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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

R_Chance

Adventurer
It sounds like we have had some miscommunication then, because if you were basing your response on the idea that alignment within the world of DnD being subjective was the problem, that is not the problem.


The problem is that alignment is subjective and poorly defined in our universe, as the game rules, where we have to try and take this vague grouping of ideas and apply them as objective truths to the universe, but still keep the tropes and conflicts that come about from subjective points of view in the real world.

There are the problems I listed with objective truths that are clearly knowable in the DnD worlds, but in our world the problem is that the alignment system is contradictory and applies equally validly to dozens of set-ups, making it nearly useless as a definitional tool.

I have expressed my problems with the state of the definition of alignment and the neglect of the concept of alignment in the last several editions of D&D rules. Rules which have mostly failed to address this. This, more than anything else, is why (imho) people have problems with alignment and find it less than useful (along with the growth of character background / backstories that partially substitute for it). People whose experience with alignment goes back further tend to be less critical of it, probably because they are translating ideas from the older editions in their heads to the new one. And change it has, both in definitions and creatures. Witness the ping pong of some creatures alignments and the sometimes contradictory behavioral ideas that have built up around them. We (old geezers like me) are also more familiar and comfortable with the concept of alignment and have done the mental work (or is that gymnastics :D ) of translating it to our games. The more I think of it, a combination of alignment (including better definitions) with a series of behavioral tags (alignment appropriate ones) would be perhaps the best "short hand" for characters / creatures behavior. You could downsize the size of monster manual entries and leave a bit more of the fluff descriptions to settings / DMs / published adventures. Kidding, so no panic needed :)
 

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dmgorgon

Explorer
Right, you don't care about the rules of 5e. You care about the rules of 2e.

Which again, great for you and your playstyle developed over decades. But for the player who discovered DnD last month, and decided to DM with his buddies, 2e and your decades of expeirence are nearly meaningless. They have the 5e PHB and the rules within it.

To think that the current D&D fan base (those folks who buy all the books) can be excluded for the sake of a "new generation" is a fantasy. That was tried before and it didn't work. Sure some new players will pick up the book in a vacuum, but that small percentage of players will never replace the existing fan base who buy all the toys and books. For this reason, all generations of play are important. A rule set that has many optional rules will cater to the most players and it will be successful. If your group doesn't like something you don't need to use it.

Chances are a new player will at some point encounter a group who uses alignment. It's so wide spread and understood that it won't go away anytime soon. It's part of D&D and it will remain so regardless of what WotC does with 5.5e. The same is true for meta-gaming. Play-styles that frown on meta-gaming it are not going anyplace. The rules can either support the fan base (and its diverse playstyles) or go off in some divergent foray into madness and be largely ignored.
 

No. It is a choice of metaphysics.

Unless you want to claim the ability to read minds, you do not know why people make a choice unless they tell you explicitly. Please do not tell people why they do things - they get cranky, especially when you make it uncomplimentary.

And you don't want to make people cranky, do you?

Not trying to make people cranky, but as a writer when I tend to go for "It is something mortal minds cannot comprehend" I feels like a cop-out. I'm just saying "And I don't want to explain it, handwavium"



So, there was a time when you did not know Newton's Laws of Motion. You could not, at that time, accurately predict the motion of objects, in general - you could have a decent idea of some special cases with which you have a lot of personal experience (like, say, playing catch), and have some general ideas of broad trends, but no way to predict in accuracy or detail.

Did you assume that the movements of items had no objective reality behind them? Or did you figure there were some rules you didn't know?

I expect that the result of not understanding the rules probably would not look like subjective, unless you were very lucky. if the rules are subjective, you merely have to find the point of view for each case, and they become understandable. Subjective systems are still understandable.

In all likelihood, in a world where mortals could not fully grasp the rules, there would be times (more or less frequent, depending on the rules) where they'd look arbitrary.

You seem to have meant something with your statement that I didn't get.

Because Newton's laws of physics are something we can understand. You proposed something that we cannot possibly understand.

And, it can't be explained to us. Because, presumably, the gods and other immortal beings can and do understand it, but cannot express it in terms that we mortals can comprehend.

And, it can't be observed. I may not have known Newton's laws of physics, but I could observe their effect. I can drop a leaf and watch the wind carry it until it hits the ground. I can roll a ball and watch what happens. But you can't observe the effect of "good" or "law". We can only tell that the Gods are telling us "this is good, that isn't good"

But, from our perspective, both as players of the game watching the DM, or mortals in the world, it seems like the gods are just making up the rules. There is no objective measure that we can see. So, it would appear identical to a world where the various alignments are more subjective philosophies, and the gods make up their own rules about them.

And, if they appear functionally identical, and the players and the characters cannot learn what the objective truth is... then why not make it subjective.

Especially since then you don't have to have the problem of explaining why two different "Good" dieties/kingdoms ect are squabbling over the right thing to do. There is no objectively right answer, so of course differences in opinion will lead to clashes. I don't need a "well both are objectively right, but you can't understand why and must just accept it" we can treat this exactly like we would in the real-world. As a difference in subjective philosophies.

No it's not. Subjective alignment means that what is good or evil is in the eye of the person committing the acts. Objective, but ineffable means that there is an objective good and evil, but the person committing the acts doesn't know about it. The former doesn't allow for the person committing the acts to be wrong. All that matters is his subjective views on the matter. The latter does allow for him to be wrong. For example can THINK he's being good, when in fact he's acting in an evil manner.


