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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Let's get the obvious out of the way: D&D needs alignment because D&D needs alignment. The alignment system is one of those classic points of D&D design that people think of as being central to its identity, like Vancian magic or a 1-20 level system. Changing alignment would be perceived as changing the identity of D&D, much like a change to magical resources or the level cap. This thread isn't about that, so I'd like if we didn't get caught up in it.
    I'm asking whether alignment still serves a purpose in D&D. But to explain why I'm asking that, I need to explain what purposes I think alignment served and what replaced them.

    First, alignment is an easy "This is an acceptable target" marker. I don't think there should be such markers, but they can help some styles of game. Except that there's no shortage of stereotypically-evil behaviors you can give a creature (eating people, pillaging caravans, etc) which accomplish the same result while giving each monster flavor. The major evil races have always had at least a paragraph or two of flavor-text describing their version of evil, and most evil creatures at least had a sentence on their crimes. However, the 5e monster manual comes with detailed flavor text as a standard option for basically all creatures. Almost every "usually evil" monster comes with a detailed explanation of what stereotypically evil acts they engage in, often with an explanation of what drives them. I think it's fair to say that this purpose, aside from being stupid, is obsolete.

    Second, alignment has traditionally been tied to various mechanics, from Smite Evil to clerical alignment restrictions. But all (or nearly all) direct mechanical references to alignment have been removed. Paladins and clerics are no longer restricted by alignment, but by codes specified in the class description (the paladin's oath and the cleric's "do what your god says"), and abilities which once targeted alignments now target fiends/celestials—separate creature types which replaced alignment subtypes. As far as I know, no important mechanics reference alignment. (Maybe the helm of opposite alignment or some obscure spells, but nothing that can't be rewritten or removed. And if I'm wrong, feel free to bring up examples if you don't mind me disputing them on that "can't be rewritten or removed" part.)

    Finally and most importantly, alignment is a roleplaying aid. New roleplayers may have difficulty (or just not bother) thinking about their character's personality, particularly as it is distinct from their own. Choosing an alignment forces players to ask at least one question about who their characters are which is (mostly) unrelated to how they play mechanically. Picking an alignment calls to mind character archetypes which fit many famous fictional characters; perhaps someone playing a LG cleric will decide to play her like Superman, Eddard Stark, Asami Sato, or even maybe Light Yagami. One person that probably won't come to mind is themself, and if they do, they probably won't when they try the barbarian class. (If they do, no space on the character sheet is going to encourage them to roleplay.)
    I have two counterpoints to this. The smaller point is that most people playing D&D probably have at least a little experience separating a character they play from themselves, since most people who want to try a TRPG have probably played a VRPG before. The more important one is basically the entire Backgrounds section. Obviously, considering a character's background calls to mind some character archetypes as well, but that's not the important part. The important part is the list of Traits, Bonds, and Flaws (and the existence of those blanks). Just seeing them as you try to decide what background to choose can potentially inspire a personality, and you literally can't fill a character sheet without writing something about their personality. 5e still can't force players to follow (or remember) their trait/bond/flaw, but those blanks do as good a job of getting players to consider who their characters are as alignment does—and might encourage them to be more original.


    I might as well make an argument for why anyone should care. Doubtless anyone who's spent much time on this forum has seen at least one alignment thread, or at least a post from the Giant mentioning why he hates it, which means a lot of you probably all know some weaknesses with alignment. I'm still going to repeat some.
    One with Rich feels particularly strong about is that it encourages a black-and-white perspective on in-game morality, particularly with his particular beef being the implications this has for antagonistic races. (Which is something 5e made worse by removing the "often/usually/always" from statblocks.) It's debatable how much of this comes from the alignment system, but you'd be hard-pressed to say that a system of morality as fundamental to reality as attribute scores doesn't at least contribute. There are still plenty of people who won't think (and/or care) about whether the NPCs they kill deserve to die, whether because they're goblins or because they're NPCs, but reducing support for that attitude can't be a bad thing.
    A problem I feel is more important is how alignment can act like a personality straightjacket, particularly with new roleplayers. To quote TV Tropes:
    Quote Originally Posted by TV Tropes
    If you have a difficulty deciding which alignment a character belongs to, remember that the vast majority of characters do not have one clear, constant alignment. Do not attempt to shoehorn characters into an alignment if you can't figure one out for them; if you have any doubts, they probably simply lack a clearly-defined alignment.
    Sure, you can define the alignment of a character with a bit of Chaotic Good and a bit of Lawful Neutral, or one which falls on the border between Lawful and Neutral Good, but that doesn't mean the system encourages that. If alignment is a significant part of what you consider when writing your character's personality, then you're not likely to write a character who doesn't fit comfortably in one box or another. That's not even considering DMs who restrict or discourage behavior by alignment, which shouldn't exist but do and so need to be considered.
    Finally, the alignment system can have a negative impact on post-character-creation gameplay. The second half of Rich Burlew's article about tough decisions is, at least in part, about this tendency. There's more to pointless intraparty conflict or plot hook apathy than alignment, but it's certainly a factor. "Why would my Chaotic Neutral barbarian want to help a nobleman? He hates order!" "Why would my Lawful Good wizard want to raid this tomb? Isn't that disrespectful to the dead?" That kind of thing.

