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

Do you use Alignment in your D&D games?

  • No

    Votes: 23 19.0%
  • "Yes, always." - Orson Welles

    Votes: 41 33.9%
  • Not for player characters, but yes for NPCs and monsters

    Votes: 7 5.8%
  • 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 14.0%
  • 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 30.6%
  • OTHER. Your poll did not anticipate my NUANCE.

    Votes: 17 14.0%

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I used to game with a group of folks who absolutely detested the concept of alignment...didn't want to have anything to do with it whatsoever, would write vulgar expletives in the Alignment blank on their character sheets (this was back in the 3E days). However, I depended on alignment as a tool for running the hundreds of other monsters and NPCs in the game. I needed that mechanic to help differentiate friends from foes.

So I tried to keep track of which factions and monsters would get along with others, and then make adjustments as the story progressed. That quickly became a mess, so I finally just assigned a single alignment to the party as a whole, in my notes. They were basically Neutral Good, but their alignment would drift from Neutral to Good and back, or between Lawful and Neutral and Chaotic, depending on the deeds they accomplished and the friends they made. The players insisted they didn't have an alignment, but I knew that as a group they behaved Neutral Good.
That’s so wild to me. Maybe your games just have far more complex interactions between different factions than mine, but I can’t imagine alignment being necessary to keep track of that. Even with really complicated webs of alliances and rivalries, I don’t see how alignment would even be helpful for that. Like, is it just that factions/characters that share a alignment on one axis are allied with each other? Wouldn’t that prevent alliances from changing as the story progressed? Or would alignments change if alliances chabged?

I will say I'd like monsters described as Lawful Evil or Chaotic Evil to have something in their description to back it up. Like, why is a meazel Lawful Evil?
I don’t get it. If the description tells you why they’re Lawful Evil, why do you need it to say they’re Lawful Evil at that point? You know how they behave, what benefit is there on placing a moral judgment on that behavior?
 

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That doesn't tell me anything about their motivation, what their moral compass is. If this were an NPC it tells me little about how they would react in unexpected situations. This in combination with alignment would tell me quite a bit more.

No system is perfect, alignment is just a general guideline.
This way of doing things is not anti-alignment necessarily; in fact it's taken from a 2e book (Uncaged: Faces of Sigil) that also had alignment (and separate notes on role playing and combat tactics).

For important NPCs and PCs I might have two more lines: what they want and what they do not want. For this particular PC that I'm playing I just put "$" as motivation.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Good thing this is a 5E specific sub forum then. Why are you so concerned about something that was published two decades ago?
You mean in the thread with a D&D General tag?

Edit: 'Quotes direct explanation about 3e, not 3.5 - NOW LET ME TELL YOU WHAT 3.5 SAYS'
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don’t get it. If the description tells you why they’re Lawful Evil, why do you need it to say they’re Lawful Evil at that point? You know how they behave, what benefit is there on placing a moral judgment on that behavior?
It's not a moral judgment, at least not any more of one that knowing from the description why they are lawful evil. As for why you would do it. Convenience.
 

Shiroiken

Legend
Yes, always.

However, I agree with 5E downplaying the mechanical aspect of it. It's a good tool for players and DMs to quick describe the broad beliefs of a character, monster, or society. Only alignment based outsiders like angels fiends, modrons, etc, should be mechanically bound to any particular alignment though. These represent the essence of their alignment, and for them to change alignment would fundamentally change what they are.
 

I'm a Forever DM who doesn't like alignment. Too often it becomes a lazy substitute for personality, goals, drives, etc.

I feel that the 9 point alignment is the worst of the lot. So many alignments are flavorless and feel like they exist merely to fill out the grid.The portrayal of alignment in the various novels is also infuriating. Apparently throwing a mountain on a whole city to kill your own high priest, that you later describe as a good man, is perfectly acceptable to the gods of good and neutrality.
 


One thing to consider is that alignment is a good way to cause problems (i.e., plot) for higher level PC's. Nothing keeps a 17th level wizard busier than a bunch of outsiders trying to forcibly recruit him/her into their alignment.
 