But if he can't possibly know or understand whether he is right or wrong, what does it matter? You (as a mortal mind that cannot comprehend the truth) can't even prove if he was right or wrong. So, maybe he is actually right and you just don't understand.


I have expressed my problems with the state of the definition of alignment and the neglect of the concept of alignment in the last several editions of D&D rules. Rules which have mostly failed to address this. This, more than anything else, is why (imho) people have problems with alignment and find it less than useful (along with the growth of character background / backstories that partially substitute for it). People whose experience with alignment goes back further tend to be less critical of it, probably because they are translating ideas from the older editions in their heads to the new one. And change it has, both in definitions and creatures. Witness the ping pong of some creatures alignments and the sometimes contradictory behavioral ideas that have built up around them. We (old geezers like me) are also more familiar and comfortable with the concept of alignment and have done the mental work (or is that gymnastics :D ) of translating it to our games. The more I think of it, a combination of alignment (including better definitions) with a series of behavioral tags (alignment appropriate ones) would be perhaps the best "short hand" for characters / creatures behavior. You could downsize the size of monster manual entries and leave a bit more of the fluff descriptions to settings / DMs / published adventures. Kidding, so no panic needed :)


Maybe we should, but I know that what we are dealing with isn't helpful for the people who need the help.

You don't need an alignment system. You are still using the rules from 2e that you have adjusted and tailored to fit you for decades. Someone picking up the book today needs help. And instead of trying to define alignment again, since it seems to have never been terribly well defined (and the best defined versions are problematic in a modern context, see "civilization" vs "the wilds" ) it seems better to use a more modern idea of just let people use their ideals, bonds, traits, flaws, and ect.



To think that the current D&D fan base (those folks who buy all the books) can be excluded for the sake of a "new generation" is a fantasy. That was tried before and it didn't work. Sure some new players will pick up the book in a vacuum, but that small percentage of players will never replace the existing fan base who buy all the toys and books. For this reason, all generations of play are important. A rule set that has many optional rules will cater to the most players and it will be successful. If your group doesn't like something you don't need to use it.

Chances are a new player will at some point encounter a group who uses alignment. It's so wide spread and understood that it won't go away anytime soon. It's part of D&D and it will remain so regardless of what WotC does with 5.5e. The same is true for meta-gaming. Play-styles that frown on meta-gaming it are not going anyplace. The rules can either support the fan base (and its diverse playstyles) or go off in some divergent foray into madness and be largely ignored.


This isn't abandoning anyone. You guys don't need the alignment rules in 5e. Or at least R_Chance doesn't. He has stated quite clearly that he is using the 2e alignment system, and doesn't care about what 5e or any 6e might say.

And I think that is the problem with this debate. I'm talking from the perspective of someone who is just using the single page of the 5e PHB and the monster manual.

You guys are responding with letters from Gygax and forty years of history of the game. Which is great for you guys, but I don't have those resources. I don't have 40+ years of gaming history where I've solved all the problems I have. I've got a single (barely) page of the PHB and a lot of nonsense that I've been told makes sense if I just stop and think about it long enough.

And the value of using that system is.... nothing. Really it is not valuable for me at all. And it hasn't been for any player at my table. Or any player I've might online. Well, except one. There was one guy who was real obsessed with alignment. He was from an evil race, but was neutral, so he hated his own people, but he didn't believe in violence, but he kept doing random crap because he was bored... Oh wait, no, there was another. An oathbreaker paladin who hated the gods and was convinced they were more virtous than the gods, and was merciless, cruel and bullied the DM into having an artifact recognize that they were lawful Good.

So, yeah... The only people who cared about alignment, in my expeirence, weren't really the best players. And I'm not even coming close to insinuating that all people who like alignment are like that, but I think it is telling that I've been playing 5e since it came out, and the vast majority of players don't care about alignment. Either they just assume it is there, or they never bother thinking about it, but I've never used it and it has never been something people are like "wait, how will I know if my character follows laws or not?" They just... do it.

And heck, at your own table, you've said that you as the DM will tell your players what their alignment is. So, as a player, I don't need to bother with it at your table either. You'll just tell me what you think I am, and as long as I'm not being killed or maimed for it, what do I care what you label me as?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But if he can't possibly know or understand whether he is right or wrong, what does it matter? You (as a mortal mind that cannot comprehend the truth) can't even prove if he was right or wrong. So, maybe he is actually right and you just don't understand.

Maybe, but regardless of who is right and who is wrong, there is an objective truth and not a subjective one. When it comes to D&D, the DM is the one who gets to decide those truths.
 


Hussar

Legend
Okay, I'll take a stab

Loyal: to whom? Loyalty to friends? Well, that's how people keep friends.
Methodical: They've decided that's the best way to achieve their goals, doesn't affect what those goals are
Careful: same as methodical. CN doesn't mean insane or reckless
Never rash or impulsive: so they like to think things through. CN is their outlook on life, this is behavior. CN does not mean mentally unstable.
Honest: do they have a reason to lie? Are they smart enough to realize they won't get away with it?

To me CN just means you don't see a static order or predefined guiding principles to the universe. You think concepts of order, law, justice, good and evil are concepts made up by narrow minded people. Alignment affects how you view the world and what your goals are not how you achieve those goals.

