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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

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.
Heh, I know you are arguing from despair. But I agree with that point.

If D&D wants to update the alignment tradition for contemporary and future D&D, it has to be more objective.

For sure, Good has to hesitate before ending the life of any creature, nevermind ending the life of a humanoid creature exhibiting freewill.

If that is the case, nonlethal combat needs to be a more routine option for Good parties. Thus morale checks to see if opponents flee or surrender, restraints to capture, perhaps sedatives to incapacitate, Good police forces and justice systems that the party can trust if bringing a bounty to them, and so on.

If the technical term "Good" is going to be useful, it has to be more meaningful, and more recognizably Good.
 

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One thing I want to add, because it is great but also amusing, is that Critical Role's take on the Law vs Chaos conflict when it comes to Civilization vs The Wilderness is particularly interesting and engaging to me.

Melora the Earth Mother and Erathis the Law Bearer? They are in a romantic relationship, so it is possible to see conflicts between civilization and wilderness as lovers spats, which is just awesome.

"Honey, is that yet another city you are building near the High Forest? Why do you need another one?"

"Well I wouldn't if someone hadn't wrecked the last one."

"You abandoned it. I told you what would happen if you left your junk just lying around in my forests."

"Junk! Junk! Oh I'll show you junk, just you wait and see."

"Oh bring it on. You think I can't just wipe it off the map, I dare you."


It makes me chuckle. :LOL:
 

For sure, Good has to hesitate before ending the life of any creature, nevermind ending the life of a humanoid creature exhibiting freewill.
???

No you just apply common sense. A Good person generally seeks to avoid killing and harming others wherever possible, and only uses force in reasonable (and proportionate) self defence (collective or otherwise), when no other option is reasonably available to them.

No-one could say a Soldier or Cop or Civilian or whomever, using reasonable force (even lethal force) in self defence or to protect others from harm, is 'evil'.

It's not a good act, but it's not evil.
 

I was just reminded of the original Vault of the Drow series. I consider it the greatest work of art, by Gary Gygax.

It is a work of art of a bygone era, but it remains compelling and important.

With regard to D&D traditions, it is possible to throw out the bath water of unfortunate tropes, and still keep the baby alive and healthy. D&D traditions have lots of awesome stuff. There is a reason that 5e borrowing and updating 1e still remains fun and popular.

Alignment traditions. We know using alignment for mechanics sucks. Most of us are glad 5e threw out its punishing aspects.

Yet at the same time, I feel the alignment system is neat and useful. It survives the test of time as a narrative description.

As long as designers take pains to explain why neither Law nor Chaos are Good, it can have reasonably clear definitions.

For D&D today, I feel a Faction (because of its specific ideology) deserves an alignment label, not a species.

Even a vicious deadly species − like a virus − if it lacks freewill, cannot be Evil. Only group ideologies and individual actions can be Evil.
 

No, American Slave owners (and the Southern US States) expressly appealed to 'Natural Law' as the legal basis for Slavery being ethical (in addition to biblical justification).
What is your source to say it? Aren't you talking about Natural Slavery? Did saint Augustine it was right or only couldn't be avoided (but in a perfect society shouldn`t be allowed).

If the morality is subjetive then Apocapyse (supervillain from X-Men comics) could sacrifice innocent people for his crazy plans to rule the world because he is beyond good or evil, or the "friends of the humanity" could kill mutant children ("X-Men: God loves, the man kills") or Magneto could start a genocide against the flatscans to save the mutants.

Do you know the comics and now teleserie "the boys", where the superheroes behove as psychpaths without remorses?
 

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.
Yuck. I didnt know that. I appreciate you bringing his hatespeech to our attention.

Especially since D&D has occasionally borrowed heavily from Lovecraft, this is an extremely serious issue to the D&D community.
 
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A Good person only uses force, when no other option is reasonably available to them.
That is the problem. D&D (especially how experience points mainly accrue from kills) tends to solve all problems with a sword, bow, or fireball.

Surely, the game must provide other reasonable options.

If "Good" means good.



Violence is "exciting" for the sake of a vivid story. But Good options should also be available. Especially when the hostile reaches zero hitpoints, and becomes completely vulnerable to a killshot.

