D&D 5E [5E] The few mechanical implications of Alignment

Illithidbix

Explorer
(I posted this a while back on the WoTC forums and RPG.net, occurred to me that some people on Enworld might be interested as well.)

So, 5E is pretty light when it comes to rules and alignment intersecting.
But I suffer from an obsession with it given my a militant anti-alignment tenancies, so here is my attempt to find all the points where alignment matters for rules purposes. Which may be useful for people with a similar viewpoint to myself.
The total count is more than I initially expected, but mostly within the DMG.

Players Handbook
Very few.

Class ability or requirements – nothing I can find, even the paladin entry mentions: “Your oath and alignment might be in harmony, or your oath might represent standards of behavior that you have not yet attained.” – Which I personally think is pretty damn cool, I very much like concept and personalisation of the Oath myself.
(Although the Oathbreaker Paladin in the DMG "must be evil" - see below)

There are eleven mentions in Spells. And only one really is any case where alignment is more than personality.

Animal Shapes, Magic Jar, Polymorph, Shapechange, True Polymorph: All these spells mention you retain your alignment and personality, even for the spells where the mental ability scores are changed!

Conjure Celestial and Conjure Fey: Both specify that the summoned creature won't do actions that violate it's alignment.

Glyph of Warding
"You can further refine the trigger so the spell activates only under certain circumstances or according to physical characteristics (such as height and weight), creature kind (for example, the ward could be set to affect aberrations or drow), or alignment."
(… However Symbol doesn't, despite having copy/pasted wording for much of the spell. Which is rather strange given Symbol is a 7th level spell and Glyph of Warding is only 3rd Level.)

Modify Memory
“A modified memory doesn't necessarily affect how a creature behaves, particularly if the memory contradicts the creature's natural inclinations, alignment or beliefs.”

Nystul's Magic Aura: - “Mask- You change the way the target appears to spells and magical effects that detect creature types ...You choose a creature type and other spells and magical effects treat the target as if it were a creature of that type or that alignment.”

Spirit Guardians: Causes radiant damage if caster is good or neutral, necrotic damage if the caster is evil.

Very pointedly Divine Sense, Detect Good and Evil and Detect Thoughts does not reveal the target's alignment, so as far as I know there is actually no way for a player to directly determine another creature's alignment.
“Good” and “Evil” in a spell context mostly refers to Celestials, Fiends and Undead and sometimes also Fey and Elementals.

The list of pantheons and deities list their alignments but again this has no required relation to that of their clerics and paladins.


Monster Manual
Again pretty sparse; I've found nine monsters with mechanical implications of alignment. (Technically “lycanthrope” is five monsters)

Demilich: Lair Trait – The first time a non-evil creature enters the demilich's lair they take 3D10 necrotic damage.

Lemure: Hellish Rejuvenation: The lemure returns to life unless killed by a good-aligned creature with a bless spell cast upon them or it's remains are sprinkled with holy water.

Night Hag: Nightmare Haunting “if the target dies and if the target was evil it's soul is trapped in the hag's soul bag.”

Player Characters as Lycanthropes and Vampires: The character's alignment changes to that of the lycanthrope and lawful evil if they are turned into a vampire.

Rakshasa: Damage Vulnerabilities: Piercing from magic weapons wielded by good creatures.

Sprite: Heart Sight: If sprite touches a creature and magically knows the creature's current emotional state. If the target fails a DC10 charisma saving throw, the sprite also knows the creatures alignment. Celestials, fiends and undead automatically fail the saving throw.

Shadow: Strength Drain: If a non-evil humanoid dies from this attack, a new shadow rises from the corpse 1d4 hours later.
(Which is ironic, given that being evil apparently cuts down on manifestation of horrific undead horrors in very certain circumstances!)

Unicorn: Lair Traits: When a good-aligned creature casts a spell or uses a magical effect to restore hit points to another good aligned creature the target regains the maximum number of hit points.
Curses effecting any good-aligned creature are suppressed.

I think Heart Sight is kinda curious as it's the only a CR ¼ creature that posses a ability to allow them to directly detect a creature's alignment. No other monster or PC ability I have found allows this.
Even with angels; whilst Planateer's and Solar's Divine Awareness allows them to know if they hear a lie, the can't just know a creature's alignment.


