Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Chaotic Neutral

Welcome to the Tower of the Archmage’s April A to Z Challenge!

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “C” the number “3” and the support of readers like you.

Thank you.

Chaotic Neutral can be described as being the alignment of ultimate personal freedom. The chaotic neutral character is the one that follows her whims, but doesn’t care about anyone else’s. They give no thought for society or anyone but themselves. They aren’t malicious, just selfish.

Aside from Psionics, the Chaotic Neutral alignment is the only other thing in my game that I ever outright banned. Any new players that came to my table with a CN character received one chance to come back with a character of a different alignment. I’d accept an evil character at the table before a chaotic neutral one.

The problem stems most likely from the group of people I was playing with. They were mostly high school and college age guys, and when given the option of playing a CN character, any and all chances of having a decent gaming session went out the window. The CN characters would engage in the most sophomoric and asshole-ish actions and any group coherency fell apart with cries of “I can do that, it’s his alignment!” It generally made people upset, me included, so relatively early on I threw down the Ban Hammer.

So what is it about the Chaotic Neutral alignment that seems to attract assholes? Or is it just that the Chaotic Neutral alignment is composed entirely of unlikeable assholes? A quick search of the characters generally assigned to CN in demotivational posters you end up with characters like Jack Sparrow, Ash, Jayne, and Steve Zissou. Now, the thing about all of these guys is that, yes, they’re selfish, and they can only be trusted so far, but not one of them will just stick a knife in a companion’s back because they just felt like it. Chaotic Neutral is about freedom, not insanity, but that distinction was lost on my players at that time.

Even now I find myself cringing at the words Chaotic Neutral. I think that I might… MIGHT be willing to let someone play a CN character now, but they would have to work at convincing me.

Yes, I'm posting this on Sunday. No, it's not because I want to get the drop on everyone else, but because tomorrow will be a Very Special Blog Post. Stay tuned!


  1. AD&D was terrible at naming and defining alignments so that they could be applied clearly to character behavior. "Chaotic" means "rejecting the intrinsic value of social hierarchy and convention" not "behaving randomly" like some right-wing caricature of an anarchist.

    If I ran an alignment scheme I would specify that the CN equivalent has a basic, non-universal morality ("be good to friends") but ignores social rank and rules in applying this morality ("be good to friends even if the King has named them outlaws for speaking ill of him.")

  2. CN has always been my favourite alignment and the one I've used the most as a player. I've never been an arsehole about it though and don't see any problem with being both a team player and a CN character. And I guess that's the difference between my experience and those of the player's you've unfortunately had to deal with David. Even chaotic evil characters can be team players if they think it's in their best interests to do so.

  3. I do think it comes down to people's interpretation of that alignment, but I have seen it played badly too. Hmm, don't think I've ever seen it played well, to be honest. Best examples I ever had were NPCs and belonged to the denizens of limbo in Planescape.

  4. simple rule: If anarchists reject the rule of law; they waive the protections of law.

    Let your players mete out justice to the CN jerks. It's OK. It's their alignment.

  5. I've rarely had to deal with the sort of player who seems to think CN means freedom from all consequences of their PC's behavior. Luckily.