This article will explain everything you should need to know in order to understand and play the Chaotic Neutral alignment. Here’s an overview of what I’ll discuss:
- What is the Chaotic Neutral alignment?
- How to play a Chaotic Neutral aligned character
- Chaotic Neutral examples & background ideas
- And more!
With that said, let’s start with some definitions first.
What is Chaotic Neutral Alignment?
Characters who are chaotic on the Lawful ⇄ Chaotic spectrum not only disregard laws and norms set out by society, but often actively seek to break them. They see laws as a constraint on freedom and creative expression and therefore deserve to be broken.
Chaotic characters put their own freedoms and beliefs over all else, and generally believe that everyone deserves freedom. They believe that the ends justify the means, and that sacrifice is often necessary to achieve their aims.
Characters who are neutral on the Good ⇄ Evil spectrum don’t care about typical notions of morality. Their conscience is not guided by the same principles as most people. These characters won’t go out of their way to help others simply for the sake of it. However, they also don’t take pleasure in harming others or putting others down. Neutral characters instead are directed by some other code or plan, and pursue that with ambivalence to the goings-on of others.
Chaotic Neutral Definition
Chaotic Neutral characters are very self-serving. They follow their own path while eschewing laws, rules, traditions, and norms of society around them. They are not bound to typical notions of morality and do whatever is required to further their own aims. Indeed, they often go out of their way to violate laws for the sake of freedom, for they believe their path is the only right one, and anyone who says otherwise is in the wrong, and an enemy.
Characters in the Chaotic Neutral alignment are not against working with others. However, they do lean into conflict that arises when characters have different points of view.
Chaotic Neutral Character Examples
In some cases, Deadpool exemplifies the Chaotic Neutral alignment. In Deadpool (2016), he pursues his goal of vengeance at any cost. This causes harm to those around him as well as high costs in property damage. While he isn’t entirely averse to working with a team, he puts them in undue danger due to his rash, break-down-the-front-door attitude even when that significantly increases the danger.
Spike from Cowboy Bebop is a Chaotic Neutral character, as he’s mainly motivated by his next meal and keeping his ship in the air. Aside from that goal, he’s generally willing to accept any contract and work for anyone. He has little concern for the bridges he burns along the way. Often, when forced to make a moral decision, he will lean towards Chaotic Good, but he avoids making those decisions as much as possible.
Anarchists are perhaps the best example of Chaotic Neutral characters. They pursue their goals of freedom and independence at any cost, even when that means robbing the opposition of their lives, or accepting collateral damage.
Chaotic Neutral Quotes
There are a variety of things Chaotic Neutral characters would be heard saying relating to their behaviors and thought-processes:
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
“There is no good or evil. There is only fun and boring.”The Plague (Hackers)
“I am not what you call a civilized man! I have done with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not, therefore, obey its laws, and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!”Captain Nemo (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea)
“Chaotic Neutral! My favorite! I get to do whatever I think is best.”Deadpool (Spiderman / Deadpool comics)
“Look, Your Worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me.”Han Solo (Star Wars: A New Hope)
“I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe — and I am dead serious when I say this — do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish.”Philip K. Dick
“Reason is the enemy of all greatness.”Giacomo Leopardi
Chaotic Neutral Character Background Ideas
Your Own Person
Whether you were forcibly kept against your will in labor camps, or simply lived too long under the roof of oppressive nobles, you decided to strike out and never take an order again. You do what you want, when you want, and you don’t owe anyone anything. You pursue your own interests and have no problem ignoring the plights of others when there’s nothing in it for you.
Player’s Handbook Background suggestion: Noble (page 135), Outlander (page 136)
Firebombs, and That’s Just the Beginning
Freedom. Freedom at any cost: that’s your motto. The world has lived too long under the oppressive fist of civilization, and you seek to right that. Whether by burning down temples and nobles’ quarters or by spreading leaflets in a moonlit street, you want to release people from their bonds and save them from their worst enemy: themselves.
You know what’s best for people, even if they don’t. You pay special attention to those who maliciously enjoy exerting undue power on those around them, and you seek to cut them down to the level of those around them.
Player’s Handbook Background suggestion: Charlatan (page 128), Urchin (page 141)
Just Trying to Get By
You don’t have a master plan, or some grand agenda. You’re just trying to live your life and survive the cruel reality that is the world. So you travel town to town, job to job, your only goal scraping together enough money to afford a room for the night. It’s a squalid existence, in many ways, but you enjoy it. Instead of looking out from a tower or cowering in a city gutter, you live life, experiencing the world with more depth than anyone around you. You’re not interested in taking sides or participating in politics or drama, you just want to get by.
Player’s Handbook Background suggestion: Guild Artisan (page 132), Outlander (page 136)
As you’ve seen, I’ve mentioned the Player’s Handbook several times. That’s because it’s an essential reference guide for every D&D player. If you don’t already have one, you can get one on Amazon.
