Have you ever felt the urge to act on impulse or instinct without worrying about rules, social norms, or morality of any kind, for that matter? Then the Chaotic Neutral (CN) alignment may be your style! Since this alignment values individual freedom above all else it can lead to unpredictable but often creative behavior. But what precisely does it mean to follow the Chaotic Neutral alignment in D&D?
Chaotic Neutral characters prioritize individual freedom above all and often choose not to be held back by laws or social norms. They can be unpredictable but resourceful and may sometimes act selfishly or amorally. Their actions can lead to either chaos or change, and sometimes nothing drives them other than an impulsive spur of the moment desire for change, big or small.
Chaotic Neutral is one of the most interesting and hard to cover alignments because by definition, it is basically chaos incarnate. A character could be Paladin levels of moral one moment and immediately become villains of villains the next for no other reason than changing whims. There is even a healthy and interesting philosophical debate within the D&D community that technically Chaotic Neutral can be scarier or more evil than the majority of evil alignments because of it’s crazy unpredictability.
Understanding the various alignments is crucial to developing a well-rounded character, whether you’re a seasoned D&D player or a newcomer to the game. If you’re intrigued by the Chaotic Neutral alignment and want to learn more about it, you’ve come to the right inn, adventurer!
So, let’s dive into all you need to know to master the Chaotic Neutral Alignment and take your D&D game to the next level.
Mastering the Chaotic Neutral Alignment in D&D
“Chaos” and “Neutrality” are two unique fields of persona that can mix the extremes of both good and evil in Dungeon and Dragons, and when blended together, it makes it a truly unique and strange alignment that is very unpredictable and unique as an alignment.
- It combines the impulsiveness and spontaneity of Chaotic alignments with the lack of moral conviction of Neutral alignments. Chaotic Neutral (CN) characters are often seen as unpredictable and challenging for external entities to control, but they can also be resourceful and adaptable in any situation.
The concept of alignment has evolved over the years in Dungeons & Dragons. In the beginning, the alignments were straightforward, with only a few sentences of explanation in the AD&D player handbook.
However, as the game grew and evolved, so too did the alignment system. By the time D&D 3.5 edition came out, each alignment had multiple pages of description, with the introduction of more deities in various alignments and creatures in the world of D&D, providing players with a more nuanced understanding of each one.
And understanding the Chaotic Neutral (CN) alignment begins with understanding its origins in AD&D and how it developed through the 3rd and 5th editions to where we are today.
Chaotic Neutral In AD&D
The AD&D player handbook on page 33 describes the Chaotic Neutral alignment as characterized by placing randomness and disorder above respect for life and good or disregard for life and elevation of evil.
This alignment saw good and evil as complementary balance arms, with neither being preferred nor must either triumph, for ultimate chaos would then suffer.
Fun fact: Each alignment had its own language back then, including Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, and all the other alignments. If a character changed alignment, the previously known language could no longer be spoken by them.
Chaotic Neutral In D&D 3.5 Edition
In the D&D 3.5 Edition, the Chaotic Neutral alignment underwent significant changes in its portrayal compared to its much elder AD&D sibling.
Page 105 in the 3.5e player handbook describes Chaotic Neutral as the “Free Spirit,” a character who values their own liberty and individualism above all else. While they don’t necessarily seek to protect others’ freedom, they don’t intentionally disrupt organizations out of a desire for anarchy.
Instead, they resent restrictions which are almost always seen as suffocating and unneeded, and challenge traditions, avoiding dealing with authority whenever possible.
- The 3.5 Handbook also emphasizes that a Chaotic Neutral character’s behavior isn’t random, even if it can be unpredictable. CN characters won’t jump off a bridge just because they can, but they may cross it uniquely. Chaotic Neutral was considered by many players to be the best alignment because it represents freedom from society’s restrictions not to mention the inherent limitations of a do-gooder’s zeal.
In addition to these changes in portrayal, 3.5e also introduced new deities associated with the Chaotic Neutral alignment, such as Olidammara, the god of music, revelry, and wine.
