This article will explain everything you should need to know in order to understand and play the True Neutral alignment. Here’s an overview of what I’ll discuss:
- What is the True Neutral alignment?
- How to play a True Neutral aligned character?
- True Neutral examples & background ideas
- And more!
With that said, let’s start with some definitions first.
What is the True Neutral Alignment?
Characters who are neutral on the Lawful ⇄ Chaotic spectrum maintain no particular affinity for the laws, norms, and values of “traditional” society. They don’t follow inconvenient rules, and they place their own success or goals ahead of supporting those of those around them.
However, they don’t tend to stir up unnecessary trouble or draw attention to themselves. These neutral characters find a balance between the two extremes, adhering to rules when it makes no difference, but diverging from them when they feel they need to.
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, but 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.
True Neutral Definition
True Neutral characters are often seen as ambivalent towards the goings-on around them, but this is not entirely true. They simply believe in balance, and the natural flow of time and nature. They believe things happen as they were meant to; death, life, victory, and loss are all part of a natural cycle.
However, when that balance and cycle are upset, they take action to restore things to the “right” way they should be.
True Neutral Character Examples
True Neutral characters are characterized by their fierce loyalty to the natural order of things, and their disinterest in conflicts they consider petty or irrelevant. Laws and rules, they feel, only suit those in power, and morality depends on your perspective. They’re concerned mainly with whether the world continues to turn, whether night turns to day, and the continued natural cycle of life and death. Following are some character examples and details to help inspire yours.
Guts from the Berserk comics is a perfect example of a True Neutral character. He doesn’t care for politics, law, or order, nor does he recognize the traditional views of good and evil. He simply wants to survive, and wants his friends to survive.
Similarly, Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop is concerned largely with keeping him and his crew afloat. He’s just trying to scrape enough to get by and, at least at first, hunts bounties not out of the kindness of his heart, but because it pays well, and he’s good at it.
Lastly, other than Doctor Strange, Marvel’s Timekeepers are excellent examples of True Neutral characters. Their chief concern comes down to protecting the timeline and the time stone. All else is secondary. Even when New York is being attacked by an extraterrestrial threat, or by Thanos, their concern remains protecting their halls.
True Neutral Quotes
True Neutral characters’ quotes can often be frustratingly passive. However, their inaction should not be taken as fear or cowardice; rather, these characters believe strongly in both free will and determinism. Normally opposing beliefs, True Neutral characters combine them to uphold personal values of freedom while maintaining that the world has a way of making things come around in a form of natural justice.
“Live, and let live.”
“Whatever will be, will be.”
“Good, evil, law, chaos—they’re all just opinions.”
“Both sides blame one another. There’s no good or bad side. Just two sides holding different views.”Squall Leonhart
“What you see depends on where you stand.”Albert Einstein
“Different shades of life make the painting more beautiful.”Michael Dolan
True Neutral Character Background Ideas
True Neutral characters are often raised in such a way that devalues the structure of society as well as the typical views of morality. However, few people are raised to be ambivalent; instead, these characters are raised to believe in certain values that supersede all other concerns. Following are some background ideas to help spark your inspiration.
You were raised to be comfortable with the ills of the world. It’s not that you like seeing others suffer, but it’s a natural part of life. Instead, you value knowledge and wisdom over all else, seeking to understand the nature of life and the world in all its good and ills. You pursue knowledge and wisdom and seek to protect it and spread it to those who would make use of it. There are no secrets in life; everything should be brought to the light.
Player’s Handbook Background suggestion: Sage (page 137)
You believe in upholding the natural order of things. Nature, life, and death all have a natural cycle, and you seek to maintain it wherever possible. Anything that upsets that balance—undead, divine intervention, even some magic—is an enemy. These cycles were created for a reason, and mortals have no right to interfere with it.
Player’s Handbook Background suggestion: Outlander (page 136) or Hermit (page 134)
You have spent your life honing your craft. You’re addicted to it, and you’re good at it. Nothing else matters. Whether you’re a blacksmith, a carpenter, or a painter, all you want is to continue developing your craft. You’ll pursue knowledge and skills in that aim above all else.
