As rare as they are, there are many exciting ways to go about being “evil” in Dungeons and Dragons. And among the evil spectrum, Neutral Evil (NE) can position itself right in the center of all the action. But one thing is for sure, is that the Neutral Evil alignment doesn’t have to be all about being a “jerk” at the table and can be much more (or less) than a puppy-kicking baddie stereotype.
But first, what are the basics?
The D&D Neutral Evil (NE) alignment may work inside and outside the law purely for their own benefit. Much like many NPC Drows, Goblins, and Yugoloths, this alignment focuses on only being out there for themselves and would do anything they need to do to get away with it.
You may have already noticed that some NE villains often commit Evil just for the sake of it, while others dedicate themselves to secret societies and evil deities. While it may sound complicated, with many challenging nuances to master, this guide provides you with everything you need to know about the Neutral Evil (NE) alignment in D&D and many exciting examples to help you take your game to the next level.
Let’s dive in!
Discovering The Depths of Neutral Evil: An Ultimate D&D Alignment Guide
Neutral evil shares a common ground with the other alignments in the evil spectrum. Being part of the neutral variety, you also can dance whimsically between lawful and chaos. You’re not going to take the opportunity to do something chaotic just because the opportunity is there, but likewise you’re not obligated to serve a code or set of rules put out by an evil ruler.
So when you are following the Neutral Evil alignment, or making an NPC that falls under that alignment, you can be lawful from time to time and be chaotic whenever you want.
In the mind of a character who is under the Neutral Evil alignment, everything that has the potential to live (or even be an inanimate object) might be a problem, therefore, it stands to reason that NE characters could just wish to “erase” the problem rather than deal with it amicably.
Tip: By now, you may be wondering how an NE alignment may exist in a party of mainly potential heroes. The truth is that generally speaking this alignment is for villains or Evil Campaigns. The answer is that when it comes to Neutral Evil, much like Lawful Evil, as long as your goals align, NE characters have no reason to betray you. In fact, their cunning and manipulative nature can often make them valuable assets to any adventuring party as they amusedly go along with things until they find a moment where they prefer not to.
Understanding the depth and complexity of the Neutral Evil alignment can be a daunting task. Still, one excellent method is to examine how it has been presented through the various editions of Dungeons and Dragons as the definitions have changed over time.
Let’s take a closer look at how Neutral Evil has been portrayed in AD&D, D&D 3.5e, and the most recent D&D 5th Edition.
The Machiavellian Machinations Of Neutral Evil In AD&D
Ah, the Machiavellian machinations of Neutral Evil in AD&D. A truly fascinating topic indeed, my fellow adventurer. In the earlier days of D&D, alignments were slightly cut and dry. In the AD&D guidebook, players would find information on the alignments on page 33.
- In AD&D, Neutral Evil is described as an alignment of creatures that consider law and chaos as irrelevant since pure Evil is all that matters. While either law or chaos can be utilized, both are seen as unnecessary and foolish distractions that can hinder the goal of spreading Evil to its maximum potential in the world.
This is quite different from how alignments are presented in the D&D 5th edition player handbook guide, which is the most commonly used guide among players these days.
In D&D 5E, Neutral Evil (NE) is described as the alignment of those who do whatever they can to get away with what benefits them without compassion or qualms. It also explains that Yugoloths, some cloud giants, and many Drow are neutral Evil.
Fun fact: According to the D&D 5e handbook, most intelligent creatures view alignment as a moral choice. The gods who created humanoid races gave them free will to follow their moral paths, recognizing that good without the freedom to choose is slavery.
In contrast, evil deities created races to serve or worship them, endowing them with inborn solid tendencies that match their own nature. Creatures that lack the capacity for rational thought are typically unaligned.
Notably, alignment is a fundamental aspect of the nature of celestials and fiends.
- For example, if a devil ceases Evil, it is no longer considered a devil. They do not decide to be lawful Evil: it is simply lawful Evil at its core.
- Even if an orc aligns with the “good” and righteous spectrum, it may still scuffle against its inborn propensities for its entire life. The haunting pull of an orc god’s influence can also affect half-orcs.
These changes highlight how alignments have evolved over the years, with a more nuanced understanding of what they truly mean in the worlds of both AD&D and D&D 5E. Nonetheless, the Machiavellian machinations of Neutral Evil remain as fascinating as ever.
The Cunning And Calculating Nature Of Neutral Evil In D&D 3.5e
In many ways, D&D 3.5e exploded from AD&D, becoming more complex and detailed in its rules and mechanics. It was a major improvement in character customization, allowing players to create characters with more depth and complexity.
