A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished.
Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion.
Lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.
While strict in their prosecution of law and order, characters of lawful good alignment follow these precepts to improve the common weal. Certain freedoms must, of course, be sacrificed in order to bring order; but truth is of highest value, and life and beauty of great importance. The benefits of this society are to be brought to all. Creatures of lawful good alignment view the cosmos with varying degrees of lawfulness or desire for good. The are convinced that order and law are absolutely necessary to assure good, and that good is best defined as whatever brings the most benefit to the greater number of decent, thinking creatures and the least woe to the rest. (1)
Characters of this alignment believe that an orderly, strong society with a well-organized government can work to make life better for the majority of the people. To ensure the quality of life, laws must be created and obeyed. When people respect the laws and try to help one another, society as a whole prospers. These characters strive for those things that will bring the greatest benefit to the most people and cause the least harm. (2)
These characters have a strong moral character. Truth, honor, and the welfare of others is all-important. They are convinced that order and laws are absolutely necessary to assure that goodness prevails. Lawful good beings will not want to lie or cheat anyone, good or evil. They will not stand for treachery and will not let obviously dishonorable people use their own honor against them, if they can help it. They will obey the laws and customs of the area that they are in, but will attempt to find legal loopholes to disobey a law which is clearly evil or unjust. (3)
Lawful good characters are group and order oriented, and will cooperate with authority in all cases to promote the common weal. Not all lawful good beings view the cosmos with an equal desire for lawfulness and goodness, so there is no such thing as a perfectly balanced "lawful good" attitude (nor a perfectly balanced attitude for any other alignment, for that matter). In general, however, a lawful good character promotes the ideals and rights of the majority over those of the individual (and this includes himself as well as others) and upholds the rights of the weak and oppressed members of society, who should be allowed to reap society's benefits with equanimity. The lawful good being feels this is the best way that all members of society can enjoy the rights of existence together. Life is important to the lawful good being, but life is not exclusive of order, and vice versa. (4)
Lawful good can appear to be a difficult alignment to uphold, but it must be remembered that lawful good characters are not necessarily naive or unrealistic. At the heart of a lawful good alignment is the belief in a system of laws that promotes the welfare of all members of a society, ensures their safety, and guarantees justice. So long as the laws are just and applied fairly to all people, it doesn't matter to the lawful good character whether they originate from a democracy or a dictator. Though all lawful good systems adhere to the same general principles, specific laws may be different. One society may allow a wife to have two husbands, another may enforce strict monogamy. Gambling may be tolerated in one system, forbidden in another. A lawful good character respects the laws of other lawful good cultures and will not seek to impose his own values on their citizens. (5)
However, a lawful good character will not honor a law that runs contrary to his alignment. A government may believe that unregulated gambling provides a harmless diversion, but a lawful good character may determine that the policy has resulted in devastating poverty and despair. In this character's mind, the government is guilty of a lawless act by promoting an exploitative and destructive enterprise. In response, he may encourage citizens to refrain from gambling, or he may work to change the law. Particularly abhorrent practices, such as slavery and torture, may force the lawful good character to take direct action. It doesn't matter if these practices are culturally acceptable or sanctioned by well-meaning officials. The lawful good character's sense of justice compels him to intervene and alleviate as much suffering as he can. Note, though, that time constraints, inadequate resources, and other commitments may limit his involvement. While a lawful good character might wish for a cultural revolution in a society that tolerates cannibalism, he may have to content himself with rescuing a few victims before circumstances force him to leave the area. (5)
When will a lawful good character take a life? A lawful good being kills whenever necessary to promote the greater good, or to protect himself, his companions, or anyone whom he's vowed to defend. In times of war, he strikes down the enemies of his nation. He does not interfere with a legal execution, so long as the punishment fits the crime. Otherwise, a lawful good character avoids killing whenever possible. He does not kill a person who is merely suspected of a crime, nor does this character necessarily kill someone he perceives to be a threat unless he has tangible evidence or certain knowledge of evildoing. He never kills for treasure or personal gain. He never knowingly kills an innocent being. (5)
A lawful good character will keep his word if he gives it and will never lie. He will never attack an unarmed foe and will never harm an innocent. He will not use torture to extract information or for pleasure. He will never kill for pleasure, only in self-defense or in the defense of others. A lawful good character will never use poison. He will help those in need and he prefers to work with others. He responds well to higher authority, is trustful of organizations, and will always follow the law. He will never betray a family member, comrade, or friend (though he will attempt to bring an immoral or law-breaking friend to justice, in order to rehabilitate that person). Lawful good characters respect the concepts of self-discipline and honor. (6)
Here are some possible adjectives describing lawful good characters: friendly, courteous, sensitive to the feelings of others, scrupulous, honorable, trustworthy, reliable, helpful, loyal, and respectful of "life, love, and the pursuit of happiness."
Well known lawful good characters from film or literature include: Luke Skywalker (Star Wars), Mister Spock (Star Trek), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), and Superman (DC Comics).
