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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

Until the Nystul's ran out - it doesn't last forever; and yes, it would make alignment detection less than a sure-shot guarantee and would make some defenses bypassable.

Then again, for my purposes this honestly isn't something I have to worry about as Nystul's doesn't have that effect in my own game. :) All it does is make a non-magical thing flag as magical if detected for, as an aid to confusion, and it's permanent unless dispelled.

In 5e, if you cast it each day for 30 days, then it is permanent until dispelled. So it won't run out.

And, well, if you want to homebrew it to do something else, then you can also homebrew all those alignment spells you want, but per RAW, this messes everything up


Not at all.

For that DM's table it's the definition in use; and that DM doesn't (likely) have to worry about the definitions in use at any other table.

Far more important is that any given DM be consistent iwith her definitions and applications thereof.


But, if it is different per DM, then what is the point in making it a general rule? What is the point of putting it in the monster statblocks if it means completely different things to different DMs?


It may not be completely arbitrary, but as a general rule it is worthless.


Well, what if "lawful" has a religious basis? What if their laws are an attempt to embody divine Laws?

In a D&D setting a nation adopting a code of laws (small "L") are probably basing them on a divine set of Lawful (big "L") precepts. There could be variation between the laws of two ostensibly lawful nations, but that probably comes down to different interpretations of the divine Laws. Nothing mortal is perfect, not even their interpretation of the (divine) Laws :D None of which has anything to do with Good, Evil, or Neutrality on the morality axis :)

But, "Divine Laws" isn't what Frogreaver said. He said that they are "The laws of the culture/people/kingdom/empire that the DM determines will be considered lawful."

And, if the DM is determining them based of that criteria, they aren't making any Divine Law. But, even if they did, it is still DM Fiat what alignment means. In fact, Alignment is supposed to set some sort of Divine LAw standard.... but it doesn't. Because the Laws are equally set for Good and Evil. A Devil who murders is still lawful, because they are following Evil Laws.
 

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It sounds like all the haters of things D&D are out in full force again. Didn't we already endure an entire edition of "Fix it all"?
Apparently, that wasn't enough though, so lets just burn it all down and make 6e "a product of your non-offensive imagination"

Thankfully, all the 5e core rules books have already been printed.
Pardon us crushing sacred cows because it turns out applying the tiniest bit of "Realism" or "Application of morality" or "Logical worldbuilding" to them causes them to shatter and collapse like a brick through a plate glass windshield

If Alignment was good rules that worked and were worth keeping, there'd probably be more people for keeping them. But instead they're a mess, logically inconsistent, and 5E's already done all but throw them out. Take the final step and call it a day.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
But, "Divine Laws" isn't what Frogreaver said. He said that they are "The laws of the culture/people/kingdom/empire that the DM determines will be considered lawful."

And, if the DM is determining them based of that criteria, they aren't making any Divine Law. But, even if they did, it is still DM Fiat what alignment means. In fact, Alignment is supposed to set some sort of Divine LAw standard.... but it doesn't. Because the Laws are equally set for Good and Evil. A Devil who murders is still lawful, because they are following Evil Laws.

That's why I said "what if", I was positing a reason it would work that way. I would posit that If there is an alignment set up that is universal in D&D then divine law reflects it, or vice versa. This wasn't a question about "Good" or "Evil", laws (or Law for that matter) can be both. In my setting my main Lawful Church encompasses Good, Neutral, and Evil on that axis. They all have a place in the High Church of Law. Mind you I don't have Devils in my campaign setting, just some not so nice Angels (along with the really nice ones and the stuffy bureaucratic ones). And the Church underwent a schism in the distant past leaving the world with two slightly different lawful churches, and one of the lawful gods (there are 3) has his own church on the side. Life is complicated :D
 

dmgorgon

Explorer
Pardon us crushing sacred cows because it turns out applying the tiniest bit of "Realism" or "Application of morality" or "Logical worldbuilding" to them causes them to shatter and collapse like a brick through a plate glass windshield

If Alignment was good rules that worked and were worth keeping, there'd probably be more people for keeping them. But instead they're a mess, logically inconsistent, and 5E's already done all but throw them out. Take the final step and call it a day.

I agree, burn your books and dice. Just don't forget that dice scream sometimes.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Pardon us crushing sacred cows because it turns out applying the tiniest bit of "Realism" or "Application of morality" or "Logical worldbuilding" to them causes them to shatter and collapse like a brick through a plate glass windshield


Ooh! Sacred cows! Being crushed! Sounds like you have a new herd in mind :D Your certitude is the thing crusades, inquisitions, and witch hunts are made of. Let's just say not everyone agrees with you. Obviously.


