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Reliku
2019-02-28, 08:37 AM
Hey guys,

I have a discussion with one of my players (D&D 3.5). He's playing a lawful neutral character. His claim is that his character would lie, for the greater good. I told him that if that is the case, his character's alignment is true neutral, not lawful neutral. He disagrees, because he claims his character has a moral code (which makes him lawful), and that moral code allows him to lie for the greater good.

To me, that sounds like nonsense. The SRD says: "Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

Now I'm not saying a lawful character must always tell the truth on every case every single time. Only paladins do that. But if a lawful character makes a promise, a deal or an agreement with someone else, he must keep his promise, even if he doesn't want to anymore. Only if it is absolutely impossible to keep a promise, would a lawful character not have to keep it anymore. If the character doesn't keep his promise, for example because he just learned something new that changed the situation, then he would not be a lawful character, then he would be a neutral character. And if the character only keeps his promise when it suits him, and doesn't when it doesn't suit him, then he would be a chaotic character.

A similar question is what happens when you make a deal with a devil (Lawful Evil). He's evil, so he'll try to twist the deal in his advantage. But in my opinion, once the deal is made, the devil MUST keep his end of the bargain, because he is a lawful creature, he must keep his word.

So, great wise men of giantitp, what do you think? Would a lawful creature ever go back on his word? Would a lawful creature ever say he'll do "A" but in reality do "B"?

MoiMagnus
2019-02-28, 09:00 AM
Alignment describe the "normal behavior" of a person. It is descriptive, not prescriptive (unless paladin or other similar oath, or creatures that are of that alignment due to magic, like devils)

A character which behave as a good, except with dwarfs against which he is fully evil, would be good aligned as long as he doesn't encounter too many dwarfs, and will fall to neutral and then evil if this behavior start becoming frequent.

Similarly, a lawful creature will go back on their word occasionally. Each time they do, they are nearer from neutral than before. And they will probably be haunted by their lies during their nightmare, even if they rationalize it as "it was necessary".

And I mean, this is unavoidable. Imagine a lawful character made two different promises that are contradictory, then he will have to break one of them. For example, he promised to his father to always work for the greater good, and promise to the guard to not break out of prison, but something horrible is happening right know, so whatever he does, one of the two promises will be broken.
Similarly, what happens if the only way to fulfill a promise is to make a fake promise to someone else? Well, either he will have to make a fake promise, either he will have to break a promise.

In other words:
+ As long at it is occasional, sure, a lawful character can lies and break promises.
+ However, even if he do so, he will probably regret having to do so, or at least would have prefer a solution that doesn't include lying or breaking promises (but sometimes, you do stuff you don't like doing because that's necessary).
+ Creatures like devil are Lawful because of their cosmic nature. Their free will is constrained by this "lawful energy".

Hackulator
2019-02-28, 09:09 AM
Yes a lawful creature can lie sometimes. Except for things like certain outsiders everyone does things that are theoretically contrary to their alignment at times. Alignment in most cases is not a geas it's a guideline. He can certainly lie or break his word on rare occasions, if he's doing it all the time then it's questionable.

However, a Lawful Neutral character lying for "the greater good" seems off, is he Lawful Neutral or Lawful Good? The player is correct that it's possible to be Lawful but not necessarily truthful depending on your belief system, however in general "lying for the greater good" seems more like something a NG or CG character might do.

Mystral
2019-02-28, 09:50 AM
Hey guys,

I have a discussion with one of my players (D&D 3.5). He's playing a lawful neutral character. His claim is that his character would lie, for the greater good. I told him that if that is the case, his character's alignment is true neutral, not lawful neutral. He disagrees, because he claims his character has a moral code (which makes him lawful), and that moral code allows him to lie for the greater good.

To me, that sounds like nonsense. The SRD says: "Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

Now I'm not saying a lawful character must always tell the truth on every case every single time. Only paladins do that. But if a lawful character makes a promise, a deal or an agreement with someone else, he must keep his promise, even if he doesn't want to anymore. Only if it is absolutely impossible to keep a promise, would a lawful character not have to keep it anymore. If the character doesn't keep his promise, for example because he just learned something new that changed the situation, then he would not be a lawful character, then he would be a neutral character. And if the character only keeps his promise when it suits him, and doesn't when it doesn't suit him, then he would be a chaotic character.

A similar question is what happens when you make a deal with a devil (Lawful Evil). He's evil, so he'll try to twist the deal in his advantage. But in my opinion, once the deal is made, the devil MUST keep his end of the bargain, because he is a lawful creature, he must keep his word.

So, great wise men of giantitp, what do you think? Would a lawful creature ever go back on his word? Would a lawful creature ever say he'll do "A" but in reality do "B"?

Your player is correct. Lawfull characters aren't unable to lie, lawfull characters live by a code (which may or may not coincide with local laws) and when that code doesn't include to always tell the truth, they can lie as much as they want to.

Also, lawfull alignment doesn't mean that one follows a certain set of rules like an automaton, just like chaotic alignment doesn't mean that you flip a coin every time you make a decision. It's just overall karma you accumulate thanks to your actions.

Kaptin Keen
2019-02-28, 10:04 AM
To me, that sounds like nonsense. The SRD says: "Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

I'm lawful. I'm also truthful.

I also work in sales.

Also, don't force your players into straightjacket interpretations of something as totally inane as the 'Alignment'. It's bogus, it has zero real life parallel, it doesn't work as a game- or roleplay tool. It's bollocks.

Sorry =) I don't like alignments much, but I realise other views exist and are just as valid.

hamishspence
2019-02-28, 10:27 AM
I have a discussion with one of my players (D&D 3.5). He's playing a lawful neutral character. His claim is that his character would lie, for the greater good. I told him that if that is the case, his character's alignment is true neutral, not lawful neutral. He disagrees, because he claims his character has a moral code (which makes him lawful), and that moral code allows him to lie for the greater good.

To me, that sounds like nonsense. The SRD says: "Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

Now I'm not saying a lawful character must always tell the truth on every case every single time. Only paladins do that. But if a lawful character makes a promise, a deal or an agreement with someone else, he must keep his promise, even if he doesn't want to anymore. Only if it is absolutely impossible to keep a promise, would a lawful character not have to keep it anymore. If the character doesn't keep his promise, for example because he just learned something new that changed the situation, then he would not be a lawful character, then he would be a neutral character. And if the character only keeps his promise when it suits him, and doesn't when it doesn't suit him, then he would be a chaotic character.

A similar question is what happens when you make a deal with a devil (Lawful Evil). He's evil, so he'll try to twist the deal in his advantage. But in my opinion, once the deal is made, the devil MUST keep his end of the bargain, because he is a lawful creature, he must keep his word.


Devils are capable of being treacherous. Baalzebul, Lord of the Seventh Layer of Baator, is called "Lord of Lies" as well as "Lord of the Flies".

Conversely, Chaotic people are capable of having a moral code that demands they never lie. Angels can be of any Good alignment - yet all normal angels "never lie, cheat, or steal" and "are impeccably honorable in all their dealings".

Lying "for the greater good" does not have to be intrinsically Chaotic. It's problematic for Good characters, and Lawful ones, but it's doable without jeopardising their alignment. At least, unless they're Lawful characters who have specifically adopted a "lawful code" that forbids lying, or are members of a culture where lying is illegal, or a major violation of social mores.

In which case, they have a certain amount of obligation to punish themselves, or "turn themselves in to the authorities" if they wish to stay Lawful.

As The Giant put it:


In my personal interpretation of Lawfulness in D&D, I believe that yes, it is possible to be Lawful using a personal code rather than the societal definitions of law and order. However, I believe that the burden of upholding that code has to be much stricter than that of the average person in order to actually qualify as Lawful. You must be willing to suffer personal detriment through adhesion to your code, without wavering, if you want to wear the Lawful hat.

Because almost everyone has a personal code of some sort; Robin Hood had a personal code, and he's the poster child for Chaotic Good. The reason his code doesn't rise to the level of Lawful is that he would be willing to bend it in a pinch. And since he's already bucking all the societal traditions of his civilization, there are no additional penalties or punishments for him breaking his own code. He's unlikely to beat himself up if he needs to violate his own principles for the Greater Good; he'll justify it to himself as doing what needed to be done, maybe sigh wistfully once, and then get on with his next adventure.

