D&D General Do you use Alignment in your D&D games?

Do you use Alignment in your D&D games?

  • No

    Votes: 22 18.5%
  • "Yes, always." - Orson Welles

    Votes: 40 33.6%
  • Not for player characters, but yes for NPCs and monsters

    Votes: 7 5.9%
  • Not for player characters or NPC, but yes for monsters

    Votes: 1 0.8%
  • Not for most creatures, but yes for certain "outsiders" (ie particular fiends, celestials, etc.)

    Votes: 17 14.3%
  • Not for 5E, but yes for some earlier editions

    Votes: 1 0.8%
  • Yes, but only as a personality guideline, not as a thing that externally exists

    Votes: 37 31.1%
  • OTHER. Your poll did not anticipate my NUANCE.

    Votes: 17 14.3%

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
For me, the alignment of my characters is a way to help me think about how to roleplay them, but it's just part of a mosaic and I don't view it as a restriction. I don't think in terms of "my character wouldn't do this because he's lawful good" or "my character is doing this because he's chaotic neutral." It's just a way to start thinking about personality, but not a straight-jacket. As a DM, I would never try to correct or corral a PC's behavior because it doesn't "fit" their alignment, or tell them, "If you keeping doing stuff like this, your alignment will change to x."

I don't expect D&D to be a simulation, so my complaint about viewing alignment rigidly isn't that it's not realistic (LOTS of stuff in D&D isn't realistic and doesn't bother me). What bothers me about alignment being rigid or polar is that it's inherently undramatic. It leads to less psychologically nuanced/complex characters. I don't think it's good storytelling to have a person who views every situation they're in through SUCH a specific lens. A person might behave honorably in one situation and selfishly in another due to a complex variety of factors.

That said, one DM I know was able to give a me great example of a group dynamic where emphasizing player character alignment was very helpful in keeping the game fun for the table. The player was having their character do something that was grossing the DM out (harvesting body part trophies) so the DM started a conversation with him about it by asking the player if their character was "evil." It lead to the revelation that the player was taking the body parts to set up a weird elaborate joke down the line, and wasn't aware that it was bothering people, and agreed to just stop doing it because it hadn't occurred to him that it was "evil." So for some groups, it can obviously be a great tool.

I think the old convention of alignment can be used in combination with the newer ideas of bonds, traits, and flaws to help you form an idea of what your character is like when your first start out playing them. For me, after that point, I find that characters I play tend to tell me who they are - much like when I'm writing a script or a story - and can sometimes surprise me by turning out quite differently that the way I "planned" them to be.

Having said all that, I was amused in running Curse of Strahd to encounter a couple of moments when alignment DID mechanically matter in a very old-school way. In both instances, the importance of alignment was left in the adventure as an artifact of the original 1E module - there are several places in Curse of Strahd where text has just been copied verbatim from the original Ravenloft adventure (including some places where the 5e team later regretted it, such as the description of the Vistani). Given a less frenzied production process, I wonder if those instances of alignment being very mechanically important in a very non-5E way would have ended up excised. I kind of liked them being in there because it just felt VERY different, but I wouldn't want to be dealing with cases like that often.

I think Eberron (first published in 2004) was the first official D&D setting to heavily downplay alignment, and especially the idea of attaching default alignments based on a creature's race. Pretty much every intelligent creature in Eberron is capable of great good or great evil on an individual basis. The only creatures that adhere to alignment based on the type of being they are are basically outsiders like celestials or fiends who effectively embody various moral concepts. I think 5E in general has taken its cues from the Eberron model, and I expect things to go even further in that direction in the next few years.
 

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jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Not normally, no. I usually have characters define a personal code instead and, when they act against that code in actual play, they suffer some kind of fallout. When I do use alignment, I use the original law/chaos axis alignment only.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Nope.

My very first game was in 3e. I sat down, looked through the alignments and realized that only CG, CN, NG and LE would be fun for me to play. DM said no Evil or CN -why were they even in the book then? Fine CG. As long as I don't have to be Lawful non-evil because they sound like jackholes and not in the fun way.

Second session Paladine himself makes us pull from the Deck of Many Things. I pick 3. I get a dwarf fighter friend (cool), a keep (which would have been cool but we never actually got a chance to go find it) and the Balance card. What that? My character is LN now. And I'm expected to play as LN.

So he 'accidentally' closed in combat with some draconians as a sorcerer because hell if I was going to be LN.

I roll up a bard, an advisor to a noble house, fiercely loyal and a proctor to the children. DM says the concept is LG and bards can't be LG.

Fine. Barbarian who is basically a Klingon, all concerned with honor and his family. DM say that's LN and Barbarians can't be LN. I'm confused how either of these were lawful considering they were interesting, but fine.

Fine. Druid. Read the entry. Druids can't be CG. How can I be an eco-terrorist and not be CG, CN and CE, all of which are off the table with this DM.

Fine. Fighter who is a barefisted brawler. DM says that's better was a Monk.

Monks have to be Lawful.

I leap out of a window.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Alignment is a cute idea, but I don't find it a necessary convention for either the characters I play or the homebrewed settings I run.

Honestly the best thing about alignment is those 9-square memes about which sandwich is Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil, etc. I really do love those things.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I voted "Yes, always", because we ran epic game with cosmic conflict and we love Planescape, so alignment has to exist, and we find it a useful tool.

However, it is as originally designed, which implies two important characteristics:
  • It's very flexible and vague, meaning that there are tons of variants in each alignment, and that you cannot detect the alignment of anyone by witnessing one act, people are not necessarily consistent all the time.
  • It's not imposing anything except on creatures like fiends whose very basic nature is determined by their alignment, it's just a record of what a person does, and how it influences his soul and therefore the king of petitioner he will be when he dies. It never dictates how someone should behave.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
Nope.

