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

Faolyn

(she/her)
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 have. In one of the Guide to Ravenloft threads, one person (whom I eventually blocked for unrelated reasons) talked about the Relentless Killer monster, literally quoted this part of its info block: "Relentless killers are hateful, revenge-obsessed creatures" and said that because the monster didn't have an alignment, that wasn't enough information to know if the creature was good or evil or what its motivations are, and that being hateful and revenge-obsessed could be read as lawful good. (I can link you the actual post, if you like.)

I have also seen people that have said that things like mind flayers might as well be treated as good and you can't kill them, if there's no alignment listed. Because a creature that parasitizes your body like a psychic super-intelligent cordyceps in order to reproduce, performs horrific experiments on sentient beings for alien reasons, and who eats the brains of intelligent beings, clearly must be good, if there's no words in its statblock that say otherwise.

This might not be a common argument--I hope not because ye gads--but it's an argument that some people do in fact use.
 
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You've had multiple people tell you how they find it useful. I have yet to hear what problems it causes.
First it's a terrible descriptor. "Evil" covers a huge range of things and we have arguments in this very thread about what it means. "Sadistic" and "cruel" are clearer.

Second it's a terrible descriptor, simply declaring certain races to be evil and therefore worthy of killing.

Let me be clear. I have no problem with writing "evil" in the description or even statblock of individual monsters like Strahd, or of supernatural entities like demons or even legendary magics like the Book of Vile Darkness. But it shouldn't be in the actual statblocks of intelligent free-willed races like orcs or even gnolls. The statblocks are a place for mechanics rather than vague descriptors.
As far as classifying races, it's a default just like any other descriptive text that they provide.
Of course it's a "default" to declare that members of certain races are evil and therefore genociding them is a good action.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
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.
Well, beyond literally decades of arguments about what alignment is, and people who still insist that certain creatures (such as orcs) must be of a particular alignment with only very rare exceptions... alignments don't so much cause problems as they don't really actually do anything useful. I mean, if you come across a person who is Lawful Good, all you know is that they probably aren't going to steal from you or murder you. Saying a creature is a particular alignment doesn't really tell you what it's going to do. A chaotic evil person isn't necessarily going try to murder you unless they have a good reason to... but the same can be said about a lawful good person. It's just that what counts as a good reason is going to differ quite a bit between the two.

What D&D really needs is to replace it with a motivation or small table of motivations (like in the Cypher System) for each creature.
 

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?
I'm at this point going to suggest that categorising entire races as evil based, like drow, in significant part based on the colour of their skin, is outright toxic.

It doesn't help much that 5e's Monster Manual says "any alignment", creating a conceptual difference between the chosen PC races and the NPC races.
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.
It would be optional like feats if it wasn't listed in every single statblock of the MM. Not a self-contained chapter that you can ignore - but something every single NPC has very visibly and is considered important enough and central enough to be worth putting front and center (or at least in the upper left hand corner).
I agree, it's pretty mild in 5e and seems to be a fairly decent compromise.
It needs to go one step further and stop the damn things being splashed across every single statblock so even if you don't use it you can't get away from it.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
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.
The problem is humaniods.
Alignment works for elementals, outsiders, beasts, and plants. They have weird minds, run on base or programmed instincts, and might not even have free will.

But for free willed, thinking, humaniods, having full races being all or even mostly one alignment make little sense unless the DM is a skilled worldbuilder.

And most DMs are not skilled worldbuilders.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I'm at this point going to suggest that categorising entire races as evil based, like drow, in significant part based on the colour of their skin, is outright toxic.

I understand your opinion. But that is 1) not an indictment of all uses of alignment (you can solve that issue by removing alignment from one entry, or all humanoid entries, or even all monster books and just have them in adventures etc.), and 2) an opinion and not objective evidence of a quantity of people harmed or a low number of people who find benefit from it.

It would be optional like feats if it wasn't listed in every single statblock of the MM.

Yes. I agree. We're discussing making it optional, rather than the way it's presented right now.
Not a self-contained chapter that you can ignore - but something every single NPC has very visibly and is considered important enough and central enough to be worth putting front and center (or at least in the upper left hand corner).

It needs to go one step further and stop the damn things being splashed across every single statblock so even if you don't use it you can't get away from it.
Does it? I am not sure. How far we go to change the format to make it optional will really depend on how many people are harmed by it and how many people gain utility from it and how intrusive a particular format might be for those who are harmed by it and how helpful a format will likely be for those who find utility from it and other factors.

