The 4 Ways of Being Chaotic Neurtal: 1st Edition


Around JADE Chaotic Neutral is the most popular alignment. Jeff, Dave and Elijah all claimed it as their favourite, and it pops up among our active and deceased characters with regularity.

And it is true that while it is not my favourite alignment to play; being Chaotic Neutral can shake up the party's norm, and make for some fun and good role play. That is if the player is actually being Chaotic Neutral and not just using it for this excuse:


I have seen this around the internet for a while now, and I know it is a joke. I really do. But for some reason it has always bothered me, and I think the fact that I have basically heard this justification in game for a player character's outrageous actions compounds that. I have found many players use the Chaotic Neutral alignment to justify selfish behaviour, or even to try and excuse actions that are down right evil. Despite many players seeming to feel so, Chaotic Neutral does not mean you get to do whatever you want. And I would like to take some time and clear up this misconception.


To show you that, I want to look at the four definitions presented in the Players Handbook across the editions (Excluding 4th edition as it changed how alignments work.) From there we can get a better sense about what it means to play Chaotic Neutral, and also see an interesting debate across editions.  I think it is best to start at the beginning with 1st ed AD&D to give us our base line.


The Agent of Chaos

I think 1st AD&D has the most straight forward definition of Chaotic Neutral and it goes as follows:

"Above respect for life and good, or disregarded 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 evil prevail, for ultimate chaos would suffer."

In 1st ed, you are an agent of Chaos, neither good nor evil. You challenge authority and the nature of society, in favour of the natural chaotic state of the universe. A less "spiritual" reading could also suggest your role is to promote chaos without tipping the balance of power. These actions are not malicious or self severing, But neither are they kind and generous. They are just enough of either that the natural order is offset.

While it may seem like this definition gives you license to act "however you want", I think it is important to note that a player needs to consider how their characters actions are chaotic without tipping the scales in favour of good or evil. So acting entirely selfishly to the detriment of those around you is clearly evil, and as a Dungeon Master this sort of activity is something that you can ask your player's to justify.

This is not to say that the character cannot be fun or silly, simply that their actions need to be reflective of the natural chaos they bring to any situation. Characters like a Klutz, a Taoist Monk, or a Trickster fit this role perfectly, while something like the Mad Emperor, The Eccentric Bard, and the Maniacal Plotter are better suited to Chaotic Good, and Chaotic Evil.

What do you think? Does the definition of Chaotic Neutral in First Edition AD&D give you licence to do what you want? Or is it more of a balancing act between the forces of good and evil? Let us know in the Comments and be sure to check next where we explore being Chaotic Neutral in 2nd ed AD&D.

Written by: Andrew Gregory
The 4 Ways of Being Chaotic Neurtal: 1st Edition The 4 Ways of Being Chaotic Neurtal: 1st Edition Reviewed by Jade GamingNews on 6/24/2016 01:20:00 pm Rating: 5

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