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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

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
No, they're Evil, too.

If your nation is invaded by foreigners again and again, and this results eventually in a psychotic fascist regime taking over, and you turn a blind eye to their extremely evil genocide because you have a bitterness toward foreigners, even though they are murdering anyone who isn't exactly the right kind of person, then you are Evil.

The only possible soldier in that fight who isn't evil, is the conscript who fights against their own will, who has seen deserters shot in the back or rounded up and hanged, and who has no genuine other option. Only a person with literally no empathy or compassion at all would call them evil, IMO.

But the guy who signs up in spite of knowing that children are being murdered because they can be argued to belong to the same general classification as the demons? Evil. Full stop.
 

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Azzy

Newtype
I don't think it accomplishes that goal
Well, it remains to be seen.

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.
Disagree. Between cultural and religious indoctrination being very strong (we can look at the real world for many examples), and evil people don't typically think of themselves as evil (for instance proponents of imperialism and chattle slavery would tell you that what they are doing is proper and good for the people they oppress (see the whole "white man's burden" ideology). A lot of evil has been done with the justification that it was the right, moral thing to do. Even the nazis that they were moral and in the right.

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.
They aren't the same. They just have free will like the other sapient species.

Some species have a good nature and some an evil nature and some a purely neutral nature.
See, that's a very problematic worldview—the same worldview that was used to justify many, many nasty thing throughout history.

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.
We don't need biological evil to have people rebel against or overcome their "nature". One can overcome indoctrination, vices, etc. We can see this with Joe Bednarsky, a former grand dragon off the kkk who has done many bad things, repented his former life and now worships in a black church and acts as the bodyguard for the (black) preacher. Another example is Malcolm X (who was not evil, let's get that out of the way). As a member of the Nation of Islam, he became indoctrinated into some very problematic worldviews that NOI has (anti-Semetism being among them, and the "white devil" thing). However, his travels to Africa and the Middle East opened his eyes to his prejudices and helped him overcome that to become more inclusive and distance himself from the NOI. It's truly a shame that he was assassinated only a few years later. We can have redemption stories without implicit evil.
 

Azzy

Newtype
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.
Agreed in some parts. Disagreed in others.
 

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.
5E PHB p. 122, "Alignment in the Multiverse":

"Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and friends. A devil doesn not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn't tend toward lawful evil, but rather is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil."

My reading of Crawford's new statement is that this is going to continue to be the default way outsiders work, but more emphasis may be placed on reminding DMs that they can throw it out if they want to. Maybe they drop the word "somehow" that downplays the possibility of the devil's alignment changing.
 

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.
Natural Law by its very nature can't be relative at all. Isn't slavery bad only because Scarlet O'hara, or the pirate Barbarrosa, says that? You are confused. Some people in the past said slavery was natural, not it was coherent with the natural law.

Martin Luther King said:

“We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighers did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany.”

* The emeritus Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, Benedictin XVI was in the German army against his will.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
5E PHB p. 122, "Alignment in the Multiverse":

"Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and friends. A devil doesn not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn't tend toward lawful evil, but rather is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil."

My reading of Crawford's new statement is that this is going to continue to be the default way outsiders work, but more emphasis may be placed on reminding DMs that they can throw it out if they want to. Maybe they drop the word "somehow" that downplays the possibility of the devil's alignment changing.
Thank you, I kept looking in the DMG or MM for something about this, it never occurred to me to look in the PHB. What an odd place for it.

I will say this, though. That doesn't necessarily mean that anything other than the "creature type" as such would change if a succubus changed alignment. I'd have preferred if they left the change of creature type up to DMs, but at least they are silent on whether a Chaotic Good Succubus becomes an angel or some such, or is simply a medium celestial/fey/whatever, succubus, Chaotic Good.
 



Remathilis

Legend
Gary Gygax expressed such a view in 2005 across several posts on pages 3 and 4 of the linked thread.
Sigh. I guess Gary, like Tolkien or Lovecraft, is a product of his time. Gary especially was a wargamer before RPGs existed, so I can imagine a lot of 60's and 70's era military think colored his perceptions. That said, Gary said these things 20 years after he had relinquished creative control of D&D and while that may have been a personal view of his, I don't necessarily see how it was a core element of D&D itself. It's not like that attitude is specifically reflected in the paladin, orc, or alignment sections of the PHB, for example.

That all being said, it probably explains Mordenkainen and Rolibar having an army of orcs far better than anything I saw prior...
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
Natural Law by its very nature can't be relative at all. Isn't slavery bad only because Scarlet O'hara, or the pirate Barbarrosa, says that? You are confused. Some people in the past said slavery was natural, not it was coherent with the natural law.

Martin Luther King said:

“We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighers did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany.”

* The emeritus Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, Benedictin XVI was in the German army against his will.
Then what is the natural law? What are its tenets and precepts?

There have been many thinkers in the past who appealed to the notion of natural law, but they all had different conceptions of it. So what definition are you using? And what argument do you have for its very existence? Many ethical and political theories do not use the notion of a naturla law as their foundation, and some deny that such a law even exists.
 

No, being Good is usually encouraging good acts in others (altruism, kindness, charity and mercy) while expressing those traits yourself.

It's also refraining from evil (harming others) and often also about stopping others from doing evil.
Right, which is why I wanted Haldrik to clarify why Chaos being organized by choice was different than Law. Because that implies that Law doesn't allow for choice, which goes against the idea of good.


