After being conspicuously absent from the last two adventure books, it seems that alignment is returning to the monster stat blocks in D&D’s latest book.
Alignment is a tenuous thing in 5th Edition. We’ve talked before about how it doesn’t actually do most of the things you think it does in the game. The detect evil spell doesn’t actually detect if anyone’s got an evil alignment, you aren’t barred from playing any class, even a cleric of life or a paladin of the oath of devotion if you play an evil character–the only thing it does is describe how much of a selfish bastard you are to people.
That, and it determines whether or not certain intelligent magic items think you’re cool or a dweeb (and if they think you’re a dweeb they might try to hijack your body for a bit).
In real life it’s been used to portray harmful stereotypes like Orcs, Drow, and other intelligent, humanoid cultures always being evil no matter what–WotC has spoken at length on the subject and outlined how they’d be changing that going forward in their various Diversity statements. So when Alignment seemed to have vanished from the game in the last few books, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, it seemed that 5th Edition was moving away from the concept in general.
Monster stat blocks and NPC entries, some of the few places where you could find reference to anything’s alignment, were missing that descriptor. But in previews we’ve seen from the latest D&D book, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: A Feywild Adventure, alignment is back.
You can find it in the stat blocks for monsters like the Jabberwock, previewed on D&D Beyond:
Or in the various entries for some of the human NPCs like Strongheart and Warduke.
A few things worth noting, now the stat blocks either spell out things like “typically chaotic evil,” which means that you wouldn’t be surprised to find a Jabberwocks that’s evil, but others do exist in the world; while other entries, like the specific NPCs spell out their particular alignments.
And creatures without any free will, like the Glasswork Golem are just listed as unaligned, meaning they don’t have any choice of how they act. They just do without morality.
So, for those of you who considered seeing whether or not a creature was typically evil or typically good a helpful roleplaying prompt, it’s back. But as ever, alignment in 5th Edition is just a vestigial sac that doesn’t really impact the game outside of a few key areas.
It is very intertwined with the early canon of D&D, though as the team at WotC have pointed out, each edition of D&D has its own canon. So while there’s always been an Orcus, there isn’t always the same Orcus. Similarly, the 9-axis alignment hasn’t always been 9 different boxes (lookin’ at you 4th Edition).
Will a future game remove this stuff? Probably not. D&D is bound up in its traditions and history. Just like you couldn’t have a Warhammer 40K game without regular Space Marines having a 3+ armor save, it’s hard to imagine D&D without alignment.
But maybe something will come along to Primaris D&D.
What do you think of alignment: good? bad? neutral?