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    Canonfire :: View topic - Role-Playing CN
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    Role-Playing CN
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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 17, 2004
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    From: Computer Desk

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    Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:34 am  
    Role-Playing CN

    Personally, the poorest alignment descriptions expressed have been chaotic neutral. Even within the available material the examples invariably alternate between enraged bezerkers and the unpredictable madman.

    This never set right with me. Entire societies can't function under a moral compass akin to insanity. No other suggested alignment is presented as irrational. Each alignment seems to possess its own inherent justification besides CN.

    However, recently I watched a documentary on the viking age and social justification was expressed.

    The viking raider cared little if his victims were a christian monastery, islamic market or even a rival viking village. His primary concern was the acquisition of goods to ensure his family and retainers prospered.

    This I believe is an excellent expression of the justification of the CN mindset. CN societies are not inherently unpredictable rather their focus is the material needs of its own society. Its members are willing to exploit others albeit whether those that suffer are benevolent kingdom or evil empire means little provided the such societal needs are met.

    Therefore, the player would be willing to use violence to benefit himself or others that depend on him. Provided a better option does not exist. His moral compass does not swing senselessly but embraces a sound risk/reward basis rather then right/wrong at its core.

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    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:32 am  

    Crag,

    I agree that, of all the alignments, the toughest for me, as DM or player, to role-play has been CN. The 2e Player's Handbook likewise makes that statement, and offers some role-playing remarks on the topic (page 47). However, I have a difficult time picturing a society based largely on CN principles, for this is social anarchy. Perhaps such a group would aggregrate only for a singular common purpose (raiding, mobbing, etc), but it would not last for long, and its individual members are just as likely to help as hinder the effort for their own personal whims.

    I once played a swashbuckler NPC who was CN, and he was a crack-up, but I wouldn't call him 'insane,' merely whimsical and mercurial at times. I didn't want to play him like a lunatic or someone with a mental disorder, but rather a free-wheeling, happy-go-lucky, socially irreverant character out seeking adventure for the sake of it. Ultimately, he and the party went their separate ways, MUCH to the relief of the Heironean paladin in the party, but there were a few who actually liked him (including a bard).

    I can surely see your perspective on a viking culture based off CN tendencies, but wonder if N is a better description of their societal structure. Perhaps some historians (SirXaris?) can shed their opinions on that issue. I'm merely a science person (but history is my second favorite topic). Wink

    -Lanthorn
    Adept Greytalker

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    From: Aspedri

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    Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:54 am  

    A good way to look at law and chaos is not as discrete choices but as points on a continuum. Some lawful societies could be more lawful than others, such as legalistic China vs. Republican Rome. Both societies had a high repect for law, but the former had no concept of individual rights except as they served the state, whereas the former had a concept of individual rights and priveleges. In AD&D terms, both would be considered lawful societies (heirarchal, traditional, and highly centralized/organized) but obviously one was much more so than the other.
    Chaotic Neutral, as portrayed in the published material, would be a loosely-governed society. This does not translate to disorganized, however. The Germanic tribes, Vikings, and Plains Indians might be good examples of this, as hierarchal relationships were very fluid, with the king or chieftain being first among equals in regards to his subordinates/advisors. The people holding office in such a society might change frequently or diminsh or incrase the importance of an office, but tradition and cultural bonds would still keep the society together. Thus, there is a strong sense of individual freedom, within the bonds of culture and tradition. If a Viking Noble did not like the plan, he just might not participate in the expedition.
    An extreme example of CN as a society might have been democratic Athens, when the assembly would vote, and then sometimes try to take back the vote the next day only to find out it is too late (the Pelopennesian War has many example of this). A shallow view of the Athenian government would have been that it did whatever the mob fancied on any given day.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:03 pm  

    As an old AD&D 2nd edition player, D&D 3.5 offered me a delightful perspective that has easen my playing a lot.

    Quote:
    Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.
    "Chaos" implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility.


    Quote:
    People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships.


    So it's not insanity. It's about constant change and personal perspective combined with any view which not strongly good or evil (or perhaps a bit of both).

    A CN society would be always changing something. Either it would wander around or have constant changes in their ways. A CN society could still respect laws that ensure the well-being of families. Morally neutral people love their families of course and they want to do everything possible to make sure they are always ok.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:10 pm  

    Those are very good quotes, Sutemi. One can see how any combination of those features can lead to an interesting framework for the personality of a Chaotic Neutral character.

