Is Chaotic evil more evil than Lawful evil?


Mod Squad
Staff member
Drifter Bob said:
Hmmm.. I seem to have noticed a certain amount of name calling toward me.
The fact that others may not have been behaving is no excuse for behaving poorly yourself. "He hit me first (or also)" is not a viable defense.

I pointed you out because you seemed the most egregious offender at the moment. I figured anyone else thinking of poor behavior would take the hint. If not, they'll deserve what the mods'll give 'em.


Umbran said:
I pointed you out because you seemed the most egregious offender at the moment. I figured anyone else thinking of poor behavior would take the hint. If not, they'll deserve what the mods'll give 'em.
Next time it might be more fair to direct the suggestion to everyone, not just one individual. I know it would be nice to expect everyone else to learn from the mistakes of others, but realistically it ain't going to happen.


Drifter Bob said:
With regard to the actual thread, I'm sticking to my theory of the Uncertainty of Alignment principle. Anyone interested in discussing that will find me receptive.
There's the problem though that the 'holy writ' of the Rulebook definitions varies though, according to the moral beliefs of the people who wrote those definitions. Gygax-1977 definitions are from a different standpoint than Tweet & co-2000 definitions. The Gygaxian approach is particularly interesting since Gygax identified Lawful-Good with his Roman Catholicism and thus by definition the 'best' alignment, whereas Chaotic Good is presented as 'tainted', yet as a lapsed Catholic he doesn't seem to actually _like_ LG and the Gord books present Neutrality as the morally-preferable choice!



Absolute devotion to the cause of evil is LE.

Randomly evil is CE.

So it is possible to view it as LE able to do more evil and does more evil because it is focused and organized while CE simply does it as opportunity presents itself or for fun on whims which change.

Is group oriented evil better than individually oriented evil?

Is it less damaging to be evil and serve an evil cause than to be evil and only inflict evil on a personal scale?
Actually, I think absolute devotion to the cause is Neutral Evil.


Before someone replies by saying, "No, just more chaotic", let me make it clear what I'm asking. Is a chaotic evil person a "worse" person than a lawful evil person? I mean, a lawful evil person at least has some code of conduct, some sense of loyalty, some concept of allegiance and order.

A chaotic evil person, on the other hand, is loyal to nothing or no one, only him (or her) self.

Think of it this way. Tony Soprano = Lawful Evil. Ted Bundy = Chaotic Evil. They're both killers, but we all know who's worse...
In my mind, lawful or neutral evil are "worse" than chaotic evil, simply because they can do more damage and be far more insidious.

Somebody who is chaotic evil is really just a psychopath. They have no regard for life, the law, others, etc. It's entirely selfish whim with a very sadistic bent that drives them. But they are usually the easiest to spot and counter. Like Geoffrey or Ramsay in Game of Thrones, they don't rise to power, they get it by opportunity and maintain it solely through their personal power. Almost nobody willingly serves such an individual, it's entirely with fear.

Hitler shows how dangerous a lawful evil person can be. He's responsible for far more evil than Bundy. Even a Tony Soprano is responsible for far more death and despair than Bundy.

Hannibal Lecter is somebody I'd pin as neutral evil, and I think he's the most dangerous of the three. He has no problem with random death and destruction, but will happily work within and leverage the construct society has created to make his evil acts possible. Most serial killers probably fall here more than chaotic evil.

On the other hand, lawful evil people are usually very charismatic. Or at least those that rise to power are. There is a loyalty to those who helped them get to where they are, although that loyalty is based on a certain kind of trust and if that trust is broken they can turn on you very quickly. But they rule through the support of others, which means they are also capable of getting others to perform evil acts for them.

Neutral evil is one who essentially values evil period. Outward appearances are deceptive, and they can combine the power of society that a lawful evil person can, but the reality is that they will look for any opportunity and take it by whatever means is necessary, even if that's turning against their own. Essentially a neutral evil person is chaotic evil in a lawful evil wrapper.