    It's easy to argue (and probably true) that none of this is how alignment is intended to work, especially in the editions written after the authors saw how it was being played. But the way I see it, intent doesn't matter. If the alignment system causes problems, then it needs to be treated as a problem (or at least problematic), even if the problems it causes are 100% Cobra Effect.
    But just because something is flawed doesn't mean it can't be good overall. (Look at the Order of the Stick—the characters, I mean, though I admit the comic isn't perfect.) I'm not just posting this thread to gripe about alignment like a reverse grumpy-old-man, or even to point out something I like about 5e. I also want to know if there's something I'm missing about alignment. Have I overlooked something? Is there some point to alignment that isn't obsolete by now? Does D&D still need alignment?
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    All good points, to which I will say that, despite all of that, yes. D&D still needs alignment. I argue that because D&D is the setting in which you play as much as it is the mechanics in which you play.

    D&D has a certain amount of implied worldbuilding written into the core of the game. Elves are generally X, dwarves are generally Y, orcs are generally Z. There is deviation based on characters and such, but generally speaking, this is how things work in this setting. This is where the alignment argument comes in. Because of the implicit worldbuilding of D&D, alignment is one of those core assumptions of the setting in which we're playing. There is an assumption of a cosmic Good, a cosmic Law, etc. While one might homebrew to change those base assumptions, those are not the canonical, default positions of the setting.
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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    There's a bunch of mechanical effects tied to alignment.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Alignment is needed (and I emphasize the need) merely because of D&D's planar cosmology and deities. They represent different ideologies that together make up the various personality types common to reality. When you can't spend 300 hours talking to and studying a person to know them innately because time passes in the roll of the dice or the whim of the DM, you need a way to describe the general disposition of these beings, persons, and environments. They follow mechanical rules that affect party members of opposing alignments and beliefs.

    Is it needed? I mean, how much are Heaven and Hell needed in a good-evil dichotomy? I'd say they're pretty essential to the concept. I'm not a huge fan of Disney heroes, more so their deeds, but the VILLAINS are absolutely FANTASTIC and really set the mood for the story. Without great evil there can't be a heroic moment to shine. You end up with every story being Frozen and the heroes are fighting themselves.

    You can do away with alignment and keep the dichotomy as basic settings like Final Fantasy games do. But you're probably going to need to eliminate the entire cosmology because you'll find much of it redundant.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    The way I see it, alignment doesn't need to be part of your home game, but I don't think alignments should be dropped in future editions of D&D. They are the easiest rules to opt out.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    People gives too much importance to alignments. Probably because of the pop culture perception of the the 3.X version.

    Aside from a few mechanical effects, your alignment is now just a shorthand descriptor of what the character's typical behavior is. It is useful for RP purpose (ex: if a monster is neutral good, a DM will probably know to not portray them as an extremely-rules-following sadist), but there really shouldn't be more importance given to it than your Bond or your Flaw.

    That doesn't mean D&D doesn't need alignment, though. It can safely be removed, sure, but it's part of the default D&D lore and assumptions, just as much as "Wizards learn spells from books", "Barbarians can Rage", or "Devils and Demons are separate beings".

    In other words: nothing wrong with not having alignments, but it's part of the default D&D identity, which is important to keep as a default.

    Also, 5e does not need often/usually/always indicators for alignment, and that does not "make it worse": 5e alignment is ALWAYS an "usually X", on an individual level.
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2019-05-15 at 02:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    There's a bunch of mechanical effects tied to alignment.
    Those could all be pretty easily be pretty easily replaced.
    Vulnerability to weapons wielded by a good creature could just be vulnerability to blessed weapons, and the same could go for other similar effects such as whether undead are affeted by certain things.
    Whether a Unicorns healing magic is maximized for you or not, or certain other "how are you affiliated relative to the monster" effects, could just be replaced with whether the monster likes you or not.
    And for items that can only be attuned by a good or evil creature, you can just specify that alignment breaks when certain prohibited actions are taken - say, killing a helpless/surrendered creature, or letting someone get away with insulting you, or whatever, be creative.
    Those are just examples, have a comprehensive list where I go through all the parts where alignment currently matters and change them without too much effort, and in most cases even without too much impact:
    Spoiler: Comprehensive List
    Show
    - a Demilichs Lair just deals damage to everyone who isn't undead, or allied with the Lich
    - a Lemure doesn't return to life when sprinkled with holy water, or killed by a creature affectd by Bless
    - a Night Hag can trap souls of those who have willingly made a deal with a Night Hag, or other Fiends
    - Lycantrophes just behave differently
    - Rakshasas are vulnerable to blessed piercing weapons, or piercing weapons wielded by blessed creatures
    - anyone can become a Shadow unless they are Blessed or are wearing a holy symbol
    - Sprites can detect if a creature is friendly, neutral or hostile towards them
    - regional healing effects around a Unicorns lair are maximized against creatures the Unicorn considers friendly
    - Vampires behave differently
    - Gold Dragons creature mist-shapes to warn away creatures they consider hostile