Chaotic neutral means reckless BY DEFINITION. It's right there in the description of the alignment.

Like I said, if this is CN, then what is LN? If these 5 descriptors define a CN character, then what's left over for my LN character, because obviously, if I'm the opposite alignment, I cannot use the same descriptors.

But, yeah, thank you for so eloquently demonstrating why alignment is a festering pile of garbage.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Maybe we should, but I know that what we are dealing with isn't helpful for the people who need the help.

You don't need an alignment system. You are still using the rules from 2e that you have adjusted and tailored to fit you for decades. Someone picking up the book today needs help. And instead of trying to define alignment again, since it seems to have never been terribly well defined (and the best defined versions are problematic in a modern context, see "civilization" vs "the wilds" ) it seems better to use a more modern idea of just let people use their ideals, bonds, traits, flaws, and ect.

Actually I go back a lot farther than 2E. I remember someone talking 2E but it wasn't me. I've frankensteined mine together from older editions (1E) and my own ideas as well as articles from Dragon Magazine back in the day. I'm really, really old :D

I see your point about newer players needing newer ideas. My point is that if their is a 6E (and that's what we're talking about if I remember the start of this thing) it should not be limited to what 5E did, or did not do, well or focused on. I think alignment (done well) could make a contribution for all the new players who will come (hopefully) with the next edition. Then those 4E and 5E veterans can complain about these new kids and their old/new fangled ideas taking up pages :)

This isn't abandoning anyone. You guys don't need the alignment rules in 5e. Or at least R_Chance doesn't. He has stated quite clearly that he is using the 2e alignment system, and doesn't care about what 5e or any 6e might say.

And I think that is the problem with this debate. I'm talking from the perspective of someone who is just using the single page of the 5e PHB and the monster manual.

Hey! I started with just 3 alignments in the ancient times of the mid 70s. That's why my Lawful Church ended up with every lawful alignment bundled on board :D And, as I've said the limited (to be polite) treatment of alignment and the neglect of the system is the problem with it. Maybe the next edition will do it justice. Or eliminate it. We just have to wait and see how it goes.
 

Hexmage-EN

Adventurer
Chaotic neutral means reckless BY DEFINITION. It's right there in the description of the alignment.

There's varying degress of recklessness and motivations for it.

I think one of the greatest unintentional examples of Chaotic Good I've ever seen was in a political argument I followed on another forum. I saved what this individual wrote for inspiration on how a particularly zealous Chaotic Good individual thinks:

"If we fight for something and get it, what if X happens? Better to keep everything as it is and not risk it."

And again, we wonder why nothing ever gets fixed.

We lose 100% of the fights we're too scared to take on, we miss all of the shots we don't take. If you want to sit around and keep asking "what if" because everything might blow up in our faces and decide it's not worth fighting back, then that's your choice. But even if it blows up in our face sometime in the future thanks to whatever or whoever or whyever, we took a stand and did something to try and fix things instead of moping around, thinking everything is terrible and doomed.

We need to fight back even if things get bad or worse in the future.

Using this as a base, you could say characters that are strongly Chaotic and mildly Good are interested in taking actions that they hope will turn out for the best and deemphasizing the risks posed by their actions. People who worry too much about unintended consequences are people who never accomplish anything and let existing suffering persist indefinitely because they're too afraid of what might happen.

A Lawful Good character might argue that a corrupt nobility might need to be reformed through the system or deposed carefully to avoid instability in the region. A particularly zealous Chaotic Good individual wants the nobility thrown out on their ass ASAP, rules and regulations be damned, and all their ill-gotten gains redistributed, a "rip the band-aid off" approach. If this leads to negative consequences they'll just come back and take down whatever new threats arise.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Chaotic neutral means reckless BY DEFINITION. It's right there in the description of the alignment.

Like I said, if this is CN, then what is LN? If these 5 descriptors define a CN character, then what's left over for my LN character, because obviously, if I'm the opposite alignment, I cannot use the same descriptors.

But, yeah, thank you for so eloquently demonstrating why alignment is a festering pile of garbage.

Oh well. You used ALL CAPS so it must be true. Thanks for the indepth analysis.

The book doesn't say anything about CN being reckless. I'd say recklessness was a personality trait or flaw that could apply to anyone. The law abiding good guy recklessly putting themselves in harms way is a pretty common trope.

I'd quote the book for you (which, again, doesn't mention recklessness) but obviously you don't care. You don't want a discussion, you just want to yell and dump on anyone who doesn't agree with you. Have a good one.
 


Hexmage-EN

Adventurer
I'm doubtful how many people will be familiar with these examples, so I'll try to keep them brief as I can.

The setting of the series Code Geass is one where the greatest national superpower, Britannia, is in the process of conquering the world under its ruler, Emperor Charles zi Brittania.

