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View Full Version : Lumby's Alignment Article #5: Lawful Neutral



lumberofdabeast
2007-05-28, 09:37 PM
I am brilliant. Love me. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43918)

What is the alignment?
Lawful Neutral.

What does the alignment consider to be most important?
I thought about this one for a bit. Maintaining peace might have been an answer. So would preserving order. But I think, when it all comes down to it, Lawful Neutral's number one priority is fairness. They want to ensure that no one is better than everyone else. More talented, maybe. Smarter or stronger, perhaps. But not better.

What does the alignment hate?
Lawful Neutral wants everything to be fair, or at least appear to be so. Therefore, what it hates most is internal corruption. Lawful Neutral hates it when people screw up its system, and don't respect its rules. Nothing irritates Lawful Neutral more than those who play by their own rules.

What methods will the alignment use to achieve its goals?
Lawful Neutral is inherently orderly, and thus it tends to favor organization. Its armies are well-equipped, with a solid command structure. Lawful Neutral will have enough contingency plans to account for every reasonable possibilty, and possibly quite a lot of unreasonable ones as well. It will plan and plan and plan, constantly looking for and fixing things that can go wrong.

What is the alignment's best feature?
Lawful Neutral tends to be the most farsighted of the alignments. It tries to predict what will happen and react accordingly. It thinks up convoluted plans, and tries to throw others off whenever it gets the chance.

What is the alignment's worst feature?
Lawful Neutral tends to beauracratize. A lot. As a result, it is largely reactive, stagnates easily, and takes a while to actually do anything.

What makes the alignment unique?
Lawful Neutral is different from other Lawful alignments because it really doesn't care about the people either way. On the one hand, it won't let anyone commit crimes against you, at least not easily. And, if you really need it, Lawful Neutral may help you gain a leg up, and actually have a chance of some sort of success. But don't expect any help whatsoever apart from that, and just what is or is not a crime can vary.

What are some common misconceptions about the alignment?
1) Lawful Neutral requires adherance to local laws. There are a million other people that have gone over this, and I'm willing to bet someone is going to talk about it in this thread, too. Go find one of those posts.
2) Adherance to personal code is Lawful. This one's a lot more popular, and every bit as wrong. I have a personal code. It involves holding freedom as sacred. (Except freedom to be an idiot. No one has that right.) I go out of my way to argue against rules that don't affect me, simply because I don't like unnecessary rules. If you told me I was Lawful, I'd probably laugh at you. Frankly, I see Law as reflecting patience, planning, and self-discipline. (Yeah, they should change it to Order.)

What are some examples of the alignment in popular culture?

The Covenant (Halo) -- It was a nice change from the typical sci-fi storyline; for once, the aliens were the hyperreligious nutcases who let a great evil into the world. Anyway, religious order, maintains a strict caste system based on species, et cetera. Haven't played Halo 2 yet, so I can't comment on that.

Mr. Herriman (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) -- As ArmorArmadillo below me pointed out, Herriman is a perfect example of Lawful Neutral. To him, there's exactly one way to do things, and woe to those who break the rules.

The Tau (Warhammer 40K) -- Imagine the Covenant, but without all that religious stuff. Unless you count their incredible dedication to the Greater Good. Oh, by the way, don't play WH40K if you like being the good guy; Tau are the closest you're gonna get, and they're a rather shady Neutral.

Bassetking
2007-05-28, 10:02 PM
*Wild cheers, catcalls, and exhunt alarums for Lumber's newest alignment thread*

PMDM
2007-05-28, 10:49 PM
What about people who have a definitive code with themselves, but they don't impose that law onto other people? Such as a mercenary who refusees to kill children, and never takes jobs like that, because it's against his law. He doesn't stop other from killing children, but it's against his laws to do it. Is that a characteristic of lawful?

Valdyr
2007-05-28, 10:54 PM
While "Ordered Neutral" sounds stupid, I agree that it best expresses the idea of what the Lawful alignments are trying to get at. The name Lawful, implying "Full of (obedient to) the laws," creates the misconception that when in town every Lawful Good/Neutral/Evil character must be the best behaved little boy or girl. The worst is when the DMs get into it and penalize Lawful characters for breaking laws. Chaotic characters never get penalized for following laws, which might give people an idea that strict adherence to a civil code is not what is meant by Lawful.