    - Candles of Invocation work for worshippers of the same deity
    - Book of Vile Darkness: changes behavior
    - Book of Exalted Deeds: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week, and damage is then taken
    - Blackrazor: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week
    - Deck of Many Things: can curse you to behave differently
    - Talismans of Pure Good/Evil: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week, and damage is then taken
    - Robe of the Archmage: just no longer alignment-restricted, simply takes the color fitting your character
    - Moonblade: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week

    - Classes: no alignment restriction since it no longer exists

    - Planar Travel: this is world-building stuff, in a world without alignment such effects might well not exist. If you want them to, it'll just change your behavior in certain ways (make you a pacifist, more altruistic, more selfish, more insistent on making everything a contract, etc.)

    - Spirit Guardians: just pick a damage type
    - Glyph of Warding: that trigger doesn't work anymore, alas
    - Nystuls Magical Aura: nothing to mask here
    - Ceremony: maybe substitute for curse-breaking for the aforementioned forced behavior changes, if they're there

    This stuff isn't too prevalent, and alltogether not too hard to handle. In some cases, it'll definetly be different without alignment - more broad or narrow, less or more powerful - but since we're basically dealing with monsters or magic items controlled by the GM here, this is hardly abusable by the players.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Serafina View Post
    Those could all be pretty easily be pretty easily replaced.
    Vulnerability to weapons wielded by a good creature could just be vulnerability to blessed weapons, and the same could go for other similar effects such as whether undead are affeted by certain things.
    Whether a Unicorns healing magic is maximized for you or not, or certain other "how are you affiliated relative to the monster" effects, could just be replaced with whether the monster likes you or not.
    And for items that can only be attuned by a good or evil creature, you can just specify that alignment breaks when certain prohibited actions are taken - say, killing a helpless/surrendered creature, or letting someone get away with insulting you, or whatever, be creative.
    Those are just examples, have a comprehensive list where I go through all the parts where alignment currently matters and change them without too much effort, and in most cases even without too much impact:
    Spoiler: Comprehensive List
    Show
    - a Demilichs Lair just deals damage to everyone who isn't undead, or allied with the Lich
    - a Lemure doesn't return to life when sprinkled with holy water, or killed by a creature affectd by Bless
    - a Night Hag can trap souls of those who have willingly made a deal with a Night Hag, or other Fiends
    - Lycantrophes just behave differently
    - Rakshasas are vulnerable to blessed piercing weapons, or piercing weapons wielded by blessed creatures
    - anyone can become a Shadow unless they are Blessed or are wearing a holy symbol
    - Sprites can detect if a creature is friendly, neutral or hostile towards them
    - regional healing effects around a Unicorns lair are maximized against creatures the Unicorn considers friendly
    - Vampires behave differently
    - Gold Dragons creature mist-shapes to warn away creatures they consider hostile

    - Candles of Invocation work for worshippers of the same deity
    - Book of Vile Darkness: changes behavior
    - Book of Exalted Deeds: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week, and damage is then taken
    - Blackrazor: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week
    - Deck of Many Things: can curse you to behave differently
    - Talismans of Pure Good/Evil: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week, and damage is then taken
    - Robe of the Archmage: just no longer alignment-restricted, simply takes the color fitting your character
    - Moonblade: attunement breaks if certain actions are taken, or have been taken within the last week

    - Classes: no alignment restriction since it no longer exists

    - Planar Travel: this is world-building stuff, in a world without alignment such effects might well not exist. If you want them to, it'll just change your behavior in certain ways (make you a pacifist, more altruistic, more selfish, more insistent on making everything a contract, etc.)

    - Spirit Guardians: just pick a damage type
    - Glyph of Warding: that trigger doesn't work anymore, alas
    - Nystuls Magical Aura: nothing to mask here
    - Ceremony: maybe substitute for curse-breaking for the aforementioned forced behavior changes, if they're there

    This stuff isn't too prevalent, and alltogether not too hard to handle. In some cases, it'll definetly be different without alignment - more broad or narrow, less or more powerful - but since we're basically dealing with monsters or magic items controlled by the GM here, this is hardly abusable by the players.
    It's still a refutation of the point that "no important mechanics are tied to alignment." They are. Sure, it's less integral than it previously was, but the important mechanics are there. Here, you're kinda using either a "No true Scotsman" or a "Moving the goalposts" argument. Just because it _can_ be replaced doesn't mean it was.
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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    This comes up pretty in literally every edition I've ever played, though I'm happy to say you're touching on some points that don't come up often. Regardless of those, though, alignment is still needed.

    To really explain why we need this, we first need to define what good, evil, law, and chaos are in D&D. "Good" is anything that Archons, Eladrin, and Guardinals all agree on. "Evil" is what that Demons, Devils, and Yugoloth agree on. "Law" is what that Devils, Archons, and Modrons share and "Chaos" is the same for Demons, Eladrin, and Slaadi.

