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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

Only the lycanthrope has forced alignment due to the curse, and only when forced to change. The character retains their own alignment. When the creature takes over, it has the alignment in the book (usually evil). That's why they often target the family and friends of their host. They're being evil.

That's drawn from lycanthrope lore rather than the letter of the rules, but it's how I've always run it.

Natural weres would be in control and keep their alignment.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
Not so much, sorry.

There are exceptions. It’s...kinda that simple.

But the idea that without an alignment mandate lycanthropy isn’t a curse...doesn’t make sense to me?
 

Azzy

Newtype
Morality can't subjetive.
The problem with the idea of moral absolutism is that not person, culture, civilization throughout history can agree on the precepts of what the absolite is. There are no precepts that are completely universal and written in stone (so to speak). Sure, there's some basic overlap on ideals, but there is no quantifiable list that we can look at and all agree upon—especially once you start getting into details. Moral absolutism has been used to justify a lot of nasy things in history. The people that practice honor killing think that their morals are the absolute, while those who practiced chattle slavery professed that their morals were absolute, and I'm sure that the nazis, those who bomb abortion clinics, those that opposed civil rights, etc. were all assured that their ideal of morality was absolute. This self-assured sense that what you believe is right and that all others are wrong has led to some terrible things. We all need to be aware that our biases, culture, religion, etc. all shape what our ideals of good and evil are, and that they differ from the past and from person/culture/religion/etc. to the next.

Is there some cosmic ideal of what is good and what is evil that exists beyond human definition? If there is, it hasn't been shown to us, otherwise there would be a universal agreement and we would certainly have less conflict between people with ideas of what's wrong and right at the center of things.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
The problem is that D&D as written doesn't care how each race views itself. The cosmos determines what is good and evil and racial perspective be damned. You aren't going to get evil people winding up in the Seven Heavens because they view themselves as good. Nor are you going to see good people wind up in The Nine Hells just because the people they killed viewed themselves as good.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The problem with the idea of moral absolutism is that not person, culture, civilization throughout history can agree on the precepts of what the absolite is. There are no precepts that are completely universal and written in stone (so to speak). Sure, there's some basic overlap on ideals, but there is no quantifiable list that we can look at and all agree upon—especially once you start getting into details. Moral absolutism has been used to justify a lot of nasy things in history. The people that practice honor killing think that their morals are the absolute, while those who practiced chattle slavery professed that their morals were absolute, and I'm sure that the nazis, those who bomb abortion clinics, those that opposed civil rights, etc. were all assured that their ideal of morality was absolute. This self-assured sense that what you believe is right and that all others are wrong has led to some terrible things. We all need to be aware that our biases, culture, religion, etc. all shape what our ideals of good and evil are, and that they differ from the past and from person/culture/religion/etc. to the next.

Is there some cosmic ideal of what is good and what is evil that exists beyond human definition? If there is, it hasn't been shown to us, otherwise there would be a universal agreement and we would certainly have less conflict between people with ideas of what's wrong and right at the center of things.
Yep. An objective morality has to exist independently of humans. That leads to the problem of those morals popping into existence, probably during the big bang, or being created by some other being(s) such as God and imposed on humanity.
 

Azzy

Newtype
Yep. An objective morality has to exist independently of humans. That leads to the problem of those morals popping into existence, probably during the big bang, or being created by some other being(s) such as God and imposed on humanity.
While I ike the idea of an absolute morality and subconciously believe that my morals are in concert with it, it comes back down to: Where is the immutable morality stored and conveyed? Which diety imposed it? Because the world has lots of different religions and there are many different gods to choose from (and the one or ones that a particular person believes is usually based on the culture they grew up in), and most of these religions and dieties have different teachings... So, what objective measure do we have that can determine that this or that religion, it's particular interpretation, and the moral ideology of that interpretation, etc. is the correct one?

Edit: I misunderstood your point. Sorry.
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
The problem is that D&D as written doesn't care how each race views itself. The cosmos determines what is good and evil and racial perspective be damned. You aren't going to get evil people winding up in the Seven Heavens because they view themselves as good. Nor are you going to see good people wind up in The Nine Hells just because the people they killed viewed themselves as good.
Again. Until the core books specifically outline what is defined as Good and what is Evil, D&D morality might as well be subjective.

