February 14, 2014
The Chaotic Alignment
Do you thirst for some chaos?
Back in my look at the alignment axis, I gave a lot of focus to the axis of good, neutral, and evil, and while the chaotic and lawful alignments were mentioned, I overlooked what they represented. Well, at the request of a longtime friend and reader, I aim to correct that. So let’s start by looking at the chaotic end of the spectrum. Why? No reason. Chaos!
First, what differentiates the good/evil axis with the law/chaos axis the most is that while good and evil constantly clash against one another, law and chaos are able to co-exist much more easily. A good example of this is with adventuring parties in tabletop role-playing games. It can be a fairly safe bet most of the time that all of the characters in a group are going to be either good or neutral. Having an evil character is an invitation for character conflict, which can be fine in small amounts but causes problems when it is caused by something so fundamental on if your character is a good or evil character. There are few such problems if a group has both chaotic and lawful characters in the party. Sure, they likely will not get along sometimes – with the chaotic characters typically being more free-spirited and the lawful characters more “stick-in-the-mud” orderly – but they can still work with one another without major issue.
So what does it mean to be chaotic? For a lot of characters, it acts as an excuse to be random, and in all honesty this is not entirely inaccurate. However, I want to stress that there is a limit to just how random having a chaotic alignment allows you to be. Chaotic characters tend to be impulsive, quick to jump into action, and willing to do just about anything to meet their goals, but they are not so crazy as to appear as guest stars on the Animaniacs cartoon. Chaotic characters lean towards the more devious and tricky characters in a party, while lawful tends to be strait forward. Because of this, and because chaotic alignments tend to feel less constrained, many players tend to favor the chaotic alignments over the lawful ones. Players enjoy playing the free-spirited, wild, and unpredictable nature of chaotic, taking a lot of fun from just being chaotic and random.
A great example of a chaotic good character in myth and story would be Robin Hood, particularly the Disney version, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. A wild soul who enjoyed humiliating the local lords as much as he did redistributing the wealth among the people of his land. Robin was a fun loving rapscallion with a quick wit who was even quicker on his feet.
I have some players who think I dislike the chaotic alignments, and that is simply untrue. Do I think they are overplayed? Sometimes. Do I think some players take advantage of what it means to be chaotic? Certainly, but most of all I think that players tend to shy away from lawful alignments and towards the chaotic ones out of a misunderstanding of what it means to be lawful and/or chaotic.
Next time, if you have not guessed it yet, we will be looking at what it means to play a lawful aligned character.
As always I thank everyone for reading and wish you all good gaming.
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