D&D General The Problem with Evil or what if we don't use alignments?

Magister Ludorum

Adventurer
In a game without alignments, what's the difference between a devil, a demon and a yugoloth?
Devils are fallen celestials. Demons represent corruption. They're the closest thing classic D&D has to Great Old Ones. Yugoloths are creatures created to fill the alignment chart, but they work well as creatures representing loss and despair. No alignment necessary.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Excellent analysis. Same stance as I have but much more detailed. And, though we do not know each other, we have the same understanding. Impressive for something that is supposed to be so vague that no one can agree on anything on it...

In all the tables I have been on or simply coached; most of the times, alignments are relatively straight forward and most disagreements were minor squabbles. I find it strange that those that are pro alignment agree about the generalities but not those against it... I guess it is simply a matter of preferences.
It always seems to be that those who are against alignment go out of their way to misinterpret it or focus on details that don't matter. They try to make it all-encompassing dictator of every action or claim it's worthless because we can't agree on what the alignment is of a movie character that had 20-ish lines in a movie trilogy.

Because I agree on the basics of the breakdown of devils and demons that @Hexmage-EN described. I think most people who use alignment would. So therefore in at least some cases it's a shared understanding of the basics. If we don't agree on every detail? So what? I may run my demons and devils ever-so-slightly differently than another DM. But I think the vast majority of people that appreciate alignment for what it is will run them close enough to the same that it will be hard to tell the difference.
 


Magister Ludorum

Adventurer
The problem with threads like this is that the argument devolves into two main camps.
  1. Without alignment, you can't tell the difference between good and evil.
  2. Alignment doesn't work and has no place in the game.
I'm calling shenanigans on both arguments.
  1. You can easily run a game without alignment. Lots of us do. It's not hard to tell who the antagonists are.
  2. Alignment works perfectly well at many tables. Every table decides for themselves what it means. I don't use alignment per se but I will often us the published alignment as a guideline to make a more nuanced story for myself. I stopped using it in high school (back in 1982, after 4 years of playing and GMing), but most of the GMs who run games I'm in use it to one extent or another. We all knew what it meant.
Not everyone falls in one of these two camps, but many do. The very title of the thread states that "there's a problem" when we don't use alignment.

For Dog's sake can't we just agree that alignment works for those who want to use it, and that it's not necessary for those of us who don't?

It's an ill-kept secret that different tables play different ways.

[Edited because I hit post too quickly the first time around.]
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
That depends on edition. In 5e, true, it doesn't help you hit the enemy any harder,
Well, the Talisman of Ultimate Evil magic item helps you do more damage and can only be used by someone of evil alignment. Same with the Talisman of Ultimate Good for someone of good alignment.
 

Oofta

Legend
The problem with threads like this is that the argument devolves into two main camps.
  1. Without alignment, you can't tell the difference between good and evil.
I don't know about anyone else, but I've never made this claim. I don't think anyone has.

  1. Alignment doesn't work and has no place in the game.
I'm calling shenanigans on both arguments.
  1. You can easily run a game without alignment. Lots of us do. It's not hard to tell who the antagonists are.
Of course you can. That doesn't mean alignment isn't a useful descriptor for some people, a general short-hand description of their moral compass. Alignment isn't necessary for me to run the game but it is useful. There's a difference.
  1. Alignment works perfectly well at many tables. Every table decides for themselves what it means. I don't use alignment per se but I will often us the published alignment as a guideline to make a more nuanced story for myself. I stopped using it in high school (back in 1982, after 4 years of playing and GMing), but most of the GMs who run games I'm in use it to one extent or another. We all knew what it meant.

I'm glad 5E has made it just a general descriptor, just one of many. Then again, the only time I've ever heard any real arguments about it is online. I've played with a lot of people over the years in both private and public games, I don't remember significant disagreement ever coming up. About the closest is that I rule that torture is always evil when I DM, but people just accept my ruling and move on.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
I do ignore alignment.
Which is totally fine. Some folks do if it doesn't help them run a better game that they want to run. :)

The problem that I see is that, each individual player or table may find alignment very useful, but it's so depending on that individual's or table's belief that it's very hard for it to be consistent across the board.
No. I tried to get this across upthread: the individual is NOT the determining factor of what is "lawful" or "evil" or whatever; that's defined in the Rule Books.

