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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

TheSword

Hero
@TheSword help me out here. You said that alignment was great, because you can say "no evil" and people will know what that means.

Max here is saying that that isn't even alignment. Alignment never even comes into play because alignment doesn't care about Evil. In fact, I think his last sentence essentially is promoting Schrodinger's alignment where it doesn't define the action until you actually go to look at what alignment you are, which is when the action changes your alignment, which now reflects back on the action you took because of your alignment.
Not everyone who wants alignment agrees on every aspect of it, just like it’s fine that you see elements of it different to me.

Depends on the table.
 

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Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
Am I the only person here who ever picks up on the blatant conflict between the bolded sentence and the italics one? I ask because I see quite-close variants on this far too often...and the presence of the italics sentence makes the bolded one a lie.

Telling the players their characters will be taken away from them if said characters cross into evil* is the very definition of telling people how (in this case, mirrored as how not) to play their characters!

* - which, by the way, kinda treats the players as if they were small children - very demeaning.
Yeah. There is a lot of that going on here. People say that they don't use alignment as straitjacket and then also tell how it is an useful tool to get characters to behave like they want. This is an extreme example. Seems pretty dysfunctional to me.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Am I the only person here who ever picks up on the blatant conflict between the bolded sentence and the italics one? I ask because I see quite-close variants on this far too often...and the presence of the italics sentence makes the bolded one a lie.

Telling the players their characters will be taken away from them if said characters cross into evil* is the very definition of telling people how (in this case, mirrored as how not) to play their characters!

* - which, by the way, kinda treats the players as if they were small children - very demeaning.
Players always have a choice. Sometimes that means they have to write up a different PC, either because they decided it was a good idea to jump into the pool of inky blackness or commit evil acts.

It's not demeaning to say that I don't want to run certain types of games, it's just part of the social contract. I want everyone at the game to have fun, including me, including my other players who do not want to "look the other way" when there's a monster in the group. Same way that a chaotic insane character probably isn't going to work and I ask people to not run abrasive assholes that disrupt the rest of the party.

It wouldn't matter if it was someone committing evil acts or some other disruptive behavior. I've had chats with players about other types of behavior including being overly antagonistic or belittling other PCs when it was taken too far.

Different DMs and groups are, of course, going to have different social contracts.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yeah. There is a lot of that going on here. People say that they don't use alignment as straitjacket and then also tell how it is an useful tool to get characters to behave like they want. This is an extreme example. Seems pretty dysfunctional to me.
What I would find dysfunctional is a group so at odds with each others goals and preferences that they cannot (or should not) continue to be a group.

My games are hardly dysfunctional, they work quite well, as I get told embarrassingly often. I just set up certain rules and a social contract that will work for the majority of people, including me. That includes no evil, don't play an anti-social jerk who goes out of their way to annoy others. If you can't handle those simple rules, I'm probably not the right DM for you.

I doesn't have anything to do with alignment as defined by the game.
 

TheSword

Hero
Let’s be clear Pathfinder has had alignment in the game since inception. The organised play element which was massive, banned Evil alignments as standard. Pathfinder society was HUGE and didn’t seem at all retarded by alignment restrictions. In addition plenty of people play together for the first time under that system.

You may argue that pathfinder had more alignment based mechanics but that doesn’t change all the discussions about what is chaotic and what is lawful etc. In fact the ability to regulate the same system in Pathfinder when the mechanics do matter is one of the ways I know the system can work for 5e. Which is essentially the same game from a RP perspective.
 

Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
What I would find dysfunctional is a group so at odds with each others goals and preferences that they cannot (or should not) continue to be a group.

My games are hardly dysfunctional, they work quite well, as I get told embarrassingly often. I just set up certain rules and a social contract that will work for the majority of people, including me. That includes no evil, don't play an anti-social jerk who goes out of their way to annoy others. If you can't handle those simple rules, I'm probably not the right DM for you.

I doesn't have anything to do with alignment as defined by the game.
Yes, exactly! The social contract, not the alignment is the important factor!
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yes, exactly! The social contract, not the alignment is the important factor!
Would you allow someone in your game to roleplay sexual assault? Go into details about it?

I would not. So yes, there are limits to what I allow in my game. Your limits may be different than mine, you may not have any.

It doesn't have anything to do with alignment as defined by the game. I don't want to ever sit in another game where someone describes in detail (while obviously enjoying it) how they strangle a struggling woman and watch the light go out from her eyes.
 

Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
Would you allow someone in your game to roleplay sexual assault? Go into details about it?

I would not. So yes, there are limits to what I allow in my game. Your limits may be different than mine, you may not have any.

