|That's not how this works... that's not how any of this works...|
Why This "Hack" is Pointless
In order for this sort of alignment maintenance to happen via spellcasting, it requires a spellcaster of a certain alignment to learn spells of an opposing alignment. If you're a good-aligned spellcaster, why would you learn animate dead, for example? And if you're an evil-aligned spellcaster, why would you learn celestial healing, particularly when infernal healing is an option? Perhaps a neutral spellcaster would know them both, and use them when appropriate, but why ensure that you cast an even number of good and evil spells? Because that's not, exactly, what "being neutral" means.
|Seriously, this isn't a rhetorical question.|
While it is possible for you to "atone" for your one evil spell with good spells, it's on the player to explain A) why the character would have spells from both ends of the spectrum, and B) why that character would feel the need to play one step forward, and one step back? Alignment is a meta concept, after all, which means that the characters are often unaware of where they sit on the spectrum without some form of highly-specific spell to tell them where they are.
More importantly, though, a player should ask why the character would even feel the need to bounce back and forth. Aside from the player's own, personal desire to fit squarely into a good or evil bracket that, as far as their characters know, doesn't even exist.
If a character is not a member of a class for whom alignment is important (such as a wizard, a magus, or even a bard), then there's no purpose to using spells to "cheat" the alignment rule that would make you good or evil for dipping your fingers into pools of liquid malevolence or beneficence. If a character is a member of a class for whom alignment is important (clerics, warpriests, inquisitors, etc.), then the question should be why would this person blatantly reach outside the alignment they're supposed to be maintaining to use tools that are outside their toolbox? This is particularly true for divine casters. Because while it's true that a good-aligned cleric could pray for spells with the evil descriptor, why would a good-aligned god grant those spells to them in the first place?
Roleplay Your Changing Alignment
The big question that playing footsie with your alignment by casting spells should ask, though, is what are the roleplay and story implications for that kind of flirtation? Does the wizard, who thought all magic was just a tool, develop a taste for true darkness? Does he begin relying on evil spells, even when he doesn't need them, just for the sickening rush of power? Will his reputation, and legacy, be twisted as he refuses to let go of his corruption?
|Why did I change my seal? No reason, really.|
The same is true from the other direction. What happens when the evil necromancer learns good-aligned spells in order to trick his opponents, but ends up seeing the light when he uses them too many times? Does he try to go back to his old ways, but the things he's done, and the person he was, are so revolting to him now that he can never understand how he once performed such awful acts without thought or care?
Lastly, it's important to note that a changed alignment doesn't wipe your slate clean as a character. For example, an evil character who, for some reason, becomes good-aligned through use of a good-aligned spell doesn't get to shirk responsibility for all the evil acts they may have committed. Their deeds were still done, and the enemies they made are still their enemies. There's also the question of what's going to happen when their masters find they've wandered off the proper alignment path. How hard will the character fight to maintain its new outlook on life when it knows that cult leaders, demon lords, and others have invested a great deal in them remaining evil?
Your alignment is an important aspect of your character, but it is not a get-out-of-jail free card. You can be good-aligned and still be wanted for crimes. You can be evil-aligned, and still find a way to never stray into illegitimate areas of the law. Finally, yes, you can alter your alignment by using good or evil spells... but the real question you should be asking yourself is what purpose does that kind of metagaming serve?
That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday entry. Hopefully it helps some folks who've been grappling with this issue, and it stops some arguments at your tables. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then drop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to make a small donation. Donate at least $1 a month, and there's some swag in it for you! Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter yet, well, why not start today?