Dungeon Master's Guide

The DMG contains by far the most mechanical effects of Alignment, most notably in the rules for Planes (which isn't much of a surprise given the Great Wheel is kinda based around Alignment) and some magic items.

Bringing Back the Dead (Page 24): A soul can't be returned to life if it doesn't want to be. A souls knows the name, alignment and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and might refuse to return on that basis.

Loyalty rules for NPC Party members: When other party members act in a manner that runs counter to the NPC's alignment or bond reduce the NPC's loyalty score by 1D4.

Planar Rules

Psychic dissonance in Outer planes: CON saving throws at end of long rests to avoid exhaustion if Good or Evil creature is on plane off opposed alignment.

Mount Celestia: Blessed Beneficence; good-aligned creatures gain the benefit of Bless and Lesser Restoration spells whilst on this plane.

The following planes require Wisdom or Charisma saving throws after long rests spent on the plane or change your alignment.

Bytopia: Pervasive goodwill
The Abyss: Abyssal Corruption
Nine Hells: Pervasive Evil
Mechanus: Imposing Order.

Villainous Class Options - Oathbreaker Paladin
"A paladin must be evil and at least 3rd level to become an oathbreaker.
and
Oathbreaker atonement "A paladin who wishes to atone must first shed his or her evil alignment and demonstrate this alignment change through words and deeds".
- This seems a little odd as the concept of endeavouring to change alignment doesn't otherwise seem discussed anywhere else

Magic Items

Candle of Invocation: Benefits cleric or druid who's alignment matches the candle with free 1st level spell slots.

Deck of Many Things: The Balance card changes alignment. One of the least of your problems from putting this in your game.

Ring of Mind Shielding: Includes making you immune to magic that allows others to know your alignment.
Again noting that only a Sprite's Heart Sight seems to allow you to do this.

Talisman of Pure Good and Talisman of Ultimate Evil – No surprises here.

Sentient Magical Items and Artifacts
Too many to list, notably it's a key part of the conflict mechanic.

And given that two of the sample Artifacts are the Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness, this isn't a surprise.


So really it's quite possible for alignment to never come up in a game, at least as rules are concerned.
Anyone able to spot any I've missed?
 

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Fralex

Explorer
Alignment is also mentioned in the background ideals, but ignoring the labels on the suggestions is pretty trivial.
 

Glyph of Warding [/B]"You can further refine the trigger so the spell activates only under certain circumstances or according to physical characteristics (such as height and weight), creature kind (for example, the ward could be set to affect aberrations or drow), or alignment."
(… However Symbol doesn't, despite having copy/pasted wording for much of the spell. Which is rather strange given Symbol is a 7th level spell and Glyph of Warding is only 3rd Level.)

I'm going to say that was an error in Glyph. Otherwise a simple 5th level caster would have the power of the almighty sprite, which obviously isn't intended.
 

I guess the chainlock/paladin multiclass with the sprite familiar can check the alignment of every tom, dick, and harry he runs into. And without spending a spell slot either....
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Cool list, thanks.

I don't mind if alignment has mechanical implications. In particular scenarios or campaigns, I offer Inspiration for playing to it (not unlike personality traits, ideals, bonds, or flaws) or link boons or perils to creatures with particular alignment - evil creatures standing on the Slaughter Stone gain advantage on attack rolls, as an example.

I just mind when the DM (or other players) uses it as a way to try to force someone to roleplay in a particular fashion. I don't stand for that sort of thing.
 

