Where there be monsters?

On alignments in my Early Modern game.

There have always been monsters. In the earlier ages they were many, and men worshiped them – generally to appease them, since most were best left alone or kept calm, but some were willing to communicate with and trade secrets with men. The mages of old Hyborea were masters of this, and even learnt the secrets of the Old Ones from the Serpent Men and mastered sorcery, the channeling of the hidden powers of Monsters. Later, the civilizations of the Crescent, the far East, the Romans  and the Germanic tribes worshiped other monsters, fickle and cruel masters who toyed with their subjects.


Monsters are creatures of Chaos, and of Magic. Serving them turns man into a mutant, and mastering them makes her a sorcerer or magus. The Magic they supply is powerful but fickle, primal and very dangerous – it is given freely to those who know how and who to ask, but few can handle it. Monsters care little for Man and gain little by associating with her as other than prey or plaything.

There has always been Law, but its creatures are subtle. Modern man allied with Law; so did men who came before – the Chinese and their Celestial Bureaucracy, for example. Law is a harsh master, controlling and domineering even in the slightest details, but in return it supplies safety, continuity and certainty. Law needs man desperately; like a cart needs a horse. Without the fallible nature of man to create tension, friction and movement Law does nothing, but in that tension it thrives and feeds on imposed Order. Whether Man truly benefits from the relationship is not as clear.


Angels and the Divine are creatures of Law. Serving them turns a man into a puppet; mastering them makes you holy but it is hard to tell the difference. They supply Magic just like Monsters do, and in the same way, although men call them Miracles. These secrets are useful, sane, dependable and predictable, but they come with innumerable strings attached and accepting them binds you to the Divine.

The Divine have long been in ascendancy, and masters of men of the Modern world.

Most of Man has always been Unaligned, but in earlier times this has been a choice of necessity, an unwillingness to bind oneself as a slave to the forces or Law or subject oneself to the fickle demands of Chaos. In Modern times, however, some men have found the strength of Enlightenment.

Enlightenment is about the empowerment of man. Of reason, of learning and knowing and of harnessing both Law and Chaos and taking control. It supplies no powers beyond those which can be found within, but demands no great tribute. It’s essence is the potential for Man to harness her own destiny, for better or worse. Monsters AND the Divine hate Enlightenment equally. It lessens their influence over Man, but also the world she increasingly controls.


(Enlightenment is not an alignment per se, just a consequence of Neutrality turning into something other than not making a choice. It is also NOT the “good guy option”. It will fuel colonialism, slavery and many more atrocities in eras to come. Man is capable of very dark things entirely on her own…)