Of the many characters affected by the actions of Britannia, three in particular stand-out:

  • Lelouch vi Brittania aka "Zero". Exiled prince of Britannia. As a child he witnessed the political assassination of his mother, the former Empress Marianne, as well as the crippling and blinding of his younger sister, Nunnally. His father, the Emperor, sent Lelouch and his sister away to live with the family of the Prime Minister of Japan only a few short years before launching a successful conquest of Japan, after which a sympathetic noble family aided Lelouch and Nunnally in going into hiding so that the world at large would think they were dead. As an adult Lelouch is motivated by a desire to kill his father, discover who was behind the death of his mother, and make the world a safer place for his sister (at one point admitting that, back when he feared he'd never be able to accomplish these goals, he was increasingly contemplating suicide). As part of this he has usurped control of a Japanese anti-Britannian terrorist organization now known as the Order of the Black Knights under the masked persona of Zero. He possesses a power called Geass, which allows him to impose one undeniable order upon anyone who he looks into the eyes of, though he can only use this power on a given individual once (said Geass orders can range from very specific instructions, a command that the affected immediately commit suicide, and even "Be my slave").
    • "Are you just going to sit back and wait for someone else to defeat Britannia? Who?! You think if you wait long enough, some day the right chance will finally come? Don't be naive! If we don't stand up and do it ourselves, that some day will never come!"
    • "Those with power...fear us! Those without power...seek us!"
    • "What do you do when there is an evil you cannot defeat by just means? Do you stain your hands with evil to destroy evil? Or do you remain steadfastly just and righteous even if it means surrendering to evil?”
    • "So as not to waste the blood that has already been shed, we have no choice but to shed even more blood."
    • "It was not I who was wrong. It was the world!"
    • "Shut up! I did what I had to do. People lie to survive. No one is blameless!"
  • Suzaku Kururugi. Son of the last Prime Minister of Japan before Britannian conquest and childhood friend of Lelouch. As an adult Suzaku joined the Britannian military as an "Honorary Britannian" and hopes that by advancing his career he'll eventually be able to reform Britannia from the inside and win back the rights of the conquered Japanese. Lelouch approaches Suzaku early on, hoping to win him over to his Order of the Black Knights without using a Geass command to force Suzaku's compliance. Instead, Suzaku chooses to fight as the greatest of the Black Knights' enemies. Suzaku's greatest secret is that he is the reason for the fall of Japan to Britannia; when he learned as a child that his father planned to fight Britannia to the last, even if it meant Japan was completely annihilated in the process, he took a knife and stabbed his father to death for the sake of preventing anymore loss of life. This decision has haunted himself ever since; he harbors an intense feeling that he deserves to die for what he did, and in fact his supposed bravery and heroics in combat are subconscious attempts to recklessly throw himself into a situation where he will be killed (realizing this, Lelouch eventually "curses" Suzaku with the Geass command "Live."). As the series progresses Suzaku's belief in his ability to achieve reform develops from naivety to a ruthless ambition to advance his career and political influence as quickly as possible, particularly after Lelouch unintentionally imposes a horrific Geass order upon his half-sister and Suzaku's beloved, Sub-Viceroy Euphemia li Britannia, that results in Lelouch being forced to mercy kill Euphemia just as Suzaku was approaching to subdue her and take her to safety.
    • "Denying everything in our society is pointless! Once I make Britannia trust me, I'll have the power to change it!"
    • "A soldier must always follow his orders! I made rules that I need and have to live by!"'
    • "You have to gain society's approval to get the power to change it."
    • "A victory won through dishonesty is no victory at all."
    • "I prefer the logic of systems to individualist emotions."
    • "Just want you to ask yourself: when you gain results the wrong way, what are you left with in the end? Only dark regret and a deep emptiness that have nowhere to go."
  • Kallen Stadtfield aka Kallen Kozuki. Though technically a member of a lesser Brittanian noble family, Kallen is secretly the daughter of a Japanese maid that her nobleman father had an affair with. She passes as Britannian and goes by the name Stadtfield around them, but in her heart she is Kallen Kozuki. Her older brother Naoto could not pass for Britannian and ran away to join an anti-Britannian terrorist organization. After his death in battle at the age of twenty-four Kallen was inspired to secretly join the same terrorist organization herself. Once the mysterious Zero arrived on the scene and transformed the organization into the much more competent Order of the Black Knights her talent as a pilot was recognized, granting her access to the Black Knights' greatest weapon. Eventually she met Suzaku Kururugi on the battlefield, and over time the two developed an intense rivalry due to their awesome skill and opposing ideologies (Suzaku's being gradual reform of Britannian policies concerning Japan, and Kallen's being a radical revolution that would drive Britannia out and reestablish Japan as its own independent nation). Kallen eventually learned that Zero was in fact the exiled Britannian prince Lelouch:
    • Lelouch: "Yes, I am Zero. The man who leads the Black Knights, who challenges the Holy Britannian Empire. The one who holds the entire world in his hand."
    • Kallen: "You used us? The Japanese people? You...you used me?"
    • Lelouch: "And as a result Japan will be freed. Certainly you can't complain about that."
  • Despite this shocking revelation, Kallen decided to keep Zero's true identity a secret and continue to follow him, believing that Lelouch could defeat Britannia and that she could defeat Suzaku Kururugi, who she believes to be a traitor to the Japanese people. In their final battle, Suzaku and Kallen share this short exchange:
    • Suzaku: "You could have tried to work within the system!"
    • Kallen: "And what about the people who can't get into the system?! How are we supposed to tell people it's wrong?! Don't you dare look down on others, you egotistical punk!"
  • Minutes later, Kallen Kozuki defeats Suzaku Kururugi once and for all.
I'm afraid I just spent about an hour and a half typing up a post no one's going to pay attention to, but from my perspective the alignments of the three characters mentioned are:
  • Lelouch vi Britannia. Chaotic Neutral (with Evil tendencies). Though his ultimate goal is to defeat the oppressive empire that is conquering the world and allow the possibility for a more peaceful world to rise from the ashes, his methods are very much a paragon of the phrase "the ends justify the means". Throughout his campaign he repeatedly violates the free will of others via mind control (though interestingly he handicaps himself by giving specific orders instead of just always resorting to the "Be my slave" command, which he only puts to use to immediately turn a group of ace Britannian pilots into his tools of war), deceives enemies and allies alike, and ends up getting his girlfriend's father (a Britannian soldier) killed (and when she finds out about this uses Geass to command her to forget). On one occasion he even uses a ship full of allies as bait to distract Britannian forces, uses explosives he'd secretly had installed blow up the ship, and lies to his Black Knight underlings that their allies had chosen honorable suicide over defeat, inspiring the Black Knights to fight as hard as they could against the disarrayed Britannian forces.
  • Suzaku Kururugi. Lawful Neutral (with Good tendencies). Suzaku is interested in trying to minimize death and suffering as much as possible. Unfortunately, this had led him to side with the fascist empire conquering the world out of a naive belief that he can change it from within, both by rising in the ranks and by convincing the Britannians that he's "one of the good ones". His "I prefer the logic of systems to individualist emotions" quote puts the final nail in this coffin.
  • Kallen Kozuki. Chaotic Good. She sincerely fights for the good of the Japanese people as the front line soldier of a revolutionary organization despite having the option to pass as Britannian and live a life of privilege in a minor noble house. Kallen is determined, zealous, highly skilled, and despises everything Suzaku Kururugi stands for. Though she knows Lelouch is using the Black Knights for his own ends, she is unaware as to the full extent of his actions and willing to follow him if it leads to her goal of contributing to Japan's liberation. This determination eventually results in the ultimate defeat of Suzaku Kururugi, despite Suzaku benefiting from a superior machine and Lelouch's "Live" Geass, which he eventually came to use to his advantage by forcing himself into highly dangerous situations and forcing the "Live" Geass to enhance his mental and physical capabilities beyond their normal limits to try and cheat death.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Insulting other members
Oh well. You used ALL CAPS so it must be true. Thanks for the indepth analysis.

