We’re onto the last column of alignments, and we’re looking at those chaotic characters. I think, and on the Total Party Thrill podcast they talk about this, chaotic good should be the default position for most adventurers. When you think about it, most adventurers don’t […]
Welcome to the dark side of Dungeons and Dragons. Today we’re looking at the only evil alignment, in my opinion, that would make sense to join a generally good adventuring party, and that is why they make an interesting character. I also think that Lawful Evil makes for the most interesting alignment for your BBEG.
The reason I think that it makes a good BBEG, is because when you are lawful evil, you still have a set of rules around what you are going to do. A chaotic evil BBEG would have no issues killing off a 1st level adventuring party if they messed one thing up for them. A Lawful Evil BBEG would see that the adventuring party has some promise and try and twist them into joining them or to use them to unwittingly help the BBEG. Thanos is an an example of a lawful evil BBEG, in the movie, in the comics, he’s doing everything to impress Death because he has a Thanos crush. But in the movie, while his plan of destroying have the living beings won’t solve the problem forever, and there are better options, it’s the option he came up with so he’s sticking to it. But he has rules around doing what he is doing. And that is what you want when creating a BBEG for a game, someone who has rules, who has a reason to monologue at the end.
But, what about on the other side of the DM’s screen for the PC’s. I made a pretty bold statement saying that a lawful evil character is the only one that would join a non-evil adventuring party. Why do I say that? This is similar to your BBEG who has their plan, a lawful evil character is going to be willing to join up with an adventuring party to help complete their own goal or to help stop the BBEG of the game, because it would have a negative effect on their plans as a whole.
A good example of this would be someone in a thieve’s guild. A thieve’s guild isn’t about stealing stuff at random, they are concerned about running the secondary market and the market on illegal goods in a city. If they get out of control, the city guard is going to crush them. Instead they are focused on staying just out of sight and just behind the scene and actually bolstering up the town so that the city leaders are fine having them commit crimes because if they take them out, whomever replaces them would likely be worse.
Now, that might not make the best adventurer, but you can certainly tie in pieces of that to a character. In that case, you would probably have to focus at least some of the story on that character, probably based around something threatening the balance of that the city and the thieve’s guild have. But even in that case, it can be a side plot, and maybe your character has to work with the adventuring party to gain their trust prior to them helping them with this somewhat questionable thing.
But back to the alignment. A lawful evil character is going to have their own set of rules that creates their laws. Now, some of those laws that they follow might be the actual laws, but most of them are going to be self imposed rules. An example of this for a character, they might not have an issue killing their rivals in cold blood, but they also might not let mind altering potions into the black market because they don’t want to potentially cause chaos. So both of those things might be illegal in the town or nation, but the lawful evil character will only follow one, because it’s good for them.
Another reason that I think that a lawful evil player character is interesting as well, is that a lawful evil character is more likely to have a long term plan. Going back to the Thanos example, in the MCU, he has a plan that he slowly spends time on, he doesn’t grab the infinity stones in a day. In the comics, there is a whole lot more that Thanos does impulsively. So when you roll up a lawful evil character, come up with your long term plan, of what you really want to work towards. For example, maybe you want to take over the government with as little bloodshed as possible, not because the government is at all bad, but because you want to rule. So you could join up with the adventuring party to go to various towns, pay out bribes, make a few threats, and schmooze to get a groundswell of support, and that would be your long term plan, but you team up with the group on their adventurers to be able to do that.
Even with all that said, I do think that you need to really think before you take a lawful evil character into a generally good game. Mainly because as a player there is going to be a lot more work for you in the game than if your alignment is closer to that of the rest of the characters in the game. You are going to have to do your evil things away from the group otherwise you might become their next target. This is easy enough by focusing on it as downtime activities and stuff between sessions when it’s appropriate. But you also have to keep a reason around why you’d continue adventuring. This means that your evil plan is progressing or at least, you are stopping someone else’s evil plan that would interfere with your own. And that is on you, as much as the DM, to do in the game, because the DM has the rest of the table to focus on as well.
I want to add in one final thing that you could think about as well. If you want to play a lawful evil character and drop a big surprise in the game, you can work it out with your DM that your character is going to be the BBEG when all is said and done. Maybe there is another “BBEG” who is doing what you want to do, just not as well, so you have to take them out to take over for them. That would be a great twist to put on the rest of the players at the table, and would be a moment that people remember. I would say, if you do this, once it’s revealed that your character is actually the BBEG, the DM takes over and you pull out your new character who will join the party. That way it doesn’t feel like the odds start to stack up against the players. Unless it’s the case where your character goes BBEG and you immediately have a fight and whatever side wins, that ends the game. Or, one final way to keep control of your character would be to take over yourself as the DM and the DM can pull out a character sheet, which would be a fun twist as well.
Would you play a lawful evil character in a game? Have you played one, and was it in a good campaign? How did it go, if you have?
