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Chaotic Neutral: Roleplaying Intelligently?


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Does anyone have any suggestions on how to play a character with high Int and Wis who is still Chaotic Neutral?

It's easy (VERY easy) to play a CN character who's silly, crazy, psychotic, shortsighted, fractured, fanatical, impetuous, or otherwise mentally impaired... but is there a personality that can be thoughtful and insightful, and yet still manage to be Chaotic Neutral?


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Chaotic is not random, insane or undisciplined. It is a belief in freedom, individuality, personal choice, and self expression.

Does this help?


Perhaps coupled with the idea that "balance" is something that both "good" and "evil" contribute to?


I would take the neutral component to mean that individual choice is more important than how those choices impact others.


Personal freedom without being overly concerned about right or wrong. (Not irrational and Not evil. Just not going out of your way to do the "right" thing and not overly hindered by "the rules.")

Most groups should probably be labeled Chaotic Neutral.

Most of the rest should probably be labeled Chaotic Evil.


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Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

They can be sensible, adaptable, and prepared to take whatever life throws at them and turn it to their advantage. They rely on handling change better than others.


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You could create a chaotic artist. They are thoughtful and insightful, but love to be free and express themselves.

Another possibility is some sort of revolutionary that is trying to bring about some large change in society.

I know it's a little played out, but you can always play the grizzled antihero who "doesn't play by the rules" (or something to that effect).


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Someone who feels that personal freedom and choice are more important than life. Each person is responsible for their own choices and actions. When those choices do no harm to others, no one should try to stop them.

It isn't that they don't value life (that would be evil), just that they don't value it highly enough to qualify as good.


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Lets have a quick go at breaking down what "Chaotic Neutral" means:

Chaotic: Values freedom above order, holds laws in little regard when not forced to. Not highly rigid or disciplined in thought.

Neutral: Self interested, but not malevolently so - will not go out of their way to screw others without good cause, but still put themselves above most others (possibly friends and family aside).

There we go. Those are your boundaries. Note the complete lack of words like "psychotic" and "mentally impaired". Those aren't alignments, they are entries in the DSM-IV.

So, you want someone who is thoughtful and insightful. Ok...forget about alignment for a moment, and think of a personality. Doesn't have to be a particularly chaotic neutral type personality - we will fix that in a sec. OK, got it? OK, now take that personality, and make it ultimately prioritize its own interests, but still be willing to be kind so long as it doesn't seriously put itself out. Whether or not you lump friends, family and/or party members into the "interests" is up to you. Now, also make it view laws in a negative way. Maybe "laws are EVIL", maybe "uhg, who cares if I am littering, there is plenty of junk lying about already, my rubbish isn't making things any worse, and there isn't a bin nearby so CBF". Make it care about being able to do what *it* wants. It doesn't need or want rules to have a say in that. And make it not particularly fixed on any one thing, unless that thing is really important to it - caring about paying off a family member's debts is fine, caring about the house being all tidy tidy tidy clean is...probably not so much, unless you are throwing in lolrandom stuff to make your chaotic character more chaotic (don't do that). Then you should be done - enjoy your authentic chaotic neutral toon that *isn't* the Joker. Nobody likes the joker. Not when they have to work with him. Haley Starshine or Han Solo types are ok, but not the Joker.

Hope this helps.


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I think Sherlock Holmes, the way Mark Gatniss and Steven Moffat envision him, comes pretty close to a chaotic neutral genius.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I aim to misbehave - Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

Pretty much perfect chaotic neutral philosophy.


Yeah, but I wouldn't rank Mal very highly on Intelligence or Wisdom.


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Calybos1 wrote:
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to play a character with high Int and Wis who is still Chaotic Neutral?

High Int can result in high frustration about the stupidity of 'normal people'. You soon figured that you shouldn't care too much about them - otherwise you would be dragged into their pointless problems. And once you saw the flawed patterns behind the rules (supposed to be generally applicable, but fail often enough), you didn't feel obligated to follow them anymore.

High Wis means a keen perception (in the broader sense) of your environment. But noticing all the normal people's flaws so clearly just makes you want to keep distance even more. And while laws make sense for such people (you totally get that), they were clearly not designed with you in mind.

Childhood was a nightmare for you. People noticed quickly you were different, asking too many smart questions and noticing things that were supposed to be private. They tried to turn you into a 'normal child' - and you hated it. A strong desire for freedom was born in these years.


