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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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It is "fantasy racism". But the tropes are reallife racist tropes.

The problem with D&D racism is, the racist supremacism is objectively true and correct. The elf race really does have superior Dexterity. The gnome race really does have superior Intelligence. The orc race really is a savage brute. The reallife tropes about racist supremacism are now on steroids in D&D.
Physical differences don't make something racist. Or are all men mysogynist for no other reason than because they are physically stronger than women? Do all women hate men, because they have a higher tolerance to pain? Differences are okay. It's how you treat those differences that may or may not be okay.

Elves having higher dex than humans, orcs being stronger than humans, humans being smarter than orcs, halfings being more dextrous than humans, humans being smarter than halflings, dwarves being hardier than elves, etc. None of these things create any sort of supremacism. Supremacism being a belief in racial superiority.

My dwarf can believe that dwarves are hardier than elves, without believing that dwarves are superior to elves. Your elf can believe that elves are more agile than humans, without believing that elves are superior to humans.

The only thing that can solve this problem is an official ability for each player to customize and personal any humanoid race. Customizing ability score improvements, makes racist supremacism less objectively true.
You have created a problem that doesn't exist. You have assumed a great deal and falsely equated physical racial differences with racial supremacist ideas. While some elves might view themselves as superior to humans, that view is not inherent in the physical differentiation of races.

Hell, if your false equivalence is correct, we can't even have humanoids look different. Elven pointy ears and orc tusks are also physical differences that can result in members of one race feeling superior to another race.
 

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It occurs to me.

If the Orc becomes a fully human "humanoid", then it pretty much works better as a standard playable species.

In other words, the Half-Orc and by extension the Half-Elf become obsolete species.

For the Orc, it is easy to merge Orc and Half-Orc, because both are brutes. Official customizability makes it easy if a player happens to prefer one nuance over an other.

Perhaps the customizability allows a feature from an other species, if there is mixed parentage. (Does PF2 now make hybridizing a normal part of character building by mixing features from different ancestries?)

However, the Half-Elf is (annoyingly) quite different from either the presumed Elf or Human parentage.

Thus the elimination of the Half-Elf as a separate species, with separate stats, might require rethinking the Elf.

There would be a Charisma Elf (perhaps Feywild), and separately a Dexterity Elf (perhaps Material). Plus character customization would allow each player (and each DM) to easily tweak the concept to taste.
 
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Physical differences don't make something racist. Or are all men mysogynist for no other reason than because they are physically stronger than women? Do all women hate men, because they have a higher tolerance to pain? Differences are okay. It's how you treat those differences that may or may not be okay.

Elves having higher dex than humans, orcs being stronger than humans, humans being smarter than orcs, halfings being more dextrous than humans, humans being smarter than halflings, dwarves being hardier than elves, etc. None of these things create any sort of supremacism. Supremacism being a belief in racial superiority.

My dwarf can believe that dwarves are hardier than elves, without believing that dwarves are superior to elves. Your elf can believe that elves are more agile than humans, without believing that elves are superior to humans.


You have created a problem that doesn't exist. You have assumed a great deal and falsely equated physical racial differences with racial supremacist ideas. While some elves might view themselves as superior to humans, that view is not inherent in the physical differentiation of races.

Hell, if your false equivalence is correct, we can't even have humanoids look different. Elven pointy ears and orc tusks are also physical differences that can result in members of one race feeling superior to another race.
To make D&D women have a Strength score that is inferior to men, is objectionable and unpopular, already rejected, and antiquated.

Plus magic. An Orc can be more Intelligent if a magical ritual makes it so. Parents would want to give their child every good opportunity possible. Different factions promote different survival strategies.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I feel the current 5e Monster Manual should have been the "Forgotten Realms Monster Manual", specifically for the Forgotten Realms Setting. Each setting can have its own Monster Manual(s).

The moment a stat block adds elaborate flavor it is, by definition, one specific setting only, and becomes less useful in a different setting.

The core rules work better as an SRD without flavor, for DMs who want to do worldbuilding or want to tweak a specific component of a specific setting. The SRD might suggest flavor boxes, but the DM should be able to easily use a proverbial black marker to blot out any unwanted flavor, and never see the unwanted flavor mentioned anywhere else. For the core rules. Setting rules are a different kind of design space. For DMs who are worldbuilders who want to assemble a new setting more conveniently, and for players who love to customize their characters, access to flavorless core rules is valuable.

If the core rules avoided the racist assumptions of the Forgotten Realms setting, and instead modeled the agnosticism and factionalism of the Eberron setting, the core rules would have less problems now.
Ugh. No thanks. D&D is D&D, not Generic Fantasy Simulator d20, and a DYI D&D with an SRD like feel is a nonstarter for me.