    Right, so now that that's done we can get to why we need it. The first reason we need it is that, so long as we remember what those words mean in D&D, we have a helpful shorthand to quickly identify ideological conflicts. For example, if a conflict breaks out between a lawful good person and a chaotic good person it will probably come from a conflict in their opinions regarding freedom and uniformity, whereas a conflict between a lawful evil and lawful good person will probably spring up as a result of differences in opinion regarding self and others. These shorthands make it really easy to gain a quick understanding of an individual's general beliefs. If I'm looking for a good race to pit my lawful good party against, it's a whole lot easier and faster to sort them by alignment and then read about the ones that fit what I'm looking for than it is to read a paragraph or two about every monster in all the manuals. If I'm looking for a dark mirror to a lawful good society, I can grab any lawful evil society and it's a pretty safe bet it'll do the job. If I want to pit that same society against a foe they are opposed to on almost every level, I can grab just about any chaotic evil society.

    In short, reason number one is that it's a convenient shorthand that can tell a DM quite a short time with a fair degree of accuracy.

    Reason number two that we need alignment is that it's a lynchpin of the afterlife in non-forgotten realms campaigns. Where do you go when you die? Well, you go to your god, but what if you didn't worship a specific God well enough? Your soul goes to one of the nine planes (technically 16 but no one remembers the planes between the major ones on alignment) depending on your alignment. If your character stands as LN, he'll fit in best on the plane of Mechanus. If she's Chaotic Good, she'll likely fit in best in Arborea. If he's Lawful Evil the Devils of Baator will host (and roast) his soul (Literally the only reason that place exists is to convince people to maybe stop being evil. Sadly the Devils are evil and decided they'd rather just have more bodies to throw at their war with the demons, so...). Anyway, that can get to be pretty important whenever your campaigns get high enough level to do some planar travel, unless you're in Faerun and then whoever you want to talk to is probably part of a massive screaming wall because their god didn't like them enough.

    In short reason number two is that alignments are part of the cosmology and it kind of all falls apart without it.

    Reason number three is that no one has come up with a satisfactory fix for reasons one and two, because any change almost always needlessly complicates things for no reason. Most either say remove it entirely, which runs into issues with reason one, two, and four, or replace it with something so absurdly excessive that people have to remind the person making the suggestion that D&D isn't a real life sim and we don't have 5,000,000 alignments for the same reason D&D doesn't make you model the effect spells have on the global climate, most people don't care anywhere near enough to go through all that work and it doesn't really benefit the game in any way.

    There's not really a TLDR on that one, it's the way it is because no one has a way everyone agrees is better.

    Reason four is inertia, it'll stay the same until some outside force puts it in a position it has to change. Despite the frequent arguments from people who either don't understand how alignment works or just want to argue because clearly d&d is wrong and not them and the occasional complaint from people with legitimate issues with the system, the current alignment system by and large does its job and does it fine and isn't worth the inevitable issues whatever replaces it would have. It's better to stay the course that takes a bit longer to get where you're headed than change direction, ignore the map, and potentially fly off a cliff.

    Reason four, if it's only kind of broke don't fix it.

    TLDR: There are a lot of varied and complex reasons we still use and need alignment. It's a quick shorthand, the cosmology is built around it, no one has any better ideas, and while it's a bit broken, it's far from bad enough yet that it needs to be fixed

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    It's "needed" simply because the classical D&D settings are worlds heavily built around alignments. And D&D ruleset still does integrate many setting assumptions, pretty much like with Vancian magic.

    That said, I think this edition is the one that waters down alignments the most. I won't be surprised if in the next edition they go a step further and make alignments totally optional, reworking those few game mechanics that still need them.
    Last edited by Maan; 2019-05-15 at 03:34 AM.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    In fact, I think that 5e went too far in divorcing mechanics from alignment. In a world where Heaven and Hell, angels, demons, and devils, literally exist, and can be interacted with directly, there should be magic that can detect someone's alignment, or affect people of different alignments differently.

    The catch is just that too many people misunderstand alignment. When you create a character, alignment isn't a straightjacket on your personality: You should pick your personality first (which can be as simple or complicated as you choose to make it), and then decide what alignment best fits it (which may well sometimes be somewhat ambiguous). And detecting alignment shouldn't be regarded as an "OK to kill" label: The innkeeper who deliberately gets patrons drunk so they won't notice him swindling them might well be evil, but he probably doesn't deserve to die for it.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Eh, when I DM I dont even ask what alignment the characters are. That said, my players enjoy assigning their character an alignment and playing to it. I suppose it does help with alignment oriented magics but if no one made their own designation I would just make a judgement call based on how they had been playing as to the effect.

    Its main value to me is as a pretty decent short hand for general world view and behavior for non-player entities.
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by rmnimoc View Post
    If he's Lawful Evil the Devils of Baator will host (and roast) his soul (Literally the only reason that place exists is to convince people to maybe stop being evil. Sadly the Devils are evil and decided they'd rather just have more bodies to throw at their war with the demons, so...).

