If you want to give yourself a challenge in Dungeons & Dragons, ask yourself his: what does being Chaotic Evil really mean? Many players don’t really understand the layers of this character alignment and it comes with certain, base-level associations that they can’t ever move beyond. A Lawful Good character doesn’t need to be a walking saint who legally can’t say the F-word, nor do Chaotic Evil characters need to be nihilistic murder hobos.
When a player rolls a Chaotic Evil character, the DM has certain expectations of how that character will act. Most of these expectations end up being true when it turns out that, yes, that player just wanted to do something wild like build a necklace made of the sawed-off feet of old widows, thus derailing an entire campaign. There can be nothing more disruptive than the irritating “doing random things for the sake of it” Chaotic Evil character. It can not only tear a group apart but also wastes the potential quality gameplay that roleplaying a Chaotic Evil character can create.
To understand the full potential of Chaotic Evil, it’s important to understand alignment in the first place. The Lawful/Chaotic dynamic is the balance between rules and resistance to said rules. Lawful is a general term that could refer to a legal system, religious commandments or any system of order a character might obey. Lawful characters try to obey these rules to the letter for whatever reason they see fit. Maybe they believe the system helps people, or they just believe in self-regimentation. A Neutral character recognizes these laws but maybe is willing to bend them a little. A Chaotic character, however, either do not believe the laws work, believes the laws harm people or hates the idea of rules alltogether because it impedes on their freedom. However, Chaotic isn’t necessarily doing or saying things at random. Sure, you can if you so choose — and unpredictability can be fun — but that doesn’t mean you lack motivation or drive. It just means you’re opposed to a certain system of law.
The Good/Evil dynamic, though, is a little more amorphous. Good and evil, after all, are all from a certain point of view. There are three core ways that good and evil are recognized in Dungeons & Dragons. Good and evil can be cosmic forces diametrically opposing one another. They can also be the desire to improve the lives of those around you Vs. hurting those around you. However, the most interesting dynamic is that of selflessness Vs. selfishness. A Good character will do whatever they can to help those around them; a Neutral character struggles between what they want and what others need, while an Evil character is driven entirely by indulging their personal vices and appetites.
A Chaotic Evil character can be a servant of demonkind (demons are Chaotic Evil whereas devils are Lawful Evil); an iconoclast who wants to prove to the world that law and order are an illusion or a hedonist who doesn’t care what laws keep them from getting what they want so long as they get it.
To play one of these types of characters like this, you should know what Chaotic Evil counts as in a particular world. Most evil overlords in fiction are aligned as either Neutral Evil or Lawful Evil. If we use Star Wars as an example, a character like Darth Vader is definitely Lawful Evil, since he obeys the laws of the Sith and the Empire. However, Darth Maul, especially in The Clone Wars and onward, is Chaotic Evil, since he opposes the orders that the Republic, the Sith and the Jedi represent. Maul is a pure iconoclast, even if he creates his own orders like Death Watch who obey his laws.
This opens up numerous paths to complex characterization that many players neglect or ignore. Someone working with demonkind might violently hate it when people boss them around. Perhaps they believe the laws of their world wronged them and identify with demons who want to spread pain to those they hate. Perhaps their selfish ends are derailed by Lawful or Good people with empathy for their fellow man.
What you don’t want to be is someone who disrupts gameplay by just causing harm for the fun of it. Even if you weren’t already the millionth person to make a character like that, there’s no sense of progression with them. There is no goal, no challenge and no way they’d ever work with a party of adventurers. If you derail a campaign, no one is going to have fun — including yourself in the long-run. Instead, focus on what the one thing your character wants it; what laws and moral good keep your character from getting it, and how your character can get that one thing regardless of what else happens around them.
KEEP READING: Dungeons & Dragons: Finding Your Storytelling Voice
Chaotic Evil is a fun but mostly misunderstood alignment in Dungeons & Dragons. Here's how — and how not — to play it.