Lawful and chaotic good characters are bound by law and chaos. The neutral good character is bound only by good. They don’t care about the law and chaos or any other factors. In my opinion, the neutral good character is the closest to pure good out there. Laws can actually limit the good a character can do, even with a code of conduct. But the neutral good character is, like the chaotic good character, driven by his heart to do good.
Unlike the chaotic good character given the choice between saving the kingdom and saving the kingdom, who would just as often choose to save the kitten, the neutral good character will almost always choose to save the kingdom. Their choices are simple and uncomplicated. “The King demands that we stay clear of the forest, even though we’ve heard the orcs took a child in there? Who cares! We go!”
However, in that same instance, the lawful good character may balk at disobeying the king. Despite the fact that both are good characters, and both are non-chaotic alignments, this can easily illustrate the differences between the two alignments. In this example, the lawful good character’s reasoning could be something like “But the King has forbidden it! I’m sure he’ll send his men in there after the child after all, he is a good King. The child will be fine!” However, he has no information that makes him think this. He hasn’t necessarily seen the Kings men enter the forrest, and even so, in any fantasy game PCs are generally better at these sorts of missions than standard soldiers anyways! 😉
The neutral good character will do whatever is necessary to perform good, either with the law or in spite of it. There is nothing that stands in his way morally to doing good. The only moral quandries he’ll find himself in is one where two equally good works are required, but he can only do one. At this point, I can only suggest a character has a plan to deal with these situations, such as choosing the one with the higher chance of success, etc.
And with that, we conclude our series on alignments. It’s been interesting for me, and I hope for you as well. It’s vital to understand that this is simply one interpretation of alignment. While I may agree or disagree with anyone else’s interpretation of any given alignment, I do not believe that I have written the definitive work on the subject by any means. What I’ve done instead, I hope, is given folks a spot to find some answers that previously didn’t really exist in one spot. While I may revisit the subject of alignment in the future, this series as been a labor of love that has gotten a pretty good response. I hope you all enjoyed the process as much as I have.
One of the staple inspiration pieces for fantasy is that of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Together, they battled the evil forces of Prince John by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Let’s face it, the story is so awesome that not even Kevin Costner could screw it up completely! He’s also a prime example of the chaotic good alignment. However, that’s not the only way to play it (obviously).
Good is the concept that is easy for every role player to grasp. We almost all know it, and almost all live it daily. We toddle about in our life being good. We hold the door open for other people, pick up litter, help little old ladies across the street, etc. We even pay our taxes, however grudgingly it may be. We’re not perfect, and no alignment requires perfection…after all, PCs are generally mortal and flawed by design, just like we are.
What get’s people is the chaotic part of chaotic good. Chaos is often seen as a negative force by many people, the opposite of order which they ultimately think of as good. To some people, chaotic good is an oxymoron. The thing is, it’s not. Chaotic simple means unstructured, unpredictable. A chaotic good character is one who’s good work can take on many forms.
First, a chaotic good character played correct will, almost invariably, do good. Where it can get odd is when the character is faced with two good quests needing to be accomplished. For example, the King’s nephew’s kitten is stuck in a tree while and invading army bears down on the kingdom. The chaotic good character is just as likely to free the kitten as to fight the invading army. Both are good works, but which one he chooses is based merely on his whim.
Sometimes, the chaotic good character doesn’t even want to do good, but feels compelled to do it anyways. In an earlier post, Han Solo is mentioned as Chaotic Neutral. Due to his actions at the end of the first movie, where he returns to cover Luke’s ass, as an example of why I feel he’s chaotic good. Sure, he wanted to take his money, pay Jabba off, and go about his way. He wanted no part of the Rebellion. And yet, he came back to take part in one of the most important battles in the entire series. Even his smuggling could be explained away due to the controls the Empire put on things (possibly) as being an act of rebellion against tyranny.
As with any other alignment, there’s layers to this one. There’s no one way to play any alignment, and chaotic good is a popular one that grants a great deal of role play opportunity for any player.
The Paladin. Every powergamer has one, and they are a potentially unbalancing class in any campaign. One thing above all keeps them in check…their alignment. The lawful good alignment is one of the alignments that is difficult to play, and that is by design. However, DMs and players alike often misjudge the alignment and the way the alignment itself can work.
Based simply on the name, the assumption is that a lawful good character will follow all the laws of the realm they are in. However, what about this moral quandry? The lawful good character finds himself in a land with an evil ruler who believes he is a God. He demands (making it a law) that everyone sacrifice an innocent child in his honor. While a lawful good character can do so and remain true to the lawful side of his alignment, doing so would clearly not be a good act.
