The general consensus about alignment in 5e is that it sucks. Get rid of it. It’s a useless, outdated system the has no place in the game anymore. I disagree. Alignment is an important piece of the game. It’s been around since the beginning and even though it has been watered down to the point of being obsolete, I think it still plays in important role in the game. Let me explain why.
Like every other blog & reddit post, I feel it necessary to describe how I interpret each of the alignments. There are a ton of good explanations out there. This is mine, and I tried to keep it short and sweet.
Lawful Good - You do good things…all the time - Mother Theresa
Lawful Neutral - I play by the rules - Batman
Lawful Evil - My rules should be followed, all the time, or swift punishment - Lucifer
Neutral Good - Not sure why, but I’m cool with fighting for you - Gandalf
Neutral - I’m not burdened by emotion. Balance is key - Yoda
Neutral Evil - Immoral asshats who will do whatever they can get away with - Dick Cheney
Chaotic Good - I’m trying, I swear - Dr. Who
Chaotic Neutral - I’ve got ADHD - Deadpool
Chaotic Evil - Mostly insane with no fucks left to give - The Joker (Heath Ledger of course)
The one alignment I had the hardest time thinking of an example for was Neutral. I found that I wasn’t alone, as many people say that Neutral is the hardest alignment to describe and also the hardest to play. I had a lot of discussion with friends about who would be a good example for this alignment. I was given many different examples of how neutral was and their explanations why (Lots of people said Thanos. Would people 3 years ago even have known who Thanos was?). I landed on Yoda. He was not the most popular choice, but I think he describes how the alignment should be played.
Yoda’s core belief is that there needs to be balance in the Force. Neither the Light or the Dark should have too much power or else the Force is not in balance and that is bad for everyone. We have gone through 7 movies now where the power of the dark side has fucked up everything in the galaxy. ( I argue that episode one was more of a political intrigue movies and the introduction to Darth Vader, but I digress). The other core belief that Yoda lives by is that emotions are bad. Emotions screwed up Vader, almost screwed up Luke, have totally fucked up Kylo Ren, and there is still the potential to screw with Rey. Yoda knows they can only lead to trouble and therefore should be left out of the equation. So, Yoda it’s for me when it comes Neutral.
“Great, so you just did what every other blog out there did.” Yep, I sure did. It’s a fun exercise, and everyone has an opinion on what alignments are and who is what. But I felt it was necessary to explain what I thought alignments were before I explained why they are still important and how they can be played effectively in 5e.
Because we are doing it all wrong.
Alignment is more than just something we write down on the character sheet at the beginning of the game and forget about. It shouldn’t be that the only time you change your alignment is when you need to attune to a magic items (I would NEVER do that ). Nor is it the end all be all on how our character would act. Alignments are fluid. No one is born into the world as Lawful or Evil. Your alignment should be discussed in your back story. Since you are describing who you were and who you’ve become, wouldn’t it make sense that your alignment may have evolved during your life. Add that into your back story. If you were the son of a noble who was brutally murdered and you were sold into slavery, I’m pretty sure your personality and therefore you alignment changed. People change as they grow up, and you should reflect that in your back story.
But it shouldn’t stop there. As you travel the world, slay creatures of all sizes, and reap rewards beyond your wildest dreams, your personality changes. Do you lust for blood after tasting it for the first time in battle? As you become stronger, do you crave power? Our characters should not only grow in strength, but should also grow as people. There is nothing that says we have to stay good or evil the entire game. There are a million things, big and small, that can influence a character as he goes through his journey in life. It’s only natural that he/she would change because of them.
Talk to your DM about this. Explain to him that you think your character could be influenced by the people and world around them. See how he feels about occasionally recapping with him about your character. Talk to him/her about how your character may have been influenced by the doings in the campaign and if it could possibly change how you view world and how you now interact with people. Discuss if that should impact what your alignment is and if you should change it. I think most DMs will be open to the idea if you explain to them. I think most DMs would agree that it can possibly add some flavor to the game.
People change. There’s no reason your character can’t too.
As always, feedback is appreciated!