While AD&D emphasized the balance between good and evil, 3.5e presented Chaotic Neutral as a more self-centered, individualistic alignment focused on personal freedom and rejecting authority. While these are features that many players have had in characters to some level or another, or even often default to, at the time this was a very new thing.
Chaotic Neutral In D&D 5th Edition
In D&D 5th Edition, on page 122, the Chaotic Neutral alignment is defined as following personal freedom and whims above all else. This description is brief and open to interpretation, allowing for more versatility and creativity in character development at tables where alignment is still held as especially important to a game (generally in niche games or from an old school DM from the 3.5 days or before).
- The concept of alignment is also explored in the handbook’s section on “Alignments in the Multiverse,” which explains how alignment is a moral choice for many thinking creatures. Humans, dwarves, and elves, among other humanoid races, can choose between good or evil paths, law or chaos.
The section also describes how the innate tendencies of some races align with their deities’ natures, while creatures lacking rational thought are unaligned. For example, just like how orcs share a savage and violent nature with their god, Gruumsh, if an orc chooses a “good alignment,” they might have to fight against their “innate savagery” tendencies for their entire life.
While it looks like One DnD is going to generally move even further away from this, and many tables I’ve been at have had DMs that were cool with creating characters with unique backgrounds that went against the grain, as long as there were minor “cons” to go with the additional “pros” of these unconventional characters to balance things, it’s a nearly 50 year tradition that is still going to provide a baseline for most tables of players and game masters alike.
Overall, D&D 5th Edition presents the Chaotic Neutral alignment as a personal preference for freedom but allows for a broader range of interpretations and character development compared to previous editions.
Being “Chaotic” Does Not Have To Be Too Disruptive
Players often stereotype Chaotic Neutral as “Chaotic Senseless,” and it doesn’t always have to be this way. This is the biggest complaint from tables who have dealt with a Chaotic Neutral character who becomes nothing but a disruption. While a little chaotic disruption
The same goes for any other alignment; balancing roleplaying your character and respecting your fellow players is key.
Tip: Choosing CN doesn’t mean that you have to cause mayhem for its own sake, but rather, aim it towards a wide range of personalities, such as a thief, a bounty hunter, or a traveler who values independence and freedom.
However, the costs of breaking the law must be kept in mind to help keep the gameplay manageable. While it’s also vital to note that Chaotic Neutral is not the same as other Chaotic alignments, playing a Chaotic Neutral character can add depth and intrigue to any party.
An Example Of A Chaotic Neutral MBTI Personality Type
The INTP personality type is often considered the best fit for a Chaotic Neutral alignment due to their individualistic nature and tendency to prioritize their own personal freedom above all else.
- INTPs are analytical and logical thinkers who constantly seek knowledge, explore new ideas, and value their independence and autonomy.
INTPs are also not particularly concerned with following societal norms or traditional rules and conventions. They are more interested in pursuing both their own path and unique solutions to problems. And with that, they can come across as unpredictable or even rebellious, but this is simply a reflection of their desire for personal freedom and autonomy.
Overall, the INTP personality type embodies many core traits associated with Chaotic Neutral characters, including individualism, independence, and a willingness to break with convention in pursuit of their own goals and desires.
- Tip: Other MBTI types (such as ENTP) may also fit the Chaotic Neutral alignment, and it ultimately comes down to the specific traits and behaviors of the individual character in question.
Roleplaying A Chaotic Neutral Alignment
Roleplaying a Chaotic Neutral character can be tons of fun, but again, remember that it requires a careful balance between personal freedom and unpredictable actions.
Most CN creatures, NPCs, and players prioritize their freedom above all else and often break the rules and traditions to achieve it. However, they are not inherently good or evil and can act however they see fit as long as it serves their purposes. While a Chaotic Good player might break a law or tradition because they see the law or tradition as harmful or in the way of a greater good, a Chaotic Neutral player might break it because they feel like it. Or they might obey it because it’s just not worth the headache. Either reasoning could work.