You're trying to point to the in-universe cosmology as a justification for arguing objective morality, but as far as I can remember, D&D has never actually done so.

Since RAW doesn't bother to define what Good and Evil actually are, players are left in the dark. What is Good, what is Evil? D&D's lore has never answered that satisfactorily, no matter how insistently they claim to have done so.

At that point, the morality of the world ends up being up to player adjudication, so the idea of D&D morality being objective is a non-starter.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Not so much, sorry.

There are exceptions. It’s...kinda that simple.
Allrighty then. But Crawford didn't say "Lycanthropy is an exception." He only spoke about the werewolf creature specifically, but not the curse of lycanthropy itself. If we take the idea that 5e does not impose alignment mandates as gospel, then lycanthropy... doesn't... work like that? I am just trying to figure out what the rules are actually saying in the context of his statement.


But the idea that without an alignment mandate lycanthropy isn’t a curse...doesn’t make sense to me?
An inconvenience then. If lycanthropy doesn't change your alignment, then transforming into a wolf once a month isn't much of a curse. I guess just make sure you pack your lint roller?
 

Again. Until the core books specifically outline what is defined as Good and what is Evil, D&D morality might as well be subjective.

You're trying to point to the in-universe cosmology as a justification for arguing objective morality, but as far as I can remember, D&D has never actually done so.

Since RAW doesn't bother to define what Good and Evil actually are, players are left in the dark. What is Good, what is Evil? D&D's lore has never answered that satisfactorily, no matter how insistently they claim to have done so.

At that point, the morality of the world ends up being up to player adjudication, so the idea of D&D morality being objective is a non-starter.
This argument that "different tables adjudicate this thing differently, therefore the thing is subjective" seems very strange when you start applying it to all the other things that different tables adjudicate differently.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The problem is that D&D as written doesn't care how each race views itself. The cosmos determines what is good and evil and racial perspective be damned. You aren't going to get evil people winding up in the Seven Heavens because they view themselves as good. Nor are you going to see good people wind up in The Nine Hells just because the people they killed viewed themselves as good.
No, the PCs get into the seven heavens because the PLAYERS viewed what they did was good, not D&D RAW. See the list of bad behavior I mentioned in that post you quoted but left off for some reason. A whole lot of bad behavior justified as good by the players for numerous reasons. Ergo, it’s subjective. Plenty of good aligned PCs are still murder hobos and drunken philanderers and those players still consider them good.

If alignment wasn’t subjective, we’d never have table arguments about the acceptable behavior of paladins going back to day 1.
 

While I ike the idea of an absolute morality and subconciously believe that my morals are in concert with it, it comes back down to: Where is the immutable morality stored and conveyed? Which diety imposed it? Because the world has lots of different religions and there are many different gods to choose from (and the one or ones that a particular person believes is usually based on the culture they grew up in), and most of these religions and dieties have different teachings... So, what objective measure do we have that can determine that this or that religion, it's particular interpretation, and the moral ideology of that interpretation, etc. is the correct one?
Don't restrict your search space to the world's religions. Philosophers have built all kinds of secular models of morality as well. That "natural law" verbiage that was getting batted around earlier is straight out of Thomas Hobbes, whose account of morality was deity-free to the point of being scandalous in its time. To him, morality is an optimal set of behaviors for a society to keep human beings alive and happy given that they exist in a world of physical laws where actions have predictable consequences. It's kind of like a D&D character build or a chess opening, an abstract logicky-mathy sort of thing that is discovered rather than invented by a god or other lawgiver. It's stored and conveyed however those things are.

And of course Hobbes is just one example. This is a very rich subject.
 
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Azzy

Newtype
Don't restrict your search space to the world's religions. Philosophers have built all kinds of secular models of morality as well. That "natural law" verbiage that was getting batted around earlier is straight out of Thomas Hobbes, whose account of morality was deity-free to the point of being scandalous in its time. To him, morality is an optimal set of behaviors for a society to persist given that it exists in a world of physical laws where actions have predictable consequences. It's kind of like a D&D character build or a chess opening, an abstract logicky-mathy sort of thing that is discovered rather than invented by a god or other lawgiver. It's stored and conveyed however those things are.

And of course Hobbes is just one example. This is a very rich subject.
Very true, it completely slipped my mind to include philosophers. Thank you for bringing this up, it is definitely adds to an interesting subject that is very complicated.
 

