Before I get into the neutral character alignments, I feel I need to take a moment to discuss the difference between "legality" and "morality"
Legality refers to what is legally acceptable in your society. While many laws are created based on morality, it does not take into account EVERYONE'S morals. In the United States, the death penalty is still upheld in a few states. I won't go into whether the death penalty is right or wrong, but it is still legally acceptable. There are "stand your ground" states, where if someone breaks into your home, you may not be criminally charged if you kill the person. Did you still kill someone? Yes. Were you LEGALLY within your rights to do so? Also yes. There are also a lot of things happening in the US that are challenging the legal/moral debate. Should laws created with one person's morals be enforced on people who don't share those morals?
When making your neutral character, you need to decide if their neutrality is based on morality or legality. This will shape them, and guide them through the story.
-This character understands that not all laws are good, nor should all laws be followed. This does not mean that they are going against society, or the system. Did you know there are laws still on the books from centuries ago? In New York City, it is illegal to have a puppet show in your window. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to have ice cream in your back pocket. In Texas, it is illegal to own more than 6 adult toys. Your character may choose not to follow these laws, because they see them as outdated and irrelevant.
- They may also break the law, if they feel they are serving the greater good. Think Batman. These characters have their own code. A line they will not cross. They are not out flaunting the laws of society, but are choosing which laws to break to achieve their ultimate goal. Another good example is the hacktivist group Anonymous.
-Neutral Good characters tend to think less of the big picture, and focus more on the individual. While they may agree on "big picture" policies, they still care about what it may mean for everyone, not just the system. At the end of the day, they will help the individual over the system, as long as they feel it is the right thing to do.
- Some conflict these characters may have would be to test just how far they are willing to go to achieve their goals. Are there certain things they've had to do that haunt them? Are they losing sight of what they fight for? What happens when they are confronted with a choice that would push them past their "line"? What happens if they are forced to make a decision between what serves the greater good, and what they know to be evil?
- Neutral evil characters are out for themselves and themselves only. If it doesn't benefit them, they can't be persuaded to help. They may follow the laws/rules of whatever society they belong to, but it is only because it is in their best interest to do so (they don't want to deal with police). The same can be said for when they decide to break the law.
- These characters may perform "good" deeds, but it is ultimately for their own benefit. Catwoman, from Batman, is a perfect example of a Neutral Evil. She does what she wants, when she wants. There are times when she helps Batman, but it is usually because helping him, ultimately helps her. She usually screws him over in the end.
- Some conflicts that these characters face may include acts of altruism. What would make them do something without expecting something in return? Because these characters tend to be selfish, what would make them put another's safety and happiness above their own? While they have no trouble breaking the rules, what would make them either completely disregard the rules, or make them walk the straight and narrow?
I discuss the Legal Neutrals in other posts. For Lawful Neutral, please refer to the Lawful Alignment post. For Chaotic Neutral, please see the Chaotic Alignment post.
True Neutrals are one of my favorite character alignments. There is so much that can be done with these characters. They are truly "morally grey". They are great moderators, because they can see both sides of the debate. They tend to be loners. They want to be left to their own devices. It takes a lot to motivate them to action.
- Because TN tend to keep to themselves, they are neither good nor evil. They just are. They can be altruistic, and selfish. They will follow laws THEY deem to be just, but will break laws they deem unjust.
- TN live by the golden rule. Any kindness shown to them, will be repaid with kindness. If you cross them, however, they will find a way to strike back.
- Because they have no interest in what society thinks is "right" or "wrong", it takes a lot to motivate them. They have to feel deeply wronged, or feel deeply indebted, to make them leave their comfort zone and fight. The best example are the Ents from Lord of The Rings. They did not want to join the war against Sauron. It wasn't until they saw that Sarumon destroyed their forest that they join the fight. Likewise, the three fates from Greek mythology, did not help Perseus until he had possession of their eye. It was only once they told him what he wanted to hear, did he give it back.
- Because your character doesn't have the same idea of legality/morality as the rest of society, you need to outline their hard-limits: what they will and will not do. What they think is truly evil and good. Remember, just because they have been called to action, for either good or evil, that doesn't change their overall alignment. If they feel forced to do certain tasks, make sure to explain why its distasteful to them. Why do they feel like they are doing something "bad" even if it's for a "good" reason and vice versa.
As always, if you have questions/comments, let me know in an email!