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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


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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Something like that.

In its extreme, pure Law makes it impossible to be Good.

But yeah, Lawful Good does lean in that direction. The Good often gets compromised because of being Lawful.

That is why Lawful Good is less good than Neutral Good.



Borrowing from old school D&D term "True Neutral".

For me, the Axes are:

• Good − Neutral − Evil
• Chaotic − True − Lawful

So, "True" is like the Dao engaging both Lawful and Chaotic.

Thus:
• True Good
• True Neutral
• True Evil

True Good is the purest form of Good, transcending the failures that happen if Lawful or Chaotic.
I think law and goodness can be opposed but it doesn't necessarily have to be.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I always found the whole law vs. chaos thing to be a lot more interesting, and less subjective than good vs. evil? I feel at the very least you can point at actual tangible evidence of the effects of law and chaos.
Well the thing is, law (or order) and chaos (or disorder) are objective states of being, whereas good and evil are value judgments. You can evaluate actions, events, people, places, and things as being good or evil, but good and evil themselves are not states of being like order and disorder are. You can even ascribe good to order and evil to disorder, as many ancient philosophies and religions did. This makes it a little awkward to use them as an alignment axis perpendicular to law and chaos, and is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to agree on a single set of standards for evaluating alignment.

I see a few valid solutions to this problem. One is to go the 4e route and say law is good, chaos is evil and LG vs G and CE vs E are just matters of degree. Another is to equate good and evil to something more objective like altruism and egoism. Or, you could go with a simple L - N - C spectrum and make Good and Evil descriptive of how one’s alignment is expressed.
 

dmgorgon

Explorer
When it comes to Alignment rules, I really don't read anything beyond the 2e DMG. It has everything a DM needs. All of these concepts have already been addressed decades ago.

Society Alignment (2e DMG)

Player characters, NPCs, and monsters are not alone in having alignment. Since a kingdom is nothing but a collection of people, united in some fashion (by language, common interest, or fear, for example), it can have an overall alignment. The alignment of a barony, principality, or other small body is based on the attitude of the ruler and the alignment of the majority of the population.

The alignment of the ruler determines the nature of many of the laws of the land. Lawful good rulers usually try to protect their territory and do what's best for their subjects. Chaotic good rulers try to help people, but irregularly, being unwilling to enact sweeping legislation to correct a social ill.

At the same time, the enforcement of the laws and the attitudes found in the country come not from the ruler but the subjects. While a lawful good king issues decrees for the good of all, his lawful evil subjects could consider them inconveniences to work around. Bribery might become a standard method for doing business.

If the situation is reversed (a lawful evil king with mostly lawful good subjects), the kingdom becomes an unhappy place, filled with grumbling about the evil reign that plagues it. The king, in turn, resorts to severe measures to silence his critics, creating even more grumbling. The situation is similar to romantic portrayals of Norman England, with the good and true peasants struggling under the evil yoke of Prince John (as in Robin Hood and Ivanhoe).

The general alignment of an area is determined by the interaction between ruler and ruled. Where the ruler and the population are in harmony, the alignment tendency of the region is strong. When the two conflict, the attitudes of the people have the strongest effect, since the player characters most often deal with people at this level. However, the conflict between the two groups--subjects and lord--over alignment differences can create adventure.
 


I think law and goodness can be opposed but it doesn't necessarily have to be.
True Good achieves the greatest good, by navigating and optimizing between both Lawful obligation and Chaotic intention, whichever can achieve the greatest good in the current particular situation.

The problem with Lawful Good is, it drops the ball every time being Chaotic opens up the more Good play.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
True Good achieves the greatest good, by navigating and optimizing between both Lawful obligation and Chaotic intention, whichever can achieve the greatest good in the current particular situation.
But that's still putting lawful and goodness in opposition.

What if laws were made such that the laws always dictated the same course of action as true goodness?
 

One person's lawful good is another person's lawful evil, depending on which side you're on.
Yeah, Lawful really is completely independent from either Good or Evil.

Weirdly, this is one of the things that D&D tradition kinda gets right. Law is fundamentally separate from Good.