The Neutral Evil alignment in D&D 3.5e, the Player’s Handbook explains on page 106 states the following:
- When playing a Neutral Evil character, it’s important to remember that they operate solely in their self-interest. They aren’t concerned about the well-being of others and are willing to engage in violent and deceitful behavior to achieve their goals.
While they don’t necessarily enjoy chaos, they don’t see the value in adhering to laws or codes either. Not all Neutral Evil characters are necessarily chaotic or impulsive; some may operate with a calculated, deliberate approach to their villainy.
If this seems a bit strange at first, look at it this way: how easy is it to control chaos? It’s not. If the main goal is to fulfill their own self-interests sometimes introducing chaos can get an obstacle out of the way, but it also introduces wildcards and factors that can end up thwarting that person’s efforts or even making some goals get out of reach entirely.
Very counterproductive to risk your own self-interests like that when a well thought out and executed plan would have been the route to achieving those goals.
In many ways, this description is quite similar to the one provided in the 5th Edition of Player’s Handbook.
However, it is worth noting that the 3.5E version is slightly more to the point, slimming down to almost being exact. In contrast, the 5th Edition gives players the general idea of the NE alignment and encourages them to add their own interpretation within that general idea.
- Those who follow this alignment do not have any particular allegiance to laws or traditions and are solely out for themselves. Many neutral evil villains may even view Evil as an ideal, committing Evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.
Overall, the Neutral Evil alignment remains an intriguing concept in D&D that encourages players to explore the darker aspects of their characters’ personalities. The 3.5e Edition provides a more concise description of what it means to be neutral Evil, while the 5th Edition allows for more interpretation and creativity.
Embracing The Darkness: Neutral Evil In D&D 5th Edition
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition has become the go-to player handbook for modern D&D, with many changes from its predecessors. While it still includes alignment as a core concept, it does so in a more simplified manner, leaving room for players to interpret and build upon the core idea of each alignment.
Regarding the Neutral Evil alignment in D&D 5th Edition found on page 122, the handbook offers a general description that players can use as a starting point.
- It explains that a Neutral Evil character is primarily out for themselves, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals without any qualms or moral dilemmas. They may work with others only as long as it benefits them. They don’t care for traditions, codes, or laws, nor are they inherently chaotic.
It starkly contrasts with the more detailed and specific descriptions in earlier editions, such as AD&D and 3.5E. These editions would often provide more insight into how a Neutral Evil character would behave, their motivations, and the kinds of actions they might take.
However, this doesn’t mean that the 5th Edition lacks detail. It leaves room for players to make their own interpretations.
For those drawn to the darker side, embracing the Neutral Evil alignment can provide a unique and thrilling gameplay experience.
- It allows players to explore their characters’ selfish and amoral sides, pushing the boundaries of “acceptable behavior.” Whether you’re a rogue who steals for personal gain or a warlock who serves a dark and malevolent patron, the Neutral Evil alignment can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the abyss.
Roleplay The Neutral Evil: The ENTJ Personality Type
If you’re stuck figuring out how to roleplay a neutral evil character, know that the closest and most popular personality type for the Neutral Evil alignment in D&D is ENTJ, a combination of the “Ni” and “Te” functions.
- These individuals are known for their ambitious plans and restless minds, always looking for new ideas, concepts, and theories to explore. They can come across as abrasive due to their outspoken nature and often lack strong emotions, as they are more interested in facts and practicality.
- ENTJs are highly competitive and intelligent, making them natural leaders who tend to be dominant and persuasive. With plenty of energy and can sometimes be too aggressive or quick-tempered, but they are not above working with others to achieve their goals. However, they may not always think things through before acting, which can lead to trouble.
In the world of D&D, the ENTJ personality type can make for a powerful and cunning villain, always working behind the scenes to achieve their goals and manipulating others to do their bidding. Seeing the big picture comes easily to them, and they use their intelligence to develop elaborate plans to achieve their objectives.
Nevertheless, even the most experienced adventurers will find them dangerous opponents because of their lack of empathy and determination to go to any lengths to succeed.
Typical Neutral Evil Factors In A Campaign
As an alignment, Neutral Evil characters are motivated primarily by self-interest and personal gain, with little regard for the rights or well-being of others. Players may find it helpful to understand what makes some actions more NE than other alignments in a campaign by considering the following factors:
Neutral Evil characters are primarily motivated by their interests and desires. They are willing to harm others to achieve their goals and have little concern for the well-being of others.