Conversely, a Lawful character who obeys society's traditions has a ready-made source of punishment should he break those standards. If such a character does stray, she can maintain her Lawfulness by submitting to the proper authorities for judgment. Turning yourself in effectively atones for the breaking of the code, undoing (or at least mitigating) the non-Lawful act.

A Lawful character who operates strictly by a personal code, on the other hand, is responsible for punishing herself in the event of a breach of that code. If she waves it off as doing what needed to be done, then she is not Lawful, she's Neutral at the least. If she does it enough, she may even become Chaotic. A truly Lawful character operating on a personal code will suffer through deeply unpleasant situations in order to uphold it, and will take steps to punish themselves if they don't (possibly going as far as to commit honorable suicide).

People think that using the "personal code" option makes life as a Lawful character easier. It shouldn't. It should be harder to maintain an entirely self-directed personal code than it is to subscribe to the code of an existing country or organization. This is one of the reasons that most Lawful characters follow an external code. It is not required, no, but it is much, much easier. Exceptions should be unusual and noteworthy. It should be an exceptional roleplaying challenge to take on the burden of holding yourself to a strict code even when there are no external penalties for failing.

Koo Rehtorb
2019-02-28, 10:55 AM
I'd say it's sufficient to be the sort of person who believe that one shouldn't lie or go back on their word, and tries to life their life that way.

If you're forced to swear an oath at sword point. If you swear an oath on misleading information, particularly if that oath would lead to you breaking some other code of conduct of yours later. That sort of thing is fine. Just so long as intentionally swearing false oaths isn't part of the character's MO, and it doesn't happen too often, it seems fine to me. I would say though, a lawful character should probably be reluctant to swear oaths that he doesn't have a strong intention of following.

Mr Beer
2019-02-28, 04:44 PM
If "I lie for the greater good" is a core personality trait, I think that goes against lawful.

If you press the player to answer the issue and he says "I would lie for the greater good", that's very different and probably fine.

Also this is why alignment is annoying. It's a bad system, it has no objective standards and there is widespread disagreement on how to interpret it. The only thing I like about it, is how it informs the structure of the Outer Planes which while cool frankly isn't enough to make it worthwhile.

DeTess
2019-02-28, 05:02 PM
Yes, a lawful person can tell a lie once in a while, especially to hold up their values (lying to the orc warlord that captured them about the state of their city's defenses, for example). If lying becomes a matter fo first resort in any situation, they might not be lawful but there's nothing stopping them from telling the occasional fib without changing alignment.

Ask yourself this: For a lawful neutral guard, tasked with protecting a noble mansion, which would be the more lawful thing to do when being threatened by a would-be thief?

1. Tell the thief exactly where all the valuables are, as requested.
2. Lie to the thief, leading them to a trap where they can be easily captured or disposed off.
3. Keep silent, which'll likely result in being stabbed by said thief, and leaving them free to roam the mansion.

Segev
2019-02-28, 05:21 PM
Lying is no more Chaotic than telling the truth is Lawful. You can have a Lawful-aligned spy or con artist. They will lie a lot in the course of their careers.

Lawfulness is about order and having rules (not just principles, but rules derived from those principles) which they follow. Lawful people are loath to break contracts, as they represent agreement to follow a particular set of rules. They are not necessarily bothered by lying about their intions, nor about what they're doing, so long as their rules call for it.

Frozen_Feet
2019-02-28, 08:24 PM
Ask yourself this: For a lawful neutral guard, tasked with protecting a noble mansion, which would be the more lawful thing to do when being threatened by a would-be thief?

The obvious, expected behaviour of a guard is to tell the thief to get bent, not surrendering any information that'd make the thief's job easier. Though suggesting a course of action that'd cause the thief to get caught would be fine too, because a guard's lawful duty is to guard the mansion, and this overrides any duty to be truthfull to a clearly unlawful thief.

Which is the overarching answer to the titulae question: obligations aren't born equal. For Christ's sake, think of actual law! Duties serving higher principles will trump those serving lower ones and all promises are made within some boundary conditions. A lawful character is not obligated to follow through a promise if something turns up to make that promise untenable, and a lawful character is not obligated to treat with trust or honour those who break trust and honour first, such as in the case with a thief.

Lawful Evil types would be especially draconian about this. For example, a smart devil striking a deal would make that deal with very stringent conditions and in a way that allows them to screw over the other party if that party violates said conditions.

For Lawful Good types, the highest principle should be life and safety of other beings, implemented so that it leads to greatest good to the greatest number. So any order or any promise that needlessly puts lifes at risk should be considered illegitimate. This, by the way, is why Paladins can act against a Lawful Evil ruler.

Tron Troll
2019-02-28, 08:34 PM
To Quote DR. Gregory House: Every Body Lies.

Yes, a lawful person is far, far, far, far, far more likely to ''keep their word'' and avoid lies.....but that does not mean they won't break their word or tell a lie ever.

A lawful person has a code, and quite often follows the local law. A cop is a great example: he has a code about lying or such to cops and obeys the law......mostly. But for example, he might lie to criminals...they don't meet the standard of their 'code'. And when they break the law, they will try to do it 'lawfully' (with plausible deniability).

And Lawful Evil...well, you can never trust an evil person. Ever. Sure they might not lie and might keep their word.....or not. And sure, they are likely to try a 'trick' or 'word play'....but they don't have too.

redwizard007
2019-02-28, 09:41 PM
Saying liars are all chaotic is like saying murderers are all evil and then playing D&D.

Sure, lying is probably a chaotic act, but cumstances can easily make it the best option for a lawful character. If on the other hand lying is the default option for every situation, then we may have an argument for alignment change.

Reliku
2019-03-01, 06:59 AM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback! :D

I think you are all misinterpreting my question though. I'm not saying a lawful character must never lie, because I do think a lawful character could make a lie or two in various circumstances (examples such as given above: the thief asking the guard where the gold is hidden, the orc warlord asking where the defences are the weakest), a lawful character would lie in that case, that seems perfectly acceptable to me. Unless he's sworn an oath of truth or something, in that case he would have to remain silent.

If lying becomes a default option, or something he does without care, then the character would have to be chaotic or neutral, in my opinion. But a lie occasionally (because they are faced with a situation like above) would not make them unlawful, as long as they're doing it reactively, not proactively. A lawful character can't go to the enemy and make a proactive lie, like say "I'm unarmed, let's just talk", then when he's up close draw a concealed dagger and stab him in the back. That would at the very least make him neutral, and lying about being unarmed would, in my opinion, go against his lawful nature. But a reactive lie, like being interrogated by the enemy: "where are your friends hiding?!" and answering "to the north" while in reality they're in the south, that sounds perfectly acceptable.

No, what I'm debating (with my player), would a lawful character break his promise? Would a lawful character ever, willingly, make a promise, or deal, to do something, and then willingly end up doing something else?

For example: a lawful character makes a deal with the enemy. The enemy keeps his end of the bargain. The character would enjoy a serious advantage if he were to break his promise, but the enemy kept his promise and they made a deal. In my opinion, if a lawful character would break his promise, he would automatically become neutral on the law-chaos spectrum, without question.

If the enemy didn't keep his end of the bargain, then the lawful character would be allowed to not keep his promise either, because you could rule that the deal is voided.

The SRD also says this about Lawful Evil:

"A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises."

The SRD says this about neutral (on the law-chaos spectrum):

"Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others."

The way I interpret this, is that only chaotic characters break their promises whenever they please.

Neutral characters are generally honest, but if it yields significant gain (for them or for their cause), they will break their promise. If faced with a dilemma or a conflict of interest they will break a promise without having to feel bad about it.

Lawful characters do not break their promises if they can do anything about it, and if they absolutely have to because of a conflict of interest or because they are faced with a dilemma, they will feel bad about it.

Does that interpretation make sense?

It is relevant to game mechanics, by the way. The character in question is using an item that requires him to be lawful neutral. If he were neutral neutral, he would not be able to use his item anymore.

redwizard007
2019-03-01, 07:28 AM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback! :D

I think you are all misinterpreting my question though. I'm not saying a lawful character must never lie, because I do think a lawful character could make a lie or two in various circumstances (examples such as given above: the thief asking the guard where the gold is hidden, the orc warlord asking where the defences are the weakest), a lawful character would lie in that case, that seems perfectly acceptable to me. Unless he's sworn an oath of truth or something, in that case he would have to remain silent.

