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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

jsaving

Adventurer
people were pissed. they (very erroneously) claimed that 4e ruined alignment from how it's always been since D&D started
I remember chatting with Andy (Collins) about this around the time 4e was released, when he related the dev team's view that Chaos is inherently evil because it puts the needs of the individual above the community whereas Law is inherently good for prioritizing the community. From that point of view, you can see how it would make perfect sense to delete the "irrational" alignments of CG/CN and LE/LN -- though from the chart Jeremy presented here you can see why so many players would be unhappy about that.
 

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Remathilis

Legend
As humorous as that post is ...

Obviously, an individual character will still have an alignment. However an entire species wont have a predetermined one.

Apparently, the freewill to choose ones own alignment will be part of the definition of what the technical term "humanoid" means.
The thing is, alignment in D&D used to have two purposes, to describe the tendencies of an individual and to describe the overwhelming tendencies of a group of people, be it a town, nation, organization, guild, religion or (yes) a race or species. It didn't describe EVERY memeber of said group, but used to be a way of summarizing the tendencies and danger level of the larger group. Hommlett was NG, Cormyr was LG, The Zhentarium was LE, etc.

For example, the First Order in Star Wars is pretty Lawful Evil. Snoke seems very LE, Phasma is very LE, and Hux is quintessential LE. However, Finn is clearly not Evil, or even Lawful. Even Kylo Renn, while very dagnasty evil, is way too emotional and hectic to be at all Lawful. Yet I doubt anyone would argue that the First Order isnt' LE due to these outliers, nor that those two must be LE due to the fact they were associated with the FO.

What WotC is now reacting to this notion that larger groups of people can have a social alignment that may not align personally with the individual. Its starting with removing racial tendencies (so that orcs won't be generally CE and elves CG) but it will expand to not giving any group an alignment. Not all citizens of Thay are evil or Cormyr good, Not all Zhents are evil or Harpers good, and not all stormtroopers evil and resistance good. So the social alignment is going to disappear as a concept.

That will only leave alignment as a tool to describe individuals, and there is a better system for handling that: bonds/flaws/ideals. Its almost trivial to keep alignment at this point outside a few archaic magic item interaction rules.

Believe me, Alignment is dead-rule walking.
 

MGibster

Legend
I honestly can't remember the last time alignment was an issue in any of the games I've played. The closest I can think of was a player who asked if having his character cast charm person on merchants to get the best prices was evil or not. Like many others, I never found alignment to be realistic but a lack of realism in D&D never bothered me greatly. For me, it was interesting playing a game set in a place where good, evil, law, and chaos were palpable forces.
 


...who has a degree in political science from Harvard and became famous for being the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, arguably the most visible & famous political bands of the past several decades.
Rage literally lights American flags on fire on stage. I cannot imagine what that guy on Twitter thought the significance of that was, if it wasn't political. The band was cold?
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That will only leave alignment as a tool to describe individuals, and there is a better system for handling that: bonds/flaws/ideals. Its almost trivial to keep alignment at this point outside a few archaic magic item interaction rules.
And spells, which to me is a key reason to keep them. Divination spells, to determine alignment, and other spells that can trigger off of its presence or absence.

Sure 5e did away with Know Alignment, but that's a bug rather than a feature. Also, I use what would I suppose be a version of the great wheel; and if you're a divine-based class you need to mind your p's and q's, more so with some deities than others, as deities are very much an active thing, and might be watching. :)
 


MGibster

Legend
And spells, which to me is a key reason to keep them. Divination spells, to determine alignment, and other spells that can trigger off of its presence or absence.
And now I remember the last time alignment was a significant issue in a game. Way back when Living City was still a thing, I was running a game at an event and one of the player's was constantly having his paladin detect evil. Every single NPC the group ran into was subjected to a detect evil spell before I finally told him to knock it off.
 

oriaxx77

Explorer
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.
Roleplaying is not acting. D&D is slowly but surely losing its distinctive characteristics. It is just a kitchen sink now with orc waiters and hobbit black guards.
 

