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5E WotC's Jeremy Crawford Talks D&D Alignment Changes

Jeremy Crawford has spoken about changes to the way alignment will be referred to in future D&D books. It starts with a reminder that no rule in D&D dictates your alignment.


(Note that in the transcript below, the questions in quotes were his own words but presumably refer to questions he's seen asked previously).

Friendly reminder: no rule in D&D mandates your character's alignment, and no class is restricted to certain alignments. You determine your character's moral compass. I see discussions that refer to such rules, yet they don't exist in 5th edition D&D.

Your character's alignment in D&D doesn't prescribe their behavior. Alignment describes inclinations. It's a roleplaying tool, like flaws, bonds, and ideals. If any of those tools don't serve your group's bliss, don't use them. The game's system doesn't rely on those tools.

D&D has general rules and exceptions to those rules. For example, you choose whatever alignment you want for your character at creation (general rule). There are a few magic items and other transformative effects that might affect a character's alignment (exceptions).

Want a benevolent green dragon in your D&D campaign or a sweet werewolf candlemaker? Do it. The rule in the Monster Manual is that the DM determines a monster's alignment. The DM plays that monster. The DM decides who that monster is in play.

Regarding a D&D monster's alignment, here's the general rule from the Monster Manual: "The alignment specified in a monster's stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign."

"What about the Oathbreaker? It says you have to be evil." The Oathbreaker is a paladin subclass (not a class) designed for NPCs. If your DM lets you use it, you're already being experimental, so if you want to play a kindhearted Oathbreaker, follow your bliss!

"Why are player characters punished for changing their alignment?" There is no general system in 5th-edition D&D for changing your alignment and there are no punishments or rewards in the core rules for changing it. You can just change it. Older editions had such rules.

Even though the rules of 5th-edition D&D state that players and DMs determine alignment, the suggested alignments in our books have undeniably caused confusion. That's why future books will ditch such suggestions for player characters and reframe such things for the DM.

"What about the werewolf's curse of lycanthropy? It makes you evil like the werewolf." The DM determines the alignment of the werewolf. For example, the werewolf you face might be a sweetheart. The alignment in a stat block is a suggestion to the DM, nothing more.

"What about demons, devils, and angels in D&D? Their alignments can't change." They can change. The default story makes the mythological assumptions we expect, but the Monster Manual tells the DM to change any monster's alignment without hesitation to serve the campaign.

"You've reminded us that alignment is a suggestion. Does that mean you're not changing anything about D&D peoples after all?" We are working to remove racist tropes from D&D. Alignment is only one part of that work, and alignment will be treated differently in the future.

"Why are you telling us to ignore the alignment rules in D&D?" I'm not. I'm sharing what the alignment rules have been in the Player's Handbook & Monster Manual since 2014. We know that those rules are insufficient and have changes coming in future products.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Hussar

Legend
Finding a comfy spot in the front row for this. This ought to be interesting.

It's funny going from 4e to 5e, where in 4e, alignment was reduced down and made a lot less important then 5e basically all but ejected alignment from the game, at least mechanically.
 

My house rules are alignment are combined with allegiance (race, country, religion, guild, tribe, ideology) and even opposite can be together (for example a chaotic character with law allegiance would be a sheriff who breaks rules to defend the order, for example Eddie Murphy in Berberi Hills Cops or the characters from the teleserie "the shield", and evil with good aligment would be a zealot (for example a witch-hunter) or a wicked revolutionary), and spells and other powers can hurt enemies with same aligment but different allegiance, for example an orc shaman vs a drow cleric (and being neutral will not help your PCs to save spells with aligment keys).

You have to remember the aligment is very important in Ravenloft, even when you can't detect evil...(but I allow to detect hostile intentions, uselles when nPC are thinking about innocent actions like drinking alcohol or to buy a new dress).