If Alignment was good rules that worked and were worth keeping, there'd probably be more people for keeping them. But instead they're a mess, logically inconsistent, and 5E's already done all but throw them out. Take the final step and call it a day.


You have no idea how many people are for or against alignment. Neither do I. You have your beliefs about it and I have my live and let live attitude towards the question. You don't want them. Fine. Other people do (including me). Fine. If the rules on alignment are a mess it's because the designers have neglected them and left them inconsistent. Maybe because they're not as simple as some areas. Maybe because they had other issues to spend their limited time on. Maybe because they didn't want to deal with the true believers (on either side) and figured it was easier to let sleeping dogs lye.

In either case, it doesn't matter. People will choose to use alignment or not, no matter what is in this edition, or the next, of D&D.
 

dmgorgon

Explorer
Alignment is a nice way of summarizing an individual's beliefs and ideologies. For example, I usually pick Lawful Evil for a certain evil faction in my WW2 scenarios.

I do recall playing in 5e with a paladin (player) who thought it was ok to torture a prisoner for information and then execute him. He provided all the standard arguments against alignment and how it just didn't work. The DM, being an old school DM, revoked all his divine powers and rightfully so.

I've never had a problem with alignment. It's very easy to understand and easy to rationalize.
 

That's why I said "what if", I was positing a reason it would work that way. I would posit that If there is an alignment set up that is universal in D&D then divine law reflects it, or vice versa. This wasn't a question about "Good" or "Evil", laws (or Law for that matter) can be both.

Cutting the part about your setting, because it doesn't matter.

DnD is supposedly set up with the idea of "Objective Law" (I won't say Divine, because it applies to Divine and Infernal) your "what if" is supposed to be the case.


However, Law and Chaos don't work. The definitions in the books are contradictory, the examples from various sources like the variety of creatures, are contradictory and cover different alignments at the same time.

The solution offered by the last set of posts was that that was fine, the DM could just define Lawful however they feel like for their own tables... which again makes it useless as a general rule for the game. It doesn't matter whether or not it is presented as objective or divine or absolute, the problem is that it is so contradictory that it provides no guidance.




You have no idea how many people are for or against alignment. Neither do I. You have your beliefs about it and I have my live and let live attitude towards the question. You don't want them. Fine. Other people do (including me). Fine. If the rules on alignment are a mess it's because the designers have neglected them and left them inconsistent. Maybe because they're not as simple as some areas. Maybe because they had other issues to spend their limited time on. Maybe because they didn't want to deal with the true believers (on either side) and figured it was easier to let sleeping dogs lye.

In either case, it doesn't matter. People will choose to use alignment or not, no matter what is in this edition, or the next, of D&D.

I will remind people, yet again, that this entire thread started with an announcement from WoTC about changing alignment. So, this isn't us calling for changes, this is WoTC saying they are going to change something, and us saying we are happy with that, because Alignment isn't helping us.

And, since the people who like them seem to be going off of multiple decades of editions in their heads, sometimes ignoring the rules presented in the book for their own interpretations. Then removing alignment entirely.... wouldn't even affect them. While saving page count for those of us who skip it anyways.
 

Hussar

Legend
Well, what if "lawful" has a religious basis? What if their laws are an attempt to embody divine Laws?
/snip

My apologies if my dragging out real life religion has offended anyone. That was not my intention. My assumptions about divinity / the gods in my D&D setting has its parameters set by real life examples. Odd, considering real life science has no function in that same setting :D

The problem with this is, in D&D Land, you can ASK and get an answer. If the nation wants to do X, they can, quite literally, ask the gods if this is good or evil and get a direct answer. Which does make for a pretty boring setting when you get right down to it because, well, if alignment is objective, then all good gods must agree with each other, which means that all "good" nations will have identical laws and culture. After all, anything other than good is not good (not necessarily evil, but, not good) and who would want to knowingly be "not good"?
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
DnD is supposedly set up with the idea of "Objective Law" (I won't say Divine, because it applies to Divine and Infernal) your "what if" is supposed to be the case.

I'm glad we agree :)

However, Law and Chaos don't work. The definitions in the books are contradictory, the examples from various sources like the variety of creatures, are contradictory and cover different alignments at the same time.

We agree on this too. They did a half... rear ended job on alignment and behavior in 5E. I mentioned what I think the reasons probably are above. I'm sure there are more, I can think of a couple more just off hand including the "it should be gone" bit.

The solution offered by the last set of posts was that that was fine, the DM could just define Lawful however they feel like for their own tables... which again makes it useless as a general rule for the game. It doesn't matter whether or not it is presented as objective or divine or absolute, the problem is that it is so contradictory that it provides no guidance.

