Expect huge amounts of derp and rage, punctuated by /tg/ extracting humor from it.
"What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?"
- – Zapp Brannigan
Stupid Neutral is a term applied to characters in any role-playing game for a specific way of playing a character as absolutely "neutral" in alignment. Much like Stupid Good which is Good for goodness's sake, and Stupid Evil for evil's sake, Chaotic Stupid for the sake of being chaotic and Lawful Stupid in following the law even when it doesn't make sense, Stupid Neutral is perhaps the most fried among Stupid Alignments and represents neutrality for neutrality's sake.
Normally, players who play a neutral character will behave ambivalently towards good/evil or law/chaos, depending where exactly on each axis they sit - the obvious caveat is that at least one aspect of the alignment axis would guide their actions (i.e.: Neutral Good). This means that Stupid Neutral players "should" generally gravitate towards only one alignment: True Neutral.
But there are a number of problems maintaining that "True" Neutral status, and that problem mostly surrounds the fact that as sentient creatures, we all understand the concept of morality and law, even if we as people don't agree with them. Thus in roleplaying terms, people who espouse "neutrality" generally either accept it and work with it, or can't be bothered by it and events happen anyway.
In theory, a "proper" True Neutral would be more reactive, basically not going out of your way to do anything evil or good and just getting on with things like a normal person - if a sweet payday comes up that requires killing a few folks you didn't like anyway, you do it since you need the money and you think you can get away with it, rather than for any ideological reason or out of a desire to kill; then you pay your lawful taxes because to do otherwise just invites trouble.
Stupid Neutrality generally requires either being active about it (i.e. a conscious desire to maintain a neutral status) or absolutely passive (i.e. you don't factor important things like consequences into your decision making at all). There is another way, however...
Ambivalence towards alignment generally implies they are not bothered by it, or more precisely does not care about the implications of this larger moral frame work. Someone attempting to "act" True Neutral while running with that "don't care" aspect might as well just be Chaotic Neutral anyway: they'll make decisions based upon whatever suits them at a given moment in time, and can be trusted to have the same moral capacity of a chimpanzee. These are the sorts of people who rationalise stealing your shit because they "needed" it rather than out of any particular sort of malice or avarice - but unlike an animal, they actually understood the moral and legal ramifications of their actions and did it anyway.
It could be possible in gameplay to actually play this version of True Neutral to the point of Stupidity, but generally speaking, your GM cannot really account for your intentions, and only your actions. One can make the argument that following the law does not necessarily make you lawful, and that's true, but constant and willful disregard for the law (even if you aren't breaking any laws at that given moment in time) is very often considered a chaotic mentality, especially if you know and understand the laws you're breaking and the consequences of doing it. For instance, if you do steal something or injure/kill someone who was only doing their day job, and then knowingly put that person or their family out of business and you don't really care about it, then you've probably done something evil. However, if you justify that your need was greater irrespective of any greater good (shut up), even then you still can't really escape the fact that you've probably done something chaotic.
Of course, it is possible to play passive neutrality without being stupid about it, but likely that renders you an uncontroversial civilian bystander and not a sword-toting heroic adventurer. And at that point, why are you even here?
One can also view passive neutrality, good or bad, as a sort of Skyrim-PC mentality. Accept quests from everyone, whether you agree with them or their organization, make no enemies (or as few as absolutely possible), and generally avoid conflict, taking a stand, or killing anyone who might have a job for you later.
This is where Neutral gets really stupid...
WANNABE True Neutral players are making a stance on neutrality, as if the cosmos needs to keep good and evil in a state of balance and that neither is better than the other. But if you think a mystic balance needs to be enforced to the point of anal retention, then congratulations: you've just become Lawful Neutral, since all you're doing is imposing or restoring the Universal order.
This holds especially true if the player is the sort of obsessive narc who tells his compatriots to stop being so good or lawful because the universe is keeping score and needs the balance tipped carefully in the other direction - perils of checklisting your morality aside, if you're so intent on see-sawing back and forward on the alignment axis that you eventually start beating up Angels because "the universe needs balancing out", then that's pretty much evil in itself. A mass majority of those Angels weren't going to go out of their way to do you any harm unless you did something REALLY bad to piss them off - like say, declaring yourself the arbiter of balance and deigning to attack celestial beings for not doing so the way you wanted.
Anyone demonstrating the willingness to even consider this angle is basically Neutral Evil with a wig on, because not only is such an act blatantly evil, there's few ways to make it anything other than destructively self-serving besides some Mr. Fantastic-tier mental gymnastics. On a similar note: players who kick a puppy just to counter-balance their "good mojo" and force themselves back to neutrality are Chaotic plain and simple and can just fuck off.
It's pretty well established that sparing the bad guy makes you the either the good guy or the lawful guy (or both), but don't even think about arguing about saving the BBEG's lieutenant or son or whatever, so that the threat of their possible return will keep the forces of Good on their toes in future and not become incompetent from having nothing to fight! In this situation you're committing an evil act by rescuing someone that you intend to go on and hurt people in the future and give the forces of good something to fight against, or you're committing an act of good that's so convoluted that it falls squarely into the realm of Stupid Good. Either way, if you have to plan years in advance for something that doesn't directly affect you, chances are it's not a Neutral action. The best case scenario in this situation is to walk away - but that's hardly "actively" promoting neutrality now, isn't it?
