How do you handle alignment?

One thought on “How do you handle alignment?

  1. Here are my unsolicited thoughts on alignment.

    Mechanically, it barely registers in 5th Edition. As far as I know, there 5 or less (almost certainly less) magical items that require an alignment, and they’re all mighty powerful. One of those items is the Robe of the Archmagi, which exists for all alignments anyway but are different colors. Then there is the Rakshasa that is vulnerable to piercing damage dealt by good-aligned characters.

    Narratively, it barely registers for *Player Characters.* It’s very great narratively for NPCs and forces of alignment such as demons, modrons, celestials, and the like, as a battle for order vs chaos, or good vs evil, or like demons and fiends for lawful evil vs chaotic evil. As a roleplaying tool, it’s better replaced by the more fluid personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws within the Background section. The more those backgrounds are expanded, the less useful alignment is.
    Like Mr. Mercer has said, morality can be situationally fluid. I’m willing to bet that if you have 20 D&D players in a room, and ask them to write down what it means to be lawful evil, you’ll get 18-20 different answers. We perceive these differently, and that’s okay, but it too often doesn’t do a great job at assisting roleplay and leads to arguments. Ultimately what falls into each of the nine boxes of alignment is up to the DM, but mechanically there is no difference between them. If one player believes he’s acting Chaotic Good, but the DM believes he’s acting Chaotic Neutral or otherwise, what really changes? They might enter a discussion over it, but there are no rules that say anything changes (unless of course one has homebrewed some). There’s no punishment for changing alignment, or reward. Nothing. So at best, nothing happens, and more likely what’s worse, is it can result in an argument which is pointless.

    So what do we do for player characters if we don’t do anything with alignment?
    Us DMs probably all already do what I’m about to say. We provide consequences in the game. That rogue who stole from the nobles of that city? They hire an investigator. That Wild Magic Sorcerer that accidentally killed innocents? People are looking for justice. That paladin that gives their funds to the poor and the churches? Those people and communities help the paladin when they need a place to sleep, or their party is wounded.

    TLDR: Alignment doesn’t make much difference balance or mechanics wise.
    Nearly everyone perceives each alignment differently, and the background system better assists roleplaying, in my opinion. Your game will benefit more from reacting to player characters with consequences to their actions instead of changing alignments (but of course, these are not mutually exclusive and if alignment works for you and your table, you can do both).

    I hope this helps somebody somewhere!

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