D&D Alignments – Chaotic Neutral
Here’s a hot take, I don’t like Chaotic Neutral, and I don’t think most people who play a Chaotic Neutral actually play a chaotic neutral character.
Now, time to explain myself, and explain how you can play it better.
My issue with Chaotic Neutral is that most people who play it really want to be a murder hobo and not get into any trouble for it. So if they say they aren’t evil, that means that people are going to be nicer to them when they do Chaotic Evil things. It also means that the Paladin is less likely to smite them or pay as much attention to them doing bad things, because they are neutral technically.
So, really, most people who play chaotic neutral are actually playing chaotic evil, they just don’t want to be an evil character. Now, that being said, it also happens on the flip side as well. I would say that rogues or warlocks most commonly do it the other way. A rogue might be a thief, but everything that they do is good, but because they had a criminal background, they think they need to be Chaotic Neutral, and a similar thing with warlock. But really they are playing a Chaotic Good character. But it is much more playing Chaotic Evil, but pretending that you are Neutral instead of evil that causes issues in a game.
How do you play Chaotic Neutral?
This is where it gets tricky, as I feel like with chaotic, having either good or evil is very defining ,and chaotic neutral can just be chaos for chaos sake, but often times that leans into chaotic evil. I’m trying to come up with a good example of a chaotic neutral character, I would say that Loki, at his best, when he’s not trying to kill Thor, is probably Chaotic Neutral. But he walks that line of being Evil at times as well. Though, I’d argue when he is Evil he’s either Neutral Evil or Lawful Evil, not Chaotic Evil. After a quick google search, I came up with a couple more examples.
The first is Deadpool, which I think makes sense to me. He’s chaotic in that he’s fourth wall breaking, but also that his methods are extreme and sometimes random in dealing with the bad guys. He doesn’t have a plan, and he’s willing to terminate with extreme prejudice, versus bring anyone in, not because it’s letter of the law, but it’s because that’s what he does. When Venom is good, he does a similar thing. The other is Homer Simpson. Now, this is much more benign than Deadpool, but you never really know what Homer is going to do. He might do the right thing, he might do the wrong thing, but he’s never really trying to do the wrong thing, he just doesn’t think things through.
So, I think there’s a few things we can take away for playing all a Chaotic Neutral character from these character examples. First, these characters are not murder hobos. While Deadpool kills, he kills bad guys, and people that he knows are bad guys, not people he might just guess are bad guys. But even with bad guys, they don’t have to kill them, and they might not kill one of them for an odd reason. Thus, they also tend to be hard to predict. They would be a nightmare for a lawful evil villain or a lawful good paladin, because they can’t predict what they are going to do.
What classes then make a good chaotic neutral character. I have mentioned Warlock and Rogue, both of those make a lot of sense, and same with Sorcerer. But I think one that I haven’t mentioned yet is bard. Bards are entertainers based off of their class, and have a built in desire for being entertained, so while they don’t do the predictable thing, they do the thing that will entertain themselves and others the most. I think that Paladin and Cleric are going to be the hardest to go with in a Chaotic alignment, especially Paladin, but there are Chaotic deities out there that they can follow if you are using the D&D deities for Forgotten Realms.
A Chaotic Neutral character is also likely to be an adventurer because they are bored with what they’ve been doing. I actually like the Noble background for this reason. Tate was a Chaotic Neutral Noble Bard in the Dungeons and Flagons game, and it worked well, because he hadn’t received training to live in a hard world, he just had learned fluffier skills as a noble, so reading, song, etc. I think that a reformed Criminal would also make sense or a Charlatan. But as a player, you are going to have to find a reason that they would keep adventuring and not just bail when things get too hard or dangerous.
So, now I’ve given reasons how you can play it well. I still stand by what I’ve said, I do think that playing a Chaotic Neutral character is too often just a reason to play a Chaotic Evil character, but not have the Paladin smite you to death. There are ways that you can play it well though, so please, for the sake of your DM, try and lean into those aspects.
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