If the D&D tradition would stop confusing Lawful and Good, and make an effort to explain Lawful as a phenomenon that is independent of Good, the D&D alignment system would be even more useful. Perhaps without the ongoing confusion between Lawful and Good, it might even end the constant debates that derive from such confusion.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being Lawful, and there are advantages and disadvantages to being Chaotic. Like Yang and Yin, each is ethically neutral. The Dao being the third path between the Yang and Yin, and including both Yang and Yin, is the transcendent path.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Gary Gygax expressed such a view in 2005 across several posts on pages 3 and 4 of the linked thread.
Gary said this on page 4.

"The non-combatants in a humanoid group might be judged as worthy of death by a LG opponent force and executed or taken as prisoners to be converted to the correct way of thinking and behaving. A NG opponent would likely admonish them to change their ways before freeing them. A CG force might enslave them so as to correct their ways or else do as the NG party did. CN and LN opponents would likely slaughter the lot. Evil opponents would enlist, enslave, or execute them according to the nature of the Evil victors and that of the survivors. Enlistment would be for those of like alignment, slaughter for those opposite the victors' predisposition to order or disorder. Enslavement is an option for any sort of Evil desiring workers.

Cheers,
Gary "

He uses a lot of "might" in there, including stating some good alignments might free the orcs and letting them go after telling them to behave better.
 


But that's still putting lawful and goodness in opposition.

What if laws were made such that the laws always dictated the same course of action as true goodness?
If Lawful includes laws like ... inviolability of personal conscience, conscientious objection, freedom of speech, freedom of sexuality, freedom of religion, self defense, political dissent, freedom of assembly, etcetera, then these "laws" become quite Chaotic empowering the individual against the group. Such laws begin to resemble more a Neutral Good (True Good) ideology that tries to optimize between Law and Chaos for the sake of Good.

Again, this kind of optimization between both Law and Chaos, into a kind of harmony, resembles the optimization between both Yang and Yin to accomplish the Dao.
 

Azzy

Newtype
Interestingly - alignment doesn't seem to be immutable even for those creatures, even though the group as a whole is still being referred to as a particular alignment.
Right, like the current MM says about the DM changing alignments as the see fit. Even if not immutable, however, demons being the exemplars of evil and angels being the exlemplars of good is the going to be the norm and inherent to their identity (not that they can't overcome that) as they are not products of nurture and envionment beings of pure cosmic force.

Even for such humanoids I don't think alignment has ever really been immutable for an individual from such species. I mean Drizzt is a thing afterall.
Right, and this change is to reinforce that, that's all.

That said, it's a big change to remove alignment proclivities based on species in D&D. Instead of the story being they were created to be evil, the story becomes that they chose to be evil and that each and every individual in their society chooses to be evil. I think the only reason those kinds of stories seem okay, if not outright better to many right now is that they haven't had 20+ years to reflect on them.
No, I think it is more that this particular society is generally evil because of religious indoctrination (say, Gruumsh or Lolth, to continue the previous example) or other factors (for example, the Many Arrow tribe of Orcs in the Forgotten Realms), but another society of orcs may not be evil at all and live in harmony with their human neighbors (say, like in Eberron). And we can still call out individual members of these societies as deviating from their cultural norm (say, maybe a branch of the Many Arrow orcs have formed a mutual protection pact with a nearby tribe of Reghed barbarians).

I mean foundationally, the change even goes to the very notion of good and evil gods. Why would an evil god ever create a species that's going to be good.? Why would a good god create a species that's not inclined toward goodness? Can you see how the whole cosmology does seem to be weakened by this one change?
Well, not of the gods as presented in any of the settings (that I know of) are omnipotent, and while they mey meant to or desire to have their creations to be of their alignment, their creations have free will (this is borne out by the fact that there are already examples of individual that deviate from their god's alignment). So, instead, the god must use religious and cultural indoctrination to ensure its ethos is followed by its creation. So, it doesn't necessarily have to change the cosmology at all. Especially since the exceptions already exist.
 



FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Right, and this change is to reinforce that, that's all.
I don't think it accomplishes that goal

No, I think it is more that this particular society is generally evil because of religious indoctrination (say, Gruumsh or Lolth, to continue the previous example) or other factors (for example, the Many Arrow tribe of Orcs in the Forgotten Realms), but another society of orcs may not be evil at all and live in harmony with their human neighbors (say, like in Eberron). And we can still call out individual members of these societies as deviating from their cultural norm (say, maybe a branch of the Many Arrow orcs have formed a mutual protection pact with a nearby tribe of Reghed barbarians).
That's still choosing to be evil vs being made evil. It's still possible that all orcs or nearly all orcs worship Gruumsh in your particular setting. Same with Drow and Lolth. Such orcs or drow choosing to be evil of their own free will is much worse than saying the gods made them thus.

