PDA

View Full Version : Alignment: Lawful vs Chaotic



ignimbrite
08-07-2008, 12:56 AM
OK so whilst the Good and Evil alignments are having their share of the forum limelight, I thought I'd toss in my thoughts and questions about the other great axis - Law vs Chaos.

When I DM I usually use the following as my take on Law and Chaos:
A Lawful character follows a specific set of ethics (which can be hard for evil PCs to do), those ethics can be akin to Samurai code or the outlook of a medieval knight, etc.
And Chaos for me is a character who doesn't really care about what 'rules' or necks they have to bend/break to get to the end result - whether that is saving a baby from a burning building or unleashing a plague on a city.

I have tried to get lawful characters to say that they will obey local laws of the land. Is that reasonable?
Do you treat a lawful character as someone who is predictable, peraps hidebound in their outlook?
Would you expect a chaotic character to be unpredictable, perhaps without a focus, or just not caring about 'rules'?

ronpyatt
08-07-2008, 01:39 AM
I tend to think of lawful as society centric, codes of honor, consistent set of imposed rules.

gdmcbride
08-07-2008, 02:02 AM
A lawful character belongs to a hierarchy and believes that this hierachy has rules for a reason. They follow those rules even if the rule doesn't make sense to them.

A soldier who holds a hill because the general commanded such even though he doesn't know why the hill is so important that all his men should die for it is exhibiting lawful behavior.

A cop who knows a criminal is guilty but still bothers to gather evidence and make sure the criminal is given a fair trial is exhibiting lawful behavior.

A chaotic character trusts himself not hierarchies. They only follow rules that make sense to them.

A soldier who abandons his post to save his men even though his orders say stay is exhibiting chaotic behavior.

A cop who kills a criminal without bothering with a trial because he's afraid the criminal will either manipulate the system or kill again before he goes to trial is exhibiting chaotic behavior.

Gary

DMMike
08-07-2008, 09:37 AM
I'd push Chaos a little further. Pure Chaotic should be following your own rules, plus deliberate intent to break other rules, or systems, or codes.

fmitchell
08-07-2008, 11:33 AM
Going back to Moorcock, who invented the whole dichotomy, "Law" believes in order and predictability; its ultimate endpoint is a clockwork universe with no irregularities. "Chaos" believes in change for the sake of change, and acting on a whim; its ultimate endpoint is endless creation and destruction without rhyme or reason. The implication in his works was that the Gods of Law acknowledged that the universe needed a balance betwee itself and chaos, while the Gods of Chaos wanted, in the words of Dr. Horrible, "Anarchy! That I rule!" Thus "Law" was for the most part Good or at least Neutral, and "Chaos" for the most part Evil.

OD&D merely had Law and Chaos, with the implicit good and evil dichotomy baked in. Later versions separated Good and Evil onto another axis, whereas 4e merely retains Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil as specializations/extremes of Good and Evil (with a vast realm of Unaligned creatures, including gods).

In 4e, or some other system that I added the dichotomy to, I'd make Law the fascists who want an eternal order, and Chaos the anarchists who want to destroy all order. (Part of my inspiration is actually Babylon 5, where the Vorlons dared to set themselves up as gods over "lesser" races even if they had good intentions, and the Shadows tried to create a universe of pure Social Darwinism with ostensibly "unselfish" motives.)

There's nothing sacred about Law and Chaos. You could as easily use the Hindu trinity of Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver), and Shiva (Destroyer), each with their own "good" and "bad" sides. Actually at one point I devised a four-way system of Law, Balance, Flux, and Oblivion. (Law were the guys who thought they had the perfect system, Balance were the rationalists who wanted gradual change, Flux wanted change on a whim, and Oblivion wanted to tear the whole universe down and let it restart from scratch ... maybe.)

praksis
08-07-2008, 02:36 PM
I like the B5 take on law/chaos quite a bit, no implied good or evil, just a philisophic break between the 2 and both are equally capable of good & evil.

In the fantasy setting the lawful follow the laws of their society, chaotic ignores them completely, neutral would be the more average citizen...follows but isn't too upset about breaking them when necessary.

Where I'm still a bit grey in my mind is how this caries over to encounters with new societies, which I think is pretty much only an issue for the lawful. Do they follow their societies rules, or respect the order in place? Not quite sure on that one. Best thought right now is they follow the existing rules, and if those rules run counter to their good/evil bias work within the system to enact change.