Lying and deceit are key tools in the Neutral Evil character’s arsenal. They are willing to lie to anyone to further their interests.
Neutral Evil characters have little empathy or compassion for others and are often willing to inflict harm or suffering to achieve their goals.
Neutral Evil characters are not above betraying friends, family, or even their nation to further their interests.
A desire for power, wealth, and status drives neutral Evil characters. They will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, regardless of the consequences.
Tip: When playing a Neutral Evil character in D&D, it’s essential to remember that you shouldn’t have fun at the expense of your fellow players. Evil characters inherently get into dark areas, but not all “evil” is the same, so it’s a good idea to ask your DM to set some guidelines for the table.
Other players may be fine with murder but uncomfortable with different topics. There are tools to help players let the DM know what issues they’re comfortable with.
Playing an Evil character can be fun and offer attractive roleplaying opportunities as long as you explore your character and respect the other players in your game.
Typical Factors Neutral Evil Character May Find “Honorable”
- Fulfilling a contract or agreement, as long as it serves their interests
- Protecting their own interests, which may include the interests of their allies or associates
- Showing loyalty to a powerful benefactor, as long as it benefits them in the long run
- Acting in a way that promotes their own power, wealth, or status, as long as it doesn’t put them in immediate danger
- Maintaining a reputation for being reliable and effective could lead to more lucrative opportunities in the future
Typical Factors Neutral Evil Character May Find “Dishonorable”
- Showing mercy or compassion to enemies when it goes against their self-interests
- Failing to follow through on promises or agreements if it no longer serves their goals
- Not betraying allies, friends, or loved ones for personal gain toward your ultimate goal
- Refusing to take advantage of an opportunity to advance their own interests, even if it means harming others
- Displaying acts of kindness or generosity without any clear benefit to themselves
- Refusing to engage in deceit or deception when it could be used to gain an advantage
The Twisted Roots Of Neutral Evil: Character Background Ideas
Creating an NE background is always the fun part before the storm. As a Neutral Evil character, you might come from various backgrounds that have shaped your personality and worldview.
Perhaps you had a difficult upbringing or were always the odd one in your community. Or maybe you’ve always been driven by ambition and the desire for power, or you simply enjoy causing chaos and pain? Whatever your background, your past experiences have shaped you into the self-interested and manipulative person you are today.
That said, if you are ever looking for ideas to shape your next favorite villain, here are four possible character backgrounds that might fit any NE character:
A Disgraced Noble
Born into a wealthy and influential family, you were always the black sheep. You never quite fit in with your peers and chafed at the constraints of high society. You began to indulge in vices and unsavory behavior, eventually getting caught and disgraced in a public scandal.
Now, you seek to rebuild your wealth and status, using any necessary means to climb the social ladder again.
You’ve always had a talent for deception and manipulation, and you’ve honed these skills into a successful career as a con artist. Life was truly a walk in the park. You’ve swindled countless people out of their money and always looking for your next mark.
You might have a particular grudge against authority figures or the wealthy or simply enjoy the challenge of fooling others.
You were once a proud and loyal member of a group or organization, but life soon became tiresome, and you betrayed them for personal gain. Maybe you sold out your former comrades to a rival group or exposed a secret for a hefty reward.
You may have justified your actions to yourself, but you’re now known as a backstabber and are not to be trusted. Was this all worth the cost? Well, my friend, that depends on the price!
You were once a good person, devoted to helping others and upholding justice. But something shattered your worldview and turned you against the social order. Maybe you were betrayed by someone you trusted or witnessed a great injustice that the system couldn’t fix.
Now, you take matters into your own hands, using violence and intimidation to achieve your own vision of justice.
Embrace The Dark Side: Classes Best Suited For Neutral Evil
NE can work with almost any class in a campaign as an alignment focused on self-interest and personal gain. However, some classes are better suited to the alignment than others, just like how Tieflings are a fantastic race for Neutral Evil characters, as their infernal heritage can lead them down darker paths.
With that in mind, the following is an example of three classes that offer excellent roleplaying opportunities for those looking to embrace the dark side:
The Rogue class’s emphasis on deception and subterfuge aligns well with the Neutral Evil characters’ deceitful and selfish nature. With their innate abilities to pick locks, sneak around, and deal with sneak attack damage, rogues make excellent assassins and thieves who will do whatever it takes to get ahead.
Powers come from darker sources for Warlocks, making them a natural fit for those seeking to embrace their darker side. A Neutral Evil warlock might have made a deal with a friend for power or comprised the dark magics of the Shadowfell to further their selfish interests.