So, to help players understand how to conduct themselves as CN characters, here are some things that CN characters tend to enjoy doing and things they tend to avoid:
A few of the many things Chaotic Neutral (CN) characters enjoy:
- Pursuing their own personal freedom and desires
- Breaking the rules and traditions that limit their freedom
- Trickery, deceit, and manipulation to achieve their goals (if and where necessary)
- Promoting chaos and disorder
- Pursuing pleasure and entertainment
- Dirty fighting and using unconventional tactics to win battles
Things CN characters often avoid:
- Placing duty or obligation above their personal desires
- Showing respect for authority or institutions
- Joining or supporting the government or other institutions
- Hindering change or progress
- Refusing opportunities for personal gain or amusement
- Actively promoting law and order
How Chaotic Neutral Reacts To The Social Order
It’s essential to know how a Chaotic Neutral reacts to the social order; ironically, they don’t conform to it. And by now, you know that they have their own beliefs and values, so they won’t hesitate to challenge anyone who tries to impose their rules on them (unless they are a trusted party member, among various other certain situations).
So if you ever find yourself wandering through town, the following are some great ideas and tips to help you maintain character in any campaign, which can lead to some exciting outcomes.
- Know that, in a sense, Chaotic Neutral characters are agents of chaos in society:
- They don’t have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo or advancing any particular agenda, so they’re free to act however they see fit.
- They tend to be fiercely independent and self-reliant, doing whatever it takes to protect their freedom and autonomy. It can sometimes put them at odds with the rest of society, particularly those who are more invested in maintaining order and stability.
- Chaotic Neutral characters aren’t inherently malicious or cruel.
- By not paying much attention to others, they don’t feel any particular obligation to help or hinder them. It may sound bland as a character, but this can make them pretty unique since it may brand them unpredictable and challenging to deal with, but it can also make them valuable allies in certain situations.
With this, you can tell that Chaotic Neutrals are a wild card in any social setting. Depending on their mood and motivations, they can be incredibly helpful or disruptive.
If you’re playing a Chaotic Neutral character, it’s important to remember that the same rules and conventions do not bind you as everyone else. You have the freedom to act in whatever way you see fit, and you should be prepared to deal with the consequences of your actions, whether they’re positive or negative. Just be sure to keep your parties’ best interests and quests in mind!
Character Background Ideas With A Chaotic Neutral Alignment
As you create your character’s background story, keep in mind the CNs’ unpredictability factor and that they love to do whatever they want, whenever.
If you are just looking for tips, here are three elementary tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your backstory flexible – Chaotic Neutral characters can be unpredictable and make unexpected choices. Embrace the chaos and keep your backstory open to changes to make your character interesting and unique.
- Highlight individuality: CN is all about prioritizing personal freedom and uniqueness. Why? Because they don’t conform to societal rules or traditions and prefer charting their own course. So, consider what makes your character distinctive and motivates them to exist in the Chaotic Neutral mindset.
- Point out what makes you enforce freedom: Similar to highlighting your individuality, consider how your character’s desire for change affects their backstory and choices throughout the campaign.
Creating an interesting backstory for a Chaotic Neutral character encourages thoughts around their motivations and experiences that have led them to embrace this alignment. The irony being that virtually any background could lead to this. As often happens in real life a strict religious upbringing can lead to children who follow the same path…or rebel with fanatical hatred to anything religious.
Growing up in a Law & Order household can give a huge respect for law enforcement or lead to rebelling children who resent all the laws and restrictions society forces upon people.
This either/or of human nature makes virtually any background one that could justify veering into Chaotic Neutral, but there are some in particular we’ve seen put into play at our 5E games more than others.
That said, the following are some superb examples if you need some inspiration to spark a good background so if in doubt start with these backgrounds and go from there when developing your CN characters:
- Outlaw – Anti-Authority
You’ve always been someone who can’t stand being told what to do, and you’re not afraid to go against the law if it means doing what you believe is right. You’ve had your fair share of dealings with thieves, bandits, or smugglers, and one thing you – some you were even friends with; constantly searching for methods to outrun the law and make money in the process.
Ah, yes, the good ol’ days.
Maybe you were wronged by someone in power or have an innate desire to break the rules. Either way, you’ll do whatever it takes to get what you want.
