A neutral evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. She has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn't have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has.
Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.
Neutral evil beings consider their alignment to be the best because they can advance themselves without regard for others.
Neutral evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents pure evil without honor and without variation.
The neutral evil creature views law and chaos as unnecessary considerations, for pure evil is all-in-all. Either might be used, but both are disdained as foolish clutter useless in eventually bringing maximum evilness to the world. Similar to the neutral good alignment, that of neutral evil holds that neither groups nor individuals have great meaning. This ethos holds that seeking to promote weal for all actually brings woe to the truly deserving. Natural forces which are meant to cull out the weak and stupid are artificially suppressed by so-called good, and the fittest are wrongfully held back, so whatever means are expedient can be used by the powerful to gain and maintain their dominance, without concern for anything. (1)
Neutral evil characters are primarily concerned with themselves and their own advancement. They have no particular objection to working with others or, for that matter, going it on their own. Their only interest is in getting ahead. If there is a quick and easy way to gain a profit, whether it be legal, questionable, or obviously illegal, they take advantage of it. Although neutral evil characters do not have the every-man-for-himself attitude of chaotic characters, they have no qualms about betraying their friends and companions for personal gain. They typically base their allegiance on power and money, which makes them quite receptive to bribes. (2)
The neutral evil is an unscrupulous, self-serving character who is only out for himself. Power, glory, wealth, position, and anything that will make his life more comfortable is his goal. It matters not who gets caught in the middle, as long as he comes out smelling like a rose. This person will lie, cheat, and kill anyone to attain his personal goals. (3)
These characters willingly cooperate with anyone who will further their own ends. They often seek the easy road to fame and fortune, with little concern for the people they trample along the way. They value strength and ability alone. If the neutral evil can use laws to weaken those who stand in the way of his success, he will use them. If he must resort to breaking the law, he will. He has no preference for either method. The only important thing is that he gets what he wants. Laws are tools to use against people, as well as their own sense of honor.
For the neutral evil being, law and chaos are beneath consideration in this character's quest for pure evil in the universe. At the root of this character 's personality is the word "wicked." Evil is his goal; natural and man-made forces, if allowed to take their course, weed out the weak and useless in society. The deserving should take advantage of this condition to further their own goals by any means possible, especially to destroy weaklings who put forward "good" actions to promote the well being of all, which is just an excuse used to deny the deserving their due. To the neutral evil being, life is of no value, for those who cannot take advantage of their superiority don't deserve it, and they'll only interfere with the rightful pursuits of those who do. (4)
A neutral evil character never feels compelled to keep his word. He will attack and kill an unarmed foe (those are the best kind). He will harm and may possibly kill an innocent. He will use torture to extract information and for pleasure. He may kill for pleasure. A neutral evil character will use poison. He will not help those in need without a reward and he works well alone or in a group. He responds well to higher authority until that authority attempts to use the law to hamper his ability to pursue his own agenda. He will follow the law unless breaking it is in his best interest and he's reasonably sure that he will not be caught. He may betray a family member, comrade, or friend if it is convenient to do so and it advances his agenda. Neutral evil characters are indifferent to the concepts of self-discipline and honor, finding them useful only if they can be used to advance their own interests or gain power over others. (5)
Here are some possible adjectives describing neutral evil characters: unfeeling, uncaring, insensitive, unkind, uncooperative (unless it suits them), self-reliant, wicked, cruel, depraved, corrupt, immoral, hateful, vicious, and destructive.
Well known neutral evil characters from film or literature include: Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars), Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek), Saruman (Lord of the Rings), Peter Pettigrew (Harry Potter), and Lex Luthor (DC Comics).
Equivalent alignment in other game systems: Miscreant (Palladium), Road of the Beast (Vampire), Dark Side (Star Wars), Evil (Warhammer), Unscrupulous (Alternity).
The personal code of a neutral evil character may look like this:
1. You shall lie to advance yourself.
2. You shall harm the innocent to advance yourself.
3. You shall kill to advance yourself.
4. You shall not aid the weak.
5. You shall honor those who are stronger.
6. You shall follow the law only to advance yourself.
7. You shall betray friends, family, community, and nation to advance yourself.
8. You shall not aid those who protect the weak.
9. You shall not show mercy to enemies.
10. You shall seek unlimited power over others.
Likewise, a neutral evil character may consider the following as signs of weakness. A sign of weakness indicates that the character is straying from the cruel tenets of the neutral evil philosophy. This list is given in the order of least severe infraction to most severe.
