D&D 5E A different take on Alignment

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Aldarc

Legend
Those are very narrow groupings, and not very nuanced. Not all evil in middle earth originated with Sauron. There’s a big difference between a crook with a twisted sense of honour, and a crook who sets anyone he dislikes on fire. Nobility is not a guarantee of goodness.
I think you're reading of my post is very narrow and neither very nuanced nor generous either. It confuses pedantry for valid criticism. I'm aware that not all evil in Middle Earth originates with Sauron, but in the One Ring, you are primarily dealing with the legacy of Sauron. In Blades in the Dark, you are a gang of criminals trying to expand your gang's turf and crime operations. I don't mind evil characters there, but that's what the game's about. Not good people doing not good things in a crucible-like city that is slowly coming to a boil as a result of their activities. And in regards to Blue Rose, it's romantic fantasy. The characters are presumed to be noble, not in class, but, rather, in their general moral character. Would you like some additional opportunities to put your ignorance of these games on grand display for the rest of the thread?

You think the reason players want to do evil things is because alignment exists? I think they do evil things because it’s convenient and some people enjoy playing that character. Plus the fact that D&D doesn’t tell you what to be as a ruleset.
Not quite. If I go to a restaurant, and I see that hamburger is on the menu, I think we would both understand that this means that it's a perfectly valid meal that I could order and consume at the restaurant. If I want a hamburger, but it's not on the restaurant menu, I could still want to eat a hamburger and enjoy that sort of meal, but it's not likely something that I could order there. In the absence of a "no evil" GM rule, the presence of evil alignments does validate the option of playing an evil character in D&D. The rulebooks and settings often set the implicit expectations of play through its tone, genre, and setting.

I've never had to make a "no evil" rule in alignment-less games. I have never, for example, had anyone express a desire to play an evil character in Blue Rose, because the game's tone, genre, and setting is romantic fantasy where the PCs are presumed to be good, inclusive, and progressive, and the kingdom of Aldea is one that they want to protect because it too is likewise good, inclusive, and progressive. Likewise, I've never had players who wanted to play evil characters in Numenera, though it lacks an alignment system. It's never come up in Fate. It's never come up in FAGE. Or 7th Sea. Or Index Card RPG.

The corruption systems in most games I’ve seen absolutely do require some adjudication. Unless they are tied to specific actions which again is limiting.
So how do they work in these games that I'm talking about and how do they compare with how you are describing your adjudication of character alignment in D&D?

Evil may be a possible choice in your games, in mine it is not.

Evil still exists for NPCs and monsters as well as other people's games. Some people enjoy games with evil PCs, I don't
Yes, but this is the point of the whole "no evil" rule. Why is this common rule even necessary in the first place? Because the game says that "evil" is a possible alignment for characters, which frequently results in GMs stipulating "no evil" for PCs. Though in the absence of alignment, I would likely not frame this as "no evil," but, rather, more positively as "pro-heroic" and set up the play expectations more explicitly and concretely with players, which is again one of the many problems in this game that could be easily solved by communicating with each other like grown-ups.
 

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AnotherGuy

Adventurer
Just pointing out, this is like Flat Earth theory. You can apply a wrong framework to reach conclusions about a system, but if it isn't a framework that gives useful answers, then you aren't using the tool correctly.


Sure, you CAN apply alignment to anything in fiction and in reality. But it isn't useful to do so in more than the most shallow sense, because it doesn't work.

Who is the authority on if alignment works at one's table?
 



Well upthread a poster said one cannot apply alignment to fictional characters (because they are not D&D). I disagreed and pointed to the poster's own post as well as the numerous alignment memes which exist for the fictional characters of comics, literature and film. Thus people can and do utilise alignment to describe non-D&D characters. The argument that one cannot is false.
No. What happened was that you pointed at Game of Thrones characters as evidence that you don’t have to play alignment as a straitjacket.

When I pointed out that Games of Thrones characters do not have alignments, you disagreed and asked me what I meant by alignment.

You seem to believe that because third parties can apply alignments to fictional characters that weren’t created with alignments, that has some meaning. It doesn’t. Especially not for people who don’t use alignment in the first place.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I also don't see how you can enforce "no evil" if @Maxperson is correct and the GM isn't allowed to declare the alignment of a PC based on conduct. Because if that's true, then the player can just write Good on their sheet but play their PC doing evil things.
With this you are suggesting that the only way to tell if someone is acting in an evil manner is if alignment is in the game and being enforced. That's completely wrong, but I suspect you are aware of that.

