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Skip Navigation LinksHigh Fantasy HERO>Content>Campaign Guidelines>Alignment Discussion
Character Alignment
NOTE: This document is not advocating the use of Alignment; rather it is provided as a courtesy for those who want to use the concept in their Fantasy HERO Games.
The HERO System completely lacks the concept of a moral/ethical Alignment seen in some other game systems, which I personally think is a good thing. However, for many the moral/ethical axis is an integral part of Fantasy Role-playing. For those who prefer such a model, the HERO System provides several different means of modeling it.
If a GM is staying close to the typical source material of other FRPG games, each Character must have a declared Alignment which places certain behavioral limitations and requirements upon the Character. A GM need only to reference their preferred source material for appropriate options.
The Alignment concept maps most directly into the HERO System mechanic of Disadvantages. Alignment has many affects on a Character in games such as xD&D, ranging from a detectible attribute, behavioral requirements, and as a source of harm in the form of taking extra damage from mystic attacks channeling energies inimical to their Alignment, and though other FRPG's with an Alignment concept of some sort vary in their details, this sort of multi-layered impact is not uncommon in general.
The typical xD&D effects of Alignment can be expressed in the HERO System via a combination of Distinctive Features, one or more Psychological Limitations, and as either a Vulnerability or Susceptibility or both to opposing Alignments.
However, the downside of this approach is that a Character might jump right to the Maximum Disadvantage Total just by milking their Alignment. This should generally be discouraged (unless of course this is the intention of the GM).
The classic four Alignments made famous by Dungeons and Dragons, this basic model has been imitated and expanded upon in several other systems. In the basic model a Character has a predilection across the "moral" and "ethical" axis of these four Alignments, with a middle "Neutral" nexus joining the axis. The typical "Lawful Good", "Chaotic Evil" etc. schema ensues from there.
To map that or a similar system of diametric opposition into the HERO System there are a few considerations to take into account.
For starters, for such distinctions to have any measurable meaning, they must be recognizable. Thus, Characters in a setting where the Alignments concept is used could take a Distinctive Feature (DF) regarding their Alignment.
Alignment is the basis for many a conflict in such an implementation and there are people/things who would harm a Character for no better reason than their Alignment so this is worth a Disadvantage if Alignment is used prevalently in the campaign.
DF: {ALIGNMENT} (Concealable with Magic, Detectable Only By Unusual Senses, Extreme Reaction, Not Distinctive in Some Cultures)
Disadvantage Total: -5 Points
The primary determinant of Alignments is based in behavior. People of certain Alignments have certain behavioral predilections which guide their actions.
Thus, Characters may take a Psychological Limitation (PsyLim) regarding the behavioral effects of their Alignment such as "Chaotic Good", expressing succinctly what amounts to a Code Of Behavior. The Frequency and Strength chosen by the player indicate how frequently they expect their Alignment to affect their behavior and how aligned their character really is. A Paladin sort of Character might take PsyLim: Lawful Good (Very Common, Total), while a less extreme Character might take Lawful Good (Uncommon, Strong) for instance.
However if this is allowed such a Character may not take additional Psychological Limitations that focus on specific aspects of that Alignment such as "Law-abiding" or "Honest" for a Character that already took PsyLim: "Lawful Good".
For purposes of Psychological Limitations "Neutral" elements of an Alignment should be ignored; thus a "Neutral Good" Character should just take PsyLim: "Good", indicating that they avoid evil acts, but don't have a major issue with breaking the law or dodging authority.
PsyLim: {ALIGNMENT} (Frequency, Strength)
Disadvantage Total: Varies
Characters in systems that use a moral/ethical Alignment type model are often prone to taking damage (or greater damage) from an oppositional Alignment.
Characters could take Vulnerabilities and / or Susceptibilities vs. oppositional Alignment effects
Personally I would advise against allowing Characters to take Vulnerability in most Fantasy HERO games for a variety of reasons. For starters, the effect of x1.5 or x2 damage in most Fantasy games is entirely too devastating. Secondly Characters usually suffer from two different oppositional Alignments, and the net Disadvantage total just for comprehensively modeling Alignment sensitivity can meet a majority of a Character's personal Disadvantage point requirements which is a disproportionate effect.
