Alignment (or Why I hate Chaotic Neutral)

I just typed this up as an email response to one of the players and felt strongly enough about it I thought I should post for everyone:

I have to warn you that I’m nervous about Chaotic Neutral. Generally speaking (and I’m not saying you’d do this), people use CN as an excuse to justify their crappy behavior. To clarify, in my world the Law/Chaos axis relies more on the Greater Good vs. Individual Rights. A lawful person doesn’t necessarily agree with (or even follow) all laws – they just feel that they’re in place to bring order to what would otherwise be anarchy. The best illustration I can think of is the current quandary over privacy – is it okay to have laws that invade people’s privacy in order to create a more safe/secure environment for the majority of the people? A lawfully aligned character would say yes while the chaotic character would argue that individual privacy and freedom is ultimately more important for the continued growth and prosperity of the people. Even within the same alignment there’s variation – you could have a lawful person think that wiretapping US citizens is fine while another lawful person would be squeamish about that, but okay with software running to monitor email for key words. Even a pirate can be lawful – his views on the law of most governments are pretty loose, but you sure as hell better follow his rules when you’re on his ship (realistically this is more neutral, but you see my argument). On the Law/Chaos axis, I’m honestly fine with whatever you decide.

On the good/evil axis, my views are a little more rigid, but harder to define. I think there are a number of things that can make one “evil” – the extreme case of “the ends justifying the means”; narcissism and selfishness; outright psychopathy, etc. Simplified, I actually think of the seven deadly sins. Having said that, I believe (in game and in real life) everyone is at least a little bit evil – it’s what makes us human. So while I’m not willing to let anyone play an outright evil character, I’m pretty open to good or neutral.

So why my problem with Chaotic Neutral? I’ve played with too many people who think that Chaotic means wildly unpredictable. And while that is a valid interpretation, it makes it hard to progress a story. If I need you to reason with the bad guy holding a kid for ransom and you decide (chaotically) that he’s too big a threat and you should just kill him (and if the kid dies, it’s better than letting the bad guy go where he can do even greater harm), then you’re absolutely within your alignment to do so even though it kills my story. Likewise on the neutral side some people like to interpret that as being neither good nor evil but rather a cosmic balance. To the extreme I’ve seen people justify doing a legitimately evil act to “make up” for the fact that they’ve been doing too many good deeds recently.

Jack Sparrow is a fun character to watch or play. He’s not as fun for the adventuring party that is depending on him. You know who doesn’t love Jack Sparrow? Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.

tl;dr: You can play Chaotic Neutral if you want as long as you don’t piss off the other players/characters (or me) to the point it’s hard to work with you.

Alignment (or Why I hate Chaotic Neutral)

Echoes of Heaven Danieleben