By now I’m sure you’ve all seen this alignment chart:
This cute graphic got me thinking. Back when there were mechanical consequences (protection spells, powers, weapons, etc) to your character’s outlook on life, it made sense to abstract and categorize ethical alignment.
D&D 4e presents players with a reduced and asymmetrical choice for alignment. What’s even more important is that there doesn’t seem be any mechanical consequence to alignment choice. In my experience most players choose “unaligned” unless making a bold statement about the character’s heroic tendencies.
I’m willing to make a bold statement: ditch alignment entirely. In two years of 4e I’ve only seen it used as a role-playing crutch for labelling PCs and bad guys. And worse, I’ve seen it used to limit character choice and bog down play with “alignment fundamentalism.” Have you ever heard “oh no! I can’t work with a bad guy for a greater good because I’m Lawful Good”?
Check out DM Samuel’s 7 Moral Dilemmas for situations that would be easier and more fun to play without being caged by alignment.
I don’t mean to say alignment systems are always bad. There are valid play-styles where it’s important and appropriately used. If you’ve found the 4e alignment system useful let me know! And if you’ve house-ruled away alignment, let me know it’s been going.
In a fantasy role-playing games sometimes a character finds himself on top of another creature in battle. In my Second Edition days, I had characters that jousted from horses and dragons, and even once fought some sea monsters whilst atop a dolphin. Each 2e sourcebook had some complicated set of rules for the mounts of its worlds. Things got better in 3E with a standardized set of rules for movement, but there was still built-in support for mounted combat and specialized encounters like jousting.
In 4th Edition, I wouldn’t know where to tell where you where are the mounted combat rules in 4e, if they exist at all. Of course, it matters less now that size and height differences aren’t factors in combat.
In my game, we had a situation a few weeks ago where there were some enemies wanting to escape on griffon-back. In course of the session it mattered what kind of an action getting on or off a mount is; is it a standard, minor, or move? Can it be done as part of a move action? Can a dazed, stunned, or slowed character effectively mount? Then there was the situation of trying to get a mount to throw its rider…
I think the 4e designers purposely hid these rules. Mounts in d&d are complicated affairs, and are only effective out of doors (horses are ridiculous in a dungeon) and when everyone in the party has one. I think they would be fun occasionally for an encounter, but as much as some unique terrain piece.
I guess my questions to the group are: (a) are there official mounted combat rules, and if so (b) where are they? And (c) have you effectively used mounts in or out of combat in a 4e game? Do people still have “horseman” as a character identity/trait or do we assume they are all proficient riders that only get on a horse between adventures, if at all?