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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.

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Data from D&D Beyond in June 2019

(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

Russ Morrissey

I always read the alignment section on monsters are a guide to their default ideology; an orc (in lieu of something more specific) is a CE raider bound to slaughter for the slaughter-God. This is akin to the generic stormtrooper being faceless baddies for an evil military organization. Clearly, there are exceptions to the rule, Finn being the prime SW example while Drizzt the D&D posterboy for it. But the rank-and-file stormtrooper or orc was of default alignment whenever the DM didn't have anything more specific to say about them. It helps heroes mow-down hordes of orcs or blow up battle-stations full of strormtroopers.

It shouldnt though.

The alignment of Orcs, or Stormtroopers is not something that the players PCs can know simply by seeing one, any more than they can know the Orc/ Stormtroopers bond, flaw or ideal, or what Deity it worships, or anything else of that nature.

Good aligned PCs mow down Orcs (or Stormtroopers) because the Orcs/ Stormtroopers re trying to slaughter/ blast the PC's, while the Good PC's are engaged in doing something Good (rescue a princess, stop Sauron or Sauroman from taking over the world etc).

Good PC's dont just slaughter Orcs/ Stormtroopers simply because the latter exist. That's genocide; if the PCs were to be of that thinking, they wouldnt be Good aligned PCs.
 

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Azzy

Newtype
"Calm thy..." is a misogynist expression, and also not in line with our laugnage use policies. Keep it clean, please.
These are fundamental changes regarding the entire Cosmology of what D&D is and what it means. These are not just tweaks.

To change the foubdation of what's been D&D for 40 years to appease the SJW today to redo the entire Cosmology is a big shift. To recreate D&D in this new image, get rid of alignments, etc... Along with all the other changes they want to make to strip out defined Ability Score modifiers so any race can have any ability score modifier and take away alignments from all the 'monster races' so they all become flavors of Humans... After all, they said it themselves that D&D is all about playing and being Humans in their Diversity statement.

What better way to celebrate diversity than by stripping away all the uniqueness from the non-human races of your game.

They are re-envisioning D&D into an entirely new version of D&D. And it's really not D&D anymore.

A. You're just flat-out wrong and overblowing the entire thing. They are not changing the cosmology. They are removing a default alignment from humanoids (and likely some other sapient creatures) and instead applying alignment to specific individuals.

B. Using "SJW" is going against the community standards of this board and I'm sure one of the moderator will be on the case soon. But,, you know that writing people off that you don't agree with as"SJWs" oor whatnot is not helping your case or inspiring others to take your views seriously.

C. If your idea of "uniqueness" in regards to different races and monsters is dependent upon ability score modifiers and species-wide alignments and without these they are no longer unique, then they weren't unique in the first place.

D. Try to [chill out*], buddy.

* I edited out a callous idiom that I originally used and because nobody needs that, the callousness wasn't intended and it was directly counter to my arguments of trying to have empathy for others and to be inclusive, and I don't want to be That Guy. I'm sorry to Stacie and to anyone else that was offended. Thank you to Umbran.
 
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dmgorgon

Explorer
In Star Wars, the First Order is Lawful Evil because its IDEOLOGY is Lawful Evil. The ideology is Lawful because of prioritizing the group over the individual, maintaining social expectations, organizational infrastructure, and collective obligations and duties. The ideology is Evil because of its disrespect for human life and its dehumanization of human dignity.
I understand your point, but the alignment of the First Order is clearly Chaotic Stupid.
 

These are fundamental changes regarding the entire Cosmology of what D&D is and what it means.

No, it's not.

Angels and Demons have been able to change alignment since AD&D. Grazzt became a Demon (after once being a Devil). Azazel (and every Erinyes ever) became a Fiend after being an Angel. Fallen Solars/ Planetars have always been a thing, as have evilly aligned Titans (who are normally CG outsiders).

This alters nothing about DnDs cosmology at all.

To change the foubdation of what's been D&D for 40 years to appease the SJW

You realise the instant you use 'SJW' as a pejorative you lose all credibility right?

What better way to celebrate diversity than by stripping away all the uniqueness from the non-human races of your game.

They're doing nothing of the sort!

Drow will still be usually evil, as will Orcs. It's just that it'll be made clearer that those creatures are evil not due to 'racial tendencies' but due to being raised worshipping evil Gods, in a society that practices murder, betrayal, rape and torture as norms.

Which is as it should be.
 

SavageCole

Punk Rock Warlord
"You know, I'm not sure why you care about the shape of the bottle. Or the red and white. Or the occasional polar bear imagery. Or the particular typeface used.

Really, Coca Cola is just another kind of sugar water, so why does any of this matter? Why bother with the (stretched) uniqueness of Coca Cola?"
You’re not suggesting that the old alignment system equates to critical brand defining elements you describe in your weak strawman?

It's not my job to define D&D; but clearly, D&D is doing something right that other games aren't. That doesn't mean that D&D can't, or shouldn't, borrow and steal from other games.
No disagreement there.

But when you are the market leader, you should be paying a lot more attention to the things (both good and bad) that make you different, not thinking about the ways you can be the same.

Who is suggesting that D&D should discard alignment in pursue of sameness as its own sake? Noting that other fine games work very well without it is not that. Trying to bring this back on point to discussion of new alignment “guidelines”, your point is that D&D would eliminate the alignment (differentiating element) and become more like all those games that are not the commercial juggernaut? But we’re ok with that, because we agree that it’s just a vestige? I’m trying to understand the uniqueness bit of the equation you’ve raised.
 


Lem23

Adventurer
There have been people that complain when some punk band gets political and then says that punk shouldn't be political. I want slap them upside the head with the Clash and the Dead Kennedys (for starters) until they get a clue.

