Ever since I started playing Magic the Gathering in the early 90s as a child, and even more since I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 2000, I have wanted a more full experience playing in the world of Magic the Gathering, also known as Dominia, the old name of the multiverse of the game. Yes, I know it’s outdated, and no longer in actual use by WotC. It’s the term I’m used to and has more meaning than just saying “Multiverse.”
As I have grown older and become more experienced in both playing and designing content for Dungeons and Dragons (3.X), I have continued to turnover the concept of making Dominia a campaign setting. This is something of an evergreen topic on gaming boards for a number of reasons. First, Dominia is a very well crafted, intriguing setting (though there have been hiccups). Second, both Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering are properties owned by Wizards of the Coast, so crossover is natural. Third, as time has gone on, MtG has taken some ideas from D&D. Many creature cards now have both Race and Class creature types now, for example.
This is all a long-winded way of preambling “occasionally I’ll write rules for an MtG campaign setting for D&D.”
The case for an altered alignment system
The Alignment rules in D&D, well, suck. Good and Evil are more frequently treated by the books as being political hats than actual world views. While a player may play a compassionate, merciful paladin who opposes evil in all it’s forms and loathes to kill, only doing so when it is absolutely necessary, the upper echelons of good are alien-minded, self-righteous, wholly intolerant winged, well, dicks. Celestials go around slaying evil, and are often written as being completely unbending, even if they’re chaotic. If you look at the 3.X book specifically about Good, you really get this sense. It introduced Vow feats that are treated as being good, because they draw on Christian virtues and the writer forgot that in D&D Godly is not Goodly. It also introduced magical substances which cause indescribable pain and mental torment, but because they only do it to evil characters, these substances are Good. Or there’s the fact that paladins are not allowed to use poisons, even though there are creatures with the Good subtype that have natural poisons, and perfectly mundane vipers are not automatically evil.
Chaos and Law were never described in mutually exclusive ways. The Monk is lawful because it follows a specific philosophy and code of living, even if it’s purely their own. The Bard cannot be lawful because… they follow their own path without regard for the social mores or codes of others. The Monk is lawful because it’s practitioners study and practice long and hard to achieve mastery of the formless, flavourless fantasy martial art. The Bard cannot be lawful because… they study music long and hard and to the exclusion of virtually all else.
I’m all for the themes of Good vrs Evil and loyalty vrs disloyalty in a game. I look forward to a game actually presenting these themes in a high quality way that does not carry a ton of baggage from the various flawed religions of real life. Perhaps we can get Richard Dawkins to write a game.
Alignment in Dominia
A character in Dominia does not have alignment in the way a standard D&D character does. A paladin may adhere to laws and fight for “Good,” but he is not Lawful Good, he is (probably) White-aligned. But not all paladins will be. Unlike D&D and its derivatives, in Dominia, the term Paladin just refers to a type of knight, likely one which fights for an ideal (the direction paladins) or a lord (Lim-Dul’s Paladin). And overall, because Paladin is not a creature type, merely an element of some creatures’ names, it’s likely an in-game designation, rather than a class, and so it means whatever the character wants, or whatever the granting entity says it does.
Characters in Dominia20 are Colour-Aligned, rather than aligned to the descriptors good, evil, lawful or chaotic. It is entirely possible to be aligned to all five colours, just one, strongly aligned to one and weakly aligned to another, or any other variation.
Morality, Order, Law, Peace, Creative Sterility
White is the colour of organization, peace, healing and light.
Though every colour is capable of Organization, no one cares about it as much as White-aligned creatures. With Organization comes order and law, and with Order and Law comes Organization.
The best of White is justice and protection. These stem from it’s focus on not just organization, but also community. White’s ideal can be seen as an immense piece of clockwork, where every cog and gear is perfectly fitted with those around it. However, much like intricate clockwork, there is no room for variance. Gears of different shape and size may be seen, but they are there because they have a purpose, and if they do not fulfill that purpose they need to be replaced.
White’s ideology is very Law centered. Unlike D&D’s Lawful alignment, White is not a place for personal codes. Instead it imposes a universal law. The White Philosophy is that there is an absolute moral code, and that there are things which are Right and things which are Wrong. There are Godly Laws, and then there are the mortal laws, which White would base off of Godly laws. Notably, White typically only recognizes gods which agree with their own sensibilities. There are gods for every colour and philosophy, but White only recognizes those which espouse a morale code, and generally gods which actually follow the moral code they espouse. Black deities, or things which call themselves deities, may say “Everyone must do this,” but their reasoning is usually “Because I say so” and they’ll do whatever they want, where as White deities say “Everyone must do this because it is Right, and must not do this because it is Wrong” and follow what they themselves say.
White’s ultimate drive is peace. White creatures may use compassion and community to acquire that goal, but other White creatures might decide that peace can only be acquired by making everyone the same. All it wants is for everyone to live in harmony, without conflict, and it will bring everyone under its heel, or even kill them, if that’s what it takes.