If lying becomes a default option, or something he does without care, then the character would have to be chaotic or neutral, in my opinion. But a lie occasionally (because they are faced with a situation like above) would not make them unlawful, as long as they're doing it reactively, not proactively. A lawful character can't go to the enemy and make a proactive lie, like say "I'm unarmed, let's just talk", then when he's up close draw a concealed dagger and stab him in the back. That would at the very least make him neutral, and lying about being unarmed would, in my opinion, go against his lawful nature. But a reactive lie, like being interrogated by the enemy: "where are your friends hiding?!" and answering "to the north" while in reality they're in the south, that sounds perfectly acceptable.

No, what I'm debating (with my player), would a lawful character break his promise? Would a lawful character ever, willingly, make a promise, or deal, to do something, and then willingly end up doing something else?

For example: a lawful character makes a deal with the enemy. The enemy keeps his end of the bargain. The character would enjoy a serious advantage if he were to break his promise, but the enemy kept his promise and they made a deal. In my opinion, if a lawful character would break his promise, he would automatically become neutral on the law-chaos spectrum, without question.

If the enemy didn't keep his end of the bargain, then the lawful character would be allowed to not keep his promise either, because you could rule that the deal is voided.

The SRD also says this about Lawful Evil:

"A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises."

The SRD says this about neutral (on the law-chaos spectrum):

"Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has a normal respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is honest but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others."

The way I interpret this, is that only chaotic characters break their promises whenever they please.

Neutral characters are generally honest, but if it yields significant gain (for them or for their cause), they will break their promise. If faced with a dilemma or a conflict of interest they will break a promise without having to feel bad about it.

Lawful characters do not break their promises if they can do anything about it, and if they absolutely have to because of a conflict of interest or because they are faced with a dilemma, they will feel bad about it.

Does that interpretation make sense?

It is relevant to game mechanics, by the way. The character in question is using an item that requires him to be lawful neutral. If he were neutral neutral, he would not be able to use his item anymore.

Bro, it's not a straight jacket. It's a tool.

Dwarves drink ale. Elves drink wine. If an elf drinks ale does it become a dwarf?

For the LN magic item, you may want to allow some minor deviations. Maybe it takes an extra action to activate, or it's effect is delayed a round. Maybe it develops an irritating hum. Maybe reduce the bonus by 1. Something like that, until the player begins playing more of a classic LN. Personally, I'd find that an over reaction for this level of deviation, but it's your game.

DeTess
2019-03-01, 07:34 AM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback! :D

I think you are all misinterpreting my question though. I'm not saying a lawful character must never lie, because I do think a lawful character could make a lie or two in various circumstances (examples such as given above: the thief asking the guard where the gold is hidden, the orc warlord asking where the defences are the weakest), a lawful character would lie in that case, that seems perfectly acceptable to me. Unless he's sworn an oath of truth or something, in that case he would have to remain silent.


Can you tell me what actually happened in your game so far? What promise has this character broken, or which lies have they told? If, so far, they've spoken mostly the truth, and kept their promises, they're lawful neutral. It sounds like you're having this debate with your player in a vacuum, which is problematic because your player can't tell how they'll react to a specific situation until it happens. If you ask a player whether they'd break a deal with an enemy, even if they came through on their end, and they say 'yes', they might be imagining something completely different to what you're thinking about.

MoiMagnus
2019-03-01, 07:34 AM
The dictator that willingly make fake promises to the population (and possibly took power by betraying the previous dictator), but uses its power to enforces a respect of tradition and order, is one of the classical example of Lawful Evil.

I'm not 100% sure it is LE in D&D3.5, because I'm not used to it, though.

Reliku
2019-03-01, 09:34 AM
Can you tell me what actually happened in your game so far? What promise has this character broken, or which lies have they told? If, so far, they've spoken mostly the truth, and kept their promises, they're lawful neutral. It sounds like you're having this debate with your player in a vacuum, which is problematic because your player can't tell how they'll react to a specific situation until it happens. If you ask a player whether they'd break a deal with an enemy, even if they came through on their end, and they say 'yes', they might be imagining something completely different to what you're thinking about.

Some background, this player is a good friend of mine. We actually take turns in being the DM and we run two separate games parallel to each other, he plays in my campaign and I play in his. We're both D&D enthusiasts, so we discuss hypothetical situations all the time, haha. His character hasn't lied yet, the character has pretty much lived true to his lawful neutral nature so far. It's just hypothetical! :)

The original discussion came from what happens when you make a deal with a lawful evil creature (such as a devil, or an efreeti). When the time comes for the devil to honor his end of the bargain, I ruled that the devil should keep his word. A devil would not say "HAH, I lied! Too bad!". That's what a demon would do (being chaotic evil), but a lawful creature would not, because the SRD says the following about LE creatures: "He is loath to break laws or promises."

He tried to disprove my point by stating his character would lie for the greater good, even though he is lawful neutral. That peaked my interest, because in my interpretation of lawfulness, lawful creatures do not make promises they do not intend to see through.

If a creature makes promises and only keeps them when it suits him, then he would at the very least be neutral, but even neutral creatures (by the SRD's description) are generally honest and only break their promises when they have a reason to break it. (contrast to chaotic creatures, which break their promises whenever it is convenient for them).

redwizard007
2019-03-01, 09:49 AM
Some background, this player is a good friend of mine. We actually take turns in being the DM and we run two separate games parallel to each other, he plays in my campaign and I play in his. We're both D&D enthusiasts, so we discuss hypothetical situations all the time, haha. His character hasn't lied yet, the character has pretty much lived true to his lawful neutral nature so far. It's just hypothetical! :)

The original discussion came from what happens when you make a deal with a lawful evil creature (such as a devil, or an efreeti). When the time comes for the devil to honor his end of the bargain, I ruled that the devil should keep his word. A devil would not say "HAH, I lied! Too bad!". That's what a demon would do (being chaotic evil), but a lawful creature would not, because the SRD says the following about LE creatures: "He is loath to break laws or promises."

He tried to disprove my point by stating his character would lie for the greater good, even though he is lawful neutral. That peaked my interest, because in my interpretation of lawfulness, lawful creatures do not make promises they do not intend to see through.

If a creature makes promises and only keeps them when it suits him, then he would at the very least be neutral, but even neutral creatures (by the SRD's description) are generally honest and only break their promises when they have a reason to break it. (contrast to chaotic creatures, which break their promises whenever it is convenient for them).


Ah. The specifics always make a difference.

You are speaking of extraplanar creatures to whom alignment is a core part of their identities. He is speaking of humanoid realities where alignment is a loose guide. They are wildly different situations, and you are both right.


A humanoid is not a prisoner to alignment the same way a celestial or devil is. That means that while a devil won't likely break a deal (it is possible, but unlikely,) a mortal has considerably more freedom in the matter. That is not to say that Lawful beings routinely go back on their word, but doing so occasionally doesn't necessitate an alignment change. Nor would a chaotic character always break his word. Mortals almost never meet the ideals of an alignment. It's just the reality of the game.

Jay R
2019-03-01, 10:53 AM
These are the kinds of questions that tend to lead people into sophistries and unconscious errors to defend their own desires.


I have a discussion with one of my players (D&D 3.5). He's playing a lawful neutral character. His claim is that his character would lie, for the greater good.

This might be true, but it also opens up a huge temptation for the PC to convince himself that something that benefits him is for "the greater good".

Also, bear in mind that in our world, there may be ultimate Good, but it is unknowable (or at least unprovable), as is proven by that fact that we disagree about it. In D&D, it is objective and measurable. So he would have to do it for the greater Good. [Note capital letter.]

And since he's Lawful Neutral, he has no particular focus on the greater Good.

Also, the Lawful character would intend to tell the truth all the time. While something might come up that forces him to break his strict code of truth-telling, if his code doesn't start out as strict, it isn't Lawful. Exceptions might come up, but the Lawful character would try to find a way to tell the truth anyway, perhaps failing to do so in an extreme case. And he would consider that a failure on his part. If he's comfortable with having broken his Lawful code, then he isn't Lawful.