That's pretty much what you have to do. Because they did a poor job of it. This is why, as much as dislike of moral / ethical absolutes, is why imho so many find it useless. I don't see the value of eliminating it. A new edition should mean a new look at things people find problematic. Like alignment. Or the slot magic system. Or initiative. Or a dozen other issues. They fixed some issues as best they could and ignored others.

I will remind people, yet again, that this entire thread started with an announcement from WoTC about changing alignment. So, this isn't us calling for changes, this is WoTC saying they are going to change something, and us saying we are happy with that, because Alignment isn't helping us.

No reminding needed. I can think of a large number of things they said before DDN / 5E. Some of them even got done :) You may be happy, others not so much I guess. You say it's not isn't helping you. Given the mess they left, I'm not shocked about that. Anyway, I think they should hear from both sides on that.

And, since the people who like them seem to be going off of multiple decades of editions in their heads, sometimes ignoring the rules presented in the book for their own interpretations. Then removing alignment entirely.... wouldn't even affect them. While saving page count for those of us who skip it anyways.

And keeping it in will effect you how? You've already eliminated it from your game apparently. How difficult was that since you say it doesn't have any effect? Not everyone who uses alignment is as old as me btw :D I think it should be redone, properly, and made useful. I also think it could be made optional - along with a lot of rules. They promised a "modular" game and aside from feats and ability increases being options they didn't do that much. They could strip combat down to basics and make optional modules to add the crunch some people want. They could simplify character creation and again make options for that. They could rebuild the magic system with a simple version and add options. In short, they could do a lot to present a stripped down game, adding complexity as options, and some systems (say alignment) as options for campaigns / settings that could make use of it.

People would say this would split the game / player base, but apparently that's already a thing if people feel the need to homebrew things in or out. maybe it's time for a Basic and Advanced game again. I'd just settle for some options though, thought out and ready to use, or not, based on your table and the game it wants.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
The problem with this is, in D&D Land, you can ASK and get an answer. If the nation wants to do X, they can, quite literally, ask the gods if this is good or evil and get a direct answer. Which does make for a pretty boring setting when you get right down to it because, well, if alignment is objective, then all good gods must agree with each other, which means that all "good" nations will have identical laws and culture. After all, anything other than good is not good (not necessarily evil, but, not good) and who would want to knowingly be "not good"?

I know. But, you're only getting an answer if they feel like giving one. I think on minor matters they are going to get quiet. Not on the big stuff, just the little bits. And since when haven't people been willing to argue the little bits, or for that matter commit mass murder over them anyway? And the gods might not say too much on the small things. In a universe where worshippers = power they might want to keep a "big tent" and maximize their influence / power.

You are equating "Good" with "right", because we all know, in real life, that "Evil" is "wrong". Not so much in D&D. When being evil is an acceptable (I almost said good :D ) option, then people can feel "righteous" about being it. It's the manichaean concept or dualistic concept. Two gods, one Good and one Evil are struggling, and you have a choice to make. They are equal. Christianity picked up on the idea of Good vs. Evil, but Evil is not really a choice. The bad guy is a fallen minion of good, not a god. In D&D it's more complex because it's not a choice between two gods or ideals of course.

Most of what I've been talking about lately is Law and Chaos. Still this applies to Good and Evil as well. The alignments and their attendant religions are options taken up by different cultures / nations or individuals.
 

dmgorgon

Explorer
When I read these arguments against alignment I can't help but think they want characters to do acts of evil or acts of good at anytime and without the need for any sort of justification. They are essentially arguing for everyone to be N or maybe even CN.

In other words, you could simply say that everyone in the game is N and the game would make these folks happy.

In game, I can envision traveling to the outer-planes and having the exact same conversation with a true neutral philosopher who thinks that everyone else is wrong, and that there is no good or evil.
 

I know. But, you're only getting an answer if they feel like giving one. I think on minor matters they are going to get quiet. Not on the big stuff, just the little bits. And since when haven't people been willing to argue the little bits, or for that matter commit mass murder over them anyway? And the gods might not say too much on the small things. In a universe where worshippers = power they might want to keep a "big tent" and maximize their influence / power.

You seem to be of the opinion that alignment is a horribly broken system that doesn't offer much without the DM fixing it. Which then baffles me why you would want to keep it.

However, you are also making a claim here that I would say is just factually wrong. And is a problem with Active gods who are morally right. See, Pelor for example is a God of Light and Healing. And if, for example, his followers got it in their heads that a minor difference in doctrine justified a religious war, all sparked because Pelor was silent.... why is Pelor making his followers fight each other? War is terrible, thousands will be killed, injured, food will become scarce... why do that instead of sending an Angel to resolve the situation and make his position very clear?