It doesn't have anything to do with alignment as defined by the game. I don't want to ever sit in another game where someone describes in detail (while obviously enjoying it) how they strangle a struggling woman and watch the light go out from her eyes.
Yes, I fully agree with you on everything you say here, I just don't see how it is relevant as you seem agree that this is not about the alignment unlike the topic of the tread.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yes, I fully agree with you on everything you say here, I just don't see how it is relevant as you seem agree that this is not about the alignment unlike the topic of the tread.
It came up because I don't allow evil PCs. I want to run games about heroes, not psycopaths and murders.
 



Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah. There is a lot of that going on here. People say that they don't use alignment as straitjacket and then also tell how it is an useful tool to get characters to behave like they want. This is an extreme example. Seems pretty dysfunctional to me.
Yep, which is why I said some pages back that I wouldn't say no evil, but rather just don't be disruptive. I also haven't forced an alignment change since I played 1e and really only use alignment on the DM side of things. If the players want to use it to help roleplay, that's on them. They can use it or not. If an item or something keys off of alignment or good/evil, I'll make a determination based on how I've seen them play their characters, but that's as on top of it as I get when it comes to the PCs.
 

There are so many disconnects in this thread, I'm at a loss of how to even continue.

There are rules for alignment in the Fifth Edition PHB. Those rules are not great for actually defining alignment as it applies to Fifth Edition DnD.

Can you say "no evil at my table" and it sort of work out? I suppose. I mean, I could go to a class of fourth graders and ask them about evil and they'd have a pretty solid grasp of it. Because, we've got a sort of cultural osmosis for things like morality.

Now, you might read that and say "that's why alignment works, why are you trying to get rid of it?"

And the response is "that is why alignment is unnecessary". If we just care about A) Labeling People after the fact or B) having a category relying entirely on cultural understanding of good and evil, with no rules, then why do we have the rules?

And I know what people will say, because we are just turning the wheel at this point. They will say "but it is a useful guideline" except, it isn't. We know it isn't, but you guys keep falling back to the same defense. "Well at my table", "Well, at every table it is different", "Of course, my table handles it"

If these are supposed to be rules for the game, then they can't only work when reduced down to the individual DM interpretation. And I'm sure you'll find some obscure part of some section of the rules that is left to DM interpretation, but there is a big difference there. Because Alignment is an entire contained system in and of itself. The equivalent would be like saying "spellcasting" (the entire system) only works at the DM interpretation level.


And what makes this amusing, is I keep getting asked "just because you don't use it, why do you want to take it away from us" and the true fact of the matter is I can't take it from you. Not only in the sense of I can't go and take away your books, but alignment isn't even limited to the game system you are playing, as shown by The Sword defending alignment by talking about how well it works in Pathfinder. Which might even be objectively true, but misses the point that that isn't even DnD. A close sibling, sure, but not the game system we are talking about.

So, if alignment exists outside of edition and even game system, then nothing I can do to the system or game edition can affect it. Because I'm limited to working within DnD 5e maybe DnD 6e. And you guys are beyond that. So even if I was capable of ripping alignment out root and branch from 5e.... it wouldn't affect you, because Pathfinder still has it. 2e still as it.

But, I'm not really interested in discussing alignment as it pertains to the whole of the RPG market.
 

TheSword

Hero
There are so many disconnects in this thread, I'm at a loss of how to even continue.

There are rules for alignment in the Fifth Edition PHB. Those rules are not great for actually defining alignment as it applies to Fifth Edition DnD.

Can you say "no evil at my table" and it sort of work out? I suppose. I mean, I could go to a class of fourth graders and ask them about evil and they'd have a pretty solid grasp of it. Because, we've got a sort of cultural osmosis for things like morality.

Now, you might read that and say "that's why alignment works, why are you trying to get rid of it?"

And the response is "that is why alignment is unnecessary". If we just care about A) Labeling People after the fact or B) having a category relying entirely on cultural understanding of good and evil, with no rules, then why do we have the rules?

And I know what people will say, because we are just turning the wheel at this point. They will say "but it is a useful guideline" except, it isn't. We know it isn't, but you guys keep falling back to the same defense. "Well at my table", "Well, at every table it is different", "Of course, my table handles it"

If these are supposed to be rules for the game, then they can't only work when reduced down to the individual DM interpretation. And I'm sure you'll find some obscure part of some section of the rules that is left to DM interpretation, but there is a big difference there. Because Alignment is an entire contained system in and of itself. The equivalent would be like saying "spellcasting" (the entire system) only works at the DM interpretation level.


And what makes this amusing, is I keep getting asked "just because you don't use it, why do you want to take it away from us" and the true fact of the matter is I can't take it from you. Not only in the sense of I can't go and take away your books, but alignment isn't even limited to the game system you are playing, as shown by The Sword defending alignment by talking about how well it works in Pathfinder. Which might even be objectively true, but misses the point that that isn't even DnD. A close sibling, sure, but not the game system we are talking about.

