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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

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 I say that Moses gave Twelve Commandments and one of them was "Thou shalt not stack dice at the game table", I'm objectively wrong.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
I'm not sure how this is a response to what I said?
 

That gets us back to the argument of 'what alignment is the Alien from Aliens'.
If demons lack freewill (and I view they do lack it), then are they Evil?

I would say no. They are cosmic forces, like gravity. These forces make it possible for humans to do evil actions.

In a sense, they make freewill possible, thus actually serve a Good function ultimately.

What matters is what humanity does (including other D&D humanoids).
 

I'm saying that you presented the nature of morality as an easy question,
No I didnt. I stated my own view is that Natural Law does not exist in reality. I'm not saying morality is easy to determine at all; its wholly subjective and contextual.

In the game that position changes. We have a DM who can say (for example) action X is morally good (or morally evil). Seeing as the view seems to be in DnD that alignment is a cosmic objective force (as in there are outer planes comprised of the stuff, where if the inhabitants change alignment, they cease being the type of inhabitants of that plane) then its largely up to the DM to determine what Good and Evil 'are'.

The game seems to have a general assumption that 'altruism, mercy, compassion, charity' are moral goods, and 'harming others' is a moral wrong (evil). This has remained reasonably consistent throughout the editions, by implication and sometimes even express words in works.
 

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.
So would say someone who is heavily LG or LN. But Lawful can be it’s own kind of evil, becoming too rigid, lacking empathy and mercy. And the law itself can be unjust, in which case breaking the law is a good thing and upholding it is evil.

(This is similar to dannyalctraz’s point; i would have preferred to quote you both, but couldn’t figure out how to do it from the app)

In DnD I have tended to play NG characters, because I believe that law and chaos need to be balanced. In real life, I lean pretty heavily toward LG when it comes to my own life choices and actions, but I’m not unaware of the dangers of that, and at least in my better moments I don’t expect others to lawful in order to qualify as good in my book.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Oh yeah man, he was really really bad. RaHoWa levels of bad.

I'll never buy a thing licensed to his estate ever.
I've never understood this. I mean, while Michael Jackson was alive I wouldn't buy or listen to his music, but now that he's dead I don't see any reason to transfer sins to the children, so I listen again. Do you have evidence that those who gain from Lovecraft's estate are like he was?
 



NaturalZero

Adventurer
Roleplaying without acting is still roleplaying.
Right. Like I said, you can tell me that a character is doing a thing and some folks think that counts as roleplay. It's a valid way to play regardless.

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.
You can be the best roleplayer to ever live without knowing anything about rolling initiative or making an attack roll. You can roleplay without knowing anything about the rules. You can roleplay without any rules or game. You're conflating the "G" in RPG with the "R."
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
It would be except for being it blatantly wrong. Good and Evil aren't that subjective in D&D.
Unless Good and Evil are explicitly laid out in detail in the core books, they might as well subjective. In-universe Good and Evil might be objective, but if nobody at the out-of-universe table can agree on what Good and Evil are, or even figure out what the rules-as-written are trying to say what they are, the whole point is moot.

Once again, you can't dismiss out-of-universe critiques with in-universe justifications.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Unless Good and Evil are explicitly laid out in detail in the core books, they might as well subjective. In-universe Good and Evil might be objective, but if nobody at the out-of-universe table can agree on what it is, the whole point is moot.

Once again, you can't dismiss out-of-universe critiques with in-universe justifications.

I would say that like many things in D&D, the details should be decided by the DM and the group. I don't want WOTC to publish a philosophy 101 course on the merits of methods to adjudicate good and evil.
 
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No I didnt. I stated my own view is that Natural Law does not exist in reality. I'm not saying morality is easy to determine at all; its wholly subjective and contextual.
Sorry, I was unclear. When I said the "nature of morality" I was referring to the metaethical question of whether morality is subjective or objective (or something else or whether those labels are even coherent or...), not the ethical question of how to determine morality. This metaethical question is what remains a hard problem -- although, of course, it makes the other question even harder by extension.

In the game that position changes. We have a DM who can say (for example) action X is morally good (or morally evil). Seeing as the view seems to be in DnD that alignment is a cosmic objective force (as in there are outer planes comprised of the stuff, where if the inhabitants change alignment, they cease being the type of inhabitants of that plane) then its largely up to the DM to determine what Good and Evil 'are'.

The game seems to have a general assumption that 'altruism, mercy, compassion, charity' are moral goods, and 'harming others' is a moral wrong (evil). This has remained reasonably consistent throughout the editions, by implication and sometimes even express words in works.
Absolutely agreed. The presence of a DM makes digressions into the weeds of moral philosophy, however fun they may be for my very... specific sort of mind, basically irrelevant for the practical purposes of this game. There's a caveat that the players need to buy into the DM's vision for the campaign, but that's true of every aspect of it, not just their calls on good and evil.
 

I would say that like many things in D&D, the details should be decided by the DM and the group. I don't want WOTC to publish a philosophy 101 course on the merits of methods to adjudicate good and evil.
You realize that was the point right? That the game table is taking their own morality, and then codifying it as absolute at the table.