A Neutral character would tell the truth in general, with a perfect willingness to lie when it seems like a good idea -- which is exactly what your player is describing.

I would tell him that if he started lying occasionally, then he wouldn't be the final judge. The gods would determine whether or not it was actually for the greater Good, and whether it was a Lawful action in each situation, and therefore the extent to which it could affect his alignment.

Being Lawful gives you some advantages and some restrictions. If he wants the advantages, he doesn't get to soften the restrictions.

Mr Blobby
2019-03-01, 12:04 PM
In this case, I'd simply say: while a Lawful creature would be loathe to lie, a smart one may look for work-around solutions - such as 'failing to mention' key facts, providing 'escape clauses' in their promises or making ones which have criteria which means they can be technically fulfilled while in reality useless. A good example of this could be a Lawful Evil promising 'I will not kill [character]', but not raising a finger or word to stop their giant animal minions from killing them instead.

One of the characters I played - a Lawful Neutral Tiefling - was notorious for this. It got to the stage nobody accepted her word due to the fact she's nearly always find a way to get out of it.

Segev
2019-03-01, 12:10 PM
For example: a lawful character makes a deal with the enemy. The enemy keeps his end of the bargain. The character would enjoy a serious advantage if he were to break his promise, but the enemy kept his promise and they made a deal. In my opinion, if a lawful character would break his promise, he would automatically become neutral on the law-chaos spectrum, without question.

This would be a chaotic act, certainly. But one chaotic act doesn't automatically make you go from Lawful to Neutral. A Lawful person will, in general, feel quite bad about doing such a thing (because if he didn't, he probably would be doing it more often and thus wouldn't be Lawful). But he CAN do it, for any reason he wants, and still be Lawful. He's just, not to put too fine a point on it, sinned against his alignment. Evil people can do selfless deeds for people - strangers or loved ones - for any reason they want; it's a good act, but it doesn't instantly redeem them to Neutral (though it might feel weird to them, and embarass them as if they'd done something shameful). Good people can occasionally do bad things without ceasing to be Good (though, again, they'll probably feel guilty about it).

Unless he makes a habit of it, this doesn't make him non-Lawful. It just means he's not a paragon of Lawfulness.

Now, depending how egregious this is, it might be more or less serious a violation. "I'm going to cut this corner or cheat this little thing; maybe he won't even notice" is more mild than "Nope, fooled you; not keeping my end of the bargain." The more he feels betrayed or tricked by the bargain, the easier it is for him to justify breaking his end of it "just this once," too, which would make it LESS of a sin in the sense that it probably doesn't denote a major tendency and comfort with oathbreaking.

If he is doing this frivolously and without qualm, it's a serious sign that he might not be Lawful. It still probably isn't enough, by itself, to nudge his alignment all the way to the middle of the graph, but if it becomes part of a pattern of non-Lawful behavior, especially without remorse or qualm, it does indicate a slide towards (or having always really been) Neutral, or even Chaotic, depending on the nature, frequency, and egrigiousness of his transgressions against Lawfulness.

Mark Hall
2019-03-01, 12:27 PM
Ever? Sure. But a Lawful character has a worldview where your word is generally important, and making too many exceptions starts pushing you towards Chaotic (through neutral, first, of course).

Alignment is not a straightjacket... it is an aggregate description of your ethical and moral choices. IF you are consistently violating your alignment, then you start to slide towards another... but alignments are big places.

If you think of the Great Wheel cosmology, someone who is "Lawful Good" could be found in three different planes... Mount Celestia/Seven Heavens, Arcadia, and Bytopia/Twin Paradises. Now, Arcadia will have some LNs and Bytopia will have some NGs, but if you're LG, you might wind up in any of those three, depending on whether you favored Law, Good, or balanced the two. A LN person might be in Arcadia, Mechanus, or Archeron. If he's lying sometimes for the greater good, it seems like he would be more "northerly", winding up in Arcadia... even though he might be LN. If he's lying a lot, that might shift him towards the Outlands/Concordant Opposition... and, at some point, he's going to find himself losing either the Lawful or the Neutral description, or both.

MoiMagnus
2019-03-01, 12:30 PM
Now, depending how egregious this is, it might be more or less serious a violation. "I'm going to cut this corner or cheat this little thing; maybe he won't even notice" is more mild than "Nope, fooled you; not keeping my end of the bargain." The more he feels betrayed or tricked by the bargain, the easier it is for him to justify breaking his end of it "just this once," too, which would make it LESS of a sin in the sense that it probably doesn't denote a major tendency and comfort with oathbreaking.

Continuing on this, a Lawful creature (particularly a LE one) will rather find a way to make the contract invalid than straight up breaking it ("only written contracts count", "you didn't kept your word on that little unrelated stuff, so I don't have to keep my words on that stuff", "contract done when a relative is under death pressure are null of meaning", "I didn't put any time limit to respect my part of the contract", ...)

zlefin
2019-03-01, 01:05 PM
Hey guys,

I have a discussion with one of my players (D&D 3.5). He's playing a lawful neutral character. His claim is that his character would lie, for the greater good. I told him that if that is the case, his character's alignment is true neutral, not lawful neutral. He disagrees, because he claims his character has a moral code (which makes him lawful), and that moral code allows him to lie for the greater good.

To me, that sounds like nonsense. The SRD says: "Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

Now I'm not saying a lawful character must always tell the truth on every case every single time. Only paladins do that. But if a lawful character makes a promise, a deal or an agreement with someone else, he must keep his promise, even if he doesn't want to anymore. Only if it is absolutely impossible to keep a promise, would a lawful character not have to keep it anymore. If the character doesn't keep his promise, for example because he just learned something new that changed the situation, then he would not be a lawful character, then he would be a neutral character. And if the character only keeps his promise when it suits him, and doesn't when it doesn't suit him, then he would be a chaotic character.

A similar question is what happens when you make a deal with a devil (Lawful Evil). He's evil, so he'll try to twist the deal in his advantage. But in my opinion, once the deal is made, the devil MUST keep his end of the bargain, because he is a lawful creature, he must keep his word.

So, great wise men of giantitp, what do you think? Would a lawful creature ever go back on his word? Would a lawful creature ever say he'll do "A" but in reality do "B"?
yes, a lawful creature might go back on their word. especially when you're talking about humans rather than outsiders who're made of the essential nature of lawfulness.
additionally, lawful isn't even well and coherently defined by the game.

to be extra pedantic:
in universe, the alignmentness of the game is defined by the cosmos rather than any deities/powers; and as the DM, one can literally choose to define how they'll act in that cosmology. and you'd be correct, for that cosmology.

KillianHawkeye
2019-03-02, 12:04 PM
You said it yourself: "He is loath to break laws or promises."

That means a lawful character doesn't like to break a promise that he's made. It does not mean that he can't, or that he instantly becomes neutral by doing so.

Now, if he adopts a consistent pattern of breaking promises, he might eventually drop from lawful to neutral, but it will take a bit of time because that's honestly not a very big deal.

Remember that your alignment is based more on an amalgamation of everything a character does. It's kind of like taking the average of your intentions and all the things you've ever done. It's very rare that one single act or even a small number of incidents will have a huge impact on one's alignment contrary to one's typical behavior.

dps
2019-03-02, 10:06 PM
Imagine an Inspector Javert-type character being assigned to go undercover to infiltrate organized crime. I think we can agree that such a character is LN (he is all about enforcing the law, regardless of whether enforcing the law leads to justice or to tyranny), but in this case, in order to carry out his undercover assignment, he must lie. (And not just to the members of the crime organization he is infiltrating; he will sometimes have to lie to 3rd parties or even other cops.)

Dimers
2019-03-03, 01:41 AM
You could vow to never tell the truth and always break promises made to others. And if you follow that code come-what-may, even if it hurts you and your loved ones, whether it helps people or harms them, then you'd be acting Lawful Neutral. The rule comes above everything else!

If it helps, imagine a modron directed to steal, cheat, lie and sow confusion. The modron can't help but act according to its orders, because it's LN. So it does things we would normally associate with Chaotic. (Probably poorly, but that's irrelevant -- it tries.)

It doesn't sound like the character is extremely LN, but you don't need to be extreme to claim the alignment. A modron, he ain't.

OmSwaOperations
2019-03-12, 06:03 AM
I think it depends how you conceptualise Law as an idea in your setting.