And the groups need to share a common allegiance to defeat common menaces. Don't you remember "the walkind dead" and main antagonists? Totally selfish groups couldn't survive for a lot of time by fault of their continuous internal fights and civil wars. Do you remember when I talked about the fitna of Al-Andalus, the civil war in the Muslims Spain what ended the Omeya dinasty?

My own version of chaotic alligment is to be too attuned to nature or primal forces or only obey authority linked with your allegiance. Then a barbarian could be as honorable as a knight and a monk who lives in the forest as an hermit to be "chaotic". The famous monkey king Sun Wukong would be disciplined as a martial art champion, but "caothic" behavior. Do you remember old controversies about "chaotic good" behavior?

With the new rules for PC races and now this. Will we see soon an "Unearthed Arcana/PH 2" as a "5.5 Ed" to add these changes?
 
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imagineGod

Adventurer
I honestly wouldn't mind, if they ditched alignment in d&d all together. It never really made any sense to me
It made sense in the very early D&D modules where you had evil monsters and heroic players.

But as D&D has changed rules in versions, even D&D3e which was supposed to still hold unto alignment restrictions from the past, had the anti-Paladin class a.k.a. Blackguard. And Keith Baker's Eberron, went even further to ignore alignment restrictions.

Hence, for all intents and purposes, alignment was a dead man walking, and its vestigial recurrence in 5th Edition was because Wizards of the Coast stubbornly refused to bury the undead.

Basically, if you want race-based restrictions, races as classes (looking at the first D&D rules), alignment restrictions, you can always bring out the Old School D&D books available at DMs Guild, and play that. Modern D&D does not require those old rules anymore.
 



clearstream

Be just and fear not...
I honestly wouldn't mind, if they ditched alignment in d&d all together. It never really made any sense to me
I like it because what I have observed over a great many campaigns is that it offers players an insight into their character to riff off. Not all players are natural actors, yet I find even players who struggle with narrower insights such as ideals and flaws, are able to play to an alignment. It's a starting point. It does not tell the whole story.

As DM, I find alignment a helpful guide to likely monster motivation. It's a starting point. Great for monsters with narrow roles and no/low payoff for individually statting up. Individuals and groups - especially those likely to have repeat appearances - I give the alignment that suits the experience I want to offer. For example, "Batiri" goblins in my current ToA campaign are not typically evil.

Alignment is a tool. A useful one, that has stood the test of time.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
The rate things are going they're going to have to publish 6e urgently, just to update the lore.
Likewise. When I read the intent on race, it crossed my mind that it does rather offer a neat opportunity - tied up with a bow - for a new edition!

Design teams are always in search of value to offer players :)
 

pukunui

Hero
I feel like this, and the changes they’re making to races and such, stems from the fact that they originally wrote 5e as a paean to nostalgia, to reunite the fan base and bring all the old gamers who’d been put off by 4e back into the fold ... but since then, the game has exploded in popularity, which has brought in a whole slew of new fans who are saying, “Hey, wait a minute ...”

I agree that the situation is ripe for a new, or at least revised, edition. They can’t just keep errata’Ing the bad stuff away. The way things are going, they’re going to have to rewrite big chunks of the PHB and MM at some point. Might as well call it a new edition in the process, even if it’s just “5e revised and expanded” or whatever.
 

The rate things are going they're going to have to publish 6e urgently, just to update the lore.
If they are selling as hotcakes, why a new edition? too soon yet. And we don't know the plans about other new changes. I would bet the videogame "Curse of Strand" will arrive before.

The 6th Ed will arrive when nothing new could be added to the 5th, and there were too many changes to fix the broken things.

Other option is not to publish a 6th Ed but a different game with some changes of the d20 system, for example Gamma World, or Star*Drive. WotC should be ready when the market of TTRPGs to be saturated with too much medieval fantasy.
 

Eh, this technically isn't new, except for the removal of alignment tendencies of player races in future products (which I don't agree with, but whatever). PCs have always been able to choose their alignment, regardless of racial tendencies, and it has almost zero effect in 5E anyway. As for monsters, the DM can do whatever they want anyway, and pretty much have always been able to do so. All this recent nonsense about alignment is garbage.
 

