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Torment The Tides of Numenera alignment system

What's your impression of the Tides alignment system?

  • Positive

    Votes: 28 41.8%
  • Negative

    Votes: 7 10.4%
  • Undecided

    Votes: 32 47.8%

  • Total voters


Jan 12, 2013
Beyond Beyond the Beyond
Assorted notes, most of which are in response to various comments in this thread:

1. Right -- the Tides focus on actions for two reasons:
a) we can detect player actions, but we can't detect motivation. We wanted to avoid the frustration that would result from us inevitably miscategorizing a player's intentions. Especially since the Tides are new and unfamiliar (and deliberately involved), preventing this frustration is a challenge even when it is based upon the actions.
b) a person's legacy is based upon how they were perceived, which is arguably more based upon their actions (which could include their stated motivations), not their true internal motivations. (To that end, in cases where the player explicitly declares their motivations, it's treated as an action, albeit a fairly minor one.
2. We are undecided on how transparent Tide changes should be to players. Fortunately, this should be easy to adjust as we develop and play through more content (which is why we haven't prioritized answering this particular question). A player option is a possibility, but not a certainty yet.

3. In general, we have found the Tides' complexity and nuances to be challenging to navigate. We recognized and accepted this challenge from the start and haven't been disappointed. (This is a reason, for example, that some of our earliest work was on the five novellas that explore the nature of each Tide.) We see risk in how well we'll be able to both clearly communicate to players about the Tides as well as how fully we can realize their potential. It's been going reasonably well, and I think many players will find it interesting, but there are still weaknesses and I'm not sure yet how close we will get to "amazing." In any case, the Tides are by no means an afterthought and they receive considerable attention because we strive for "amazing."

4. This may seem contrary to my "by no means an afterthought" comment above, but most of our reactivity is focused first on the characters and the situations. We rarely structure conversations for the Tides. This was deliberate because we don't want to warp the content to serve the Tides. And if the Tides can reasonably accomplish what we're asking of them, then they can be somewhat unobtrusive. (There are some cases where the Tides are more front and center, but more often the part they play is more supportive than driving.)

5. Yes, an action can increase more than one Tide (or none of them). We try to avoid having an action that seems appropriate for more than two Tides, however, though part of this is in iteration. The Tides are not in direct conflict with each other.

6. Yes, it is possible for the PC to be balanced in the Tides such that they have no dominant one. We aren't approaching this (or any of the Tides, really) as an explicit philosophy or such, but we are accounting for this possibility. (I.e., you shouldn't expect explicit conversations debating the value of one Tide vs. another - any comparison will be more subtle than that and they aren't really things to compare. They aren't exactly an alignment system in the flavor of D&D's.)
Last edited:


Love fool
Feb 7, 2013
Smyrna - Scalanouva
Divinity: Original Sin 2
I'm somewhat dissapointed for not having green as a tide colour.



Jan 8, 2009
The error comes in thinking, or hoping, that alignment systems would in any way reflect my character or me the gamer's actual intentions, motivations, or personality. Won't happen within a traditional CRPG design for many fundamental reasons. So what interesting purpose could an alignment system otherwise serve? By being counters for the objective forces in the gameworld which judge you, of course!

A refusal to help a poor man whose own misjudgments have landed him on the streets could be justified under any number of motivations: a Vhailorlike belief in Law; a Kreialike belief in strength of self; a sadistic Typical CRPG Evil mwahaha; so on. A game that tries to guess which one is bound for failure. But if we are talking about a society or even a universe that is strongly driven by clear, conventionalised rules for what kinds of actions are judged in what way, then it becomes very clear. In Tides terms, this example would quite clearly fall under Indigo, for example. You could have any number of internal motivations that drive an Indigo character characterised by Justice. This does not weaken the fact that within the TTON universe, that character is definitively and genuinely Indigo, with all the in-world implications of being Indigo.

The key advantage of this perspective is that it is easier and clearer to align your alignment system with in-game characters, viewpoints, judgments, rewards, reputations. It is also easier to identify NPCs with alignments in a way that doesn't boil down to "hi my name is tom and I WANNA EAT YOUR BRAINS". A special attraction of the Tides system under this perspective is that the way in which you view the in-world characters and their behaviours also becomes more nuanced, which decidedly is not true with D&D or Star Wars settings. You can identify with and easily recognise Red & Gold characters who are benevolent and kind, as well as Red & Gold characters who are gung ho, disruptive, or even stupidly gullible.

Funnily enough, doesn't this remind you of something? Yes - the faction reputation system. In FNV etc. we intuitively understand that each faction has a complex set of characteristics, characteristics which are objectively grounded in the gameworld and are clearly tied to specific interests. This makes it instantly easier to work out what kinds of NPCs or quest decisions, etc. align in what ways with those factions. I think viewing, and designing, alignments not as Moral Essences but as real forces in the gameworld that respond to your actions, as Torment does, has real mileage for the good kind of innovation.

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