If the DM says no evil and the player is having the PC run around hack down innocent villagers in the streets, because he wants to go into the boots business and needs stock, the DM is going to boot that player for violating the table rule. Alignment never plays into it and is never enforced. What does play into it and what IS being enforced, is the social contract.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
These describe specific, individual dragons. They are in no way general to all dragons of that type. It also leaves so many blank spots. What if they don't have a kingdom? Do all dragons have kingdoms even the young ones? A tyrant just tells us they're an unjust ruler, not how they rule. It tells us almost nothing about a moral compass other than that they're evil.

If this is good enough for you ... there's nothing I can say. But this whole conversation is pointless. Have a good one.


Man, do you have to be so disingenuous every single time? Here was your original questions

Then explain how ideals would work for monsters. Ideals are very specific, not broad descriptors like alignment.

What would the generic ideal be for a green dragon vs a red dragon? What would it tell us about how they would react to scenarios not specific to the ideal?

P.S. you really should look up the definition of straw man.

What would be the generic ideal. So, I gave generic ideals. Now, you want to claim that somehow I gave specific individual dragons? How? Explain to me how these are specific and individual.

A red dragon desires to rule. It tells us in the MM that this is true, they all see themselves as royalty. So, what do they do if they don't have a kingdom? Well, they are probably trying to build one. This isn't exactly rocket science. I want A, I work to get A. This is like saying you have no idea what a character who says "I want to be the greatest knight in the land" is going to do if they aren't a knight. Well, I think it is obvious they are going to try and become a knight.

It tells us nothing other than they are evil? Well, what the heck does an evil alignment tell you except that they are evil? It is literally in the name.

And, I notice, that you are focusing exclusively on Red Dragons, but what about the ideal I gave for Green Dragons? Is that somehow specific? Why didn't you as questions of that, like what do they do if they don't have a scheme? By the way, the answer is make a scheme.
 

pemerton

Legend
I highly doubt it. Much like your experts. ;)
So then what's the point? How is this meaningful? What is it telling us about these characters, other than that someone (i) can write a description of the character, and (ii) correlate that description to a description in the D&D alignment rules?

Are there also true descriptions of these characters that would not correlate with the posited alignments? It seems likely, assuming the characters have any depth at all.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Maxerson is entitled to his view. People who like alignment don’t get made in a factory using a .329 stainless steel die.

However, I believe what Maxperson is referring to, is that the rules don’t enforce the kind of distinction I’m suggesting. In 5e Holy Smite isn’t going to treat player Y differently because he killed babies last week.

I on the other hand am talking about a social contract agreement not to play an evil character because it’s disruptive to party cohesion. Because player A is put in an uncomfortable and annoying position where they have to bite their tongue about actions that would otherwise have them storming the player’s evil sanctum. I have no problem making broad moral judgements about characters behaviour in those circumstances. I’m the referee. That’s a table convention not a game rule. It just uses D&Ds convenient alignment distinctions to set its boundaries.
Right. It's the social contract. I would not give the warnings about alignment you mentioned, because 1) 5e has no mechanism for changing a player's alignment, so right away that's a house rule, 2) it's not necessary.

Good and evil exist whether alignment does or not. Were I to say no evil in the game and the players agree(they would if they wanted to play), then it is a violation of the social contract to run around acting evil. In my opinion it would be wrong to try and resolve a social contract violation through game means(changing alignment, etc.) and would instead solve it outside of the game. Depending on the egregiousness of the violation, the player might get warned that if he continues to violate his agreement he will get booted or just get booted.
 

It tells us next to nothing about general outlook on life and behavior.

In any case, if this is it, it falls far short of what alignment tells me. In combination with alignment? It still only tells me one small aspect of what role an imp might fulfill, and even then it's a misleading one. An imp could be a familiar for example. Their job wouldn't be harvesting souls (it may be harvesting an individual soul) but it tells me nothing about their preferred methods, how they'll respond to negotiations, general view of the world.

Again, it's a specific individual imp and a specific slice. There's no point.
I read this, and the clear implication is that the two letters LE tell you more than @Chaosmancer ‘s one line description of green dragons.