Essentially a lawful evil character believes in the structure that society provides and its benefits, but such a structure is not constrained by a simple concept of good and evil. Slavery, oppression, removal of dissidents and those that speak out about the state can be removed by whatever means necessary.

Neutral evil sees the benefit of such a structure in controlling others, but feels no compelling reason to be bound by such a structure themselves. It is simply another tool to be used to accomplish their own selfish goals.


I simply do not agree with these views.

Vandalism is NOT CE. It might be to you, but to liken a misdemeanor property crime with CHAOTIC EVIL is applying an analytical framework we simply do not agree with.

Simlarly, embezzling isn't evil. It's selfish. Its wrongful and clearly unlawful. But EVIL?

I think when you present a continuum of "evil" that ranges from spray painting graffitti to theft, ritualistic serial murder and the holocaust, your aperture needs significantly more focus.

This is clearly a point of departure. You and I do not agree on this matter and what appears self-evident to you seems clearly wrong-headed to me.
Actually, this is a good point. Now that the comparison is made, I would consider vandalism and embezzling chaotic neutral acts. They aren't good, but they aren't inherently evil either. They are certainly self-serving and unlawful.

Thanks for that. It clarifies a bunch.


Vandalism destroys someone else's property, costing them money, possibly substantial emotional injury. How can that not be evil? Is it as evil as murder? Of course not. But evil exists on a continuum, and "less evil" does not equal "not evil." (For the record, though, perhaps I should have said "destruction of property," since I was thinking of actual damage, not spray-painting.)

Same with embezzlement. Where do you think that money's coming from? It's not created out of whole cloth. Every cent that's going to an embezzler is coming out of someone else's pocket. Again, far less evil than murder, but still evil.

You think it unfocused to include all of these? Why? It's all part of the same continuum, even if it's very far apart on that continuum. Bottom line is, anything that causes direct harm to someone else, without substantial mitigating circumstances (and sometimes even with mitigating circumstances) is evil; all that remains is a matter of degree. I don't believe it's possible to discuss the nature of evil without examining the "little evils" as well as the big ones.

Someone else had a good example. The Rwandan genocide vs. Stalin's purges. One's chaotic, ones lawful. But I hardly think one is "less" evil than the other. They're both utterly horrific.

Again, law vs. chaos is simply a discussion of what form the evil takes. It doesn't measure degree.
Actually, until reading through these posts, I would have probably said the same thing, but now something has made sense to me that clarifies it a bit.

Evil acts are those that deprive another of their freedom - slavery, or the ultimate, death. They are also acts that inflict direct pain and harm to others, like torture, etc. They are evil regardless of the construct of society.

Acts like vandalism are against another, but they are within an artificial construct of society to begin with. In other words, they aren't universal. In a society without money, embezzlement doesn't exist. Sure, it's not a good act, but not quite evil either. It's definitely not lawful. So I think it ends up as chaotic neutral.

In other words, on the good/evil spectrum, neutral is where something lands if it's not good, but not bad enough to be evil. Even damage of property.

In a sense, evil acts are those that are essentially irreversible. You can heal the body after torture, but not the mind. Yes, D&D is a world with resurrection, but death is still final for most. Evil is an act against a person, where neutral is an act against property.

That's not to say that some acts against property can't be evil, such as desecration of a holy site. But for the most part the merely "bad" crimes would land as chaotic neutral acts.

Likewise, a society that has laws that don't respect the property of others would be lawful neutral. For example, if the crown can take whatever land it chooses, without recompense to the owners, that would be lawful neutral. If they could imprison you indefinitely without cause or charges, I would consider that lawful evil.

You're right, it's part of the same continuum, but it's not the continuum of evil. It's a continuum from good to evil.


Steeliest of the dragons
Haven't read the 13 pages of posts [from 12 years ago ;)], so apologies for any repetition.

To answer the direct thread question, I think Chaotic evil is more...dangerous than Lawful Evil. More unpredictable, less organized, and thus more prone to greater, more careless (and care free) evil.