As long as WotC doesn't remove the alignments I'm ok with the changes. Just don't rule nothing out, just give the players plenty of options to customize their game.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I feel like this, and the changes they’re making to races and such, stems from the fact that they originally wrote 5e as a paean to nostalgia, to reunite the fan base and bring all the old gamers who’d been put off by 4e back into the fold ... but since then, the game has exploded in popularity, which has brought in a whole slew of new fans who are saying, “Hey, wait a minute ...”

I agree that the situation is ripe for a new, or at least revised, edition. They can’t just keep errata’Ing the bad stuff away. The way things are going, they’re going to have to rewrite big chunks of the PHB and MM at some point. Might as well call it a new edition in the process, even if it’s just “5e revised and expanded” or whatever.
I'm okay with that.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Jeremy Crawford:
"No rule in D&D mandates your character's alignment, and no class is restricted to certain alignments. You determine your character's moral compass. I see discussions that refer to such rules, yet they don't exist in 5th edition D&D."

5th edition D&D Player’s Handbook (emphasis mine):
"The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god, Gruumsh. and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god's influence.)"

Volo’s Guide to Monsters:
"No matter how domesticated an orc might seem, its blood lust flows just beneath the surface. With its instinctive love of battle and its desire to prove its strength, an orc trying to live within the confines of civilization is faced with a difficult task."
 

Seems like a big bundle of nothing, just framed in a really weird way. The messages seems to be "not all orcs are evil, or even demons if the DM wants it otherwise"... which has been the case for, like, forever, hasn't it?

The earlier way it was communicated and the absolutely terrible framing in external media seems to have people running around like headless chickens thinking they will be arrested if any PC kills an orc.

Guys, most games have the PCs plow through loads of unnamed human bandits and no one bats an eye or requires humans to be inherently evil.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
My introduction to D&D was Dragonlance; in fact, the first I ever heard of D&D was when a friend's mother wouldn't let him read my Chronicles omnibus because of its association with the game. Thanks to those books, and other works by Weis & Hickman, alignment has always made sense to me and I really like it.

I stand by the 3e alignment write-ups as being the absolute best representations ever penned. Eberron's explicit take on a more nuanced approach matched the way my group and groups like mine had been doing for years; the Eberron stuff just seemed to GET alignment in a way I hadn't seen much outside my circle.

I mourn alignment's passing. But the train keeps a-rollin'.
 
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NaturalZero

Adventurer
I'm working my way through the first campaign of Critical Role after going through the whole second campaign first. There was a moment like 60+ sessions in where a player was going to take a drastic action and Matt asked, "what's your alignment?" and the players looked at each other, confused, and asked, "what's that?" They're all great players and great actors, and alignment was completely unneeded for them to have fun, RP the hell out of everything, and put on a good show.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
Jeremy Crawford:
"No rule in D&D mandates your character's alignment, and no class is restricted to certain alignments. You determine your character's moral compass. I see discussions that refer to such rules, yet they don't exist in 5th edition D&D."

5th edition D&D Player’s Handbook (emphasis mine):
"The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god, Gruumsh. and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god's influence.)"

Volo’s Guide to Monsters:
"No matter how domesticated an orc might seem, its blood lust flows just beneath the surface. With its instinctive love of battle and its desire to prove its strength, an orc trying to live within the confines of civilization is faced with a difficult task."
in all fairness that does seem more like a weird lore thing than an actual rule. if it said "orcs have to be evil" or "orcs will do evil acts for no reason" that'd be different.
Guys, most games have the PCs plow through loads of unnamed human bandits and no one bats an eye or requires humans to be inherently evil.
uh, I don't think "most games" are like that anymore. like I can't remember the last time I played a game like that, and I've been playing for about 15 years now.
 

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