A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him.
Chaotic evil is sometimes called "demonic" because demons are the epitome of chaotic evil.
Chaotic evil beings believe their alignment is the best because it combines self-interest and pure freedom.
Chaotic evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents the destruction not only of beauty and life but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.
The major precepts of this alignment are freedom, randomness, and woe. Laws and order, kindness, and good deeds are disdained. Life has no value. By promoting chaos and evil, those of this alignment hope to bring themselves to positions of power, glory, and prestige in a system ruled by individual caprice and their own whim. The chaotic evil creature holds that individual freedom and choice is important, and that other individuals and their freedoms are unimportant if they cannot be held by the individuals through their own strength and merit. Thus, law and order rends to promote not individuals but groups, and groups suppress individual volition and success. (1)
These characters are the bane of all that is good and organized. Chaotic evil characters are motivated by the desire for personal gain and pleasure. They see absolutely nothing wrong with taking whatever they want by whatever means possible. Laws and governments are the tools of weaklings unable to fend for themselves. The strong have the right to take what they want, and the weak are there to be exploited. When chaotic evil characters band together, they are not motivated by a desire to cooperate, but rather to oppose powerful enemies. Such a group can be held together only by a strong leader capable of bullying his underlings into obedience. Since leadership is based on raw power, a leader is likely to be replaced at the first sign of weakness by anyone who can take his position away from him by any method. (2)
This is the category where the megalomaniacs, and the violent and most despicable characters fall. This is the cruel, brutal killer who trusts no one and has no value for anyone or anything that gets in his way. Individual freedom and choice is important, and the freedom of other individuals are unimportant if they cannot be held by their own strength and merit. (3)
The chaotic evil also likes to corrupt the innocent and virtuous. People are play-things to the chaotic evil, to be used and manipulated for their own personal pleasure. A chaotic evil doesn't necessarily go after individuals just because they stand in the way of their success, they will harm or destroy people for the sheer pleasure of it.
The chaotic evil being seeks personal freedom at the expense of those who aren't smart, capable, or ruthless enough to get what they want. If what this being wants will come only at the price of the freedom and happiness (not to mention the lives) of others, so be it. Other individuals and their freedoms are unimportant if those freedoms cannot be held through their own strength and merit. All else being equal, the chaotic evil being is perhaps the most dangerous character of all, because one rarely knows how he might react to a given encounter. For reasons often known only to himself, he could ignore some situations, then suddenly explode in apparently identical ones. His behavior patterns are almost impossible to predict, for he has probably learned to curb and control his penchant for "evil" due to the constraints of civilization. A chaotic evil being is not expected to go about insanely slaughtering and torturing everyone he meets, for he isn't usually stupid. He will realize the consequences of such activities and will participate in such pleasurable distractions only when safe from discovery. To a chaotic-evil being, the lives of others have no value and are incidental in the pursuit of ultimate freedom and personal power. (4)
A chaotic evil character never feels compelled to keep his word. He will attack and kill an unarmed foe (those are the best kind). He will kill an innocent. He will use torture to extract information and for pleasure. He will kill for pleasure. A chaotic evil character will use poison. He will not help those in need. He prefers to work alone, as he values his freedom. He does not respond well to higher authority, is distrustful of organizations, and will disregard the law in pursuing his self-interest. He will betray a family member, comrade, or friend whenever it is convenient to do so. Chaotic evil characters do not respect the concepts of self-discipline and honor, because they believe such concepts limit their ability to gain power over others. (5)
Here are some possible adjectives describing chaotic evil characters: violent, cruel, capricious, malicious, untrustworthy, unreliable, heartless, volatile, inconsistent, uncaring, unfeeling, deceitful, discourteous, selfish.
Well known chaotic evil characters from film or literature include: Gollum (Lord of the Rings), The Joker (DC Comics), Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter), and Lore (Star Trek).
Equivalent alignment in other game systems: Diabolic (Palladium), Road of Typhon (Vampire), Dark Side (Star Wars), Chaos (Warhammer), Despicable (Alternity).
