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Alignment Part 2 – The Heart of Darkness

Chaotic evil is one of the most common villain alignments.  What follows is my opinions on how chaotic evil should be played.  Obviously, there’s more than one way to approach this.  However, I personally feel that often times chaotic evil is played incorrectly, taking a form more like lawful evil or neutral evil.  Alignments are often difficult for players and DMs to understand, so hopefully I can shed a little light on the subject.

There is a reason why chaotic evil is very popular as the default villain alignment for many dungeon masters.  As the antithesis of lawful good, it presents a natural balance between the two extremes.  However, it is often played as something else.  I’ve seen chaotic evil characters played as scheming, power hungry tyrants out to destroy the heroes of the story so no one would stand in the way of their rise to power.  This, I feel, is horribly wrong for a chaotic evil character.

Probably the best portrayal of the chaotic evil alignment is Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.  The Joker was an anarchist with a desire to bring down the system for his own gratification, believing that people were corrupt and that he could trigger the downfall of Gotham City.  What power he amassed wasn’t for his own benefit, but instead a means to an end.

To continue using the Joker as an example, it’s important to note that the Joker wasn’t out to perform evil necessarily.  Instead, he felt that people were naturally violent and that by bringing down society, he would be setting people free.  Again, to use the concept I wrote on yesterday, he didn’t feel he was committing an evil act, but instead thought he was doing the right thing.

Chaotic is a tricky term for many people, but in the context of evil, I envision it meaning anarchy and against structure.  For example, the assassin who refused to join the guild, and kills their targets based on whim could definitely be considered chaotic evil.  Perhaps the noble who seeks to undermine the King for no reason other than boredom could also be considered chaotic evil.  Neither necessarily seeks something as cliche as wealth and power.  Instead, they seek destruction.

Chaotic evil characters aren’t necessarily the brilliant schemers, and should never be military commanders.  They tend to be those guys who buck the system for whatever reason, and that makes them truly dangerous.  Seeking wealth and power at the expense of others is a concept that players understand well.  However, the idea of bringing down the Kingdom without any intent of replacing it is alien to those same players.  So why not shake things up a bit? 😉


August 18, 2008 - Posted by | RPG |


  1. I agree Tom. Chaotic Evil as an alignment lends itself to evil for it’s own sake. The tyrant that regularly slaughters peasant villages for the pleasure of killing, the anti-establishmentist that uses all the wrong means to being down the ‘man’ for no reason other than he hates the establishment, and the mage that kidnaps and performs horrible magical experiments on the townsfolk beacuse he is curious what reactions will happen are all my own ideals of what Chaotic Evil is.

    Plotting to overthrow the crown so that you can sieze power is Lawful Evil, and robbing everyone in sight so you can live it up with expensive wines and abuse-tolerant whores is Neutral Evil. But I’m sure there’ll be more discussion on those later 😉

    Comment by Liambic | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. You betcha. Of course, I have a couple of different takes on lawful evil and neutral evil as well that should be fun 😉

    Comment by Tom | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] Part 3 – Worst of the Worst Yesterday, I talked a bit about the chaotic evil alignment and my interpretation of it. Today, I’d like to talk about the alignment that I think is the […]

    Pingback by Alignment Part 3 - Worst of the Worst « The Geek Emporium | August 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. personally, (and this is going back to the dark knight again) I think a good sum up of chaotic evil is bast said by Alfred when he’s talking to Bruce about the mind of the Joker –

    ‘Some men aren’t looking for anything logical. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.’

    They are either evil for the sake of evil itself, or they commit evil acts because it is a means to (what they see as) a good end, e.g. the joker trying to ‘free’ the people of Gotham. However as they are CHAOTIC (and as such, generally unpredictable and rather, well, chaotic) they generally have to be very lucky or very intelligent or very, VERY unpredictable (or a mix of the two/three) to be a successful villain.

    perhaps a chaotic villain as a main antagonist in a RP setting is nigh but impossible without some serious planning, but as The dark Knight has shown us, it can be done.

    Comment by Sean | December 13, 2008 | Reply

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