A grognard loaned me some dogeared copies of the Gord the Rogue series several years ago. I got through the first two or three but, relevant to your post, the main character is supposed to be "true neutral" in alignment.

The difficulty with CN (more so with CE) is a proper hook to make your PC play nice with the remainder of the party. Except for nature-based characters I restricted PCs in my games to be some good alignment. The game already revolves naturally around conflict and adding the likelihood of internecine conflict to the game is not something I wanted to arbitrate.

As for Dave Justus's idea to emulate Captain Malcolm Reynolds - might I remind you that whatever that character's alignment is, CN is not an option. Just see this episode; he's clearly CG.

Otherwise, what Snowblind said.


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A mad scientist type might be a good example of a high int,wis,CN character. Lots of ideas and a need to experiment but unconstrained by ethics or peer opinion. Dr Holden Radcliffe from Marvel's agents of shield springs to mind


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Quark Blast wrote:


The difficulty with CN (more so with CE) is a proper hook to make your PC play nice with the remainder of the party.

Like the group has people they know and trust? The chaotic neutral may well scoff at credentials from CypherGate or any of those other egg-head research places. Now when it comes to Ezren, he actually knows how to use those spells rather than arm-chair theory-crafting.

The person has a personal connection, either directly or via recommendation of someone else who has earned their respect.

Linked character backgrounds work great for that and in a campaign can give nice story hooks.

Grand Lodge

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As other people have said, CN is not Lol Random. A few of my characters are CN, but that doesn't mean they're loners. No matter the alignment, people have goals. I often play CN characters as capricious and impulsive, but not stupid. They have some modicum of self discipline and don't have to go with every thought that comes into their head.

SheepishEidolon's post seems like a good place to start, and BretI's suggestion about linked backgrounds is also good. Maybe your character's there because he thinks the poor idiots can't survive without him (and he feels superior by comparison), or maybe he drags the party into plots he thinks will benefit him (and probably his companions), and the party feels like they have to protect him from his own ego.


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Deadpool and captain Jack sparrow are excellent examples.


I immediately thought of Deadpool, but I guess for this particular roleplaying request, you're going to have to come up with some kind of hybrid -- I guess think of a cross between Deadpool and Dr. Frankenstein? Actually, that's probably something like Nethys, except he's supposedly not Chaotic . . . .

Silver Crusade

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I'm curious as to how many people actually have significant trouble with CN characters. I've heard stories of some tables banning it (I heard one DM state that CN by definition are insane and he would make them operate under the effects of the confusion spell to dissuade people from playing the alignment), but I've never personally had any issues with CN. Oh, I've had trouble with players, and some of them were trouble while playing CN, but in my experience problem players will be problem players regardless of the alignment of their character.

Honestly, in most cases, playing a CN character isn't going to differ much from playing any other character unless you're playing a character that is defined by their alignment (like you are dedicated to chaos and moral neutrality as concepts.

@Quark Blast

It's not terribly difficult, even for a CE character to work with a group. All that is necessary is to have similar goals and/or like the other people in the party. There is a misconception about alignment that keeps cropping up. It applies to all alignments, but it's most apparent with evil. People seem to think that an evil person must be evil in all things at all times to all people, that evil characters cannot have relationships, or feel loyalty, or affection. Evil characters can be as fiercely loyal to their compatriots as anyone.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber Subscriber
Isonaroc wrote:

I'm curious as to how many people actually have significant trouble with CN characters. I've heard stories of some tables banning it (I heard one DM state that CN by definition are insane and he would make them operate under the effects of the confusion spell to dissuade people from playing the alignment), but I've never personally had any issues with CN. Oh, I've had trouble with players, and some of them were trouble while playing CN, but in my experience problem players will be problem players regardless of the alignment of their character.

Honestly, in most cases, playing a CN character isn't going to differ much from playing any other character unless you're playing a character that is defined by their alignment (like you are dedicated to chaos and moral neutrality as concepts.

@Quark Blast

It's not terribly difficult, even for a CE character to work with a group. All that is necessary is to have similar goals and/or like the other people in the party. There is a misconception about alignment that keeps cropping up. It applies to all alignments, but it's most apparent with evil. People seem to think that an evil person must be evil in all things at all times to all people, that evil characters cannot have relationships, or feel loyalty, or affection. Evil characters can be as fiercely loyal to their compatriots as anyone.