The personal code of a chaotic evil character may look like this:
1. You shall lie whenever convenient.
2. You shall harm the innocent whenever convenient.
3. You shall kill for pleasure.
4. You shall not aid the weak.
5. You shall not honor any other before yourself.
6. You shall break the law whenever convenient.
7. You shall betray friends, family, community, and nation whenever convenient.
8. You shall harm those who protect the weak or honor laws.
9. You shall pursue all forms of pleasure.
10. You shall seek unlimited power over others and unlimited freedom for yourself.
Likewise, a chaotic evil character may consider the following as signs of weakness. A sign of weakness indicates that the character is straying from the cruel tenets of the chaotic evil philosophy. This list is given in the order of least severe infraction to most severe.
1. Failing to show contempt and disrespect for the virtuous and noble.
2. Failing to pursue a new form of pleasure.
3. Failing to give in to a sinful or chaotic impulse.
4. Avoiding injury to others at the cost of your own pleasure.
5. Refusing to display power over underling when appropriate.
6. Refusing to commit cruel acts that are in your best interest.
7. Refusing to kill when in your best interest.
8. Turning down a chance to gain power or wealth.
9. Acting altruistically.
10. Aiding the forces of Law and Goodness.
The following two lists detail common actions undertaken during "adventuring" that are considered honorable and dishonorable for the chaotic evil alignment. An honorable action is one that is in keeping with the spirit of this alignment, while dishonorable actions tend to be those which bring shame to the character in the eyes of his or her alignment peers. Note that an action which is considered honorable by one alignment may be considered dishonorable by another alignment and vice versa.
Accused of crime (innocent or not)
Attacking an unarmed or obviously inferior opponent
Convicted of crime
Delivering death blow to a helpless opponent
Desecrating an enemy's corpse
Falsely claiming the 'bragging rights' that belong to another or outright lying
Fleeing a fight with a superior opponent
Gloating over a victory
Killing a host who has provided you food or shelter
Neglecting to properly bury a member of one's own race
Paying off an extortionist or shake-down
Perpetrate humiliating prank on enemy
Refusing a fair contest/challenge
Reporting the illegal actions of enemies to the authorities when profitable
Taking a bribe
Taunting an enemy into fighting
Unjustly slaying a prisoner or unarmed opponent who has yielded
Walking away from a challenge
Allowing a disarmed enemy to pick up his weapon
Allowing the enemy to attack first
Being taken prisoner
Picking up the funeral expenses of someone you slew in combat
Refusing medical treatment for the good of the party
Saving the life of another at great risk to own self
Taking an arrow or hit for someone else
A chaotic evil being...
Is not concerned with the desires of family members.
Values flexible relationships with romantic partners.
Considers himself above the law.
Finds most people to be narrow-minded and inflexible.
Believes those who seek to rule others are, by nature, corrupt.
Seeks to undermine the authority figures of his community or nation.
Finds the legal procedures of his nation corrupt.
Believes luck determines wealth.
Will break any contract when he feels like it.
Will betray family members for personal gain.
Will betray friends if profitable.
Will seek to undermine his community and nation, especially if profitable.
Is not trusted by the community and may have enemies.
Will kill others to get ahead.
Uses any means necessary to evade justice.
Will use wealth to destroy others.
The residents of a community with a chaotic evil government live in abject fear because of the unpredictable and horrific situations continually placed upon them. In a chaotic evil society, the people are ruled by, and live in fear of, those more powerful than themselves. Local government usually amounts to a series of strongarm bosses who obey the central government out of fear. People look for ways to gain power or keep the power they've got. Assassination is an accepted method of advancement, along with coups, conspiracies, and purges. Adventurers are often used as pawns in political power games, only to be eliminated when the adventurers themselves become a threat.
Chaotic neutral and the chaotic evil characters will disagree on the nature of freedom. Both value their own freedom above that of other beings, but the chaotic neutral character feels all creatures should be free to pursue their goals, for good or ill. They do not feel that others have the right to restrict them of their freedom, but the chaotic neutral character may restrict others. The chaotic neutral character may not be malicious in the liberties he takes. He will generally leave others alone, any evil they suffer because of his actions is incidental. Chaotic evil characters believe that freedom should only exist for those creatures strong enough to keep it. They will go out of their way to corrupt the good and destroy their works. They see no value in any individual's life, other than whatever value it has to gratify that particular chaotic evil character. Chaotic neutral characters are not concerned with life, but do not feel that others exist for their exploitation, necessarily.
