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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.

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Data from D&D Beyond in June 2019

(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

Russ Morrissey

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
So, are we setting up for PCs allying with freedom-fighting demons against tyrannical angels?
Sigh. If that's your takeaway . . . . forehead smack

EDIT: Actually, the more I think about it . . . why not? I've read a few fantasy novels with pretty much that exact premise. And sympathetic devils and dangerous angels aren't new to D&D, some of the characters from Planescape spring to mind . . .
 
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Coroc

Hero
Looking at that bar diagram from Beyond is more shocking to me than the actual announcement.

Ok, I can understand chaotic good leading, it allows people to break out of the concept of being law-abiding most of the time.
But chaotic neutral being second? It basically means you play a character quite edgy and a bit looney at least, some DMs consider this to be more contradictive to overall group dynamic and cooperation than lawful evil, at least if the people really roleplay according to the guidelines.
Some DM consider CN to be the most problematic alignment of them all.
 


J-H

Explorer
I don't have a huge problem with this because the alignment system has been a hot mess since... I dunno, 3rd edition? Maybe earlier? It's usually not relevant or it's been a DM Club to hit Paladins with.

Unlike racial stat modifiers, there's been a pretty long consensus that, mechanically, it's not a very good system.

Keeping it down to only impacting a few specific items or spells is fine with me. DMs always determine creature alignment anyway....
(and werewolves should be Lawful Evil pack creatures, not Chaotic Evil lone hunters... weretigers should be the CE ones)
 

Looking at that bar diagram from Beyond is more shocking to me than the actual announcement.

Ok, I can understand chaotic good leading, it allows people to break out of the concept of being law-abiding most of the time.
But chaotic neutral being second? It basically means you play a character quite edgy and a bit looney at least, some DMs consider this to be more contradictive to overall group dynamic and cooperation than lawful evil, at least if the people really roleplay according to the guidelines.
Some DM consider CN to be the most problematic alignment of them all.

It's been super-popular for decades and precisely for that reason. I thought every DM had a that player.
 


akr71

Adventurer
I've spent a decent amount of my 5e DM time introducing new players and I have never required players to fill in their alignment. It comes up, sure, but more of "what's this alignment thing?" To which I give a brief overview and examples, etc - "your character's moral compass, but don't feel bound by it," bla, bla, bla
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Jeremy Crawford:
"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."

5th edition D&D Player’s Handbook (emphasis mine):
"The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god, Gruumsh. and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god's influence.)"

Volo’s Guide to Monsters:
"No matter how domesticated an orc might seem, its blood lust flows just beneath the surface. With its instinctive love of battle and its desire to prove its strength, an orc trying to live within the confines of civilization is faced with a difficult task."
None of that actually prevents orcs or half-orcs from being any alignment they want, though. My dad was an alcoholic and after he quit drinking he struggled against the pull and influence of alcohol for nearly 20 years before he passed. With one very short exception, he resisted that pull and influence and stayed sober
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Crawford says that any class and subclass can be any alignment, but if you look at the Oath of Devotion, if the Paladin actually follows his oaths, he's going to be good. I just don't see how you can follow those oaths and be evil.
 

SavageCole

Punk Rock Warlord
Many here have posted about alignment as a useful tool in helping players (and DMs) with broad, shorthand instruction on a players personality and values. I can’t disagree there, but in many great games you’ll see things work perfectly well without alignment. Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer are two great examples of games that function perfectly well without alignment. I think it can be helpful, but is far from necessary.

Removing it or making it a non-default option in D&D games may put a (very) little more work on players and DMs, but good character creation and development does not require it. The extra effort put to get nuanced, rich character definition is worth the effort in my experience.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Many here have posted about alignment as a useful tool in helping players (and DMs) with broad, shorthand instruction on a players personality and values. I can’t disagree there, but in many great games you’ll see things work perfectly well without alignment. Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer are two great examples of games that function perfectly well without alignment. I think it can be helpful, but is far from necessary.

