D&D 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.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I like your orcs.

I also think you brought up a great point - if orcs are playable maybe we shouldn’t treat them as all evil.

Exactly - I think one of error of WotC on this was to stand between two chairs: have the ''monster orc'' and the ''playable WoW orcs''. One of them requires a monster statblock in the Monster Manual, the other an race entry in the PHB that I can add to NPC statblocks, like I do for elves and dwarves.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Because it's lazy and there are better ways to do it?

Because all this discussion started because in real life people are harmed by this stereotype?
What stereotype are you actually talking about here? Real people don't look like monsters, nor do they look evil. They might look different, but that's a separate thing. You are talking about monsters right? Not conflating that with intelligent humanoids, an issue that's been beaten half to death here in the last weeks. So, assuming you do mean monsters, perhaps you could elaborate how my ugly evil Manticore is a stereotype or trope that harms people?

Monsters have been a part of human storytelling as long as we have records for it. It's not lazy to use monsters in fantasy fiction at all. You'd need to actually demonstrate how it's lazy, and how it harms people, not just toss those ideas off as given.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
What stereotype are you actually talking about here? Real people don't look like monsters, nor do they look evil. They might look different, but that's a separate thing. You are talking about monsters right? Not conflating that with intelligent humanoids, an issue that's been beaten half to death here in the last weeks. So, assuming you do mean monsters, perhaps you could elaborate how my ugly evil Manticore is a stereotype or trope that harms people?
idk why are green skin and horns reason enough to call someone a monster?
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
What stereotype are you actually talking about here? Real people don't look like monsters, nor do they look evil. They might look different, but that's a separate thing. You are talking about monsters right? Not conflating that with intelligent humanoids, an issue that's been beaten half to death here in the last weeks. So, assuming you do mean monsters, perhaps you could elaborate how my ugly evil Manticore is a stereotype or trope that harms people?

Monsters have been a part of human storytelling as long as we have records for it. It's not lazy to use monsters in fantasy fiction at all. You'd need to actually demonstrate how it's lazy, and how it harms people, not just toss those ideas off as given.

The stereotype you originally quoted me on was in a reply to @Oofta , and was based around the trope of easily identifying bad guys.

I was arguing that there are better ways to identify antagonists in D&D than by appearance alone. For example: actions, lore, history, intention, conflicting goals, etc.

I did not say anything against having monsters in the game. I love monsters!

However, embedded in D&D is the idea that if I see an orc in a dungeon room, I can immediately justify killing it.

Traditionally, this has been true because D&D settings have declared all orcs to be evil.

I would argue that this is a lazy and harmful stereotype. Real people judging others based on their appearance has led to real harm and tragedy for all of human history, and obviously it's part of a lot of important discussions right now.

My argument is that when Wizards of the Coast has monstrous humanoids in upcoming adventures, settings, and editions, come up with other ways to show that the monstrous humanoids are antagonistic rather than just relying on the lazy, harmful trope that "everyone who looks like ____ is evil."

Just because it's tradition doesn't mean it's good.

If you disagree with this, then I challenge you to demonstrate how losing the trope of "everyone who looks like ___ is evil" harms the game or the experience of playing the game one bit.
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
Answering a simple question with a question?

What if instead of green skin it was a beholder?

I think part of the conflict here is play style. If I have read your posts correctly, you favor a play style in which the characters go out, find monsters, and kill them. For example, the characters see a beholder, fight the beholder, and move on. And there's nothing wrong with playing that way.

But many of us are arguing that when WotC publishes adventures, settings, and so on, they should be cautious on how they use this style when humanoids or monstrous humanoids are the foes. WotC should have more interesting justifications for why humanoids and monstrous humanoids are enemies rather than "they look different."

You yourself have provided many great examples of cool lore surrounding why orcs, for example, could be antagonists in a game.

And again, this is not about what individual groups do at their table. It's about what Wizards of the Coast chooses to publish.
 




Oofta

Legend
I think part of the conflict here is play style. If I have read your posts correctly, you favor a play style in which the characters go out, find monsters, and kill them. For example, the characters see a beholder, fight the beholder, and move on. And there's nothing wrong with playing that way.

But many of us are arguing that when WotC publishes adventures, settings, and so on, they should be cautious on how they use this style when humanoids or monstrous humanoids are the foes. WotC should have more interesting justifications for why humanoids and monstrous humanoids are enemies rather than "they look different."

