Karma

Bringing back the old alignment system allows for a greater level of flexibility than with the new 4e system. Anyway, after playing Fallout 3, I realized something: why doesn’t DnD have karma? I’ve implemented a karma system that follows the 9-point alignment system. A character may start out as a good character, but if he always kills innocent people who aren’t evil, his karma will swiftly drop him into evilness. A similar system can apply to the second axis. Someone who starts off lawful, but has light fingers, will become chaotic.

Similar to Fallout 3, the karma system can affect how people interact with you. Police and other keepers of the law will instinctively be nice to a lawful character, but treat a chaotic one with suspicion. Or, a Thieves’ Guild will be more likely to accept the application of a chaotic person.

Then, the person who joins the guild and steals regularly will become more chaotic, while the person who reports the guild will have a lawful boost. Chaotic and lawful aren’t good and evil though. A character who reports the thieves for the reward will gain negative karma, despite the lawful boost. Meanwhile, the chaotic character who joins the guild only steals from the rich and gives to the poor. This “Robin Hood” may gain lose lawfulness, but gain good karma.

When using this system for a character, remember to implement backstory actions. For example, a farmer who discovers he has an excellent talent for archery is more likely to start off as true neutral than an ex-soldier who was part of an evil army, but left when he found out how evil they were. Is this soldier good or evil? Or maybe neutral? You decide, I’m just saying he’s less likely to start off as a neutral character than the farmer simply because of his backstory.

Here’s an example character. We will call him Dave.

Dave is a boy working as an apprentice to a blacksmith. His karma now puts him at true neutral.

When he is 14, his town (called “The Town”) is raided by a group of bandits. At this point, Dave has a few options, each with its own karmic value.
  1. Dave can grab a weapon from the smithy he works at and help defend the town. This will reward him with positive karma.
  2. Dave can flee like most of the townspeople. This will reward no karma.
  3. Dave can grab a weapon from the smithy and join the bandits. This will reward him with negative karma.

Let’s say Dave chooses option 3. By helping the bandits pillage, Dave’s karma takes a serious hit. Also, what he is doing is illegal, giving him chaos points. At this point, Dave is chaotic evil.

Now we have Dave the Pillager, a 14 year old bandit. After raiding the town, he sees what he’s done, and repents by slaying the bandits. This won’t fully redeem what he’s done, so for now he’s still chaotic evil. Also, he is unwelcome in his former home. Dave has now become an adventurer.

Our story continues with Dave the Pillager (he’s still CE, so his title will stay… for now) wandering out in the woods. He notices a group of well known highwaymen attacking a small-time merchant. Again, he is given a few choices. This time, he chooses the good karma option. He attacks and kills the robbers, then offers their gold to the merchant. Though he could’ve kept the money for himself and still gained karma, giving it to the merchant gives him even more karma. By this point, he’s redeemed himself and is now back to neutral, however, he is still chaotic. A few more of these deeds and Dave should end up chaotic good. It is also possible that he’ll end up as a “Robin Hood” and become famous. Dave the Robber of Robbers will be sung about by bards across the land.

Karma

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