How To Play Chaotic Neutral In D&D Without Hurting The Game

Chaotic neutral may be the most infamous of alignments in Dungeons & Dragons, especially among player characters, where it can sometimes make things difficult within a party. While the idea of a truly free spirit is appealing to many players, the line between spontaneous and detrimental can be less acknowledged than one may think. Although a chaotic neutral character can be interesting, a badly-handled one can be a disaster.

Dungeons & Dragons has an alignment system that places every character into an alignment based on two different axis.The scale of good an evil measures how likely a character is to be kind and altruistic as opposed to cruel and destructive. Meanwhile, the scale of law and order gauges how strictly a character adheres to rules and orders. Chaotic neutral as an alignment represents a character primarily interested in their own desires, not inclined towards good or evil. Since evil D&D characters can be heroes, a chaotic neutral character can become one as well. This can easily be the basis of an interesting character, but only if the character is roleplayed well.


Related: Fixing D&D Problems Before They Start With A Session Zero

Badly-played chaotic neutral characters have the potential to badly derail a campaign. By having a better understanding of the chaotic neutral alignment and what it means, a player can do a much better job of roleplaying it. A player who is both knowledgeable and restrained is capable of bringing out the best that the chaotic neutral alignment has to offer.

Chaotic Neutral D&D Characters Are Still Members Of The Party

D&D Backgrounds for Interesting Party Combinations

One pitfall that some players fall into while playing a chaotic neutral character in D&D is having them not actively working with the party. This sounds like something that wouldn't be too common. After all, almost all adventures involve a party working together, and teamwork in Dungeons & Dragons should be encouraged. However, some players end up thinking that playing chaotic neutral means that they don't have to play along, and that can have dire effects on the campaign.

Sometimes, a player with a chaotic neutral player character will have their character openly lack interest in the party's goals. Sometimes this will be explained with their character not feeling like helping, or in some cases, they will use the alignment itself to explain why their character isn't working with the others. However, both of these are flawed arguments. In particularly bad cases, the character will actively work against the party's goals, such as stealing from party members or impeding their progress.

Related: D&D: Best Ways To Play Undead Adventurers

Chaotic neutral characters may follow their own rules, but they still had a reason to join the party. Even though they are independent, they are still a part of the team, and should act as such. Keeping D&D parties from killing each other should be easy, but it gets difficult when one character decides to be an obstacle to the group. Playing a chaotic neutral character is no excuse for disrupting the game, because it only makes the experience less fun for everyone else.

Chaotic Neutral Characters In Dungeons & Dragons Should Not Act Randomly

d&d adventurers fight construct bard cleric

Another pitfall that some players fall into with chaotic neutral characters is to have their characters act more or less randomly. A character's actions need to be performed with a plan in mind, be it in combat, investigation, or social maneuvering. It's unfortunate that some treat the alignment as an excuse to throw caution to the wind at every opportunity, even when they have no reason to.

A chaotic neutral character who does not apply any sort of logic to their decisions can be one of the biggest problems for a party to deal with. Getting Dungeons & Dragons parties back on track after a distraction is a skill every DM needs, but when a player decides to stop contributing, the adventure can grind to a halt. A sudden burst of random wackiness can wreck a scene's tension, whether that is the player's intention. Even worse is when the chaotic neutral character abruptly does something that can cause a major setback, such as angering town guards or activating traps just to see what they do.

There is a time and place for comic relief in Dungeons & Dragons, and it is perfectly fine for a player to prefer a more humorous character. However, disrupting the campaign for the sake of a character's antics is never appropriate. If someone is messing with the campaign, then the adventure itself suffers. Not only that, but if a character's only consistent trait is "chaotic", then the player will get bored of their D&D character because there will be no substance to them

Chaotic Neutral Characters In D&D Rely On Good Roleplaying

A Dungeons and Dragons halfling bard

The free-spirited nature of the chaotic neutral alignment should not be something that drives a character to act against the quest or the party. Rather, it should be a source of opportunities for the player in question to explore their character's approach to their ideals. After all, a chaotic neutral character still has a code, it's just one that is uniquely theirs.

Related: Why You Should Never Run D&D Like Legend Of Vox Machina

Because the chaotic neutral alignment lends itself so well to individualism and rebellion, the player should find opportunities to display the character's personal code and how it led them to work with the party. This could encourage interesting Dungeons & Dragons roleplay within the party as they try to figure each other out. Chaotic neutral has a reputation as the wild card among alignments, and although that shouldn't be taken too far, the player of such a character can use that to their advantage. The chaotic neutral character's personal goals and skills could bring a valuable new perspective to the adventure, and perhaps even solve some dilemmas in unexpected ways.

A chaotic neutral character may not be the cleanest fit into the party, but they can still be a very valuable member. The contrast with their fellow adventurers, especially characters such as fervent paladins and disciplined monks, could lead to some interesting interactions and dynamics. With a D&D DM that loves to roleplay, a chaotic neutral party member could shake up the party's dynamic in an enjoyable way.

Ultimately, the goal of a chaotic neutral adventurer is the same as any other player character: To finish the quest and have fun along the way. By avoiding the frequent pitfalls of playing a chaotic neutral character and maintaining respect for the party and the game, a player can do an excellent job of that. Chaotic neutral players in Dungeons & Dragons may put some DMs on edge, but a well-played character can win anyone over.