That is one of the things I love about 4e "bloodied" condition. Using this mechanic, many combat ending effects like forcing surrender (skill check), frighten away, Hold spell, Paralysis spell, poison delivery (or sedative), can be made to only become possible when the hostile becomes bloodied and begins to drop their guard. When at zero, they are completely vulnerable, such as knocked unconscious.

Similarly, one can completely restrain a hostile, when the hostile reaches zero, such as force a gag, or so on.

Analogous to purchasing holy water, I feel, player characters should be able routinely purchase a method to restrain a spellcaster or psion, once at zero hit points. In addition to purchasing other restraints.

These kinds of mechanics invite nonlethal solutions to win.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
???

No you just apply common sense. A Good person generally seeks to avoid killing and harming others wherever possible, and only uses force in reasonable (and proportionate) self defence (collective or otherwise), when no other option is reasonably available to them.

No-one could say a Soldier or Cop or Civilian or whomever, using reasonable force (even lethal force) in self defence or to protect others from harm, is 'evil'.

It's not a good act, but it's not evil.
This is something I discuss with new players now and then. Sometimes there will be options to capture prisoners, but frequently they are for all intents and purposes in the front lines of a war.

Depending on they enemy they may surrender*, they may flee, they may fight till the bitter end. If the enemy is out to kill you without question and there is no other option it's not evil to kill them.

*This doesn't happen often simply because I don't want to deal with the Private Ryan prisoner dilemma.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
That is the problem. D&D (especially how experience points mainly accrue from kills) tends to solve all problems with a sword, bow, or fireball.

Surely, the game must provide other reasonable options.

If "Good" means good.
I haven't uses XP for a long time and for even longer never rewarded it based solely on killing monsters.

End of the day it's a game. There is no evidence that video or TTRPG violence leads to real world violence or changes in morality. There is plenty of evidence that D&D improves critical thinking, socialization skills and teamwork. It's not for lack of studies over the past couple of decades, worrying about games like D&D, Killer Bunnies or Red Dead Redemption is the modern era's version of the comic book panic of the 50s.

Which doesn't mean it shouldn't be made clear that MM alignment entries are only the default if makes sense for your game.
 



You live in the USA? That's a country with nearly 330 million other people, on a planet with over 7 billion other people. If you live a life such that you can choose to ignore those other people... you're lucky.

The entertainers, businesses, RPGs, etc are trying to sell into that world, though, so they don't generally get to ignore how it operates.
Yeah, look at all the stupid "reality" shows on TV these days about people supposedly isolating themselves from society, while making a tv show about it. lol
 

Even a vicious deadly species − like a virus − if it lacks freewill, cannot be Evil. Only group ideologies and individual actions can be Evil.
That gets us back to the argument of 'what alignment is the Alien from Aliens'.

What is your source to say it? Aren't you talking about Natural Slavery? Did saint Augustine it was right or only couldn't be avoided (but in a perfect society shouldn`t be allowed).
Aristotle, Locke (and many others) have argued that slavery is a natural part of the natural law. Some men are born to rule, and others born to serve.

SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class research journals

This essay systematically reformulates an earlier argument about Locke and new world slavery, adding attention to Indians, natural law, and Locke's reception. Locke followed Grotian natural law in constructing a just-war theory of slavery.


Ditto with the theological arguments (that also referred to natural law as their basis, as created by God) that were advanced by many Southern States in the USA justifying Slavery, and many other theological arguments advanced by fundamentalist adherents of other religions today that do the same thing based on 'natural law' as enshrined in their interpretation of their holy texts.

Do your research on it yourself mate. I cant go any further into it that that here, for risk of violating the sites rules on discussion of real world religion.

Suffice to say that I (personally) deny the existence of 'natural law'. And I'm a Lawyer IRL.

If the morality is subjetive
'Natural law' and morality are clearly subjective. They're social constructs. I dont want to get to post-modern on you, but natural law is whatever a person says it is. I can use an appeal to 'natural law' to justify slavery, just like you can use it to denounce it. Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are whatever we agree they are.