DMMike
08-08-2008, 09:17 AM
In the fantasy setting the lawful follow the laws of their society, chaotic ignores them completely, neutral would be the more average citizen...follows but isn't too upset about breaking them when necessary.

Where I'm still a bit grey in my mind is how this caries over to encounters with new societies, which I think is pretty much only an issue for the lawful.

Solution: lawful is a misnomer. It's not about laws, but consistency and predictability. A burglar who follows every code of the thieves' guild to a T is perfectly lawful.

praksis
08-08-2008, 12:38 PM
Solution: lawful is a misnomer. It's not about laws, but consistency and predictability. A burglar who follows every code of the thieves' guild to a T is perfectly lawful.

Hmm, that does solve that quite well. Remove the external connetations and have allignment entirely based on the internal beliefs of the character and how it drives their actions...which actually matches up better to the motivation/general mental state mechanics of most other systems I like quite a bit.

It could be open to a bit of exploitation (ie "my internal code says I can steal this money" etc) but that should be easily squashed by GM veto. Makes lawful a bit more comon too I'd think, not everyone will follow every single law, but there are plenty of people that follow & prefer predictable habits & behavior.

Brings up an interesting question of how that affects good & evil...do you internalize those just as much? Someone raise Catholic during the inquisition & ends up as one administering the torture. They truely believe they're saving your soul...are they then still good? But that's a question for the good/evil threads.

tesral
08-08-2008, 12:42 PM
Order vs Chaos might be a better hook.

Valdar
08-08-2008, 01:05 PM
Might be good to look at real-world philosophies and religions as examples. From my variegated educational experience (which should also reveal the degree to which I paid attention in certain classes):

Immanuel Kant: Lawful. There does exist a Categorical Imperative that is independent of circumstance that determines morality. A society is corrupt and immoral if there exists so much as one legal slave.

Peter Singer: Chaotic. The only morality is the greater good for the greater number. If few suffer so that many prosper, so be it- but the less suffering and the more prosperity, the better.

Fundamentalism of any stripe: Lawful. There are rules, and if you break them, you go to hell when you die. Premarital sex and women's liberation are wrong, even after technological changes (contraception, lower infant mortality) that make the original reasons for the prohibitions obsolete.

Buddha: Chaotic. There is an axiomatic truth that greed and pride lead to suffering, but anything past that is transient and circumstantial.

John Locke: Lawful. There are fundamental rights of man, and while laws can and should exist, there should be mechanisms in place to update and adjust those laws for the higher good.

Empiricism: Chaotic. Nothing exists in the real world apart from what can be perceived with the five senses, which would presumably include laws.

Of course, a single paragraph isn't enough to do any belief system justice, but I think it's worthwhile to look at the philosophers and belief systems that are influential in our real-world society to see what these beliefs would look like in the mirror of fantasy societies.

nijineko
08-08-2008, 07:54 PM
just some thoughts:

there seem to be two basic precepts concering the concepts of law juggling for supremecy in the various philosophies, modern or ancient:

internal law: a system of how it is appropriate to interact with others and how to behave when no one is watching. this system is strongly believed in, and adhered to despite opportunity advantageous to the believer to do otherwise. this form of lawful behavior is usually developed over time and experience, and typically is developed by those who have a belief in mortal beings being held accountable by some inescapable outside means of judgement. (personified or not)

external law: the belief that morality and ethics exist as codified laws woven into the fabric of the universe, much as gravity and other natural laws. some prefer the personified options including god or gods, others prefer the non-personified versions. these types tend to produce the most zealots, as they have an unimpeachable justification for their beliefs; and in some cases, for sharing those beliefs-some of whom take it to the extreme of enforcement with or without another's consent.



in its simplest form, does law exist wholly as a construct of sentience, or does it exist independant of intelligence.

tesral
08-09-2008, 12:40 AM
jin its simplest form, does law exist wholly as a construct of sentience, or does it exist independant of intelligence.

Well you have the example of natural laws. What is a "natural law"? If you cannot break it, that is a natural law. So everyone has to deal with Gravity, the physics of water, facts of motion. You can no more throw a rock around a right angle than you can step off a cliff and float.

I am not going to argue that any moral system is "natural" as we have seen that all you can think of can be and have been broken.