Player’s Handbook Background suggestion: Guild Artisan (page 123)
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.
True Neutral Traits
True Neutral characters are defined by a number of traits that set them apart from other characters. These traits identify them as characters devoted to their core values, with not more than a passing interest in most other matters. Some of these traits are listed below.
When it’s not their driving force, True Neutral characters tend to be more or less ambivalent. They care little for the problems and conflicts of the world, considering them petty and irrelevant. They don’t tend to get involved in other peoples’ problems unless it’s related to their own motivations.
True Neutral characters, while passive in most matters, are firm and stubborn when it comes to their core tenets. Their will is unbending: a druid, for example, does not err from their belief about the sanctity of nature.
Because they have little stake in either side of most conflicts, True Neutral characters are excellent mediators and negotiators. They are effective in pleasing both sides and finding middle ground. They’re also not quick to anger, and tend to avoid provoking anyone, even with cause.
Reasonable & Rational
Without an emotional stake in most situations, True Neutral characters also tend to favor cold, hard logic in their reasoning. This can help them make decisions and makes them effective leaders because while they might have biases, they can identify them and work to counteract them more effectively.
How to Play True Neutral Characters
True Neutral characters are difficult to inject personality into because they’re often portrayed as ambivalent. However, deep personal investment in the natural cycles of the world, such as the circle of life and of succession, can make your character more enticing. Below are a list of things to do and things not to do in playing True Neutral characters.
What to Do?
- Be amicable. Unless something counters your core values, it’s irrelevant. To make things easy, might as well support others in what they seek.
- Get involved. You might not have a personal stake in the plights of many, including the party, but every group needs a voice of reason.
- Retain some mystery. True Neutral characters have the potential to be one-dimensional. Keeping some of your motivations hidden can help keep people guessing.
What Not to Do?
- Don’t be completely passive. For one reason or another you’re still part of a team, and they need your support.
- Don’t forget your purpose. Every True Neutral character still stands for something, and that something can be found in most adventures. Remember to look for it to keep your character invested.
- Don’t compromise on your values. At least not easily. These are the foundation of your character, and letting them go means your character is not bonded to them at all. For a druid to allow the burning of a forest, there must be a very compelling reason.
True Neutral VS Other Alignments
True Neutral VS Lawful Good
Lawful Good characters don’t know what to make of True Neutral ones. They see them as selfish, but not wholly so. While they appreciate their pursuit for balance and equality, they can’t trust them to always join the fight against evil;. Furthermore, they hold disdain for the True Neutral disregard of laws, rules, and society.
However, they don’t see True Neutral characters as villains, or intentionally evil. They can cooperate as long as the two share a goal, but Lawful Good characters have no qualms seeing their ally as an enemy when their paths begin to diverge.
Deadpool and the Colossus are a perfect example of a Lawful Good / True Neutral dichotomy. They work together in Deadpool (2016) as long as they share a goal, but when Deadpool begins to do his own thing and eschew more rules and norms, Colossus begins attempting to control him.
True Neutral VS Lawful Neutral
Lawful Neutral characters and True Neutral ones tend to work together only when it’s convenient. True Neutral characters very rarely care for a Lawful Neutral code or set of principles and will disregard them whenever they please, or when it’s no longer convenient to follow. Lawful Neutral characters will rarely trust True Neutral ones, because they don’t tend to conform to a set of rules at all.
However, when they come to better understand the motivations of the True Neutral character, they can come to respect them and find common ground.
For example, an aimless nomad may join with a determined bounty hunter in their mission for a time. However, if they discover a direction that benefits them more, or if the bounty hunter becomes more trouble than they’re worth, they’ll cease to work well together. The bounty hunter, on the other hand, will appreciate an extra set of eyes and hands but won’t rely on their ally.
True Neutral VS Lawful Evil
Lawful Evil characters don’t particularly like True Neutral ones because they’re hard to predict, control, and manipulate, but they’re also prepared to ignore them if they don’t get in the way.