    Thankfully, this is not 5e lore.

    The Nine Hells don't exist to convince anyone, they exist because it's the planar manifestation of lawful evil. And the good gods are specifically described as too benevolent to use that kind of coercition.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    There's a bunch of mechanical effects tied to alignment.
    Wow, I didn't expect to be hit by all of those at once. So here goes:
    Spoiler: Disputes
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    Alignment-changing effects could be handled by either describing their new personality, a la monster flavor-text, or by an alteration of bonds, traits, and flaws.

    I don't see why demiliches shouldn't damage evil creatures they don't like, so that could be changed to "non-friendly creatures" or somesuch.
    Similarly, I don't see any problem with letting anyone permanently kill a lemure if blessed; in fact, I think it's kinda odd that their overlords don't have any way to permanently kill a lemure who has failed them for the last time without ordering some holy water from their neighbors upstairs.
    Ditto with the Night Hag's ability. I'd argue they're more threatening if anyone can be taken, and they don't seem to fit well in a "punisher of the guilty" role.
    The rakshasha's vulnerability is another weird permutation on fitting an old legend into D&D mechanics. I feel that "A piercing weapon wielded by a cleric" would fit about as badly.
    Why can't shadows create spawn from douchebags? Seems like they'd have more shade to draw out.
    The sprite's alignment-detection ability is random, I'm fine with cutting it.
    The unicorn's ability could be rewritten as "creatures it finds worthy," which lets it include what would formerly be True Neutral druids while excluding LG industrialists.
    The gold dragon's ability could be rewritten like the paladin's divine sense; it warns most creature types of the presence of fiends/undead.

    The Candle of Invocation could be changed to "creatures which support/follow the god's dogma". More complicated, but also more precise (and fits better with the less alignment-based clerical restrictions).
    Blackrazor not working with anyone lawful, ever but being willing to work with anyone else that keeps it fed seems...out-of-character, if such a thing can be said of a one-dimensional villain who happens to be a sword. Similarly, it seems weird that Moonblade would serve a CN elven anarchist but not an LG half-elven paladin. Tying intelligent items to alignment cheapens them, in my opinion. To me, it makes more sense that they'd have rules or guidelines on who can work with them. Blackrazor works for anyone who keeps it fed and entertained, while Moonblade only works with those actively promoting the well-being of elvenkind.

    I don't see why Spirit Guardians needs a restriction on who can deal Radiant/Necrotic damage. It arguably makes sense for each church (or each cleric) to have Spirit Guardians only deal one of those types, but it arguably makes even more sense to just make it Radiant damage for everyone. (Doesn't Sacred Flame already let those creepy Always Chaotic Evil death-priests use radiant damage?)
    There wouldn't be an easy way to give "Glyph of Warding" a trigger/don't-trigger condition as broad as alignment if that system didn't exist,
    Nystul's Magic Aura obviously wouldn't need to mask one's alignment from detection if there weren't any effects that detected it. (And there aren't very many left, so that's an almost vestigial feature at this point.)

    I don't see why the Oathbreaker paladin or the Death Cleric must be evil. A paladin who sought dark power for what he believes are good ends could easily be at least Lawful Neutral (not to mention that the paladin oaths aren't all LG in this edition), and there's no shortage of Neutral or even Good death gods even in D&D.

    The Book of Exalted Deeds, Talismen of Ultimate Whatever, Robes of the Archmagi, and of course the planes are problems, which tie into Kyutaru's point.



    Quote Originally Posted by GreyBlack View Post
    It's still a refutation of the point that "no important mechanics are tied to alignment." They are. Sure, it's less integral than it previously was, but the important mechanics are there. Here, you're kinda using either a "No true Scotsman" or a "Moving the goalposts" argument. Just because it _can_ be replaced doesn't mean it was.
    The problem with this is that "important" is an incredibly subjective term. I don't consider details on a dozen monsters, activation conditions for a dozen magic items, a handful of spell effects, or two subclasses to be particularly important, but you might.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kyutaru View Post
    Alignment is needed (and I emphasize the need) merely because of D&D's planar cosmology and deities.
    See, this is the sort of thing I was looking for. It's a point I hadn't considered. Sure, you could keep the cosmology and remove its mechanical basis, but that would be kinda dumb. There would be all sorts of bits of lore and setting quirks that don't quite fit together anymore, and it wouldn't be connected to the mechanics the way they are now.
    The "deities" side of the argument is weaker, though.


    Quote Originally Posted by rmnimoc View Post
    To really explain why we need this, we first need to define what good, evil, law, and chaos are in D&D. "Good" is anything that Archons, Eladrin, and Guardinals all agree on. "Evil" is what that Demons, Devils, and Yugoloth agree on. "Law" is what that Devils, Archons, and Modrons share and "Chaos" is the same for Demons, Eladrin, and Slaadi.
    I like this idea, but considering that the outsiders are currently defined by their alignments, it's pretty friggin' circular. (Also, there's not a lot that all Lawful, Chaotic, or Evil outsiders agree on.)