And so, even if they say that the morality is absolute, it is actually relative, because it is relative to the table and their interpretations.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
It would be except for being it blatantly wrong. Good and Evil aren't that subjective in D&D.
Of course they are. Just like in real life. In D&D, the party goes and kills that goblin tribe. Good aligned PCs. Defined by an assumption (goblins are evil and need to be killed) made by other people who look just like the PCs, and not the goblins.

But to the goblins, who may have done nothing against the humans, would view it very differently. A group of humans invaded and wiped out the village and ransacked anything valuable. So the neighboring tribe took up arms to defend their people and attacked the PCs.

to the PCs, they are good for destroying evil goblins. To the goblins, they are good for destroying evil PCs. Entirely subjective depending on what side you're on and who makes up the rules.

D&D has tried to simplify that by making an entire species inherently and always evil, or always good, because it's a game and no one wants moral dilemmas in their game. But it is still very much subjective, based on who is playing the game. For the record, I don't think the game needs to define what is good vs evil either, and let the table decide. But good and evil are very much subjective within the game. It happens all the time; players engaging in what would normally be bad behavior (stealing, thievery, murder, breaking entering, bullying, greed, etc) but try to justify it for the greater mission. How many times does a PC get into an argument with an NPC over the PC's behavior or NPCs behavior when they both think they are in the right? Pretty often.
 

jsaving

Adventurer
Depending on your gaming table, you definitely see players justify evil behavior by claiming it is being done for the greater good. But the claims don't actually make it so.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
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.
"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.
If I am reading this right, then the game doesn't even really prescribe an alignment change for contracting lycanthropy. It just says "If you are going to have your players encounter a werewolf, might I suggest an Evil alignment?"

And without an alignment mandate, the threat of lycanthropy is kind of nil. It's not even a curse.
 

Morality can't subjetive. I trust nobody who says it. If it was, then the honor killing could be tolerated. Do you want that? The comics are full with villain who think the morality is subjetive, and there are lots of sci-fi stories about artificial intelligences who can't understand the difference between good and evil, causing serious troubles. Can't you understand the meaning of the respect for the human dignity as basis of our rights as people, as citizens? In Resident Evil 5 the famous antagonist Albert Wesker wanted to start an epidemic with Umbrella Corp's biological weapons in Africa to "clean the planet". Aren't you going to say that was wicked? The little Stark child has discovered something and now he knows too much. To avoid he to tell it, why not to throw him out the window "the things I do for love". Sorry, don't blame me if your PCs' souls when these died they are sent to the infernal planes, it's not my fault, but yours.

Locke didn't talk about natural law, but like a better option, or lesser bad, compared to the death penalty. In the past not all said it was right but it couldn't be avoided.

In the end episode "the march of the freedom" of Hercules: the legendary journeys (Lucy Liu played a role there) a slave dealer as punishment is sold as slave to receive his own medicine.
 
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R_Chance

Adventurer
Depending on your gaming table, you definitely see players justify evil behavior by claiming it is being done for the greater good. But the claims don't actually make it so.
I've had players claim their actions are "good" (say destroying a Goblin warren) because they serve a greater good. I always grin and say "No, evil". Then I explain that they may consider it "necessary", and revenge may be the cause, but that does not make it good, just a "necessary evil" (at best). The good vs. evil thing is easier if you just look at the actions. Goblins destroying a village and killing everybody in it: evil. Adventurers going into a Goblin warren and killing everybody in it: evil. It doesn't matter who did it first, the action can be judged in isolation. Now, if one side is the aggressor and the other retaliates by destroying the aggressors military ability: not evil. May be good or not depending. Actions usually have causes, the reason behind an action doesn't make the action good or evil. The act itself does. My 2 cp.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
If I am reading this right, then the game doesn't even really prescribe an alignment change for contracting lycanthropy. It just says "If you are going to have your players encounter a werewolf, might I suggest an Evil alignment?"

And without an alignment mandate, the threat of lycanthropy is kind of nil. It's not even a curse.
You’re leaping incredible distances from what I said to a conclusion that has nothing at all to do with what I said.

In the 5e rules, you gain the alignment of the were that turns you.

There have always been “noble werewolves”. If one bites you, you become a loner of the Lawful Good alignment, regardless of who you were before. You are magically compelled by your new nature to go into isolation in the wilderness.

Likewise if an Chaotic evil werewolf turns you, you become a Chaotic Evil murdering beast who seeks to strike terror into the hearts of those who trust you, and to spread the curse and its terror to others.

It is a curse. I’m not sure how you came to your conclusion.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
In the 5e rules, you gain the alignment of the were that turns you.
That was a point I wasn't clear on. So thanks for that.

But at the same time, how can D&D have a rule like that and still maintain that there are no alignment mandates in D&D? If lycanthropy changes the alignment of the person who contracts it, that's an alignment mandate. If it doesn't, lycanthropy is not a curse.

Hopefully I am starting to make sense.
 

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