    I think Greyhawk folks in particular get hung up on the whole "Chaotic Neutral = insanity" thing mainly due to seeing Zagyg as the poster child of that alignment. He isn't. People should consider that insanity could occur in an individual of any alignment, not just Chaotic Neutral.
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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 13, 2006
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    Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:39 am  

    Not going to add any groundbreaking insight; why break the habit of a lifetime Wink .

    However, my user name comes from my very favourite character that I ran, a CN Halfling Thief in 1e and I think that Sutemi captures perfectly the essence of that character with the two quotes above. He was definitely NOT suffering from any kind of mental illness and took a totally rational approach to his life choices; some may have called him a madman (madling?), however, that probably said more about them than it did him.

    CN is a very playable alignment and, although it might have some negative connotations for party cohesion and co-operation, it isn't the game breaker it has a reputation for being. Thinking as a DM the most troublesome characters IMC have generally been CG and I suspect this is because they cannot resist the urge to "right" a "wrong" despite what the rest of the group think, whereas a CN can easily do that if there's no gain for them or theirs.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:28 pm  

    I think I see CN as the "what's in it for me" alignment. While CG would have the urge to see that nobody is oppressed, as Ragr pointed out, the CN character would look at the same oppressed people and say "If it bothered them that much, they'd do something about it."

    However, if a good argument could be made to the CN individual, as to WHY he should help free the "poor oppressed folk", he might just end up being the one who gets the job done. Where the CG types would have been hampered with their respect for life, the would have few problems with killing off the hired goons of the "villain", seeing it as being practical. After all, you never know when one of them might decide to fill the power vacuum created when the "heroes" get rid of the big villain. But, unlike the CE person, the CN is not getting any pleasure from causing death; he is simply doing what needs to be done, like killing a deer to feed his family, he is making one creature die so that others he sees as more important might live.


    As Sutemi posted: "A CN society could still respect laws that ensure the well-being of families. Morally neutral people love their families of course and they want to do everything possible to make sure they are always ok."

    As I see it, CN people would respect laws that don't get in their way. And CN would not necessarily take the "what's in it for me" attitude to the extreme of the self only; keeping one's close friends and family safe and sound would be beneficial to anyone regardless of alignment. So, by protecting his family, he IS helping himself.

    This can be extended to following traditions too. The CN folk would not be inclined to follow traditions simply because "that's how we've always done it". they'd want a better reason than that.


    I think we need to remember there are several shades of CN, just as there can be multiple shades of the other alignments.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:06 am  

    I like to think that no matter what your alignment, most people would live by a code, even if it is just their own personal code. I'll exempt CE from this although there are probably exceptions who do live by some kind of personal code. For me the perfect example of CN would be the character of Omar Little from the HBO show The Wire. He's a robber who only robs "bad people" -- people involved in the drug trade. As well as being a robber, he's also openly gay, so he doesn't really care about most of the conventions of society on any level, whether the conventional world or the street. His only real concession to a societal code seems to be when gang members try to assassinate him on a Sunday when he's taking his grandmother to church, and even then his main outrage that they broke the Sunday Truce is the danger they put his grandmother in (and the destruction of her best Sunday-go-to-church hat.) Despite all this he does pride himself on his own strict moral code. As he puts it, "A man's gotta have a code."
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:25 am  

    Well, unfortunately I think this de facto CN:
    "Hmm, I want to play some silly character and give little importance to the story or to my fellow gamers. I want to have the freedom to do whatever I want and the DM can go screw himself/herself if it doesn't please him/her!"

    And I'm afraid this conversation here is more about the de jure CN... Cry
    GreySage

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    Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:35 am  

    Lots of good comments, but I'd like to throw in my two cents. Smile

    With respect to 'shades of grey' as alluded to by tarelton, you should also consider that different creatures are capable of taking alignment to different extremes. For example, the Chaos embraced by Demons is far from the Chaos embraced by any human society. First, no human society could exist if it acted as purely chaotic as the demonic hordes of the Abyss. As soon as two people come together to live in any kind of harmonious relationship, they have eliminated chaos to some degree or another. Even a ragtag band of motley, cut-throat pirates must have some sort of organization and set of rules or they can't operate as a group. So, the Chaotic culture of a Viking, Plains Indians, or piratical civilization is still bound by cultural values and laws, though the laws that exist will be far fewer in number than those in a Lawful society and may only exist as societal norms rather than being written down.