    Reason number two that we need alignment is that it's a lynchpin of the afterlife in non-forgotten realms campaigns. Where do you go when you die? Well, you go to your god, but what if you didn't worship a specific God well enough? Your soul goes to one of the nine planes (technically 16 but no one remembers the planes between the major ones on alignment) depending on your alignment.
    Did they get rid of that wall where all souls not dedicated to any god either dissolve into nothing or get stolen by demons, which is incidentally one of the biggest reasons possible for saying the gods don't deserve your worship? About friggin' time.

    Reason number three is that no one has come up with a satisfactory fix for reasons one and two, because any change almost always needlessly complicates things for no reason.
    I'd argue that you could simplify things while removing alignment, and keeping bits of the cosmology intact. You have a few general philosophies that the gods either accept, reject, or are neutral to. (Or just don't make any wars in heaven important to your story and focus on small stuff, like the world being engulfed in a war between kingdoms or a mad lich who wants to destroy it all.) Mortals follow these gods, the divine philosophies, or nothing in particular. This solves issue 1 and invalidates issue 2.

    I guess you can say that having an extra layer between "core philosophy" and "character beliefs" is complicating things, but I'd argue that the way a character interprets their alignment is a pre-existing wall that overshadows that wall—and, incidentally, makes it difficult to justify alignment as the basis for ideology. You say a conflict between a Lawful Good character and a Chaotic Good character probably comes from their views on order and freedom, but that's bull-honkey. If two characters exist outside their alignment, they can come into conflict on things unrelated to their alignment. For instance, the Lawful Good character might want the group to protect a small village instead of a large town (despite this not being particularly Lawful or Good) because it's his childhood home and he couldn't stand it being destroyed, and the Chaotic Good character might object for reasons that are neither chaotic nor good (such as "It's in the middle of a plain, there's no way we can stop an army from destroying it, but we might be able to do something here").
    Or heck, maybe the town is the CG character's hometown, which brings me to another point. Two characters can be driven into conflict by identical motives. Just as two characters might be driven into conflict by the same sense of hometown loyalty, just from different towns, they might be driven into conflict by the same sense of do-goodness, just from different perspectives of what's "good" (or at least which evil is lesser). And it's even easier to think of ways that two people following some form of Law, Chaos, or Evil would come into conflict.
    In short, if you don't use the strictest, most straightjacketey, and most boring form of alignment, it is essentially useless as a marker for ideological conflict.

    Reason four is inertia, it'll stay the same until some outside force puts it in a position it has to change.
    I specifically asked people not to bring this up, because it's obvious and not interesting to discuss. Why did you ignore that? Did you read anything past the title?


    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    People gives too much importance to alignments. Probably because of the pop culture perception of the the 3.X version.
    What's even the point of pre-empting obvious counterpoints if people still make them?
    It doesn't matter if problems come from people doing alignment "wrong". If there's no way to make them do it "right," it's still a problem.

    Also, 5e does not need often/usually/always indicators for alignment, and that does not "make it worse": 5e alignment is ALWAYS an "usually X", on an individual level.
    I only noticed the lack of a designator when one entry (cloud giant, I think?) specified that 50% of them are Neutral Good and 50% are Neutral Evil. That kind of specificity (as opposed to something like "Neutral Good or Neutral Evil") makes the rest of alignment entries seem a lot stricter...as does implying that there are about as many good goblins as good demons.
    And to reiterate, intent does not matter if it is not properly conveyed. When you read the 3.5 orc statblock, you read that orcs are "Usually Chaotic Evil". When you read the 5e orc statblock, you read that orcs are "Chaotic Evil". Whatever the design intent, the two designations leave immensely different impressions on the reader...especially if they didn't think to read the bit in the introduction where minor flavor-ey details were explained and defined.
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Alignment is useful for DMs to figure out behavior of NPCs. Alignment of PCs should be decided by the DM (possibly after discussion with the players) if it ever becomes relevant and ignored otherwise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I only noticed the lack of a designator when one entry (cloud giant, I think?) specified that 50% of them are Neutral Good and 50% are Neutral Evil. That kind of specificity (as opposed to something like "Neutral Good or Neutral Evil") makes the rest of alignment entries seem a lot stricter...as does implying that there are about as many good goblins as good demons.
    And to reiterate, intent does not matter if it is not properly conveyed. When you read the 3.5 orc statblock, you read that orcs are "Usually Chaotic Evil". When you read the 5e orc statblock, you read that orcs are "Chaotic Evil". Whatever the design intent, the two designations leave immensely different impressions on the reader...especially if they didn't think to read the bit in the introduction where minor flavor-ey details were explained and defined.
    This is true that it leaves different impressions on the read. I would have preferred them to say "Always Chaotic Evil" where applicable. Like in Warhammer 40k, Tyranids are always hungry aliens that destroy all life in existence to consume and breed and expand. There are no Chaotic Good Tyranids. There is only the swarm and it's singular in purpose. Devils are never nice, they are ALWAYS Lawful Evil. Something like an Orc can go six ways from Sunday.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    I'm going to split my answer.