Chaotic Neutral Traits
Chaotic Neutral characters are famous for being independent and their own characters, not conforming to any group, expectation, or other principle. However, because of their brashness and individually, this nonetheless brings them together in a variety of ways:
These characters prefer rapid, decisive, and violent action, and are easily bored by sitting back and waiting. As such, they’re often willing to cause damage and accept collateral damage by not thinking a plan through.
Chaotic Neutral characters are self-assured and self-motivated. They know what they’re doing is right, and even if that means taking from others or putting others down, they deserve it. These characters’ motivation is only their own gain. They care little for the woes of others unless there’s something in it for them.
Of all the archetypes, Chaotic Neutral characters are the most confident in themselves. They don’t concern themselves with questions of good and evil, right and wrong, and other concerns that make others doubt themselves. Chaotic Neutral characters make decisions as necessary when they arise. They take things one step at a time, sure they’ll always make the right calls.
While a good character can be counted on to do the right thing, evil the opposite, and lawful can similarly be predicted in their behavior. Chaotic Neutral characters are the hardest to read. They analyze decisions based on their own, often abstract principles and readily switch sides depending on which metric they use to view a situation.
Coupled with unpredictability is the fact that Chaotic Neutral characters cannot often be relied upon. They are fickle and will take vengeance quickly upon perceived wrongs, and lack a sense of loyalty. They will easily switch sides when it becomes no longer convenient to participate with their allies. This can make them excellent weapons against a scheming, devious enemy, but also makes them somewhat like loose cannons.
How to Play Chaotic Neutral Characters
Chaotic Neutral characters are a fun and intriguing archetype to play because of their traditionally antagonistic nature. They cause a lot of conflict in a group, and when done well, this can make the game far more interesting than your typical do-good adventuring party. With that said, let’s go over some general ideas of what to do and not to do with these characters.
What to Do
- Define your character’s motivations. Those around you may not have to understand your motives, but your decisions should not be random or erratic—they’re based on some logic, no matter how flawed it is. You should understand it, even if your party members don’t.
- Challenge tradition. When others make firm statements on morality or other similar philosophies, challenge them with notions of freedom, individuality, and hedonism. Sure, some town or other is in peril, but who’s to say it’s our responsibility to save them?
- Rebel. You may not be a bona fide anarchist, but you don’t do what you’re told simply because you’re told. You do what you do only when you want to, and nobody can say otherwise.
What Not to Do
- Don’t cause harm or damage for the sake of it. You’re not an evil character—you’re just self-serving. You’re not above hurting innocent people, but you don’t go out of your way to do so without a good reason.
- Don’t use the “chaotic” part of your alignment as an excuse to be evil. Remember what your motivation is, even if that means personal wealth. Always look for a reason, no matter how thin.
- Work with your party. As I’ve said many times before, at the end of the day, D&D is a cooperative game. Chaotic or not, you still have to be a team player, even if that’s not how you view your character. If a situation arises where you feel you might betray the party, speak with your DM and the group, and make sure everyone is comfortable. It could be a fun story moment, but don’t be surprised if they take away your character, so it becomes the next BBEG.
Chaotic Neutral VS Other Alignments
Chaotic Neutral VS Lawful Good
Lawful Good characters don’t tend to get along with Chaotic Neutral ones. The latter tend to serve themselves or some other morality-agnostic goal, and their chaotic natures are often at odds with laws, norms, and society.
Lawful Good characters will often view Chaotic Neutral ones as criminal or otherwise problematic. They’ll view them just as vandals or delinquents, with no mind to whatever else their identity might be. Chaotic Neutral characters, on the other hand, take issue with Lawful Good authority who think they’re doing what’s best but are actually stifling towards creativity, freedom, and expression.
An example of a Lawful Good / Chaotic Neutral relationship might be a schoolteacher attempting to reign in a delinquent adolescent. They’re constantly at odds and rarely see eye to eye, despite how “right” either may be. However, if they’re able to be honest with each other and remain open to the other’s perspective, they may be able to reach an understanding.
Chaotic Neutral VS Lawful Neutral
These characters have very little in common. They can work together when necessary, because Chaotic Neutral characters rarely have an overarching or sinister agenda, but their fast willingness to eschew morals, principles, and structure make the partnership uneasy at best.
Lawful Neutral characters wouldn’t likely feel the need to control them, but would become frustrated when they get in the way. While their coupled brashness might get them in trouble, these two characters also form quite the powerful force.
A Lawful Neutral White Hat (benevolent) hacker might team up with a skilled hacker with less noble motivations (Chaotic Neutral) on a specific mission or goal. However, their partnership will always be clunky and is unlikely to last long. The one has specific, clear goals and a code they follow. The other likes to use their expertise to satisfy their curiosity, poking around where they aren’t allowed and causing damage when it amuses them.
Chaotic Neutral VS Lawful Evil
Lawful Evil characters dislike Chaotic Neutral characters because they can’t control them, and they have the potential to upset their operations.