Here’s that description again:
Green: "I show my power by corrupting and twisting others into serving my schemes"
So, what more does saying the green dragon is LE add?
 

AnotherGuy

Adventurer
When I pointed out that Games of Thrones characters do not have alignments, you disagreed and asked me what I meant by alignment.

You also said one could not apply alignment to fictional characters. That is what I took issue with.

You seem to believe that because third parties can apply alignments to fictional characters that weren’t created with alignments, that has some meaning. It doesn’t. Especially not for people who don’t use alignment in the first place.

Ah but it does, have some meaning, in that people who DO use alignment and DO see a value in its use CAN apply and HAVE applied it to fictional Non-D&D characters based on their understanding of that character, which therefore suggests that alignment DOES inform us about a character's moral compass as much as you and others protest it does not.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
So your issue with alignment here appears to be that alignment doesn't assist in understanding one's behaviour in all particular areas of one's life. The examples you have provided, and its supposed limitations, truly highlight, at lease in part, why the two camps seem to have such a disconnect.

I daresay using alignment to determine if one is lazy at work is not the best use of alignment.

I'm sorry, the claim we keep getting is that alignment is a "general tool". It is good for "general use"

How can a general use tool NOT apply to all areas of a person's life? If it only describes you in a single context... isn't that a highly specific tool?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
See, it’s stuff like this why I find it hard to take you seriously. You call another poster on making stuff up, and when he points out he is simply responding to the premises you set up, it turns out you are doing what you accused him of.

It makes it very difficult to conclude that you are arguing in good faith.
The vast majority of people who play games, play by the rules. This is a fact.
 

TheSword

Legend
I understand your point: different people can agree on a conclusion but either disagree on the reasons for that conclusion or implement it differently.

But here’s the thing: in this case, this disagreement undercuts the main arguments supporting alignment.
I don’t think it does.
@Oofta, @Maxperson and @Helldritch principally rely on the following two arguments to support alignment:
1) Alignment has been rendered vestigial and a simple roleplaying guide so removing it doesn’t improve anything;
2) The negative experiences people who oppose alignment cite are either because they are beholden to previous incarnations of alignment, or because their groups are applying alignment wrong.

Many of the alignment horror stories described are precisely the DM changing a character’s alignment because he disagrees with the actions taken by the character. So if a DM who does that is correctly applying alignment, then alignment is clearly not only a roleplaying guide, undercutting the first argument.
They are usually the consequence of a players actions resulting in things not working for them or them being affected by 3e (and earlier) effects that are controlled by alignment, spell damage, Paladins falling, creature abilities etc. These things no longer apply in 5e.
The fact that about half of the posters who support alignment agree that the DM can change a character’s alignment and the other half disagree undercuts the second argument. You can’t say that one group is applying alignment wrong when there is no consensus as to how to apply alignment, and you can’t really say that one group is beholden to previous incarnations of alignment when the same d*mn thing keeps happening in 5e.
Why not. Why does everyone need to use Alignment the same? It’s a tool, it’s utility depends on the task it’s put too.
As a final point, indicating that it is OK for a DM to change a character’s alignment when a character is acting more Evil than Neutral or Good is threading a very fine needle. Earlier on in this thread, I gave the example of a game where the DM threatened to change my character’s alignment to Chaotic, because he disagreed with the way I played the extremely Lawful character. I pointed out that despite the fact that I don’t care about alignment, the attack on player agency bothered me. Many posters agreed that the DM was out of line.
I don’t think so. In my experience players know when actions they take are evil, and if things are borderline or debatable then it’s probably grounds for a warning but not an alignment change. There is no change in agency because in 5e Alignment doesn’t stop people doing things. Unless the table doesn’t want evil in the party in which case the actions are wrong whether you use the alignment or not.
Why is the DM threatening to change a character’s alignment to Evil not an issue but threatening to change a character’s alignment to Chaotic problematic? I think everyone agrees that in the PHB and DMG, no distinction is made between the two situations.
I don’t think either are problematic if the characters actions are fitting. Alignment is a label that changes when a persons behavior changes substantially.
* @Flamestrike, an alignment supporter, specifically called out @Helldritch for changing his character’s LG alignment for showing mercy.
Presumably because your party doesn’t have a ban on Chaotic characters so who cares.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Who is the authority on if alignment works at one's table?

