BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is a new setting for one player and one GM for 5e. In this article we take a look at one of the changes we’ve made to base 5e- alignment.
Beowulf the poem is a study in contrasts when it comes to religion. Its visions of meadhalls, monsters, sea creatures and dragons remind us of pagan legends and make us think of great adventure novels. But Beowulf is given to thanking the Christian God for his good fortune and the poet tells us that Grendel (and his mother) are the kindred of Cain. So the poem blends both the Church and the Old Ways into a seamless whole.
This is not too unusual for the time, however. In the days remembered in the tale, the Church was new to Northern Europe and, while popular with many, we have evidence that many people took a practical approach: combining the new ways with the old. We have chosen to represent the changing beliefs of the time with our alignment system. A Hero can have one of three different alignments: the Old Ways, the Church, or Neutral.
A Hero of the Old Ways believes in the Northern traditions that are still familiar today: there are many gods, and they feud with each other incessantly, that the mundane world is but part of the greater tree of life and there are other realms where the giants, elves, dwarves and others dwell. A final reckoning is coming, and a warrior must be brave in battle and in death in order to earn their place in the army of the gods. Prophecy says that such a battle is doomed to failure and the cycle will begin anew with the death of the gods.
A Hero of the Church believes in the offer inherent in the Book, that while no one is perfect, that God has enough love and patience to accept anyone willing into his heart and into the afterlife. The Church believes in education, literacy, kindness and forgiveness. They work against slavery and counsel words over weapons for feuds among people. But the Church also knows that the North is a dark place and there are evil Monsters beyond redemption waiting in the shadows. But there is a promise of peace for those who have faith in the Church.
A Neutral Hero has taken a practical approach to life. The Church might be right, and a neutral character will listen to a priest and consider their advice carefully. But the Old Ways still have power and there may yet come a reckoning, even the Book of the Church says something about that. So they are careful to stay on everyone’s good side so that they are not on anyone’s bad side. And who knows what is to come?
BEOWULF is a single player game, and the player’s choice of alignment also sets some of the tone for their adventures: the Hero is truly at the heart of the story.
In addition to informing roleplaying opportunities between Followers and the Hero, plus roleplaying between the Hero and the various characters they meet, alignment also has a practical input in the alignment die. At certain points over the course of the game, the Hero can roll an extra d20 and earn inspiration tokens, depending on the results of the roll.
BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is coming soon to Kickstarter. You can check out the system by downloading our free preview, the Hermit’s Sanctuary at drivethrurpg.com