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Neutral Evil (NE): Overview and Tips for D&D Roleplayers

This post was last updated on April 17th, 2023

Neutral Evil overview & tips white text on a black and red background

Hi, fellow D&D roleplayers and welcome to another article of the series dedicated to D&D Alignments.
Today’s topic revolves around the Neutral Evil alignment, the one that’s associated with characters who prioritise their personal interests above any allegiance to law or ethics.

In this article, I’ll explore this alignment in depth, discussing what it means, how it differs from other alignments, what kinds of characters and creatures typically embody this alignment and some good tips for players.

Whether you’re a seasoned D&D player or a newcomer to the game, this article will give you a deeper understanding of the alignment and how you could better play a Neutral Evil character.

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What is Neutral Evil?

Neutral evil is the alignment of those who do whatever they can get away with, without compassion or qualms. Many drow, some cloud giants, and yugoloths are neutral evil.

Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook Edition 5.0

Neutral Evil alignment defines those characters that are unscrupulous and yet not bound by any specific code or principles. Their primary motivation is personal gain and power and they stop at nothing to achieve it.

While sharing similarities with the Lawful Evil alignment – which adheres to a strict code – Neutral Evil characters function in a more unpredictable and opportunistic manner.

They are guided by their own selfish desires and take actions based on their needs, regardless of the consequences for others.
Consequently, they might forge temporary alliances or commit random acts of kindness if it serves their ultimate goal, but they’ll just as quickly turn their backs for the sake of self-preservation.

Characters with a Neutral Evil alignment can be detailed using the following traits:

  • Selfish and manipulative
  • Careless about the well-being of others
  • Opportunistic and unprincipled
  • Value personal freedom
  • Seek power and self-improvement

It is essential to note that these characters don’t have to be evil or malicious at all costs; they could simply prioritise their self-interest above those of others.

Well-rounded and interesting NE characters might strive to rationalise their actions or exhibit moments of sympathy, making them more relatable and nuanced.

Beliefs and Behaviour of Characters and NPCs

Neutral Evil characters and NPCs are primarily motivated by their personal desires, often putting themselves and their interests above all else.
They tend to exhibit selfishness and a disregard for moral principles or the well-being of others.

In their pursuit of personal gain, these characters may form temporary alliances with others, regardless of their alignment.

As long as the alliance serves their immediate needs or goals, they will cooperate. Once their objectives have been met, these types of characters are likely to abandon their allies without hesitation if it benefits them.

A Neutral Evil character or NPC’s methods can vary drastically, depending on factors such as their background, capabilities, and personal preferences. Some examples of typical behaviours include:

  • Manipulation: they may use deception and persuasion to control the actions of others, often to their detriment.
  • Exploitation: they might take advantage of weakness in others, using them as pawns in their schemes or extracting resources from them without regard for their welfare.
  • Cunning: a NE character often relies on strategising and careful planning to achieve their goals, avoiding direct confrontation when possible.

Although they pursue personal interests and often cause harm to others, as I wrote above, not all Neutral Evil characters and NPCs are inherently cruel or malicious.
Some may be driven by a sense of pragmatism or efficiency, prioritising their goals above any right or wrong. Consequently, they can display moments of kindness or fairness when it aligns with their objectives, but this should not be mistaken for genuine altruism.

Characters Examples

In popular culture, there are many examples of Neutral Evil characters. Here are a few examples:

Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)A dark and powerful wizard in the Harry Potter series who seeks to gain power and immortality by any means necessary. His ultimate goal is to establish a new order in which he is the supreme ruler, and he’s willing to sacrifice anyone who stands in his way.
Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars)A Dark Lord of the Sith in the Star Wars universe who seeks to rule the galaxy through fear and manipulation. He’s driven by a desire for power and control and he’s willing to destroy anyone who opposes him.
Saruman (The Lord of the Rings)A powerful wizard in The Lord of the Rings masterpiece who becomes corrupted by his desire for power and control. He is very keen to betray his allies and serve the evil forces of Sauron in order to achieve his goals, and he shows little regard for the well-being of others.