My very first game was in 3e. I sat down, looked through the alignments and realized that only CG, CN, NG and LE would be fun for me to play. DM said no Evil or CN -why were they even in the book then? Fine CG. As long as I don't have to be Lawful non-evil because they sound like jackholes and not in the fun way.

Second session Paladine himself makes us pull from the Deck of Many Things. I pick 3. I get a dwarf fighter friend (cool), a keep (which would have been cool but we never actually got a chance to go find it) and the Balance card. What that? My character is LN now. And I'm expected to play as LN.

So he 'accidentally' closed in combat with some draconians as a sorcerer because hell if I was going to be LN.

I roll up a bard, an advisor to a noble house, fiercely loyal and a proctor to the children. DM says the concept is LG and bards can't be LG.

Fine. Barbarian who is basically a Klingon, all concerned with honor and his family. DM say that's LN and Barbarians can't be LN. I'm confused how either of these were lawful considering they were interesting, but fine.

Fine. Druid. Read the entry. Druids can't be CG. How can I be an eco-terrorist and not be CG, CN and CE, all of which are off the table with this DM.

Fine. Fighter who is a barefisted brawler. DM says that's better was a Monk.

Monks have to be Lawful.

I leap out of a window.


Jesus...
 

Scribe

Hero
I voted "Yes, always", because we ran epic game with cosmic conflict and we love Planescape, so alignment has to exist, and we find it a useful tool.

However, it is as originally designed, which implies two important characteristics:
  • It's very flexible and vague, meaning that there are tons of variants in each alignment, and that you cannot detect the alignment of anyone by witnessing one act, people are not necessarily consistent all the time.
  • It's not imposing anything except on creatures like fiends whose very basic nature is determined by their alignment, it's just a record of what a person does, and how it influences his soul and therefore the king of petitioner he will be when he dies. It never dictates how someone should behave.
Exactly.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Yes, I always use alignment.

But, the individual determines their alignment by their actions.

Alignment is a summary of past decisions, but not necessarily a predictor of future decisions.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
"Yes, and..." or "Yes, but..." would be the best ways to describe it. I don't see alignments as traits, nor do as I see them as static. They are in constant flux that are determined by the character's actions and intents, not the other way around (i.e. alignments do not dictate actions or intentions).
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
"Yes, and..." or "Yes, but..." would be the best ways to describe it. I don't see alignments as traits, nor do as I see them as static. They are in constant flux that are determined by the character's actions and intents, not the other way around (i.e. alignments do not dictate actions or intentions).

Do they have any mechanical effects or implications in your game?
 

Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
Yes, always, but only as a personality guideline, except on extreme cases like high-level clerics and Outsiders.

So, my votes are
-yes always
-only as personality guideline
-other
 

ART!

Legend
I always fill in the alignment blank on my character sheet, just to get me thinking about the character's ideals, but PC alignment rarely comes up in our games.
 
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aco175

Legend
I use it as a guideline. Most of the PCs may be some kind of good or even neutral. Most of the monsters may be no alignment or evil, or some are neutral or good. It is not ridged since there are a lot of wiggle room in defining the system. A basic example may be a LG PC being asked to kill a thief by his king. You can kill him as your duty or not kill him since it is killing an unarmed person who claims to be innocent, or a few other reasons come to mind.

Guidelines
 

You know, when I saw the question, it made me realize how little impact Alignment has on how I run my games. it matters for NPCs or monsters, as in to give me as DM broad guidelines for their behavior. And I often give alignment guidelines when starting a campaign, so that PC concepts fit in with the campaign goals and conceits. But I dont think I have hammered PCs for alignment violations since like 2nd edition.
 



Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
Have they ever? I mean, aside from a few outdated spells and character restrictions from older editions. It was a different game when those were in play. I don't think they have any in 5e.

I'm just curious because based on your comment it seemed like alignment was something you did track, as it changes based on a creature's actions. But if there are no mechanical effects derived from it, why bother tracking it?

In terms of how they figure into player mechanics, the 5E Dungeon Master's Guide does contain powerful magic items/artifacts capable of changing the alignment of a creature - including player characters - which presumably is intended to have the effect of making you play your character quite differently. There are instances in most of the official 5E adventures wherein messing with a particular powerful magic thing can likewise unilaterally change your alignment. In addition, there is one 5E monster, the sprite, that possesses an ability called Heart Sight which actually allows it to know a creature's alignment if that creature fails a DC 10 Charisma save.
 
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payn

Legend
I think the old convention of alignment can be used in combination with the newer ideas of bonds, traits, and flaws to help you form an idea of what your character is like when your first start out playing them. For me, after that point, I find that characters I play tend to tell me who they are - much like when I'm writing a script or a story - and can sometimes surprise me by turning out quite differently that the way I "planned" them to be.
I really like this idea. I might be one of the rare ones who found ideas, bonds, and traits to be a very poor substitute for alignment. Poor in that its entirely vague, and at the table never came into effect. Focusing on them both might be a good way to get that general consensus and cosmic purpose that alignment provides, while also allowing you that person stake to show how your character acts within their alignment.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If I do pay attention to alignment, it's because something about alignment speaks to the campaign setting or theme e.g. a game set in Planescape. In this case, I have the players replace their Ideal with a statement about their alignment and they can then earn Inspiration by playing to it.
 

King Babar

God Learner
Nope. I don't bother with alignment as described in the PHB. I quickly stopped using it after my first campaign and haven't missed it since.

The closest I get is a vague concept of Order vs Chaos, but this is only used at a grand scale.
 

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