It might also explain why everyone wants to be Chaotic Neutral (or Chaotic Stupid).

lumberofdabeast
2007-05-28, 10:55 PM
What about people who have a definitive code with themselves, but they don't impose that law onto other people? Such as a mercenary who refusees to kill children, and never takes jobs like that, because it's against his law. He doesn't stop other from killing children, but it's against his laws to do it. Is that a characteristic of lawful?
That particular trait could fit into any alignment. The example you gave seems to be True Neutral to me, but that's just at first glance.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-28, 11:11 PM
On Misconception 1, to elaborate: Local laws differ, and alignment is about dedication to a cause more than a specific society. If a character dedicated to the right of Kings to rule supreme over lands came to an area with a Democracy, he'd probably be vehemently against that government and work to subvert it.

On Misconception 2: What? You don't really have an argument here, only saying that you see yourself as nonlawful. I can't really respond to that directly, because I don't know you personally.
That said, I partially disagree with you. You don't really explain here what qualifies as personal adherence. If you absolutely believe in absolute personal freedom for an entire society and are unwilling to consider anything else, showing opposition to anyone against it whether or not it affects you, that is lawful behavior.
Chaotic characters don't necessarily want mass personal freedom, Chaotic Evil may want a society with many rules so that they can enjoy the protections of law while ignoring those protections for personal gain.
Chaotic represents someone willing to compromise their morals in the short term to achieve their goals. Lawful represents someone who believes that strict adherance to those morals is the only way his goals can be achieved.


As for examples in popular culture:
Brock Sampson (The Venture Brothers): He has personal friends who he takes care of, and often stomps villains, but not because it's a moral imperative, because he's a human weapon of the OSI and they're in his way. He has moral lines he'll never cross, and he's dedicated to his "family," but his "knife-to-the-face first, ask questions later" attitude and preference for violence definitely make him nongood.

Mr. Herriman (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends): Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of Lawful Neutral, he demonstrates the flaw of buearacracy; it's not enough to do the right thing, you need to do it under the system of existing rules.

Nathan Petrelli (Heroes): He's not out for control or power, he really wants to make the world a better place, but he's willing to sacrifice people (albiet goaded by others) to do it. It may be wrong on it's own to let people die, but a commitment to the system over the individual is very lawful, and being less than good is Neutral.

SurlySeraph
2007-05-28, 11:24 PM
Jack Bauer seems very Lawful Neutral to me. He's more loyal to the spirit of the law than to the letter, which could arguably make him Neutral Good (or Neutral Evil, depending on your perspective), but I think he's an excellent example of someone who upholds what they believe is right no matter who has to suffer as a result.

Toliudar
2007-05-28, 11:35 PM
Jack Bauer seems very Lawful Neutral to me. He's more loyal to the spirit of the law than to the letter, which could arguably make him Neutral Good (or Neutral Evil, depending on your perspective), but I think he's an excellent example of someone who upholds what they believe is right no matter who has to suffer as a result.

I'd argue that someone who prioritizes "what they believe is right" is distinctly un-lawful. It suggests that there is a personal moral responsibility that supercedes a social contract, suggesting either neutral or chaotic good. I'd suggest that a figure who sees the social order as a NECESSARY route to a more general happiness is more easily characterized as Lawful Neutral (or good).

lumberofdabeast
2007-05-28, 11:39 PM
On Misconception 1, to elaborate: Local laws differ, and alignment is about dedication to a cause more than a specific society. If a character dedicated to the right of Kings to rule supreme over lands came to an area with a Democracy, he'd probably be vehemently against that government and work to subvert it.
Called it. I so called it.

On Misconception 2: What? You don't really have an argument here, only saying that you see yourself as nonlawful. I can't really respond to that directly, because I don't know you personally.
That said, I partially disagree with you. You don't really explain here what qualifies as personal adherence. If you absolutely believe in absolute personal freedom for an entire society and are unwilling to consider anything else, showing opposition to anyone against it whether or not it affects you, that is lawful behavior.
I was using myself as an example. I have a strong personal code, and follow it as best I can, but that doesn't make me Lawful. One might as well argue that casting cure light wounds on an Evil person is always Evil.