Background Ideas for NPCs or Characters

  • Necromancer – Obsessed with the secrets of life and death, a necromancer seeks mastery over the forces of undeath. They’re willing to experiment on corpses and animate the dead as minions, often causing fear and disgust in those around them. Their pursuit of power is relentless, and they find no remorse in the suffering their actions might cause.
  • Assassin- A skilled killer-for-hire, the assassin seeks wealth and power by completing dangerous contracts. They don’t care about the consequences of their actions, as long as they’re compensated accordingly. Their loyalties lie with the highest bidder, and they have no qualms about betraying former clients if a better offer comes along.
  • Crime Lord – A master manipulator, the crime lord controls a vast network of criminals and underlings to further their ambitions. They’re ruthless in maintaining their power, using manipulation, bribery, and intimidation to keep their subordinates in check. Instead of taking direct action, they often rely on their network to do their dirty work.
  • The Cult Leader – This NPC or character is a charismatic leader who has amassed a following of devoted followers. They use their influence to manipulate and control their followers, often for their own personal gain.
  • The Mad Scientist – a brilliant scientist who uses their knowledge and skills to further their own twisted goals. They may experiment on unwilling subjects, create dangerous weapons, or engage in other unethical activities in the pursuit of their goals.

How to Play a Neutral Evil Character

Alignment and Roleplaying Tips

When playing a Neutral Evil character, players should consider their character’s motivations and desires, ensuring they align with the overall goals of the party to keep the adventure moving. Here are some roleplaying tips:

  • Develop a clear personal goal for your character, and look for opportunities to further that goal in the campaign.
  • Be willing to work with the party members towards a common objective, while keeping your character’s alignment tendencies in mind.
  • To better visualize your character’s behaviour you can shape it after morally ambiguous figures in literature or real-life history, using them as a reference point in your portrayal.

Challenges and Opportunities


  • Maintaining party cohesion, as other members might not agree with your character’s morally questionable actions.
  • Facing mistrust from NPCs and possible repercussions for evil actions that could complicate in-game interactions and plotlines.
  • Resisting the temptation to align with purely evil characters and organisations, which might lead to unnecessary risks and conflict.


  • Exploring a complex, multi-dimensional character who can act as an agent of change in the campaign.
  • Using cunning and manipulation to achieve objectives, which can lead to interesting roleplaying situations and dynamic storylines.
  • Tapping into the power of dark alliances and potentially using them to further your character’s goals, while navigating the dangerous risks involved.

Examples of Neutral Evil Character Actions

Actions they would do

  • Using underhanded tactics to gain power, such as blackmail or sabotage.
  • Manipulating others for personal gain, with little regard for the consequences of their actions on those around them.
  • Exploiting rules and laws to their advantage, bending them when it benefits them without openly breaking them.
  • Forming alliances or partnerships only when it serves their interests, and quickly abandoning them if they no longer prove useful.

Actions they wouldn’t do

  • Going out of their way to help others without an expectation of personal gain or reward.
  • Generally obeying laws or rules out of a sense of duty or respect for authority.
  • Endorsing or supporting acts of gratuitous violence or chaos if they do not further their own goals.
  • Acting selflessly, prioritizing the well-being of others over their own needs and desires.

It’s important to note that these actions are not set in stone, and NE characters can still surprise players and DMs with their decisions.
These actions could serve as a general guideline for players who are new to the game.

Why Play a Neutral Evil Character?


NE characters offer a level of freedom and unpredictability in their actions, as they aren’t bound by any strict moral or ethical code.
This can lead to exciting and unexpected storylines within the game.

A few benefits of playing a NE character include:

  • Opportunities for unique and creative storytelling.
  • Exploration of morally ambiguous situations and ethical dilemmas.
  • The challenge of balancing self-interest with the needs of the party and the story.
  • Greater character depth and internal conflict.

Potential Drawbacks

While playing a Neutral Evil character can be a thrilling experience, it is not without its challenges. Some potential drawbacks to consider are:

  • Potential conflict with other party members or in-game characters.
  • Difficulty in finding allies or support within the game world.
  • The risk of straying too far into evil actions or becoming a disruptive player.
  • Aligning your character’s actions with the greater narrative and group goals.