You are literally saying the Gods of Good would be okay with wars being fought instead of staking out their positions. Which is insanity.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
You seem to be of the opinion that alignment is a horribly broken system that doesn't offer much without the DM fixing it. Which then baffles me why you would want to keep it.

I think they have neglected it, making it less useful. I don't think it should have been neglected, nor should everything that is neglected simply be eliminated.

However, you are also making a claim here that I would say is just factually wrong. And is a problem with Active gods who are morally right. See, Pelor for example is a God of Light and Healing. And if, for example, his followers got it in their heads that a minor difference in doctrine justified a religious war, all sparked because Pelor was silent.... why is Pelor making his followers fight each other? War is terrible, thousands will be killed, injured, food will become scarce... why do that instead of sending an Angel to resolve the situation and make his position very clear?

You are literally saying the Gods of Good would be okay with wars being fought instead of staking out their positions. Which is insanity.

It depends on how "active" they are. And whether the conflict is over a moral issue or something like church governance (i.e. an episcopal system vs. congregational control).

If it goes too far a god like Pelor might intervene. Other gods, not so much. Examples of intervention and not non intervention could both be trotted out. I don't use the common roster of D&D gods (they didn't exist when I started). A god of war, for example, might consider a conflict to prove the strength of one sect over another to be the right way.

Pull back from the "Good" and it's not so insane.
 

jsaving

Adventurer
You are equating "Good" with "right", because we all know, in real life, that "Evil" is "wrong". Not so much in D&D. When being evil is an acceptable (I almost said good :D ) option, then people can feel "righteous" about being it.
Maybe I am misunderstanding what you mean but I am genuinely puzzled by the thought that evil isn't "wrong" in D&D. The core rules define Good as "morality" which has a dictionary definition of "virtue," suggesting there's pretty much a complete correspondence between Good and "right" in D&D.

If you were in a location where preying on the weak was normal and acceptable, then people could certainly spin stories to themselves about how their self-interested behavior is actually justified or even appropriate. But that would not make the behavior virtuous, even if everyone else was doing it.
 
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When I read these arguments against alignment I can't help but think they want characters to do acts of evil or acts of good at anytime and without the need for any sort of justification. They are essentially arguing for everyone to be N or maybe even CN.
Nah, we just want to make realistic and possibly complicated character who act according to their personality and don't want things to be dumbed-down to ridiculous binary labels. (Most of my characters are pretty decent, at least deep down.)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Nah, we just want to make realistic and possibly complicated character who act according to their personality and don't want things to be dumbed-down to ridiculous binary labels. (Most of my characters are pretty decent, at least deep down.)

Which is why I stress to new players that alignment is just one of many aspects of their character, no more or less important than backstory, traits, bonds or flaws.

Seems to me that alignment is only an issue when used as a straightjacket and taken to the extremes. It's a general descriptor, that's all.
 

Which is why I stress to new players that alignment is just one of many aspects of their character, no more or less important than backstory, traits, bonds or flaws.

Seems to me that alignment is only an issue when used as a straightjacket and taken to the extremes. It's a general descriptor, that's all.
To me it is an useless and even harmful descriptor. I decide the character's personality, values and motivations. I don't want to decide whether my character is 'good' or 'evil' as those are value judgements. And law and chaos don't describe anything meaningful so those just add confusion. Besides, many interesting characters intentionally have unclear relationship to 'good' and 'evil' such as a character who has noble goals but is willing to use increasingly questionable methods to achieve them.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
Maybe I am misunderstanding what you mean but I am genuinely puzzled by the thought that evil isn't "wrong" in D&D. The core rules define Good as "morality" which has a dictionary definition of "virtue," suggesting there's pretty much a complete correspondence between Good and "right" in D&D.

If you were in a location where preying on the weak was normal and acceptable, then people could certainly spin stories to themselves about how their self-interested behavior is actually justified or even appropriate. But that would not make the behavior virtuous.

My opinion of 5Es handling of alignment isn't high :) Do you think in a Lawful Evil nation they see themselves as "wrong"? I'm sure the subjects of a Lawful Good nation (assuming they are LG) see it as "right". I'm just as certain that the LE subjects of a Lawful Evil nation see themselves as "right". Right means correct, not good or evil. I suspect that the way they explain alignment, with terms like "virtue", in the book relates to how we see good (it's right) and evil (it's wrong) in the real world. Not how the inhabitants of the fantasy world see themselves. Nobody, in real life or in a fantasy world, thinks they are "wrong".

My 2 cp, ymmv of course.
 

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