A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it.
Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal.
Chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.
Above respect for life and good, or disregard for life and promotion of evil, the chaotic neutral places randomness and disorder. Good and evil are complimentary balance arms. Neither are preferred, nor must either prevail, for ultimate chaos would then suffer. This view of the cosmos holds that absolute freedom is necessary. Whether the individual exercising such freedom chooses to do good or evil is of no concern. After all, life itself is law and order, so death is a desirable end. Therefore, life can only be justified as a tool by which order is combated, and in the end it too will pass into entropy. (1)
Chaotic neutral characters believe that there is no order to anything, including their own actions. With this as a guiding principle, they tend to follow whatever whim strikes them at the moment. Good and evil are irrelevant when making a decision. Chaotic neutral characters are extremely difficult to deal with. Such characters have been known to cheerfully and for no apparent purpose gamble away everything they have on the roll of a single die. They are almost totally unreliable. In fact, the only reliable thing about them is that they cannot be relied upon! (2)
Chaotic neutral characters like to indulge in everything. This is the insurgent, the con-man, gambler, and high roller; the uncommitted freebooter seeking nothing more than self-gratification. This type of character will at least consider doing anything if they can find enjoyment or amusement. Life has meaning, but theirs has the greatest meaning. According to chaotic neutrals, laws and rules infringe on personal freedom and were meant to be broken. This character is always looking for the best deal, and will work with good, neutral, or evil to get it; as long as he comes out of the situation on top. The chaotic neutral is constantly teetering between good and evil, rebelling, and bending the law to fit his needs. (3)
Chaotic neutrals can also be completely random and unpredictable. They may shift allegiances at a moment's notice, or remain with a leader for years. The chaotic neutral character feels that there is no plan at all for the universe. Things just happen. They tend to believe in luck and chance, rather than fate or destiny. They don't care what happens to others, yet will not necessarily go out of their way to harm others. If someone stands in the way of their happiness, they may kill that individual or move on to something else. Their priorities tend to change as they experience new things in life. They may even appear to adhere to another alignment for some length of time, only to switch at an inappropriate moment. They can be the worst tricksters, conning people, not for gain, but for sheer amusement. The chaotic neutral may not be driven by fame or wealth, but may only take actions just to see what happens.
In direct opposition to the lawful neutral being, this character views ultimate freedom and disorder as most desirable. He sees good and evil in a secondary role, and neither should be allowed to interfere with pure chaos. Whether the individual chooses to do good or evil is of no concern. Violence is not a chaotic neutral trait, but adherents will often not hesitate to use intimidation and non-lethal violence to achieve their goals. These characters will almost always seek some selfish goal (such as acquiring wealth) in addition to the promotion of universal disorder, and are thus seen as "greedy" by others. Naturally, the chaotic neutral being won't see this as greed, but rather as "self-fulfillment." Thus, respect for others does not stand in the way of the pursuit of individuality. Since death is inevitable anyway, the chaotic neutral being isn't averse to speeding certain creatures on their ways if it's deemed necessary, although he won't go out of his way to inflict pain and suffering like an evil being would. Life can only be justified as a tool by which order is combated. (4)
A chaotic neutral character will keep his word if it serves his interests. He may attack an unarmed foe if he feels it necessary. He will not kill, but may harm an innocent. He may use torture to extract information, but never for pleasure. He may kill for pleasure, but is not likely to do so. A chaotic neutral character may use poison. He may help those in need and 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 may betray a family member, comrade, or friend, but only in the most dire of situations. Chaotic neutral characters do not respect the concepts of self-discipline and honor, because they believe such concepts limit freedom to advance their self-interest. (5)
Here are some possible adjectives describing chaotic neutral characters: unreliable, independent, greedy, inconsistent, unpredictable, selfish, disorderly, anarchic, self-centered, confusing, unfettered, free, and individualistic.
Well known chaotic neutral characters from film or literature include: Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Q (Star Trek), Peeves the Poltergeist (Harry Potter), and Conan the Barbarian.
Equivalent alignment in other game systems: Anarchist (Palladium), Road of Paradox (Vampire), Chaos (Warhammer), Anti-authority and Selfish (Alternity).
A list of Ten Commandments for a chaotic neutral religion may look like this:
1. You shall lie to promote your freedom.
2. You shall not kill the innocent.
3. You shall not murder.
4. You shall help the needy if such action promotes your freedom.
5. You shall honor no authority above yourself.
6. You shall break the law whenever convenient.
7. You shall not betray others unless your life is in jeopardy.
8. You shall not aid enemies of freedom or those who promote law.
9. You shall pursue pleasure.
10. You shall promote unlimited freedom for yourself.
Likewise, a chaotic neutral religion may list the following as sins. This list is given in the order of least severe infraction to most severe.
1. Showing respect for self-discipline, authority, or institutions unless trickery is involved.
2. Failing to pursue pleasure.
3. Placing fear of the law or duty above personal desire.
4. Keeping your word to a peer when breaking your word would keep you out of danger or provide amusement.
5. Refusing to exert power over others or actively sow dissension when appropriate.
6. Following a law when opportunity for mischief, personal gain, or excitement presents itself.
7. Turning down a chance to trick, cheat, or lie to a being for personal gain or amusement.
8. Actively joining or maintaining an existing government, power structure, or other institution for reasons other than trickery, destruction, or mayhem.