PLEASE NOTE: I USE THE 1e AD&D ALIGNMENT DESCRIPTIONS! The ones in the 5e PHB are...uh... less than useful; I find them either confusing or outright wrong. So, going forward, that's my basis.

Here's the description from 1e DMG, page 23:

"Law And Chaos: The opposition here is between organized groups and
individuals. That is, law dictates that order and organization is necessary
and desirable, while chaos holds to the opposite view. Law generally
supports the group as more important than the individual, while chaos
promotes the individual over the group".

"Good And Evil: Basically stated, the tenets of good are human rights, or in
the case of AD&D, creature rights. Each creature is entitled to life, relative
freedom, and the prospect of happiness. Cruelty and suffering are undesirable.
Evil, on the other hand, does not concern itself with rights or
happiness; purpose is the determinant".


With those definitions in place, we can continue...

Like, would a Lawful person respect a high-ranking individual who is incompetent?
Yes.
(Or who isn't evil, good, or neutral enough.)
Irrelevant if we are ignoring G/N/E.
Wanting to remove that individual from power and put a better-suited person in their place is at least a bit chaotic, especially if there aren't any hard and fast laws for expelling someone from office.
Not even a bit chaotic. An incompetent person would likely put the group/society/organization/etc at risk...this is 'bad', so needs to be fixed. If there were no rules/laws for expelling someone...then the Lawful person would go through the proper means of getting a rule/law ratified that would then allow this.
And a Chaotic person can have great respect for someone just because of their title and status, even if there's no actual power in that title. They just might decide that the highest-ranked member of the Pastry Chef Guild is more worthy of respect than the Queen, because the Master Pastry Chef is really, really good at their job and clearly earned that title through hard work, while the Queen just had to be born to the right family.
Yes, but that has nothing to do with, well, anything other than the Chaotic personal feelings/belief. I fail to see how this is somehow an example of something a Chaotic person "shouldn't do".
And that doesn't even take into consideration people who play Lawful Awful or Chaotic Stupid or Neutral Boring.
Problems with people a the table...not the Alignment system. :)
Basically, while yes, I'm sure that you find alignment useful, I just don't think it's as useful as people think it is. I think people come in with a lot of their own decisions as to how individuals or societies work and only afterwards take alignment into consideration. (Seriously, how many people really play elven societies as Chaotic Good?)

I play Elven societies as CG. :) The usefulness of the Alignment system is for the DM to get an nice, big, birds eye view of "the gist of the character/monster". I mean, if you present two DM's with a bad guy. You tell one DM "Nellmastur is trying to take over the city. He's Lawful Evil", and you tell the other DM the description of ... "Nellmastur is trying to take over the city. He's Chaotic Evil". ...and that is ALL you have to go on, what's going to happen?

The DM will start thinking of his methods, personality and all that other good stuff of HOW he would go about trying to achieve his goal of taking over the city. After the campaign, you could talk to the Players and DM's and find that both had, in all likelihood, quite different campaign experiences! Why? "LE" and "CE" are descriptions that intone a general "personality method of life".

That's why Alignment is useful to me. If it's the other way around... I have a full page or two of description about Nellmastur, his desires, history, likes, dislikes, methods, etc...but I do not have his Alignment...I can then give him one because I just read all about him. It doesn't matter if Nellmastur firmly believes that him taking over the city is "for the greater Good and will improve the lives of everyone!"...if he tries to accomplish those goals by killing, torturing, public executions, draconian laws that change based on his word alone, confiscation of all wealth to be distributed as he sees fit, and forced conscription of all citizens between 13 and 50 years of age....he is NOT going to be "Lawful Good". The rules of the multiverse don't care about your particular feelings or views on what is/isn't "right or wrong". (see my copy/pasted 1e DMG bits above... :) ).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