If you see law as following social and legal norms: probably not.

If you see law as upholding civilisation, order and conformity VS nature, freedom and disunity: it would depend on the circumstances (likely not, given a society where everyone lies to each other all the time is probably not a stable or well ordered one; but there are definitely circumstances where lying would advance order - for instance if you lied to a bunch of orcs about the whereabouts of the town they wanted to raze to the ground).

redwizard007
2019-03-12, 08:12 AM
I think it depends how you conceptualise Law as an idea in your setting.

If you see law as following social and legal norms: probably not.

If you see law as upholding civilisation, order and conformity VS nature, freedom and disunity: it would depend on the circumstances (likely not, given a society where everyone lies to each other all the time is probably not a stable or well ordered one; but there are definitely circumstances where lying would advance order - for instance if you lied to a bunch of orcs about the whereabouts of the town they wanted to raze to the ground).

One could fairly easily argue that lies are essential to maintaining a civilized society. "Do these pants make me look fat?" "How are you?""Would you like to look at my vacation pictures?" I would posit that truthful answers are not always conductive to harmony.

Clistenes
2019-03-12, 05:21 PM
People aren't robots. They don't blindly follow some programming.

Even a lawful person will break their word under the right circumstances.

Heck, if Evil aligned people were forced to always take the Evil choice, they couldn't work with other people at all, they would have to live in the wilderness.

Same with Chaotic people. They aren't required to steal the valuables, piss in the party's waterskin and wander away every time it's their turn to keep watch while the rest sleep...

A Lawful person can break a pact if they feel they have been cheated or if they fear the consequences of upholding it are unbearable. They aren't required to march into the desert without water and die of thirst even if they promised to lead said army through the desert... if there isn't water, they won't commit suicide (well, there are extreme cases, but you don't have to be a crazy seppukku-obsessed samurai in order to remain Lawful...)

A Lawful taxman may turn a blind eye to avoid a dozen children starving to death. It may push their alignment a bit towards Neutral and Good, but if they keep the rules strictly all the time otherwise, they won't suddenly change alignment...

Now, a Devil isn't a person. It is a literal incarnation of the Lawful Evil alignment. They WILL fulfill their part of the bargain, and they WILL try to screw you over twisting the letter of it, and they WILL try to exploit it for their own benefit. It is like breathing to them...

Lawful Neutral and Lawful Good exemplars are the same, but they won't try to twist the letter of a contract, and LG ones will try to make it so all parts benefit from it. And they won't be easily ensnared by a faustian pact, either, they have rules and restrictions and protocols and countermeasures to avoid getting into those...

FaerieGodfather
2019-04-06, 12:41 AM
The alignment rules are an incredibly poor tool for modeling human(oid) morality.

I have been playing D&D for 30 years, and I have never once seen a game where an argument-- however friendly-- about what a given alignment really means has ended well or contributed positively to the game in any fashion.

Lawful and Chaotic are particularly egregious in this regard, because they are even more subjective-- and internally contradictory-- than Good and Evil.

If you can't bring yourself to do the sensible thing and ditch alignment entirely for characters that don't have it as a class feature, then keep in mind that any two thinking beings are going to have to have different and equally legitimate perspectives on the subjective, vague, and contradictory moral principles in the PHB-- and thus the one with authority should probably concede any such argument unless the offense is particularly egregious.

The responsibility and authority for a PC's character concept should rest with the player. Enforced alignment changes wrest that control away from them, in a typically ham-handed and arbitrary fashion. This sacred cow doesn't even deserve to be ground into hamburger.

Mark Hall
2019-04-06, 09:59 AM
Whereas I like alignment; it is a useful shorthand for the aggregate of people's actions, and works well when you define the terms at the outset, rather than assume everyone knows what you mean. Failure to define terms, and the general dragging of lawful onto good and chaotic onto evil when they switched from polar to two-axis alignment, causes confusion. Any given act must be looked at in context to call it good, evil, lawful, or chaotic (or none, or some), but that can be established once you have good definitions that cover most cases, and can be applied on their definitions, rather than a vague feeling.

IOW, if you don't define your terms, your arguments are poor quality.

FaerieGodfather
2019-04-06, 12:57 PM
If principled adherence to your consistent moral philosophy requires you to oppose the "legitimate" authorities, are you Lawful or Chaotic?

If you refuse to lie for your liege, upon his command?

That's the thing: Good and Evil, as mushy and subjective as they are, have singular meanings. Law and Chaos, alike, are patched together from many different ethical philosophies that rarely coincide neatly.

FaerieGodfather
2019-04-06, 01:03 PM
I agree that Alignment is a... viable shorthand for a character's moral philsophy, even if I might disagree that it's a useful one. My objection comes when a character's defining abilities are forced to rely on the player knowing and agreeing with opinions that the DM may not even be able to articulate or recognize that he has.

As soon as AD&D introduced rules that penalized people for not playing their alignment "properly", it's become a toxic blight on the game itself and the community that grew up around it.

Draconi Redfir
2019-04-06, 03:00 PM
my logic is this: The nicest person in the world probably still has at least one person they wouldn't mind seeing very badly hurt.

So by extent, the most lawful person in the world still probably has at least one thing they'd lie about if need be.

unless this is some celestial being who's very foundation is pure law and good, then there are exceptions for every rule.

such as my Lawful Good Bard. Who's super loyal and friendly to everyone she meets, but at the same time kiiiind of wants to completely ruin the life of this one particular guy in such a way that nobody will ever believe him about anything again. She probably wouldn't object to seeing him dead either. Maybe not by her hands directly or otherwise. But if he just happened to get stabbed by someone completely unrelated to her or the people she knows who also know of this guy, then she wouldn't feel bad about it.

KillianHawkeye
2019-04-06, 04:36 PM
As soon as AD&D introduced rules that penalized people for not playing their alignment "properly", it's become a toxic blight on the game itself and the community that grew up around it.

Citation needed. :smallannoyed:

Mark Hall
2019-04-06, 05:10 PM
If principled adherence to your consistent moral philosophy requires you to oppose the "legitimate" authorities, are you Lawful or Chaotic?

If you refuse to lie for your liege, upon his command?

That's the thing: Good and Evil, as mushy and subjective as they are, have singular meanings. Law and Chaos, alike, are patched together from many different ethical philosophies that rarely coincide neatly.

Which is why you have to define terms. A lot of early D&D didn't really define the terms, and just assumed everyone had read Elric in the same way, and so would have the same ideas about lawful and chaotic. In some ways, the Paladin made a lot of this worse, because it implied that individual acts were the problem, rather than an aggregate of deeds, considered in magnitude (i.e. you run into problems with just a little genocide, even if you've been goody two-shoes until then).

Good v. Evil (the moral axis) is concerned with life; primarily sophonts, but extending to other life, to a lesser degree, including artificial life (robots and warforged and such). Good people seek to support life; that is a goal in and of itself. Good is not necessarily completely self-effacing nor above being paid for their work... a good person can still want glory for their deeds and accept rewards for them; folks still have to eat, after all. But they won't want a reward that the person can't afford. Nor does Good always mean non-violent... Good can fight evil, even in a proactive fashion, if they are working to reduce the potential pain others will cause (i.e. "We went out and killed orcs because, unchecked, they would kill many people.")
Evil people are not necessarily malevolent, but they are self-centered, seeking to advance themselves, often at the expense of others. An evil person might heal people, or give to charity, but they don't do that because they want to help people, but because it serves their ends... it is useful for this person to be healthy (or they have a personal investment in that person; an emotional connection, for example), or to appear to be charitable.
Neutrality, on this axis, is self-centered, but not quite as willing to sacrifice others for their goals. For an evil person, a random stranger's death is almost always an acceptable price; for a neutral person, it has to be really worth it.

Law v. Chaos (the ethical axis) is concerned with property, including ideas and institutions. Lawful people hold that property, including the mores of others, are important, so in the pursuit of their goals, they try not to violate them. They maintain their own oaths, don't put people into positions where they have to violate their ethical precepts if they can avoid it... they may not agree with them, they may try to change them, but they respect that other people HAVE those precepts and that they are important to them. A lawful person has a personal code, even if it's not fully articulated, and though they might violate it, it will not be without careful thought.
Chaotic people don't care a fig for other folks property and mores... they don't necessarily steal willy-nilly, but that's less out of respect for property as respect for consequences. A Chaotic person may have a personal code, but that code is almost always flexible and, even then, they'll discard that code if it gets in the way of their goals.
Neutrality on the ethical axis, again, is a balance between these two... their personal code may be important to them, but they don't care about the mores of others, for example. Conversely, they might respect the mores of others, but find themselves unable to really commit to an ethical standard.