1. Failing to show malice or inflict pain upon an innocent when it would be pleasurable to do so.
2. Not challenging a clearly weak leader for leadership.
3. Keeping your word when doing so would interfere with personal gain.
4. Refusing to commit cruel act that would harm your enemy or rival when appropriate.
5. Making a sacrifice to help another when not important to your survival.
6. Failing to commit cruel acts that are in your best interest.
7. Refusing to kill for personal gain or wealth.
8. Turning down a chance to gain power or wealth.
9. Showing mercy to one who is opposed to you or your cause.
10. Aiding the servants of Goodness.
The following two lists detail common actions undertaken during "adventuring" that are considered honorable and dishonorable for the neutral evil alignment. An honorable action is one that is in keeping with the spirit of this alignment, while dishonorable actions tend to be those which bring shame to the character in the eyes of his or her alignment peers. Note that an action which is considered honorable by one alignment may be considered dishonorable by another alignment and vice versa.
Accused of crime (innocent or not)
Attacking an unarmed or obviously inferior opponent
Defeating a superior opponent
Delivering death blow to a helpless opponent
Desecrating an enemy's corpse
Falsely claiming the 'bragging rights' that belong to another or outright lying
Fleeing a fight with a superior opponent
Gloating over a victory
Neglecting to properly bury a member of one's own race
Paying off an extortionist or shake-down
Perpetrate humiliating prank on enemy
Refusing a fair contest/challenge
Reporting the illegal actions of enemies to the authorities when profitable
Taking a bribe
Taunting an enemy into fighting
Unjustly slaying a prisoner or unarmed opponent who has yielded
Walking away from a challenge
Allowing a disarmed enemy to pick up his weapon
Allowing the enemy to attack first
Defeated by an inferior opponent
Picking up the funeral expenses of someone you slew in combat
Refusing medical treatment for the good of the party
Saving the life of another at great risk to own self
Taking an arrow or hit for someone else
A neutral evil being...
Values his family, but will not heed their requests necessarily.
Will provide for friends, and expects to be repaid in some manner.
Does not seek positions of authority over others.
Fits in with their society.
Supports their nation when profitable.
Supports the law when advantageous to do so.
Is not concerned with politics, most likely.
Will keep his word only if it is profitable.
Will take risks if the benefits are great.
Will betray family members for personal gain.
Will betray friends if profitable.
Will seek to undermine his community and nation, especially if profitable.
Is not trusted by the community and may have enemies.
Will kill others to get ahead.
Uses any means necessary to evade justice.
Will use wealth to destroy others.
The residents of a community with a neutral evil government are usually oppressed and subjugated, facing a dire future. Neutral evil societies tend to adopt whatever government seems most expedient at the moment. A particular form of government lasts as long as the ruler or dynasty in power can maintain it. Neutral evil countries tend to be brutal dictatorships. Transfers of power are usually marked by shifts in government, often bloody coups. There is a certain apathy about politics and government.
Conflicts between lawful evil and neutral evil characters will deal with the question of loyalty. The neutral evil character's loyalty is to himself and those who aid him currently. He will not go out of his way to help another, unless he needs that individual's help in the future. The lawful evil character recognizes the need for comrades and will help those that he considers allies, even at some personal risk and cost. Whoever a lawful evil character calls an ally can expect loyalty and aid, unless he fails to support the aims of the group or organization. Woe to the person who betrays the group! The lawful evil character will not be forgiving and will seek to cause injury or kill the offender, whatever is appropriate for their crime. The neutral evil character will also make an example of those who cross him, there is no question. The difference between the neutral evil character and lawful evil character is that the neutral evil character will betray an ally for gain when the ally has done him no wrong, whereas the lawful evil character will only betray a former ally who has proven himself unworthy or if that ally betrays the group.
