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Alignment Part 6 – Judge, Jury, and Executioner!

Remember the movie, The Fugitive with Harrison Ford?  There’s one scene where his character (Richard Kimble) is standing in a drain pipe.  Behind him is U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard played by Tommy Lee Jones.  Kimble turns and faces Gerard and says “I didn’t kill my wife”.  Gerard responds “I don’t care.”  That, is lawful neutral in a nutshell.  It’s not that Gerard doesn’t care about anything, but doing his job entails that he doesn’t get into the right and wrong.

A common portrayal of lawful neutral is that of a judge who doesn’t let emotions dictate his position, only the law.  Judge Dread from comics is a great example of this.  The law is the guides these types and there is little room for judgment.  They will do what the law dictates.

However, there is another type of law to consider in a fantasy game.  A personal code can be just as binding to a character as the law.  For example, a mercenary who will never abandon his employer and will always follow orders, regardless of what form those orders take is another example of lawful neutral.  He’s not necessarily evil, though he may commit evil acts.  Acts alone can’t dictate alignment, but the intent must be taken into account, and the lawful neutral character is a prime reason why.

Another example could be a character who’s word is his bond, but he worries little about any other “law”.  He will do whatever is necessary to honor his word, regardless of the legality of it.  These characters are often portrayed as good, but not always.  Sometimes, the illegal acts are actually evil acts, which a good character shouldn’t be doing regardless of his word.  The good character will work to find an alternative, while the lawful neutral character will use the direct path.

Lawful neutral is really a fascinating alignment.  It can open up excellent role play opportunities with other players and NPCs.  The trick is to understand it and play it correctly, whichever form you choose to follow.  Lawful neutral characters are vital to any world, either a fantasy one or our own!


August 25, 2008 - Posted by | RPG | ,

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