"So, principled adherence to your moral philosophy that requires you to oppose legitimate authorities" is quite likely chaotic... but lawful doesn't preclude opposing legitimate authorities if they are opposed to your morals. It means that you are AWARE that you are opposing the legitimate authority, and actually CARE about that. One can be Lawful and Good and, nonetheless, oppose the authorities. Lawful and Good people can oppose legal slavery. They are more likely to act by refusing to participate, purchasing and emancipating slaves, or pushing to change the laws... but they can also reach a point where they say "You know what? This law will not change without direct action, and this law must change. Ergo, direct action."

"If you refuse to lie for your liege, upon his command?" Your liege commanding you to lie is a fairly chaotic command (demanding that you violate your mores), but holding to your mores in the face of the demands of others? Well, what ends are you serving? Why are you refusing? Are you refusing because the lie will hurt people (Neutral, Good; balanced between duties, you are choosing good)? Are you refusing because you have sworn not to lie (Lawful, Neutral; making a choice between oaths, you are holding one above the other)? Are you refusing because he is not worthy to command you (Chaotic, Neutral; your oath of allegiance was dependent upon your judgement, not as something that bound you beyond that)? Moral and ethical choices do not exist in a vacuum.

Which is why you define terms. Which is why you should be able to articulate what the terms mean, and the game should make a point to articulate them clearly. Which is why you need to consider actions that might come up, and what they mean, morally and ethically.

FaerieGodfather
2019-04-06, 11:13 PM
You've made a very compelling case for why it's necessary to make the alignment rules much more specific and to require much more active (and mutual) communication between DMs and players.

Such a shame, then, that the D&D rules themselves have never done this and-- in my experience-- the most avid advocates of the alignment system refuse to consider it.

Try proposing on the Paizo forums that the alignment requirement for Paladins be replaced with a more specific, explicit Code of Conduct like 5e's. It's a fun game, and the only thing it costs to play is your faith in humanity.

edit: I am sorry if I am being unpleasant. My early D&D history was dominated by juvenile and vindictive DMs, and the past twenty years of arguing this issue online have me pretty firmly convinced that neither the majority of players nor the entirety of first-party designers are even capable of recognizing and articulating their own moral reasoning as clearly as you just did in a throwaway forum post. I have only ever seen alignment in-game handled very poorly or not at all, and I've never seen an example of it improving the game.

Forum Explorer
2019-04-07, 02:16 AM
Yes.

To elaborate, a Lawful person has free will, and can still do whatever they want. It might bother them to betray someone but it's well within their ability to do so.

Honestly though, Law and Chaos is the worst axis because it doesn't peg well to behaviors.

Zakhara
2019-04-07, 04:15 AM
As I see it, no "Lawful" character is under any obligation to tell truths--certainly not exclusively truths. Even a goody-two-shoes LG Paladin cliche can (and should) use deception if it means accomplishing well-intentioned goals. The alignment is perhaps disposed to prefer honesty, but it's not a requirement, and citing an SRD is a bad call when alignments are too fluid to consistently define. I can guarantee you "LN" in DarkSun is a hell of a lot different than "LN" in Spelljammer or Al-Qadim or Eberron. Whether the character is uncomfortable with lying is a character choice, not an alignment one.

If anything, I think this another reason why the 9-point alignment system (and attempting to concretely define 9 major worldviews) is more trouble than it's worth. But it's interesting conversation. I think your player is well within LN's parameters so long as their willingness to lie is appropriate to their character and suits their "code."

redwizard007
2019-04-07, 08:51 AM
Citation needed. :smallannoyed:

"A paladin must always act Lawful and Good, and my never associate with evil characters." Or some such garbage from 2nd edition. Repeated in 3rd edition, more or less.

Mark Hall
2019-04-07, 09:22 AM
edit: I am sorry if I am being unpleasant. My early D&D history was dominated by juvenile and vindictive DMs, and the past twenty years of arguing this issue online have me pretty firmly convinced that neither the majority of players nor the entirety of first-party designers are even capable of recognizing and articulating their own moral reasoning as clearly as you just did in a throwaway forum post. I have only ever seen alignment in-game handled very poorly or not at all, and I've never seen an example of it improving the game.

Oh, no, I got you. I've been arguing about D&D online for 24 years (and that part articulating alignment is actually copy-pasted from a post on my blog (http://rpgcrank.blogspot.com/2017/03/argue-alignment-with-me.html), since I've had this argument before). Alignment is always a contentious topic, though less so after 3rd edition removed most of the penalties for alignment changes.

How does it improve the game? By serving as a short-hand. While it doesn't sum up personality, I can give a good summary of someone's general moral and ethical position in five to six characters (AL: LG or AL: N). I can apply the same to a society, or as a generalization for a race. If I encounter a hobgoblin, I know he is likely to be LE. If I encounter a society of hobgoblins, I know they're probably LE... which means that, as a GM, I can guess that they're likely to keep their word, but be cruel in situations where they don't have an agreement to uphold.

Aside from description, the main problem with alignment is usually folks who view it as prescriptive, not descriptive, and folks who view it as easy to change. Alignment is a description of the aggregate of character actions, not something that controls your behavior. It also doesn't change at a single action, most of the time (like, yeah, you cast Familicide, you're gonna have some hefty AIPs to work off). The example I like to give is the Great Wheel cosmology... someone who is Lawful Good might reside in the Seven Heavens, Bytopia, or Arcadia. In each case, they'll be lawful good, and falling OUT of Lawful Good means acting so far out of alignment they fall off a plane.

Corneel
2019-04-07, 02:50 PM
Asiide from description, the main problem with alignment is usually folks who view it as prescriptive, not descriptive, and folks who view it as easy to change. Alignment is a description of the aggregate of character actions, not something that controls your behavior. It also doesn't change at a single action, most of the time (like, yeah, you cast Familicide, you're gonna have some hefty AIPs to work off). The example I like to give is the Great Wheel cosmology... someone who is Lawful Good might reside in the Seven Heavens, Bytopia, or Arcadia. In each case, they'll be lawful good, and falling OUT of Lawful Good means acting so far out of alignment they fall off a plane.
I think as much of a problem as the prescriptive/descriptive problem, is that people tend to want to place any kind of act or belief on the alignment axis, while some acts or beliefs simply are outside the lawful/chaotic or good/evil categories, going from utterly banal like whether you eat soup with spoon or slurp it from a cup to the deeply spiritual such as what the exact nature of (the) God(s) is. And people can hold strong beliefs on any of that which can be just as well as a source of conflict.

Alignment is a useful shorthand for some things but incomplete and not the only show in town.

awa
2019-04-08, 03:23 PM
another problem with alignment is its descriptive element does not account for us vs them scenarios. Hypothetically a group theoretical orcs could be all lawful good in regards to each other but chaotic evil when encountering any non orc weaker then themselves.

Now that's a bit extreme (chaotic neutral is probably more likely) but a lot of societies saved their worst behaviors for outsiders because otherwise their society would collapse.

Ravens_cry
2019-04-08, 04:50 PM
another problem with alignment is its descriptive element does not account for us vs them scenarios. Hypothetically a group theoretical orcs could be all lawful good in regards to each other but chaotic evil when encountering any non orc weaker then themselves.

Now that's a bit extreme (chaotic neutral is probably more likely) but a lot of societies saved their worst behaviors for outsiders because otherwise their society would collapse.
Just because you're evil doesn't mean you don't have people you care about and are loyal to, unless you are Card Carrying Evil for the Sake of Evil and The Advancement of Petty Douchery.

Mark Hall
2019-04-08, 06:27 PM
another problem with alignment is its descriptive element does not account for us vs them scenarios. Hypothetically a group theoretical orcs could be all lawful good in regards to each other but chaotic evil when encountering any non orc weaker then themselves.

Now that's a bit extreme (chaotic neutral is probably more likely) but a lot of societies saved their worst behaviors for outsiders because otherwise their society would collapse.

