Thursday 19 May 2022

Chaos Warriors

I've been looking back at Esoteric Enterprises, and listening to French Antifascist Rap and arguing about 40k lately, and looking at the state of the world and the inexorable rise of authoritarianism at home and abroad, and being grumpy about how DnD-like games position PCs, and it's slowly solidified into some thoughts.
Here they are.

Scholars and experts will tell you that the true nature of chaos is incomprehensible. Perhaps they lie, or perhaps they've fooled themselves with their sophistry, but either way they're wrong. Chaos is very easy to understand.

Art of Mæredith, by TJmcFuck, whose art is very cool and whose thoughts partially inspired this post.

What Is Chaos Really?

Take the three-by-three alignment grid you're familiar with. It's a lie to confuse you. There's only one axis. Law vs Chaos and Evil vs Good are the same thing. Law is evil, Chaos is good. Ideas like 'lawful good' or 'chaotic neutral' are word games designed to stop you thinking clearly, like 'benevolent evil'.

Law is evil. It has to be, by its very nature. The process of Law is one of domination and subjugation. Law is the use of force - violent or coercive - to enforce the will of the few onto the otherwise unwilling many. Stripping away freedom, autonomy and dignity to subject us to the tyranny of the lawful.

All Cops Are Bastards, and that includes paladins.

Law is the force that decrees certain types of person (women, the poor, the mentally ill, the goblins, the foreigners) as inferior. Law is the force that would strip your bodily autonomy from you, because it considers you unworthy of controlling your own flesh. Law is the force that will inflict pain on those who don't comply, until their will is broken.

Once you understand this, it's simple.

What is Chaos, then? At its heart, Chaos is freedom. Defiance of the forces of Law, personal autonomy, your own will above all else. Chaos is anarchy, black magic, antifascism, the furious howl of those who will be oppressed no longer. Many people understand this, on some gut instinctive level, but few embrace it, and even fewer embody it.

Who Are Chaos Warriors?

A Chaos Warrior, then, is simply somebody whose fully dedicated themself to Chaos. A burning torch of defiance in the face of oppression. They could come from any background, and possess any talents.

The most well known Chaos Warriors are fighters and barbarians, clad in ornate plate armour, carrying unholy weapons, striking down the soldiers of order and defiling their symbols of control. They carve through disciplined armies, burn tax records, demolish prisons and desecrate churches. 

Others are sorcerers, dabbling in forbidden magic, directing unshaped elemental power to remake creation to suit their whims. Witches, blasphemers and madmen, no longer held back by the mere laws of nature.

Others still are more subtle. Rogues and assassins that keep a low profile, sidestepping law enforcement, sowing havoc in their wake and slipping back into the protective darkness. Arson, sabotage and assassination carefully applied to cut the hamstrings of those who would oppress them.

Some Chaos Warriors seem to venerate greater forces. Change, decadence, fury, entropy. Scholars see such practices, and conclude that the Chaos Warriors must be worshippers of greater powers, slaves to some pantheon of unwholesome dark gods. They set to work classifying them, assigning them arrays of various carefully described demons, categorising their various gifts. 

This, too, is a mistake, or a lie. The dark powers, in as much as they exist, are not external gods meddling with mortal puppets. Each dark power is simply a personification of the ideals that a given Chaos Warrior holds dear. 

The lawful see a Chaos Warrior dedicated to decadance and excess - pursuing hedonism and self-indulgence with the same zeal as a priest pursues holiness - and conclude that he cannot be doing so of his own free will. So they hypothesise a dark prince, a thirsting god that he must be enslaved by, and invent all manner of demons and rituals in that dark prince's name. In truth, the dark prince is nothing more than that Chaos Warrior's own desires, given a name and personified. 

It should be noted, however, that Chaos is not stupidity. Chaos Warriors understand the dire threat presented by Law. They are perfectly capable of freely choosing to associate with one another. Often when the momentum builds, they'll gather into huge hordes, knowing that the tyranny of Law can't stand against their collective desires. Plenty wish to see others - the downtrodden and oppressed - find the same enlightenment they did, and work to spread their destabilising message among the masses.

At the end of the day, though, every Chaos Warrior is an individual, following their own path and beholden to nothing and nobody, save their own ambitions.