Susceptibility works much better in this regard as it is both more reasonable in its costing and less devastating in its effect. A Character should take one Susceptibility per Alignment they are Susceptible to. However, a GM should monitor this and decide for them selves if they fell that players are milking too many points from this category of Disadvantage and if so take steps to discourage them.
The scaling of how much damage is taken should probably be linked to the strength of the Psychological Limitation the Character took to model their behavior as described previously. If the Character has a Moderate PsyLim for their Alignment then 1d6 is appropriate, and similarly 2d6 would be appropriate for a Strong PsyLim and 3d6 would be appropriate for a Total PsyLim.
The Time Increment aspect of Susceptibility can be variable, but I would recommend strongly encouraging players to go with Instant. However, particularly aligned Characters such as Clerics and Paladins could make a case for Per Phase on an individual basis. However, players should consider how debilitating a Per Phase Susceptibility can be.
Generally Alignment damage should be considered Uncommon, but in some campaigns or settings it might be Common or even Very Common. The GM should make a decision at the onset of the campaign how frequently they think Alignment damage will occur and set the level for the duration of the campaign so that all Characters designed for the Campaign have a consistent approach.
However, particular sorts of Characters such as obvious Clerics and Paladins are much more likely to be confronted by such attacks because opponents know they are generally vulnerable to them and further they tend to seek out the sort of enemy capable of using such abilities to directly oppose them as part of their calling, and thus should usually be allowed to take the Limitation Frequency at one higher level of commonality if possible.
Susceptible to {Alignment}: 1d6 damage Instant (Uncommon)
Disadvantage Total: -5
Susceptible to {Alignment}: 2d6 damage Instant (Uncommon)
Disadvantage Total: -10
Susceptible to {Alignment}: 3d6 damage Instant (Uncommon)
Disadvantage Total: -15
Upgrade to Common
Disadvantage Modifier: additional -5
Upgrade to Per Phase
Disadvantage Modifier: additional -10
A GM might also decide that some effects are naturally attuned to have more effect against one or more Alignments and build Power constructs which are intended to do harm to a specific Alignment. This can be used in addition to or instead of the Susceptibility approach described previously.
For instance, consider a Blast Spell that also had a greater than normal effect on people of specific Alignments. Demonstrating this in practice, the following base effect can be combined with any one of the Alignment specific Partially Limited Effect Powers in the later following examples.
Blast Spell: 6D6 Energy Blast (30 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4)
Real Cost: 20 points
You could build a Limited Effect Power that adds onto the base effect  which is intended to do harm to a specific Alignment. It is recommended that a -3/4 Limitation be allowed for a Power that only harms a specific Alignment.
Unholy Blast: +5D6 Energy Blast (25 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4), Only affects Good (-3/4)
Real Cost: +11 points
For such an attack that only effects a combination of two Alignment elements, such as "Only vs. Lawful Good", simply double the limitation for a total -1 1/2 Partial Limitation.
Chaotic Evil Blast: +5D6 Energy Blast (25 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4),  Only affects Lawful Good (-1 1/2)
Real Cost: +8 points
If the attack can effects either of two Alignment elements, such as "Only vs. Lawful or Good", simply reduce the Limitation by -1/4 to a -1/2 Partial Limitation.
Dynamic And Unholy Blast: +5D6 Energy Blast (25 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4),  Only affects Lawful or Good (-1/2)
Real Cost: +12 points
If the attack can effect either of two different two-part Alignment elements, such as "Only vs. Lawful Good or Chaotic Good", first reduce the -3/4 Limitation by -1/4 to a -1/2 Limitation for affecting either of two Alignments, and then double it to a -1 Limitation for only affecting specific combinations of Alignments.
Unholy Blast of Balance: +5D6 Energy Blast (25 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4),  Only affects Lawful Good or Chaotic Good (-1)
Real Cost: +10 points
The following table summarizes the Limitation values described in the previous examples.
