Divine Trappings: Just Not Giving Up On Alignment Domains

A few days ago I tried to draft domain aspects for alignment domains, and I wasn’t satisfied with what I came up with. I’m nothing if not tenacious, so here I am.

… and I’m still not completely satisfied, but I feel a lot better about what I have today than I did the other day.

I think the biggest stumbling block I had was that I didn’t want to saddle ‘Good’ with… let’s call it ‘overt influence from the nominal religion of my upbringing’. Or more directly, “Good is Christianity”, because that would be awfully presumptuous of me. And probably hypocritical since I don’t particularly subscribe to those teachings today.

Anyway, I found when I got into the other alignment domains things were a lot easier. “Evil causes unnecessary harm and pain; is cruel” is a pretty easy thing to find consensus in, and from there “objects that cause pain and harm, that are cruel” make good appropriate symbols and motifs. Similarly, if Chaos is all about change (planned or not, desirable or not, etc.) and unpredictability, it’s pretty easy to find appropriate symbology.

Alignment Domain Aspects

I left some of the fields blank below, but will fill them in as I continue working. Long ago I read that when you’re drafting a book, it’s better to have the entire book at 80% or even 60% ‘good’ than it is to have one chapter absolutely perfect, and that resonates me. Mostly it’s the Artifacts, Duties, and Quests fields that are left undone for the moment. I have strategies and tools to help with those, I just don’t have time tonight to apply them. I’ll come back to them another time.


  • Portfolios Chance, change, coincidence, transformation
  • Symbols Asymmetrical or irregular shapes, distorted figures
  • Motifs Change and transformation, irregular placement or unexpected juxtaposition
  • Manifestations Changing (constantly or unpredictably), distinctive features, unpredictable, inconsistent, surprising
  • Colors Mixed; irregular or disrupted patterns
  • Holy Places Disrupted, prone to change, flickering light and darkness, surprising noises
  • Special Locations Altars ‘of opportunity’, shrines and temples of disjoint architecture and arrangement
  • Favored Weapon Flail, nunchaku, sansetsukon (three-section staff), spiked chain
  • Alignment Chaotic
  • Priests Unpredictable, capricious, spontaneous, antihierarchical
  • Followers Rebels, visionaries, and other agents of change; barbarians, rogues
  • Servitors Creatures with the chaotic subtype or alignment
  • Artifacts
  • Special Items
  • Beliefs
    • Obedience Personal and extemporaneous, when circumstances allow or require
    • Dogma and Tenets
    • Duties
    • Quests and Trials


  • Portfolios Greed, hatred, murder, sadness, slavery, torment
  • Symbols Spiked chain, slave’s collar, cruelly amputated body parts
  • Motifs Tormented people/bodies, spikes, skulls, jagged edges and rough surfaces
  • Manifestations Menacing, blood-covered,
  • Colors Black, blood red, bone white
  • Holy Places Disquieting, uncomfortable (hot, cold, damp), shadowy
  • Special Locations altars are bloodstained, shrines are rarely seen (uncommon or hidden), temples are distant or hidden (and often aggressively defended)
  • Favored Weapon Barbed spear, hook,
  • Alignment Evil
  • Priests Selfish, greedy, harsh, callous
  • Followers Criminals, murderers, antipaladins and blackguards and assassins, torturers, any evildoer, anyone who can be misled into following
  • Servitors Creatures with the evil subtype or alignment, creatures compelled to serve
  • Artifacts
  • Special Items
  • Beliefs
    • Obedience Harm or torment a creature (preferably sentient, preferably innocent), plot or lay groundwork for something that will do harm; in the darkest of night or brightest and hottest time of day
    • Dogma and Tenets
    • Duties
    • Quests and Trials


  • Portfolios Altruism, generosity, kindness, love, peace, succor
  • Symbols Halo (gleaming circle), shining star,
  • Motifs
  • Manifestations
  • Colors Gold, silver, white
  • Holy Places Peaceful, quiet, well-lit
  • Special Locations altars are smooth and clean, shrines are common and displayed openly, temples are centrally located and welcoming
  • Favored Weapon
  • Alignment Good
  • Priests Helpful, friendly, caring
  • Followers Healers, peacemakers, champions, altruists; paladins
  • Servitors Creatures with the good subtype or alignment
  • Artifacts
  • Special Items
  • Beliefs
    • Obedience
    • Dogma and Tenets
    • Duties
    • Quests and Trials


  • Portfolios Order, justice, structure, planning, consistency
  • Symbols Symmetrical, simple shape, complex patterns; scales or other measuring devices
  • Motifs Complex patterns, regular arrangement, predictable sequences or placement
  • Manifestations Clean, outstandingly mundane, precise in behavior and appearance
  • Colors Monotone or consistent (simple or complex) patterns
  • Holy Places Tidy, precise and regular arrangement, static and unchanging
  • Special Locations Altars are precisely arranged, shrines and temples are have consistent (or identical) architecture for their type and circumstance
  • Favored Weapon Sword, staff, mace
  • Alignment Lawful
  • Priests Organized, precise and proper, hierarchical
  • Followers Well-ordered, anyone who benefits or prefers predictability; paladins, monks
  • Servitors Creatures with the lawful subtype or alignment, creatures bound by agreements
  • Artifacts
  • Special Items
  • Beliefs
    • Obedience Any time as long as it is the same from day to day; structured (perhaps rote) rituals
    • Dogma and Tenets
    • Duties
    • Quests and Trials

Closing Comments

Still lots to do, but I think I’ve reached the point of accepting that I don’t have to get it all right the first try. I’m working in the open, drafting this material in public, and there’s nothing wrong with showing my work as I go.

Incomplete and flawed as it is, I’m making progress. Once I have all the domains drafted, even if not completely drafted, I’ll have something I can work with and make better.

That’s not a bad place to be.


    • I’m happy to hear that!

      I understand why domains are presented as basically ‘mechanical building blocks’ for clerics, but I’ve always felt that’s not making full use of domains. It probably comes as no surprise that one of my favorite AD&D2e supplements was The Complete Priest’s Handbook, and how it allowed you to build priests of specific mythoi. Domains normalized and made it a little more rigorous for clerics, but why wouldn’t we expect it to reflect on the deities also?

      … which reminds me, salient divine abilities from 3e Deities & Demigods (they’re also in the RSRD) and the various gifts and whatnot from Mongoose Publishing’s Classic Play: Book of the Planes might also give me some hints toward writing these aspects. I’ll pull them out for my second pass.

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