Neutral evil characters are the ultimate pragmatists. They will embrace any cause, no matter how vile, which furthers their goals, usually the attainment of wealth and power. What bothers neutral evil characters concerning chaotic evil characters, is their apparent lack of pragmatism and their utter unpredictability. A neutral evil character will work with others, and call them allies, if it serves his needs. The chaotic evil character, on the other hand, will sometimes prey on those who would be able to help him further his goals. Neutral evil characters see the benefits of organization, but chaotic evil characters trust no one, and see everyone and everything as either obstacles to be overcome, or pawns to be manipulated. A chaotic evil character feels that the only way individuals get ahead is by causing others to fall behind. A neutral evil character realizes that sometimes, people can work together to achieve their goals. The chaotic evil character feels that the neutral evil character unnecessarily restricts or restrains himself in that neutral evil characters claim they are out for themselves, yet they do not reap the benefits of pure freedom.
Freedom means a different thing to characters of these three alignments. For the chaotic neutral character, freedom means the freedom for all beings to pursue their own self-interest without interference from authority. The chaotic neutral character realizes that there will be chances for both conflict and cooperation, but they will always seek to advance their own self-interest. They believe in the right of all beings to do what they themselves are doing (namely, pursuing self-interest). If others are advanced while the chaotic neutral character is advancing himself, this is fine. If others are diminished when he is pursuing his own interest, so be it. He will help people that help him and harm people that harm him. The chaotic good character believes that freedom means the freedom for each individual to find his own way to promote happiness and prosperity in the world. He feels that the best way to promote goodness and weal for all is to provide the most freedom. The chaotic good character wants everyone to enjoy the same right to pursue happiness as freely as possible. Chaotic evil characters believe that freedom means the freedom to take whatever action is necessary to advance the self. In the eyes of the chaotic evil character, an important way of maximizing personal freedom is to minimize the opportunity for others to pursue their own self-interest. Thus, the chaotic evil character wants maximum freedom for himself, but minimum freedom and power for everyone else. The chaotic neutral character wants maximum freedom for everyone to pursue their own ends (for good or ill). The chaotic good character wants maximum freedom for everyone to find happiness and prosperity.
In a situation where a character must kill a rival, this is how characters of these different alignments may respond. The lawful evil character will use whatever the easiest, most direct method is. He will not be concerned primarily with the rival suffering before death, and will not want to prolong the killing. He will get it done, pay someone to do it, or use an underling. It is not important that the rival know who the attacker is, better that he doesn't in case the murder attempt fails. All that is important to the lawful evil character is that the rival is eliminated in such a way that he will not appear to have broken any law. The neutral evil character will find the most painful, yet direct way to kill his enemy. He may or may not personally commit the act, depending on how much he hates his foe. The neutral evil character may wish to dispose of his rival in a poetic manner, if fitting. The method will be cruel and heavy-handed. The rival must be taken out, but other potential rivals must get a message from this also... The chaotic evil character may use any of the above methods, but will tend to prolong the suffering of the victim to provide him with amusement. He may destroy the victim's family first to see how it affects him. He may torture his rival and play at killing him for a great length of time before finally doing him in. As long as there is amusement to be had, the chaotic evil character will keep him around.
Creatures highly dedicated to the spread of evil likewise differ in their approach depending on the law-chaos component of their alignment.