But, "some people don't like X" is not, in itself, enough of an argument for anything. Like all changes to the game, it should involve surveying the customer base and finding out how people use alignment, what utility they gain from it, and what problems they have with it, over a broad and representative number of people. And then addressing issues raised with alignment in the least intrusive manner possible which still adequately addresses most of the issues raised to the satisfaction of most people who have an issue with it.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I have. In one of the Guide to Ravenloft threads, one person (whom I eventually blocked for unrelated reasons) talked about the Relentless Killer monster, literally quoted this part of its info block: "Relentless killers are hateful, revenge-obsessed creatures" and said that because the monster didn't have an alignment, that wasn't enough information to know if the creature was good or evil or what its motivations are, and that being hateful and revenge-obsessed could be read as lawful good. (I can link you the actual post, if you like.)
No. I remember that. That wasn't an argument that you can't tell good from evil. That was an argument that many traits can be both good. neutral or evil, so traits alone are not always enough. I don't agree that a revenge-obsessed and hateful can be lawful good, but it doesn't have to be evil, either.
I have also seen people that have said that things like mind flayers might as well be treated as good and you can't kill them, if there's no alignment listed. Because a creature that parasitizes your body like a psychic super-intelligent cordyceps in order to reproduce, performs horrific experiments on sentient beings for alien reasons, and who eats the brains of intelligent beings, clearly must be good, if there's no words in its statblock that say otherwise.

This might not be a common argument--I hope not because ye gads--but it's an argument that some people do in fact use.
It's definitely not a common position and certainly not the main camp on the alignment side of things.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I'm at this point going to suggest that categorising entire races as evil based, like drow, in significant part based on the colour of their skin, is outright toxic.
That isn't an alignment issue and would remain even if alignment wasn't in the game.
It would be optional like feats if it wasn't listed in every single statblock of the MM. Not a self-contained chapter that you can ignore - but something every single NPC has very visibly and is considered important enough and central enough to be worth putting front and center (or at least in the upper left hand corner).
That's not true. So long as their is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that alignment is optional and included in the stat blocks for those who want to use them, they're just as optional as feats or any other optional rule.
It needs to go one step further and stop the damn things being splashed across every single statblock so even if you don't use it you can't get away from it.
No it doesn't. People aren't so stupid that they can't or won't ignore something that they don't like just because it's in every stat block as an option.
 

I understand your opinion. But that is 1) not an indictment of all uses of alignment (you can solve that issue by removing alignment from one entry, or all humanoid entries, or even all monster books and just have them in adventures etc.), and 2) an opinion and not objective evidence of a quantity of people harmed or a low number of people who find benefit from it.
1: I've said and will repeat that if you want to say for example that Strahd is evil then I have no objection, and don't think that I've seen anyone do. Certain people (using the term people broadly to include e.g. deities as well as humanoids) are evil. Some organisations are as well.

2: Who is actually benefiting from declaring dark elves or orcs to be evil as a race?
Yes. I agree. We're discussing making it optional, rather than the way it's presented right now.
There are people saying it's optional now. And it's like feats. I'm saying it isn't - in part because it's on every stat block.
Does it? I am not sure. How far we go to change the format to make it optional will really depend on how many people are harmed by it and how many people gain utility from it and how intrusive a particular format might be for those who are harmed by it and other factors.
It's removing two words. It doesn't change the format much.
 

That isn't an alignment issue and would remain even if alignment wasn't in the game.
Alignment just hard-codes it into the game and makes it far worse
That's not true. So long as their is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that alignment is optional and included in the stat blocks for those who want to use them, they're just as optional as feats or any other optional rule.
Nope. If you aren't using feats you simply say that and don't touch the odd chapter here and there. And other than that you never have to think about them.

If not using alignment it is still right there in every single statblock you look at, right at the top.
No it doesn't. People aren't so stupid that they can't or won't ignore something that they don't like just because it's in every stat block as an option.
And they can agree not to use profanity even if there are swear words in every single paragraph. That doesn't mean that the presence of those swear words doesn't make the paragraph actively worse for people reading out loud who don't want to use profanity.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Alignment just hard-codes it into the game and makes it far worse

Is there much hard coded in in 5e?
Nope. If you aren't using feats you simply say that and don't touch the odd chapter here and there. And other than that you never have to think about them.

If not using alignment it is still right there in every single statblock you look at, right at the top.

