The 4 Ways of Being Chaotic Neutral: Third Edition

Last week we looked at what it means to be Chaotic Neutral in 2nd Ed AD&D and the week before we looked at what it means in 1st ed AD&D. This week we move away from the TSR versions of the game, towards the more modern Wizards of the Coast interpretations. Starting with 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons, we will look at how the definition of Chaotic Neutral changed from 2nd to 3rd, and answer the big question: Does the Chaotic Neutral Alignment let you do whatever you want?

Yeah, yeah it's a 3.5 manual not a 3rd I know, I know.

Where 2nd Ed AD&D redefined Chaotic Neutral to refer to a lunatic, 3rd edition changes it yet again, with a more "rebel without a cause"attitude in mind.

3. The Free Spirit

I think that 3rd ed's definition returns to a more traditional view of Chaotic Neutral than previous editions. It does however, tone it down a bit into something that I think is more playable: rather than the Agent of Chaos featured in 1st ed, you are some one who marches to the beat their your own drum.

"Chaotic Neutral, “Free Spirit”: 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 behaviour is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Gimble, a bard who wanders the land living by his wits, is chaotic neutral. 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."

So you don't intentionally spread chaos like in 1st Ed, and your actions aren't guided by randomness as in 2nd ed. Rather, in 3rd Ed you live by your precepts, outside of society. You don't disrupt society, nor do you seek to improve it. Rather you view yourself as an outsider, and do things your own way: a true rebel without a cause.

But does this definition let you do whatever you want? Well, yes I think it does... Sort of. You can do whatever you want, as long as it does interfere with society or tip the balance in favour of good or evil. So in a way you can certainly do whatever action comes to you, however like in other editions, your actions have to be conscious to make sure they are not too good, or too evil. Anything that is going to tip the balance from good or evil goes against your alignment, so you have to consider that when acting. Thus Stealing from your party for personal gain becomes evil, but stealing from your party to feed a hungry person maintains that balance, without intentional disrupting the order of things.

Like the example given in the definition, A free spirited Bard, or a character like Tom Bombadil from Lord of the the rings fit this role perfectly. A real life example I always like to think about is the late great David Bowie: A man who did as he pleased, not in the name of good, or evil, but in the name of art, expression, and free spiritedness. On the other hand, thieves, bikers and tricksters are likely better suited for other chaotic alignments.

Oh that guy!
So it seems that you can sort of doo whatever you want in 3rd Ed D&D, however there does seem to be a glaring limitation: there doesn't seem to be much reason for your chaotic neutral to go on an adventure. Since most adventures involve disrupting the status quo (for good or for worse); Wouldn't going on a quest of any sort likely constitute an alignment violation? Of course I can think of many quests that a CN character could participate in, but I am talking about your run of the mill adventure. It seems to me that their alignment would prevent them from joining, or at least being a useful/reliable member of the party.

What do you think? Does 3rd Ed's definition of Chaotic Neutral allow you to do whatever you want as long as it doesn't disrupt the status quo? Or does it provide more freedom? And do you think a 3rd ed character going on a quest to save the world constitutes an alignment violation?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments and be sure to check back next Wednesday when we look at 5th ed D&D.

Written by: Andrew Gregory

The 4 Ways of Being Chaotic Neutral: Third Edition The 4 Ways of Being Chaotic Neutral: Third Edition Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 7/06/2016 02:00:00 pm Rating: 5

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