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Elderbrain

Guest
Iserith, the whole point of choosing an alignment is that you are essentially stating how you are going to roleplay your character! Just as a player who selects the Wizard class is announcing that he intends to play an guy who casts arcane magic spells rather than, say, go about smashing foes with Barbarian rage (unless he multiclasses...), a player who announces that his character is Lawful Good is saying that he is going to play that character a certain way. Selecting the Lawful Good alignment (for instance) excludes the player from declaring that his PC is going to (say) rob the peasants walking down the road, at least if the player is playing his PC according to the alignment he freely selected. If not, he's not roleplaying properly, and should have selected an alignment that allows him to have his character do what he wants. What's the point of having alignments at all, if the allegedly Lawful Good PC can do anything his Chaotic Evil counterpart can do without penalty? If a PC wants to play his character in (say) a Chaotic Evil manner, fine... but he should not be allowed to do so and also claim his character is Lawful Good! You wouldn't allow a character to be defined as a "pirate" and then let the player tell you "Oh, and by the way, he's never been on a boat, knows nothing about seamanship, and is deathly afraid of water", would you? :hmm:
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Iserith, the whole point of choosing an alignment is that you are essentially stating how you are going to roleplay your character! Just as a player who selects the Wizard class is announcing that he intends to play an guy who casts arcane magic spells rather than, say, go about smashing foes with Barbarian rage (unless he multiclasses...), a player who announces that his character is Lawful Good is saying that he is going to play that character a certain way. Selecting the Lawful Good alignment (for instance) excludes the player from declaring that his PC is going to (say) rob the peasants walking down the road, at least if the player is playing his PC according to the alignment he freely selected. If not, he's not roleplaying properly, and should have selected an alignment that allows him to have his character do what he wants.

Only in very broad terms. Alignment "describe the typical behavior of a creature with that alignment. Individuals might vary significantly from that typical behavior, and few people are perfectly and consistently faithful to the precepts of their alignment."

What's the point of having alignments at all, if the allegedly Lawful Good PC can do anything his Chaotic Evil counterpart can do without penalty? If a PC wants to play his character in (say) a Chaotic Evil manner, fine... but he should not be allowed to do so and also claim his character is Lawful Good! You wouldn't allow a character to be defined as a "pirate" and then let the player tell you "Oh, and by the way, he's never been on a boat, knows nothing about seamanship, and is deathly afraid of water", would you? :hmm:

Yes, I would. I don't care how a player describes or roleplays his or her character as long as the player is pursuing the goals of play in good faith (that is, contributing to a good time for everyone and the creation of an exciting, memorable story during play). Alignment is just a descriptor that occasionally has some mechanical impact. It's not for me to point at someone's character sheet and tell them they can't do a thing because it doesn't fit the character's alignment or to declare the player is "not roleplaying properly." And I won't accept that from another DM either.

At best, I can reward players with Inspiration when they play to their alignment. Do it this way and a player knows that playing CE while having LG on their sheet is fine, but isn't going to get them any Inspiration. They're better off changing it to CE. Of course, I only make alignment eligible for Inspiration when I feel doing so contributes to the character of the campaign world e.g. Planescape or Ravenloft. Otherwise, I don't really give it a second thought.
 

Ranthalan

First Post
Some of my players worry too much about alignment. I keep telling them don't worry about it, it doesn't really factor into much. I tell them to play how they want to play, if they're not playing your alignment, I might tell them to change it on their sheet.

Was it Dragonlance that had the sliding alignment scale? IIRC, that actually did have some significant mechanical influence for wizards and clerics.
 

MG.0

First Post
Anytime someone has a question about alignments I direct them here

Edit:

I especially like to point out his #1 rule for alignment:

Rule #1 of Alignment
Actions determine alignment - alignment doesn't determine actions. It has to be that way or else alignment cannot work the way it's intended. One of the things people keep trying to do with alignment is use it to determine which of the nine alignments that a specific action is assigned to. "If my character does this is his alignment that?" or, "What alignment is it to do that action?" It's a discussion that constantly reappears. But trying to make such judgments is trying to run alignment backwards. If you take a characters specific action and say, "That's a LN action," or, "That action will make you CG," then you ARE effectively assigning specific actions to a specific alignment and almost always ignoring all context of the action. But get this hammered into your thick skulls - alignment isn't supposed to dictate your actions, so specific actions cannot be designated directly with a given alignment. If it did, players would have no say in any morally significant acts that their characters perform. Their characters choices would be removed and certain behavior and actions would be routinely dictated to them - forced upon them. Any time that a decision involved morals or philosophy, alignment would take over and make decisions for you, assumedly until such time as you intentionally decided to break with your characters alignment. In that case, nobody could ever be accused of having their character NOT behave according to alignment - they could only accuse the DM of failing to enforce alignment-dictated behavior. Players could even just have their characters do whatever they please and leave it up to the DM to keep their characters within a chosen alignment by allowing or disallowing any given action.
 