- Mercenary – Self-Interest
There’s no particular country or cause that you’re loyal to, but you always fight for the highest bidder. You’ve been a soldier for far too long fighting for someone else’s wars that you decided to become a sale sword and see where that goes. You don’t care about the conflict’s politics or moral implications as long as you get your cut. You might have a personal code of ethics, but you’ll break it if the price is right.
- Wanderer – Freedom
You’ve never liked the idea of being tied down to one place or one way of life and prefer to live on the road; it just never left a good taste in your mouth. Traveling from town to town and doing whatever work you find has been the only thing that made sense to you.
You might be a bard, a rogue, or just a jack-of-all-trades. But you can’t get enough of the taste of freedom, and you strongly believe everyone should share the same view.
You’re always looking for new experiences, new people to meet, and new places to see. Maybe you just need to meet the right people to call “home”? But for now, you don’t want to be tied down by anyone or anything, and you’ll do whatever it takes to maintain your freedom.
- Mad Scientist – Curiosity
The world has always intrigued you, and you’re not afraid to experiment to understand it. You might be an alchemist, a tinkerer, or a mage, but whatever your field, you’re always looking for new knowledge and new discoveries.
There is no guarantee that the consequences of your experiments will be as you expect, and you might not care about the laws prohibiting them. But for you, pursuing knowledge is more important than anything else.
These four backgrounds just naturally fit a Chaotic Neutral mindset well, and we have watched them used to great roleplaying and storytelling effectiveness in our D&D campaigns.
Exploring Chaotic Neutral Class Options
Although certain barbarians, rouges, and bards are the archetypal classes for chaotic neutral alignment, they can also be of any other alignment. In fact, many roles can be chaotic neutral. But if you are in for some ideas, here are four classes that make excellent choices for a Chaotic Neutral character:
“It’s time to RAGE! And you have awoken the storm.”
Regardless of race, barbarians can be beasts on the battlefield, with a berserk nature that your party members would be glad to have on their side. You are a primal force of nature, embracing your inner rage and unleashing it upon your enemies.
Being CN, you would almost have alpha-like independence and value your freedom to act as you see fit. Your chaotic nature can make you unpredictable, while others may find it too “brawny” to understand. Still, it makes you a fearsome opponent on the battlefield.
Whether you’re charging headfirst into battle or tracking prey in the wilderness, your wild nature and disdain for authority make you a perfect fit for the chaotic neutral alignment.
“Life is a performance, and I am the star of the show. Let me sing you a tale of triumph, tragedy, and a little bit of magic!“
Support characters are almost always a must at a party. That’s where bards play their solos. Bards are free spirits who revel in their individuality and creativity, and it’s the one class that players 100% ASSUME are Chaotic Neutral until proven otherwise. That doesn’t mean you have to play that way, but the stereotypical Bard fits Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good like a glove.
As a Chaotic Neutral Bard, you will likely use your talents to pursue your interests rather than adhere to society’s expectations. You may be a wandering troubadour, using your music and charisma to entertain and manipulate those around you.
“Good rogues have a plan. Impressive rogues have plans B, C, D, E, F, G….“
Rogues almost always know how to slip through the shadows and bend the rules. And often find it amusing to break them. If they align with Chaotic Neutral, then you can pretty much expect them to have their own plans in motion and will use their skills to make it happen, no matter what.
And regardless of how crazy the task may be, they can make the impossible seem achievable with their wit and quick thinking.
“Magic flows through my veins, and I am its master.”
In the world of D&D, magic can be acquired in various ways. Paladins, Clerics, and Warlocks get their powers from a higher being, while Bards gain abilities through, well… the power of performance. Nevertheless, sorcerers have an innate connection to the magic tied to their bloodline or an anomaly in their being. This means that they don’t have to spend years studying like Wizards do.
As a Chaotic Neutral Sorcerer, you may use your powers to suit your own whims with little regard for the consequences. Sorcerers have to manage a list of spells and features like Metamagic, which can affect how and when they cast their spells. Additionally, they have to navigate Sorcery Points, a unique feature that allows them to either gain additional spell slots or convert them back into Sorcery Points.