So, if alignment exists outside of edition and even game system, then nothing I can do to the system or game edition can affect it. Because I'm limited to working within DnD 5e maybe DnD 6e. And you guys are beyond that. So even if I was capable of ripping alignment out root and branch from 5e.... it wouldn't affect you, because Pathfinder still has it. 2e still as it.

But, I'm not really interested in discussing alignment as it pertains to the whole of the RPG market.
5e doesn’t exist in isolation. Neither does Alignment exist in isolation.

I presume you know enough about pathfinder to understand that outside the mechanics it is exactly the same game, and even with the mechanics it is merely very similar.

Ignoring the 9 point alignment system working well in Pathfinder is like looking at successful seat belt laws in Canada and saying, nope sorry. They won’t work in the USA. (Chosen because its an obvious and not currently political analogy).

Edit: In fact, seatbelts work as an analogy. Most people find them them easy and obvious, though some others find them inexplicably difficult to get on with. The benefits are obvious and while you can forget you’re wearing them for most of the time... when you need them, they do come in handy.😜
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
There are so many disconnects in this thread, I'm at a loss of how to even continue.

There are rules for alignment in the Fifth Edition PHB. Those rules are not great for actually defining alignment as it applies to Fifth Edition DnD.

Can you say "no evil at my table" and it sort of work out? I suppose. I mean, I could go to a class of fourth graders and ask them about evil and they'd have a pretty solid grasp of it. Because, we've got a sort of cultural osmosis for things like morality.

Now, you might read that and say "that's why alignment works, why are you trying to get rid of it?"

And the response is "that is why alignment is unnecessary". If we just care about A) Labeling People after the fact or B) having a category relying entirely on cultural understanding of good and evil, with no rules, then why do we have the rules?

And I know what people will say, because we are just turning the wheel at this point. They will say "but it is a useful guideline" except, it isn't. We know it isn't, but you guys keep falling back to the same defense. "Well at my table", "Well, at every table it is different", "Of course, my table handles it"

If these are supposed to be rules for the game, then they can't only work when reduced down to the individual DM interpretation. And I'm sure you'll find some obscure part of some section of the rules that is left to DM interpretation, but there is a big difference there. Because Alignment is an entire contained system in and of itself. The equivalent would be like saying "spellcasting" (the entire system) only works at the DM interpretation level.


And what makes this amusing, is I keep getting asked "just because you don't use it, why do you want to take it away from us" and the true fact of the matter is I can't take it from you. Not only in the sense of I can't go and take away your books, but alignment isn't even limited to the game system you are playing, as shown by The Sword defending alignment by talking about how well it works in Pathfinder. Which might even be objectively true, but misses the point that that isn't even DnD. A close sibling, sure, but not the game system we are talking about.

So, if alignment exists outside of edition and even game system, then nothing I can do to the system or game edition can affect it. Because I'm limited to working within DnD 5e maybe DnD 6e. And you guys are beyond that. So even if I was capable of ripping alignment out root and branch from 5e.... it wouldn't affect you, because Pathfinder still has it. 2e still as it.

But, I'm not really interested in discussing alignment as it pertains to the whole of the RPG market.
I like alignment as a starting point for thinking about how a PC/NPC/Monster thinks and therefore behaves. If it's an NPC/Monster that is basically only making a cameo, that's frequently all I need. For everything else, it's just a quick shorthand I use to discuss concepts with my players.

But we've said this time and time again. If you are at a loss as how to even continue, maybe it's just time to agree to disagree.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There is a big difference between expecting characters to behave how you want versus saying that some styles of character are prohibited.
No there isn't.

One's just more broad-brush than the other, is all. The underlying principle is the same: you must be this tall [good] to ride.

One is controlling, the other is managing by exception. You can be anything other than LE, NE, CE is not an unreasonable request.
Managing by exception is still controlling, just not as tightly.
 

TheSword

Hero
No there isn't.

One's just more broad-brush than the other, is all. The underlying principle is the same: you must be this tall [good] to ride.

Managing by exception is still controlling, just not as tightly.
“You can eat any of the cakes in the shop apart from that one”

“But that’s the one I want. Stop controlling me”

So what, its not a tight reign. It worked for Pathfinder society. Don’t do it if you don’t like it.

Management by exception is the best kind of management.

[Edited to be less snark]
 
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jsaving

Adventurer
Part of the issue is that people have different things they are seeking in an alignment system. Some want a two-word description that tells them how a character would act in every situation, which alignment fails to do. Others want a two-word description that just about everyone in the world or at least ENWorld will interpret in the same way, which alignment also fails to do.

But other people are just looking for general "cue words" that tell how a character feels about order/society on the one hand and benevolence/selflessness on the other. The fact that half the players in the game are picking CG/CN as their alignment, and then telling WotC they did so because they don't want anyone in the game telling their characters what to do, means the gaming community does at least share a general sense of what these words mean, even if we have big differences over how much extra information is needed to properly role-play a character.
 

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