9. Actively hindering change.
10. Actively inducing boredom. Aiding the forces of Law and Order.
The following two lists detail common actions undertaken during "adventuring" that are considered honorable and dishonorable for the chaotic neutral 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.
Fleeing a battle that's obviously going poorly
Gloating over a victory
Perpetrate humiliating prank on enemy
Refusing a fair contest/challenge
Taunting an enemy into fighting
Walking away from a challenge
Allowing a disarmed enemy to pick up his weapon
Allowing the enemy to attack first
Being taken prisoner
Killing a host who has provided you food or shelter
Refusing medical treatment for the good of the party
A chaotic neutral 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 not betray a family member, unless the circumstances are dire.
Has few close friends and would never betray those he has, unless circumstances are dire.
Is generally well liked by his community, but normally will not seek to improve the community.
Will support his nation when profitable to do so, but will not act against his nation if profitable.
Believes people deserve the treatment they are willing to endure.
Is not concerned with those less fortunate.
Will not harm others for profit.
A chaotic neutral government is unpredictable, influencing the community in difference ways at different times. In a truly chaotic neutral society there is no government. Anarchy is the rule. A stranger to such a town may feel as if he has ridden into a town of total lawlessness.
Chaotic good characters feel that each person must find their own way and should have total freedom to act in any manner they choose as long as they hurt no one else in the process. Chaotic neutral characters believe that everyone should do what they want, regardless of whether the actions are good or hurt others. Both will lie and cheat. The chaotic good character will cheat and lie to others only when good comes of it or to trick the evil. The chaotic neutral character will lie, cheat, and trick anyone to achieve his goals, whether that goal is amusement, power, or wealth. Chaotic good characters value the individual freedom of all creatures, while the chaotic neutral character values his own freedom, and doesn't care about the freedom of others. Chaotic neutral characters do not necessarily want others to suffer as a result of their actions, but do not care if others do suffer. They tend to behave in a good manner towards friends and allies, unless their friends and allies do not agree with them. Chaotic good characters never want others to suffer because of their actions, except those who are evil or deserve to suffer in their eyes. Chaotic neutral characters don't understand why chaotic goods are so concerned about others, while chaotic good characters feel that chaotic neutral characters are hypocritical in believing in their own freedom, but not necessarily in the right for others to have the same freedom.
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.
Chaotic neutral and true neutral characters have a similar moral outlook. They tend to follow a morality of reciprocity, behaving altruistically toward benefactors and egoistically toward malefactors. Their difference involves their outlook on laws and society. The true neutral character wants to work within the law and will observe most customs and mores because it it in their best interest to do so. True neutral characters don't want to "rock the boat" but will on occasion if their self-interest is overwhelmingly served by breaking the law or flouting custom. The chaotic neutral character sees no value in laws, customs, or mores. A chaotic neutral character may appear to follow many laws, but does not do so because they believe in any inherent value to such systems. The chaotic neutral character believes in the pure freedom to pursue their own self-interest (and for others to pursue their own interests in the same manner). Although the true neutral character does not believe that the law should be followed all of the time, neither do they believe that laws are completely useless. They believe that chaotic neutral characters actually limit themselves by refusing to consider that sometimes self-interest can best be served by order in society. Chaotic neutral characters feel that true neutral characters limit themselves by paying lip service to laws and customs that they do not necessarily support.
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.
The chart below shows how Chaotic Neutral views itself and the other eight alignments.
Dogmatic and Idealistic
Conformist and Idealistic
Independent but Idealistic
Realistic but Dogmatic
Realistic but Conformist
Independent and Realistic
Dogmatic and Egoistic
Conformist and Egoistic
Independent but Egoistic
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.
Characters who are morally neutral tend to see themselves as realistic. So-called "good" is actually an idealistic and naive philosophy in their eyes. Moral neutrals also eschew what they see as the radical egoism of darker, "evil" philosophies.
Chaotic neutral is the philosophy that the pursuit of liberty and freedom is a desirable end in and of itself. It is a philosophy of pure equitistic individualism. This philosophy holds that the best way for all beings to pursue a rational self-interest is in a society devoid of social order. By putting the needs of the individual ahead of the needs of the state or social order, each being can advance its own self-interest with a minimum of interference from others. Chaotic neutral can also be associated with ethical equitism, ethical hedonism, and various forms of existentialism. As the philosophical "average" of altruism and egoism, equitism holds that harm to others should be minimized when advancing the self and that harm to the self should be minimized when advancing others.
Chaotic neutral 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 they are allowed maximum freedom. Whether the social order supports altruistic actions or egoistic actions is of no concern to the followers of this alignment. Chaotic neutral beings want the power of the state to be as weak as possible, or preferably, non-existent. Chaotic neutrals generally support justice systems that allow maximum freedom for individuals to pursue their own personal agendas.
(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.