The book doesn't say anything about CN being reckless. I'd say recklessness was a personality trait or flaw that could apply to anyone. The law abiding good guy recklessly putting themselves in harms way is a pretty common trope.

I'd quote the book for you (which, again, doesn't mention recklessness) but obviously you don't care. You don't want a discussion, you just want to yell and dump on anyone who doesn't agree with you. Have a good one.

Oh, sorry, I said reckless, when it uses the term "whims" (CN) and "with little regard for what others expect" (CG) - as in what dependable people do.

@Oofta, you're not even bothering to argue in good faith anymore. I mean, LG is described as "can be counted on to do the right thing". ie. dependable.

Nice dodge by the way. You have claimed dependable, loyal, etc as defining traits of chaotic characters. So, what defines a lawful character in your opinion? If your chaotic character never acts impulsively, is never reckless, never acts on a whim or with little regard for what others expect, then how should my lawful character act?

People just want their cake and eat it too. "Oh, look at me, I'm all edgy and chaotic. Never minding that my character is the epitome of Lawful Good. Oh, hell no. I'm all about personal freedom and anarchy. Just, not when it matters or at any point during play. Then I'm 100% a team player and loyal and methodical. But, don't you call me lawful. That's not me!! I'm CHAOTIC."

Snort. It'd be comical if it wasn't just sad and pathetic.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not trying to make people cranky, but as a writer when I tend to go for "It is something mortal minds cannot comprehend" I feels like a cop-out.

So, you're projecting your own feelings on others? "I do it, so everyone else must also," is not a sound position to take.

Because Newton's laws of physics are something we can understand. You proposed something that we cannot possibly understand.

Sir Issac Newton wrote his Principia Mathematica in 1687. The human race had been around for about 300,000 years before that.

So, go back 150,000 years, and try to explain Newtonian mechanics to the people then. They lack the language to be able to understand you. They lack the mathematics to be able to understand the physics. At the very list, you ahve to start them at kindergarten in reading and writing and work them up to junior high school language and high school level math before they can comprehend. That seemed like a pretty good analogy.

The Paladin turns his face to the sky and asks, "Why?" and the gods answer... "You would not understand if you devoted your life to it for your entire span on Oerth."

And, it can't be explained to us. Because, presumably, the gods and other immortal beings can and do understand it, but cannot express it in terms that we mortals can comprehend.

If the Gods and immortal beings are the "elementals" of alignment... maybe they don't understand. They don't actually need to understand, any more than you need to understand cellular biology in order to eat and get nutrition from a hamburger. For them, adherence to alignment is an autonomous function of their existence. I mean, does a fire elemental understand chemistry and plasma physics just 'cause it's body is made of fire?

And, it can't be observed.

If the game has mechanical impact to alignment (so, say, 3e), then it can be observed - some things intereact with, say, Protection from Evil, and other things don't. We'd have issues with quantifying it, as the relevant magics are all-or-nothing. So divining the underlying rules may not be possible.
 

I'm doubtful how many people will be familiar with these examples, so I'll try to keep them brief as I can.

