Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hyrulian Adventures: Alignment in Legend of Zelda

Alignment in the Legend of Zelda games is an interesting beast. There is clearly an old school D&D, Law vs Chaos thing going on, right?



But there’s more to it than that. When we look at the mythology of the world, it centers around the power of the Triforce, of which there are three (four?*) parts: Wisdom, Power, and Courage. Each of these parts is personified in Zelda, Ganon, and Link, respectively.

*That fourth part would be the upside-down triangle there in the middle. The Triforce of Shadow? Not going there in this post, but it’s worth mentioning.

So, we have alignment working along these three axes. We have a Triforce of Courage that needs reassembling, and then someone to wield it. Who should that be?

Obviously, the person who has been the most Courageous! This will mean a great deal more bookkeeping for myself, as I will need to keep track of the PCs actions every game and make judgment calls (quite frankly, more than I’m really comfortable doing, but I think it will be worth it in the end) on whether their actions have been Wise, Courageous, or Power-hungry. In the end, only one of them can raise the Triforce of Courage and fight Ganon. Of course, I’m not going to tell them I’m keeping track of this kind of thing.
Side-note: what happens if someone who is not pure of heart or truly courageous enough to wield it gets his or her hands on the Triforce of Courage? Something exciting I’m sure… Because I'm not going to just come out and tell them who is supposed to wield the Triforce of Courage! 

Right now, I have it set up with a kind-of points system. Basically, each character will get a point in the appropriate column whenever they do something in-game that is especially Wise, Courageous, or Power-Hungry. I wish there was a good way to make Wisdom, Power, and Courage each PC's stats, but I'm not sure how to make it work. They feel more like personality attributes than physical statistics to me, which is why I'm keeping them separate. I do have plans to use these scores in a couple of different ways down the line, which I'll explain when we get there (eventually). 

But also, what happens to the character who has been the most Wise?

Or the most Power-hungry?

Any ideas? Sound off in the comments below! 


  1. That's a pretty neat way to do it and makes sense within the mythology of the triforce and such. I think I would do it differently though and use a color alignment system kinda like MtG. Kinda base it around the colors and the world regions.

    Pick green and you are likely to be cheerful and wise like the forest folk.

    Red aligned folk tend to be stubborn and hot-headed like the Gorons of the mountains.

    Blue folk are hospitable and easy going like the Zoras of the great ocean.

    Black aligned folk are grim and somber but not necessarily evil, like the grave keeper for example.

    Tan aligned folk could be mysterious and shifty like the Gerudo and Garo of the desert lands.

    And so on like that. I guess it is more of an outlook thing rather than an alignment system, but that might be a bit easier for kids to handle anyway and adds some flavor.

    As for Courage,Power,and Wisdom- maybe let the players vote at the end of the session which one of them was the champion of each virtue. Get the kids involved and let them recognize each others good roleplaying.

    Anyway this is cool. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks Pierce! The MtG color pie is definitely something the kids would understand pretty well, as we play a lot of Magic. While I would definitely use something like that if I were writing up my own game, it probably won't work here; if I've learned anything from gaming with my kids, it's that telling them that their character is a certain way is a great way to get them to not care at all, and they will actively do things the opposite way! They just don't seem to get that their character might have a pre-determined "alignment" or "worldview" or whatever.

      Which is why I'm keeping score without them knowing about it. Besides, if they knew about it, they would start metagaming and superficially change their behavior. Metagaming is good in Magic the Gathering, lol. Not so much for D&D. And if we let them all vote, they all vote for themselves anyway for Courage, and none of them will accept that they were Power-hungry.

      Thanks much for the comment! I'm getting back on the blog-train, and this is a helluva project to be undertaking. The positive reviews are helpful :)

  2. You might consider giving a +1 bonus on appropriate actions (or maybe the appropriate stat — I don't know if you've mapped Strength, Dexterity, and Mind to the three sections of the Triforce) to the character in the party who is the most Wise or Power-Hungry.

    Doing research? The character with the most Wisdom gets the bonus.

    Trying to break down a door to get at the treasure within? The character with the most Power gets the bonus.

    Also, I might be inclined to set an arbitrary limit — maybe 100, maybe 1000, maybe 1000000, whatever. If a character breaches that limit, s/he officially becomes the embodiment of that aspect of the Triforce and wrests it away from Ganon or Zelda.

    What effect that has on the character and the world is best left to the Referee, but giving some legendary bonus or responsibility is not out of the question. You don't ascend to another reality, but maybe you gain access to Zelda's magic or Ganon's monstrous form. Or maybe you gain a special gift from Din or Nayru.

    1. Thanks for the comment S.P.! I will definitely be using some of that, particularly bonuses for tasks that fall within the purview of each aspect of the Triforce. Not sure I would let any of the PCs wrest control of the Triforce away from Zelda or Ganon, but I am leaning towards letting the player(s) with a suitably high Wisdom score have a little extra intuition in the form of hints from the DM. Also definitely thinking that the player(s) with very high Power scores (and probably very low Wisdom and Courage scores) will start to feel the call to join the dark side...