The definition of Lawful Good

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The definition of Lawful Good.



A Lawful Good character believes it is important to be orderly, in addition to being good.

A Neutral Good character will resort to either Lawful or Chaotic strategies, for a given situation, whichever seems to achieve the most good.




A Neutral Good character strives to do more good than a Lawful Good character does. The Lawful Good character struggles to find a compromise between doing good but also maintaining order and predictability.




A business investor can align with Lawful Neutral, if wanting order and predictability to maximize profit. Such an investor might resort to either Good or Evil strategies, whichever seems to achieve the most reliable means of a profitable but legal corporation.
What does this have to do with the playtest?  Alignment hasn't even been included in the most recent playtest.
In the most recent playtest packet too, Alignment is listed as part of the Bestiary document.

If Alignment exists at all, I hope it has clear and useful - and intuitive - definitions that help understanding, rather than obfuscate it.



Lawful Good ≠ more Good than Good

To think Lawful Good is more good than Good is just confusing. Then what exactly would “Good” mean, if not Good?
 
Pure Good is Neutral Good. Lawful Good is something else.
I'm not even going to get into the ways in which you've mis-cast lawful (hint: law=/=predicatable), because the real problem isn't defining any one alignment. The problem is that alignment tries to be too many things and fails at most of them.

Until people decide what alignment is, and apply that consistently, defining any one alignment is pointless.
I agree with Rampant about alignment trying to cover too many concepts.

Personally, for me, the difference between Lawful and Chaotic is identical to:


Lawful = social collective
Chaotic = personal individual


In this sense of lawful Yang and individual Yin, I see how a person self-identifies. Is the person moreso a member of a larger social group (family, clan, gang of friends, tribe, town, region, citizen)? Or is the person more “their own person”, free and unique, at the expense of behaving reliably (responsibly and predictably) according to the expectations of the larger social group?

The Lawful Good person will find it just as hateful to do something that will violate social convention, as something that will be evil, predatory, benefiting at the *expense* of others.
So a Lawful Good character is someone who wants to do good, but also views themselves as necessarily part of a larger group identity. Such as a “good citizen”.
Can you give an example of a situation where the LG character would have to compromise between the Good and Lawful aspects? 

In the end, this is exactly why I will never use alignment restrictions in my games.  Alignment is a spectrum, and people fall into more than one category depending on any number of factors.  At most I use it as a general guideline, like any other aspect of your character's personality.  Just like with those other aspects, characters are not one dimensional when it comes to alignment.

It also illustrates nicely why I don't use "beings of pure law and good" in my games, to use just one example.

I think the best thing that can be done with alignment is to leave it nebulous, just like other personality choices.  Each group is then free to define it as they wish.  For example, you can define Lawful as "social collective" and Chaotic as "personal individual".  Others may define them by the existence (or lack) of a code of conduct.  Still others may define them with regards to law and order, or any number of definitions.
I guess that makes sense, since a lot of these interpretations go hand in hand.  A more social group tends to be more bound by code and unified, while an individualistic group is the opposite.  Anyway, I don't know what this thread has to do with playtesting either (except incorporation of L. Good npcs or what have you in the documents?)  Character wise, I'm cool with it being fluff to help inspire.  Leave the mechanics for modules.

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A Lawful Evil character is someone who wants the *group* to benefit predatorially, by preying on “weaker” groups.

For example, “racists” in this sense, are Lawful Evil.
Can you give an example of a situation where the LG character would have to compromise between the Good and Lawful aspects?

Sure. A classic example of a Lawful Good dilemma is the heir to the throne (a prince or princess) who seems to need to kill their parent, who seems an out-of-control tyrant (king or queen).

For the sake of Good (the most good for the most people) and for the sake of Lawfulness (the honorable social order of a citizen of the realm), the person must struggle against Evil (a predatory tyrant) and against Chaos (the tyrant may be throwing laws and customs into disarray and provoking civil unrest or bringing shame to a government with an honorable reputation).

