In the end, though, he was still worthy of the power that had been given him. It was only his will to use that power that he'd lost, and watching him rekindle that fire was a triumphant moment.
|And let's be honest, one of the movie's most badass moments.|
Are You Worthy?
From Lancelot to Samson, literature is full of characters whose powers are entirely dependent upon their behavior. And, in these cases, that power typically comes from a source outside of that character. It isn't a part of them, and they have no ownership over it. They are a vessel that can be filled, or emptied, according to the terms and conditions of the source.
|It's doesn't matter WHO cut my hair, woman, point is, it's cut!|
This is where we get into the most common alignment-based superpower: divine favor. From druids and paladins, to clerics, warpriests, and inquisitors, these agents of the divine must live and act according to the strictures of that divine source in order to continually prove themselves worthy of the power that's been entrusted to them.
Put another way, it doesn't matter if you think you deserve those powers or not. That's how Thor felt when Odin cast him down in the first film for his arrogance and recklessness, but that anger and bitterness didn't help him lift his hammer again. It didn't matter if he felt he was justified in invading Nifleheim and potentially starting a war with the frost giants, because whether he was worthy wasn't his call to make. It was only by proving he had learned his lesson through selfless acts to save others that he brought himself back into alignment with the power he'd once wielded, and showed that he deserved to once more be allowed to lift Mjolnir, and the might that came with it.
That is the thing to keep in mind when it comes to classes that call on divine might that require the character stay within certain alignment guidelines. Those exist as a meta concept for the player to judge where the boundaries are, but at the end of the day the question is not if the character feels they were justified. It's whether their patron, the one who is granting power to that character, feels they still deserve it.
Because if they're deemed unworthy, their patron will strip them of their power, and cast them down. That's the price for using borrowed power; you need to follow the restrictions for using it, else it will be taken away from you.
What About Non-Divine Restrictions?
There are, of course, a few restrictions that have nothing to do with divine will at all. The most notable examples are that monks must remain lawful, and barbarians cannot be lawful.
|I'd promise to kick your ass, but I don't want to risk my alignment.|
These restrictions are, at least partially, a way to make sure that you can't mix and match certain concepts mechanically. However, thematically, they also represent the yin and yang of the superior warrior.
Or as most of us know them, Raven and Starfire.
If you're a fan of the Teen Titans, you've likely seen the one where Raven and Starfire switch bodies, and they're each trying to figure out how the other's powers work. Raven can only manifest her abilities through carefully controlled focus and tight emotional control. Starfire's powers, on the other hand, are directly tied to her emotional state. Her feelings are the fuel that feeds her abilities, and without those free-flowing emotions she's unable to so much as light a spark.
There's a similar feeling with these two classes. Barbarian Rage is not just anger; it's something deeper. Something more primal than that, and it can take many different forms. Whatever form it takes, though, too much control smothers the character's ability to give themselves over completely to that state of being. Whether it's the unfeeling wrath of the berserker, or the armored carapace of an abyssal totem, a certain loss of control is required to fall back into that pool, and to become one with Rage.
Monks, on the other hand, need to keep that tight focus in order to channel ki. While they might not be trained at a monastery, or even follow a widely-accepted doctrine, it is that intense focus that grants them their powers. Their ability to move more quickly, to armor themselves in speed, and to perform superhuman feats is precisely because they don't give in, and they maintain their laser-sharp edge that holds their mind, body, and spiritual parts in perfect harmony. That extends out into the rest of their lives, and it's why a monk will find their abilities falling away if they fall out-of-sync with their own inner spirit and ki.
Incidentally, for more on these classes, you might want to check out my 5 Tips For Playing Better Barbarians as well as my 5 Tips For Playing Better Monks.
What Does This Restriction Lead To in Your Character?
Alignment restrictions on character classes are often seen as killjoys, or as limiting what kinds of characters you can play. However, it's important to incorporate these restrictions into who your character is, and what makes them tick.
Was your cleric chosen by their god because they were already a good person, and so they were the ideal bearer of this power, or were they a diamond in the rough that's still being shaped away from darker impulses that marked their youth? Does your barbarian struggle with their Rage, simultaneously afraid of what it could make them do and hungry for the wild power it fills them with? Does your monk have trouble keeping their focus, needing to overcome inner challenges of doubt, wrath, or fear, and either leaving those challenges by the wayside, or embracing them so they are now assets rather than weaknesses?
|I'm sorry he left you... maybe we can be friends, instead?|
There's also the question of what happens when you step over the line... does your character try to re-orient themselves, to prove their worth and climb back up the mountain? Or do they embrace their change and continue on the path of their downfall? Does the divine champion find a new patron, one more in-line with their actions and methods? Does the failed monk embrace their inner turmoil and chaos, becoming a barbarian? Does the barbarian, locking their Rage away and refusing to give into it, instead become a monk or a paladin, driven by iron-clad vows and a deeper purpose?
How you remain within your initial boundaries is interesting... but what you do when you cross them also has the potential to lead to unique growth. Especially if your DM allows for retraining rules.
That's all for this week's Fluff post. If you've used alignment restrictions to create interesting story results, tell us how in the comments below!
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