Well, not of the gods as presented in any of the settings (that I know of) are omnipotent, and while they mey meant to or desire to have their creations to be of their alignment, their creations have free will (this is borne out by the fact that there are already examples of individual that deviate from their god's alignment). So, instead, the god must use religious and cultural indoctrination to ensure its ethos is followed by its creation. So, it doesn't necessarily have to change the cosmology at all. Especially since the exceptions already exist.
I don't think it's reasonable to conclude that every time an evil god goes to make an evil humanoid species that they inherently turn out the same as the humanoid species created by the good gods. Some species have a good nature and some an evil nature and some a purely neutral nature. Overcoming your nature makes for some very popular stories. Having a few examples of creatures doing that doesn't take away from the evil nature part of the story but enhances it. The exception proves the rule so to speak.
 

I remember some old controversies about chaotic good shouldn't be allowed to do actions against the Natural Law.

There are too many spells linked with the aligment key to be altered easily. Cleric and paladins have got divine spells to use against unholy creatures, usually undead and infernal outsiders. WotC game designers know many players would rather to be neutral only for gameplay effects to avoid higher damage by spells against enemies with opposite alignment. And this is the reason my houserule is spell can hurt enemies but same aligment but different allegiance.
 

Maybe not implicitly, but definitely complicitly. ;)
Oh yeah for sure. The truly good among them, would have refused conscription or refused evil orders. Likely at great personal (i.e. execution or concentration camps) cost.

Irwin Rommel for example defied Hitler and the 'Commando' orders (a 'no mercy' order), as did a fair few other commanders.

Why did Rommel ignore an order directing German generals to execute the Allied commandos caught behind enemy lines? - Quora.

I have no doubt that the Nazi Wehrmacht was comprised of good men, evil men, and everything in between (like all armies are). The regime they served was undoubtedly evil in the extreme, but it would be equally cartoonish and simplistic in the extreme to label the men themselves as all equally evil.

The Rifts game does this really well, by examining the mindset of the 'typical' soldier of the Pseudo-Nazis in that game (the Coalition of man). Those dudes are human supremacists and fascists. It explores how many of them are good people, that have been exposed to actual demons coming to earth and horrifically murdering whole towns, and dealing with monsters and necromancers etc, and how a great many of those Pseudo-Nazis see themselves as heroes and good men (and in some cases, are in fact good men).

From their perspective, they're defending Earth and Humanity from invaders from other dimensions; even when they're rounding up entire villages of kindly elves or aliens, and incinerating them with plasma.

Obviously, the dudes that hold that view are evil. It's that (in their eyes) they arent.

There are the Fascist soldiers that are human supremacists and OK with genocide and enjoy it (Evil) the Fascist soldiers that see it as a necessary evil and go along with it anyway, or justify thier actions as being good (Evil), and the Fascist soldiers that have seen aliens, demons and horrors erupt from the Rifts, and are genuinely fighting among those creatures (turning a blind eye to goodly aliens and benevolent entities from the rifts) who are Good.
 

I remember some old controversies about chaotic good shouldn't be allowed to do actions against the Natural Law.
Natural Law is subjective depending on who you ask, and many people deny it exists at all.

Slavery was once justified as complying with natural law for example.

There are too many spells linked with the aligment key to be altered easily.
Barring animating the dead with necromancy magic (and only if one does so frequently) there arent that many.

Some clerical spells vary in damage type between Necrotic and Radiant depending on the casters alignment. Spirit Guardians being one such spell.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
It has been that since the beginning. It is rather becoming more diverse, and more distinctive, over time.

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.
That isn't the case. They are making it so that race doesn't determine whether you stand in the light or the darkness.

So... Werewolves...

The traditional werewolf story, with a person getting infected with lycanthropy, once a month turns into a furry murder machine against their will... how does that work in 5th edition? I apologize I do not have my Monster Manual handy.
Just requires an evil werewolf, and it plays out exactly like that. Well, mostly. The werewolf is evil at all times in 5e, far as I can tell. And they are supernaturally evil, not human evil, so they are more likely, IMO, to go out of their way to bring about evil ends, to try to destroy communities, to stoke fear and distrust, to find their kill from the night before and display it to invoke maximum terror in the townsfolk, etc.