Lawful evil characters believe that the only way to impose the tyranny of their alignment over all creation is to follow an ordered course of action. Their evil society is rigidly structured, each being knowing its place and cruelly dominating all beneath this station, while being just as bullied from those above. Each creature in this hierarchy strives to follow the orders from the stronger most painstakingly--both to avoid punishment and in hopes of bettering its position in the order. To those beneath each is as harsh and cruel as possible: fearful of failure in its tasks, of being replaced by an underling. The evil ends desired might be better obtained by actions which are actually less vile than other options, but the order of lawful evil will generally perceive the most useful course rather than merely the most baneful in the short term. Lawful evil characters hate chaotic good characters most vehemently, for they see threats there to both the structure of their social system and their proposed course. What worse than both total freedom and happiness brought about only by individual achievement and character? Therefore, a lawful evil character would certainly not hesitate to ally itself with virtually any other cause if this helped to abridge the scope and influence of those creatures typifying the chaotic good. (6)
A chaotic evil character certainly has the common denominator of banefulness with those creatures who follow the ordered path of woe. They likewise oppress and enslave, torture and kill for the pure pleasure of seeing suffering and death. But while lawful evil character sees these activities as part of the structured course towards a world ruled by evil, those of chaotic evil alignment see such activities as an end in themselves. While the weaker chaotic evil creatures fear and often hate the stronger, they are ruled by them only insofar as the reach of the stronger extends--and possibly only as long as the stronger has interest in so doing. The individual evil is more important than the collective one. Let each evil being do its best to spread evil and chaos, and the ultimate result will be a cancerous spread of the alignment. Order is next to good in undesirableness, so lawful good is the antithesis of chaotic evil. Yet creatures of this alignment will not long associate to combat their hated foes, except lesser creatures under the leadership of some mighty villain or in extreme situations where the very structure of chaotic evil is threatened by some great coalition of good. (6)
The neutral evil path becomes evident as the middle road between the two opposite approaches to the precept of banefulness. The neutral evil character values both order and freedom as useful tools in the acquisition of personal power through the spread of evil. Any means that further their own agenda are embraced by neutral evil beings. The flexibility of this alignment ensures that a course of maximum evil is pursued and is not limited by considerations of either law or chaos. Structured and random acts of evil are both part of the arsenal of the neutral evil villain, who is concerned with advancing evil in the short-term and long-term. Thus, the neutral evil character will work with anyone, lawful evil, chaotic evil, or otherwise, who can aid them in their quest for total power over others. The neutral good alignment is diametrically opposed to neutral evil, so the neutral evil being is opposed to any social order that allows goodness to flourish. By destroying the works of good creatures, neutral evil beings hope to create a world where the powerful and capable are able to secure maximum benefit for the self and maximum woe for all who oppose them.
The chart below shows how Chaotic Evil views itself and the other eight alignments.
Determined but Conformist
Chaotics tend to see actions as motivated by independence or dogma. They see themselves as independent of any rigid code while lawfuls are seen as the originators and enforcers of unyielding dogmatism. Ethical neutrals are seen as too influenced by the philosophies of the lawfuls, and are seen as conformists for the most part.
Although labeled as "evil" characters with this alignment tend to view themselves as determined, assertive, and full of conviction. To these characters, "good" is simply self-righteousness and the promotion of the weak over the strong. They tend to view moral neutrals as irresolute, since they seem to be torn between the competing philosophies of the self-satisfied and the self-reliant.
Chaotic evil is the philosophy that the self is best advanced through the freedom to act independently. It is a philosophy of egoistic individualism. This philosophy holds that people should behave egoistically and that society exists for the sake of its individual members. Chaotic evil can also be associated with egoistic hedonism, individual ethical egoism, and social darwinism. Political and ethical nihilism also feature heavily in chaotic evil thought.
Chaotic evil philosophers generally maintain that there is metaphysical chaos in the multiverse and thus may support doctrines of indeterminism, casualism, tychism, and/or accidentalism. They may believe that fortune or chance determine all outcomes. They tend to be moral subjectivists, holding that values are expressions of emotions, attitudes, reactions, feelings, thoughts, wishes, and desires, and have no independent objective or external reality or reference in the real world.
The ideal government for this alignment is an minimalist state or anarchy supporting a social order in which radical egoism is rewarded and altruism is punished. Chaotic evil beings believe that the best way to advance themselves is by securing the most freedom to act as possible. Retributive justice is used to punish those who act against the chaotic evil.
(1) Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. TSR:1979. and Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook. TSR:1978.
(2) Cook, David "Zeb," et al. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. TSR: 1989.
(3) Wujcik, Erick. Ninjas and Superspies. Palladium Books: 1994.
(4) Renaud, J.R. "Making law out of chaos." Dragon (#163). November 1990: 74-78.
(5) Parlagreco, Carl. "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme." The Dragon (#26). June 1979: 23. and Wujcik, Erick. Ninjas and Superspies. Palladium Books: 1994.
(6) Gygax, Gary. "Evil: Law Vs. Chaos." The Dragon (#28). August, 1979: 10-11.