I do believe that certain ideas are stronger than others and resonate through the Human species, such as the Golden Rule.


One might break the Law axis down into Personal Order vs, External Order. Except that following one does not preclude following the other, necessarily. It is possible to separate. I have found those with a deep sense of personal law, have less value for or of external law.

Ghoulsick
08-09-2008, 12:59 AM
My take on lawfull and chaotic charecters is this:

To be lawfull evil seems redundant untill you look at it from their point of view. They do have their own set of laws and beliefs to which they adhere.

Like the supreme example of a drow society, evil charecters remain lawfull by following their own rules and bylaws.

Chaotic charecters adhere to no law. They set no boundries and they don't plan very far ahead. Choosing, instead, to run headlong into any mess they come across. In this way, they show their chaotic natures.

This is also why a True Neutral charecter can hardly be found. Druids seem a lot more booring now, and I love a good druid.

nijineko
08-09-2008, 03:11 PM
So everyone has to deal with Gravity, the physics of water, facts of motion.

only it turns out that physicists are discovering that the so-called immutable laws are not nearly so rigid as suspected. examples: teleportation, time travel, speed of light. under the "right" circumstances, even laws like gravity and the speed of light can be altered.

nonetheless, i mostly agree with your very cognizant points. well stated.

tesral
08-09-2008, 09:45 PM
only it turns out that physicists are discovering that the so-called immutable laws are not nearly so rigid as suspected. examples: teleportation, time travel, speed of light. under the "right" circumstances, even laws like gravity and the speed of light can be altered.

That simply means we don't have a perfect understanding of the Law yet.


Arguably my First encounter with Law/Chaos was Morlock. D&D Zero was Law Neutral Chaotic. Everyone I know played it Good Neutral Evil. AD&D built the "classic" two axis system. AISI the law/chaos axis was always second fiddle to good/evil.

Ditched both of them in the long run.

ignimbrite
08-10-2008, 12:33 PM
But if you consider lawful as being an internal set of guidelines or rules, how strictly do you have to follow them, or how many of them do you need to be lawful?

Almost everyone has some rules they follow.

Even if the only rule they follow is that they will follow no rules ...!

tesral
08-10-2008, 04:06 PM
But if you consider lawful as being an internal set of guidelines or rules, how strictly do you have to follow them, or how many of them do you need to be lawful?

Almost everyone has some rules they follow.

Even if the only rule they follow is that they will follow no rules ...!

I don't see a cut off line. "Beyond here lies Lawful". It is part of the whole Alignment problem in that people don't come in absolutes. You slide through a gray region form Chaotic to Lawful and most people will not rigorously adhere to anything.

And again lawful what? Is the Priest that fully believes the sacrificing babies to the gods is a good and proper act and fulfills is duty less than Lawful? How about the one that believe a different set of rules and is equal fervent about them?

You can have two perfectly lawful being in direct conflict with each other. To perfectly lawful good or lawful evil beings. The lack of any description or actual LAW behind the lawful is part of the issue.

I prefer Order/Chaos if one is inclined to label such things. It removes the issue of "what law" from the table.

It is true that everyone has at least an internal idea of the ethos they should follow. Even if it's Me First and the devil take the hindmost. That is an ethos.

Take it further a real anti order type, the Joker. He has an internal ethos. It is counter survival even, his included. I'll do stuff and see what happens next. Now, is adhering to this anti order ethics a lawful act in that he is adhering to a law? Or is law an external matter, and who decides with law is lawful?

Order/Chaos. It better describes what we are after.

ignimbrite
08-11-2008, 02:12 PM
Take it further a real anti order type, the Joker. He has an internal ethos. It is counter survival even, his included. I'll do stuff and see what happens next. Now, is adhering to this anti order ethics a lawful act in that he is adhering to a law? Or is law an external matter, and who decides with law is lawful?

That is exactly what I was driving at: if you have an internal set of beliefs are you lawful (or orderful :o), and if so wouldn't most beings be considered lawful/ordered? Even if their ordered outlook is to create as much mayhem as possible?

Valdar
08-11-2008, 04:16 PM
Lawful is believing in an ordered society. Chaos is rights of the individual. It doesn't have a lot to do with internal ethos, unless your internal ethos has a society that works like that. Joker is not lawful- if he were a member of a society where his ethos were the norm, everyone would be dead by nightfall.