You yourself have provided many great examples of cool lore surrounding why orcs, for example, could be antagonists in a game.

And again, this is not about what individual groups do at their table. It's about what Wizards of the Coast chooses to publish.

I prefer going out and killing monsters to be a supported and viable option. Just like having Eberron orcs and everything in between is a viable option.

I almost never use orcs or other monstrous humanoids in my campaign. I could probably count then number of sessions I've used them in 5E on one hand. Hmm ... maybe two. But I certainly don't need to take my shoes off. The biggest monsters by far are usually human and frequently people that you should be able to trust.

I haven't run old school kick-in-the-door dungeon crawls in a long time in a very long time. That doesn't mean I don't see the appeal, different people play for different reasons.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
WotC should have more interesting justifications for why humanoids and monstrous humanoids are enemies rather than "they look different."
If you read WotCs stuff I think you'll find that acting like monsters is as much an index as looking like one. I'd argue that it should be the primary. When applied to humans or orcs it still makes sense and isn't othering - beliefs and actions, not appearance. Anyway, the primary index isn't how they look in every case. In the cases where it is it's a problem, no doubt. In many cases of other stuff, like the Manticore example, they do look like the monsters they are. I guess the line is 'vaguely humanoid'? IDK. There are some examples that step outside of that which might still be problematic, like the Sphinx versus the Manticore.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I prefer going out and killing monsters to be a supported and viable option. Just like having Eberron orcs and everything in between is a viable option.

I see no reason why our two ideas cannot exist together. If, let's say, Wizards of the Coast decided to copy and paste my ideas and had a more complex description of orcs in the Monster Manual, and then stat blocks for the kinds of orcs characters may encounter, including orc bandits, orc merchants, orc shamans, orc soldiers, whatever, you could easily plop down a bunch of orc bandits in a dungeon, and I can have my campaign with more complex orcs, right?
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
If you read WotCs stuff I think you'll find that acting like monsters is as much an index as looking like one. I'd argue that it should be the primary. When applied to humans or orcs it still makes sense and isn't othering - beliefs and actions, not appearance. Anyway, the primary index isn't how they look in every case. In the cases where it is it's a problem, no doubt. In many cases of other stuff, like the Manticore example, they do look like the monsters they are. I guess the line is 'vaguely humanoid'? IDK. There are some examples that step outside of that which might still be problematic, like the Sphinx versus the Manticore.

Yeah, it's a complex issue, and one that has already moved away from "all orcs are evil" over the generations of D&D editions. There's probably no clear line, which is why discussion and a diverse writing staff are necessary!
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
To me, this is another example of catering to players' desire for power benefits without annoying restrictions. Hey, why not seek out a vampire and get infected? Just because you're now literally blood-thirsty doesn't make you a bad person; you can always just seek out a humanoid who deserves to be sucked on... or a poor wretch, say an old, sick prostitute, whose death is a kindness, really, and allows you to continue to use your enhanced powers to advance your so-much-more important goals. Vampire Paladins rule!

Back in the day (AD&D-ish), there was a distinction made between the soul and the spirit. Some gods created sentient beings possessed of souls, and the free will that made those beings choose between good and evil; other gods/demons created servants and/or monsters imbued with the spirit of their creator. Simplistic? Sure. But useful for fantasy adventuring, where hungry monsters lurk in dark forests and caverns, and it's not useful to ask, "Are they just trying to feed their monster children?"

Vampires need blood to live right? Can you point me to a rule that says it has to be the blood of an intelligent humanoid? How about where it says that you need to suck the blood of an unwilling intelligent humanoid?

So, if those rules don't exist, what if my paladin is infected by a Vampire during their adventure? Do they just commit suicide via sun? Why can't they hunt deer (which they likely did anyways) and drink the blood of animals?


But, let's move back, away from vampires and to the removal of alignment. What power gaming is had from not putting down the alignment of my Druid, raised in the Fey wild and a chef? Let's go a step further. Let us say I put down Lawful Good. He never breaks his word, he enforces the spirit and letter of any contract he is under, he tends to want to help people. Is LG right for a Fey individual who once laughed at a Solar's insistence on talking of Good and Evil?

So, maybe I put the wrong alignment. Now what?

A lot of DM's talk about changing player's alignments, or forcing them to change it themselves "Clearly you are not X, you are Y. Change your alignment." What does that accomplish? Whether I change it or not, if I just keep playing the character the same way, what have you accomplished except telling me you know my character better than I do?

