Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Machen's "The White People" and LotFP-style alignment

I'm re-reading Arthur Machen's "The White People", which is an awesome story, and also some of the quotes are great for explaining the alignment system of LotFP - specifically the Prologue in which Ambrose explains his philosophy of Sin. Probably it's where Raggi got it in the first place?
"Alignment is a character’s orientation on a cosmic scale. It has nothing to do with a character’s allegiances, personality, morality, or actions."  (LotFP, Rules & Magic, p. 8)
There is this fatalistic predeterminalism: Magic-Users and Elves must be Chaotic, Clerics must be Lawful. All others are free to choose their alignment. I actually really like this part of the LotFP rulebook, because it captures the cosmic horror part so well, and transforms this old D&D trope into something else. Being Lawful doesn't make you a "good guy" or vice versa. Both Lawful and Chaotic are deviations from the norm, and signal a transgression.

The following passages are quotes from "The White People":

"Sorcery and sanctity," said Ambrose, "these are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life."

"Great people of all kinds forsake the imperfect copies and go to the perfect originals. I have no doubt but that many of the very highest among the saints have never done a 'good action' (using the words in their ordinary sense). And, on the other hand, there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an 'ill deed.'"

"You astonish me,” said Cotgrave. “I had never thought of that. If that is really so, one must turn everything upside down. Then the essence of sin really is—” “In the taking of heaven by storm, it seems to me,” said Ambrose. “It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and a higher sphere in a forbidden manner. You can understand why it is so rare. They are few, indeed, who wish to penetrate into other spheres, higher or lower, in ways allowed or forbidden. Men, in the mass, are amply content with life as they find it. Therefore there are few saints, and sinners (in the proper sense) are fewer still, and men of genius, who partake sometimes of each character, are rare also. Yes; on the whole, it is, perhaps, harder to be a great sinner than a great saint.”

"Then, to return to our main subject, you think that sin is an esoteric, occult thing?” “Yes. It is the infernal miracle as holiness is the supernal. Now and then it is raised to such a pitch that we entirely fail to suspect its existence; it is like the note of the great pedal pipes of the organ, which is so deep that we cannot hear it. In other cases it may lead to the lunatic asylum, or to still stranger issues. But you must never confuse it with mere social misdoing. Remember how the Apostle, speaking of the ‘other side,’ distinguishes between ‘charitable’ actions and charity. And as one may give all one’s goods to the poor, and yet lack charity; so, remember, one may avoid every crime and yet be a sinner."

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