Does the 5e MM have something about it only being typical of the species?
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Im not understanding the religious distinction.

Why are people struggling to comprehend an evil cleric of a good church?

A LE inquisitor type of a Good religion etc?
Because for 3e, and I think 2e as well, you had to be within one step of your god's alignment in order to be a cleric. So that strongly bends people towards thinking that there shouldn't be evil people working directly for a good religion (and vice versa).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Alignment just hard-codes it into the game and makes it far worse
No it doesn't. Alignment is a vague tool and nothing more. You can make something very racist without alignment or not racist in the least with alignment. It has nothing to do with the drow issue.
Nope. If you aren't using feats you simply say that and don't touch the odd chapter here and there. And other than that you never have to think about them.
Yep. If you aren't using alignment you simply say that and don't use it. It's appearance in the stat block has absolutely no ability to force you to use it.
If not using alignment it is still right there in every single statblock you look at, right at the top.
And? So what. You ignore it and play the monster however you please.
And they can agree not to use profanity even if there are swear words in every single paragraph. That doesn't mean that the presence of those swear words doesn't make the paragraph actively worse for people reading out loud who don't want to use profanity.
So again, this is just an argument to remove every rule in the game. Every rule has people who don't like it and for whom the presence would make it worse(I guess). Alignment is not special in this way.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Because for 3e, and I think 2e as well, you had to be within one step of your god's alignment in order to be a cleric. So that strongly bends people towards thinking that there shouldn't be evil people working directly for a good religion (and vice versa).
2e had worshipper alignments listed for the gods. And yes, there were gods with both good and evil worshippers. Just as an example, Ometeotl's priesthood could be any alignment. Quetzalcoatl's priesthood had to be any good.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
1: I've said and will repeat that if you want to say for example that Strahd is evil then I have no objection, and don't think that I've seen anyone do. Certain people (using the term people broadly to include e.g. deities as well as humanoids) are evil. Some organisations are as well.

2: Who is actually benefiting from declaring dark elves or orcs to be evil as a race?
I don't know. I have no ego about this. My view of it might not be shared by a lot of people. Your view of it might not be shared by a lot of people. We should survey customers and actually find out, rather than assuming our views are representative.
There are people saying it's optional now. And it's like feats. I'm saying it isn't - in part because it's on every stat block.

It's removing two words. It doesn't change the format much.
Would there be an index in the back for the optional alignments of the entries, on a page or two?
 

No it doesn't. Alignment is a vague tool and nothing more. You can make something very racist without alignment or not racist in the least with alignment. It has nothing to do with the drow issue.
And yet it makes the drow and orc issues much much worse. And how do you make calling entire races evil not racist?
Yep. If you aren't using alignment you simply say that and don't use it. It's appearance in the stat block has absolutely no ability to force you to use it..
It has an ability to force me to read it if I want to use that monster. I can't just skip it the way I can a chapter.
So again, this is just an argument to remove every rule in the game. Every rule has people who don't like it and for whom the presence would make it worse(Iyv guess). Alignment is not special in this way.
Nope. It's an argument that the current situation is not an optional one. And alignment is especially morally toxic.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And yet it makes the drow and orc issues much much worse. And how do you make calling entire races evil not racist?
You don't need alignment to call an entire race evil OR to describe them in very racist and evil ways. Alignment isn't the culprit.
It has an ability to force me to read it if I want to use that monster. I can't just skip it the way I can a chapter.
I don't see a problem with that. Two letters shouldn't cause you any angst if you aren't using it.
Nope. It's an argument that the current situation is not an optional one. And alignment is especially morally toxic.
It fails at that and instead makes the argument that all rules should be done away with. Why should I have to read the horrid hit point, armor class, healing, resting or <insert problem rule here>?

And there's absolutely nothing inherently morally toxic with alignment. Not one shred. It's a tool like a screwdriver. If you individually choose to impale someone in the eye with a screwdriver(alignment), then it's you who are morally toxic, not the tool.

Edit: And we're saying to make it optional. Not do away with it. Who cares if the current system is optional or not. It's future books we are discussing.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Sometimes players still write it on their character sheets, but I just ignore it, since it never comes up anyway.
Well, this is where alignment belongs, in the section that describes the personality of the player character. Alignment relates to ideal and flaw. When the players feel inspiration to do so, I prefer they write a sentence or two describing what actions the characters tend to do that correlates with their alignments.
 

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