- Tip: Overall, note that your alignment does not dictate your class choices, and it’s entirely up to you to choose the class that best fits your character concept. So whether you want to wield dark magic as a warlock (even though a warlock is best suited for a lawful alignment due to the agreement nature of their very class), master the arcane arts as a wizard, or become a skilled swordsman as a fighter, the choice is yours.
Just remember, as a Chaotic Neutral character, you value your personal freedom and individuality above all else, and you are likely to pursue your own interests, even if they go against the norms of society.
Fictional Characters That Are Chaotic Neutral
Looking for inspiration on how to play a Chaotic Neutral character in your D&D game? Look no further than your favorite fictional characters! Fictional characters can be a great source of inspiration when building a character, personality, and backstory that fit the Chaotic Neutral alignment just right.
Captain Jack Sparrow – Pirates Of The Caribbean
“Me? I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly…stupid.”Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
Captain Jack Sparrow is a perfect example of a chaotic neutral character. Jack is known for his love of adventure, witty charm, and unpredictable nature. He’s willing to do it all to get what he wants, whether double-crossing his friends, stealing treasure, or breaking the rules.
Jack’s love life is also a great example of his chaotic nature, as he’s been involved with several women throughout the films. That said, his relationships with them are often complicated and messy – mostly ending with a slap to the face speaks wonders for his CN character.
Zaraki Kenpachi – Bleach Anime And Manga
“Sanity? Sorry, but I don’t remember having such a useless thing in the first place.“Zaraki Kenpachi, Bleach
Zaraki Kenpachi is a warrior who lives for the thrill of battle, and his chaotic neutral alignment perfectly fits his character. He’s willing to fight anyone and everyone and won’t hesitate to kill his opponents if he’s in the mood.
However, he’s also known for letting defeated opponents go if they impress him, which is a testament to his unpredictable nature.
Deadpool – Marvel Universe
“I’m gonna do what I do best: cause a little chaos.”Deadpool, (Comics)
Deadpool is an excellent example of a chaotic neutral character. He’s known for his irreverent sense of humor, love of violence, and tendency to break the fourth wall.
While he’s not entirely averse to working with a team, he often puts them in danger due to his reckless, break-down-the-front-door attitude. He’s willing to pursue his goals at any cost, even if that means causing harm to those around him or destroying property in the process.
Some might consider him Chaotic Good, but this just shows how the line between certain alignments isn’t cut and dry but often has a gray area that lives as the border in between both.
Kratos – God of War
“I killed many who were deserving, and many who were not.”Kratos, God of War
Kratos is a demigod of Zeus and trained as a Spartan warrior, and his reckless, aggressive, and quick-to-fight nature is a perfect fit for the chaotic neutral alignment. He’s willing to do any task to achieve his goals, whether killing his enemies, breaking the rules, or seeking revenge.
However, he also deeply loves his wife and children, which adds complexity to his character. Although he was seen as a move evil character at the beginning of the God of War franchise, he soon learned that vengeance had taught him nothing but grief.
And his new transition into the CN alignment as the story unfolds has brought many gamers wanting more.
Chaotic Neutral Compared To Other Alignments
Chaotic Neutral is a unique alignment that can make for some interesting dynamics compared to other alignments. Some have overlap while others stand in utter contrast to what a CN character is going to bring to the table.
Here are some comparisons between Chaotic Neutral and other alignments:
Chaotic Evil Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Evil and Chaotic Neutral characters share a similar disregard for the rules and a desire for personal freedom, but that is where their similarities end.
- The desire for power and domination often drives Chaotic Evil (CE) characters and destruction, and they are willing to harm others to achieve their goals. In contrast, CN characters are more interested in their freedom and autonomy and may be ready to break the rules to achieve it, but not at the cost of harming others.
- A CE may see a CN as an obstacle to their plans or a potential pawn. On the other hand, a Chaotic Neutral may see a Chaotic Evil character as a danger to their freedom and may try to avoid or manipulate them for their benefit.
Chaotic Good Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Good (CG) and Chaotic Neutral characters share a love for freedom and individualism, but their approach to achieving it differs.