Neutral evil characters are the ultimate pragmatists. They will embrace any cause, no matter how vile, which furthers their goals, usually the attainment of wealth and power. What bothers neutral evil characters concerning chaotic evil characters, is their apparent lack of pragmatism and their utter unpredictability. A neutral evil character will work with others, and call them allies, if it serves his needs. The chaotic evil character, on the other hand, will sometimes prey on those who would be able to help him further his goals. Neutral evil characters see the benefits of organization, but chaotic evil characters trust no one, and see everyone and everything as either obstacles to be overcome, or pawns to be manipulated. A chaotic evil character feels that the only way individuals get ahead is by causing others to fall behind. A neutral evil character realizes that sometimes, people can work together to achieve their goals. The chaotic evil character feels that the neutral evil character unnecessarily restricts or restrains himself in that neutral evil characters claim they are out for themselves, yet they do not reap the benefits of pure freedom.
Although true neutral and neutral evil characters are both primarily interested in their own advancement and welfare, neutral evil characters ruthlessly pursue their self-interest, even at the expense of others. The true neutral character will use any means to benefit themselves, but will not follow this philosophy to its extreme conclusion through an unrestrained pursuit of self-interest. The true neutral character understands that more benefit for the self can be garnered by behaving altruistically sometimes, especially when they have been the beneficiaries of the altruistic behavior of others. If someone treats a true neutral character well, they can expect that character to treat them well. The neutral evil character does not believe that one good turn deserves another, however. The neutral evil character will of course accept the altruistic generosity of others, and may even appear to return the favor on occasion. The neutral evil character will not behave altruistically for the benefit of others, only for the benefit of the self. Any actions which seem good are merely actions which the neutral evil character has determined will give him a greater benefit in the future, often to the detriment of their benefactor. If someone treats a neutral evil character well, they can only expect good treatment from that character as long as the current relationship offers the best advantage to him. As soon as the neutral evil character can benefit to a greater degree by betraying his benefactor, he will. True neutral characters see such behavior as detrimental to self-interest (and unfair to those who have helped them) and thus will not betray benefactors. Neutral evil characters have no such qualms about burning bridges if the reward is great enough.
In a situation where a character must kill a rival, this is how characters of these different alignments may respond. The lawful evil character will use whatever the easiest, most direct method is. He will not be concerned primarily with the rival suffering before death, and will not want to prolong the killing. He will get it done, pay someone to do it, or use an underling. It is not important that the rival know who the attacker is, better that he doesn't in case the murder attempt fails. All that is important to the lawful evil character is that the rival is eliminated in such a way that he will not appear to have broken any law. The neutral evil character will find the most painful, yet direct way to kill his enemy. He may or may not personally commit the act, depending on how much he hates his foe. The neutral evil character may wish to dispose of his rival in a poetic manner, if fitting. The method will be cruel and heavy-handed. The rival must be taken out, but other potential rivals must get a message from this also... The chaotic evil character may use any of the above methods, but will tend to prolong the suffering of the victim to provide him with amusement. He may destroy the victim's family first to see how it affects him. He may torture his rival and play at killing him for a great length of time before finally doing him in. As long as there is amusement to be had, the chaotic evil character will keep him around.
Creatures highly dedicated to the spread of evil likewise differ in their approach depending on the law-chaos component of their alignment.