I'd go with Crass and Conflict myself. :D
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
No, it's not.

Angels and Demons have been able to change alignment since AD&D. Grazzt became a Demon (after once being a Devil). Azazel (and every Erinyes ever) became a Fiend after being an Angel. Fallen Solars/ Planetars have always been a thing, as have evilly aligned Titans (who are normally CG outsiders).

yep.

Drow will still be usually evil, as will Orcs.
It's just that it'll be made clearer that those creatures are evil not due to 'racial tendencies' but due to being raised worshipping evil Gods, in a society that practices murder, betrayal, rape and torture as norms.

Which is as it should be.

this part could Be viewed as a major change.
 

Lem23

Adventurer
Well, you're out of luck. Especially in regards to punk.

To continue the punk (and assorted alternative scenes), I think of it like the "apolitical" punks and skinheads who are happy to go along to see fascist and neo-nazi bands, pay them money, buy their shirts etc, because they're "apoitical" and not doing it to support the neo-nazis, just to enjoy the music, even though what they're doing is giving both financial support and tacit support to those bands, and what they're "enjoying" is almost entirely racist crap.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
So, why would a society being evil because it's ideology is evil rather that the hackneyed idea that they are evil because their species is somehow inherently evil a big change when the end result doesn't actually change the society being evil?

I think you just explained the big difference.
 

SavageCole

Punk Rock Warlord
Am I the only person who would rejoice for the end of terribly constructed alignment (and Myers-Briggs) memes?

I hear you, but there are people who enjoy them, so why crap on their parade? I think it is a good to remember that the writers and actors portraying these characters were able to bring them to life, to tell their stories, most likely without having an alignment table and descriptions to guide them. Obviously, as D&D players and GMs we could too.

Let’s get real though. I get those who feel something precious is being taken away from them due to socio-political tides. IMO the fact that alignment is so easy a thing to ignore if you don’t want it in your game makes it seem all the more contentious to remove from the rulebooks. Most of the objections I see to Alignment’s removal aren’t really about defending its mechanical importance. The underlying and sometimes overt motive is that its seems like the current stewards of a game that helped many form an identity are alienating them by taking a socio-political stance. This stings some who feel a part of the family that nurtured and helped reinvigorate the game when 5e came around. These people are an important part of the D&D customer base, and in my opinion a part of our family. It’s tough for me seeing our community dividing the way it is, and some of the recent changes are divisive. At the end of the day, I know that creative evolution is inevitable and fans come and go. The good thing is that the passionate response from people defending evil drow & orcs, and speaking out against removing Oriental Adventures is that these members of our D&D family do not want to be pushed away from the game they love. Anyway, I’m done rambling and trying to read the hearts of others.
 


Azzy

Newtype
I think you just explained the big difference.
Sure, I guess moving from two dimensional and squicky to three dimensional and less squicky is a big change. But is one that people (who don't engage in killing baby orcs) are really going to complain (or even really notice) about when they can still fight evil orcs (just not justify killing their children)?

And the thing is, orcs and drow were not inherently, biologically evil in the first place. Orcs and drow (and other sapient "evil" species) have have non-evil examples throughout the editions. So, there really isn't even a change here, it's just a point to clearly express what's always been in the game.
 

Azzy

Newtype
Mod Note:

This was disrespectful, and misogynistic language to boot. How about you not speak like that to anyone on these boards, ever again? Thanks.
My apologies to all involved. That was truly tastless of me, and though I had no intention of being misogynistic I could have used a better idiom (like "cool your jets") to better convey what my intention was. I screwed up, and again, I apologise.
 

In Star Wars, the First Order is Lawful Evil because its IDEOLOGY is Lawful Evil. The ideology is Lawful because of prioritizing the group over the individual, maintaining social expectations, organizational infrastructure, and collective obligations and duties.

Okay, but where does Chaos come in?

Every society has social expectations, collective obligations and duties, and organized infrastructure. That is literally the definition of society. So, can a chaotic society even exist?

Probably not, "society" and "cvilization" are often portrayed as Lawful, with the wilds being where chaos is... except spirits and fey of the wild also have rules, social expectations, organized infrastructure and the like. It is different from ours, but it is still there.

This might be a personal problem, but I've never been able to find a way to get chaotic enough that it would move out of neutral. Law and Order are so foundational to how the world works that like Yin and Yang, there is always a piece of it in Chaos. But where these dividing lines should be between the three colours of the continuum, I just don't know.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So, why would a society being evil because it's ideology is evil rather that the hackneyed idea that they are evil because their species is somehow inherently evil a big change when the end result doesn't actually change the society being evil?
Why would going from currency has inherent value of the metals used, to currency has value that we assign these pieces of paper be a major change when the end result is the same?

The journey is often more important than the destination.
 

the Jester

Legend
Sure, I guess moving from two dimensional and squicky to three dimensional and less squicky is a big change. But is one that people (who don't engage in killing baby orcs) are really going to complain (or even really notice) about when they can still fight evil orcs (just not justify killing their children)?

I think it's a change that people who have been affected by racist stereotypes might notice. I'm a white guy in the US, so I have been fortunate enough to not be one of those people, so I'm just trying to look at it through their eyes, so I might be wrong- but I am pretty sure it is a step in the right direction. (Or rather, a step back in the right direction- I feel like 3e's "often/usually/always" alignment descriptors were already pretty close to what we're going to see.)
 


Azzy

Newtype
Okay, but where does Chaos come in?

Every society has social expectations, collective obligations and duties, and organized infrastructure. That is literally the definition of society. So, can a chaotic society even exist?

I know a few anarchists and libertarians that think so. They haven't convinced me, though
 

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