This is a super-important, terribly relevant post.

I'll link my own suggestions for playing a chaotic evil, because many of those same arguments work pretty well for chaotic neutral, as much as chaotic evil.

And ultimately, that's the thing: whether incredibly intelligent or wise or insightful or not, it doesn't matter. So long as the players and/or characters (depending on your group) don't believe you will betray them, and/or you don't harm their general enjoyment of game-time (this includes the GM), playing a chaotic neutral (or chaotic evil) character isn't that hard. You just come up with personal or selfish reasons for taking the otherwise seemingly "heroic" act.

"Yeah, the laws are stupid, and I hate them... but I get a lot more money, fame, and respect, if I take the job, and that let's me get away with really awesome crap!" is a rather chaotic neutral reason to take the job offered by a stern authority figure.

Thoughtful could lead to the concept of a reward deferred - an investment, of sorts, that will permit the character to reap the benefits at a later time.

"The system is broken and I hate everyone, but if I manage to keep my head down juuuuuuuust long enough, I can get out the other side, and will be powerful enough that no one can really stop me from doing what I want!"

Or perhaps, "Once I mange to get that perfect spell, 'the Man' will never be able to keep me down! Surely somewhere around here said spell exists..." and, you know, the highly intelligent wizard (or charismatic sorcerer or whatever) never finds that "one, perfect spell" or whatever it is, but, by the time the adventure is over, he gets to realize how powerful he's become, and can kind of revel in it. This grants him ever-more-personal freedom, and teaches him a tremendously important lesson: "From conflict, comes growth." This message, true as it is, can be phenomenally chaotic neutral, and can give rise to chaotic neutral religions who seek out personal conflict - wherever they can find it - in order to experience change and personal growth.

The nice thing is that not only does this parallel what's happening from a meta-perspective, but it also functions in-character.

Really, the sky is the limit.

Snowblind wrote:

Lets have a quick go at breaking down what "Chaotic Neutral" means:

Chaotic: Values freedom above order, holds laws in little regard when not forced to. Not highly rigid or disciplined in thought.

Neutral: Self interested, but not malevolently so - will not go out of their way to screw others without good cause, but still put themselves above most others (possibly friends and family aside).

There we go. Those are your boundaries. Note the complete lack of words like "psychotic" and "mentally impaired". Those aren't alignments, they are entries in the DSM-IV.

So, you want someone who is thoughtful and insightful. Ok...forget about alignment for a moment, and think of a personality. Doesn't have to be a particularly chaotic neutral type personality - we will fix that in a sec. OK, got it? OK, now take that personality, and make it ultimately prioritize its own interests, but still be willing to be kind so long as it doesn't seriously put itself out. Whether or not you lump friends, family and/or party members into the "interests" is up to you. Now, also make it view laws in a negative way. Maybe "laws are EVIL", maybe "uhg, who cares if I am littering, there is plenty of junk lying about already, my rubbish isn't making things any worse, and there isn't a bin nearby so CBF". Make it care about being able to do what *it* wants. It doesn't need or want rules to have a say in that. And make it not particularly fixed on any one thing, unless that thing is really important to it - caring about paying off a family member's debts is fine, caring about the house being all tidy tidy tidy clean is...probably not so much, unless you are throwing in lolrandom stuff to make your chaotic character more chaotic (don't do that). Then you should be done - enjoy your authentic chaotic neutral toon that *isn't* the Joker. Nobody likes the joker. Not when they have to work with him. Haley Starshine or Han Solo types are ok, but not the Joker.

Hope this helps.

This is also really solid.


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quibblemuch wrote:
I think Sherlock Holmes, the way Mark Gatniss and Steven Moffat envision him, comes pretty close to a chaotic neutral genius.

Seconded.

I would also add Doctor Gregory House from the TV show House (which is loosely inspired by Sherlock Holmes).


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Calybos1 wrote:

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to play a character with high Int and Wis who is still Chaotic Neutral?

It's easy (VERY easy) to play a CN character who's silly, crazy, psychotic, shortsighted, fractured, fanatical, impetuous, or otherwise mentally impaired... but is there a personality that can be thoughtful and insightful, and yet still manage to be Chaotic Neutral?

