Playing Lawful Neutral
When we step from good but do not reach evil, we must instead discuss what is justifiable, and law, chaos, or whatever other ethos you use becomes simply a means to an end.
While there are those who fall within Lawful Neutral’s umbrella who see the law as the end to which all means are necessary, and blindly pursue upholding the law as a duty in itself. Still others are simply searching for a peaceful life, or the pursuit of their own goals within the confines of the law, or in accordance with some code of conduct or ethics. LN characters are not necessarily interested in saving lives, nor are they necessarily out to enforce their law upon others, but in their actions they are constantly guided by an outside force.
Factions And Nations
If you write your own laws and choose to abide by them then you’re simply a chaotic character, you might as well declare yourself a nation of one and declare every murder a justifiable act of war. The rules by which you live come from something for which you have respect, most commonly the nation in which you were raised where the laws are laid down by the ruling body, a monarchy, a government, perhaps a military force. In which case those laws would usually be in the best interest of that nation and its people, or the whims of despots. In either case it is not your place to decide.
Perhaps you were ordained into a church or faith, in which case you would hold your god or holy leaders as being divinely inspired to declare what behaviours all faithful must exhibit. Usually a religion will lay down forms of moral guidance, coupled perhaps with iconic taboos such as the slaughter of a specific animal, or wearing a certain colour. These would be strongly informed by the personality of your church, so a warlike deity would preach less about the sanctity of life and more the glory of an honourable death, or a faith revering nature might have no regard for property when it harms the natural order.
A guild or corporation would write rules to serve its own ends. Codes of conduct protect the image of the guild and save its public face, otherwise the wills of its private governing body help fill the coffers and reach the goals of the founders. A scholarly guild might enforce rules that protect the integrity of research; assassins might ensure their members do not touch certain mutually interested groups; a mercenary band might ensure that the contracts they accept never include taking prisoners of war.
Consideration In All Things
A life of obedience to a higher power or as a part of a hierarchy does not leave a great deal of room for impulsive action. Despite the strictures laid in place that should make every action a boolean decision, matters of ambiguity made black or white as the law dictates, but rather the interpretation of the law in those matters where the letter doesn’t cut it and the spirit must be applied.
Whenever confronted by a situation that calls for action a Lawful Neutral character must carefully consider what authority they have to act in the matter, what those above them would wish them to do – or would do in the same situation. If executed properly then LN characters can leave every situation assured that they have done the right thing, or at least acted to the best of their ability, not within moral boundaries of good or evil but in accordance with the will of their superiors.
It is considerably easier for a Neutral character, as they are never – or at least unlikely to be – confronted by a situation in which the law conflicts with their beliefs. If a regime changes within a faction, or when crossing into a nation where the laws are different then LNs might be forced to consider what is most important: a peaceful life and adjusting to the change, or standing firm in the belief that the law is absolute, and changes must have equal justification to be enacted.
Each member of the Honourguard is branded with the mark of a flame as a permanent reminder of the duty to which they have sworn, a duty they have held for centuries. Longswords may have been exchanged for pistols, and the blackened platemail now tuxedos over kevlar, but the oath is still the same, “Blood of my blood, in the King’s name.” Every member of the royal troopers is devoted to protecting the royal bloodline, and one another… until one of their number goes rogue, a brother who pledges themselves to the death of the King at all costs.
Most of the Space Marine chapters are sworn in their duty to the Emperor, and their lore and law are intertwined to the point where we could rattle off their dogma as if it were our own. Death to the xeno, death to the heretic, we are the Emperor’s chosen, and we shall know no fear. Nice and memorable, but sufficiently open to interpretation to allow for hundreds of chapters disagreeing in how the oaths should be undertaken. Nonetheless, you can practically guarantee that the purity seals are remarkably similar from marine to marine, much like the genetics.
Giants watch over the island as they have done for generations, standing side by side with the carved images of their ancestors, facing out into the ocean, weapons ready for interlopers. The times have changed, the vessels of the interlopers grow larger and faster, they carry weapons now that even the hardy giants must avoid, but the secrets of the island must remain as such for fear that the lowly creatures in their determined questing do not stumble upon knowledge that would doom them to a silent death, leaving none behind who might remember their names.
Without question, the biggest and best cliche of Lawful Neutral is Judge Dredd. For Dredd, the law is the end to which all means are necessary, and all actions taken are in the name of the law. Innocent lives are spared, but with Dredd it never feels as though the justification for this is that they deserve a happy life, only that any aggressive action taken against someone not guilty of a crime would in itself be a criminal act. He’s a veritable caricature of the alignment, but it’d be criminal to omit him from the discussion.