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D&D General More Nuanced Alignment?


I more or less agree. It was really defanged in 5ed because of some of the abuses some players and DM were doing with it in previous edition. We still have some magical items with which alignment will have a big impact but otherwise, it is entirely on the table to "enforce" or not alignment and the degree of which they are ready to have alignment being truly meaningfull beyond a simple guideline on how to play a creature or a PC...

Defanged is sort of right. But then alignment used to be more nuanced anyway.

In AD&D, there were alignment tendencies -- you'd run into stuff like Lawful neutral (evil) which meant you had a LN individual that would take evil actions more often than good, but who wasn't outright evil. That's also the basis of the in between Outer Planes on the Great Wheel. OTOH, this idea did tend to complicate thing occasionally, though really this was supposed to be on the DM's end theoretically. PCs I believe weren't really supposed to go for the tendencies. The main problem with alignment in AD&D was that alignment changes resulted in XP losses for any character, and this isn't even counting paladins and rangers falling from alignment violations. And since everything about adjudicating alignment was in the hands of the DM, there'd be occasional DMs who'd keep players in the dark as much as possible, set up Catch-22 situations, and generally abuse the rules to screw players.

3e had probably the best approach to alignment overall, there was Always, Usually, and Often as listed in the monster stats. A "Usually" alignment meant that a majority of said creatures would have said alignment, but as the majority was specifically stated to be simply "greater than 50%", that still left things open for a rather significant minority of another alignment. Often was a plurality, the largest number of individuals would be of the listed alignment, but they represented less than 50% of the total population. This left a good deal of room for the DM to change things up. Most of the evil humanoid types tended to be "Usually", including orcs and drow which are the two we're having the most debate and argument about these days. PCs of course could be any alignment, though evil was discouraged.

The fact that 5e goes with just 9 basic, vanilla alignments is I think part of the reason why there's a lot of argument about it right now, because it's lost the previous nuance that existed. But I think some of the bitching would still remain.

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