Catolias

Explorer
I use it to keep my players from murder hobo-ing and keep them on track for the characters they rolled up. I can’t say I’m always consistent, but it helps to alert your Cleric of Pelor to stop stealing and murdering everyone in sight.

Also, let’s face it, alignment is more useful than a PC’s eye colour, weight, or family they’ve rolled up from Xanather’a Guide
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
There are four classes of (sapient) being: outsiders, "guardians," mortals, and aberrations (creatures from "outside" ordinary reality). There are also non-sapient animal beings, but those are kind of outside the scope of "exhibits moral behavior," and thus irrelevant for discussing alignment.

Outsiders are spirits who can manifest physical bodies, whose fundamental nature is at least a little alien and eldritch. It is possible for them to change alignment, but it is a dramatically more difficult and major change than it would be for humans/mortals and other "guardians." An outsider that truly changes alignment (rather than being gunked up by mind control/curse/etc. or masquerading) literally becomes a different kind of outsider as a result. To be a succubus is to be evil (indeed, as a demon, they fought in the infinite-yet-instant War in Heaven in order to be evil), so if a succubus becomes non-evil somehow, it necessarily ceases to be a succubus.* Such is the case for all outsiders; if they change their alignment, they inherently change what they are, because (to use Aristotelian terms) their telos (purpose/end) and their aitia (causality/responsibility) are inherently linked.

"Guardians" are a nebulous category not fully defined yet, but they seem to be a midpoint between outsiders and mortals. They can be immortal, often have much greater power than mortals can usually achieve, and usually seem to believe they have a mission or purpose given to them (hence the name, though the quotes are used because the party doesn't fully understand the issue yet, and neither do I.) A "guardian" can change their alignment freely like a mortal, but it seems to have an impact on them, like an outsider. Perhaps it is a matter of making an overt choice, perhaps it can be a slow creeping change, hard to say. The party has only met a relatively small number of them, and doesn't actually know that all of them are "guardians." Gold dragons are one example, and (apparently) a black dragon is a fallen draconic "guardian."

Mortals are ordinary folks, but this includes some people we might not consider strictly ordinary, such as genasi, tieflings, and aasimar. The party bard is a tiefling on both sides (one devilish, one demonic), but has gained a great deal of power--he may be moving in new directions or perhaps even making a transition into "guardian" status. Mortals can change their alignment however they like without any physical changes whatsoever; it is part of a mortal's nature that they can change in this way. Mortals, unlike celestials, do not stay on their plane of origin when they die. Their spiritual energy eventually returns to the land, but the person is gone--some (the Safiqi priests) believe the actual self-hood departs the circles of the world for Jannah ("True Heaven," as opposed to Al-Jana, "the heavens" where the stars etc. are), while others (mostly the Kahina, and some atheistic Waziri) just think the self dissipates or acts as a karmic ripple on the surface of existence.

Aberrations--what 4e would call "Far Realm" denizens--are truly alien and usually hostile to life. They generally do not live in the way ordinary things live, but they can die under mundane circumstances unlike outsiders. Their existence is enigmatic and they don't, as a rule, form social structures or cultures the way mortals do. Best policy is usually to avoid them, as many are frightfully intelligent and very good at manipulating people into helping them...but their intelligence often brings equal pride, so exploiting their hubris is possible. Few truck with such entities regardless simply because of the danger.

TL;DR: Hard-coded alignment only applies to outsiders and aberrant entities, the former because it's part of what it means to be an outsider of that type, the latter because they're spooky, scary eldritch beings. Soft-coded alignment applies to "guardians," who seem to be a midway point between outsiders and mortals. Alignment is not coded at all for mortals, because "is a mortal" directly implies "does not have innate alignment." (Technically there's also non-sapient animals, but they can't have alignment in the first place, so they're kind of irrelevant.)

*This actually happened in-game. A succubus (ancestor of the party's tiefling bard) changed her true name without even realizing it, only finding out when she attempted to invoke her old true name and it didn't work. That old name refers to a different being who no longer exists, because she's not truly a succubus anymore. She's become something else--and by giving up the last of her succubus powers (to said bard), she's truly mortal now, other than the inexplicable retention of her supernaturally beautiful singing voice. (She takes on faith that this is a sign from the One that her penance has been accepted.)
 

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