In DnD, the terms have a meaning that can be implied (or expressly dictated) by the texts. 'Moral Good' in DnD has traditionally been the consensus modern view of 'good' in that it equates to 'altruism, mercy, compassion and charity' and 'Moral Evil' has been traditionally defined largely as 'causing harm to others' which is the consensus modern view as well.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
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.
He says something similar in a column, From the Sorcerer's Scroll, in Dragon Magazine #38 (1980):

Remember that good can be related to reality ofttimes, but not always. It might also relate to good as perceived in the past, actual or mythical. In the latter case, a Paladin could well force conversion at swordpoint, and, once acceptance of the true way was expressed, dispatch the new convert on the spot. This assures that the prodigal will not return to the former evil ways, sends the now-saved spirit on to a better place, and incidentally rids the world of a potential troublemaker. Such actions are good, in these ways:​
1. Evil is abridged (by at least one creature).​
2. Good has gained a convert.​
3. The convert now has hope for rewards (rather than torment) in the afterlife.​
4. The good populace is safer (by a factor of at least 1).​
It is therefore possible for a Paladin to, in fact, actually perform a mercy killing such as the inquiring player asked about, provided the tenets of his or her theology permitted it. While unlikely, it is possible.​

Several humanoids in the 1e AD&D Monster Manual seem to be very evil:

"They [goblins] hate gnomes and dwarves and will attack them in preference to any other creature. All goblins are slave takers and fond of torture."
"Kobolds hate most other life, delighting in killing and torture. They particularly hate such creatures as brownies, pixies, sprites and gnomes. They war continually with the latter, and will attack them on sight."
"Orcs are cruel and hate living things in general, but they particularly hate elves and will always attack them in preference to other creatures. They take slaves for work, food, and entertainment (torture, etc.) but not elves whom they kill immediately."

If this evil is inherent in their nature, as is suggested by the passage about half-orcs in the 1e DMG - a half-orc that is not "rude, crude, crass, and generally obnoxious" favours "their human parent more than their orcish one" - then one can see the basis for killing surrendered and non-combatant humanoids within the world of D&D. (I'm not saying that this is how the D&D world ought to be.)
 
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'Natural law' and morality are clearly subjective.
If this were clear, there would not be so many people who argue otherwise. The sun clearly rises in the east. The nature of morality? Slightly more opaque.

They're social constructs.
Social constructs are not subjective. The United States is a social construct, but if Alice says the U.S. is in North America and Bob says the U.S. is in Asia, Bob is objectively wrong.

I dont want to get to post-modern on you, but natural law is whatever a person says it is. I can use an appeal to 'natural law' to justify slavery, just like you can use it to denounce it.
I can use an appeal to natural law to justify geocentrism or phlogiston or the luminiferous aether. Appeals can be erroneous.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Social constructs are not subjective. The United States is a social construct, but if Alice says the U.S. is in North America and Bob says the U.S. is in Asia, Bob is objectively wrong.
Apples and oranges. States may be social constructs, but most are tied to a concrete, geographic location with broad agreement about their identity (disputes in places like Kashmir, excepted).
Moral structures don't have many such objective ties that are so widely accepted. That’s why various famous lawgivers like Moses, Lycurgus, and Numa have sought to do so by appealing to supernatural authorities... of course, it’s kind of hard to prove their objective existence these days.
 

If this were clear, there would not be so many people who argue otherwise.
People argue for the existence of God(s). If it cant be empirically falsified, and is an intangible that can only be argued to exist on 'faith' then I dont agree it exists.

People can believe it all they want of course. They can believe in leprechauns or geocentism or witchcraft all they want as well.
 

oriaxx77

Explorer
Some people count describing character actions in third-person as roleplaying but doing improv acting at the table is definitely 100% roleplaying a character.
Roleplaying without acting is still roleplaying. Acting is like some fruit on the ice cream. It is nice to have but it is not the ice cream. Many so called roleplayer do not even know how to roll initiative, what alignment is, how to make an attack roll etc.. They just like to be on the screen. The context is irrelevant for them.
 

People argue for the existence of God(s). If it cant be empirically falsified, and is an intangible that can only be argued to exist on 'faith' then I dont agree it exists.
That's fine. I'm not telling you what you should or shouldn't believe. I'm saying that you presented the nature of morality as an easy question, but the empirical evidence is that it is anything but. When I come across a long-standing controversy but the resolution seems clear and obvious to me, I often find upon further inspection that I have been missing something in the arguments for the other side. Not necessarily that they're right, but that there's more there than I thought. Something to consider.
 

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