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My players are level 9 and one wants to change alignment from lawful to chaotic.

I have the DMG, but I can't find anything about changing alignment half way through a campaign.

Personally I feel that life experience during an adventure can change a character. I just wanted to know if there is anything that says he can't.

Are there any rules or guidelines for this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "one wants to change alignment from lawful to chaotic" — can you describe the purpose of this? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 22 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Are there official guidelines for a DM to change the alignment of a player's character? \$\endgroup\$ – Nepene Nep Aug 22 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NepeneNep Related, but I don't think it's a duplicate. That question asks about the DM changing alignment - this question is one where the player wants to change. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 22 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NepeneNep I am with Naut on this. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 22 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Has the character been essentially played as a more chaotic character than lawful until now? Will the character be played differently? \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Aug 23 at 14:37
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Barring magical/other interference, alignment is a player choice.

Nothing in the rules forbids this. While it is not explicitly said that player can change alignment at will, Player's Handbook (page 122) describes alignment as a choice:

For many thinking creatures, alignment is a moral choice. Humans, dwarves, elves, and other humanoid races can choose whether to follow the paths of good or evil, law or chaos.


Effects of alignment and broader discussion

Alignment serves as guidance for players to roleplay their characters. As characters develop over the course of a campaign with new experiences their worldview might change, prompting the player to change alignment.

Since alignment is mostly roleplay based it is up to the DM to decide how much (if at all) is alignment is going to be foregrounded in the game.

I have changed the alignment of my paladin from Lawful to Chaotic when he started to distrust the authority of his order. It allowed me to support his character development and show it on the character sheet without changing how the character played mechanically and we didn't encounter any roadblocks.

I have been allowing alignment shifts in games I DM (after talking to the player about their reasoning) and it went smoothly so far.


Possible Pitfalls

There are magical items that require attunement by creatures of certain alignment (or give out bonuses according to it). I have not encountered this, but it is possible for players to initiate this change (or even try to switch alignment back and forth to be able to use these items).

Such items include:

  • Robe of the Archmagi
  • Candle of Invocation
  • Sword of Answering
  • Moonblade

and others. I consider it an abuse of a DM ruling and am wary of it.


Exceptions to consider

There are certain effects that make the DM change a PC's alignment (with the possibility of taking control of the PC by the GM). Most notably Lycanthropy. In this case, just letting the player change alignment back at will clearly goes against the intent of the mechanic.


Also see related: Are there official guidelines for a DM to change the alignment of a player's character? The linked question talks about the DM initiating the alignment change, not a player, but it is still relevant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The rules are not very explicit here. I would personally want my players to tie the alignment change with the narrative of the campaign, but rules (except for certain magical effects) don't limit it as far as I know. \$\endgroup\$ – Deeps Aug 22 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since alignment is not handled in detail in the rules I decided to only provide the citation, but I will update the answer and go more in-depth on alignment and also possible abuse of changing it. \$\endgroup\$ – Deeps Aug 22 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since alignment (morality) depends largely on how you were raised at least for PCs (background plays a role) I don't allow changing unless there is some foundation-shaking event that could lead the PC to question everything he has believed in to that point. This is usually a huge RP undertaking though and typically leads to a deeper personal story-line for the PC. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 22 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alignment is something you pick during character creation, this answer basically sums up to "there are no rules that say you can't change this part of character creation later". But if you go with that reasoning, there's absolutely nothing stopping Bob the Human Evil Wizard from suddenly becoming Bella the Minotaur Good Paladin, because there are also no rules for as far as I know that specifically ban changing those other things you've chosen during character creation. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Aug 23 at 8:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a note, effects that allow a DM to forcibly change a PC's alignment should only be used if the target PC's player is okay with their agency being completely or temporarily removed. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Time Aug 24 at 17:45
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I use alignment descriptively instead of prescriptively.

If a character is played as Good, then they are Good. If the player changes how they play, the character can become Evil. When the change reaches the character sheet is up to the DM, based on time and significant events.

Players who want that change should be encouraged to make such changes gradually, and should be rewarded with an interesting story. The player should make their goal of changing known to the DM, who should work to lay out situations and experiences that highlight the character's progression. Once the character's actions have been consistent for enough time then the change should reach the character sheet.

I have found that new players are often confused by alignment, and I usually tell them to leave it blank or to fill in 'Neutral'. If a player chooses an alignment (usually Good), I never force them to act on it, but instead use it as a guide. Several times when a player has surprised me by making a particularly Evil action I have asked what their character's alignment was, and informed them that their actions weren't typical of the alignment that they chose or consistent with their behavior so far. I let them know that they can still choose the Evil action, but if they continue to do so that their alignment will change. The end result is that while I as DM determine when the character statistic that is alignment changes, it is the player who made the decision to change their behavior.