And please, explain to me how strongly supporting Chaos is Lawful.

Chaotic characters don't necessarily want mass personal freedom, Chaotic Evil may want a society with many rules so that they can enjoy the protections of law while ignoring those protections for personal gain.
Maybe not. But I do want the greatest amount of freedom for the largest amount of people. There's just enough common sense in me to recognize that this is the best I'm gonna get, since total freedom for all would very rapidly degenerate into complete and utter chaos.

Chaotic represents someone willing to compromise their morals in the short term to achieve their goals. Lawful represents someone who believes that strict adherance to those morals is the only way his goals can be achieved.
I disagree. I think it comes down to Freedom versus Security.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-29, 01:02 AM
And please, explain to me how strongly supporting Chaos is Lawful.By definition, you can't be dedicated to not being dedicated to things.

I don't think personal freedom is chaotic. It can be, but what if you believe perfect personal liberty is a very highly developed system, one very precisely calculated to allow things to go the right way. The Bill of Rights, for example, is a lawful document guaranteeing personal liberty.


Maybe not. But I do want the greatest amount of freedom for the largest amount of people. There's just enough common sense in me to recognize that this is the best I'm gonna get, since total freedom for all would very rapidly degenerate into complete and utter chaos.

I disagree. I think it comes down to Freedom versus Security.

Wanting something in general without being dedicated to it isn't lawful.
Chaotic represents being willing to compromise the little picture to achieve your goals, whatever they are. Lawful sees the system as being as important, if not more, than the goals, whatever those goals are.

Bassetking
2007-05-29, 01:03 AM
Jack Bauer seems very Lawful Neutral to me. He's more loyal to the spirit of the law than to the letter, which could arguably make him Neutral Good (or Neutral Evil, depending on your perspective), but I think he's an excellent example of someone who upholds what they believe is right no matter who has to suffer as a result.

For this, I am paraphrasing from the "What is Evil" section of the Book of Vile Darkness.

"Let's say Jack Bauer cuts his SUV across six lanes of traffic, firing towards a car full of terrorists.

1) If Jack shoots a Nun, or, say, drives into a family of Six, without intending to, It's not a specifically evil action, as he did not know the consequences of his actions.

2) If Jack's partner/superior/wife/kid/president is sitting next to Jack, and shouts "Jack, look out for the Nun/Minivan!" And Jack goes ahead and drives, while firing? This is pretty clearly an Evil action, as Jack is choosing to endanger innocents.

3) If Jack shoots the Nun, or drives into the Minivan on purpose, in order to stop the terrorists, he has consciously and directly committed an unequivocably evil action. Killing Innocents to further your own goals is an evil action.

Now, instead of... I don't know... Killing, let's use another example.

Let's reference Torture.

Jack Bauer can, has, and will torture innocent civilians if he believes it may give him the answers/information he needs. Without question, qualm, or qualifier, torture of innocents is an evil action.

There are certain, universally evil actions.

thehothead
2007-05-29, 01:11 AM
And it's BACK, HUZZAH!, yet another AWESOME article.

lumberofdabeast
2007-05-29, 01:16 AM
By definition, you can't be dedicated to not being dedicated to things.
When did I say that Chaos meant not being dedicated to things? In fact, you're arguing that chaos is willingness to sacrifice little details for the overall goal. It seems to me that you'd have to be dedicated to something to be willing to make a sacrifice for it.

I don't think personal freedom is chaotic. It can be, but what if you believe perfect personal liberty is a very highly developed system, one very precisely calculated to allow things to go the right way. The Bill of Rights, for example, is a lawful document guaranteeing personal liberty.[QUOTE]
No, the Bill of Rights is an appendix onto a document, serving to make the document as whole into something that guarantees a certain degree of personal rights, while still ensuring a stable government.
[QUOTE]Wanting something in general without being dedicated to it isn't lawful.
I agree. But it isn't chaotic either. I am dedicated to furthering the cause of freedom. Does the fact that I'm also realistic invalidate my dedication?