Ah, maybe we will encounter a magical artifact that cares about alignment, and then I will what? Get smited for touching the holy sword of law when I'm not lawful enough for the DM? Whoo, thanks, 8d6 psychic damage? Ok, ow, my hps.... feel better for punishing my character for being my character?


And, that's the thing. I've never heard of a use of alignment that isn't "a good guideline if you don't know what to do" or a punishment tool wielded by the DM. Well, I know what to do. I don't bother thinking about my alignment, I think about what my character cares about. What do they want, what motivates them, ect. I never need to go to the book and look up what "Chaotic Good" means to check and see if that applies to my actions, because I usually know my character well enough that I don't need to get down to that point.


I think monsters serve a purpose in the game. I think the shape and form of intelligent monsters should not matter, they can still be monsters. In my mind there's no difference in the consciousness, self awareness or option to have freedom of will (or not) between an orc, an aboleth, a ghoul or a balor. It's debated whether or not humans in the real world truly have freedom of will and actually make choices. People's personalities can change overnight because of disease and strokes. I have no problem with an orc being hard wired for evil in a fantasy setting where they were created for the sole purpose of warfare and destruction.

I would consider stressing that while it varies from campaign to campaign the reason orcs are evil is because of the supernatural influence of Gruumsh who created them to carry out his personal vendetta. In a way, while orcs are evil, they are also victims. I even suggested that an alternative mythology would be a coming of age ceremony (similar to a bat mitsvah or similar ceremonies) where young orcs dedicate themselves to Gruumsh. It could lead to some interesting stories.

I think blaming evil on region and religion is like saying people from the middle east who follow a specific religion are all evil radical terrorists. It's just as bad if not worse. Saying that orcs have aggressive tendencies without specifying a supernatural cause is the similar to the words used to describe so called "super predators".

It's not that I haven't thought about this, I have. I made a choice on what I think makes sense. I think it should remain a supported option because has worked and by all indications continues to work for most people. On the other hand if you want to follow Eberron's lead where they are free to be different feel free. I just find it kind of funny though, Baker still summarizes the personalities of all orcs up in a few sentences. There's nothing wrong with it IMHO, but he's still stereotyping orcs as having very similar personalities. Just like all the non human races in the PHB for that matter.

But I've probably typed this up a few dozen times now. I hate to be rude and not answer questions but I'm done. Have a good one.


You side stepped the actual question though, which was if appearance should decide if something is evil or not.

You said it doesn't matter, but then it also very clearly does in DnD as written, as I cannot think of a single "ugly" race or creature that is naturally good. And the only beautiful evil I can think of tend to be elves (via drow) or other fey like beings, or temptresses. The list of "ugly and evil" is the vast majority of the monsters ever presented.


Which, tangentially, is one of the things in the game that I despise. I actually had a discussion with a fellow player about a year ago about why Sune was the worst possible choice for their "good" deity for their cleric. Their entire dogma is "It is what is on the outside that counts" which drives me up the wall, and the moment I pointed that out to the player, she dropped it like a burning skillet too. Worst diety in FR, hands down. I cannot stand her at all.

Why not? Fantasy fiction has monsters, and a lot of monsters look, well, like monsters. Even right now without any changes that's not a monolithic truth in 5E anyway. You have monstrous looking things that are G or N, and beautiful things that are E. I'll also point out that the idea of 'monsters' isn't a trope anyway. The monstrous is about as old as language at the very least, and probably much older. If you take a look at a book like The Origin of Monsters, for example, you find out how old the idea of monsters is, why they are often non-human and composite in appearance, and what cognitive science has to say about what that might mean and how it connects to the language and the spread of ideas. In short, it's a not a trope like you think.

Which ones, I legitimately can't think of any that are Good.

Edit: Seeing mention of Sphinxes made me realize that you might have meant "monstrous" as in "not looking human" which Is not what I'm talking about.

As an example, here are some sphinxes, guess which one is supposed to be evil.

1594341474540.png


1594341884473.png



1594342130387.png


(Last image is from Kobold Press's tome of Beasts PDF)
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Well, considering how calling someone racist would be against board rules, did you report the offending posts? And, did those reports go anywhere?

Having been called a bigot multiple times and implied as being racist even more times over the 400 orc/OA/alignment threads I can say it looks a little like this.

Poster 1: X is clearly problematic.
Poster 2: I don't see that X is problematic because of reasons.
Poster 1: Clearly X is problematic. Anyone who doesn't see that is problematic is bigoted, sexist, old, mean, racist, whatever.