Chaotic Neutral characters find Lawful Evil characters stifling and controlling. Nevertheless, they don’t particularly care one way or the other for them. Of course, until they aren’t affected by Lawful Evil character’s actions. Similarly, Lawful Evil characters are willing to live and let live, so long as each stay in their own lanes.
Catwoman is an example of a Chaotic Neutral character who generally ignores the Lawful Evil crime lords and so on in the DC universe. However, when they begin to infringe upon her freedoms and individuality, or when they do things that she disagrees with, she can be a venerable force and cause serious harm to their organizations.
Chaotic Neutral VS Neutral Good
Neutral Good characters often conflict with Chaotic Neutral ones because the latter tend to be self-absorbed troublemakers, whereas the former are at least fighting for something. Chaotic Neutral characters scoff at the former’s dogged pursuit of their goals and their views on morality.
However, when it’s in the Chaotic Neutral character’s interest, the two can form an effective team without letting the laws and norms of society get in the way of what needs to be done.
A good example of a Neutral Good / Chaotic Neutral relationship is that of a peaceful protestor and an eco-terrorist. The Neutral Good character wants to express their displeasure with how things are being done to the environment. On the other hand, the Chaotic Neutral character wants to destroy machinery and systems in service of the environment, protecting it at any cost.
Chaotic Neutral VS True Neutral
True Neutral characters are just as amicable with Chaotic Neutral ones as they are other True Neutral characters. So long as their beliefs align, they can work together effectively. In fact, the chaotic tendencies of the one might be refreshing or even amusing to the other, who tends to use more mellow tactics to achieve their goals.
When their goals are at odds, True Neutral character can become frustrated with havoc-causing Chaotic Neutral ones, while simply being in the way of the latter.
Anarchists are ideologically closely related to, for example, libertarians. Both distrust the government, both prefer to live an individualistic, often isolated lifestyle. However, when a Chaotic Neutral anarchist starts using violent tactics to attack the government, it can frequently disrupt the True Neutral isolationist libertarian’s lifestyle, and put the two groups at odds.
Chaotic Neutral VS Neutral Evil
As long as they stay away from one another, these two characters can typically coexist. Occasionally they can work together when their interests align. Neutral Evil characters don’t mind Chaotic Neutral ones so long as the latter’s goals don’t interfere with their own, and vice versa.
The Hulk and Scarlet Witch are a good example of a typical (albeit short-lived) relationship between these two types of characters. Scarlet Witch (Neutral Evil) manipulates Bruce Banner into turning into the Hulk in order to take advantage of the Hulk’s Chaotic Neutral character and cause damage, soiling the name of the Avengers.
Chaotic Neutral VS Chaotic Good
Chaotic Good characters are good teammates to Chaotic Neutral ones. So long as the characters’ goals align, Chaotic Neutral characters will often favour the same methods and brash, up-front attitudes that Chaotic Good ones do. They can work together towards the same ends, and neither will have qualms about what the other does.
Their only differences lie in their motivations—Chaotic Good characters seek to help others selflessly, while Chaotic Neutral ones only aim to better themselves.
Peter Quill and Nebula of Guardians of the Galaxy are the perfect example of this relationship. They are both brash, unpredictable, and impulsive. That’s despite the fact that Starlord is good-aligned and Nebula, being on her own path, is neutral. However, when their goals align, they work together well and never interfere with each other’s methods.
Chaotic Neutral VS Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Neutral characters rarely work well together. Because they are firmly self-motivated and selfish, unless their values clearly align, they can easily get at each other’s throats. However, their lack of morals make them very effective in whatever aims they do share, and are a formidable force once they find common ground.
They typically share a mutual understanding that they are both like to betray the other when the benefits outweigh the costs, and as such keep one another at a very cautious arm’s length.
Thieves share a semi-sacred honor. They’ll work together, they won’t rat one another out, and they’ll help each other when they’re in trouble. But they won’t put themselves or their livelihoods at risk when it comes down to it.
Chaotic Neutral VS Chaotic Evil
Chaotic Neutral characters dislike Chaotic Evil ones because they often interfere with their aims. The Chaotic Evil ones care nothing for others and will typically go out of their way to disrupt others’ lives and plans, so despite both archetypes’ chaotic nature, they’re at odds. Chaotic Neutral characters may only care for themselves, but they don’t feel the need to go out of their way to harm others, unlike Evil ones.
Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series is the perfect example of a Chaotic Neutral character. He encounters many Chaotic Evil villains in his journeys that seek to do harm to him and others, and fights them not because he’s kind and a do-gooder, but because they interfere with his self-serving life goals.
Alignment is complex, diverse, and difficult to represent properly. Chaotic Neutral characters at first glance seem adverse to the cooperative, party-based mechanics of D&D, because they’re self-serving and don’t tend to follow rules. But when played correctly, they can bring into your game questions of good and evil and add complexity to your group.