yeah, I’ve heard that. I actually downloaded Dwarf Fortress, fired it up on my PC and then stared helplessly at the screen for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t even figure out how to make my dudes start building stuff. And there was no GM to ask for help!

  4. 1d30 Says:

    The wiki is pretty decent. Some tutorials. Part of the difficulty is that you don’t really tell any dwarf to do anything, except telling a military dwarf where to patrol. You just set up tasks and whichever dwarves want to will come and do them. Indirect, but it works well for managing a large fortress.

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