There is nothing to report, because you can't report faulty logic.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip

I can't do that. Calling others out as rulebreakers is against forum rules.

Yet, you JUST called out people for calling you racist. I'm a little confused.

--------------

I would point out that the changes you are likely going to see will be in line with the same changes they have made with elves. They have made elves in D&D full on gender fluid. This runs counter to every other edition of the game, yet, passes entirely without problem. Why does it get a pass? Well, because the way they have worded it, your elf can present whatever gender you want. It's entirely up to the player. Play a super macho elf? Not a problem. Play an androgynous elf? Not a problem. Heck, you can change the gender of your elf character from session to session if you so desire and it's perfectly fine.

Thus, they get the LGBTQ crowd on board with inclusivity and still don't ruffle too many feathers for those who want their elves to be more Tolkien. And, after a bit of grumbling for a month or so, everyone shrugged and got with the program.

This is going to be EXACTLY the same. They will make the changes, and, frankly, I trust they will do so in such a way that those who prefer traditions will still be able to get on with those traditions, while those who want to see some change will get what they want too.
 

Oofta

Legend
I see no reason why our two ideas cannot exist together. If, let's say, Wizards of the Coast decided to copy and paste my ideas and had a more complex description of orcs in the Monster Manual, and then stat blocks for the kinds of orcs characters may encounter, including orc bandits, orc merchants, orc shamans, orc soldiers, whatever, you could easily plop down a bunch of orc bandits in a dungeon, and I can have my campaign with more complex orcs, right?

So what's wrong with orcs always being evil? I agree you can have orcs of all alignments, but for me personally I would have no use for orcs. That tribe of barbarians that threatens civilization? They become humans.

At a certain point if orcs no longer represent a monster, an evil/rage filled dark version of humanity bent on destruction of all other races (kind of like the Reavers in FireFly) to me they just become another human in a rubber mask. They're boring.

There are options for all alignments of monsters of all stripes in the MM. It's in the intro under "alignment". The orcs specifically call out the Many Arrows tribe in FR. I just happen to leave the alignment as the default value in my campaign. I don't see an issue if they published a campaign that did the same.

But there's nothing new here other than people telling me that the "correct" way is for orcs to have any alignment while dodging questions about whether beholders or other monsters should have any alignment.

Oh, and @Chaosmancer if by "appearance defines evil" well, yes. If it's a floating beach ball with eye stalks you probably recognize it as an evil beholder. If it looks like an orc, it's an orc and it's evil. It's not evil because of it's appearance, it's evil because of it's (supernaturally influenced) nature.

Succubus/Incubi are incredibly attractive and still evil. But yes, for better or worse it's a common trope that ugly is evil. Would it be different if all orcs had a 16 charisma? I use Sidhe in my campaign on a fairly regular basis. Both male and female Sidhe generally have the equivalent of a 20+ charisma and many are evil (particularly those from the unseelie court). Heck, even the "good" ones are often inscrutable and have motives people simply don't understand.
 

So what's wrong with orcs always being evil? I agree you can have orcs of all alignments, but for me personally I would have no use for orcs. That tribe of barbarians that threatens civilization? They become humans.
Orcs have been playable with enough regularity that they cannot be always evil. Its simply that. If you're a playable race, you have free will. Ergo, you cannot be always anything.

Orcs aren't just 'oh they're evil'. They're orcs. You use orcs when you need orcs. You use humans when you need humans. Their entire character is not just "Evil", there's more to it

At a certain point if orcs no longer represent a monster, an evil/rage filled dark version of humanity bent on destruction of all other races (kind of like the Reavers in FireFly) to me they just become another human in a rubber mask. They're boring.
I can say, with 100% certainty, this is the first time I have ever seen orcs described as 'a rage filled dark version of humanity bent on destruction of all other races'. This doesn't even fit with established D&D lore where orcs tend towards being pretty chill on the race side of things so long as they fit into the "Might makes right" worldview they subscribe to.

if by "appearance defines evil" well, yes. If it's a floating beach ball with eye stalks you probably recognize it as an evil beholder. If it looks like an orc, it's an orc and it's evil. It's not evil because of it's appearance, it's evil because of it's (supernaturally influenced) nature.
Unless its a Spectator, in which case its a rather chill floating beach ball who can make you meals and just wants you to not touch the thing he's here to guard. Or its a Gas Spore and is actually a cleverly disguised mushroom
 

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