As the saying goes, if he's not nice to the waiter, he's not a nice person.

awa
2019-04-08, 07:01 PM
exactly those characters will get angels after them and suffer from holy words but all the descriptions of alignment assume that their evil needs to be inflicted on basically any one.

"A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him."

" A neutral evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. She has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn’t have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has.Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies. "

A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises.

This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains.



from 3.5 srd underlines mine

These descriptions don't leave room for an individual who functions perfectly well within their own community and only inflicts their evil on other communities. It assumes that an evil person is evil all the time. The chaotic evil alignment as presented at least in 3.5 does not leave room for a groups of raiders who are willing to die for each other, who would mourn deeply if their comrades fell in battle, who are entirely law abiding in their own tribe, who love their children and their neighbors and who sometimes like to commit a bit of genocide. Such an individual is evil but the descriptions don't work that way.

They work to describe races like the drow who are just evil all the time for the sake of being evil, they work for the evil army of the dark lord who have decided to join team evil in a literal sense. They work for criminals who are outsiders within their own community, they don't work for realistic evil societies and the people that form them.

Mark Hall
2019-04-08, 09:07 PM
These descriptions don't leave room for an individual who functions perfectly well within their own community and only inflicts their evil on other communities. It assumes that an evil person is evil all the time. The chaotic evil alignment as presented at least in 3.5 does not leave room for a groups of raiders who are willing to die for each other, who would mourn deeply if their comrades fell in battle, who are entirely law abiding in their own tribe, who love their children and their neighbors and who sometimes like to commit a bit of genocide. Such an individual is evil but the descriptions don't work that way.

They work to describe races like the drow who are just evil all the time for the sake of being evil, they work for the evil army of the dark lord who have decided to join team evil in a literal sense. They work for criminals who are outsiders within their own community, they don't work for realistic evil societies and the people that form them.

That assumes, again, that a given alignment is a POINT, not a PLANE.

Chaotic Evil is not a single set of behaviors; all chaotic evil people do not behave identically. Chaotic Evil is actually three planes... Abyss, Carceri/Tarterus, and Pandemonium. On each of these planes, you have positions that are more chaotic, more evil, more good, more lawful, than other positions within the plane. Any given position in Pandemonium is more good than any position in the Abyss or Carceri; any position in Carceri is more lawful than any position in the Abyss or Pandemonium. But all positions in the Abyss, and many in Carceri and Pandemonium, are Chaotic Evil. Many in the Outlands are close enough.

Someone who loves their friends and cherishes their children, yet will happily powermurder anyone else is comfortably within Chaotic Evil.

Brookshw
2019-04-10, 12:44 PM
Hey guys,
So, great wise men of giantitp, what do you think? Would a lawful creature ever go back on his word? Would a lawful creature ever say he'll do "A" but in reality do "B"?

Yes, not following through on your word is not de facto unlawful behavior. In fact, there's a whole field of law dealing with not keeping your word, i.e., Contract Law. More importantly, the generally accepted principles associated with it include numerous instances/exceptions/principles where it's okay to not keep your word or otherwise perform how you say you would.

Expressly lying when entering into an agreement is another thing and definitely not lawful. I defer to Jay R's earlier explanation.

Segev
2019-04-10, 03:14 PM
Yes, not following through on your word is not de facto unlawful behavior. In fact, there's a whole field of law dealing with not keeping your word, i.e., Contract Law. More importantly, the generally accepted principles associated with it include numerous instances/exceptions/principles where it's okay to not keep your word or otherwise perform how you say you would.

Expressly lying when entering into an agreement is another thing and definitely not lawful. I defer to Jay R's earlier explanation.

Technically, contract law is about keeping your word and specifying it very carefully. Deceitful lawful types may try to ensure they know better what they actually promised than do those whom they’re contracting with, but they still plan to keep to the exact promises made in the contract.

Even the numerous exceptions, provisos, and escape clauses are careful statements about what exactly you’re promising, and the limits of what can be expected of you. If you follow them, you’re not lying; you’re keeping your word.

This is partially why outright lying is often considered chaotic behavior: deception by lawful types tends to be centered around exploiting exact wording, not simply knowingly saying something untrue.

Brookshw
2019-04-10, 03:30 PM
Technically, contract law is about keeping your word and specifying it very carefully. Deceitful lawful types may try to ensure they know better what they actually promised than do those whom they’re contracting with, but they still plan to keep to the exact promises made in the contract.

Even the numerous exceptions, provisos, and escape clauses are careful statements about what exactly you’re promising, and the limits of what can be expected of you. If you follow them, you’re not lying; you’re keeping your word.

This is partially why outright lying is often considered chaotic behavior: deception by lawful types tends to be centered around exploiting exact wording, not simply knowingly saying something untrue.

That's not correct. Speaking as someone who does transactional work for a living there are numerous legal principles that apply to contracts and which are not contained within the four corners of a document, and which impact enforceable or unenforceable terms, interpretation of those terms, and remedies that are available but rarely, if ever, actually spelled out.

While, yes, the actual writing is an important element of an agreement there is more involved.

B.I.T.T.
2019-04-10, 03:40 PM
On whether a lawful character can lie I'd say it kinda depends on the lie.

A lie that is pretty small in effect might still be uttered by a lawful character. A lawful neutral wizard who is 5'6" may very well tell people that they're 5'7" or 5'6 1/2" for example. Other than helping the wizard in question feel less sensitive about their height, said lie doesn't really effect the game in any pivotal way.

Also a lie that is important, but is told against an illegitimate authority, might be forgiven. For example is the kingdom that employs our wizard friend has been taken over by a usurper and they're locking up any and all loyalists, the wizard may end up having to lie once or twice while making their escape.

Offhand I'd give a skeptical eye to the lawful part of your player's alignment if it's a consistent thing, or if it's wildly out of wack for the alignment of the character.

But that's just my two cents.

***

On the subject of a lawful evil demonic being keeping a deal they've made. Well, yeah. That's what's so fun about these "Deal with a devil" things in the first place.

Player: I want a magical sword. I'll offer you my sole in return.

Devil: Okay...here's this cursed sword.

Player: Super...here's the bottom of my shoe.

Devil: Yeah I think we both got hosed on this deal, didn't we.

Player: I shoulda been a cobbler.

Devil: I could make you a cobbler.

Player: Sure.

Devil: Okay...here's a dessert consisting of fruit baked in a deep dish with a thick, cake-like crust on top.

Player: What the heck do YOU get out of this deal.

Devil: I get that thing out of my fridge, it went months ago.

Segev
2019-04-10, 04:03 PM
That's not correct. Speaking as someone who does transactional work for a living there are numerous legal principles that apply to contracts and which are not contained within the four corners of a document, and which impact enforceable or unenforceable terms, interpretation of those terms, and remedies that are available but rarely, if ever, actually spelled out.

While, yes, the actual writing is an important element of an agreement there is more involved.Oh, sure. My understanding of such things are that they're in place theoretically to ensure that nobody is pulling a devil's deal on an unsuspecting mark and giving it the veneer of legality. "Unconscionable contract" rules and the like. I'm sure there's a lot more out there.

My point is that the purpose of a contract is to specify as precisely as possible what, exactly, is being promissed, under what conditions, etc. The point I was driving at was to refute the notion that a contract is designed to let you lie. It's quite the opposite.


On whether a lawful character can lie I'd say it kinda depends on the lie.

A lie that is pretty small in effect might still be uttered by a lawful character. A lawful neutral wizard who is 5'6" may very well tell people that they're 5'7" or 5'6 1/2" for example. Other than helping the wizard in question feel less sensitive about their height, said lie doesn't really effect the game in any pivotal way.The more we discuss this, the more I lean towards saying that (knowingly) lying IS chaotic. Deception might not be, but overtly stating untruth seems to be. I would deem lying about your height just to avoid some embarassment to certainly be chaotic behavior.


Also a lie that is important, but is told against an illegitimate authority, might be forgiven. For example is the kingdom that employs our wizard friend has been taken over by a usurper and they're locking up any and all loyalists, the wizard may end up having to lie once or twice while making their escape.This is closer to what initially makes me question whether lying is inherently chaotic, but this still falls into the "personal convenience" category. The area I tend to view it as being problematic is where you can have your alignment itself create a catch-22.