As a spellcasting class that relies on raw magical power rather than study or training, the Sorcerer can make an excellent choice for a NE roleplay.
They might have inherited their powers from an evil ancestor or made a pact with a demon to unlock their potential. The Sorcerer’s abilities to control minds, manipulate the elements, and blast their foes with powerful spells brand them a force to be reckoned with.
Exploring Fictional Neutral Evil Characters In Pop Culture
Exploring famous Neutral Evil characters from games, anime, books, series, or movies is an exciting way to delve into the qualities that make for an intriguing NE character. NE characters are more than just typical villains – they often possess depth and complexity that adds to their allure.
Here are some fantastic examples of well-crafted Neutral Evil characters that you can draw inspiration from for your D&D character development:
Thanos: The Mad Titan – Marvel Universe
Thanos, a powerful supervillain from the Marvel Universe, is one of the most popular Neutral Evil characters. His ultimate goal is to bring stability to the universe by snapping away half of all life at every level, believing that its massive population will eventually use up all its resources and perish.
He is a genocidal warlord from Titan who is always willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, regardless of how evil it may be.
Itachi Uchiha: The Prodigal Son Turned Criminal – Naruto
For those looking for an anime approach, Itachi Uchiha, a character from Naruto, is another excellent example of a Neutral Evil character. At first, Itachi seems to be a cold-blooded killer, massacring his clan and betraying his own village to join a criminal organization.
(Spoiler incoming) But as the story progresses, we learn that Itachi has a hidden agenda fueled by intentions of the “greater good” for the hidden leaf village and his younger brother, Sasuke.
Still, for those looking for an excellent Neutral Evil aspect, Itachi is portrayed as a master of deception while acting as a NE character, hiding his true motives until the end. He is a great inspiration for players who create complex characters that keep the party guessing.
Saruman The White: The Two-Faced Traitor – Lord Of The Rings
Saruman is an excellent example of a Neutral Evil character who is both cunning and intelligent, with a complex backstory that is intriguing to explore. While he initially appears to be a force for good, he is the chief of the Wizards, tasked with helping defeat the evil Sauron. However, as the story progresses, we learn that Saruman has his agenda.
Saruman seeks to share in Sauron’s power, betraying the White Council and his people to serve the Dark Lord. He is a master of manipulation, using his intellect to control others and bend them to his will. In the end, Saruman meets his downfall, as his servant Wormtongue betrays him, and his houseless spirit is denied the West.
Neutral Evil Vs. Other Alignments
Neutral Evil characters can have both complicated and enjoyable moments when cooperating with NPCs and players that belong to the eight other alignments. While there are various ways to skin the cat on banter, decision-making, and various types of responses, here are some guides to how each alignment recognizes each other from a typical perspective:
Neutral Evil Vs. Neutral Good
Neutral Evil and Neutral Good characters are often at odds with each other since they have essentially different moral beliefs.
- Neutral Evil characters are driven by self-interest and have little to no standards, codes, or guidelines. They are willing to deceive others and engage in evil deeds for personal gain.
- The Neutral good alignment believes in doing what is right and just, and they prioritize the welfare of others. They value personal freedom but also believe in following laws and social order.
Neutral Evil may find it challenging to work with Neutral Good characters since their moral beliefs differ. However, if a Neutral Evil character can find a way to use a Neutral Good character’s moral compass to their advantage, it could wind up for an exciting story!
Neutral Evil Vs. True Neutral
True Neutral and Neutral Evil characters are both morally neutral, but their beliefs and behaviors can vary significantly.
- True Neutrality act in their self-interest and have no particular loyalty to any law or social order. They follow their moral code but are not attached to specific ideals or beliefs.
- Neutral Evil is basically the same but has no qualms about deceiving or hurting others for personal gain.
The TN alignment may find NE characters unsettling since they are unpredictable and have no loyalties. However, if a Neutral Evil character can convince a True Neutral to act in their self-interest, they could be valuable allies.
Neutral Evil Vs. Chaotic Neutral
Neutral Evil and Chaotic Neutral characters can have a lot in common since they are both driven by self-interest and have little regard for laws or social order.
- Neutral Evil characters are more willing to engage in malicious and evil deeds, while Chaotic Neutral characters are more likely to act in unpredictable and random ways.
- Chaotic Neutral characters act on impulse and do not have any particular goals, while Neutral Evil characters often have a specific purpose or endgame in mind.