Equivalent alignment in other game systems: Principled (Palladium), Road of Heaven (Vampire), Light Side (Star Wars), Law (Warhammer), Virtuous and Ethical (Alternity).
A list of Ten Commandments for a lawful good religion may look like this:
1. You shall not lie.
2. You shall not harm the innocent.
3. You shall not murder.
4. You shall help the needy.
5. You shall honor legitimate authority that promotes goodness.
6. You shall follow the law.
7. You shall not betray others.
8. You shall bring criminals and evil-doers to justice.
9. You shall not steal.
10. You shall seek unlimited good for others and unlimited order in society.
Likewise, a lawful good religion may list the following as sins. This list is given in the order of least severe infraction to most severe.
1. Failing to show respect to lawful good churches, governments, and/or beings.
2. Failing to speak out against corruption, sin, greed, pride, etc.
3. Being motivated by pride, avarice, gluttony, or some other sinful impulse.
4. Theft, robbery, or willful vandalism.
5. Causing harm to a pious or virtuous being.
6. Failing to assist or aid good beings when in need.
7. Blasphemous or heretical acts.
8. Allowing a crime or major act of evil to go unpunished.
9. The murder of an innocent.
10. Aiding the servants of Chaos and Evil.
The following two lists detail common actions undertaken during "adventuring" that are considered honorable and dishonorable for the lawful good alignment. An honorable action is one that is in keeping with the spirit of this alignment, while dishonorable actions tend to be those which bring shame to the character in the eyes of his or her alignment peers. Note that an action which is considered honorable by one alignment may be considered dishonorable by another alignment and vice versa.
Allowing a disarmed enemy to pick up his weapon
Allowing the enemy to attack first
Allowing the enemy to remove their dead/wounded from the field
Defeating a superior opponent
Picking up the funeral expenses of someone you slew in combat
Refusing medical treatment for the good of the party
Reporting illegal and immoral actions to the authorities
Saving the life of another at great risk to own self
Taking an arrow or hit for someone else
Accused of crime (innocent or not)
Attacking an unarmed or obviously inferior opponent
Being taken prisoner
Convicted of a crime
Defeated by an inferior opponent
Delivering death blow to a helpless opponent
Desecrating an enemy's corpse
Falsely claiming the 'bragging rights' that belong to another or outright lying
Fleeing a battle that's obviously going poorly
Fleeing a fight with a superior opponent
Fleeing a fight with an equal opponent
Gloating over a victory
Killing a host who has provided you food or shelter
Neglecting to properly bury a member of one's own race
Paying off an extortionist or shake-down
Perpetrate humiliating prank on enemy
Rash or improper social behavior
Refusing a fair contest/challenge
Taking a bribe
Taunting an enemy into fighting
Unjustly slaying a prisoner or unarmed opponent who has yielded
Walking away from a challenge
A lawful good being...
Respects the authority figures in his family and obeys their mandates.
Values lifelong commitment to a romantic partner.
Obeys all personal contracts.
Respects the laws and authority figures of the community and nation.
Considers public service in a leadership role an honor.
Supports the legal procedures of the nation, without regard to their own discomfort.
Seeks secure employment, believing hard work will pay off in the end.
Will not want to disappoint his family.
Will support their family even if it means personal discomfort.
Will never betray a friend and enjoys having close friends.
Considers the needs of the community in personal life.
Will give his life in defense of his community.
Will take actions to aid others during times of crisis, even if unprofitable to do so.
Believes everyone should be treated fairly and kindly.
Feels guilt when he commits a wrongdoing and will seek to right his wrong.
Uses wealth to help others who are less fortunate.
A community with a lawful good government usually has a codified set of laws, and most people willingly obey those laws. In a lawful good society, the people are generally honest, law-abiding, and helpful. They mean well (at least most of them do). They respect the law. As a rule, people don't walk around wearing armor and carrying weapons. Those who do are viewed with suspicion or as trouble-makers. Some societies tend to dislike adventurers, since they often bring trouble.
Conflict between lawful neutral and lawful good characters will center around the nature of laws. Lawful good characters want laws to protect the weak and punish the wicked, while lawful neutral characters are only interested in maintaining or expanding laws to cover every foreseeable problem within society without compassion or moral judgment. Lawful neutral characters will apply laws in a rigid manner, not worrying about whether the spirit of the law is upheld. It is the letter that is important to them. The language of the social compact and the wording of laws are all they are interested in, since that is all that is apparent from written documents. A lawful good character will be just as offended by a lawful neutral character's preference of letter over spirit as they are contemptuous of the neutral good character's insistence that the spirit is more important. The lawful good character will question the utility of laws that do not take into account all circumstances to provide a just and equitable settlement that coincides with their moral beliefs. The lawful neutral character does not consider morality when applying laws, only the effectiveness of the law to keep society stable.