You can narrow the above dilemmas. The ethics about killing could involve Good concerns (maybe the monarch can repent?) versus Lawful concerns (even if the monarch repents, the damage done to realm may be too late to repair).




Also, even if Alignment remains non-mechanical, it still needs to have clear definitions if the game refers to it at all.   
  

Can you give an example of a situation where the LG character would have to compromise between the Good and Lawful aspects?

Sure. A classic example of a Lawful Good dilemma is the heir to the throne (a prince or princess) who seems to need to kill their parent who is an out-of-control tyrant (king or queen).

For the sake of Good (the most good for the most people), and for the sake of Lawfulness (the social order of a citizen of the realm), the person must struggle against Evil (a predatory tyrant) and Chaos (the tyrant may be throwing laws and customs into disarray and provoking mass riots and civil unrest).

You can narrow the above dilemmas. The ethics about killing could be Good (maybe the monarch can repent?) versus Lawfulness (even if the monarch repents, the damage done to realm may be too late to repair).

Thanks for the example.  However, I don't think it actually shows a situation in which Lawful and Good would be in conflict.  Your example seems to be pretty clear cut in terms of what action to take: the chaotic evil tyrant must be removed.  I think you are trying to add conflict by insisting that the tyrant (who is the character's parent) be killed.  But simply removing them from power would work just as well: banish or imprison them.

Even then, killing in D&D is not objectively evil.  A group could certainly play that way (again, this is why I think alignment should be left abstract and up to each group to use or not use in the way they like), but for my games it has always been totally ok to kill when the situation called for it.  And killing a chaotic evil tyrant is always justified.  Now, given that it was the character's parent, there might be some hesitation, but it depends on the entire history between them.  And in the end, if you are setting it up just for a test that can't be passed, something is wrong (unless your players like such tests).

I think the classic example of a moral question is a good one to use here: would your character kill an innocent person to save 10 others?  What would the LG character do?  What would the NG character do?  What would the CG character do?

That all supposes that alignment is based on your actions rather than cosmic faction, which is the primary determinant of alignment for outsiders and divine classes.
How about someone in a society the has moraly objectionable practices like slavery or human sacrifice.
Your example seems to be pretty clear cut in terms of what action to take: the chaotic evil tyrant must be removed.

No, I didnt intend to convey that.

For me, the obvious truism is a Good person must never kill anyone, never mind killing ones own parent.

Only in an extreme situation would such a course of action even be thinkable, and only if the result is clearly the ONLY way to achieve good for everyone involved.    



But simply removing them from power would work just as well: banish or imprison them.

In real life, banishment and imprisonment almost never works to curb group leaders, if it is likely that supporters will continue to fight and agitate in the hope of freeing and restoring the leader.

Besides, the crowned heir could never banish or imprison the reigning tyrant, who de jure outranks him or her.
Can you give an example of a situation where the LG character would have to compromise between the Good and Lawful aspects? 



Steal or Starve springs immediately to mind.  The character observes the theft of some item without which the thief will die.


My fondest hope for this edition is that alignments will be optional, and packaged with features I don't feel the need to use in my campaign so I can ignore them and the book they ride in on.    
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I think the classic example of a moral question is a good one to use here: would your character kill an innocent person to save 10 others?  What would the LG character do?  What would the NG character do?  What would the CG character do?

The above seems unhelpful as a touchstone “test”, because every alignment can choose to do the same thing for different reasons. The choice between either saving ten people or one person can go either way, depending on the situational context.

Certainly any Good alignment could choose either option because it goes to the heart of the transcendent values of Good itself. Being a social conformist (Lawful) or a social reject (Chaotic) are irrelevant in this situation.

Sure, the Lawful Good might tend toward saving the group, and the Chaotic Good might tend toward saving the individual. However, the ten people might be the ones that represent the individualist identity, while the one person might represent the group identity, such as a police officer.    

For me, the obvious truism is a Good person must never kill anyone, never mind killing ones own parent.


That makes it tought o be a Good adventurer, doesn't it?  They spend most of their time killing things.