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.

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?
If good gods wouldn't create mortals who could choose evil, I suppose free-will isn't a thing. And if Evil gods aren't creating species, seems for a good reason to drop them for being like Demon Lords who are corrupting otherwise good things. Seems to make a great cosmology.

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.
Got it, a lot of time people point to LG as the highest form of Good, which is why I wanted to check.
 


Sigh. I guess Gary, like Tolkien or Lovecraft, is a product of his time.
He's a product of many things. He had quite strong religious beliefs as well that would have coloured his moral reasoning as well (rightly or wrongly).

Lovecraft was a flat out White supremacist, antisemite, bigot, admirer of Hitler, and racist in the extreme:

We Can’t Ignore H.P. Lovecraft’s White Supremacy

He is utterly indefensible, and I refuse to have anything to do with his literary works as a consequence.

Tolkien was innocently racist, in an ignorant, not meaning badly way. You have to re-examine his works to attribute racist undertones to them. He certainly never went on record (as far as I know) with racism, and was vehemently opposed to Hitler and white nationalism in real life (unlike Lovecraft).
 

Thank you, I kept looking in the DMG or MM for something about this, it never occurred to me to look in the PHB. What an odd place for it.

I will say this, though. That doesn't necessarily mean that anything other than the "creature type" as such would change if a succubus changed alignment. I'd have preferred if they left the change of creature type up to DMs, but at least they are silent on whether a Chaotic Good Succubus becomes an angel or some such, or is simply a medium celestial/fey/whatever, succubus, Chaotic Good.
My impression of the default model for outsiders is that they are all, essentially, the same thing: a "species" constituted of ideas rather than matter and correspondingly mutable. Even setting aside alignment changes, demons and devils and modrons and the like are always transforming as they climb the ranks in their own planar environments. So I suspect a succubus would change her form and powers under this model. Mind control and soul-sucking don't match up with her new ideals, so away they go.

Would that it were so simple for redeemed monsters of the material plane...
 

That is the best argument for removing alignment from D&D. If the terms are subjective and meaningless, they have no use in the game.
You can say that about any word in the english language though.

Good (in DnD) has implicitly or expressly been about charity, mercy, compassion and altruism.

Evil has implicitly or expressly involved harming others (slavery, torture, murder, rape etc).

You can see this in early edition Paladins having rules forcing them into charity, early discussions of alignment in many editions of the game, sourcebooks like the BoVD or BoED, examination of the actions of creatures depicted as 'usually evil' and creatures depicted as 'usually good' and so forth.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My impression of the default model for outsiders is that they are all, essentially, the same thing: a "species" constituted of ideas rather than matter and correspondingly mutable. Even setting aside alignment changes, demons and devils and modrons and the like are always transforming as they climb the ranks in their own planar environments. So I suspect a succubus would change her form and powers under this model. Mind control and soul-sucking don't match up with her new ideals, so away they go.
Yeah, probably, but luckily it isn't explicit, so I can easily shut down table argument about if I go another way.

But, more likely is that I throw out the entirety of the planar cosmology of DND because I largely view it as utter garbage from top to bottom, with only the material, etherial, and shadowfel/feywild as exceptions.
 

Yeah, probably, but luckily it isn't explicit, so I can easily shut down table argument about if I go another way.

But, more likely is that I throw out the entirety of the planar cosmology of DND because I largely view it as utter garbage from top to bottom, with only the material, etherial, and shadowfel/feywild as exceptions.
Ive used it with outsiders able to change alignment (rare as it may be) since AD&D.

CG Titans had an entire subfaction canonically canonicaly change alignment to NE (and had a war, leading to Hades or Ghenna? being a wasteland). Ditto Erinyes and other fallen Angels. Grazzt was once a demon. In 3.5 there was a redeemed Succubus as canon as well.

It's extremely rare, but it does happen. When it does, they outsiders type tends to change as well (Angels become Fiends etc).

Nothing has changed. I really dont get why people are getting worked up over this.
 

Remathilis

Legend
He's a product of many things. He had quite strong religious beliefs as well that would have coloured his moral reasoning as well (rightly or wrongly).

Lovecraft was a flat out White supremacist, antisemite, bigot, admirer of Hitler, and racist in the extreme:

We Can’t Ignore H.P. Lovecraft’s White Supremacy

He is utterly indefensible, and I refuse to have anything to do with his literary works as a consequence.

Tolkien was innocently racist, in an ignorant, not meaning badly way. You have to re-examine his works to attribute racist undertones to them. He certainly never went on record (as far as I know) with racism, and was vehemently opposed to Hitler and white nationalism in real life (unlike Lovecraft).
My point wasn't to draw a direct comparison between the three of them or their beliefs, merely to point out the things that they said and believed were not the same things that are acceptable now. They produced popular works that have exceedingly difficult conceptual gaps to fill. Be it in innocent ignorance or intentional malice, the works they produced are now colored by the artist. It's a dangerous gray-zone where the beliefs of the artist supersede the art itself, with the potential for as much harm as good if not carefully monitored. i guess there is some value in Death of the Author...
 

My point wasn't to draw a direct comparison between the three of them or their beliefs, merely to point out the things that they said and believed were not the same things that are acceptable now.
Fair enough. I just wanted to clarify that I cant lump Lovecraft in with Tokien when it comes to simply 'being a product of their time'.

Lovecraft was an extreme racist, antisemite and bigot, even for his time.
 


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