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We’re starting in the top corner of the alignment matrix. Just a quick reminder, the alignment matrix goes from Lawful to Chaotic on the horizontal axis and Good to Evil on the vertical axis. So let’s talk about what a lawful good PC is like, and why you might be out adventuring as one of them.
If you’re lawful that means that there are some set of rules that you follow and you want to follow them closely or perfectly if you can. In the case of a lawful good character, you’re going to most likely be following the rules of someone or something that is known to be good as well. This can be the laws of the land, but it’s more often the rules of a good deity, since humans, elves, dwarves, etc are all fallible creatures. That means that sometimes you might not even follow the laws of the land if you believe that they aren’t just.
The good piece just means that you’re not going to do something that’s evil. It seems pretty simple that way. But to go along with that, it doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything. If there’s something that seems like it’s for a righteous and just cause, you’re going to do that or at least be inclined towards that quest line. Good also means that you might not want to be a party to when the other PC’s from the adventuring party are doing something questionable. We’ll touch on some of that earlier, but a lawful good character might see how something can be useful, but wouldn’t ever take part in it themselves because they won’t do something that isn’t either ideally good and lawful. An example of this might be torturing a goblin to figure out what the giant goblin horde is up to. While it might be a goo thing because it would save a lot of people and the goblin is an evil creature, and even the rules of the land might allow for torture, it’s possible and probable that a good character wouldn’t want to be party to that. But they might also understand why other player characters would be, and leave so that they can do what they need to.
Now, when playing a lawful good character there is a chance it could fall into what is called lawful stupid. This is most commonly a trait for paladin or clerics where players lean too heavily into the lawful and good tropes. It’s going to be the case where a paladin sees someone stealing something, and because stealing isn’t lawful or good, run them through with your sword. The king insults you, that isn’t good, run him through with your sword. It’s the simple reaction to everything that can be scene as not lawful, but in particular not good. If it’s not good, that means death. But that doesn’t seem all that lawful or good in and of itself. Killing someone for stealing because it’s evil is an extreme reaction, which really doesn’t keep you in the camp of good. Capturing them and taking them to the city guard, now that makes a lot more sense. Less violent example of something similar though is a lawful good character who refuses to go into an inn because they serve alcohol and drinking is a sin. Even though they just saw the bad guy run into there.
But beyond the reaction of violence for an insult, lawful stupid can also mean that a character is too trusting and naive. Just because you are good and lawful doesn’t mean that you think everyone else is going to be. This can be equally as harmful as it’ll cause strife in the party when the lawful good character just asks someone a question who is clearly hiding something but doesn’t disbelieve them. Especially if you’re dealing with the face of the party or a split party for some reason so that you’re going to be missing information that you would otherwise want to have readily available for the party.
So how do you avoid this as a characterization for your PC? I think it’s just adding in some dimension to your character. I talk in the first article of the series who your alignment isn’t how you only run your character. It’s a framework for developing a well rounded character and for not spending too long while making a decision. If you find it taking too long, just make that decision based off of the alignment for your character. I gave an example for the thieves stealing bread. But for the Kings insult maybe you don’t trust them more. For the Inn and you don’t approve of drinking, you don’t have to have your PC drink. Being suspicious of people isn’t anything that goes against lawful good either. It allows you to have a more developed character if you don’t just treat them purely as in the tropes.
But let’s talk about why a lawful good character would go adventuring.
I actually think that this one is pretty easy to come up with reasons for going out. You can go with the story where something really bad is going to happen, that will motivate a lawful good character to go out and stop it. The adventure might also be something that a good character gives to the player characters. But if you’re playing a heroic campaign, it’s most likely that you’ll have quest givers that are good or that will want something good done. Now, it can be interesting as a DM to subvert that sometimes. Maybe you’re “good” quest giver has given out a quest that on the surface seems good, but is actually something the actually evil quest giver needs done to complete their plan. Or maybe the actual quest itself isn’t good when you get down into it. I will say, don’t do that all the time though, or your players will never trust you again, and yes, I mean players, not player characters.
So what classes work for lawful good?
The two people will think of right away are Paladin and Cleric. Both of them are tied to a deity of your choice, so it would be easy to pick lawful good ones and a lot of the deities are. But I think that there are some other interesting options, you can even play against type with something like a rogue. A rogue assassin who only kills evil people who are above the normal law, that makes a lot of sense for a lawful good character. Warlock is probably the trickiest as your patron almost has to be lawful good. Something like Hexblade might work. Final question for classes would be if a necromancer wizard would work, and I think that it could possibly. It is a little bit trickier, because you have the lawful good wanting to raise not good undead, I think most of them are evil, and that might be a conflict for you depending on how you play it. But there are necromancy options that aren’t just raising the dead which might work.
So, now that we’ve delved into this alignment. Would you want to play a character with a lawful good alignment? If you have, how have you avoided the lawful stupid trope?
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