Exploring alignment: Law vs. Chaos

One of the things I wanted to do with the relaunched site was to have a forum for posting some of my thoughts on tabletop roleplaying games. I first got into the hobby when I was in elementary school and played quite a bit with my brother as well as some friends early in jr. high.

For most of my later teens and twenties I didn't have a group to game with and I fell out of things but I've always remained very interested in the hobby and aspects of the way different games work.  Over the past 8 years or so I've been playing with one group in a variety of different campaigns and it's really rekindled my interest to try more things.

One of the areas I wanted to explore was alignment. It's a pretty core concept in Dungeons and Dragons (although 4th edition has seriously changed it) and Pathfinder and it seems to be a big area of contention.

Good versus evil is fairly definable and tends to not trip people up too much, but it's the law vs. chaos axis where I've seen the most problems, particularly with chaotic aligned characters. Often players use chaotic to just mean "random" and to almost be a bit of a cop out where they can just do whatever they want at any time and justify it by saying, "but my character's chaotic". 

I'm a firm believer that "chaotic" doesn't have to mean "insane" and that's often how players play it. I think it's the term "chaos" that really throws people. But, let's take it from the opposite angle, if you have a lawful character then they should be completely predictable in every situation right? In fact the GM shouldn't even have to bother asking the player what their character is going to do because it should be completely predictable. Taken from this perspective I think it shows how utterly ridiculous it is to act in a completely random fashion just because your alignment is chaotic. 

I have several different ideas to approaches to the law vs. chaos axis that I think can add a lot more flavour, depth and realism to your character and allow for you to play a chaotic character who isn't chaotic stupid. I'm going to try to keep these posts short so I'll keep this to an intro post and will continue this series for different approaches to the law vs. chaos axis of the alignments.