    D&D the system can do perfectly fine without alignment. As evidenced by the fact that I've completely removed it from my games other than as a non-binding shorthand descriptor in my notes on certain NPCs. All mechanical effects no longer interact with it (and are handled otherwise). Every individual (including gods, angels, devils, and demons) is perfectly free to make their own choices. Those labels (angel, devil, demon) describe their role in the cosmic order, not their nature and inclinations.

    D&D the metaverse does need alignment, because it's rather baked into and central to the cosmology. It answers (badly, IMO, but that's personal taste) a lot of the central questions about the universe and why certain groups do certain things. I ended up making sweeping changes to basically all the cosmological and racial lore as part of my setting. Mainly because I wanted to, but in part because I was freed from alignment as a cosmic force.
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Whatever it was in the past in 5e Alignment is there as a way for a player to gain inspiration just like personality traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by rmnimoc View Post
    Reason number two that we need alignment is that it's a lynchpin of the afterlife in non-forgotten realms campaigns. Where do you go when you die?
    Everyone goes to fade away in Dolurrh, regardless of alignment. It's not a reward, it's not a punishment, it just *is*.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    It never needed alignment. It has always been better when you dropped alignment.

    It could perhaps have served a function, if it had ever been properly defined and given a stated purpose.
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    There is no objective, inherent-to-the-concept-of-alignment problem with alignment as it is in 5e.

    The rest is just tastes, and one should always make their RPG taste the way they like it.

    I personally see no problem with a MM statblock having a shorthand descriptor of the typical orc mook as chaotic evil, when the MM, Volo's, PHB and all the adventure modules explain why the typical orc's behavior in the default setting fits the shorthand, while also making clear and explicit how individuals can have a different behavior (necessitating a different descriptor) and how different settings can have a different default.

    If there was the descriptor without explanation, or if the explanation was illogical, counterfactual or badly done (hello Tome of Exalted Deeds) I would be among the first to lambast it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    There is no objective, inherent-to-the-concept-of-alignment problem with alignment as it is in 5e.

    The rest is just tastes, and one should always make their RPG taste the way they like it.

    I personally see no problem with a MM statblock having a shorthand descriptor of the typical orc mook as chaotic evil, when the MM, Volo's, PHB and all the adventure modules explain why the typical orc's behavior in the default setting fits the shorthand, while also making clear and explicit how individuals can have a different behavior (necessitating a different descriptor) and how different settings can have a different default.

    If there was the descriptor without explanation, or if the explanation was illogical, counterfactual or badly done (hello Tome of Exalted Deeds) I would be among the first to lambast it.
    I mean, again, this all goes back to the fact that D&D the game (as opposed to the 5e system, see also 3.x D&D vs d20 systems as a whole) can't be disentangled from its setting, doesn't it? I think everyone in this thread will agree that not all RPG's need an alignment system and most are actively made worse for including them. But that's because they're not D&D, with all the setting baggage that implies.
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreyBlack View Post
    I mean, again, this all goes back to the fact that D&D the game (as opposed to the 5e system, see also 3.x D&D vs d20 systems as a whole) can't be disentangled from its setting, doesn't it? I think everyone in this thread will agree that not all RPG's need an alignment system and most are actively made worse for including them. But that's because they're not D&D, with all the setting baggage that implies.
    D&D can be disentangled from its setting, and is often better off for doing so. There's a lot of legacy cruft that's only there because of inertia and "who moved my cheese"-itis. You can even do so and remain recognizable as D&D.
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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Plenty of good points all around, but I will touch on two --

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    The smaller point is that most people playing D&D probably have at least a little experience separating a character they play from themselves, since most people who want to try a TRPG have probably played a VRPG before.
    Hard no. Assuming people here on forums like this are the norm of the gaming public is a non-starter. Particularly if we are talking about 5e, which went significantly out of it's way to be a plausible entry point into the hobby. Just this weekend my local paper had an article about how D&D is having a resurgence, particularly with new players. The game is meant to be playable to someone without outside context. There are small-print/indy RPGs which have an intro section which says something along the lines of "we'd include a chapter on 'what is an RPG?' and a tutorial on how the different dice work and how to read '3d6+8' and other such terms, but we're pretty sure if you're even considering this game you have twelve or more games on your shelf which have already done so." D&D will never get to be that game. It is the industry leader and as such has to be noobie-friendly.

