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Playing Lawful Good

The much maligned moral alignment system has something of a bad history. In past editions of Dungeons & Dragons it’s been too restrictive, poorly explained and interpreted worse still, but take some time with it, break free of its constraints and bend the rules a little and it can actually be as useful a method of categorising and guiding the decisions and progression of a character as giving them a Myers-Briggs personality type, or a background. And of course it needn’t be restricted to a D&D or fantasy character.

Lawful Good! The alignment most commonly associated with the gleaming warriors of god, the Paladins and Clerics, or the guy who inevitably gets attacked by the barbarian for getting in the way of unrestrained carnage once too often. Having an LG character in the party can often feel like being lumbered with a chaperone or a policeman, everyone has to be on their best behaviour because the LG can’t stand by and simply watch as the less restrained members of the group do what needs to be done. An LG might be so inclined to hand over inordinate amounts of loot to charities and those less fortunate because it’s the “right thing to do” which is often a major source of conflict.

We need not play Lawful Stupid, there are many ways to play Lawful and Good without being an insufferable pain in everyone else’s neck and a spigot on their funds, and killing all the joy in the process.

Law on the Side of Good

Law need not refer to the law of the land. Consider your surroundings, and the people to whom you have aligned yourself, and the nature of adventure itself. If you believed in nothing but upholding the law and defending the people you’d have gone into some form of law enforcement, or perhaps a military organisation. Adventure by it’s nature is a life led on the fringes, in those places where crime and punishment are amongst the last considerations, be it the wide frontiers and wildernesses or the dark and seedy streets.

Codes of honour, respect of possession, or even those rules confined to a single organisation such as a religion, guild, or society can all form the basis of the law to which you abide. A disarmed or weakened opponent should be imprisoned, interrogated, and either punished or helped (circumstances pending). Execution is never noble, but can be justified under extreme conditions or serious considerations. A fight should never be sought, or started, and surrender should always be offered where possible.

Good on the Side of Law

The role of law is to ensure that as many people are served by society as possible, and that the opinion of one can never overshadow that of a hundred. This means for Lawful Good, the law can be wrong, and must be put right in the right way. There is a difference between insurrection and riot, and anarchy is not the answer to tyranny. Doing the right thing can often be difficult when surrounded by darkness, where evil refuses to play by the rules, but law and its enforcement should always be there to make it harder for them to exploit or cause the misery of others, and to make them regret doing so.

It’s hard to debate good and evil without Calvin and Hobbes

If a man could be driven to steal bread to feed his family then surely he should be helped, not punished, and if the law creates this situation then the law should be changed. Accusations must be thoroughly supported and investigated before punishment can be meted out. If a merciless tyrant holds sway then effort should be made to unseat that tyrant, and ensure that a more even handed leadership is installed.

For Example

A sorcerer wields the power of storms in his very blood, but has elected to spend his days bringing fair weather and healthy rainfall to the farmlands around his home town. He is approached by a military force that asks him to bring a hurricane that will sink an enemy naval fleet, but refuses to bring such senseless death, preferring to exhaust himself sculpting the ocean winds to turn the enemy around and deny their advance.

A former policewoman is trying to keep order in a community where everyone thinks they know what is best, but survival depends on everyone working together. Another woman seizes control at gunpoint and demands the food she needs for her son, the policewoman is forced to make a hard decision for the good of everyone, and must deal with the consequences.

Captain Picard is a perfect example of LG, as he upholds the Prime Directive of non-interference with the development of a species for fear of how we may inadvertently shape their culture. But when a culture would simply die without interference, or when tremendous evil is being done he grits his teeth and breaks protocol, or when Data does the same he agonises over the decision but ultimately refuses to enact discipline because despite the ramifications, Data was right.

The Lego Movie’s Emmet lives his life cheerfully abiding by the rules until he realises what will happen if he never breaks the cycle, but in turn teaches the Master Builders the virtue of abiding by the rules of the system rather than waging all out rebellion. When confronting Lord Business he shows him the way things could be, helping him envision a new world rather than destroying one regime to replace it with another.

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2 responses

  1. I’ve always kind of hated playing lawful good characters. Then again, I play games to try new things so I generally play fairly morally ambiguous characters. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    Like

    March 23, 2017 at 9:40 am

    • I agree whole heartedly but it’s an alignment that can be used to wonderful effect, and it’s an easy one for a DM to throw a real moral challenge at.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 23, 2017 at 9:59 am

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