A really good 5e werewolf story would have the most ardent witchhunter in the town, the guy who accuses others of being the monster or working with the monster, and without PC intervention gets people to kill their neighbors in the process, ends up being the werewolf.

A wererat story might instead not even seem like a wererat story until they PCs are neck deep in danger and things are coming to a head, because wererats are naturally manipulators and corrupters. So, tell a tale of witch trials, or persecution of those with the knowledge to keep the town safe, of corrupt leaders going over the edge, a Needful Things story, and make the provocateur of the chaos and corruption be a warren of wererats who have successfully pretended to be the sheriff who is trying to hold the town together, and the priest who is calling for patience and calm in public, and in private they are making innocuous comments that make things worse.

To someone strongly lawful good the world seems to be extremes of good or evil and apathy or inaction ARE evil.
Well, no. You don't need to be anything like lawful good to see inaction and apathy in the face of evil as evil. It's hardly an extreme view to watch a video of a man being slowly murdered, see peers of the murderer in the video who could easily stop it with full legal justification, and say, "they may not be as evil as the murderer, but their inaction was also an act of evil, and they share his guilt."

In fact, I'd say Chaotic Good is more likely to see things that way, because Lawful Good can hide behind the Law As Such to not have to think of one's neighbors as evil due to inaction, because they "had no authority to act" or similar excuses, while Chaotic Good cannot hide behind such logical shields.

I'd say that Law vs Chaos is, in part, a difference of prioritising either emotional or logical intelligence, especially as it relates to judgement of guilt and just or unjust action.

Not to divert from the topic too much but this makes me think of all of the discussion recently over the Last of Us games. Without spoiling anything, pretty much every main character in the game has contexts where they're warm, loving, passionate humans with families, friends, and community. Each main character is also a brutal murder who has shot, stabbed and killed people who may or may not be innocent. From everyone's perspective, they're the good guy or a victim, and from everyone else's perspective, they're monsters.
Ugh. Well, if that is genuinely what the game is like, you've just saved me some money. I really detest that sort of grimdark "everyone sucks" crap.

socialism isn’t inherently anti-profit motive. It’s more accurate to say socialists want the profits of labor to largely go to those performing the labor.
Thank you for this summary of socialism. It's very succinct and accurate, and maybe easier to use as an explanaition that the alternative that I've heard often, which is, "we believe that the hoarding of profits from group labor by an individual or small subset of the group is theft from the rest of the group creating the profit."
I don't like when anything gets very political. This applies to entertainers/businesses/RPG's/etc.
That'sroughbuddy.gif

But seriously, it's all political. Entertainers create art in a political landscape, and even trying to ignore "politics" (which includes every issue that affects groups of people) is a political act.
What better way to celebrate diversity than by stripping away all the uniqueness from the non-human races of your game.
I find that people who use "sjw" in a derogetory manner rarely actually care at all about celebrating diversity.

But also the statement is just nonsense. Drow aren't unique because they're born evil. They aren't born evil, and haven't been for decades, and they aren't any less unique now than they were when first conceived.
or even LG Succubi (although the latter cease being Fiends and turn into Angels if they change alignment)
I can't find a rule to that effect anywhere. Closest I can find is examples, but no real way to know that the change isn't voluntary, and that Zariel could have chosen to simply be an evil angel, rather than a fiend.

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.
Yep. lots of evil folk think they're neutral, but actively giving material support to evil, and aiding in the spread of evil ideology, is an act of evil.
So were a Nazi soldiers, and not all of them were evil.
Hard disagree. They may have "changed alignment" after the war, they may have been poisoned by being a soldier of an evil regime, but while they were soldiers in the war, they were Nazi soldiers, and they were evil.

I won't get into here, but I've read quite a lot on the evils of allies and axis powers, and the Nazi soldiers were, in general, some of the most evil bastards in the war, in terms of the behavior/actions of German soldiers as they took and occupied foreign land. No one really came out clean from that war (very much including my "heroic" nation, the US), except maybe some small nations or whatever, but it isn't just the camps that make the Nazis evil.
 

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