The 5e SRD exists already, free of WotC and the DMs Guild. I'd love to see someone attempt what you're suggesting and see if it sells. Pathfinder did it once, so it's not impossible. But my money is that it won't, and not just for the lack D&D in the title.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
To make D&D women have a Strength score that is inferior to men, is objectionable and unpopular, already rejected, and antiquated.
Which isn't what I suggested. If that's what you got out of my post, you missed my point by about a mile and a half.
 

Ugh. No thanks. D&D is D&D, not Generic Fantasy Simulator d20, and a DYI D&D with an SRD like feel is a nonstarter for me.

The 5e SRD exists already, free of WotC and the DMs Guild. I'd love to see someone attempt what you're suggesting and see if it sells. Pathfinder did it once, so it's not impossible. But my money is that it won't, and not just for the lack D&D in the title.
If I dislike the Forgotten Realms setting, then 5e pretty much lessens my enjoyment of D&D.

I want agnostic 5e core rules. And separate settings to be designed as separate settings.

As a DM, my style is worldbuilding. I know from painful experience that 5e makes my DM style less easy than other editions of D&D.

1e has a light touch when it comes to flavor, and is a joy for worldbuilding.
3e has the reasonably flavorless SRD and is a joy for worldbuilding.

4e is actually difficult to change the setting, but coincidentally I happened to like the 4e setting. I appreciated its fluid (potentially agnostic) Astral Sea concept. 4e deleted the rigidity of the Wheel. In my 4e campaigns, each domain of the Astral Sea is the manifestation of the ideals of a culture. So as cultures evolve, so do the Astral Sea domains. Thus it is more like Eberron agnosticism.

5e is Forgotten Realms baked into everything including the SRD, and is painful for my worldbuilding. And 5e is more racist because Forgotten Realms is more racist.
 
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Remathilis

Legend
If I dislike the Forgotten Realms setting, then 5e pretty much lessens my enjoyment of D&D.

I want agnostic core rules. And separate settings to be designed as separate settings.

As a DM, my style is worldbuilding. I know from painful experience that 5e makes my DM style less easy than other editions of D&D.
As I said, the SRD exists. Follow your bliss. A dry collection of rules and stat blocks is about as appealling as a math textbook. We're just going to disagree on this one.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
If I dislike the Forgotten Realms setting, then 5e pretty much lessens my enjoyment of D&D.

I want agnostic 5e core rules. And separate settings to be designed as separate settings.

As a DM, my style is worldbuilding. I know from painful experience that 5e makes my DM style less easy than other editions of D&D.

1e has a light touch when it comes to flavor, and is a joy for worldbuilding.
3e has the reasonably flavorless SRD and is a joy for worldbuilding.

4e is actually difficult to change the setting, but coincidentally I happened to like the 4e setting. I appreciated its fluid (potentially agnostic) Astral Sea concept. In my 4e campaigns, each domain of the Astral Sea is the manifestation of the ideals of a culture. So as cultures evolve, so do the Astral Sea domains. Thus it is more like Eberron agnosticism.

5e is Forgotten Realms baked into everything and is painful for my worldbuilding. And 5e is more racist because Forgotten Realsm is more racist.
If something doesn't work for your campaign ignore it or change it. I don't really care for FR myself, so I just ignore most of it. Gnolls have a completely different origin story. I don't use the same planes of existence and explain how planar travel works differently in my world than in the core rules are just a couple of things I change.

Most DMs need to make the game their own with minor tweaks and adjustments here and there, I think that's a feature not a flaw.

Blanket statements like "Forgotten Realms is more racist" doesn't help much either.
 
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As I said, the SRD exists. Follow your bliss. A dry collection of rules and stat blocks is about as appealling as a math textbook. We're just going to disagree on this one.
I have tried to use the 5e SRD as a core document. But its baking Forgotten Realms into every aspect, every where, makes the effort to remove Forgotten Realms from the SRD painful and futile.

Forgotten Realms will assimilate you. Resistance is futile.

And when Forgotten Realms becomes less enjoyable to a DM, 5e becomes less enjoyable.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I have tried to use the 5e SRD as a core document. But its baking Forgotten Realms into every aspect, every where, makes the effort to remove Forgotten Realms from the SRD painful and futile.
Can you give an example from the PHB or DMG where the FR is baked in to the point where it's anything other than trivially easy to ignore it?

Looking at Dwarves, the quote at the beginning is from the Realms and there's a quick blurb about some Realms dwarves, but the general fluff isn't Realms fluff and it goes on to say this.

"As a hill dwarf, you have keen senses, deep intuition, and remarkable resilience. The gold dwarves of Faerun in their mighty southern kingdom are hill dwarves, as are the exiled Neidar and the debased Klar of Krynn in the Dragonlance setting."

and...

"As a mountain dwarf, you're strong and hardy, accustomed to a difficult life in rugged terrain. You’re probably on the tall side (for a dwarf), and tend toward lighter coloration. The shield dwarves of northern Faerun, as well as the ruling Hylar clan and the noble Daewar clan of Dragonlance, are mountain dwarves."

