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Sphere Alignment System

by Charles Taylor

An idea I've been kicking arround for years:

In BECMI, the 4 non-entropy immortal spheres of power have a correspondance with the 4 elements and 4 main character classes, thusly (IM p.8):

Matter: Fighters, Earth, Lawful
Energy: Magic-Users, Fire, Chaotic
Time: Clerics, Water, Neutral
Thought: Thieves, Air, Neutral

There is also the principles of Dominance and Opposition (CM p.20 and IM p.16)
Matter dominates Thought, opposes Time
Energy dominates Earth, opposes Thought
Time dominates Energy, opposes Matter
Thought dominates Time, opposes Energy

Which if you apply this to the alignments implies that Law dominates and opposes Neutrality, Chaos dominates Law and opposes Neutrality, and Neutrality dominates Chaos and itself, and opposes both Law and Chaos

My thoughts are that the traditional D&D alignment system, as it stands, is a poor match for the immortal spheres of power.

For instance, the Four Humours theory explained medical complaints as imbalences in 4 'humours' or fluids within the body, each of which had an elemental correspondance, from the relevant page of Wikipedia I have abducted (and modified) the following table:

Humour Season Element Organ Qualities Personality Ancient Name Temperament
Blood Spring Air Liver warm & moist courageous, hopeful, amorous sanguine artisan
Yellow Bile Summer Fire Spleen warm & dry easily angered, bad tempered choleric idealist
Black Bile Autumn Earth gall bladder cold & dry despondent, sleepless, irritable melancholic guardian
Phlegm Winter Water brain/lungs cold & moist calm, unemotional phlegmatic rational

What I'm suggesting is to construct a new alignment system modeled upon the spheres of power:

In this system a characters alignment is simply which immortal philosophy the character would follow (if they knew about the immortals):

A character who believes in order or stability would follow the philosophy of Matter.
A character who believes in individuality or disorder would follow the philosophy of Energy.
A character who believes in continuous regular change would follow the philosophy of Time.
A character who believes that everything has purpose and meaning would follow the philosophy of Thought.

Finaly, we'll consider the one sphere that is conspicuously absent in the above discussion; Entrophy!

A character who believes in conflict, or who desires destruction would follow the philosophy of Entrophy.

We could just name these new alignments after their respective spheres - or leave the Lawful and Chaotic designations in use and come up with new ones for the other three spheres;

Time: Philosophical
Thought: Spirited
Entropy: Ruinous
Anti-Entropy: Creative - this alignment corresponds to no currently existing single sphere of power, but instead corresponds to a collective of the spheres of Matter, Energy, Time and Thought.

Neutral now applies to characters who do not follow any of the Immortal spheres.

The principles of dominance and opposition apply to this new alignment structure:

Lawful dominates Spirited and opposes Philosophical
Chaotic dominates Lawful and opposes Spirited
Philosophical dominates Chaotic and opposes Lawful
Spirited dominates Philosophical and opposes Chaotic
Ruinous dominates no other alignments and opposes Creative
Creative dominates no other alignments and opposes Ruinous

(yes, I know it looks a bit odd)

As in AD&D, composite alignments are possible - a character cannot follow any combination of alignments that includes any member that is in opposition to any other method (i.e. Lawful-Philosophical is not valid).
If a character follows alignments where one is dominant over another, then the dominant alignment carries most weight.
So a Lawful-Chaotic (I repeat, I know it looks wierd) could be a character who overall believes in a stable, ordered society, but believes their own individuality to be of greater importance.

As a final flourish, lets establish an elemental correspondance for the four martial arts styles introduced in the Master's Set (MDM p. 18)

Offensive: Fire
Wrestling: Matter
Defensive: Air
Throws: Water

I should add that I made an error - according to the Masters DM's Book page 11 and Player's Guide to Immortals page 8, the alignment of the sphere of Thought is 'All'.

Some further thoughts:

Simplified Sphere-Based Alignments
This is a modified form of the classic D&D 3-alignment model, but with the alignments being Creative, Neutral and Destructive. In this case Creative encompasses all the philosophies of the 4 non-entropic sphere, while Destructive follows the philosophy of Entropy.

With the exception of the actual descriptions of the alignments, replace all mentions of 'Lawful' with Creative' and 'Chaotic' with 'Destructive' throughout the whole of BECMI. For NPCs substitute on a case-by-case basis depending upon their description.

This keeps the simple 3-value alignment system, but aligns it with the Immortal Spheres of Power.

