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D&D 5E What kinds of design space is there in alignments?

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'm going to argue against that - I doubt that alignment will ever go away for the same reason I doubt that they'll ever drop the raw numbers on abilities and just use the bonus/penalty value, or why they won't give up on having something called a "saving throw" even if the mechanics around them keep changing.

There are some things that if you remove from the game it loses the "pop cultural" vibe of being D&D. Alignment is one of those things - that dang 9-point alignment grid is embedded into the cultural consciousness and associated with D&D now. Just like having an 18 Strength or "missing your save" is.

Without alignment, how are we going to argue about Batman??????


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
The focus on alignments has changed a lot from early editions of D&D to 5E. For instance, early D&D had alignment restrictions to classes. 5E is (somewhat?) more story-focused and use of alignment seems to vary greatly from table to table.
In my group, PC alignment rarely comes up, and I know this is true at lots of other tables. I have no problem with how anyone runs or plays their games, but I feel like given the tradition of alignments in D&D, maybe there's a new way to make alignments mean more mechanically, that adds new and exciting possibilities without being burdensome.

Level Up added more Conditions to 5E, and that creates more design space for class features, spells, monster abilities, etc. I can't remember if LU added more damage types, but doing so would add more design space, too.

What if we could do something like that with alignment?

My first thoughts on this were about some magic items having somewhat different powers depending on the alignment of the user, or certain alignments unlocking an additional power of that item.
I think doing something similar with spells could get very complicated very fast, but I'm an optimist and the world is full of clever people, so there's probably a way to add alignment features to the spell system somehow.

Alignment could probably open up design spaces in other parts of the game, too.

I think these are all good ideas, I really like alignment conceptually and what could be done with it but I don’t deny it causes issues, the main problem is rooted in when people start trying to get relativistic with their interpretations of morality and order/chaos rather than the game giving us proper solid meta-definitions where it lays down the law and says ‘good is good and these are the traits that define someone as good in universe for the use of this game, no arguing.’
EDIT: yes, you might have grown up in a treacherous backstabbing bandit town where everyone is Evil, but saying ‘well this is what I consider good because of that’ is not an argument, the cosmic definition of Good and Evil persist and your upbringing doesn’t morally justify stabbing that old man.

Alignment based encounter and event tables are something I really like as an idea, if you have certain alignments in your party or have been a big nuisance to aligned entities then you’ll be finding your enemies sending their forces to mess with you, or the side that likes you might drop a little something nice your way.

I also think it would be nice if alignment got you something, just out of the gate for being that alignment, a specific spell or feat or resistance or proficiency or a familiar option or something:
you are Chaotic, you can pick [appropriate number] of the following features:
You can cast charm person PB/LR times,
You are proficient with hand crossbows,
Add PBd4 damage whenever you deal psychic damage,
You have resistance to lightning damage
Ect, ect, ect...’

Staying loyal to an alignment would gain you more boons, if you swapped maybe loose one temporarily and have to repick the others from your new alignment’s options, if you were repeatedly changing alignment it’d cause you to loose all your boons.
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As someone who is a die-hard DC Comics fan and has been for 40 years - trust me when I say that we DC fans have never needed an alignment grid to argue about Batman.
He is the single most important and smartest and powerful being in the universe. He easily defeats Superman all the time and doesn't afraid of anything.


Class/Subclass Requirements.
Spell Requirement.
Damage Types.
Damage Resistances.
Item Usage, Penalty, Bonuses.
Feats/Skill Requirements.
God Restrictions.

All things present in other editions or systems.

"Hi, I'm the LG Black Robe of the Tower of High Sorcery." - Nope.

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
He is the single most important and smartest and powerful being in the universe. He easily defeats Superman all the time and doesn't afraid of anything.
I would cut off a toe for them to make a storyline to just deflate the church of bat man thing they have now.

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