The same goes for True Neutral characters’ view of Lawful Evil ones; they don’t feel any particular need to interfere in their affairs unless they become a significant problem for them personally, or for their ideals.
A neutral, individualistic nation observing a conflict might represent a True Neutral entity in observing a Lawful Evil nation growing through imperialism and conquest. They might keep to themselves and allow them to proceed unhindered, only intervening when the Lawful Evil nation begins to cause harm to them.
True Neutral VS Neutral Good
Neutral Good characters are frustrated by the ambivalence of True Neutral characters, but they appreciate their disdain for rules and tradition. True Neutral characters don’t mind Neutral Good ones until the latter violate balance in pursuit of their views on good and evil.
Neutral Good characters are viewed by True Neutral ones as dangerous because of their strong convictions, but the two can coexist peacefully until one line or the other is crossed.
An example of this relationship is the Avengers and the Timekeepers (pre-Doctor Strange). The Timekeepers want only to preserve the timeline and protect the time stone, which directly interferes with the Avengers’ need to get the time stone to stop Thanos. The Timekeepers (True Neutral) don’t care about the Avengers’ plight, whereas the Avengers (Neutral Good) think the greater good is more important than their religion.
True Neutral VS True Neutral
True Neutral characters work well together when their views align. As long as they’re working towards the same thing, they become fast friends and trustworthy allies. When they don’t share the same views, however, they’re more than comfortable to live and let live. Unless they find themselves in the rare situation where the two parties are diametrically opposed, most True Neutral characters are ships passing in the night.
Any passive coalition or group forms a good example of True Neutral characters and cooperating: whether it’s the Timekeepers from Marvel, the Library from the Magicians, or simply any group of druids, these individuals form some of the strongest bonds as they work together for shared goals.
True Neutral VS Neutral Evil
Neutral Evil characters are typically obsessed with self-success. So long as this doesn’t interfere with the True Neutral characters’ creed, they rarely have a problem. Again, True Neutral characters are happy to live and let live in these altercations, and so long as they don’t get in the way, it isn’t worth the time of Neutral Evil characters to cause trouble for them.
A good example of this relationship is Spike Spiegel (True Neutral) from Cowboy Bebop and other mercenaries (Neutral Evil). So long as they both stay in their lane, both parties are happy doing their own thing and staying out of one another’s way.
True Neutral VS Chaotic Good
These characters can work together or pass by amicably. True Neutral characters will cooperate with Chaotic Good ones when it’s convenient, and so long as their chaotic side doesn’t interfere with the True Neutral values, they don’t tend to come into conflict.
The Chaotic Good pursuits tend not to upset balances overmuch, and when they do, True Neutral characters tend to be more lenient because their exploits aren’t self-serving.
A reckless cowboy bounty hunter (Chaotic Good) may solicit the help of a True Neutral homesteader. The homesteader cares only for the functioning of their farm, so they might help out the bounty hunter for the protection of their stead, despite not caring one way or another about the apprehension of criminals.
True Neutral VS Chaotic 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, a 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.
True Neutral VS Chaotic Evil
Chaotic Evil characters cause trouble for most other characters, True Neutral ones included. However, unless their actions violate some core doctrine, True Neutral characters are still typically intent on letting bygones be bygones. That is, unless the Chaotic Evil actions begin to infringe upon the True Neutral tenets, at which point the violent actions of the former make them sworn enemies of the latter.
The classic druid/eco-warrior versus logging company exemplifies this relationship. The True Neutral character just wants to preserve nature and the forest, whereas the logging company wants to raze it to the ground for profits. The two are nemeses and will never see eye to eye. Conflict will always arise between them.
Alignment is complex, diverse, and difficult to represent properly. True Neutral alignment is difficult to play without making the characters two-dimensional and uninteresting.
However, by leaning into your core beliefs and role as mediator and negotiator, you can add an interesting dynamic to an otherwise emotionally-driven party, and bring balance to your D&D game.