    A Chaotically aligned mortal is not truly chaotic. S/he is only closer to the chaotic extreme of the spectrum than other mortals. Thus, using the Chaotic alignment to compare a Viking to the Lawfully aligned lord of the land the Viking is raiding is of value. Trying to compare the Chaos of a demon's alignment to that of the Viking's alignment is only to say that the demon takes it to a far greater extreme. The demon would probably consider the Viking to be quite bound by the laws of tradition, culture, and even nature and not truly Chaotic at all.

    SirXaris
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    Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:14 pm  

    The town of Restenford (Secret of Bone Hill/Assassin's Knot) is mostly chaotic neutral, but the guidance in the adventures is limited.

    "The garrison is provided to maintain some degree of order through the town, as you will note the town is mostly chaotic neutral in nature. Chaotic neutral does not equate with brawling, meleeing, spells in the streets, and open mayhem. Be sure you are clear on the meaning of this alignment and that your players understand it as well."

    The 1e Player's Handbook says that randomness and disorder are most important to a CN individual, but the Dungeon Master's Guide puts the emphasis on freedom and individuality, so who can be sure?
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:03 pm  

    Armitage wrote:


    The 1e Player's Handbook says that randomness and disorder are most important to a CN individual, but the Dungeon Master's Guide puts the emphasis on freedom and individuality, so who can be sure?


    Sounds like enough advice to me, as long as you treat alignment as a broad guide to an individual or society's moral outlook and, as a DM, you are going to allow some room for manouevre. If, as some DMs do, you treat alignment as a straitjacket then the above advice is going to lead to various conflicting interpretations and all round unhappiness. Who needs that at the table?
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:35 pm  



    Last edited by BlueWitch on Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed May 02, 2012 1:47 pm  
    CN is the ultimate expression of libertarianism

    at least that's how I've grown to see it. Sure, back in the good ol' days I ran my campaigns with CN characters as people who just did random things, even prodding my players with CN characters to be "more random" or suffer alignment change.

    A few deca....errr...years later Smile I've come to see it as the ultimate expression of libertarian thought. Freedom is paramount to all else, with a live and let live as long as your living doesn't interfere with mine. This would explain why you would find CN towns, cities, cultures, etc. in the Flanaess. Being CN doesn't mean you don't want to adventure, become famous, find magical items and more. It means that you hold the value of personal freedom very dear and in some cases, for example, might even fight on the side of evil if they were being oppressed by a lawful or good society.

    Otherwise, by strict 1E definitions, any kind of group with an intelligence above Low that had more than 3 or 4 people (I'm looking at you Restenford) wouldn't even be possible.

    just my noob 2 cents
    GreySage

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    Wed May 02, 2012 7:08 pm  

    That's some interesting input, Elliva. Now, get on over to the Welcome to Greyhawk forum and introduce yourself. Wink

    SirXaris
    Paladin

    Joined: Sep 07, 2011
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    Thu May 03, 2012 8:07 am  

    I agree with SirXaris... you table an interesting point.. and should introduce yourself... and seems curious that you "joined" in oct2011 and only now found something to comment to? Certainly an interesting topic.. but surely one or two others in six months have peaked interest? Dont be shy.... hehe
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue May 08, 2012 7:57 am  

    Excellent Elliva Smile

    The most succinct definition yet:
    Quote:

    live and let live as long as your living doesn't interfere with mine.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue May 08, 2012 4:15 pm  

    thanks Crag. Like many of the folks here, Chaotic Neutral in its earliest definitions created quite an interesting problem. It could be incredibly entertaining to roleplay but in terms of world/culture/society building it didn't make sense. Most players I think didn't want to play it anyways because it just seemed to have a bit too much "whackiness" required.

    since I still use the 1e / 2e player's handbooks, when a player discusses having a CN character, I provide that as a guide.

    "live and let live as long as your living doesn't interfere with mine" is a core value, yet not to be taken literally as in "I don't care about others" but rather "others should be allowed to live too as long as their not interfering with me or each other".

    it works for me...now as for Neutral Evil. Don't even get me started Laughing
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat May 12, 2012 5:35 am  

    Such a great topic and one that has intrigued me for years. I have always thought CN is the most fun alignment to play as a PC and the hardest to roleplay and DM (although LG is up there if done right). I think CN is almost the perfect alignment for Thieves, but it can also work well for Wizards.
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