Becoming a Chaos Warrior is an option for D&D-like games, ranging from 0th edition to 5th, as well as their various derivatives. Any character can become a chaos warrior simply by wanting it.

Alignment: All Chaos Warriors are chaotic. They have no alignment on the good-evil axis (not even neutrality), as they realise that this axis is a lie. If any supernatural effect checks for good or evil, it fails to find any in them, and instead reports that they're chaotic.

Further, a Chaos Warrior can never be bound by any oath, geas or pact. They might enter into it, but even if the other party is bound by the agreement, the Chaos Warrior may freely disregard the pact.

Chaos Points: Chaos Warriors track the power of chaos within them, gaining new strength as they embrace it. Their pool of Chaos Points starts at 0, and can rise indefinitely high.

Gaining Chaos Points: A Chaos Warrior gains a Chaos Point when they do any of the following:

  • Destroy or desecrate a public site of order, oppression or control (such as a prison or church).
  • Slay, corrupt or otherwise neutralise an agent of order (such as a police officer, politician or pontiff).
  • Weaken the grasp of an institution of law (such as a government agency, church or order of paladins).
  • Lead somebody else to become another Chaos Warrior.
  • Achieve an extravagant personal goal in defiance of the strictures of law (such as a grand slaughter of the police, drug-fuelled orgy or blasphemous rite).
Spending Chaos Points: A Chaos Warrior can spend a Chaos Point to do any of the following:
  • Immediately, shrug off any effect that would alter their mind, subvert their free will, or shift their perceptions. Mind control simply fails as soon as the Chaos Point is spent.
  • Free another from a similar effect, as above.
  • Heal themselves, or another, a number of HP equal to their remaining pool of Chaos Points, immediately and unnaturally.
  • Make a single permanent alteration to their physical form (perhaps shifting gender, growing horns, becoming inhumanly beautiful, or sprouting claws). Sort out the specific mechanical details with your GM, but a good rule of thumb is that the alteration grants Advantage to any appropriate rolls. The more Chaos Points they have when the change is made, the more dramatic the effect.
  • Where the Chaos Warrior chooses to rely on luck, re-roll that chance if it fails. They can keep spending Chaos Points and re-rolling as many times as they want, until they run out, give up, or get what they want. They might use this to bump into the exact person they need by sheer chance, close their eyes and walk through a hail of arrows unharmed, stick their hand into a mysterious sack to pull out the exact item they need, or leap from a castle walls trusting that they'll land on something soft.
  • Create a minor magical effect (of similar scale to something like Prestidigitation) that lasts as long as they wish. They might cause food to go rotten, have unlocked doors open for them, carry an enticing scent, or leave bloody footprints wherever they tread. The more Chaos Points they have, the more dramatic the effect currently is.
  • Ravage an agent of order (such as a cop or authority figure). For the rest of the encounter, add their remaining amount of Chaos Points to all rolls against that victim (attack rolls, damage, saves etc), and deduct that same amount from the victim's rolls against them.
  • Force those submitting to the forces of order (slaves, prisoners, soldiers, the poor) to make a save of some sort. If they fail, they temporarily throw off the chains of order that bind them. What this means will vary; they might flee from the Chaos Warrior, riot against their oppressors, give in to temptation, or something else.
Drawbacks: There are no mechanical drawbacks to being a Chaos Warrior, but any who are public with their nature (or who are discovered) will earn the inevitable and unreasonable enmity of the forces of law and order.

In conclusion, remember:
-none of us are free until all of us are free.
-all cops are bastards.
-if you think it can't happen here, it can and already is.
-fuck the system.
-kill the cop in your head.


  1. Arioch! Arioch! Blood and souls for our Lord Arioch!

  2. Schools are also organizations of order; hospitals, for the most parts, as well. Farming, especially in climates requiring a complex irrigation systems, as well. Even mining, to get that ore to smelt into those ornate armours, needs somebody to go down and mine it in a fairly organized matter but in a very dangerous process, and I don't see Chaos Warriors (or anybody, to this matter) voluntarily doing this work.
    Do Chaos Warriors destroy such organizations?