- Chaotic Good characters have a solid moral compass and believe in fighting against oppression and injustice, even if it means breaking the law. On the other hand, CN characters are not driven by moral ideals but by their desire for personal freedom and autonomy.
- A CG character may see a Chaotic Neutral as selfish or uncaring towards others. At the same time, a CN character may view some CG alignments as too idealistic and too focused on moral values.
True Neutral Vs. Chaotic Neutral
True Neutral (TN) and Chaotic Neutral characters share a similar disregard for moral values, but their reasons for doing so differ.
- True Neutral characters strive to maintain balance and neutrality in all things, often following a personal code or principles. In contrast, CN characters reject all rules and regulations and seek personal freedom and autonomy.
- A TN character may see a CN character as reckless or chaotic, while a Chaotic Neutral may often see True Neutral players as too rigid or inflexible.
Neutral Evil Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Neutral Evil (NE) and Chaotic Neutral characters may share a lack of concern for morality, but they differ in their approach to achieving their goals.
- Neutral Evil characters are solely driven by self-interest and have no qualms about harming others to achieve their objectives. In contrast, CN characters may break the rules to achieve their personal freedom and autonomy, but they are less likely to cause harm to others in the process.
- A NE character may see a CN character as an obstacle or a potential pawn, while a Chaotic Neutral character may see a Neutral Evil character as a dangerous and unpredictable threat to their freedom.
Neutral Good Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Neutral Good (NG) and Chaotic Neutral characters may seem at odds, but they may find common ground in their shared belief in personal freedom and autonomy.
- Neutral Good characters believe in doing what is right and just, even if it means breaking the law. Moral ideals may not drive CN characters, but they share a love for personal freedom and autonomy.
- An NG may see a CN character as selfish or reckless, while a Chaotic Neutral character may see a Neutral Good character as too rigid or idealistic. However, they may still find ways to work together towards a common goal, especially if it involves fighting against oppression or tyranny.
Lawful Neutral Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Lawful Neutral (LN) and Chaotic Neutral characters have opposing views on the importance of rules and structure.
- Lawful Neutral characters adhere to a strict code of conduct and laws, which they believe are essential for maintaining order and stability in society. They may find CN characters to be unpredictable, unreliable, and prone to chaos.
- On the other hand, CN characters reject the constraints of rules and laws, preferring to live in the moment and make decisions based on their own desires and impulses. They may view Lawful Neutral characters as rigid, inflexible, and overly concerned with following rules at the expense of personal freedom.
Lawful Evil Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Lawful Evil (LE) and Chaotic Neutral characters have vastly different motivations and approaches to achieving their goals.
- Lawful Evil characters often focus on power and control, using laws and social structures to manipulate and dominate others. They may view Chaotic Neutral characters as threatening their plans since they are unpredictable and difficult to control.
- However, CN characters are driven by personal freedom and may be suspicious of any attempt to control or manipulate them. They may view LE characters as oppressive and unjust.
Lawful Good Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Lawful Good (LG) and Chaotic Neutral characters may have different priorities, but they share a desire for personal freedom and a strong sense of individualism.
- A strict moral code guides Lawful Good characters, often based on the belief that they have a duty to protect others and uphold justice. They may view CN characters as unreliable and unpredictable, but they may also recognize their value when flexibility and creativity are needed.
- CN characters prioritize personal freedom and are often guided by their moral compass rather than external laws or codes. They may view LG characters as overly restrictive and bound by their ethical principles. However, they may also recognize their value when a solid moral compass is needed to guide actions.
Chaotic Neutral Alignment: In Conclusion
Though they can be seen as amoral or even malevolent, they can also be the ones to break the mold and bring new perspectives to any situation. The Chaotic Neutral alignment provides a lot of potential for exciting and dynamic characters whose actions can keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
If you’re looking for a free-spirited and self-reliant nature, then Chaotic Neutral might be the perfect fit for your next character build.
Other Great D&D Articles of Interest
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- D&D Expertise Guide
- Complete 5E Feat Guide
- One DnD Level 1 Feats
- 5E Arcane Trickster Class Guide
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.