Alignment in traditional D&D is marked by two facts: 1) it is determined before play and 2) it is used as a ‘stick’ for punishing players who don’t stay within the lines of their chosen (or imposed in the cases of classes like the paladin) worldview.
Let’s flip Alignment and see what we get.
First, how about if we determine Alignment after a character is created, through his or her actions? This is more or less what Chaosium’s Stormbringer and Elric! games did, allowing characters to accrue Law, Chaos or Balance points based on their players’ actions. If we define these forces based on the Michael Moorcock conception of opposing entities representing stability and/or stagnation, creativity and/or destruction, and peacefulness and/or passivity, then this isn’t hard to implement. I may write up a treatment of the rules for assigning such points later.
Stormbringer/Elric! also carried the seed of my second flip, namely rewarding PCs with summonings or boons from deities of their patron Alignment based on how many points they had accumulated and were willing to spend. Boons might include spell-like effects, familiars or summonings, and magical gear or companions. Of course, they would still be subject to punishment for transgressing or openly opposing the will of their patron.
There is a final flip contained herein – Alignment only matters if a character 1) has a class defined by its Alignment, such as Priest or Paladin, or 2) the character has sworn themselves to or undertaken a quest for a deity.
As for the advanced Alignment categories of Good, Evil, and Neutral, I would reskin these as Heroic, Villainous, and Neutral, just because they’re easier to wrap my head around.
Anyway, I’d like to try this the next game I run. Just some sleepy thoughts…