    First, alignment is an easy "This is an acceptable target" marker. I don't think there should be such markers, but they can help some styles of game. Except that there's no shortage of stereotypically-evil behaviors you can give a creature (eating people, pillaging caravans, etc) which accomplish the same result while giving each monster flavor. The major evil races have always had at least a paragraph or two of flavor-text describing their version of evil, and most evil creatures at least had a sentence on their crimes. However, the 5e monster manual comes with detailed flavor text as a standard option for basically all creatures. Almost every "usually evil" monster comes with a detailed explanation of what stereotypically evil acts they engage in, often with an explanation of what drives them. I think it's fair to say that this purpose, aside from being stupid, is obsolete.
    So alignment is obsolete because monster descriptions also explain that the creatures listed as evil are evil? I mean, it's a salient point, but how is that different than arguing that having 'humanoid' listed in the statblock of elves and kobolds and such are obsolete because the monster description undoubtedly will make that clear as well? Shorthands exist to be quickly and readily noted at first glance. I think there are real questions about whether a game like D&D needs to have inherent 'bad guys' in the first place*, but I don't think that exchanging the 'bad guys' designator right up there at the top of the monster statblock for an wordier description down below with the same net result changes the effective dynamic all that much. I agree that alignment was more of a needed shorthand when page count requirements meant that each monster needed to take 48 lines of text at most, but I don't see the elimination of the shorthand itself specifically to be all that meaningful.
    *Although thank you for noting that 'This is an acceptable target' has a functional purpose for the game.

    Overall, though, I do think that alignment has caused at least as much trouble as it has added benefit to the game. It certainly worked best in the early game, when it was mostly a 'team good-guys'/'team bad-guys'/'neutral' distinction. When oD&D branched from Chainmail, switching it from Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic 'alignment' to 'potential adversary'/neutral/'potential ally' 'presumed game role' demarcation probably would have been better (and adding a good-evil axis to law-chaos certainly opened a can of worms).

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    You can easily pull Alignment off the character sheet with little problem; and the game is still a great and playable game; but at some point you pull enough DnD out of the game and I’m forced to wonder why you even call it Dungeons and Dragons anymore besides marketing?

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Nope.

    But I find 5e's take on it exceptionally useful tool. (1) as a roleplaying aid for players, and (2) as a DM tool in delineating unacceptable overall behaviors at the outset of character creation

    1) A strong moral & ethical single sentence motivation is a very useful roleplaying aid for both new, and even more importantly experienced*, players. It sucks if it's the only one of course, but when it's one of 5 such motivational sentences. But 5-6 clearly stated one (or at most 2) sentence motivations across a broad spectrum of categories is one of the best RPG tools I've seen to date. There's a reason a bunch of narrative heavy developers have used in in their (often otherwise surprisingly mechanics oriented) RPGs. Luke Crane, Heinsoo, the AW devs, Free League, etc.

    2) The DM can easily say "see this behavior right here *points* no characters that typically / generally act like that."

    The teams aspect is a useful tertiary benefit in many campaigns, and in that case benefit (2) is even stronger.

    *experienced players often have developed terrible ideas about what constitutes good characterization and/or roleplaying.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Naanomi View Post
    You can easily pull Alignment off the character sheet with little problem; and the game is still a great and playable game; but at some point you pull enough DnD out of the game and I’m forced to wonder why you even call it Dungeons and Dragons anymore besides marketing?
    So what? I want my game to be good. Not to be "true D&D".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    So what? I want my game to be good. Not to be "true D&D".
    "Good" in this context is subjective.

    Do you care at all if you're playing D&D or a different system for your setting?

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    For me alignment still have 2 roles:
    1) It communicates to your DM what behavior they should expect from your character. It allows your DM to efficiently prepare (don't need to think about how strong are the guard if you know the PCs will cooperate, ...).
    2) It is practical for world building. The difference between devils and demons is central in D&D, and that's just a difference in alignment. D&D pantheons are build around the alignment system, having a balance of good and evil, and law and chaos. While there is no necessities for alignment to be part of the universe, if you want a D&D-like universe, you need to use alignments to guide your design.

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    Default Re: Does D&D Still Need Alignment?

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    2) It is practical for world building. The difference between devils and demons is central in D&D, and that's just a difference in alignment. D&D pantheons are build around the alignment system, having a balance of good and evil, and law and chaos. While there is no necessities for alignment to be part of the universe, if you want a D&D-like universe, you need to use alignments to guide your design.
    This is the part I strongly dislike about alignment (from a philosophical point of view). My setting started as a 4e setting (which then got cataclysm'd in preparation for a switch to 5e), so demons and devils are not about alignment, but about goals. And when I decided to throw out fixed alignments entirely, I found that a better distinction (for me) was in the role/power source of those creatures.

    Demons are anybody who feeds on souls, on the actual full being. So being involved in blood magic or any of the myriad of similar soul-manipulation arts draws one closer to demonhood and to the abyss.

    Devils are of the same stock as angels, but don't have the direct tap into the flow of divine power. They're contract workers for divinity (or for anyone who will hire/make contracts them) and are organized more mafia-style.

    I strongly (at a basic level) hate the idea that anyone is denied agency/freedom of choice. I hate the "designated punching bag" status. Same goes for dragons. We fig leaf that they really do have choice, but then deny it in actual play. I strongly prefer people to all be people, and people can fall, people can be redeemed. Having the "I have to be evil because I'm made of evil" trope cheapens things (for me). I prefer people to be evil because they act and desire evil.

    But my world is still recognizably "D&D". In fact, I personally think it's closer to "real" 5e D&D than those which are built on legacy cruft that no longer really applies. yes, I'm aware that I'm very biased in this matter and so should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Doesn't change the fact that I'm right.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2019-05-17 at 06:49 AM.
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