I think you meant that Good people don't kill unless it furthers the cause of Good.  But in that case, killing the tyrant becomes both lawful (furthering the cause of society as a whole) and good (stopping evil).
The character observes the theft of some item without which the thief will die.


That presumes that theft is anti-Lawful.  I've always been under the impression that Lawfulness does not mean law-abiding, but rather concerned for the society as a whole.

In Haldrik's example, I am having trouble defining "Chaotic Good".  If Good means "most good for the most people" and Lawfulness is being conserned with societal rules, it seems that Good and Lawful pair naturally and Chaotic and Good seem to be in conflict. 
That makes it tought o be a Good adventurer, doesn't it?

Indeed. Thats why I am excited about the Bloodied mechanic.

If Bloodied is a prerequisite for save-or-sucks, like Force Surrender, in addition to autokill, then the door opens up to entirely nonlethal campaigns. The first “half” of the battle goes as normal. But the encounter tends to end when all hostiles become bloodied, when restraint or flight becomes a possible outcome.



Since most monsters are non-natural, nevermind being non-human, it is arguably ok to define them as objectively Evil, and by extension situationally acceptable to kill on sight.

But most situations that resemble reallife should probably avoid killing for any reason.

Even outright warfare is somewhat rare and sporatic. And even during an active war, only a certain target - often only in an open conflict - would be ethically ok to kill. Other monsters or even the enemy in other situations would be unacceptable to kill.

The character observes the theft of some item without which the thief will die.


That presumes that theft is anti-Lawful.  I've always been under the impression that Lawfulness does not mean law-abiding, but rather concerned for the society as a whole.

In Haldrik's example, I am having trouble defining "Chaotic Good".  If Good means "most good for the most people" and Lawfulness is being conserned with societal rules, it seems that Good and Lawful pair naturally and Chaotic and Good seem to be in conflict. 




The Chaotic Good hero despises “conformity”. Seeks the Good, but also in addition seeks to increase the good of people as individuals - at the expense of group identity. The Chaotic Good tends toward subverting social expectations.

The Chaotic Good hero values the symbiosis of individuals who *choose* to do good for each other, but never become bound by obligation and expectation.



Again, a Neutral Good person does more good than a Chaotic Good person does, because the Chaotic one is struggling with an other issue - the unique identity of the individual person - besides goodness.

If Bloodied is a prerequisite for save-or-sucks, like Force Surrender, in addition to autokill, then the door opens up to entirely nonlethal campaigns.


But wouldn't your definition of good require that the good alignment be played in non-lethal campaigns only?

Since most monsters are non-natural, nevermind being non-human, it is arguably ok to define them as objectively Evil, and by extension situationally acceptable to kill on sight.


Are we getting into the slaughter of baby orcs territory?

This definition you're proposing seems to very narrowly define acceptable play. 
The character observes the theft of some item without which the thief will die.


That presumes that theft is anti-Lawful.  I've always been under the impression that Lawfulness does not mean law-abiding, but rather concerned for the society as a whole.

In Haldrik's example, I am having trouble defining "Chaotic Good".  If Good means "most good for the most people" and Lawfulness is being conserned with societal rules, it seems that Good and Lawful pair naturally and Chaotic and Good seem to be in conflict. 




I consider that to be a safe presumption to make, as determining property is one of the fundamental reasons for social structure.  Even animal social groups have rules about ownership that are more simple than "it's in my mouth; ergo it is mine."

Taking things that don't belong to you is disorderly behavior in defiance of the social structure in almost every society ever.  Very many societies have also pushed some burden on property owners to afford aid to others at their own expense when life hangs in the balance, but if you compare the two by incident, property beats life.  


This is precisely why I want alignments to be completely optional, by-the-bye.  Arguing right and wrong for its own sake appeals to me; arguing right and wrong in the middle of a game, with game outcomes at stake and with one of the complainants serving as an absolute arbiter triggers my gag reflex.  
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The Chaotic Good hero despises “conformity”. Seeks the Good, but also in addition seeks to increase the good of people as individuals - at the expense of group identity. The Chaotic Good tends toward subverting social expectations.


