What Happened To The Chaos?

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on November 5, 2010

We’ve all been in this situation. The party is planning how to handle the next encounter. Strategy is being discussed and the groundwork for an epic battle is being laid out. The debate and conversation around such plans could last longer than the combat itself if we allowed it to. Just as the plan is coming together chaos takes over.

Delian the Paladin – We know that Balador favours undead as allies. I feel it would be prudent to lead with an attack that unleashes the power of the gods.

Nenia the Wizard – Wisely spoken Delian, however we know that Balador is truly a coward. He hides behind his numerous servants. I feel if we quickly eliminate these foes we will have a direct path to Balador.

Ethan the Rogue – These idea’s sound great! I just need a minute to sneak behind our adversaries. It will allow me to unleash a tirade of death upon them.

Merric the Cleric – That’s fine Ethan, just don’t separate yourself from the rest of us. My healing magic will only stretch so far.

Delian the Paladin – Great, I say Braddoc and I advance together and form a defensive wall, then Ethan can move in to flank our foes. Braddoc, can we count on you with this plan of attack? Braddoc?

Braddoc the Fighter – (To the DM) I charge!

The remaining players are shocked and upon lifting their jaws from the floor they ask why? Why are you attacking? The response? I’m chaotic neutral, it’s in my nature.

Earlier this week Ameron discussed whether Alignment Mattered In 4e D&D. Today that discussion is continued with a celebration of the chaotic alignments. As tonight is Guy Fawkes night we thought it appropriate to celebrate the chaos that might have ensued that night so many years ago.

As Ameron mentioned earlier this week the alignment wheel was formerly composed of nine alignments. In 4e this system has been watered down to five, two of which are evil and all but forbidden to PCs. In short we have Lawful Good, Good and Unaligned. As a commenter mentioned, having nine alignments is as simple as your DM declaring that there are nine alignments, or for you to make a choice on how you want to role-play your character.

Of all the alignments that existed in previous editions the chaotic ones were my favorites. They represented the unpredictable nature of alignment and the character being played. You couldn’t take anything as a given with these characters.

Chaotic Good

My favourite alignment. I’m not sure if it’s because I think all heroes need to operate outside of the bounds of the law in order to accomplish their objectives or because Batman fits so nicely into this alignment, either way it is my favourite. How do you take down a corrupt Baron? You circumvent the laws he is abusing, taking illegal actions to benefit the greater good.

Robin Hood knew all about this. He and his merry men made it their mission to rob from the rich and give to the poor. He saw the corruption that power had given to the nobility and realized the only way he could level the playing field was to operate on the other side of the law.

Adventurers are often called upon to complete shady or illegal tasks in order to accomplish a greater good. While the record of history will put the heroes on the right side of things, at the time their actions could have them arrested or killed. The chaotic character doesn’t care for these things. He sees a wrong or an injustice and he rights it. The cost of doing so is nothing compared to the cost of doing nothing. The chaotic good hero might be ultimate champion of good, for he does good for its sake and doesn’t cloud his judgement with the laws of man.

Chaotic Neutral

The alignment you love. Love to hate that is. Every group has had its share of individual who play characters who select chaotic neutral as their alignment. The behaviour of such a character can manifest itself in many ways. Often this is through creative and perhaps psychotic role playing. The character cares nothing for good or evil, rather the satisfaction of his own desires and whims trumps all other options.

Others will role-play this alignment via whimsy. A d100 will determine the course of events or perhaps I’ll flip a coin before deciding whether to fight with the party in this current combat. Our opponents do look like they could use some help.

Chaotic neutral is one of the most infuriating alignments in D&D, because you never knew what you were going to get from the player. Week to week the behaviour could change. Just when you thought you could rely on them, they flip. Of course these same antics could lead to some memorable occasions at the gaming table. Do you remember when you kicked the door down, leaving the rest of the party behind, and promptly got killed. That will teach you to be so impulsive. Oh, you’re dead? Here let me flip a coin to decide if we have a raise dead spell cast for you or not.

Chaotic Evil

The alignment that no PC should ever play. We tried it once, an evil campaign. No one got along and no one trusted the chaotic evil character. The lawful evil types knew they could trust each other, to a point. Chaotic evil is anarchy and destruction for its own sake. This character desires nothing more than to tear apart the fabric of society. Not content to stop there, the lust for power leads to the destruction of all things.

Chaotic evil was traditionally left to the villains, but not the major villains. Major villains have a purpose that chaotic evil doesn’t allow for. This shouldn’t lead one to underestimate a chaotic evil character, the very aspect that makes them poor major villains makes them fantastic adversaries. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if the actions they take result in the downfall of those very same objectives. When you get the hint that a chaotic evil character is near, either steer clear or kill them fast.

In Retrospect

I miss the old alignment wheel and the choices it brought. I tend to play most of my 4e characters as good or unaligned. If I’m honest most of them are chaotic good, but then I tend to play scoundrels and rogues of one sort or another. D&D is a game about heroes and it makes sense that we emphasize the good aspect of behaviour. This doesn’t mean we can’t approach good from multiple angles. History and fiction are full of examples of heroes of all stripes, from Batman to Indiana Jones, Dr. House to Sherlock Holmes.

What’s your fondest memory of chaotic alignments? What stories have earned a place at your table?

Some History

For those not aware and who are interested in a brief history lesson Guy Fawkes night is a celebration of the thwarting of the bombing of the English House of Lords in 1605. Known as the Gunpowder Plot a renegade group hoped to kill the protestant King of England, James I, and replace him with a Catholic head of state. Guy Fawkes was to watch the pile of gunpowder below the House of Lords. He was caught, arrested and has lived on in infamy ever since.

A Traditional Rhyme celebrating the event

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d (or by God’s mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

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1 Charisma November 6, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Charging into battle without a plan or regard for your fellow adventurer’s is not Chaotic Neutral, in my opinion. It’s a desire to play recklessly, using Chaotic Neutral as an excuse (incorrectly, and again, in my opinion). I sigh when I hear of players choosing this alignment so they can “do what they want,” or because they want to act upon the randomness of a 50/50 die roll.

One of my favorite characters I ever saw played was Chaotic Neutral. This alignment wasn’t chosen because the player was trying to be difficult, or that they wanted an excuse to play dangerously, impulsively, or to simply do what they wanted (morals be damned).

I simply liked the idea of this character traveling the lands, searching for adventure, challenges, and opportunities to find a purpose. That was her backstory, and it worked. Sure, the rest of the group was goodish, and at any moment this character could have decided that a different, better opportunity had presented itself, leaving her to leave the group (the GM threw tempting plot hooks her way). But in the end, she simply decided to stay with this group because of the friendships she formed.

Is that Chaotic Neutral? I say so.

Nice article!

2 Captain DM November 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm


That sounds more like True Neutral or Neutral Neutral to me.

3 mbeacom November 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I agree, as an old schooler, that type of character would have been Neutral Neutral in our world. Also, I agree about Chaotic Good. I played a lot of Rangers, men of the land. The only law they recognized was that of nature and of the earth. Rangers are born to be chaotic good.

In my home games, we’ve house ruled alignment and we use the old nine point scale. It facilitates a lot more role play opportunities if you have people who actually endeavor to play their alignments.

4 Acheron November 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Very good article, I love chaotic good and the charge example is very much like a fighter we have, but in our case he was dumb as a rock but good hearted.

Intresting points and LOL so hard that you put Dr. House in the heros, he definetly is, very bright of you to place it there, brilliant.


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