Thursday, October 7, 2021

No, 5e Devils are Not Misunderstood. But Alignment Is.

why is this Devil smiling?
Misunderstood?
It's October and one of my favorite things to talk about are devils, demons, and all sorts of fiends.

You know what I don't like talking about? Alignment.  

Why? It is boring and tedious and so many people get confused with what is written down in the rules and what they understand it to be, or not to be.  And frankly, the conversations are never very interesting. 

Conversations about alignment in the pages of Dragon actually predate The Dragon and go all the way back to The Strategic Review.  Very little new light has been shed on the topic ever since.

So alignment has largely been one of those things I give lip service to because pulling out would make a bunch of other things break.  Like the spells Detect Evil or Protection from Evil are just two examples.  There needs to be something in place so they work.  Swords with intelligence and ego. Other magic items on the small scale and the planes of existence on the larger scale.

Most of the other RPGs I play don't have alignment. D&D is the only holdout.

I am not saying I don't want universal Good or Evil, or even Law and Chaos, in my games.  I do.  I want my devils to be evil, or even better yet, Evil, with a capital E.  Demons? I want creatures that make the Devils go "whoa, hold on there dude."  But I also have creatures Beyond Good and Evil.  Not just in a Nietzscheian way, but in ways that are unmeasurable and unknowable by mortal kind.   

So when the "new" publisher (they have been publishing D&D for longer than the "old" publisher) wants to try something new like say "Unaligned" or "Typically Chaotic Evil" then I applaud the effort.  When they want to do something really interesting like remove monster alignment altogether my response is "interesting, tell me more..."

But of course, there are going to be those that freak out about it and claim ridiculous notions that "Devils are no longer evil."  This is of course a complete stretch of what the D&D 5 team, and Jeremey Crawford actually said.  Plus the examples given are NOT for all of D&D nor even for the upcoming 5.5 or 5r, though they could be.  In this case, these only apply to the optional adventure The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.  

Typically
My 2e books list them as Neutral

Still Chaotic Evil
Still Chaotic Evil, 100% of the time

Will we see some of these ideas in the upcoming D&D 5 update? Most certainly. Will we see them all in this exact manner? Maybe. 2024 is still a bit off and WotC has demonstrated they want to take in fan feedback and the editing process is a pain in the ass.  Tasha's Cauldron of Everything dropped alignments (and they were not missed) Witchlight brought them back.  So obviously they are still experimenting.

This is nothing new.  We saw this in the early days of AD&D 2nd Ed.

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

But let's say for the sake of argument they drop alignments from all monsters.  What does that mean?

In 5.5/5r it means monsters won't have an alignment.  

That is the absolute sum total of it.  It does not affect my Basic-era-B/X-OSE games.  It does not affect NIGHT SHIFT games. And you know what, it doesn't even affect my current D&D 5e games. 

They are not doing anything terribly new or innovative here. Even by adding "typically" to the alignment they are still only explicitly doing what we implicitly knew or at least did anyway.

Devils will still be evil. Demons will still be evil. Maybe, maybe there will be an odd Devil that seeks out redemption or maybe even understanding to the point where they are not evil anymore.  Or not.  I don't care about redeeming devils, I only care how quickly my player's characters can put the fiends down.  

Seriously though the only people online complaining about this are people who loudly and often will exclaim with pride that they "never bought any WotC D&D and never will."  Fine. Whatever. It's ok not to like the newest version of D&D.  It's fine to prefer older versions.  But if you complain every single time WotC does something with D&D I am going to assume your hobby isn't playing D&D but rather complaining about it.

I am reminded of the Chicken Littleing that went on last year about Oriental Adventures and the big pile of nothing that happened after.  

5 comments:

Josh Burnett said...

As far as I can tell, the only mechanical use Alignment has in 5th Ed is how certain specific artifacts work. ("Detect/Protection from Evil" affects specific types of creatures now, not actual alignment, IIRC.)
Alignment is really only used as a role-playing cue. And as much as I love my Law v. Chaos cosmic struggle, getting rid of Alignment altogether wouldn't change much.

Dick McGee said...

Agreed. Much ado about nothing, again. Just plain tiresome.

JB said...

I've been thinking of some new uses for alignment in my game, ad it came specifically out of my work with AD&D devils in a recent project...so reading this is kind of a funny coincidence.

Victor Raymond said...

"Alignment" can be defined in a bunch of different ways - simply comparing some of the Appendix N source literature makes that plain: Moorcock's view is totally different from, say, Leiber's. It's an endlessly-shifting target that specific definition at the gaming table if it's going to get used at all. And not using it is totally cool.

Calstaff said...

I think if people looked at alignment as a reflection of how they act, rather than a restriction of how they must act, it wouldn't be so controversial.