I have not read anything in the source material or otherwise (except as quoted in @Deeps answer) that suggests a better or more official way for alignment to change in 5e.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with using alignment descriptively rather than prescriptively. That is a great way to contextualize it. However, having an alignment on the character sheet and using it to ground the roleplay helps from the character being discombobulated and thematically all over the place. \$\endgroup\$ – Deeps Aug 22 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Deeps I feel like leaving it blank allows new players to act naturally, instead of frequently raising morality questions. Ultimately though, the DM is the guide. Their character has an alignment, and hopefully I as the DM have been paying enough attention to say when the character is acting out of ...character. For experienced players though, sure, they can guide themselves. I like having it for myself when I play. But the game is complicated enough for new players, especially during character creation, that I feel alignment is best left for later. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Aug 22 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have found that new players are often confused by alignment, and I usually tell them to leave it blank or to fill in 'Neutral' I have been doing that for years, before 5e ever came out. That is better advice you give is superior to what is in the PHB and the Basic Rules. I wish I could +many for that, but I can't bounty this yet. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 22 at 21:16
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You're the DM, so the answer is always "of course this can happen".

What I would be asking, though, is why they want to make a two-step jump. Why not neutral on the order/chaos axis? Other than through a truly transformative (and probably traumatic) experience, people don't generally change their personality drastically.

If it's for meta-gaming reasons, I would be hesitant, but rule of fun trumps all.

I would require them to come up with an in-game reason for the change and roleplay it. Possibly change to neutral at one level-up, and chaotic at the next.

If this has no in-game benefit, then I'm willing to bet that they've already not been playing their character as Lawful anyway, in which case you should definitely have them change the alignment to the way they've been playing the character. If that comes with a drawback, they'll have to pay the price.

A lot of people choose Chaotic because they think it means they can do whatever they want. It's not quite like that - Chaotic is a quite deliberate disregard of the law (except as it might directly impact them, or those around them, in line with their Good/Evil alignment axis). So crossing at a red light late at night, when no one is around, because the purpose of the law is to keep people safe is not necessarily Chaotic - it's not a flagrant disregard for rules, it's an acknowledgement that the rule doesn't apply. Crossing in the middle of the day because you're sure you can make it across in time, that's Chaotic. The rule definitely applies, you're potentially inconveniencing someone, you just don't care. You'd probably prefer that red lights don't exist at all, and everyone just sorts themselves out. Ultimate libertarian, that's Chaotic.

So if what they want is to choose when they obey the law and when they don't (as opposed to Chaotic, who won't care if it's legal or not unless they could end up in jail) then maybe they want to be Neutral anyway?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Xaraxia, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. "I would require them to come up with an in-game reason for the change and roleplay it." - have you done this in a game? How did it work out? We like answers that support opinion with examples from experience. This is a good answer but if you have that experience adding it would make it great. Thanks for contributing and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Aug 23 at 3:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @linksassin . I have done this, but it was so long ago and went so smoothly that I don't recall any of the details. A lot of it comes down to the willingness of the player to work with the DM to create this fictional world. \$\endgroup\$ – Xaraxia Aug 28 at 2:24
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If it's a new player, then let them have an "out" to modify their new character to suit their play style as they go.

When starting out, there's a ton of mechanics thrown at new players. They may have it in their mind to be a hero, so "lawful good!" But, as they play, the reality of it sets in, they start to get examples of what lawful vs. chaotic is, and they suddenly realize they're more of a "renegade cop that plays by his own rules" instead of the "by-the-book cop".

So, if that's the case... sure, go for it.

Even if it's a seasoned player that just wants to make a tweak to their character... sure... as long as they're not being munchkin about it.

Also, if the character has gone through a very traumatic series of events that made them question their morale compass... I could see that happening. During the middle of an adventure? Sure, why not. Maybe the character has shakey resolve. Maybe they're the type of person easily persuaded by things in life, and take up new beliefs easily. I would probably add a penalty to them to make it happen, though... something that represents their too-easy ability to have their morale beliefs changed (like penalties to CHA checks others perform on them when espousing personal beliefs, or maybe some kind of resolve penalty to reflect their weak will.) This would be something I'd let them "work off" later... as their character truly figured out who they were with personal growth and strengthened resolve.

But, if there's some rules-abusing / munchkin'ing going on, then, no.

There's going to be players that want to take advantage of the system or the generosity of the DM for a "do over". If you give a munchkin this chance this time, they'll just abuse it again... and eventually you'll be asking them at the start of every session "what alignment are you playing today?" Or, they'll try to swing the special situation into some kind of stupid perk they have... like "able to shift alignment at-will" or "able to emulate any alignment they want".

You don't want nonsense like that.

So, as others said, depends on the player and the circumstances.

Generally, alignment is the characters deep-down beliefs. It's not the kind of thing that can be changed easily.

But, there is a lot of good literature that focuses on character alignment shift as part of story arcs. Morgan in Walking Dead shifted alignments several times from a psychopathic killer to a law-abiding life-cherishing protector.

There are other stories where a law-abiding character has a traumatic experience happen (eg: family murdered), and they realize the police or such can't help them... so they take the law into their own hands.

Exceptional changes in character are driven by exceptional circumstances, though.

If the player just wants to change alignment so they can use some spiffy weapon they found... no.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 25 at 4:13

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