So it gives multiple settings as examples and uses setting neutral fluff for the vast majority of the dwarven description. The elven description is the same. How is it not trivially easy to ignore the examples from the Realms when it comes to building your own world?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
What I got out of your post was an apparent nostalgia for sexist essentialism and racist essentialism.
Yep. You missed the point by a mile and a half. Missing my point so badly also explains how you can mistake physical racial differences for racial supremacy so badly.
 

Yep. You missed the point by a mile and a half. Missing my point so badly also explains how you can mistake physical racial differences for racial supremacy so badly.
Essentialism is essentialism.

If essentialism includes assumptions of superiority (or mechanical rules that make superiority objectively true), then it is supremacism.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
I have tried to use the 5e SRD as a core document. But its baking Forgotten Realms into every aspect, every where, makes the effort to remove Forgotten Realms from the SRD painful and futile.

Forgotten Realms will assimilate you. Resistance is futile.

And when Forgotten Realms becomes less enjoyable to a DM, 5e becomes less enjoyable.
If you are essentially eliminating all differences between the "races" (to use the current 5E term) except cosmetic / appearance differences just make everyone Human stat wise. All the current races (even with the appearances differing) could just be Human ethnicities. You keep the terminology (Dwarf, Elf, Orc etc.) and eliminate actual mechanical differences. Then your factions could cross ethnic divides and be the dominant element of behavior. My world has numerous Human, non-Human, and mixed nations with histories, conflicts etc. that often determine who does / does not get along (as opposed to just "race").
 

Can you give an example from the PHB or DMG where the FR is baked in to the point where it's anything other than trivially easy to ignore it?
The problem is. The 5e Forgotten Realms setting guide, officially named the Players Handbook, repeats the Forgotten Realms flavors, narratives, and cosmic assumptions, over and over and over again, everywhere, in spells, in planar descriptions, in class descriptions, in race origins, and so on. It is almost impossible to open to any page without Forgotten Realms flavor baked heavily into the sentences.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The problem is. The 5e Forgotten Realms setting guide, officially named the Players Handbook, repeats the Forgotten Realms flavors, narratives, and cosmic assumptions, over and over and over again, everywhere, in spells, in planar descriptions, in class descriptions, in race origins, and so on. It is almost impossible to open to any page without Forgotten Realms flavor baked heavily into the sentences.
The Forgotten Realms uses 1e flavors and cosmic assumptions, though. They call them Gold Elves and Moon Elves, but they are the 1e High and Grey elves. The use the great tree instead of the great wheel, but aside from souls going to wait for Kelemvor, the planes are just the abyss and other 1e planes. I think you are projecting more FR into the PHB than is there. I love the Realms and have run it since 1e, and I don't see the same levels of Realms influence that you do.

I also don't see why it's at all hard to just use the 5e mechanics, tossing the fluff out whole cloth and just use whatever fluff you decide to world build for everything.
 

If you are essentially eliminating all differences between the "races" (to use the current 5E term) except cosmetic / appearance differences just make everyone Human stat wise. All the current races (even with the appearances differing) could just be Human ethnicities. You keep the terminology (Dwarf, Elf, Orc etc.) and eliminate actual mechanical differences. Then your factions could cross ethnic divides and be the dominant element of behavior. My world has numerous Human, non-Human, and mixed nations with histories, conflicts etc. that often determine who does / does not get along (as opposed to just "race").
I think, the mechanic of choosing ability score improvements, skills, and most importantly choosing feats, can be a basic mechanic that to build any species concept.

If I recall correctly, every core race is equivalent to about 5 (or 6) feats. One feat might grant more skill/tool proficiencies or expertises. A feat is worth an ability score improvement of 2.

So, it is easy to have a default species with two known variants. And then allow the player to swap out one feat for an other. So for example, a Charisma Intelligence Sun Elf with innate Misty Step and psionic cantrips is totally doable during character creation. If a player wants a strong elf, or an intelligent orc, no problem. Meanwhile, the same tools allow the DM to conveniently worldbuild, by making a different assemblage the one that is most frequent in the setting.

Thus there is no essentialism. No player needs to feel humiliated that the prominent darker skin "races" are evil or stupid, or both, or foreign to the player. Each species has at least three mechanical possibilities mentioned, and easy to further alter it if it makes the character more relatable to the player.
 
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Staffan

Adventurer
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.
I really like the way Pratchett put it in Hogfather:

----
"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.
----
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The problem with D&D racism is, the racist supremacism is objectively true and correct.
I would say that's D&D's saving grace in this matter.

The only thing that can solve this problem is an official ability for each player to customize and personal any humanoid race. Customizing ability score improvements, makes racist supremacism less objectively true.
This already exists and has since D&D was created!
 

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