What Is Chaos?

For decades, we have played with either the 9-alignment system (LG-NG-CG-LN-N-CN-LE-NE-CE), the 5-alignment system (LG-G-U-E-CE), or no alignment at all. Going back to the original, 3-alignment, Law vs. Chaos alignment system seems to be causing a bit of confusion, so this post explains the nature of Chaos in the Crusader Kingdoms.

First off, evil behavior isn’t necessarily Chaotic behavior. Torquemada is Lawful, Hitler is Lawful, etc. People seem to get that pretty instinctively.

Second, criminal behavior isn’t necessarily Chaotic behavior. The best example of this are the ACKS criminal classes: the Thief and the Assassin. When members of wither of these classes reach 9th level, instead of getting a stronghold and a domain, they get a hideout and a criminal syndicate. The hideout has to be within 6 miles of an urban settlement, and the size of the syndicate is limited by the size of the settlement. Therefore, it is naturally in a Thief or Assassin’s best interest to nurture the growth of the settlement to which they have attached their hideout. Now, when an urban settlement reaches a population of 3125 people (625 families), it becomes a Large Town with a Class IV market, and all the land within 50 miles of the settlement becomes Civilized. Since nurturing civilization is the heart of Lawfulness, Thieves and Assassins naturally tend to become Lawful as they become powerful. And, since followers and henchmen tend to be of the same alignment as their master, even low-level Thieves and Assassins are more often Lawful than not.

An alignment is a supernatural force. These forces are often personified and manifest as spirits. Those spirits that created humanity and want them to build civilizations are Lawful. Those spirits that oppose civilization are lumped together as Chaotic. The spirits of Chaos are divided into two camps: the Wyld spirits, sometimes called faeries or genies, that oppose civilization because they want to preserve and expand the natural wilderness, and the Chthonic spirits, sometimes called demons or devils, that want to destroy civilization as a subset of their desire to destroy life, the universe, and everything. Wyld spirits and Chaotic spirits do not generally consider themselves aligned, but the human scholars who name these things are usually Lawful and, as such, tend to lump them together as the forces of Chaos, a.k.a. the Bad Guys.

Chaotic monsters, such as the undead, or orcs and other beastmen, are infused with inherently Chaotic magic (described below). Such creatures lack free will, and have no choice but to further the agenda of whichever Chaotic faction they are aligned with.

Chaotic humans tend to fall into three categories: cultists, the religiously Chaotic; black magicians, wielders of innately Chaotic magic; and reavers, people whose non-religious, non-supernatural pursuits actively undermine civilization.

Cultists are the most obviously Chaotic mortals: they include all those who worship Chaotic spirits. Despite both being Chaotic, however, Chthonic cultists tend to be very different from Wyld cultists. Demon-worshippers who hate the world so much that they share the Chthonic spirits’ desire to undo creation are very rare. More commonly, Chthonic cultists simply desire whatever it is the demons are offering them in return for their worship: power, magic, money, sex, or even the simple promise that the faithful will be the last to be destroyed. Blackguards (the anti-Paladin from the ACKS Companion) and Chthonic Witches are inherently Chthonic cultists.

Wyld cultists, on the other hand, tend to be ideologically motivated: they believe civilization is corrupt and evil while the wilderness is pure and good. Some Wyld cultists, especially those who grew up in civilization, believe that civilization needs to be destroyed to preserve and expand the wilderness. Such types hate being lumped in with the Chthonic cultists: “We’re the good guys, damn it!” they think. Wyld cultists who belong to barbarian societies, however, often either simply believe that civilization is dangerous and must be avoided, or are so isolated as to have no experience with it whatsoever. Shamans and Sylvan Witches are inherently Wyld cultists. Barbarians are usually Wyld cultists as well, but that is not a requirement of the class.

Anyone who uses inherently Chaotic magic is a black magician. Creating undead creatures is always inherently Chaotic. Magical crossbreeding is normally benign, but becomes inherently Chaotic when humans or Chaotic spirits are used as progenitor creatures. The results of such experiments are as inherently Chaotic as any Chaotic spirit. Summoning and freeing a Chaotic spirit is inherently Chaotic, but summoning and binding one is a gray area. Making a pact with a Chthonic spirit is inherently Chaotic, so Warlocks are inherently black magicians. Atlanteans, however, exist in a gray area, as it was actually their ancestors who made the pacts.

Reavers include bandits, pirates, raiders, and similar wild outlaws whose depredations undermine civilization. While these men have no ideological agenda, decimating urban settlements and/or cutting the lines of trade that link and nurture them serves the Chaotic agenda. If one engages in such activity long enough, the darkness will creep into your soul. A bandit captain whose career spans more than a few years will eventually find himself thinking, “You know, recruiting a few orc bands wouldn’t be such a bad idea.” Next thing he knows, he’s the evil overlord of a Chaotic domain. There are no classes that are inherently reavers.

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One Response to What Is Chaos?

  1. Great article! It’s interested how you essentially recreated a two-line axis in alignments without imposing a “good” / “evil” framework.

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