So, I put down the word mechanics, because, magic economy could also describe the level of magic in your world and how much of a vibrant magic trade set up there is. But in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, you have a magic economy of…
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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We’re onto the last column of alignments, and we’re looking at those chaotic characters. I think, and on the Total Party Thrill podcast they talk about this, chaotic good should be the default position for most adventurers. When you think about it, most adventurers don’t…
We’re starting in the top corner of the alignment matrix. Just a quick reminder, the alignment matrix goes from Lawful to Chaotic on the horizontal axis and Good to Evil on the vertical axis. So let’s talk about what a lawful good PC is like, and why you might be out adventuring as one of them.
If you’re lawful that means that there are some set of rules that you follow and you want to follow them closely or perfectly if you can. In the case of a lawful good character, you’re going to most likely be following the rules of someone or something that is known to be good as well. This can be the laws of the land, but it’s more often the rules of a good deity, since humans, elves, dwarves, etc are all fallible creatures. That means that sometimes you might not even follow the laws of the land if you believe that they aren’t just.
The good piece just means that you’re not going to do something that’s evil. It seems pretty simple that way. But to go along with that, it doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything. If there’s something that seems like it’s for a righteous and just cause, you’re going to do that or at least be inclined towards that quest line. Good also means that you might not want to be a party to when the other PC’s from the adventuring party are doing something questionable. We’ll touch on some of that earlier, but a lawful good character might see how something can be useful, but wouldn’t ever take part in it themselves because they won’t do something that isn’t either ideally good and lawful. An example of this might be torturing a goblin to figure out what the giant goblin horde is up to. While it might be a goo thing because it would save a lot of people and the goblin is an evil creature, and even the rules of the land might allow for torture, it’s possible and probable that a good character wouldn’t want to be party to that. But they might also understand why other player characters would be, and leave so that they can do what they need to.
Now, when playing a lawful good character there is a chance it could fall into what is called lawful stupid. This is most commonly a trait for paladin or clerics where players lean too heavily into the lawful and good tropes. It’s going to be the case where a paladin sees someone stealing something, and because stealing isn’t lawful or good, run them through with your sword. The king insults you, that isn’t good, run him through with your sword. It’s the simple reaction to everything that can be scene as not lawful, but in particular not good. If it’s not good, that means death. But that doesn’t seem all that lawful or good in and of itself. Killing someone for stealing because it’s evil is an extreme reaction, which really doesn’t keep you in the camp of good. Capturing them and taking them to the city guard, now that makes a lot more sense. Less violent example of something similar though is a lawful good character who refuses to go into an inn because they serve alcohol and drinking is a sin. Even though they just saw the bad guy run into there.
But beyond the reaction of violence for an insult, lawful stupid can also mean that a character is too trusting and naive. Just because you are good and lawful doesn’t mean that you think everyone else is going to be. This can be equally as harmful as it’ll cause strife in the party when the lawful good character just asks someone a question who is clearly hiding something but doesn’t disbelieve them. Especially if you’re dealing with the face of the party or a split party for some reason so that you’re going to be missing information that you would otherwise want to have readily available for the party.
So how do you avoid this as a characterization for your PC? I think it’s just adding in some dimension to your character. I talk in the first article of the series who your alignment isn’t how you only run your character. It’s a framework for developing a well rounded character and for not spending too long while making a decision. If you find it taking too long, just make that decision based off of the alignment for your character. I gave an example for the thieves stealing bread. But for the Kings insult maybe you don’t trust them more. For the Inn and you don’t approve of drinking, you don’t have to have your PC drink. Being suspicious of people isn’t anything that goes against lawful good either. It allows you to have a more developed character if you don’t just treat them purely as in the tropes.
But let’s talk about why a lawful good character would go adventuring.
I actually think that this one is pretty easy to come up with reasons for going out. You can go with the story where something really bad is going to happen, that will motivate a lawful good character to go out and stop it. The adventure might also be something that a good character gives to the player characters. But if you’re playing a heroic campaign, it’s most likely that you’ll have quest givers that are good or that will want something good done. Now, it can be interesting as a DM to subvert that sometimes. Maybe you’re “good” quest giver has given out a quest that on the surface seems good, but is actually something the actually evil quest giver needs done to complete their plan. Or maybe the actual quest itself isn’t good when you get down into it. I will say, don’t do that all the time though, or your players will never trust you again, and yes, I mean players, not player characters.
So what classes work for lawful good?
The two people will think of right away are Paladin and Cleric. Both of them are tied to a deity of your choice, so it would be easy to pick lawful good ones and a lot of the deities are. But I think that there are some other interesting options, you can even play against type with something like a rogue. A rogue assassin who only kills evil people who are above the normal law, that makes a lot of sense for a lawful good character. Warlock is probably the trickiest as your patron almost has to be lawful good. Something like Hexblade might work. Final question for classes would be if a necromancer wizard would work, and I think that it could possibly. It is a little bit trickier, because you have the lawful good wanting to raise not good undead, I think most of them are evil, and that might be a conflict for you depending on how you play it. But there are necromancy options that aren’t just raising the dead which might work.
So, now that we’ve delved into this alignment. Would you want to play a character with a lawful good alignment? If you have, how have you avoided the lawful stupid trope?
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