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5E WotC's Jeremy Crawford Talks D&D Alignment Changes

Jeremy Crawford has spoken about changes to the way alignment will be referred to in future D&D books. It starts with a reminder that no rule in D&D dictates your alignment.


(Note that in the transcript below, the questions in quotes were his own words but presumably refer to questions he's seen asked previously).

Friendly reminder: no rule in D&D mandates your character's alignment, and no class is restricted to certain alignments. You determine your character's moral compass. I see discussions that refer to such rules, yet they don't exist in 5th edition D&D.

Your character's alignment in D&D doesn't prescribe their behavior. Alignment describes inclinations. It's a roleplaying tool, like flaws, bonds, and ideals. If any of those tools don't serve your group's bliss, don't use them. The game's system doesn't rely on those tools.

D&D has general rules and exceptions to those rules. For example, you choose whatever alignment you want for your character at creation (general rule). There are a few magic items and other transformative effects that might affect a character's alignment (exceptions).

Want a benevolent green dragon in your D&D campaign or a sweet werewolf candlemaker? Do it. The rule in the Monster Manual is that the DM determines a monster's alignment. The DM plays that monster. The DM decides who that monster is in play.

Regarding a D&D monster's alignment, here's the general rule from the Monster Manual: "The alignment specified in a monster's stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign."

"What about the Oathbreaker? It says you have to be evil." The Oathbreaker is a paladin subclass (not a class) designed for NPCs. If your DM lets you use it, you're already being experimental, so if you want to play a kindhearted Oathbreaker, follow your bliss!

"Why are player characters punished for changing their alignment?" There is no general system in 5th-edition D&D for changing your alignment and there are no punishments or rewards in the core rules for changing it. You can just change it. Older editions had such rules.

Even though the rules of 5th-edition D&D state that players and DMs determine alignment, the suggested alignments in our books have undeniably caused confusion. That's why future books will ditch such suggestions for player characters and reframe such things for the DM.

"What about the werewolf's curse of lycanthropy? It makes you evil like the werewolf." The DM determines the alignment of the werewolf. For example, the werewolf you face might be a sweetheart. The alignment in a stat block is a suggestion to the DM, nothing more.

"What about demons, devils, and angels in D&D? Their alignments can't change." They can change. The default story makes the mythological assumptions we expect, but the Monster Manual tells the DM to change any monster's alignment without hesitation to serve the campaign.

"You've reminded us that alignment is a suggestion. Does that mean you're not changing anything about D&D peoples after all?" We are working to remove racist tropes from D&D. Alignment is only one part of that work, and alignment will be treated differently in the future.

"Why are you telling us to ignore the alignment rules in D&D?" I'm not. I'm sharing what the alignment rules have been in the Player's Handbook & Monster Manual since 2014. We know that those rules are insufficient and have changes coming in future products.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I apparently haven't been very good about alignment anyway, even in systems where it mattered. My last five D&D characters were marked down as:

5e _____________
1e Neutralish-Goodish
3.5 Good
3.5 ______________
3.5 Neutral

I want to say I once had one that was "Lawful Hungry" (a Bugbear iirc). I'm all for the path of ditching it except for maybe as a few adjectives folks might find useful.
 

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That still won't result in all our books saying the same thing. I don't know anyone in the real world who'd replace their current book(s) just because WoTC changed the Alignment section wording. Or added wording stating Orcs are people too or such. I don't even know anyone who'd intentionally pirate the book for that.
Sure, NEW players to our groups will have the "new" printing of the book. But the rest of us? Our books won't match theirs.
I wouldn't make only these changes.

I'd probably use the anniversary, as has been suggested, to come out with a new set of covers, extra pages of art, errata/revised text and address some other deficiencies with "bonus" material that's otherwise 100% compatible with existing 5E books. Add variants of underpowered monsters in the MM (if you don't like the default orc warrior, here's the orc blademaster!), etc.

I think a lot of people would buy a new set of core books if they all had 10% more of everything added, along with shiny new anniversary covers, etc.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So, two possibilities: Either the game system shapes play, in which case it shapes the fiction generated by play at a remove; or, you are generating the fiction, not the game system, in which case the only politics in it are yours.
 





Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Then what's your concern? The D&D Police are not coming over to your house to dictate the way you play.
Hopefully not. But .... are there applications to join the D&D Police?

"YOU! Drop that d20 right now! That's right. Drop it! We have reports that there have been people playing Druids wearing metal armor in this household. We are going to have to bring you down to the dunge... um, station."
 

Which is why flavor text matters. Flavor informs play − especially as default.

So for the sake of gaming, removing race tropes from flavor texts helps end the recycling of racist assumptions from an earlier era.
Why should there be a default? Why shouldn't every table be unique? I think every D&D table should orcs, dragons, bugbears, etc. differently. Sameness is dull.
 