And did I even interpret what you said correctly?

Chaotic represents being willing to compromise the little picture to achieve your goals, whatever they are. Lawful sees the system as being as important, if not more, than the goals, whatever those goals are.
It's nice that you think that. But I disagree, which is why this post exists.





And it's BACK, HUZZAH!, yet another AWESOME article.
Yeah, it took me a while to finish this, because I can't really identify with Lawful alignments as well as I can with the others. Lawful Evil is gonna be a nightmare.

thehothead
2007-05-29, 01:23 AM
Then get someone to help. Sure it might hurt your ego to have to say "Lumby (and so-and-so)'s alignment discision #7" (Your skipping TN right?) but it will get done faster.

lumberofdabeast
2007-05-29, 01:25 AM
I was initially aghast at the thought (MY EYES!). But then I remembered that I hate Lawful Evil anyway. Perhaps I will find someone else to help. Hell, I could make my entire playgroup help out, under threat of Tarrasque.

SurlySeraph
2007-05-29, 01:36 AM
^ I could help you with Lawful Evil if you trust a relatively inexperienced person. It's my second-favorite alignment, behind Lawful Good.

kjones
2007-05-29, 08:48 AM
As for examples, I think that judges are a good example of Lawful Neutral people. Judges make their decisions in order to maintain law and order, not just in the "per regulation #5693" sense, but in the very real sense of maintaining the integrity of society. If you look at, say, the Supreme Court (of the US) they've done some things that might not be Good, but that uphold constitutional ideals, which are themselves about as Lawful as it gets.

One of Isaac Asimov's robots, following the Three Laws of Robotics, might fall into this category as well. It's not a perfect example, since robots lack free will to a degree, but imagine a human that followed the three laws.

Maxymiuk
2007-05-29, 10:21 AM
When I consider the Lawful (and yes, Order works so much better) side of the alignment, I think about stability. Where Chaos strives for change, trying new things, and flexibility when faced with an unusual situation, Law tries to (as the OP said) plan ahead, devise contingencies, stick to what's tried and true, and keeps things as they were, are, and always will be.

Lawful Neutral would therefore be, in its extreme manifestation, the epitome of conservatism. It doesn't matter if the law/work habit/manufacturing method/attitude towards given race/gender/culture/whatever is good or bad. It's been around for centuries, and that's as valid a reason as any to keep it. Ten milion dead people can't be wrong after all.

Yvian
2007-05-29, 10:30 AM
Judge Dread

Great example of a "exterme" Lawful Neutral character. Judge, Jury, and Executioner. Justice is always delivered swift, fast and accurately according to the law to the letter.

fractal_uk
2007-05-29, 11:07 AM
Chaotic represents being willing to compromise the little picture to achieve your goals, whatever they are. Lawful sees the system as being as important, if not more, than the goals, whatever those goals are.

It's nice that you think that. But I disagree, which is why this post exists.


I agree - compromising your morals "for the greater good" is not chaotic, it's heading toward neutral or even evil on the good-evil axis. Most people you could characterise as evil in the real world believe they are acting "for the greater good." A truly good person - lawful or chaotic - knows they cannot compromise their morality at any cost, in any situation.

Chaos represents an unwillingness to legislate morality or to let "the system" decide. A chaotic person believes, for example, that if they 'know' a person is guilty there is no point in wasting time with a trial that might get the result the wrong.

A lawful person, by contrast, believes that the system is the only way to ensure fairness and consistancy - their personal opinion is irrelevant. If they believe a person is guilty of a crime they are handed over to the lawful authorities as they, as a neutral party with all the evidence, are better placed to decide.

Chaos is the province of individuals and small groups, where a bureaucratic procedure is less important. Law is the realm of countries and civilisations, which cannot possibly function without procedures followed in exactly the same way for everybody.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-29, 12:07 PM
When did I say that Chaos meant not being dedicated to things? In fact, you're arguing that chaos is willingness to sacrifice little details for the overall goal. It seems to me that you'd have to be dedicated to something to be willing to make a sacrifice for it.
[QUOTE]I don't think personal freedom is chaotic. It can be, but what if you believe perfect personal liberty is a very highly developed system, one very precisely calculated to allow things to go the right way. The Bill of Rights, for example, is a lawful document guaranteeing personal liberty.[QUOTE]
No, the Bill of Rights is an appendix onto a document, serving to make the document as whole into something that guarantees a certain degree of personal rights, while still ensuring a stable government.