Allrighty then. But Crawford didn't say "Lycanthropy is an exception." He only spoke about the werewolf creature specifically, but not the curse of lycanthropy itself. If we take the idea that 5e does not impose alignment mandates as gospel, then lycanthropy... doesn't... work like that? I am just trying to figure out what the rules are actually saying in the context of his statement.




An inconvenience then. If lycanthropy doesn't change your alignment, then transforming into a wolf once a month isn't much of a curse. I guess just make sure you pack your lint roller?
It gives the afflicted person an irresistible urge to rip people's throats out. Either the PC chooses to do it, making them evil, or the DM takes over their character an the PC wakes up in the morning naked and covered in blood.

See: any werewolf movie ever.
 


“There exists a law, not written down anywhere but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.”

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

(106-43 B.C.) Roman Statesman, Philosopher and Orator​

---

In D&D terms if your PC dies, what plane her sould go to? Should be allowed to enter into the heavenly planes the soul of a sinner who commited adultery ot a shame killing?

What about the spells with alignment key: detect, dispel, magic circle against, protection or from the book of the vile darkness or the exalted deeds?

Who says D&D characters should be punished, forgiven or rewarded in the afterlife?

The ratkin from Werewolve: the Apocalypse were created to be walking biological weapons with legs to cause epidemics. Can be good the garous who killed weak babies for the age of impergium?
 

Azzy

Newtype
“There exists a law, not written down anywhere but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.”

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

(106-43 B.C.) Roman Statesman, Philosopher and Orator​

So, in his estimate this "natural law" consists of protecting oneself from others? I agree that we have the right to protect ourselfs, but that's a little slim to hang a moral ideology around. Not to mention that some people's ideas of protecting themselves is preemptively attacking or oppressing others. Do you see why the idea of natural law can easily be twisted to one's own end?

In D&D terms if your PC dies, what plane her sould go to? Should be allowed to enter into the heavenly planes the soul of a sinner who commited adultery ot a shame killing?

What about the spells with alignment key: detect, dispel, magic circle against, protection or from the book of the vile darkness or the exalted deeds?

Who says D&D characters should be punished, forgiven or rewarded in the afterlife?
Well a lot of that is very setting and edition dependet, so there's no single answer. Not that it really pertains to real-world morality or ethics.

The ratkin from Werewolve: the Apocalypse were created to be walking biological weapons with legs to cause epidemics. Can be good the garous who killed weak babies for the age of impergium?
I know nothing about ratkin or whatever, but the idea of killing babies doesn't sound like a good thing.
 

If you admit everybody has to respect the human rights then you are admiting the human rights and the respect for the dignity of the people as part of a universal and inmutable ethical code, the natural law, or your PC will become evil aligment. If ethics is subjetive then your PC corsairs could attack towns in the coasts of a enemy country to catch slaves. Do you accept mutant children to be killed by the friends of humanity (X-Men: God loves, man kills), or to sell human corpses to be eaten by the visitors (aliens from V)?
 


- and slave owner.
But if the morality is subjetive then people from XXI century couldn't complain about horrible things happened hundreds of years ago, for example the exposite of the newborn (abandoning unwanted children)


Or killing slaves in a Spartan transition ritual


Shouldn't D&D deities to punish those crimes?
 
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Azzy

Newtype
If you admit everybody has to respect the human rights then you are admiting the human rights and the respect for the dignity of the people as part of a universal and inmutable ethical code, the natural law
That's the thing, though, while I fervently believe in human rights, not everyone does nor has it in the past (and even the present) is held as a universal truth. Entire peoples are routinely dehumanized to justify not giving them basic human rights—whether this is the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, some modern examples that I can't mention because of forumn rules, and so on. I wish that everyone could view human rights as a universal truth, but tribalism, xenophobia, racism, etc. dig deep into the human psyche and ddoesn't allow it to be accepted a a natural law.

Do you accept mutant children to be killed by the friends of humanity (X-Men: God loves, man kills),
No.

or to sell human corpses to be eaten by the visitors (aliens from V)?
While I find it distasteful (pardon the pun), I'm not personally really worried what becomes of a corpse after a person is dead—their soul, if such a thing exists, is no longer there. As long as people aren't being killed to become food for such aliens (then we're going to fight), then bon appetite.
 

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