Back to my more complicated 'Unified Spheres Theory':

Gecko wrote:
interesting, though the "Philosopihcal" & "Spirited" labels don't match the spheres IMHO. I see "Philosophical" and think of "Thought" first, "Time" secondly. And "Spirited" I think of Energy first, Thought Second,

Well, my original concept used 'Philosophical' for Thought, 'Fatalistic' for Time (and had 'Evil' for Entrophy and 'Good' for not-entropy) - my current labeling is based more on the appropriate personality types from the Wikipedia page on Humours.

Although I think it might be worth finding new labels for the Matter and Energy alignments ('Law' and 'Chaos' having a certain amount of baggage) I can't think of any at the moment, so I'll leave these be (for now). Revising, re-ordering and expanding my table:

Sphere Dominates Opposes Alignment Element Humour Organ Season Qualities Colour Temperament Class Martial Art Tool/Weapon Yin or Yang
Matter Thought Time Lawful Earth Black Bile gall bladder Autumn cold & dry brown & green Melancholic (guardian) Fighter Wrestling Pentacle, Staff Yin
Energy Matter Thought Chaotic Fire Yellow Bile spleen Summer warm & moist red & orange Choleric (idealist) Magic-user Offensive Candle, Wand Yang
Time Energy Matter Stoic? Water Phlegm brain/lungs Winter cold & moist ocean blue, sea green & dusky violet Supine (rational) Cleric Defensive Cup Yin
Thought Time Energy Noetic Air Blood liver Spring warm & moist yellow Sanguine (artisan) Thief Throws Dagger or Sword Yang
Entropy N/A creation Destructive Void Pus/corpse ichor N/A Midnight & Eclipses decay black Ruinous Undead N/A Skull Neither
creation N/A Entropy Creative Wood ? ? Mid-day growth white Inspired Druid? Any ? Both
harmony N/A none Neutral Aether All Whole Body Whole Year balance leaf green Phlegmatic Mystic? Any ? Both

creation is not a sphere as such, but represents that proportion of the spheres of Matter, Energy, time and Thought that opposes Entropy.
harmony is likewise not a sphere, but is the balance point between all 5 spheres.
In this table I have switched to the Five Temperament model which I think fitted the idea slightly better, and have added additional 'elements' based on the Japanese, Chinese and Medieval schemes:
Void is the 'element' of non-existance and death - it has no elemental plane as such
Wood is the 'element' of life and creation, its 'elemental plane' is the Prime Plane
Aether is the 'element' of balance, its 'elemental plane' is the Etherial Plane.

If you wish to fit this into the AD&D inner planes model, the inner plane that corresponds to the Sphere of Entropy would be the Negative Energy Plane with the Positive Energy Plane corresponding to the 'sphere' of Creation, and the Prime Material Plane again corresponding to the 'sphere' of Harmony.

Anyone got any suggestions on what to replace all the "?"'s with?

Yes, for this reason I'm thinking of ditching the word 'alignment', perhaps call them 'temperaments' instead.

In some respects the thread title is, in hindsight, misleading; my actual intent is to create a unified set of correspondances relating the 5 spheres to a wide range of phenonema - they already have correspondances with the elements and character classes - my intent was, by raiding old concepts like the 4 humours, was to add more.

What these would be used for - well, its a resource - but one idea I had was to base illnesses on humour imbalances - which would at least give DM's options for describing healing skill rolls ("ok, he's got too much black bile - you need to feed him such-and-such a herb" or "he's overly sanguine, fetch leeches, a stirge would do"). Not sure what to do with cure disease.

The whole 'alignment' thing is just part of the whole picture - but alignments are a thing in D&D, and the 3-alignment system in BECMI doesn't really fit the Spheres of Power - which are supposed to be pretty fundamental to the whole of creation! - this is my attempt to fix it. I'm thinking that most mortals do not know of the Spheres of Power, and I think that only a few sages, mystics (not the class), philosophers and high level characters will have this esoteric knowledge - but it will apply to everyone.

OT for this thread - a general thought about alignments
A completely unrelated idea I had concerning alignments (this was more an AD&D idea, but can apply to BECMI) - was to consider alignments to be alligencies - a Lawful Good character would be 'allied' with the ideals of Mount Celestia, for example. Under this scheme characters begin play with no formal alignment (unless required by character class), and must formally pledge their aligence to a suitable representative of that alignment/outer plane by means of a ritual to gain an alignment. This would grant certain advantages, duties and disadvantages.