I agree. But it isn't chaotic either. I am dedicated to furthering the cause of freedom. Does the fact that I'm also realistic invalidate my dedication?

And did I even interpret what you said correctly?

It's nice that you think that. But I disagree, which is why this post exists.





Yeah, it took me a while to finish this, because I can't really identify with Lawful alignments as well as I can with the others. Lawful Evil is gonna be a nightmare.

Again, it's hard to respond, I don't know who you are or what your views are; I'm not trying to say whter you're lawful or chaotic, only what my view of law is.

When I said "dedicated to not being dedicated to things" I was trying to point out the circular logic of people saying "dedication isn't lawful because you can be dedicated to chaos." Which doesn't really mean anything because "dedicated to chaos" doesn't really make any sense.

My main point is that desiring an idea (freedom, fascism, democracy, art) is chaotic or lawful. Systems like fascism are lawful, and systems of freedom are lawful, but someone who wants fascism only so that they can break whatever rules they want and then sick the hounds on anyone in their way is Chaotic.
Similarly, someone who wants personal freedom so that people can do what they want and believes that that is their choice whether it's good or not is chaotic, but is willing to compromise that exact idea for something close or more useful at the time is chaotic, but someone who believes that a system of true personal freedom is the only way a society will work, and is unwilling to accept anything less is lawful.

Draz74
2007-05-29, 12:19 PM
Javert from Les Miserables is often considered the epitome of Lawful Neutral, at least at the beginning of the story. (He arguably slides into LE as the story progresses.)

ChomZ
2007-05-29, 12:39 PM
you know.. I never thought of that.. javert is definately lawful neutral.. I always thought he was good.. but this article has defined it perfectly for me..
er..

F.H. Zebedee
2007-05-30, 10:17 PM
For Lawful Neutral, howabout Hermes Conrad from Futurama? He even declares himself neutral on the good/evil axis, and what's more lawful than a bureaucrat?

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-30, 10:22 PM
For Lawful Neutral, howabout Hermes Conrad from Futurama? He even declares himself neutral on the good/evil axis, and what's more lawful than a bureaucrat?
Beyond yes. I didn't list him because he's kind of on the comic, ridiculous end of the spectrum, but I definitely had him in mind.

mauslin
2007-05-30, 10:58 PM
Mmm, I'm going to reference another Discworld character.

I think one of the best examples of Lawful Neutral is Sam Vimes. He's all about upholding his personal view of the law.
Note that his personal view of the law is different then the actual law he's charged with upholding as Commandor of the Watch in Ankh-Morpork. He'll bend and break those laws as much as he can to try to achieve his goals. But he can be fanatic about his own rules. I think he can definately be called Lawful, even if he is a sneaky bastard.

As far as being neutral goes, Sam Vimes likes the idea of a better world, he tends to only really get to work at it when there has been a major break-down of law and order. When everything is running smoothly, he's content to just grumble.
This becomes really obvious when you compare him to Corporal Carrot, who's so far up the LG alignment he's giving archons a run for their money.

Lobsopdoy
2007-06-09, 07:11 PM
I always thought that Vimes was textbook Lawful Good

Toliudar
2007-06-09, 08:47 PM
I always thought that Vimes was textbook Lawful Good

I would agree with this as well. Sam is as dedicated to people's wellbeing as he is to the system. The fact that he believes that the system is a powerful force for people's wellbeing is part of what makes him lawful - as is a strong series of demonstrated behaviours in support of that same system.

Lobsopdoy
2007-06-09, 09:12 PM
In fact, Vimes often puts people's wellbeing ABOVE the law, such as in Night Watch

jjpickar
2007-06-09, 09:27 PM
Wow this is a great definition. I especially agree with the personal code misconception. Just because a person tends to do (or not do) certain things does not make them lawful. Keep up the good work.