So the law-chaos divide is all about "conformity"?  Also, if your own character's qualification of law and chaos depends on the expectations of society around him, wouldn't taht cause allignment change when one changes societies?

I mean, when a fighter who thinks private property is the root of all evil is in Feudalland, with its strict hierarchy of landowners, he'd be chaotic, but when he enters Communalland, where the authorities actively prevent people from accumulating too much wealth (setting aside whether either society is functional -- it's a fantasy world), he would be lawful.

Or is "Chaotic" just someone who believes in anarchy?  That there should be no authority?  And "LawfuL" is just someone who believes there should be an organized government with the ability to force others to conform to laws?  (And "Neutral" is someone who is indifferent to whether there are laws or not?)  Because in that case, I think there are very very few Chaotic people and the vast majority of people are lawful. 
This is precisely why I want alignments to be completely optional, by-the-bye.  Arguing right and wrong for its own sake appeals to me; arguing right and wrong in the middle of a game, with game outcomes at stake and with one of the complainants serving as an absolute arbiter triggers my gag reflex.  


I agree, mostly because I think any alignment system tends to break down if looked at critically.
My main concern in this thread is arriving at definitions for Lawful versus Chaotic that are clearly independent from concerns involving Good versus Evil.

But yeah, the typical D&D “hero” is probably never ethically “Good”. Anyone who can kill on sight is probably a sociopath.

The dilemma with “killing Orc babies” depends entirely on the campaign setting. If the setting defines the Orc as a noble savage, then killing them is Evil, and killing their helpless children is even moreso extremely Evil.

On the other hand, if setting defines the Orc as inherently Evil demons incarnating within physical flesh, then it seems ok to kill the Orc babies.

For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a settting defines the Vampire as inherently Evil, and ok to kill on sight. Nevertheless, even here, the setting likes to flirt with ethical ambiguity by defining Angel as a “Vampire with a soul”, and in this way uniquely Good. (A good example of the domestication of a monster.) Even whats-his-name, the one with white hair, is made unable to kill and in some stories motivated by love and outright sympathetic.



Probably, the “typical” D&D “hero” is by definition Unaligned. Neither Good nor Evil, nor Chaotic nor Lawful. But a potential mix of any alignment, depending on whichever impulse seems to emerge as more prominent.  
I imagine LG like peoples who believe law and rules are necesary tools to get Justice and coexistence. Without authority the evil ones rules, opress the weakest ones. 


And....I have got my particular intrepretation of CG. For me CG is more closer to minachirsm that anarchism. CG thinks honor and tradition could be useful most of time, but they aren´t the true priority.

Sometimes CG characters can be so honorable like a paladin, but their karma has got a taint by a special reason, adultery for exaple (Lancelot and Ginebra, or Tristan and Isolda). We should forget Caothic like "hate to all authorities". Caothic characters can be totally obedient for people they trust (for example elf king) or totally coherent with their private code of honor.

* The good boys try get the right balance between justice and mercy.  


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My main concern in this thread is arriving at definitions for Lawful versus Chaotic that are clearly independent from concerns involving Good versus Evil.


I understand your concern.  I think it's a problem.  In the pre-D&D literature that used such systems, they were very clear divine forces that were divided into Cold War-style camps.  You weren't merely picking a philosophy -- you were choosing a side in a cosmic war.

Trying to define law and chaos without those overarching cosmic realities is going to fall apart.  One person's law is another person's tyranny.  One person thinks the banishment of private property is liberation and another sees it as tyannical confiscation.  One person finds living on a commune to be free and open expression.  The other finds it a stifling society that prevents him from expressing his ambitions.

Good and evil can be easier to define, though, imo, arbitrary.  If we simply define "good" as "concerned for the welfare of strangers more than the welfare of themselves" and "evil" as "concerned only for the welfare of themselves and those they love", we have a basic morality system (which stillfalls apart in the corners, but at least is moderately workable).  