Lawful evil characters believe that the only way to impose the tyranny of their alignment over all creation is to follow an ordered course of action. Their evil society is rigidly structured, each being knowing its place and cruelly dominating all beneath this station, while being just as bullied from those above. Each creature in this hierarchy strives to follow the orders from the stronger most painstakingly--both to avoid punishment and in hopes of bettering its position in the order. To those beneath each is as harsh and cruel as possible: fearful of failure in its tasks, of being replaced by an underling. The evil ends desired might be better obtained by actions which are actually less vile than other options, but the order of lawful evil will generally perceive the most useful course rather than merely the most baneful in the short term. Lawful evil characters hate chaotic good characters most vehemently, for they see threats there to both the structure of their social system and their proposed course. What worse than both total freedom and happiness brought about only by individual achievement and character? Therefore, a lawful evil character would certainly not hesitate to ally itself with virtually any other cause if this helped to abridge the scope and influence of those creatures typifying the chaotic good. (6)
A chaotic evil character certainly has the common denominator of banefulness with those creatures who follow the ordered path of woe. They likewise oppress and enslave, torture and kill for the pure pleasure of seeing suffering and death. But while lawful evil character sees these activities as part of the structured course towards a world ruled by evil, those of chaotic evil alignment see such activities as an end in themselves. While the weaker chaotic evil creatures fear and often hate the stronger, they are ruled by them only insofar as the reach of the stronger extends--and possibly only as long as the stronger has interest in so doing. The individual evil is more important than the collective one. Let each evil being do its best to spread evil and chaos, and the ultimate result will be a cancerous spread of the alignment. Order is next to good in undesirableness, so lawful good is the antithesis of chaotic evil. Yet creatures of this alignment will not long associate to combat their hated foes, except lesser creatures under the leadership of some mighty villain or in extreme situations where the very structure of chaotic evil is threatened by some great coalition of good. (6)
The neutral evil path becomes evident as the middle road between the two opposite approaches to the precept of banefulness. The neutral evil character values both order and freedom as useful tools in the acquisition of personal power through the spread of evil. Any means that further their own agenda are embraced by neutral evil beings. The flexibility of this alignment ensures that a course of maximum evil is pursued and is not limited by considerations of either law or chaos. Structured and random acts of evil are both part of the arsenal of the neutral evil villain, who is concerned with advancing evil in the short-term and long-term. Thus, the neutral evil character will work with anyone, lawful evil, chaotic evil, or otherwise, who can aid them in their quest for total power over others. The neutral good alignment is diametrically opposed to neutral evil, so the neutral evil being is opposed to any social order that allows goodness to flourish. By destroying the works of good creatures, neutral evil beings hope to create a world where the powerful and capable are able to secure maximum benefit for the self and maximum woe for all who oppose them.
The chart below shows how Neutral Evil views itself and the other eight alignments.
Strict and Self-Righteous
Practical but Self-Righteous
Lax and Self-Righteous
Strict and Irresolute
Practical but Irresolute
Lax and Irresolute
Determined but Strict
Practical and Determined
Determined but Lax
Ethical neutrals view both lawfuls and chaotics as extreme. They see lawfuls as overly strict and rigid while chaotics are viewed as overly lax and inconsistent. Ethical neutrals feel that they take a practical approach to matters involving rules and regulations.
Although labeled as "evil" characters with this alignment tend to view themselves as determined, assertive, and full of conviction. To these characters, "good" is simply self-righteousness and the promotion of the weak over the strong. They tend to view moral neutrals as irresolute, since they seem to be torn between the competing philosophies of the self-satisfied and the self-reliant.
Neutral evil is the philosophy that the self is best advanced by using whatever means necessary. It is a philosophy of egoistic consequentialism. This philosophy holds that people should behave egoistically and embrace any social order that allows them to gain the most power. Neutral evil can also be associated with act egoism, personal ethical egoism, and social darwinism.
Neutral evil philosophers generally maintain that there is metaphysical balance in the multiverse and thus may support doctrines of soft determinism, pragmatism, conventionalism, and/or instrumentalism. They may believe in free will or choice. They could also embrace skepticism or suspend judgment on philosophical issues. They tend to be moral relativists, holding that values differ from society to society, from person to person; that they are conditioned by the peculiarities of the society in which they arise; that they are not universally applicable at all times or in all places; and that they are correct or incorrect, desirable or undesirable only relative to whether or not they conform to a common norm or to common acceptance.
The ideal government for this alignment is any social order in which radical egoism is rewarded and altruism is punished. Neutral evil beings will try to secure the most power for themselves and will use the power of the state to accomplish this or the act against the state, if more power can be gained in this manner. Retributive justice is favored by neutral evil beings.
(1) Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. TSR:1979. and Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook. TSR:1978.
(2) Cook, David "Zeb," et al. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. TSR: 1989.
(3) Wujcik, Erick. Ninjas and Superspies. Palladium Books: 1994.
(4) Renaud, J.R. "Making law out of chaos." Dragon (#163). November 1990: 74-78.
(5) Parlagreco, Carl. "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme." The Dragon (#26). June 1979: 23. and Wujcik, Erick. Ninjas and Superspies. Palladium Books: 1994.
(6) Gygax, Gary. "Evil: Law Vs. Chaos." The Dragon (#28). August, 1979: 10-11.