February 17, 2014
The Lawful Alignments
What does it mean to be lawful?
To many players, it means being a “stick-in-the-mud,” humorless character with as much personality as a brick wall, and this, my good gamers, is simply not true. To be a lawful character means that the character follows a code of conduct that they will not break. They have order to their lives. That code they follow might be a law of the land for an honorable sheriff or guardsman, a knight’s creed for a noble paladin, or even a personal code that they themselves have made their own, such as in the case of many a great superhero.
Why do players shy away from the lawful alignments in favor of the chaotic ones? For many I feel it is out of a misinterpretation for what it means to be lawful and/or chaotic, but besides this I think it is out of a fear of being constrained. To be lawful means having things that you simply cannot do. There are lines you simply will not cross, no matter what the gain. This gives leverage to your enemies should they discover what your ethics/credo dictate, and having such a weakness in a character is often something players shy away from. Personally, I think having such a “flaw,” if you can even call it that, makes characters much more interesting and even relatable. Players fear having a character with weaknesses, and the more easily exploitable the weakness the more they fear it. From a crunch point-of-view, this is easily understandable. You do not want your character to be one of those silly video-game enemies with the giant, glowing weak point. On the other hand, in terms of fluff, a character with weaknesses make for more interesting characters.
This is not to say that being a lawful aligned character is a weakness. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lawful characters are, by their very nature, resolute. Lawful characters are driven characters, less swayed by the winds of whimsy. No matter what the hardship, they will stand against it if that is what they feel they must do. They are the stalwart guardian, the honorable man-at-arms, the heroic knight, the champion of justice. They are honest, steadfast, and indomitable, be they heroes or villains. Oh yes, of all the alignments, my personal favorite alignment for a villain is Lawful Evil. These are the bad guys you can respect, the ones that will never lie or cheat you. They are the ones that will face you, head on, putting everything on the line for what they believe in. These are the bad guys who, under different circumstances, could have been heroes themselves.
In myth and legend, one of the greatest examples of a character of lawful alignment would be Sir Lancelot of King Arthur’s Court. The most noble and heroic of knights, Lancelot was far from being without fault or weakness, and this is an important distinction to make. Lawful characters are not without their own faults or weaknesses. They are still people, still corruptible, still just as weak and flawed as anyone else. Only when they fall, you are more taken aback by it. They are the people you never expect to fall, and so they fall all the further when they do and as both a player and a Gamemaster, this is what makes them wonderful.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
Image Credit: Thinkstock