NE characters may be annoyed by CN’s lack of direction and impulsive actions. However, if a Neutral Evil character can convince a Chaotic Neutral character to work toward a common goal, it could make for a despicable adventure!
Neutral Evil Vs. Chaotic Good
Chaotic Good characters are often at odds with Neutral Evil characters since they have entirely opposite moral beliefs.
- Chaotic Good characters prioritize individual freedom and fight against tyranny and oppression. They will break laws and social norms if they believe it is necessary to do the right thing.
- Neutral Evil characters prioritize their self-interest and have no particular attachment to moral codes or beliefs. They will engage in malicious and evil deeds if it helps them achieve their goals.
CG characters may find it challenging to work with NEs since they see them as threatening individual freedom and fighting against oppression. However, if a Chaotic Good can find a way to use a Neutral Evil character’s skills and resources for a good cause, it could turn out to be quite an eventful experience!
Neutral Evil Vs. Chaotic Evil
Chaotic Evil and Neutral Evil characters can have a lot in common since they both engage in evil deeds.
- Chaotic Evil characters are unpredictable and act in ways that can be difficult to understand. They are often motivated by destruction, violence, and chaos.
- Neutral Evil characters are more calculated and purposeful in their evil deeds. They are often driven by personal gain and are willing to deceive and harm others to achieve their goals.
Neutral Evil characters may find it challenging to work with Chaotic Evil characters since they are often too unpredictable, even for the more self-serving NE characters.
CE characters may lack any sense of restraint, which could cause trouble for any party they join, and their tendency to disrupt plans could be seen as a liability to NE characters. However, they may work together for a short while if they share a common goal or interest.
Neutral Evil Vs. Lawful Good
The relationship between Lawful Good and Neutral Evil is typically marked by mutual distrust and suspicion.
- Lawful Good characters will always try to uphold laws and do what they perceive as the “right” thing, while Neutral Evil characters will always seek their benefit regardless of the cost to others. They may view each other as naive and hypocritical, with LG characters believing that NE characters are selfish and cruel and NE characters seeing LG characters as gullible and weak-willed.
- However, if a common enemy threatens both LG and NE characters, they may be able to set aside their differences and work together, albeit begrudgingly.
Neutral Evil Vs. Lawful Evil
Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil characters focus on achieving their goals through whatever means necessary, but they have some differences in their approach and perspective.
- LE characters believe in using order and hierarchy to achieve their ends, while NE characters are more unpredictable and opportunistic in their actions. Lawful Evil characters may be more disciplined and strategic, while Neutral Evil characters may be more impulsive and reactive.
These differences can lead to conflicts between the two alignments, as Lawful Evil characters may see Neutral Evil as unpredictable and unreliable. In contrast, Neutral Evil characters may view Lawful Evil as rigid and inflexible. However, they may find some common ground in pursuing mutual self-interests.
Neutral Evil Vs. Lawful Neutral
Lawful Neutral and Neutral Evil characters also have very different outlooks on life and can clash.
- LN characters follow a strict code of conduct and uphold order and the law, while NE characters are guided solely by their self-interest and have no regard for rules or standards.
This conflict can lead to suspicion and hatred, as Lawful Neutral characters may see Neutral Evil as dangerous and unpredictable. In contrast, Neutral Evil characters may view Lawful Neutral as naïve and inflexible.
However, there may be opportunities for cooperation between the two alignments if they share common interests, such as a mutual enemy or a shared goal. But, in most cases, they will remain wary of one another.
Hilarious Video from JoCat on Alignment in D&D
JoCat’s videos are hilarious but informational takes on certain parts of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. While most famous for his “Crap Guide to X Class” videos, which are all hilarious, he hit Alignment, as well. If you’re new to JoCat warning he is very NSFW humor and language, but if you’re okay with that this video is pretty great AND does a good job of breaking down the alignments.
The 5E Neutral Evil Alignment Guide: In Conclusion
The Neutral Evil alignment can be one of the most challenging and rewarding character alignments to play in D&D. Playing a Neutral Evil character requires striking a delicate balance between personal gain and loyalty to allies and can lead to exciting and unpredictable storylines.
Because of the inherent nature of neutral evil, to work in a campaign they will normally need to be in an evil or roguish type campaign to work well, or their personal goals must be VERY aligned with the good party’s overall goal or plot within the game.
When played well, a Neutral Evil character can be a captivating and complex addition to any campaign, and undeniably interesting but generally needs to be held for veteran players and tables.
This is a common alignment for evil PCs that parties may run into, but now you have a great idea of what the Neutral Alignment is and how it works.
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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.