For instance: spying. Spying is not inherently chaotic; it can be a very orderly process that nonetheless involves a lot of deception, including overt lying. A spy cannot be both loyal to his government (a requirement for a Lawful spy who isn't formally changing sides for well-ordered and considered reasons) and fail to lie to people he's serving his government by spying on.

Then again, maybe spying of that nature requires some imperfection in one's lawful alignment. This bothers me primarily because it leaves Lawfulness as an asymmetrical alignment, where there is a role which directly serves the interests of the alignment while requiring acting against it.

But neutral people with lawful tendencies could be highly orderly and lie all the time, for example, if lying were the only major unlawful thing they did that kept them pulled towards Neutrality.

And Lawful people can perform Chaotic acts without "falling" to Neutrality. Which is why a Lawful person can, in fact, go back on his word. Sure, it's Chaotic, but barring being a creature of [Lawful] subtype, such imperfections are quite possible without losing your alignment.

A Paladin would, of course, lose his powers until he got atonement, if he did so. It's a Chaotic act. But having to choose between the occasional Chaotic act and the occasional Evil act is part of the challenge and risk of being a Paladin. And the fact that they can attone for one and not the other suggests which they're supposed to do, if they absolutely see no way around doing one or the other.


Offhand I'd give a skeptical eye to the lawful part of your player's alignment if it's a consistent thing, or if it's wildly out of wack for the alignment of the character.

But that's just my two cents.Indeed, that's what makes me think it's Chaotic, period. Lawful types can do the occasional Chaotic thing and still be Lawful, but if they're making a habit of Chaotic acts, they may not, in fact, actually be all that Lawful.



On the subject of a lawful evil demonic being keeping a deal they've made. Well, yeah. That's what's so fun about these "Deal with a devil" things in the first place.

Player: I want a magical sword. I'll offer you my sole in return.

Devil: Okay...here's this cursed sword.

Player: Super...here's the bottom of my shoe.

Devil: Yeah I think we both got hosed on this deal, didn't we.

Player: I shoulda been a cobbler.

Devil: I could make you a cobbler.

Player: Sure.

Devil: Okay...here's a dessert consisting of fruit baked in a deep dish with a thick, cake-like crust on top.

Player: What the heck do YOU get out of this deal.

Devil: I get that thing out of my fridge, it went months ago.This is hillarious. I applaud you, sir.

Brookshw
2019-04-10, 05:38 PM
Oh, sure. My understanding of such things are that they're in place theoretically to ensure that nobody is pulling a devil's deal on an unsuspecting mark and giving it the veneer of legality. "Unconscionable contract" rules and the like. I'm sure there's a lot more out there. Depends what you mean by "devil's deal". Grossly disproportionate obligations under a contract can still be enforceable even when it appears absurd and offensive to morality to enforce. Termination of a contract for being Unconscionable is actually very hard to pull off.

To keep this discussion within the scope of fantasy worlds via a simple example; Adventurer A tell Mayor B that the Adventurer will clear out a nest of goblins that are terrorizing the town. The Mayor goes "huzzah, we're saved". The Adventurer then takes off in the middle of the night and does nothing. Did the Adventurer act unlawful in breaking their word? Nope, the Adventurer wasn't bound because the contract was improperly formed.

Admittedly, fraud in the inducement or execution can be ground for a properly formed contract being void/voidable, and can trigger various remedies.

At this point I think I'll stop talking Contract Law principles, not sure further discussion would add anything.


My point is that the purpose of a contract is to specify as precisely as possible what, exactly, is being promissed, under what conditions, etc. The point I was driving at was to refute the notion that a contract is designed to let you lie. It's quite the opposite.


My point is that simply giving your "word" to do or not do something doesn't necessarily mean you need to keep it despite what is specified in a contract. Circumstances and facts can give rise to many potential ways to avoid an obligation under a contract, and to do so lawfully*. I don't disagree with you about the purpose of a contract, but that's only a portion of Contract Law.

*not saying where such conduct falls on the Good/Evil spectrum, could still be a **** move.

Segev
2019-04-10, 05:43 PM
My point is that simply giving your "word" to do or not do something doesn't necessarily mean you need to keep it despite what is specified in a contract. Circumstances and facts can give rise to many potential ways to avoid an obligation under a contract, and to do so lawfully*. I don't disagree with you about the purpose of a contract, but that's only a portion of Contract Law.

*not saying where such conduct falls on the Good/Evil spectrum, could still be a **** move.

You're confusing modern contract law with the primary purpose of having a contract in the first place. I agree; you're right on the topic you're discussing. I just think you're missing the point by discussing it.

All a contract, at its core conceptual nature, is is a clear definition of what is being agreed to. What "one's word" actually means, as specific as the parties to it feel is required to ensure both know what the other is and is not promising to do, and under what conditions.

And the only reason I'm even arguing the point is to refute another poster's assertion that contracts are designed to let you lie to people "lawfully."

jayem
2019-04-10, 06:07 PM
The more we discuss this, the more I lean towards saying that (knowingly) lying IS chaotic. Deception might not be, but overtly stating untruth seems to be. I would deem lying about your height just to avoid some embarassment to certainly be chaotic behavior.

This is closer to what initially makes me question whether lying is inherently chaotic, but this still falls into the "personal convenience" category. The area I tend to view it as being problematic is where you can have your alignment itself create a catch-22.
...
Then again, maybe spying of that nature requires some imperfection in one's lawful alignment. This bothers me primarily because it leaves Lawfulness as an asymmetrical alignment, where there is a role which directly serves the interests of the alignment while requiring acting against it.

But then (as you say) chaotic people don't always lie, so maybe the ambiguity is the reverse side of that.
In fact I'm tempted to say the distinction only really comes when being Lawful (or good) is short term painful. To paraphrase "So you're honorable to those in your club, so is the mafia". Somewhere (probably, all else being equal, in) Chaotic is the boundary between lying even when that is inconvenient and lying anyway, the 50% absolute truthfulness mark.
Somewhere (probably, all else being equal, in) Lawful is the boundary between telling the truth when that is inconvenient and not, a 50% effective truthfulness mark, as it were. The flip side of this is that you can be relied on (plus, when you do need to bluff, you have a better chance).

But the 9 boxes, covers a lot of ground and misses a lot of detail, so while it deserves a skeptical eye, it's only a first step.
On the whole, even where habitual failure to keep promises perfectly is built in, I'd expect a lawful good creature to try to keep the spirit of a promise, and a lawful evil creature to keep the wording.

Brookshw
2019-04-10, 07:24 PM
You're confusing modern contract law with the primary purpose of having a contract in the first place. I agree; you're right on the topic you're discussing. I just think you're missing the point by discussing it.

All a contract, at its core conceptual nature, is is a clear definition of what is being agreed to. What "one's word" actually means, as specific as the parties to it feel is required to ensure both know what the other is and is not promising to do, and under what conditions.

I don't disagree per se but that's too much of a microcosm view. Without a context giving meaning to what's agreed to then the agreement is pointless. Discussing how context gives meaning and value to that agreement, via Contract Law here, is relevant.



And the only reason I'm even arguing the point is to refute another poster's assertion that contracts are designed to let you lie to people "lawfully."
Well, I'm not that poster and wasn't replying to them. Also that poster's wrong.

5crownik007
2019-04-11, 01:25 AM
Lying can be lawful, and can in fact be more lawful than telling the truth.
Lawful is about following a strictly defined set of rules, be it the law, a code of honour, or a strict moral doctrine.
Therefore, if such policies call for you to lie to someone, it is lawful to lie to them.
Conversely, if such policies say that lying is forbidden, then it is unlawful to lie.
Examples include:
Spies are required to lie to their foes in order to complete their objective. It is in their job description.
Undercover police are not required to identify themselves to criminals.
Police can lie to you in interrogations(in certain, defined ways)
An authoritarian regime may have police officers obfuscate their reason for searching a home, arresting someone or even lie about the act itself occurring. It is still lawful, just evil.

Morty
2019-04-11, 04:32 AM
No matter how many words you spend on this, the only useful answer is that they often won't but sometimes they will and it all depends on the context and circumstances. Which tells us a lot about the usefulness (or rather lack thereof) of the Law/Chaos axis in general.