But law and chaos is much more difficult because law and chaos is almost always going to be defined in reference to some other point -- usually surrounding society.  The only other definition is the distinction between anarchy and order, and 99% of the world tends to choose order in that scenario.
So the law-chaos divide is all about "conformity"?



Something like that.

Chaotic =  nonconformist

So, even a gathering of purely Chaotic individuals, where Lawful concerns arent even a consideration to rebel against, would be a collection of extremely diverse individuals who do their own thing. Each attendant exhibits personal characteristics according to unique individual values.



That said, I also want to add, the difference between Good versus Evil involves freedom versus coercion.

Good = Freedom
 
The choice to do Good can, by definition, never be coerced. Therefore a Good person can freely choose to do good as part of a collective identity or as a unique individual for other individuals.

The Lawful Good person still wants a free social group where members freely choose to do their “duties” and “obligations”. The Lawful Good ethic respects the right of individuals to leave a group, and join another group.

The Chaotic Good person freely chooses to empower the unique individuality of others.

A Chaotic Evil person will value their own unique identity, but will coerce and exploit, kill, bully, and rob, others to achieve selfish success.
Speaking of orc babies, the 121712 playtest packet plunges the players headfirst into that specific question.  Day one Caves of Chaos, the heroes are confronted by immature goblinoids in their natural habitat and the realization that they're essentially conducting home invasions.  Whether that was done as an editing oversight or a deliberate challenge to the basic premise of the game, it made for some interesting roleplaying.  It also required me as a DM to craft a specific adventure goal to allow them to feel justified in calling their characters the heroes in light of their actions. 

That's the kind of game I want to play, and I'm certain it's best done without the alignment rules.
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My main concern in this thread is arriving at definitions for Lawful versus Chaotic that are clearly independent from concerns involving Good versus Evil.


I understand your concern.  I think it's a problem.  In the pre-D&D literature that used such systems, they were very clear divine forces that were divided into Cold War-style camps.  You weren't merely picking a philosophy -- you were choosing a side in a cosmic war.





There seems to be no difference between “cosmic” order and “social” order. All of it is identical to social conformists versus social disruptors.



The concept of “cosmic” “order” doesnt even make sense unless deriving from the animistic worldview where each cosmic phenomenon is a separate “person”, a spirit who is making autonomous choices. Then in the context of spirits, there are those who like to conform to collective identities as members of a “cosmic order”, versus ntosenonconformist individuals as a “wild chaos”.



So again, personal indentity relative to the group fundamentally defines Lawful and Chaotic, even in the cosmic context.
So the law-chaos divide is all about "conformity"?



Something like that.

Chaotic =  nonconformist


I don't think that maps to how people actualy behave.  People are conformist or non-conformist in relation to the people they are with.  

That's because we're inherently social animals and social organization is something we do naturally.  With a definition of "non-conformist" I think 97% of the world is lawful and maybe 3% is chaotic.  And I think you'd be surprised by how many non-conformists are simply people who want a different society t conform themselves to.

I couldn't play in a system like that.  It just flies in the face of everything I know about human nature.
Reallife humans include both impulses. The impulse to conform to the group as a “social animal”, like a wolf.

However, humans also include the opposite impulse, to be “selfish”, to express ones own unique identity and to resist social pressures.

A person who strongly tends to be both “selfish” (Chaotic) and “altruistic” (Good), will share their own resources to encourage others to express their own individuality.

These impulses between conformity and self-expression are conflictive, and most humans are Unaligned struggling with both of them.

A person who is truly Lawful and conformist, who almost always identifies with what they “should” be doing, is also extremely rare.

     
A person who strongly tends to be both “selfish” (Chaotic) and “altruistic” (Good)


Any system that requires people to rationalize selfish altruists is sufficiently counter-intuitive to not be placed in a game.  The "enlightened self-interest" meme is just way too Objectivist for my tastes.  No thanks.  I don't want Robin Hood to be a Randian hero.