None of this is really the point (no offense). Other games aren't D&D.

Other games do not use the six abilities of D&D.
Other games do not use levels.
Other games do not use hit points.
Other games do not use saving throws.
Other games do not use the d20.
Other games do not use a "class" system.

...and so on. As JC pointed out (and as others have noted), alignment really is just a vestigial tail in the game now. If you don't use it, there are no mechanical impacts.

The only reason for its continued inclusion is because D&D has always had alignment. shrug Whether they just want to state this even more explicitly in the rules (ALIGNMENT REALLY, REALLY DOESN'T MATTER) or just drop it, it's just legacy words in 5e.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Other option is not to publish a 6th Ed but a different game with some changes of the d20 system, for example Gamma World, or Star*Drive. WotC should be ready when the market of TTRPGs to be saturated with too much medieval fantasy.

I love that idea, put out a new game system that is essentially test driving 6e but not actually DnD.
 




Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It is the point when the argument is about the kind of stories you can tell with the system.

.....that wasn't what was said, nor was it what I replied to. But sure, I'll bite.

What kind of stories are you, Umbran, unable to tell in D&D (5e) because there is an alignment system that has absolutely no impact, and, as we have just discussed, doesn't have to be used?
 


Li Shenron

Legend
I don't see why people are claiming they need a "revision" of the game, the rules don't need any change, only the narrative descriptions of creatures, and of course the druids' armor limitations.

Jeremy Crawford:
"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."

5th edition D&D Player’s Handbook (emphasis mine):
"The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god, Gruumsh. and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god's influence.)"

Volo’s Guide to Monsters:
"No matter how domesticated an orc might seem, its blood lust flows just beneath the surface. With its instinctive love of battle and its desire to prove its strength, an orc trying to live within the confines of civilization is faced with a difficult task."

But those are exactly the kind of text which is being redacted...
 

Longspeak

Explorer
Trust me alignment did nothing to steer people away from that. In fact, people picked Chaotic Neutral to act to act like they could do whatever they wanted without consequence.
I had a player literally roll a die when it was her character's turn to take watch, and then tell me "During my watch I randomly decide to kill everyone else in their sleep."

I was all. "Really?"

She was all, "Yes. I rolled for it."

So I said, "Everyone, the next morning you find X's character, dead, laying next to Bob, where she appears to have fallen, knife still clutched in her hand. Looks like she randomly had a heart attack and died right as she was about to murder Bob."



Alignment in D&D has always been a bit silly, and yes, it's been an excuse for players to do some pretty dumb stuff. I've never really cared enough to do much about it. But... having Alignment dictate your permitted actions complete with mechanical penalties, worse for some classes than others; having secret languages all people of the same alignment share... and then introducing the "tendencies" so someone could play their Druid/Ranger idea by saying, "he's True Neutral, sure... but with Good tendencies."

The debate about entire species sharing an alignment I've always kinda ignored. I'm happy to have some boogiemen in the mix. And the debate about how those are linked to real world racism has always just puzzled me. I wanna do the right thing there, but I don't get it. How is all orcs being evil a statement on anything in the real world? It's left me confused.

I had this discussion with a player recently, over Yuan-Ti. In character, he started defending Yuan-Ti, and I had to remind the player of the facts in play, and then the player said sure but he's always thought that was silly, and I had to say he's sure welcome to think that, but in the setting we're playing, Yuan-Ti are bad guys who have always done bad, and his character will be perceived in very poor light by everyone who hears him defend them.

Yeas ago, I had an almost identical argument over Vampires. In character, a character said someone was being specist for not allowing a Vampire into their sacred place. The player of that character went on to call me racist when I told him Vampires are generally pretty bad people who drink the blood of the living to survive, and that the world hates and fears them as the monsters they are.

Neither player lasted in the group much longer than that, though those weren't the issues that took them out of play. But both incidents left me confused.
 
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