The problem with threads like this is that the argument devolves into two main camps.
  1. Without alignment, you can't tell the difference between good and evil.
  2. Alignment doesn't work and has no place in the game.
I wouldn't be able to speak for people in camp 1 - but camp 2 is "Alignment causes far greater problems than it provides benefits". This is not rebutted by saying that it works perfectly at some tables any more than than "nine out of ten of this line of cars don't explode in the first year" is an argument against a product recall.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I wouldn't be able to speak for people in camp 1 - but camp 2 is "Alignment causes far greater problems than it provides benefits". This is not rebutted by saying that it works perfectly at some tables any more than than "nine out of ten of this line of cars don't explode in the first year" is an argument against a product recall.
That's not a useful argument. Name a single element of this game which someone hasn't felt the need to houserule out because it didn't work for their game? You could make that argument for the hitpoint recover rules, for hit points themselves (I know people who went to a wound system), for armor (I know people who went to a damage reduction model), for classes (WOTC themselves set them up to function with just four base classes), for races (WOTC set it up to work with just four base races), for all sorts of elements of the game. Some people were very passionate that the "ordinary" rules harmed their games. That doesn't make alignment in particular something that must go because it harmed some games any more than any other element of the game.

I can see an argument for alignment being made an optional part of the game. I cannot see an argument for not even including it as an option in the game because it messes with some people's games.
 

I stopped using alignment in 4e when I realized most people fit "unaligned". I hate that it is still a thing... I just roll with what ever people want to write down...

"I'm chaotic" is fine, "I'm altruistic" the common one people write is "goodish"
 

That's not a useful argument. Name a single element of this game which someone hasn't felt the need to houserule out because it didn't work for their game?
It's not that. It's "How big is the problem it causes and for how many?" as well as "what benefit does it provide?" that is important.
I can see an argument for alignment being made an optional part of the game. I cannot see an argument for not even including it as an option in the game because it messes with some people's games.
As long as "Optional part of the game" means that it doesn't get forced into the default mechanical rules.

Which, to be fair, it basically doesn't and hasn't since 4e; most of what's in 5e appears pretty reasonable. The 3.X and earlier situation "Sir. We think one of the Paladins may have fallen!" "Right. Line everyone up in the courtyard and we'll see who can no longer lay on hands." lead to an awful lot of problems and blocked a whole range of adventures. As did the Paladin's default ability to Detect Evil.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I do ignore alignment.

The problem that I see is that, each individual player or table may find alignment very useful, but it's so depending on that individual's or table's belief that it's very hard for it to be consistent across the board. Like, would a Lawful person respect a high-ranking individual who is incompetent? (Or who isn't evil, good, or neutral enough.) Wanting to remove that individual from power and put a better-suited person in their place is at least a bit chaotic, especially if there aren't any hard and fast laws for expelling someone from office. And a Chaotic person can have great respect for someone just because of their title and status, even if there's no actual power in that title. They just might decide that the highest-ranked member of the Pastry Chef Guild is more worthy of respect than the Queen, because the Master Pastry Chef is really, really good at their job and clearly earned that title through hard work, while the Queen just had to be born to the right family.
Consistency is no longer particularly relevant. If every player and the DM all have different ideas on alignment, it's not a big deal. There's no RAW that allow any sort of enforcement. So if a player view an act as lawful and the says neutral, it doesn't matter. If a DM tries to enforce anyway, that's a DM issue not an alignment issue.
 

Oofta

Legend
I wouldn't be able to speak for people in camp 1 - but camp 2 is "Alignment causes far greater problems than it provides benefits". This is not rebutted by saying that it works perfectly at some tables any more than than "nine out of ten of this line of cars don't explode in the first year" is an argument against a product recall.
I have yet to hear an explanation of how alignment causes far greater problems than it provides benefits that's not rooted in games and rules from versions long out of print.