The setting of the series Code Geass is one where the greatest national superpower, Britannia, is in the process of conquering the world under its ruler, Emperor Charles zi Brittania.

Of the many characters affected by the actions of Britannia, three in particular stand-out:

  • Lelouch vi Brittania aka "Zero". Exiled prince of Britannia. As a child he witnessed the political assassination of his mother, the former Empress Marianne, as well as the crippling and blinding of his younger sister, Nunnally. His father, the Emperor, sent Lelouch and his sister away to live with the family of the Prime Minister of Japan only a few short years before launching a successful conquest of Japan, after which a sympathetic noble family aided Lelouch and Nunnally in going into hiding so that the world at large would think they were dead. As an adult Lelouch is motivated by a desire to kill his father, discover who was behind the death of his mother, and make the world a safer place for his sister (at one point admitting that, back when he feared he'd never be able to accomplish these goals, he was increasingly contemplating suicide). As part of this he has usurped control of a Japanese anti-Britannian terrorist organization now known as the Order of the Black Knights under the masked persona of Zero. He possesses a power called Geass, which allows him to impose one undeniable order upon anyone who he looks into the eyes of, though he can only use this power on a given individual once (said Geass orders can range from very specific instructions, a command that the affected immediately commit suicide, and even "Be my slave").
    • "Are you just going to sit back and wait for someone else to defeat Britannia? Who?! You think if you wait long enough, some day the right chance will finally come? Don't be naive! If we don't stand up and do it ourselves, that some day will never come!"
    • "Those with power...fear us! Those without power...seek us!"
    • "What do you do when there is an evil you cannot defeat by just means? Do you stain your hands with evil to destroy evil? Or do you remain steadfastly just and righteous even if it means surrendering to evil?”
    • "So as not to waste the blood that has already been shed, we have no choice but to shed even more blood."
    • "It was not I who was wrong. It was the world!"
    • "Shut up! I did what I had to do. People lie to survive. No one is blameless!"
  • Suzaku Kururugi. Son of the last Prime Minister of Japan before Britannian conquest and childhood friend of Lelouch. As an adult Suzaku joined the Britannian military as an "Honorary Britannian" and hopes that by advancing his career he'll eventually be able to reform Britannia from the inside and win back the rights of the conquered Japanese. Lelouch approaches Suzaku early on, hoping to win him over to his Order of the Black Knights without using a Geass command to force Suzaku's compliance. Instead, Suzaku chooses to fight as the greatest of the Black Knights' enemies. Suzaku's greatest secret is that he is the reason for the fall of Japan to Britannia; when he learned as a child that his father planned to fight Britannia to the last, even if it meant Japan was completely annihilated in the process, he took a knife and stabbed his father to death for the sake of preventing anymore loss of life. This decision has haunted himself ever since; he harbors an intense feeling that he deserves to die for what he did, and in fact his supposed bravery and heroics in combat are subconscious attempts to recklessly throw himself into a situation where he will be killed (realizing this, Lelouch eventually "curses" Suzaku with the Geass command "Live."). As the series progresses Suzaku's belief in his ability to achieve reform develops from naivety to a ruthless ambition to advance his career and political influence as quickly as possible, particularly after Lelouch unintentionally imposes a horrific Geass order upon his half-sister and Suzaku's beloved, Sub-Viceroy Euphemia li Britannia, that results in Lelouch being forced to mercy kill Euphemia just as Suzaku was approaching to subdue her and take her to safety.
    • "Denying everything in our society is pointless! Once I make Britannia trust me, I'll have the power to change it!"
    • "A soldier must always follow his orders! I made rules that I need and have to live by!"'
    • "You have to gain society's approval to get the power to change it."
    • "A victory won through dishonesty is no victory at all."
    • "I prefer the logic of systems to individualist emotions."
    • "Just want you to ask yourself: when you gain results the wrong way, what are you left with in the end? Only dark regret and a deep emptiness that have nowhere to go."
  • Kallen Stadtfield aka Kallen Kozuki. Though technically a member of a lesser Brittanian noble family, Kallen is secretly the daughter of a Japanese maid that her nobleman father had an affair with. She passes as Britannian and goes by the name Stadtfield around them, but in her heart she is Kallen Kozuki. Her older brother Naoto could not pass for Britannian and ran away to join an anti-Britannian terrorist organization. After his death in battle at the age of twenty-four Kallen was inspired to secretly join the same terrorist organization herself. Once the mysterious Zero arrived on the scene and transformed the organization into the much more competent Order of the Black Knights her talent as a pilot was recognized, granting her access to the Black Knights' greatest weapon. Eventually she met Suzaku Kururugi on the battlefield, and over time the two developed an intense rivalry due to their awesome skill and opposing ideologies (Suzaku's being gradual reform of Britannian policies concerning Japan, and Kallen's being a radical revolution that would drive Britannia out and reestablish Japan as its own independent nation). Kallen eventually learned that Zero was in fact the exiled Britannian prince Lelouch:
    • Lelouch: "Yes, I am Zero. The man who leads the Black Knights, who challenges the Holy Britannian Empire. The one who holds the entire world in his hand."
    • Kallen: "You used us? The Japanese people? You...you used me?"
    • Lelouch: "And as a result Japan will be freed. Certainly you can't complain about that."
  • Despite this shocking revelation, Kallen decided to keep Zero's true identity a secret and continue to follow him, believing that Lelouch could defeat Britannia and that she could defeat Suzaku Kururugi, who she believes to be a traitor to the Japanese people. In their final battle, Suzaku and Kallen share this short exchange:
    • Suzaku: "You could have tried to work within the system!"
    • Kallen: "And what about the people who can't get into the system?! How are we supposed to tell people it's wrong?! Don't you dare look down on others, you egotistical punk!"
  • Minutes later, Kallen Kozuki defeats Suzaku Kururugi once and for all.
I'm afraid I just spent about an hour and a half typing up a post no one's going to pay attention to, but from my perspective the alignments of the three characters mentioned are:
  • Lelouch vi Britannia. Chaotic Neutral (with Evil tendencies). Though his ultimate goal is to defeat the oppressive empire that is conquering the world and allow the possibility for a more peaceful world to rise from the ashes, his methods are very much a paragon of the phrase "the ends justify the means". Throughout his campaign he repeatedly violates the free will of others via mind control (though interestingly he handicaps himself by giving specific orders instead of just always resorting to the "Be my slave" command, which he only puts to use to immediately turn a group of ace Britannian pilots into his tools of war), deceives enemies and allies alike, and ends up getting his girlfriend's father (a Britannian soldier) killed (and when she finds out about this uses Geass to command her to forget). On one occasion he even uses a ship full of allies as bait to distract Britannian forces, uses explosives he'd secretly had installed blow up the ship, and lies to his Black Knight underlings that their allies had chosen honorable suicide over defeat, inspiring the Black Knights to fight as hard as they could against the disarrayed Britannian forces.
  • Suzaku Kururugi. Lawful Neutral (with Good tendencies). Suzaku is interested in trying to minimize death and suffering as much as possible. Unfortunately, this had led him to side with the fascist empire conquering the world out of a naive belief that he can change it from within, both by rising in the ranks and by convincing the Britannians that he's "one of the good ones". His "I prefer the logic of systems to individualist emotions" quote puts the final nail in this coffin.
  • Kallen Kozuki. Chaotic Good. She sincerely fights for the good of the Japanese people as the front line soldier of a revolutionary organization despite having the option to pass as Britannian and live a life of privilege in a minor noble house. Kallen is determined, zealous, highly skilled, and despises everything Suzaku Kururugi stands for. Though she knows Lelouch is using the Black Knights for his own ends, she is unaware as to the full extent of his actions and willing to follow him if it leads to her goal of contributing to Japan's liberation. This determination eventually results in the ultimate defeat of Suzaku Kururugi, despite Suzaku benefiting from a superior machine and Lelouch's "Live" Geass, which he eventually came to use to his advantage by forcing himself into highly dangerous situations and forcing the "Live" Geass to enhance his mental and physical capabilities beyond their normal limits to try and cheat death.
This is a great post, from a great series (been a few years), but it also highlights some problems.