Now, this would be pretty crappy of a DM to put a player through something like this. However, these types of scenarios aren’t out of place in many fantasy games, and perhaps the DM wants to test the lawful good character. With some forethought though, this can be worked around.
My suggestion is to work out a Code of Conduct before hand. As PCs are world hopping adventurers who find themselves in different lands, knowing the laws in each is often impossible. Having a moral code to follow can work as the “law” that the character follows. This allows them to follow a guiding principle that will follow them regardless of the realm, and let them work towards toppling the evil tyrant that demand sacrifices in his honor.
This Code of Conduct must be written prior to the first session, and the DM must have approval at a minimum (if they don’t write it themselves). Of course, the DM should still test the character, and punish him accordingly for violation if necessary. However, now the character has a piece of paper dictating what his duties and responsibilities are, and he won’t be punished for actions he didn’t realize were against some aspect of his alignment.
The lawful good alignment is hard to play properly, but I hope I’ve just made it a bit easier for all concerned. Doing so may help your paladin keep his powers, and your non-paladin will have all the flavor you want 😉
In the realm of role play, good alignments make up the vast majority played. Many DMs only allow good and neutral alignments, and prefer good. It’s easier to justify a character taking a plot hook and running with it. Frankly, it’s easier for many players to actually play a good character, since that is part of the nature of their own make-ups. Many people role play to become heroes. Heroes are the good guys. It’s just that simple.
In the last section of our look at alignments, we’ll delve into the good characters. What makes them tick and what mistakes to many players make when playing them. And yes, there are plenty of players who make mistakes when playing the good alignment, or at least in my opinion. They aren’t as severe as the evil and neutral alignments generally, but they are still there.
The problem with many players portrayal of the good alignment is they tend towards the wrong one. I know I did early in my gaming career, so I hope to empart a bit of wisdom along the way here. I’ll also offer a bit of advice about how you and your GM can possibly add some meat to the alignment part of a class like the Paladin.
Hopefully, by the conclusion of this section of the series, there will be a place where GMs can send players with advice on how to play various alignments, and this final section is probably where most will need to be. So sit right there and I’ll tell you a tale, a tale of a tiny ship…no wait, that’s not right…on yeah, a tale of alignments.
OK, so maybe the tiny ship story would be more awesome, but it’s been done. I still don’t see how they could have power and houses, but couldn’t fix the boat or build a new one. 😉
Good and Evil are relatively abstract concepts. Neutrality represents the middle ground between the two. However, one commonly played alignment is that of true neutral. The thing is, it should probably be the least played alignments. Why? Well, for a several reasons.
First, understand that to be a true neutral character, you must balance good acts and evil acts. Since the acts themselves aren’t necessarily good or evil, the motivation must be on one side or the other generally. Occasionally, just following along for the ride will work as a neutral motivation, but there are limits to that reason.
The true neutral character will often work toward maintaining a balance in the world. For example, if they find themselves in an evil kingdom, they will work toward toppling the evil regime. However, they will act against a good realm as well. The balance is vital to many of these characters.
Another manifestation of true neutral behavior would be animalistic. For example, a character who practiced a Darwinian-esque idea of survival of the fittest amongst humans would qualify as true neutral. They don’t favor good or evil, only strength. Since they accept they may be “culled” as well, they aren’t evil characters by any extent.
A third example of the true neutral alignment is the character who just lets things happen. They are not interested in being a player to the politics of the world, or much of anything else really. These are truly uncaring characters in many ways. However, there is usually a little something to motivate them towards action, but that will essentially spur them out of the true neutral alignment.
Keeping the truly neutral characters, both PC and NPC, to a minimum goes a long way toward adding a great deal of realism to any role play world!
Crazy. That’s one way to play chaotic neutral. And, quite frankly, it can be dead accurate. However, it’s not the only to approach it. Some of you may remember the 60’s. Who am I kidding…no one really remembers the 60’s. OK, let’s try a different approach. Some of you have seen documentaries on the History Channel about the 60’s. It shows the acid dropping, free loving, dope smoking hippies of the era. They would often drift where ever the wind blew them, and let things happen “naturally” (often with lots of chemical enhancement, but this isn’t really the place to discuss this ;)).
This free spirit is another embodiment of chaotic neutral. Think about it. Chaotic simply means an inability to respond to the laws of society. Neutral indicates a tendency toward neither good nor evil. A free spirit who simply drifts where ever fate takes them fits this completely. For example, a bard who travels with an adventuring party for as long as they are interesting to him is a prime example of this type of character.