Doug McCrae

Legend
You've missed a few threads here, but "removing politics" from something is a political act, since it replaces contemporary politics with the politics of a (typically imagined) previous era when stuff the authors are uncomfortable talking about weren't part of the mainstream discussion. (It all still existed, of course, but not all voices were given equal weight at all points in history.)
It can be surprising just how much disagreement there was in the past, even among educated wealthy white men.

In the excerpt below, James Beattie, a professor of moral philosophy writing in 1770, is arguing against the infamously racist footnote in David Hume's Of National Characters (1753).

The empires of Peru and Mexico could not have been governed, nor the metropolis of the latter built after so singular a manner, in the middle of a lake, without men eminent both for action and for speculation. Every body has heard of the magnificence, good governance, and ingenuity of the ancient Peruvians. The Africans and [Native] Americans are known to have many ingenious manufactures and arts among them, which even Europeans would find it no easy matter to imitate.​

Hume's Revised Racism discusses the original footnote and Hume's later revision in response to Beattie's criticism.
 
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Then what's your concern? The D&D Police are not coming over to your house to dictate the way you play.
Because I see people trying to dictate the way others live by pushing their own opinions on others, which is pretty lame. Personally, I don't believe in borders, but I don't see why I have the right to tell anyone else to change his/her opinion on the matter without first agreeing to a constructive discussion.
 

Why should there be a default? Why shouldn't every table be unique? I think every D&D table should orcs, dragons, bugbears, etc. differently. Sameness is dull.
It reminds me how surprised Gygax was that people wanted to use his setting (Greyhawk). He assumed people would rather create their own worlds, tailored to their own sensibilities.

In fact, telling a good story is difficult. People want to utilize other peoples stories. Even if they tweak it here or there.

It seems many RPG games fail to sell well, because even if they are a good mechanical system, they lack the development of an abundance of stories to choose from, for settings and adventures.

Part of the reason 5e sells well is because of its flavor text.

Flavor text employs tropes. So, 5e needs to think critically about which tropes WotC seeks to perpetuate into future generations.
 


Reynard

Legend
There are two ways to make alignment work in D&D in my opinions: 1) remove it, or b) make it Real. By make it Real, I mean make it a part of the universe, a palpable force. OR, rather, 5 palpable forces all pushing against one another. Good, Evil, Law, Chaos and Balance are all Real Things that sit at the Foundation of All Things, constantly vying for mastery of the universe. Alignment represents literally aligning with one of those forces. The more strongly aligned you are the less free will you have, but also the more powerful you are. This last part is represented by how powerful outsiders (up to and including gods) usually have strict alignments, and those that serve those outsiders (paladins, clerics, warlocks, etc) usually have both alignment restrictions (or strong suggestions in 5e) as well as access to otherworldly powers. Beings that choose to align with Evil, for example, are influenced by that force of the universe and their tendencies reflect that influence.
 

It reminds me how surprised Gygax was that people wanted to use his setting (Greyhawk). He assumed people would rather create their own worlds, tailored to their own sensibilities.

In fact, telling a good story is difficult. People want to utilize other peoples stories. Even if they tweak it here or there.

It seems many RPG games fail to sell well, because even if they are a good mechanical system, they lack the development of an abundance of stories to choose from, for settings and adventures.

Part of the reason 5e sells well is because of its flavor text.

Flavor text employs tropes. So, 5e needs to think critically about which tropes WotC seeks to perpetuate into future generations.
In this case, I agree with Gygax. I would rather see WotC promoting real critical thinking by encouraging players to create their own worlds that perpetuate tropes.
 

By your sense, what should be placed under the heading of politics in addition to state governance?
A minimalist definition of politics is: "a doctrine of the legitimate use of violence".

So, creating a police force is an inherently political action.

However, punishing other people to not talk about politics − thus censoring their voice − is also an inherently political action.

Simply identifying with any group is inevitably a political statement, that regulates insiders and outsiders.

Humans are social animals − and politics is part of that.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Still: I really wish politics would get out of D&D. I'm so sick and tired of politics and control.
I hate to say it, but politics and control have been a part of D&D- and most aspects of human existence- since the beginning. If you didn’t notice this before, it might be because your place in the social hierarchy is advantaged in comparison to those complaining. (Not saying you ARE, just pointing out the possibility.)

Or as my dad likes to put it, it’s easy to be unconcerned about the killing of oxen if it’s not your oxen being killed.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
So? Games get errata'd all the time. What is it you think you deserve here? Just curious.
Why a free copy of the new version of the book of course!

No, not really. Honestly nothing. Whizbangs going on about how then all our books will say the same thing. But they won't.
As for errata? My group doesn't bother with the official errata. That's because if we've found something that needs fixing? Then we've fixed it long before WoTC gets to it & have a solution that's specifically tailored to us.
 


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