In the first place, it´s very easy to play in a very disruptive manner and than blame it on just playing your alignment, in this case CN, support this with citing known disruptive character traits and declare all your action as "your character just being so". Bis this doesn´t have anything to do with CN.

CN is about individuality, personal freedom, the insight that personal growth can only be achieved by not being hampered by conformity and the "greater good" is served best by having each and every person decide on what his personal form of "good" actually should be.

Being fickle and erratic can happen when a flash of insight strikes you and you need to act now, debate later, but the same insight also should tell you to let others in on the knowledge and action, else you _do_ look a bit like a madman.

So I´d agree: Sherlock and House are good examples, Deadpool not so very much.


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A lot of us have had bad experiences with players who put Chaotic Neutral on their character sheet and played Chaotic Evil (and as far as I can tell, they were like this in real life) -- if you think Deadpool was bad, you should have seen these people, who make him look like a Desna worshipper. And they weren't even funny.


Calybos1 wrote:

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to play a character with high Int and Wis who is still Chaotic Neutral?

It's easy (VERY easy) to play a CN character who's silly, crazy, psychotic, shortsighted, fractured, fanatical, impetuous, or otherwise mentally impaired... but is there a personality that can be thoughtful and insightful, and yet still manage to be Chaotic Neutral?

The wizard and/or cleric says "Oh, if it isn't a little king? How cute. I'd advise you to get out of my way if you don't want that crown passing onto your son by the morrow.".

Lawful tends to be about the creation of institutions (creation of local armies to protect from bandits, creation of new business alliances, creation of criminal empires that control the kingdom's shadows, etc.).

Chaotic tends to view such institutionalized or traditional authority with less respect. Oh, sure, they might respect some basic formalities (such as a barbarian that flies off the handle if guests don't practice their manners), but generally, they tend to prefer being free to walk their own path without interference. Institutions that get in the way of that are either avoided, circumvented, or put into their place.

So, going with 'high int/wis'.... well, that sounds like a formula for a powerful caster. Ergo, they would be someone that highly enjoys the use of their magical powers (and the assocated perks such as respect and fear) in order to get what they want.

...so a normal high level wizard player, basically. You will be highly comfortable abusing spells to get around minor annoyances like "you need to talk to the ministers if you want to meet with the king" (teleports in during the dead of night and puts all guards to sleep).

You can have perfectly rational goals and act sanely... but you can be chaotic with your utter disregard for authority once you have the magic power to make most humans bow before you.


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Treating other people as pawns or obstacles rather than people doesn't sound sane.

Although a chaotic person may not respect hierarchies and institutions, that doesn't mean they can't treat people with respect.


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I think the idea of chaotic neutral / evil seems to differ from people.

Once in a campaign I played a "chaotic neutral" barbarian, but the DM claimed the character was "evil" so the character got banned and I had to reroll a new char.

Why was the character evil? Because he didn't save a dwarf child cased in magical crystal during one quest.

In a magical world with all kind of foul sorcerery, curse, etc., not being paid handsomely to do a quest that may endanger the character's safety seems none persuasive, unless he's aligned toward good. In my opinion, the character I played was chaotic neutral.

But in my DM's eyes, he was chaotic evil. So, maybe communicate with the DM first to get the idea of chaotic neutral/evil in his mind.

To play a witty&smart chaotic neutral character, I would say plot against everyone who seems profitable, but not necessarily trigger it at any chance.

Medieval mercenary might fit the role with them raiding on their ex-employers' land once unemployed, slack off when possible, fought without passion when pitched against fellow mercenaries, Chevauchée on villages, etc.


BretI wrote:

Treating other people as pawns or obstacles rather than people doesn't sound sane.

Although a chaotic person may not respect hierarchies and institutions, that doesn't mean they can't treat people with respect.

Well, they are coherent and functional, at least. That is better than what could be said about some elected officials.


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A chaotic neutral character's respect for an authority figure would be based on respect for the actual person, rather than the position. (Though the CN character is not naturally self-destructive, and will probably go through the motions if failure to do so will result in personal harm.)

CN NPCs in Paizo APS usually have particular goals they're working towards (vengeance or rescuing a friend or becoming a pirate priest or whatever), and they'll work with anyone to further those goals.


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Dotting.

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