Affects two Alignments (Lawful and Good, Chaotic and Evil, etc) -1/2
Affects a single Alignment (Good, Evil, Lawful, Chaotic) -3/4
Affects either of two specific Alignment combos (Lawful Good and Lawful Evil, etc) -1
Affects one specific Alignment combo (Lawful Good, etc) -1 1/2
While usually this sort of approach is taken as extra effect on top of a based effect, it can also be used for entire Powers which have no effect at all on people of certain Alignments, being specifically targeted against a particular and narrow group.
This can be flavorful and fun, but GM's should beware that there is a hidden balance concern here. Such effects also serve as a de facto Detect Power. Since only people of a particular type are affected by the Power, it also serves to identify people of that type.
Some GM's may not mind this hidden benefit due to its limited usefulness, particularly if the Character using such effects already has a legitimate means to detect Alignment anyway. However for those GM's that do mind they can require a special Discriminatory Detect be bought to be used in conjunction with the Power as a bundled effect to justify its function. Such Detects can take a -2 Limitation indicating this is their use, similar to Detects bought specifically for Triggers to recognize triggering conditions.
Unholy Blast: 10D6 Energy Blast (50 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4), Only affects Good (-3/4) (Real Cost: 22 Points)
Detect Good: Detect (Good Alignment) 11- (Sight Group), Discriminatory (10 Active Points); Only To Allow Spell To Target Those Affected By It (-2), Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4) (Real Cost: 3 Points)
Total Real Cost: 25 points
For ease of use for those coming into the HERO System from an xD&D game, this example is provided as a sort of "Disadvantage Package Deal" summarizing the various aspects of Alignment as discussed previously in this document.
Neutral Characters will have less Disadvantages and thus such a collection of Disadvantages for them would be worth fewer points (or none at all for True Neutral Characters), while some particularly aligned characters such as Clerics and Paladins will likely have more severe options and thus their Disadvantages would be worth more points. However, this can likely be considered typical for most Characters that are not Neutral along either the moral or ethical axis. 
Obviously you can replace "Lawful Good" with the Alignment combination of your choice.
DF: Lawful Good (Concealable with Magic, Detectable Only By Unusual Senses, Extreme Reaction, Not Distinctive in Some Cultures); -5 Points
PsyLim: Lawful Good (Common, Moderate); -10 Points
Susceptible to Chaos: 1d6 damage Instant (Uncommon); -5 Points
Susceptible to Evil: 1d6 damage Instant (Uncommon); -5 Points
Disadvantage Total: -25 Points
Alternately, GM's converting into the HERO System from a game that uses Alignments of some kind might prefer to minimize or remove the Alignment concept in their HERO System campaigns. Following are a few options for doing this.
The most straightforward method of deemphasizing an Alignment concept is to simply get rid of it completely. Characters instead just take Disadvantages describing their personal hang-ups and downsides in the standard HERO System fashion.
Another option is to depict Alignments as very vague concepts, rather than the rigid absolutes that they are in other games. Characters instead simply describe personality traits, taking Psychological Limitations and other Limitations where appropriate for specific quirks of the Character, in the normal HERO System fashion.
However, characters can be summed up as being generally "Good" or "Evil" (or whatever Alignment labels are being used) based upon their overall demeanor and history. Under this implementation Spells like Detect Good and Detect Evil become much less encompassing, essentially only picking up on tendencies rather than definitive absolutes.
Another option would be to combine both methods. Perhaps the bulk of people have no actual "Alignment" at all, being run of the mill individuals existing in a broad "grey" area in moral and ethical terms. However, the Alignments do exist, and some more extreme people are attuned to them. In fact, in such a setting perhaps part of what marks PC's as different is their attunement to powerful but unseen moral and ethical forces.
In this sort of implementation simply assume that most people are "True Neutral" or equivalent, and thus don't qualify for any Disadvantage points stemming from an Alignment.
As a side note, "Only Affects {Alignment Part}" is worth an additional -1/4 in such a setting because it will be far less useful in general.
Unholy Blast In Attenuated Campaign: +5D6 Energy Blast (25 Active Points); Incantations (-1/4), Gestures (-1/4), Only affects Good (-1)
Real Cost: +10 points