What does working at the table have to do with the alignment of Jason Bourne or James Bond?

The point you have been arguing is that alignment CAN be applied outside of DnD, so why are you pivoting to another DnDism (the DM) to tell me why it can work in movies and books?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
@Oofta, @Maxperson and @Helldritch principally rely on the following two arguments to support alignment:
1) Alignment has been rendered vestigial and a simple roleplaying guide so removing it doesn’t improve anything;
2) The negative experiences people who oppose alignment cite are either because they are beholden to previous incarnations of alignment, or because their groups are applying alignment wrong.
I haven't said the bolded portion. That's not part of my argument.
Many of the alignment horror stories described are precisely the DM changing a character’s alignment because he disagrees with the actions taken by the character. So if a DM who does that is correctly applying alignment, then alignment is clearly not only a roleplaying guide, undercutting the first argument.

The fact that about half of the posters who support alignment agree that the DM can change a character’s alignment and the other half disagree undercuts the second argument. You can’t say that one group is applying alignment wrong when there is no consensus as to how to apply alignment, and you can’t really say that one group is beholden to previous incarnations of alignment when the same d*mn thing keeps happening in 5e.
Not really. Pretend that I'm a DM who would actually change your character's alignment and tell you that instead of LN, you are not LE. So what. It changes virtually nothing(a few magic items) about how you play your character or how the game treats you. People in the game world aren't going to know your alignment, since there's no way to detect it. They ARE going to react to you based on your actions, but they would do that if alignment wasn't there. Changing alignment is a big nothing burger.

That means that our different stances are also a nothing burger. They don't make a difference.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Right. It's the social contract. I would not give the warnings about alignment you mentioned, because 1) 5e has no mechanism for changing a player's alignment, so right away that's a house rule, 2) it's not necessary.

Good and evil exist whether alignment does or not. Were I to say no evil in the game and the players agree(they would if they wanted to play), then it is a violation of the social contract to run around acting evil. In my opinion it would be wrong to try and resolve a social contract violation through game means(changing alignment, etc.) and would instead solve it outside of the game. Depending on the egregiousness of the violation, the player might get warned that if he continues to violate his agreement he will get booted or just get booted.

What is the player advocates for enforcing religious law on a community? Is that evil?

What about restructuring the government to work in a manner tied to political ideology? Is that Evil?

What if they follow Plato's Philosopher King strategy to raising better rulers of the people? Is that Evil?


Sure, you can probably easily point out that murdering innocent people in the street is evil, but what about building a golem that does all the work of the laborers that used to be employed by the city, is that evil?


After all, "No Evil" is going to apply, and going to get them booted, so what if this stuff is evil?
 

So your issue with alignment here appears to be that alignment doesn't assist in understanding one's behaviour in all particular areas of one's life. The examples you have provided, and its supposed limitations, truly highlight, at lease in part, why the two camps seem to have such a disconnect.

I daresay using alignment to determine if one is lazy at work is not the best use of alignment.
Close, but not quite. One of my issues is that alignment doesn’t assist in understanding an NPCs’ behaviour in the context in which it interacts with the PCs. Likewise, my point is not that alignment can tell you that a guard is lazy at work, but rather that characterizing the guard as lazy and unmotivated at work is more useful if the players interact with the guard at work.

If the characters are captured by the corrupt watchmaster, the fact that the guard guarding their cell is lazy and unmotivated is much more useful information for adjudicating their escape plans than knowing that the guard is LE.

How do you mean - the content of my particular game? or are we talking about a DM-force via change of alignment?
I can’t speak for the outcome in your specific game of a LG character standing back and letting another character murder a goblin. I know that in one of the games I played in, it led to a third character voluntarily leaving the game.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The vast majority of people who play games, play by the rules. This is a fact.

I've played with a lot of people in a lot of games. No what one of the most common gaming experiences we have is?

Having skimmed the rules and missed an entire section of rules that we haven't been playing by.

Only, unlike a board game where there is obvious break down of the game's function, alignment doesn't serve a purpose in the game play cycle, so what do you think happens in that case?

It goes ignored. Just like the jumping rules, the swimming rules, the bonus action spell rules, the rules for how self-cubes work, and dozens of other rules in the game that are constantly missed.
 

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