Whereas Lawful evil may be the more scheming, more thoughtful, more organized and better understood (perhaps even able to be anticipated) evil.

Chaotic Evil is the evil of Destruction. Lawful Evil is the evil of Oppression.

The LE doesn't have to, or necessarily even want to, destroy anything. They want to exert control over others, build their own personal/selfish power, advance ORDER through their evil. But they can and will destroy if that suits their needs [contributing to building/exerting their own power over others they are inevitably trying to bring about].

The CE doesn't have to, or necessarily want to, oppress anything. They want to wreak destruction of life, of beauty, of morals, of whatever they can get their -literal or figurative- hands on, spread CHAOS through their evil. But they can and will oppress if that suits their needs [contributing to the destruction/chaos they are inevitably trying to bring about].

One is not, necessarily MORE evil than the other, and I think each is equally capable of being just as "scary" and "scheming" and "devastating/destructive" as the other.
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Actually, I think absolute devotion to the cause is Neutral Evil.
So did Lord Pendragon.

Are you contending that devotion to a cause is not a lawful trait, but neutral?

Absolute devotion seems more archetypally lawful on the Law/Chaos spectrum to me but it is arguable.

So then in your view is someone absolutely devoted to Chaotic Evil lawful, neutral or chaotic on the Law/Chaos spectrum?


Steeliest of the dragons
Well, by this reasoning, all clerics of any deity of any alignment would have to be lawful.

"Devotion to a cause" comes in any shape or form. The "devotion" -5e paladin subclass title to the contrary- is not where the ethical and moral [alignment] is defined, but "the cause."

You can be devoted to Chaos...You are hence chaotic. You can be devoted the Neutrality, as old school druids were...and so, you are neutral.

I suppose the short answer is: Being "devoted" is not intrinsically "lawful," no.


Rules Monkey
I don't think "Evil" is a cause that people actually devote themselves too. I think Neutral Evil is ultimately the most selfish of the evil alignments because it's evil for it's own sake. You care about yourself and your own desires and pleasure before anything else. You may use or hide behind the law, or ignore it altogether depending on the situation.

Lawful Evil is just as evil, but they prefer working within a structure - whether legal structure (evil bureaucrats, slavers, lawyers, etc.). They may not be more "evil" in an absolute sense, but they are more dangerous because they are more likely to work as part of a larger group and create institutions to support their goals.

Chaotic Evil is more dangerous on an individual level. Then tend to go for the more "hand on" approach to committing evil acts. The personal touch. They may lead a group (if they are the charismatic type), or be part of a larger group that caters to their particular world view, but it a tenuous relationship with no sense of loyalty. They tend to make a power play for leadership or just get bored because things are taking to long and go do something else. "I was part of a kidnapping ring, but negotiating with the family was taking forever. I wanted to switch to highway robbery but the other guys I killed them, killed the hostage, and killed and robbed the hostages family. Life is good."


Mod Squad
Staff member
Are you contending that devotion to a cause is not a lawful trait, but neutral?
Wow. Old thread.

Devotion is neither lawful or chaotic, in and of itself. It is how that devotion is expressed that would indicate lawfulness or not. Otherwise, Chaotic Neutral (being devoted to personal freedom, and nothing else) could not exist.

For me, the point is this - the axes are orthogonal. So, if you are at any of the four extremes, you are a servant of two masters - you are, for example, a servant of chaos, and a servant of evil, both. And sometimes those things come into conflict. Sometimes, the most evil thing is *not* also the thing that allows you the greatest amount of personal freedom. And then, the CE person has a choice - be more evil, or more chaotic.

The Neutral Evil (nor any neutral) does not care about one of the axes. The NE will go with the most purely evil choice at every turn, never compromising to be more lawful or more chaotic.
As others have said, evil is evil - Law and Chaos are more representative of whether an individual works within a planned structure or more randomly. Lawful Evil can be a very enduring form of evil, systematically creating evil norms in a society, legislating cruelty into practice. Chaotic Evil would be more volatile and unpredictable though.