True confession here: I am not a fan of alignment in RPGs and I don’t require them in most of my campaigns. However some players find them useful as a sort of short hand for their characters’ belief system. I find it’s particularly useful in my campaigns for younger players.
I also don’t have a preference for any alignment in particular, although I encourage players to be non-evil unless the campaign is designed as an evil campaign, since I think non-evil alignments tend to encourage teamwork. I am suspicious of players who choose Chaotic Neutral because they often don’t subscribe to any particular belief system. Instead they believe that alignment is a negative thing – a limiting factor instead of a positive thing to aid in role playing. These players choose Chaotic Neutral as a way of allowing themselves to do anything at all without limitation. They often use it as an excuse to act completely randomly from encounter to encounter.
This is wrong. It is an incorrect interpretation of the Chaotic Neutral alignment. Keep in mind that alignment is not a way to limit players’ choices but a stepping stone to role playing a strong character, which is a positive thing. The players are confronted with an important choice and they have to decide how their characters would act or react. They need to base these choices on their characters’ beliefs and values, and alignment can be a clue for this.
The Chaotic Neutral alignment is a combination of two choices, as all alignments are: chaos versus law and evil versus good. The concept of the Neutral instead of Good or Evil is easily understood; the character doesn’t value the lives of others over their own, yet they aren’t actively trying to take others’ lives. The complication is in choosing chaos, and what that means. A Lawful alignment means that the character values structure in order to create a positive society. A Chaotic alignment means that the character values individual freedom in order to create a positive society. Therefore the Chaotic Neutral character is one who values freedom over law and even values freedom over good or evil. So the Chaotic Neutral character doesn’t act randomly, they act consistently to forward the cause of individual freedom. As a GM you should remind your players of Chaotic Neutral characters that they should never act to defend structure or rules unless the end result furthers the cause of personal freedom. Chaotic Neutral characters aren’t unpredictable, they should be played as consistently as characters of any alignment.