Because I disgree with some of your end conclusions.

Suzaku, for example, you've put as Lawful Neutral, but you have to paranthesize that he has Good tendencies. Frankly, I'd just put him as Lawful Good, with some missteps do to desperation. He is in fact for most of the series one of the most honest and just people in the series. He is altered somewhat by the system, causing him to push harder into Law than good, but that is in response to the Black Knights, who are a massive terrorist organization (from their perspective) who are tearing the country apart. Yes he believes in systems, but he believes in those systems for the good of the people.

And Lelouch, while he does some terrible things, is also a Good person at heart. He sees these actions as necessary to reach a world where his sister can be safe, and where the atrocities he's seen cannot be repeated. The reason he avoids the "be my slave" command is because it is permanent, and he doesn't want to rule or permanently take away peoples freedom, that would make him a tyrant and he doesn't want that. That is one of the reasons "zero" exists, because he is a mask that can be set aside when the war is over. And in fact, SPOILER FOR ENDING, Lelouch sacrifices his life, letting Suzaku kill him publicly after Zero takes responsibility for the bomb Brtiania used, so that all the rage and hate fostered by the civil war could be put on him, and then he would die so that people could move on with their lives SPOILER END

Does he use underhanded, dirty and terrible tricks to win? Yes, but he is a single man leading a group of a few dozen against a global empire that owns 80% of the land mass of the planet. He knows exactly how ruthless Britanian Royalty can be, and what needs to be done to win. And his end goal isn't to rule that empire, but to make the world a better and safer place. Neutral Good? Chaotic Good? He doesn't care for the Law clearly, but that is also because he sees the law as corrupt and that the system cannot be changed without tearing it down first. But his goals and beliefs are firmly rooted in the soil of making a better world, no matter the cost to himself or his morals.
 

Sir Issac Newton wrote his Principia Mathematica in 1687. The human race had been around for about 300,000 years before that.

So, go back 150,000 years, and try to explain Newtonian mechanics to the people then. They lack the language to be able to understand you. They lack the mathematics to be able to understand the physics. At the very list, you ahve to start them at kindergarten in reading and writing and work them up to junior high school language and high school level math before they can comprehend. That seemed like a pretty good analogy.

The Paladin turns his face to the sky and asks, "Why?" and the gods answer... "You would not understand if you devoted your life to it for your entire span on Oerth."

sigh

You said that mortal minds could not possibly understand it.