The worst of White is conformity. It can be oppressive, and even intolerant. It has very strong ideals, and is very resistant to changing them. What starts as a defensive measure, protecting pilgrims from a hostile rival, can become a concerted effort of conversion, attempting to bring that hostile rival under their control and make them conform. There is a lack of creativity in White because to be creative is to stand out. Most change in White societies comes from allied Blue creatures which are tolerated for the benefits which come from them, or from the spoils of conquest, even if the conquest was regretted.
Much of White’s magic is healing and light focused. White-aligned creatures are very defense-focused, preferring to react to danger rather than preemptively strike, and long for order. A White-creature will either be giving orders, or taking them, and they have difficulty working without direction. Many White-Aligned people who do not have a direct superior will be fervently religious, seeking a framework to put themselves under. The iconic White-aligned races are Angels and Humans (though there are humans in every colour, they have a strong tendency towards aligning White). The iconic White-aligned Class is Soldier.
Logic, Technology, Intellect, Omniscience, Inaction
Blue is the colour of the mind, knowledge, the sea and air, and quintessential magic.
Though intelligence is found in every colour, Blue cares about it the most, its highest value. Intelligence comes from knowledge. Blue creatures want to know everything so that they can form better plans, better logic, better technology, etc.
Blue also looks at knowledge and sees two things, the theory, or Logic, and the application, or Technology. Yes, even with magic itself, there is theory and application and they are called, generally, Logic and Technology. Blue also tends to use magic to improve it’s logic and technology, and logic and technology to improve it’s magic.
The ideology of Blue is that knowledge is good, and more knowledge is better, and all knowledge is best. Thus the goal of Blue is Omniscience. To Blue, knowledge is a toy, and, as the old proverb goes, the person with the most toys wins. Blue may be interested in knowledge, but it’s not necessarily interested in sharing knowledge. If a Blue-aligned creature can know something no one else does, it’s very happy. They love to be sneaky and trick others.
The best of Blue is intelligence and progress. It sees what isn’t there, and what could be. That’s how it looks at things, as something of a blank canvas to turn into something more. This is the other drive behind their desire for knowledge, if you know things, you can better make things happen. Blue is the colour of dreams.
The worst of Blue is coldness, inaction and treachery. While Black is the self-serving colour, Blue can be very self-serving itself, and for this reason, Blue and Black are often allied. If you are in the way of something a Blue-aligned person wants, don’t count on the Blue person’s loyalty. Blue can also become too introspective, and too focused on intellect, closed off from others and emotion.
Blue magic is concerned primarily with magic itself and knowledge. Blue-aligned individuals tend to be a bit bookish, preferring to sit and further their research rather than go out and physically do things. This is not to say they are weak, however. Many Blue-aligned individuals will tinker with technology and magic and create wondrous, terrifyingly powerful artifacts. The iconic Blue-aligned races are Merfolk and Vedalkin. The iconic Blue-aligned class is Wizard.
Parasitism, Amorality, Selfishness, Omnipotence, Paranoia
Black is the colour of death, darkness, self-interest and hunger for power.
While all (save the truest of White) have a certain interest in their own self, Black focuses on Self-Interest. In contrast to White, the Black-aligned believe there is no universal truth. If you asked a Black-aligned person what the universal truth is, they would probably answer with any of a number of variously dark or depressing things–everything dies, the quest for power, disloyalty, etc. The other colours see certain things and say “I will not do that. It is wrong.” Black, on the other hand, doesn’t do this. To the Black-aligned, all is fair so long as it advances their goals.
While a number of actual parasites are Black-aligned, the sense in which Black uses Parasitism is more total. Anything it sees and wants, it can take. It can take your money, your life, your allies, the only thing it has trouble taking is artifacts and magic itself.
The goal of the Black-aligned is pure and utter power. They don’t want just power over others, or just magical power, or any such thing. The Black-aligned want all the power. Over everything. It will use whatever it needs to obtain that power. It will betray its allies, it will despoil the land, it will unleash plague and pestilence, and even tear at its own self.
Black often comes off as evil. While a great number of Black-aligned individuals do become evil, it is not because black is inherently evil. There is as much neutrality, and even goodness, to be found in Black as any other colour. White likes to paint Black as evil, because it distrusts the amoral philosophy of Black. Black however, because it doesn’t limit itself, is the colour of “doing what has to be done.” Whatever needs to be done, Black will do it, whether that is killing an infant, or saving a village. At its worst, Black is ruthless, consuming and enslaving, but at its best, Black is determined, ambitious and unabashed.
Black’s willingness to grab power at any cost comes, in part, from paranoia. The Black-aligned often worry that others will come and take what they have unless they have the power to stop them.
Black magic is primarily concerned with corruption and death. Black-aligned individuals are very self-focused. If they need something, they will go and get it, and to hell with those in their way. If something ceases to work for a Black-aligned individual, they will discard it. The iconic Black-aligned races are Demons and Vampires. The iconic Black-aligned class is Mercenary.
There are still two colours to go over, but this has been a lot to write. I am going to go for a walk and finish when I get back, but by the time I get back, it will be the next day.
The Day’s Count: 2142