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Iserith, the whole point of choosing an alignment is that you are essentially stating how you are going to roleplay your character! Just as a player who selects the Wizard class is announcing that he intends to play an guy who casts arcane magic spells rather than, say, go about smashing foes with Barbarian rage (unless he multiclasses...), a player who announces that his character is Lawful Good is saying that he is going to play that character a certain way. Selecting the Lawful Good alignment (for instance) excludes the player from declaring that his PC is going to (say) rob the peasants walking down the road, at least if the player is playing his PC according to the alignment he freely selected. If not, he's not roleplaying properly, and should have selected an alignment that allows him to have his character do what he wants. What's the point of having alignments at all, if the allegedly Lawful Good PC can do anything his Chaotic Evil counterpart can do without penalty? If a PC wants to play his character in (say) a Chaotic Evil manner, fine... but he should not be allowed to do so and also claim his character is Lawful Good! You wouldn't allow a character to be defined as a "pirate" and then let the player tell you "Oh, and by the way, he's never been on a boat, knows nothing about seamanship, and is deathly afraid of water", would you? :hmm:

The only way I think alignment/action correlations should (yes, this is one of the few things in D&D where I think everyone really should do it the way I do it) be handled by the DM is to change the character's alignment if their behavior is clearly out of harmony with it. There is no need to tell the player. They can write whatever they want on the character sheet. "LG", "pirate", "The Great and Almighty Duke of Awesomeland." It doesn't matter at all to the character's actual alignment other than serving as a frame of reference for the DM to interpret from.

If a player calls his character a pirate, but doesn't it back it up at all, the DM can safely ignore it. Just because it is scribbled on a character sheet doesn't make it true. If the character calls himself a pirate, then he is either lying or deluded, and the world will react appropriately (fear, avoidance, or simply ignoring him if they think he's full of it).

Same goes with alignment. If the player thinks his character is LG but acts LE, then in the great library in the DM's head you write "LE" and don't have to tell the player anything. If the character claims he's lawful good (assuming such phrases even exist in the setting), see the pirate example.

It's really easy to do this in 5e, since there are so few ways to find out what a character's actual alignment is, that his real alignment may never come up (unless you have brief scenes in the afterlife when a character dies like I do--and even then it's not necessarily precise) in the entire campaign.

As a DM, I would allow the player at their option to ask me to tell them if they are violating their alignment, and I would make sure anyone who might be bothered to find their character in an undesired afterlife is able to talk with me before the campaign starts so we can get on the same page of interpreting the alignments, but as far as bugging them about it during the campaign? Nah, it's silly.

(If a player was new to D&D alignments, I might give them some cues when they are first getting into the game that they appear to be acting significantly out of harmony with their stated alignment, and that the the general process is that their alignment changes to match their actions, just to make sure they are aware of that and cool with it. I might even ask them if they'd like to change their "declared" alignment.)
 

Illithidbix

Explorer
I'm going to say that was an error in Glyph. Otherwise a simple 5th level caster would have the power of the almighty sprite, which obviously isn't intended.

I envision a totalitarian theocracy (like Istar in Dragonlance) that sends adventurers out to capture sprites so they can be forced to serve Inquisitors to identify the sinful.
 

Eejit

First Post
Anytime someone has a question about alignments I direct them here

Edit:

I especially like to point out his #1 rule for alignment:

Rule #1 of Alignment
Actions determine alignment - alignment doesn't determine actions.

I'd rather say that alignment describes your character as they currently are. It's there to remind you how your character typically sees the world, not enforce behaviour. And of course as your character changes so can your alignment.
 


MG.0

First Post
I'd rather say that alignment describes your character as they currently are. It's there to remind you how your character typically sees the world, not enforce behaviour. And of course as your character changes so can your alignment.

The article pretty much says the same.

It goes on to say that alignment is more the long term average of a character's beliefs. A single act, no matter how significant is usually not enough to shift alignment.