Newtonians physics is a bad example, because you literally just laid out a path that people could take to understand it. I go to these people who lack the language and math to understand newtonian physics. I teach them language. I teach the nath. Now they can understand Newtonian physics. Therefore Newtonian physics can be understood by mortal minds. Which should be obvious, since Newton was a mortal mind.

I can't even type something that would be incomprehensible to mortal minds. I can't think it. Because I am a mortal mind. I'm taking your claim at face value, that alignment would truly be incomprehensible to mortal minds, and you realize that that means, the DM playing the God doesn't even understand it. He can't, because if he did, then it could be explained to the players, and if it can be explained to the players, it can be explained to their characters.

In fact, imagine that scene, but with a part two.

The Paladin turns his face to the sky and asks, "Why?"
the gods answer... "You would not understand if you devoted your life to it for your entire span on Oerth."

The player says, "Okay, but DM, why?"
The DM answers "You would not understand if you devoted your life to it for your entire span on Earth."

Because the moment the DM answers why, then alignment is explainable, and that cosmic truth the Paladin couldn't understand is obvious to everyone at the table.


If the game has mechanical impact to alignment (so, say, 3e), then it can be observed - some things intereact with, say, Protection from Evil, and other things don't. We'd have issues with quantifying it, as the relevant magics are all-or-nothing. So divining the underlying rules may not be possible.


Another really poor example. Let us say you use "Detect Alignment" and detect that someone if Good. Wonderful. How did they get Good? By doing Good deeds? What are those, can "Detect Alignment" show us what a "good deed" is? Is there any spell that can highlight the moment a good deed is done? How can you tell the difference between a Good person doing a good deed, and a good person doing a neutral deed?

As far as I'm aware, you can't. Alignment ends up working like a switch. You are Good until you aren't, and that is all that can be observed.




But let me switch this around, because this is getting very far in the weeds. Why do you want an objective Alignment system that no one can understand or express, but definitely exists?

Max states that it is because soemone then can be right, even if no one knows it. But, how about you, what value is there is setting this system up where the Gods can't explain it, people can't understand it, but it inevitably true and affects everything.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
...you're not even bothering to argue in good faith anymore.

Snort. It'd be comical if it wasn't just sad and pathetic.

Mod Note:

What isn't comical is how rude you're being. If you find folks aren't discussing in good faith, then you should stop discussing with them.

That seems to be a difficulty for you. I'll help you out here, by removing you from the discussion, so you are no longer tempted to act like a jerk.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Chaotic neutral means reckless BY DEFINITION. It's right there in the description of the alignment.

Like I said, if this is CN, then what is LN? If these 5 descriptors define a CN character, then what's left over for my LN character, because obviously, if I'm the opposite alignment, I cannot use the same descriptors.

But, yeah, thank you for so eloquently demonstrating why alignment is a festering pile of garbage.
You came up with the list. With all due respect it’s your job to decide how alignment works at your table. If a DM comes up with a version that doesn’t make sense then it’s best for that DM to go back to the drawing board.

[Edit. sorry I didn’t see the mod note]
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Different people obviously approach alignment differently.

I view it as a person's schema - how they interpret the world. I find it useful. For my PCs or any complex NPC it will be just one of the many descriptors that can be applied. As the MM says, it gives you an idea of how someone might react, not how they must react.

I, and effectively everyone I've had this discussion with in real life, find my definition useful.

Others seem to want to take a handful of words from the PHB and say that alignment dictates all behavior that all people with that alignment must adhere to. Alignment as a behavior cookie cutter. Someone that's CN must be reckless, lie and act randomly.

So maybe, just maybe, the issue is the way some people try to apply alignment, not the concept. Just a thought. Perhaps stop trying to put the square block in the round hole? Because my square block works just fine.
 

Voadam

Legend
This issue is stemming from the position of @R_Chance who began talking about objective "good" and objective "law" coming from Divine Law.

This concept supposes that the idea of "good" and "law" comes from the Divine sources, and therefore it is the gods that define alignment. If we accept that the gods define alignment, and that definition is objective and not just the gods opinion, then it follows that they must act in those manners as a general principle.

Now, Apollo is a greek God, and to be fair, no one in their right mind would define any of the Greek Gods as "good" except maybe Hestia and possibly Hades (I've got a soft spot for the guy). But more importantly, even the Greeks never tried to present the actions of the gods as being Objective. They acted just like humans, and human behavior is subjective and influenced by manner factors.

And in a subjective world, that is fine. But in an objective world where Apollo Objectively defines what it means to be good... then his every action is objectively good if he defines it that way. And if you feel like "no, Apollo would be wrong that X is objectively good" then you are either in a subjective world, or you are trying to say that Objective "Good" and "Law" were defined by something else, and that is either knowable, or not.
Are you using define as them being the exemplar, the living definition, not as them choosing to define an aspect of the universe? As in Good is defined as Apollo?

You could set up D&D to be that way and it could be neat to have gods as alignment elementals but that is not the normal way to think of things. It would also be hard on a DM to roleplay or portray consistently.

It would be easiest with a monotheistic or dualistic pantheon and to keep it to one axis of alignment. It would be easy to introduce contradictions unintentionally and would require a lot of constraints on the gods.

D&D's default is your last line - objective and not defined by the pantheon of gods. Parts of alignment can be detected by interacting with alignment sensitive magic such as detect spells and certain magic items, though this is complicated by other magic that can interfere with those interactions.
 

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