A few weeks ago the Dark-Sun list had a protracted discussion about gaming ethos. Many of us find the conventional AD&D alignment system lacking in various respects (oversimplification, inherent contradiction, vaguenessm and other points which I don't wish to reiterate), particularly when it comes to Dark Sun gaming. My proposed solution was to do away with alignment entirely, and substitute a system of "principles", parallel to the Skills and Powers system of "advantages and disadvantages". The list of principles is not intended to be comprehensive; players should be free to adapt or invent, pending the DM's approval of course. Each character must have two principles, a primary and a secondary.. (They use more than two to develop the personality, but they will only get game benefits and penalties for two specified principles.) Some work remains to be done. Some of the principles lack description, and some (such as "code of conduct" or "submission to cultural mores") are left vague so that DMs and players can flesh out the relevant cultures and ideologies.) Clearly character classes such as Ranger, Druid, Preserver, and Psionicist should have class-specific principles or codes of conduct.
Approval-Seeker. This character needs the approval of his friends or of a mentor (choose one). He is deeply affected by criticism, and eager to please those whose approval he seeks. Half-giant and half-elven characters receive an extra charp for taking this principle.
Big Spender: The PC automatically spends 10-90% of her money on frivolous luxuries. This disadvantage awards an extra charp if the character is of noble status. The sum of charps take from Big Spender and Generosity combined cannot exceed 9.
Bigot: The character believes that her character race is superior to all others, and cannot resist rubbing the point in at every opportunity. The character lacks confindence in the abilities of anyone who is not of her race. Half-race characters cannot take this principle, but halfings get an extra two charps for taking it.
Code of Conduct. These are similar to the cleric's side of an elemental pact. Codes of conduct may be cultural, ideological, familial, or even personal. Codes of conduct may include diet, treatment or others, or special ceremonies. Most PC pterrans begin play with a code of conduct that demands respect for the earth, and periodic and spontaneous ceremonies of earth worship and celebration. Villichi follow a code of conduct that proscribes the eating of meat and the use of any metal objects, and demands protection and care of all "sister" villichi. Any code of conduct should be hammered out between the DM and Player. Dwarf characters receive an extra charp for taking this principle.
Distrust: This character is unable to deeply trust anyone: will not share secrets, spell books, or prized personal posessions; he is also reluctant to let companions mentally contact him, cast spells on him (even healing spells), or even serve him food or drink. Half-elves gain an extra two charps for taking this disadvantage
Family Duties: The PC is expected (and feels bound to) render assistance, advice, service, and cash to family members and causes. DMs should exploit this obligation for plot devices.
Frugal: The character hates waste in every form. When purchases are done between adventures (with the list left with the DM between sessions), the character discounts 0-30% of the price of any standard item that is available. However, the character has a greater chance of being stuck with an inferior item .... The character will try find ways to salvage profit out of every knick-nack -- and is the character most likely to try to salvage skin, claws, etc from dead monsters.
Generosity: Character naturally spends 10-90% (10% per charp) of his gross income on his friends, family, etc. When given a gift the character feels compelled to give a better gift. The sum of charps take from Big spender and Generosity combined cannot exceed 9.
Humble. The character is quick to learn and slow to take offense. She treats others kindly even when mistreated, and deals fairly even when cheated. This Principle earns no starting charps; however, if the humble PC is role-played appropriately in extraordiary circumstances, the DM may award up to one extra charp per session to the character, reflecting the character's superior capacity to learn.
Loyalty. The character cannot gain or spend charps unless he has a group of friends to whom she gives his total loyalty. Their well-being is the most important part of the character's life. If the higher number of charps is taken, the character will gladly lay her life down for her friends.
Gentleness. The character shows unwarranted kindness and sympathy to the meek and unfortunate -- even when there is no advantage to be gained. This is an unusual trait in the harsh tablelands, and will attract attention, both positive and negative.
Groupthink. The character tends to discount her own impressions and goes with whatever the group wants to do. Half-Giants get an extra charp for taking this principle.
Ostentatious. The character automatically spends 10-90 percent of his gross income on clothing and appearance items. This character will not wish to travel in disguise, unless the disguise attracts attention in some way ... even invisibility will be considered distastefull. If the character is a rogue, he leaves signature marks at the scene of the crime (think Zorro); if he is a wizard, he refuses to hide his sensory effects; if he is a warrior, he wants those he kills and those that see him kill to know his name.
Proud. The character refuses to accept blame for anything, and continually blames others for his own failings. When something goes wrong, he feels the need to take his misery out on some poor scapegoat.
Power-Seeker. The character suffers penalties unless she is accepted as party leader, and cannot gain charps unless she tries to become leader. Note that she may or may not be a good leader, but this makes no difference to her efforts.
Rebellious Against Power & Charisma
Rebellious Against Cultural Mores & Groupthink. This character strikes out against the norms and mores of her own society, publically when she can get away with it. In a party, this character is the last to agree with the group, and the first to start an argument over an already agreed-on plan.
Rebellious Against New Mores & Laws. While this character may submit to his natives cultural mores and laws, he definitely rebells against the rules of new cultures that he is exposed to. Such a character might come from Tyr to Gulg, and insist on getting a good look at the Oba's tree ... American tourists get an extra 1 charp for taking this principle (sorry, I couldn't resist).
Rebellious Against the Law.
Respect-Seeker. This character demands respect from everyone, even those who are not accustomed to giving respect ... such as templar guards, etc. Elves and Half-Elves gain an extra charp from taking this principle.
Stubborn. The character is slow to give up -- no matter what the odds. Dwarves get an extra 2 charps from taking this principle.
Submission to Charisma.
Submission to Counterculture. This character thinks he is rebellious and individualistic, but in fact seeks out a subculture and group of similar "individualists" to submit to. For example, the character may decry the blindness and submission of the masses to the templars and sorceror kings, but submits blindly to questionable orders from the Veiled Alliance. Half-Elves gain an extra charp from taking this principle.
Submission to Cultural Mores. The character follows the cultural mores of his own society, no matter who is watching or where he is. Humans and elves receive an extra charp from taking this principle. Players should hammer out some of the cultural mores of their city, tribe, caste, or social class, with the DM, before they take this principle. Characters with this principle receive a free ettiquette proficiency, but the character is unable to learn the ettiquette of other cultures.
Submission to New Cultural Mores. The character believes "when in Balic do as the Balicans do." When possible, the character will learn the ettiquette of each different culture that she spends time with, and varies her ethics, morality, and behavior according to the local culture.
Submission to Law.
Submission to Power