Neutral Evil vs. Other Alignments

Neutral Evil vs Lawful Good

Lawful Good characters strictly adhere to a moral code and value justice and order. They believe in the greater good and often make personal sacrifices for the benefit of others. In contrast, Neutral Evil characters prioritise their interests, disregarding any moral code.

Neutral Evil vs Neutral Good

Neutral Good characters operate with an innate sense of morality, striving to achieve harmony and goodwill, whether through laws or individual actions. On the other hand, Neutral Evil characters focus on their self-interest, indifferent to the welfare of others.

Neutral Evil vs Chaotic Good

Chaotic Good characters value individual freedom and work towards the greater good, albeit unconcerned with laws and order. Neutral Evil individuals share the disregard for rules but seek personal gain at the expense of others.

Neutral Evil vs Lawful Neutral

Lawful Neutral characters follow established laws and have a strong sense of duty but may not be motivated by good or evil intentions. Neutral Evil characters lack this sense of duty, acting selfishly and amorally.

Neutral Evil vs True Neutral

True Neutral individuals strive to maintain balance, avoiding extreme actions and emotions. Their decisions are informed by the situation at hand rather than personal gain. In contrast, Neutral Evil characters act solely for their benefit, indifferent to maintaining equilibrium.

Neutral Evil vs Chaotic Neutral

Chaotic Neutral beings value their freedom and are unpredictable, often making decisions on a whim. While Neutral Evil characters share the disregard for rules, they tend to focus on personal gain, manipulating others as needed.

Neutral Evil vs Lawful Evil

Lawful Evil characters adhere to a strict code, utilising laws and systems to further their selfish interests. Neutral Evil characters don’t impose such restrictions, pursuing their goals without the constraints of rules or codes.

Neutral Evil vs Chaotic Evil

Chaotic Evil characters embody destructive force and rampant chaos, therefore their actions often strive to cause suffering and harm. Neutral Evil characters follow a more calculated approach, using manipulation and cunning to achieve their objectives at the expense of others.

Neutral Evil FAQs

Can Neutral Evil characters be good?

In general, Neutral Evil characters aren’t considered “good” in the traditional sense. Such characters are typically motivated by self-interest and personal gain, and they’re willing to use any means necessary to achieve their goals, including lying, cheating, stealing, and even killing.

However, it’s possible for them to perform good actions or help others, as long as it benefits them in some way. For example, a Neutral Evil character might help a village defend against a monster attack if he believes that doing so will earn him a reward or increase his reputation.
So, while a Neutral Evil character may perform good deeds, they aren’t motivated by altruism or a desire to do good for its own sake.

Can a Neutral Evil character work with a party of Good-aligned characters?

To make a Neutral Evil character work in a party of Good-aligned characters, it’s important to establish clear goals and expectations for the party and to make sure that the Neutral Evil character’s goals align with the party’s overall mission.
The NE character should also have a reason to stay with the group, such as a personal vendetta against a common enemy or a desire for a particular treasure or artifact.

The DM should also be prepared to manage any conflicts that arise between the NE character and the rest of the party and to ensure that the character’s actions don’t disrupt the overall balance of the game.

How can a DM handle a Neutral Evil character in their game?

Handling a Neutral Evil character in a D&D game can be challenging for a DM, but there are some strategies that can help:

  • Set clear expectations: make sure the player understands the limits of what is acceptable behaviour in the game, and establish clear consequences for breaking those limits.
  • Provide opportunities for character growth: give the player opportunities to explore their character’s motivations and backstory, and to develop their character’s personality over time.
  • Manage conflicts: be prepared to manage conflicts that arise between the Neutral Evil character and the rest of the party.
  • Use consequences: if the NE character acts in a disruptive or harmful way to the party, use consequences to discourage that behaviour. This could include in-game consequences such as arrest or imprisonment, or out-of-game consequences such as talking to the player about their behaviour.
  • Keep the game fun: ultimately the goal of the game is to have fun, so make sure that the Neutral Evil character’s actions don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the game for the other players.