How to Play a Chaotic-Neutral Character in Dungeons and Dragons
What Is Chaotic-Neutral?
Chaotic-neutral is a character alignment in the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. Character alignments essentially describe how a character behaves and makes decisions based on their personality and beliefs. The alignments are often relatable to fictional characters in books, television, and movies. The Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook 3.5 describes chaotic-neutral as:
“... the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal.” (p. 105)
The chaotic-neutral character (sometimes referred to as the “free spirit”) follows their own whims and is forever an individualist. Chaotic neutral characters value their freedom above all else, and while they believe others should be entitled to freedom as well, they do not go out of their way to protect them. In Dungeons and Dragons, having a chaotic-neutral alignment influences certain actions and responses your character will make to people and situations. This alignment avoids authority and dislikes restrictions. A chaotic-neutral character would not fall in line under a bossy, authoritative figure or meekly spend his time in a cell or under guarded watch.
You long for freedom. You long to do what you want to do because you want it. To act on selfish impulse. You want to see what it's like. One day you won't be able to resist.— Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
What Do They Believe In?
Chaotic-neutral characters do not believe in order in the universe, including their own decisions; because of this, they follow their whims with no problem. Since neither good nor evil matter to them, Chaotic-neutral characters act on their immediate desires without a guilty conscience. If a Chaotic-neutral character believes fervently in anything, it is that freedom is a necessary part of life. Anything that infringes upon personal freedom is an obstacle that must be destroyed.
Personality Characteristics of a Chaotic-Neutral Character
- complete unreliability
- Practicing self-indulgence
- Acting rebellious
- Having no predictability
- Excessive greed
- Self-centered attitude
It’s hard to rely on a chaotic-neutral character unless the situation involves personal friends and family members; they are only likely to betray them in the worst dead-end situation. Furthermore, they place their desires above everyone else. Their life and happiness are the most important to them, which means they deserve the best deals and the best cut of the loot. The character might not even be motivated by wealth, simply the desire to see the results of their reckless decisions.
Chaotic-neutral characters don’t respond well to authority and will, in turn, rebel against law. They are otherwise unpredictable at best; if someone is standing in between a chaotic-neutral adventurer and a strong desire such as gold or food, the adventurer could either attack or leave it be. Chaotic-neutral characters are often seen as greedy because of their actions, and some are. However, their erratic decisions when it comes to fame or fortune can simply give the appearance of greed. Either way, these characters don’t care—they harbor a self-centered outlook on life and feel little for what other people think of them.
Make sense? Oh, what fun is there in making sense?— Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Fighting Tactics of a Chaotic-Neutral Character
The way a chaotic-neutral character behaves in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign is key to maintaining their alignment and personality. There are certain actions that characters of this alignment will and will not perform. Their interactions with other campaign members also follow their alignment.
What Might Chaotic-Neutral Characters Do in a Fight?
- Act unfairly in a fight
- Refuse a fair fight or contest
- Run away from a losing battle
- Taunt their enemy into battling
- Brag about their victories
My brother taught me when we were younger. He thought the crossbow was the best weapon for me since it would give me time to run away if I botched things too badly.— Lyndon in Diablo 3
As chaotic-neutral characters have their best desires and interests at heart, they are unlikely to die valiantly in battle when they can flee, or remain honorable in a fight when it could cost them their life. Just the same, they can bask in their victories, winding up tall tales about battles won, or taunt their enemies into fighting even when they don’t want to.
What Don't Chaotic-Neutral Characters Do?
- Let a disarmed enemy get their weapon
- Let their enemy attack first
- Surrender to an enemy
- Be taken prisoner by an enemy
- Kill a host or an innocent
If the chaotic-neutral adventurer has the upper hand in battle, the situation is more favorable to them. Letting the enemy attack first or retrieve his weapon would be uncharacteristic of the adventurer’s nature. Similarly, the chaotic-neutral character normally would not surrender to an enemy or allow himself to be captured; this would infringe on his freedom, the most valuable thing in his life. Furthermore, Chaotic Neutral adventurers have no desire to murder innocent bystanders, only those who threaten them or stand in their way.
Social Values of a Chaotic-Neutral Character
Chaotic-neutral characters may seem like a handful, but they aren’t shunned by society nor necessarily hated by others. After all, they will support their town, city or place of living if brings profit, or rescue a citizen if they were receiving a handsome sum in return.
Social Values of a Chaotic-Neutral
- Flexible romantic relationships
- Circle of close friends they won’t betray
- Supporting their nation when advantageous
- Not supporting authority figures
- Not harming people for profit
Being in a strict, tight romantic relationship denies a chaotic-neutral character the freedom he values most; relationships need to have flexibility, variety and no serious undertones. Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean is a popular chaotic neutral character—think about his love life. When women see and recognize Jack Sparrow, he is usually met with a slap to the face or harsh words.
Chaotic-neutral characters aren’t friends with many, but they tend to have a small circle of close friends they would never betray . . . unless it’s a matter of life and death. However, the character will not usually hurt or murder innocents for profit. Murder isn’t a neutral trait—it steps into the boundary of evil, and chaotic-neutral characters balance their decisions on an axis of good and evil.
Finally, the chaotic-neutral character is willing to support his hometown or nation when there is an advantage or profit in it—he will not support his homeland out of honor or a “just” cause. Furthermore, he doesn’t support most governments, seeing most rulers corrupt authority figures. If your character is chaotic-neutral, always remember how much this alignment is against restrictive authority.
Who Can Be a Chaotic-Neutral Character?
Literally any race in the Dungeons and Dragons universe can be chaotic-neutral. While some races, such as Half-Orcs or Half-Elves have a higher tendency to claim this alignment, the option is open to any race you can imagine. A chaotic-neutral alignment relies more on a character’s class than it’s race or other values; a human rogue will most likely have a chaotic-neutral nature, while a human Paladin will never be chaotic-neutral. When deciding on a race, your character has most available options.
Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil
Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil
There are certain classes in Dungeons and Dragons whose alignments are set in stone or less malleable; a paladin must always be lawful-good, for example. Any character class that essentially relies upon law and order cannot properly be chaotic-neutral. If you are playing a barbarian, your character can be of any alignment as long as it is nonlawful; likewise, a monk is restricted to a lawful alignment due to a path of strict discipline.
Then there is the matter of you and your roleplaying. Would you enjoy playing a character who is, in the end, only out for themselves? Would you mind betraying your friends if it meant survival or escaping from capture? Could you make unpredictable decisions to favor chaos in the world? Whether it’s your preferred playing style or you’re up to the challenge, perhaps it’s about time you gave chaotic-neutral a try. And remember to have some fun!
Note: many alignments were removed from Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition. In this edition, you have the option between Good, Lawful, Evil, Chaotic Evil and Unaligned.
What is your favorite alignment?
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© 2013 Jessica Peri