In the current version? It's just a descriptive attribute.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The problem with threads like this is that the argument devolves into two main camps.
  1. Without alignment, you can't tell the difference between good and evil.
  2. Alignment doesn't work and has no place in the game.
The first has never been a main camp. That's a misinterpretation of the people in favor of alignment. Hell, in the last dozen or so alignment threads I've been a part of here, I can't remember anyone even making that argument, let alone enough to be a main camp.
I'm calling shenanigans on both arguments.
  1. You can easily run a game without alignment. Lots of us do. It's not hard to tell who the antagonists are.
This is not really relevant. You can also cross the country without using an automobile, plane, train, etc. Most people choose not to walk, though. This is not about whether they CAN play without alignment. It's about them not wanting to play without it, because it's very useful to them.
For Dog's sake can't we just agree that alignment works for those who want to use it, and that it's not necessary for those of us who don't?
This is the argument that the vast majority of those in favor of alignment use. It's the rabid anti-alignment brigade, upset by the alignment mechanics of 20 years ago, that aren't able to let go of their hate long enough to consider that a lot of us truly don't have problems with alignment and make good use of it. They are the cause of the alignment arguments. The rest of us are like, "Hey, don't use it if you don't like it. The rest of us will use it and be happy with it."
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I wouldn't be able to speak for people in camp 1 - but camp 2 is "Alignment causes far greater problems than it provides benefits". This is not rebutted by saying that it works perfectly at some tables any more than than "nine out of ten of this line of cars don't explode in the first year" is an argument against a product recall.
That's an argument for ending the game and never playing again. Every rule has people out there that find it to cause more problems than benefits and changes it. So I guess we should be recalling every rule in the books. Or else we can understand that this game is about flexibility and the ability to ignore or change rules that you dislike or find not useful. Feel free to ignore or change alignment, but don't try and take it away from the majority of us for whom it is useful.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It's not that. It's "How big is the problem it causes and for how many?" as well as "what benefit does it provide?" that is important.
It no longer has any teeth, so alignment causes no problems any longer. Some DMs may abuse their authority and force alignment on people or force their interpretation, but that's not a function of alignment. That's a bad DM being bad and could happen with virtually any rule in the game.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Devils are fallen celestials. Demons represent corruption. They're the closest thing classic D&D has to Great Old Ones. Yugoloths are creatures created to fill the alignment chart, but they work well as creatures representing loss and despair. No alignment necessary.
I think it's more devils represent corruption, demons are raw bestial emotionalism, and yugoloths is trivializing harm via payment.

Alignment works fine for beasts, vermin, elementals, outsiders and extraplanar beings.
 

I have yet to hear an explanation of how alignment causes far greater problems than it provides benefits that's not rooted in games and rules from versions long out of print.
I have yet to hear an explanation of how it provides any significant benefits to classify all races by alignment. I am aware how it causes arguments and uneasy feelings.
In the current version? It's just a descriptive attribute.
Not quite "just a descriptive attribute" although it comes close.
 

Oofta

Legend
I have yet to hear an explanation of how it provides any significant benefits to classify all races by alignment. I am aware how it causes arguments and uneasy feelings.

Not quite "just a descriptive attribute" although it comes close.
You've had multiple people tell you how they find it useful. I have yet to hear what problems it causes.

As far as classifying races, it's a default just like any other descriptive text that they provide.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
It's not that. It's "How big is the problem it causes and for how many?" as well as "what benefit does it provide?" that is important.

OK. So, show me the reasonably objective evidence that the number of people harmed by alignment existing as an option in the game is large, and that the benefit it contributes for those who like it is small?

Otherwise, this is just a "my preferences differ from you preferences and I know many people who support my position just as you know many people who support your position," type argument. Which is probably a discussion still worth having, but it won't likely change anything.

As long as "Optional part of the game" means that it doesn't get forced into the default mechanical rules.

Yes, at least that's what it means to me. It should be optional, like multiclassing and feats and non-core expansion books and sidebars and such.
Which, to be fair, it basically doesn't and hasn't since 4e; most of what's in 5e appears pretty reasonable.
I agree, it's pretty mild in 5e and seems to be a fairly decent compromise.
 

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