A person who is truly Lawful and conformist, who almost always identifies with what they “should” be doing, is also extremely rare.


We're going to have to disagree on that one.  We obviously travel in different worlds.  
A person who strongly tends to be both “selfish” (Chaotic) and “altruistic” (Good)


Any system that requires people to rationalize selfish altruists is sufficiently counter-intuitive to not be placed in a game.  The "enlightened self-interest" meme is just way too Objectivist for my tastes.  No thanks.  I don't want Robin Hood to be a Randian hero.

A person who is truly Lawful and conformist, who almost always identifies with what they “should” be doing, is also extremely rare.


We're going to have to disagree on that one.  We obviously travel in different worlds.  



Based on what you are saying, it seems as if you adopt the error of thinking “Lawful” and “Good” mean the same thing.



A person who gives their life to defend Freedom of Speech, can easily be both Good and Chaotic. Both altruistic and “selfish”. Selfish in the sense of self-expression, personal autonomy, independence, individualism, and ethical egoism. Some versions of philosophical “libertarianism” seem to align with Chaotic Good.
"Alignment topic"

"4 pages of nobody agreeing on what Lawful Good means"

"Predictably, people will continue to insist alignment is completely objective and is a perfectly fine system"

You crack me up fanbase.
Why do people focus on on the ways alignment can't work instead of all the ways it can? It's a shorthand, not a manifesto.

Can people really not conceive of any way to play a lawful or chaotic character? If someone said "I'll give you $1,000  if you can convincingly play a character that conveys to an onlooker the idea of Law or Chaos." you would all say "Nope, keep your money, it can't be done."?

Really?
Why do people focus on on the ways alignment can't work instead of all the ways it can? It's a shorthand, not a manifesto.


Mechanical restrictions based off alignment disagree with you.

Can people really not conceive of any way to play a lawful or chaotic character? If someone said "I'll give you $1,000  if you can convincingly play a character that conveys to an onlooker the idea of Law or Chaos." you would all say "Nope, keep your money, it can't be done."?

Really?


Except the problem is, once it's done, you'll egt mixed opinions on how the character acted. Some will think he was Lawful others would think he was CHaotic, and others still might think he's just Neutral.
Based on what you are saying, it seems as if you adopt the error of thinking “Lawful” and “Good” mean the same thing.


I don't have a definition for either (in the game sense).  I'm just discussing what you've put forth.
Why do people focus on on the ways alignment can't work instead of all the ways it can? It's a shorthand, not a manifesto.


Which is fine as long as I don't have to have mechanics for it.  I think alignment is great for getting people to think about their character's motivations.  But that's it. 
Based on what you are saying, it seems as if you adopt the error of thinking “Lawful” and “Good” mean the same thing.


I don't have a definition for either (in the game sense).  I'm just discussing what you've put forth.

Ah. Well, in that case, I agree with your concern the definition be as clear as possible.

Which is fine as long as I don't have to have mechanics for it.  I think alignment is great for getting people to think about their character's motivations.  But that's it. 


+1

Alignment is fine by itself. It's only a problem when it becomes a straitjacket by telling me how I need to roleplay or I either lose all ym class features or get some other negative effect.

This is why I liked how 4e handeled it. Doing something in-game(such as say, a Paladin of Pelor snapping and killing people in a village and fleeing) didn't have an out-of-game effect(Paladin loses class features). The important thing is there are still consequences, but they're story consequences(Paladin will find himself persued by Avengers and other Paladins to bring him in for questioning, or simply end him there is necessary). This can lead to interesting story itself(such as the Paladin was under the effect of a spell, or simply snapped under all the pressure put on him, and goes in to defend himself against the charges).
 Doing something in-game(such as say, a Paladin of Pelor snapping and killing people in a village and fleeing) didn't have an out-of-game effect(Paladin loses class features).



Losing your class abilities is an in-game consequence, not out-of-game.

An out-of-game consequence would be if the GM keyed your car, or didn't allow you to have any  snacks or drinks.