Alignment is a sacred cow that shouldn't be messed with.

Best use of Alignment was 3rd Edition. Creating mechanics that mesh with the Alignment system was genius. Also made people actually care about it. I really don't see why everything has to be a huge shade of gray now, by default? At least that's what they're making it sound like.
 

NaturalZero

Adventurer
Roleplaying is not acting.
Some people count describing character actions in third-person as roleplaying but doing improv acting at the table is definitely 100% roleplaying a character.

EDIT:
D&D is slowly but surely losing its distinctive characteristics. It is just a kitchen sink now with orc waiters and hobbit black guards.
If you hate kitchen sink DnD, you'd absolutely hate genuine old school DnD. Blackmoore was literally a postacpocalyptic setting where a super advanced civilization with lasers, robots, et al, was wiped out and adventurers with medieval technology used portals to discover that ancient tech. In Gary Gygax's games, they would go to spaceships, gamma world, and even the old west. One of the gods in Greyhawk has an old west revolver from one of his crossover games. Modern DnD is far, far less inclusive and kitchen sink than original "authentic" DnD.
 
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Anand

2nd Level DM
I find curious that people would care about alignment in 5E since it absolutely doesn't influence the game. I'm playing PF2, which does uses alignment (as in there is Detect Evil, Alignment Damage, etc), and I use the alignment system as how an individual is aligned to the planes, etc. In D&D? Why would I use it since the flaws / bonds / traits are so much better?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Dragon Magazine, Issue 72, Page 49, "Spells for Everyone":

Purify food 1/2
This one is simple. All you need is a tin of black pepper and a bottle of catsup. Everyone knows you can eat anything if you put enough catsup and pepper on it.
Great spell for ”friendly” Athasian Kender casters to use when meeting the party...
 

oriaxx77

Explorer
I find curious that people would care about alignment in 5E since it absolutely doesn't influence the game. I'm playing PF2, which does uses alignment (as in there is Detect Evil, Alignment Damage, etc), and I use the alignment system as how an individual is aligned to the planes, etc. In D&D? Why would I use it since the flaws / bonds / traits are so much better?
Pendragon end runequest have an even better system. Why don’t we use them instead? It is not about better or worse. It is part of the ingredients that makes it unique and fun. It is like a BMW has rear wheel drive.
 

Coroc

Hero
.....that wasn't what was said, nor was it what I replied to. But sure, I'll bite.

What kind of stories are you, Umbran, unable to tell in D&D (5e) because there is an alignment system that has absolutely no impact, and, as we have just discussed, doesn't have to be used?
I think some stories, also officially published ones, which use the alignment "rules" in a very creative way cannot be told anymore the same way if there is no alignment anymore.
 

Alignment is a sacred cow that shouldn't be messed with.

Best use of Alignment was 3rd Edition. Creating mechanics that mesh with the Alignment system was genius. Also made people actually care about it. I really don't see why everything has to be a huge shade of gray now, by default? At least that's what they're making it sound like.
Because "my character always sends money to the orphanage that raised him" or "I will do anything to redeem my family name" is far more interesting than saying "Chaotic Good" or " Lawful Neutral"

Good lord, the cluster that is Chaos and Law alone drives me up the walls.
 

Coroc

Hero
Haven't used alignment since the early 90s. It's a weird construct that has nothing do with how actual people behave. I did enjoy how it was used in Planescape, but that's about it.

In terms of needing it as a tool to corral annoying in-game behavior by players, I would rather just ask the player out of game to stop doing the annoying behavior, or else play with people who want a similar experience as me at the table.
Yeah but in planescape it is pretty useful. Think about the factions in Sigil, the alignment of planes, how do you do that without alignment?
 

Coroc

Hero
Dragon Magazine, Issue 72, Page 49, "Spells for Everyone":

Purify food 1/2
This one is simple. All you need is a tin of black pepper and a bottle of catsup. Everyone knows you can eat anything if you put enough catsup and pepper on it.
Darn I misread cat - soup, and thought wtf I get salt and pepper to improve taste but soup made from cats why in all .... ROFL
 

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