    1. Organization isn't Law. You don't need a cop to tell you to farm, or to mine, neither do you have hierarchies defended by violence in a hospital

    2. Exactly this. Teamwork and coordination aren't inherently Lawful, they become Lawful when systems of violence and coercion are used to force people. In their natural state, people freely choose to work together.
      Chaos warriors are perfectly capable of freely deciding to cooperate, and often do. People freely working together isn't Law: it's Law when they're coerced into doing so for another's benefit.

    3. Then I disagree with this definition of law/Law. The corrupt police and corporate are not embodiment of the law/Law, as they break and abuse it for their own glory and/or profit, using it as an excuse and in appearance adhering to it, but in actually holding themselves above and beyond the law.

    4. ... you moron. you dunderhead. you absolute dunce. cops and corporations don't need to hold themselves above the law, the law itself holds ITSELF beneath them. the law serves THEM.

      also, everyone else in this thread is also a moron, because yes, OBVIOUSLY, schools and hospitals are functionally fucking prisons, and any fucking chaos warrior worth their salt would attack them with the same ferocity with which they'd storm the Bastille. it's not rocket science. you ABSOLUTELY have hierarchies defined by violence in hospitals, have you ever even set foot in a hospital?

      you raise a decent enough point about a chaos warrior wearing plate mail forged from metal mined by slaves. maybe this class requires druid-like restrictions. maybe not, though. armor's already forged, might as well wear it.

  3. I like this a lot as a concept - a coherent view of why chaos agents do what they do which has been sadly lacking to date.

    This is great stuff, am going to try and find a way to bring this to my table at the next opportunity.

  4. I dig this class.
    It might make more sense for the CW to spend points do do damage rather than heal as healing would be reinforcing a (biological, if not social) system. Perhaps an ability for disrupting the (divine) spells of others? Spend X chaos points and if X is greater than the amount they passed the roll by it fails?
    Has anybody ever brought up the idea of an alignment chart with non-perpendicular axes? Then you could have order correlate with evil but not necessarily at a 1:1 ratio. It's easier to explain by chart
    And, totally unrelated, but I'm reading gardens of Ynn and I've got a red pen at hand; would you appreciate a list typos for editing?

    1. If it helps, think of healing as defying the law of entropy. It's in the nature of chaos to aid those suffering or injured by oppressors, which is what the healing is for.

  5. This is a more compelling idea of what draws people to chaos and what motivates them as chaos warriors than the general purpose idea of "corruption" that seems the dominant trope. Bear in mind that my main gaming has been within Warhammer; there's always a kind of leap of logic there from chaos as the most human impulse (which explains why people do stuff like, you know, join a chaos cult), and the overblown inhumanity of those in the service of the chaos gods, the grossness of the demons, etc. Your approach here, in my opinion, taps more clearly into human desire - not least because it sounds fun!

    Thoughts on the politics and why I'd rather be a paladin than a libertarian, but that's for another day ;)

  6. I worked for unions for quite some time, and spent most of that time turning the chaotic, disorganised energies of oppressed and angry workers into a force that could oppose and bear the organised forces of capitalism in society. The law in this context was never a black and white thing. The law is written by those in power. Much like technology, the law is neither a force for good or evil, the law is a tool of those who have power.
    Workers (and all oppressed people of the earth) need breaks from fighting now and then. We need a rest. That's what we use the law for: to quote Jane Holgate, we turn our associational power into institutional power. We use our mighty organisations to force concessions from the bosses, the capitalists, and the government, enshrining laws that not only provide us with labour protections, but also universal public healthcare, universal public education, welfare, and universal public housing.
    When the oppressed of the world realise they have nothing to lose but their chains, they become the law: the class segment of society which organises society; hopefully with the aim of the abolition of class society.
    I've also seen how cultures of solidarity and care create their own laws (lores) and mores, their own systems of protection, defence, offence, and a means for liberation. All these things were fundamentally about defining an 'us' and a 'them', which on the surface sounds exclusive and oppressive. It is not the organisational form of the organisation that is oppressive, but the _goals_ of the organisation.
    The left has been mired in disorganisation for decades because of what organisation resembles (leaders look like tyrants, parties look like Stalinism), but we'd be foolish to think that resemblance is equivalence, and foolish to think that we will win a better world without organisations that can rival the power of the capitalists, the racists, the sexists, the fascists.

  7. Keep up the fantastic work, and I'll be looking forward to more insightful posts like this one!
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