A lawful good character can, in fact, commit a serious crime without changing alignment. An evil character can save a burning orphanage full of babies without shifting alignment. People can do things in the heat of the moment that are diametrically opposed to deeply held beliefs. This does not change their beliefs. Now, if the evil character suddenly finds themselves saving everybody, then we start looking at an alignment shift. Natural (as opposed to magical) alignment shifts should be public and discussed with players before they happen, not kept secret by the DM. Every player is likely to have a slightly unique take on alignment and this is OK. A DM might be surprised by the rationale players have for their character's behavior that obviates the need for a shift in alignment.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I was going to read the article, but it told me that in order to access an earthlink website, I first needed to install Netscape 95.
 

Demorgus

Explorer
I remember playing in 3rd edition a priest of Wee Jas who originally was LN. He got killed and brought back from the dead. However his coming back changed his mind on his philosophy about order and how he no longer was about allowing people to accept order, he was going to begin imposing order. And I let the DM know that he was going to be changing from LN to LE. His actions however are what really signified the change. Convincing other party members to join his cause and making a pact with a half-fiend to kill off the paladin who was opposing his viewpoint. It was fun times in Planescape.
 

There is no need to tell the players when you think the PC's are out of alignment (pun intended). When the murderhobos do something bad enough, just drop a couple of angels on them with some dialogue about "foul fiends, it is time to send your souls to the hell they rightfully belong" and they will figure it out. Loot and XP from angels is just the same as from anything else.

A player has the right to believe anything they want about their PC. The rest of the world has the right to disagree.
 

Azurewraith

Explorer
Iserith, the whole point of choosing an alignment is that you are essentially stating how you are going to roleplay your character! Just as a player who selects the Wizard class is announcing that he intends to play an guy who casts arcane magic spells rather than, say, go about smashing foes with Barbarian rage (unless he multiclasses...), a player who announces that his character is Lawful Good is saying that he is going to play that character a certain way. Selecting the Lawful Good alignment (for instance) excludes the player from declaring that his PC is going to (say) rob the peasants walking down the road, at least if the player is playing his PC according to the alignment he freely selected. If not, he's not roleplaying properly, and should have selected an alignment that allows him to have his character do what he wants. What's the point of having alignments at all, if the allegedly Lawful Good PC can do anything his Chaotic Evil counterpart can do without penalty? If a PC wants to play his character in (say) a Chaotic Evil manner, fine... but he should not be allowed to do so and also claim his character is Lawful Good! You wouldn't allow a character to be defined as a "pirate" and then let the player tell you "Oh, and by the way, he's never been on a boat, knows nothing about seamanship, and is deathly afraid of water", would you? :hmm:

Not necessarily true my current PC is lawful good however he acts chaotic neuteral most of the time as well he has a reputation to upkeep as a fearsome pirate to keep people of the fact he is actually a holy assassin eradicating those that refuse to change their dastardly ways
 

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Elderbrain

Guest
I wasn't trying to argue that the PC must always act in accordance with his alignment - after all, he's only human (or dwarven, elven, etc....), just that he shouldn't get away with consistently behaving in amanner that is clearly contrary to his stated alignment and not get called on it. Yes, actions dictate alignment (and help reveal it), but alignment also dictates and restricts actions, not in the sense that (say) a Lawful Good PC COULD NOT murder a helpless old man and steal his money, but rather in the sense that a genuinely Lawful Good PC WOULD NOT WANT to do so, and if he does, he's lying to himself about his true nature. Certainly such a character is possible - but the player shouldn't continue to insist that "Oh, he's totally Lawful Good - really!" while the PC goes about skinning baby kittens and burning down orphanages. (The deluded PC might think so, but his player surely should know better!) And of course, said PC would receive none of the few game-mechanical benefits of being Lawful Good, and would be considered Evil for such effects ("What do you mean, the Book of Exalted Deeds won't accept me? I'm Lawful Good... see, says so right here on my sheet!") :hmm:

That said, there are certainly going to be times where it isn't 100% clear whether an action "fits" with a particular alignment (people disagree on moral issues, for instance), and in such a case the DM should cut the players some slack. Sometimes, a PC might be stuck in a situation where no matter what choice he makes, he has to violate his alignment (i.e a LG Paladin promises his friend that he will go immediately and rescue his friend's wife, who has been kidnapped by orcs. After making the promise, the Paladin's superior officer appears and orders him to go on a different mission right away to save a village under attack by trolls. The poor Paladin can't be in two places at once, so must either break his word to his friend or disobey his superior... a no-win situation.)
 
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