Basically, what we're saying is that trying to hardline True Neutral alignment in the above manners without completely and utterly fucking up the entire campaign would require one to be either:
- An actual animal who has no understanding of morality or law whatsoever, or
- A person who has no actual grasp of either.
- Someone who spends their life having no impact on anyone or anything whatsoever.
Notable for being an unfortunate component of D&D history, both because of the aforeshade-thrown Mordenkainen's high and enlightened philosophy of the Balance, the Dragonlance campaign setting's being built around the idea that Good just turns Evil if it actually wins, and the druid class pre-third edition theoretically being required to ensure neutrality triumphs if Good is too strong. All of these are corruptions of actual philosophical and religious notions of moral balance in the universe (most notably, in Taoism neither of the vital forces of yin and yang are "evil" and "evil" is really an imbalance within the universe to be corrected) and in practice are just clumsy excuses for why high-level NPCs aren't sorting shit out instead of you and/or why the setting keeps getting fucked up despite the good guys racking up wins.
A true neutral character without stupidity is possible, of course. Some examples include a character motivated by enlightened self-interest ("I will save the world because I live here and keep my stuff here"); a character who is playing the angles ("The world is full of powerful factions and I would rather work with the slavers and crusaders than risk my life trying to overthrow them"); a character motivated by an art or science ("I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was"); or simply a character with multiple motives, good and evil, that roughly balance out to neutral. Some people prefer non-stupid Neutral to be "evil is bad and all, but I can't be bothered to do anything much about it." This can be VERY stupid for a PC, however. A PC is a miserable bundle of drama and heroics, it wouldn't do for them not to give even the slightest care. Even in this instance, "I want to make money and selling my combat services to good guys is a fine way to keep trouble off my back" is a far more logical True Neutral adventurer than "I don't give a shit".
Normal people, however, are often neutral - it's not that they don't care per se, it's more that they want what's best for themselves and those closest to them, and don't really care what provides that safety, good or bad. They care, just not about philosophy and the grand scale of things. In psychology terms, neutral people have their hands full with surviving and, as long as those ends aren't met, they can't be but so bothered with lofty ideals.
- Ao from the Forgotten Realms probably fits the bill, since he sits back and eats hot pockets all day, not bothering about anything in the multiverse, whether gods are killing each other or not - only stepping in when the universe stops working properly and fixing it like a cosmic janitor with infinite power (and he doesn't even get paid!).
- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons actively describes True Neutral in Stupid Neutral of the "actively sabotages good, evil, law and chaos when they get too powerful" terms.
- Mordenkainen (basically the Greyhawk equivalent of Elminster) actually lives by the Stupid Neutral creedo of "Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are all dangerous if they are allowed to get too strong, so the best I can do for the world is keep them balanced". He runs a secret society dedicated to fucking shit over for whoever or whatever he thinks is being too successful and "threatening the Balance". Perhaps fittingly, he's an Abjurer and his legacy spells all relate to wrecking magic - the buffs-eating Mordenkainen's Warding Whip, or the magic item-killing Mordenkainen's Disjunction. He does try to justify this position as Angels would consider Neutrality as the next great evil without contrasting extremes, and everyone knows why a law or chaos victory would suck. It's not that convincing. Notably, he is actually listed as being Chaotic Neutral in alignment in his most recent appearances in 5e, implying that his overzealous dedication to neutrality ironically makes him not actually neutral anymore.
- Played for laughs in Futurama with the Neutrals, a race of humanoid aliens whose gimmick is that they act as neutral as possible. Hell, their motto is literally Live Free or Don't, and they'd likely shrug either way.
- Jemorille the Exile is an Argenach Rilmani who managed the impressive feat of being so stupid about Neutrality that he got the other Rilmani to exile him to Sigil to stop him from fucking over any more Prime Material worlds with his dumb ideas; if his boasting is to be believed, he created the Temple of Elemental Evil and taught Rajaat defiling magic, making him the asshole responsible for Dark Sun.
- Kino from the anime Kino no Tabi has been accused of this by some detractors. Without going too deep into it and creating a wall text explaining every point on this, let's explore the moment from the show which is widely considered a moment of Stupid Neutrality: Kino has just left a country which thinks the apocalypse is coming because their book of prophecies has told them so. When that doesn't happen, a priest tells them that the apocalypse has been postponed by 30 years. She then arrives at another country, where she finds that a poet was commissioned by the king to write a sad poem, and did so only after his wife committed suicide. Years later, after the poet died, society arranges for a young girl to recite the cryptic and extremely long sad poem every day. As Kino leaves, the border officer tells her that after the poem was written down a nearby country acquired it, calling it the Book of Prophecies. After that, while camped overnight under the stars, Kino is interrupted by an army from the Land of Prophecies invading the Sad Land. When she asks why, a soldier responds that a new interpretation of the Book of Prophecies indicated that the next country is responsible for their world coming to an end. She fully knows that the country which has 'The Book of Prophecies' acquired the poem in a accident, and they now think it's some kind of cryptic prophecy to the end of the world, when it's actually just the edgy ramblings of a sad man. Instead of telling that to the soldiers, she just quietly watches as they march to the Sad Country and go on to exterminate everyone in there over a simple mistake. Now here's where Kino's neutrality is called into question: even if she didn't manage to convince them it would have cost her literally nothing to try explain the true nature of the book and the "prophecy" inside it. Because of her neutrality and refusal to take ANY action, including giving logical statements outside of self-defense, she basically condemned a country to death even as she feels bad for their situation.