A chaotic neutral character, regardless of the form it takes, will usually have a few unifying tendencies that a role player can grab hold of and really use to make their character come to life. For one, these characters tend to be irresponsible. If they’re carrying the party’s gold, they may buy a new belt with it, not out of spite or any type of malice, but because it was pretty and they wanted it.
They also tend to be a bit flaky. They say they’ll meet you at mid day on the town green. They show up two hours late. Why? They saw a pretty bird or something. Time is immaterial to them, so they will not likely be the person to show up on time for much of anything…if they even bother to show up.
However, these characters can be fiercely loyal to those they call friends. They can also fiercely defend anything they hold dear. While a chaotic neutral character is often classified as “untrustworthy”, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be trusted with your life, just your money and your wife.
If played properly, a chaotic neutral character can generate tons of stories about the campaign for years to come.
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!
The neutral alignments maintain the middle ground, the balance between good and evil, and are quite popular. However, most players have a hard time playing neutral of any type. This is a tricky alignment to play, and definitely warrants intense study. For the next several articles, we’re going to look more at the neutral alignments and see how these alignments differ from evil alignments, as well as how the differ from good.
Unlike evil alignments, a neutral character may actually acknowledge his neutrality. He doesn’t care one way or the other, and often makes no bones about it. The mercenary who works for whoever pays the most, for example. He doesn’t care if the good king or the evil wizard hires him, so long as payment is made.
Neutral characters often look the other way while evil acts are committed, same as they do with good acts. As I’ve already mentioned, they generally don’t care one way or the other. However, neutral characters often do have something they care about, and it is these things that make a neutral character either lawful or chaotic, and that is what we will focus on in the next part of our series on alignments.
However, before that, let me know what you think neutral alignment is and how it should be played!
They crush their enemies and demand obedience from all their subjugated people. Evil tyrants and petty dictators are a staple of fantasy role play, and fit in well in any other genre. They tend to believe that they are best fit to rule, again fitting with the concept of evil not believing they are evil. The lawful evil character is truly a worth foe. However, lawful evil can take on many forms.
The key thing to remember about a lawful evil character is the lawful part. In other words, they don’t break the law. Instead, the lawful evil character has a tendency to manipulate it. The make handshake agreements and then break them, since the law says handshake agreements aren’t binding. They overcharge for a service because they know you need it and will pay it. The lawful evil character is notorious for following the letter of the law, but rarely the intent.
One thing truly scary about a lawful evil character is how they can operate freely in society. The neutral evil and chaotic evil character must hide their nature from society, while the lawful evil character doesn’t have to. Sure, they generally do, but there’s no requirement. They are often masters of the legal system of whatever realm they happen to be in. If there’s wiggle room, they’ll stretch it as far as they can.
In all honesty, the lawful evil character is pretty much like the lawyer stereotype. They are untrustworthy and can screw you despite having been careful, simply because they know the rules better than you do. Of course, I’ve seen role players do this to inexperienced DMs too, but I digress. If you think about the sleaziest characters you know, almost all of them do the things I’ve outlined above. Congratulations, you’ve seen lawful evil up close and personal.
Lawful evil characters also tend to be the most plentiful of all the evil alignments. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense, especially since it is easier for a lawful evil person to function in polite society. They work within the system so they have more chance to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. For example, you have Nocnar, a lawful evil human merchant. He makes a handshake deal with a farmer. The deal is that the farmer drops off his grain at Nocnar’s warehouse, and Nocnar will split the profits of the sale with the farmer. Kingdom law is similar to our laws in that handshake deals aren’t enforceable. However, the farmer trusts Nocnar and does so. Six months later, the farmer asks Nocnar for his share of the profits. Nocnar may try to lie or even go with the truth. Either way, there’s no law to punish Nocnar. Now, the farmer’s eldest son grows up understanding this as the way to do business, so he does the same to others.
This is just one possible example. However, I think you can see how lawful evil characters should be the most common type, and what form they take. It’s important, however, not to simply associate greed with lawful evil characters. For example, many other alignments can be greedy as well. The alignment illustrates the potential methods for getting the gold to satiate that greed.
That, in conclusion, sums up lawful evil, the last of the evil alignments. As we work on the other alignments, I’ve had several folks interject their own ideas of what various evil alignments are, and I’d like to ask for more of that. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat, so please share your views as well!