Since neutral good characters see no inherent worth in laws, other than how well they provide for the common good, they may disagree with lawful good characters on a number of issues. Conflicts between characters of these types will center around the lawful good character always wanting to work within the law to accomplish good, even if breaking the law might result in more good for people. They will not accept the neutral good character's argument that working around the law is sometimes a better way to accomplish the spirit of the law. To lawful good characters, the letter and spirit of good laws should not be violated. They see a legal system as something that should be followed, as long as it is good, even if an illegal, or shady way might accomplish better results. Neutral good characters will be disgusted by their lawful good allies' adherence to laws, when the path is clear for them--break the law. Lawful good characters will contend that if they do not follow the law to accomplish what is right, how are they different from criminals? Their ethical sensibilities will be offended by the way that a neutral good character might do things.
When operating as leaders within society, this is how characters of these three alignments may behave. The lawful neutral character will advance the aims of society and apply the law impartially to all citizens. He will follow laws and fight to ensure that all citizens follow laws. He will use legitimate means to change to social order if the state would benefit more from the change. He will promote fairness, using the law to reward those who act in accordance with the social order and punish those who act to the detriment of the state. He will tolerate corruption as long as the strength of the state is not jeopardized. The lawful neutral character will enjoy his position and its perks, but will not abuse his authority. The lawful good character will view his position as an opportunity to selflessly serve his fellow citizens. He will work to increase weal throughout society through the apparatus of the state. He will tirelessly fight corruption and work to eliminate social ills such as poverty, uneven wealth distribution, abuse by the state, and other problems. The lawful evil character will use his position of power over others to ruthlessly pursue his own agenda using the apparatus of the state. He will follow laws and encourage all citizens to follow laws by severely punishing criminals. He will increase his own wealth and power at the expense of the population as long as he can use legal means. The lawful evil character views his position as proof of his superiority over the common rabble.
In situations where goodness must be advanced in society, this is how characters of these different alignments may respond. The lawful good character will promote weal throughout society through increased legislation or a more powerful government. They will work to provide laws and procedures to protect the population against every foreseeable ill in society. They will protect citizens against abuse from unscrupulous individuals. They will advocate and construct power structures and economic systems that provide the most benefit for the population as a whole. Lawful good characters will provide equality of result. The chaotic good character will promote happiness in society by increasing freedom and allowing its citizens to decide the best way to increase prosperity for all. They will promote systems which give maximum freedom and opportunity for citizens to increase their own happiness and the happiness of others. They will ensure that the population is protected against every possible abuse by the governing system. Chaotic good characters will provide equality of opportunity. Neutral good character will build a system that promotes both harmony and freedom. They will attempt to balance opportunity and results. They will use only enough laws and order to protect the freedom of its citizens to promote prosperity and happiness for all. They will guard the population against abuses from within the power structure, but also against abuses from individuals. Neutral good characters will build a flexible social order that allows both public and private action to increase goodness in society.
The chart below shows how Lawful Good views itself and the other eight alignments.
Honorable and Humane
Humane but Unreliable
Humane but Dishonorable
Honorable but Apathetic
Unreliable and Apathetic
Dishonorable and Apathetic
Honorable but Ruthless
Unreliable and Ruthless
Dishonorable and Ruthless
Lawfuls tend to view actions on a scale ranging from honorable to dishonorable. They hold themselves honorable while chaotics are seen as dishonorable in their eyes. Lawfuls view ethical neutrals as unreliable as they are concerned with doing the right thing some of the time whereas other times they seem to disregard society's expectations.
Characters of good alignment wish to advance altruism, compassion, and mercy. They view themselves as humane. At the opposite end of this spectrum is ruthlessness, while moral neutrals are seen as indifferent and apathetic.
Lawful good is the philosophy that goodness is best achieved through law and order. It is a philosophy of altruistic collectivism. This philosophy holds that people should behave altruistically and put the needs of the group ahead of individual desires. Lawful good can also be associated with rule utilitarianism and ethical altruism.
Lawful good philosophers generally maintain that there is metaphysical order in the multiverse and thus may support doctrines of hard determinism, predeterminism, fatalism, predestination, and/or necessitarianism. They may believe in fate or destiny. They tend to be moral objectivists, holding that values exist in the external world independently of and external to our comprehension of them; that they can be found and known; and that they must be used as principles for human judgments and conduct.
The ideal government for this alignment is an authoritarian state with codified laws supporting a social order in which altruism is rewarded and radical egoism is punished. Lawful good beings want the power of the state to be used for the benefit of all. Rehabilitative justice is used to reform criminals and evil-doers.
(1) Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. TSR:1979. and Gygax, Gary. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook. TSR:1978.
(2) Cook, David "Zeb," et al. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. TSR: 1989.
(3) Wujcik, Erick. Ninjas and Superspies. Palladium Books: 1994.
(4) Renaud, J.R. "Making law out of chaos." Dragon (#163). November 1990: 74-78.
(5) Swan, Rick. The Complete Paladin's Handbook. Wizards of the Coast: 1994.
(6) Parlagreco, Carl. "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme." The Dragon (#26). June 1979: 23. and Wujcik, Erick. Ninjas and Superspies. Palladium Books: 1994.