A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.
Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.
Lawful neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.
Those of this alignment view regulation as all-important, taking a middle ground betwixt evil and good. This is because the ultimate harmony of the world--and the whole universe--is considered by lawful neutral creatures to have its sole hope rest upon law and order. Evil or good are immaterial beside the determined purpose of bringing all to predictability and regulation. It is the view of this alignment that law and order give purpose and meaning to everything. Without regimentation and strict definition, there would be no purpose in the cosmos. Therefore, whether a law is good or evil is of no import as long as it brings order and meaning. (1)
Lawful neutral beings believe in a strong, well-ordered government, whether that government is a tyranny or benevolent democracy. The benefits of organization and regimentation outweigh any moral questions raised by their actions. Lawful neutral beings will uphold the law regardless of whether it is considered just or not. If the majority of the population disagrees with the practices of the government, then they must use legal means of getting those laws changed. Rebellion is a crime regardless of the purpose behind revolt. In their day-to-day affairs, lawful neutrals will adhere to the laws of the area they are in, and will also maintain their own sense of honor. (2)
They are respectful to both their leaders and their peers. Subordinates will be treated as is due their station within society. Written contracts and verbal agreements will be honored by these characters. They will not break their word or a contract unless there is a legal way to do so. Lawful neutral beings are concerned with the letter of the law, but rarely the spirit. These characters also respect the idea of station in life. They will act as they should, given their station.
The lawful neutral being normally sees law and order as of prime importance, with the well-being of the group put ahead of the individual on almost every occasion. Such persons see good and evil as immaterial and unimportant in the structuring of the universe into perfect order and harmony, in which lies society's only hope for survival. Whether a law is good or evil is of no import as long as it brings order and meaning. Thus, personal gratification of needs and desires is well and fine, as long as this doesn't interfere with the ultimate ordering of the cosmos; all other considerations are secondary. Life, to the lawful neutral being, has no meaning without order, and is thus expendable when faced with the choice between it and harmony. (3)
A lawful neutral character will keep his word if he gives it and will never lie. He may attack an unarmed foe if he feels it necessary. He will never harm an innocent. He may use torture to extract information, but never for pleasure. He will never kill for pleasure, only in self-defense or in the defense of others. A lawful neutral character may use poison as long as poison use is not illegal. He will help those in need only to advance the social order. 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. Lawful neutral characters respect the concepts of self-discipline and honor. (4)
Here are some possible adjectives describing lawful neutral characters: reliable, responsible, truthful, orderly, loyal, respectful of authority, regular, structured, rigid, neat, methodical, and precise.
Well known lawful neutral characters from film or literature include: Judge Dredd (Comics), Sergeant Friday (Dragnet television show), Percy Weasley (Harry Potter), and Cornelius Fudge (Harry Potter).
Equivalent alignment in other game systems: Road of Chivalry (Vampire), Law (Warhammer), Just and Honorable (Alternity).
The Ten Lawful Neutral Commandments
A list of Ten Commandments for a lawful neutral religion may look like this:
1. You shall not lie.
2. You shall not kill the innocent.
3. You shall not murder.
4. You shall help the needy if such action advances law and order.
5. You shall honor legitimate authority.
6. You shall follow the law.
7. You shall not betray others.
8. You shall not aid criminals.
9. You shall honor all oaths.
10. You shall promote unlimited order in society.
Ten Lawful Neutral Sins
Likewise, a lawful neutral religion may list the following as sins. This list is given in the order of least severe infraction to most severe.
1. Failing to alert the authorities of a crime.
2. Treating a peer with disrespect.
3. Placing personal desire above adherence to the law.
4. Breaking your word to your peer or ally.
5. Failing to assist allies in need.
6. Breaking a major law.
7. Failing to assist your superior when in need.
8. Treating a superior with disrespect.
9. Breaking your word to your superior.
10. Breaking a sacred oath or written contract. Aiding the forces of Chaos and Disorder.
The Lawful Neutral Adventurer
The following two lists detail common actions undertaken during "adventuring" that are considered honorable and dishonorable for the lawful neutral 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.
The following actions are honorable for this alignment:
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
Refusing medical treatment for the good of the party
Reporting illegal actions to the authorities
The following actions are dishonorable for this alignment:
Accused of crime (innocent or not)
Being taken prisoner
Convicted of a crime
Defeated by an inferior opponent
Fleeing a battle that's obviously going poorly
Fleeing a fight with a superior opponent
Fleeing a fight with an equal opponent
Killing a host who has provided you food or shelter
Rash or improper social behavior
Refusing a fair contest/challenge
Saving the life of another at great risk to own self
Taking an arrow or hit for someone else
Walking away from a challenge
Lawful Neutral and Society
A lawful neutral 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 aid family members in need if personal discomfort is required.
Will not betray a family member.
Has few close friends and would never betray those he has.
Is generally well liked by his community, but normally will not seek to improve the community.
Will support his nation when profitable to do so, but will not act against his nation if profitable.
Believes people deserve the treatment they are willing to endure.
Is not concerned with those less fortunate.
Will not harm others for profit.
A community with a lawful neutral government has a codified set of laws that are followed to the letter. Those in power usually insist that visitors (as well as residents) obey all local rules and regulations. In a lawful neutral society, The people are not only law-abiding, they are passionate creators of arcane bureaucracies. The tendency to organize and regulate everything easily gets out of control. In large empires there are ministries, councils, commissions, departments, offices, and cabinets for everything. If the region attracts a lot of adventurers, there are special ministries, with their own special taxes and licenses, to deal with the problem. The people are not tremendously concerned with the effectiveness of the government, so long as it functions.
Lawful Neutral and Other Alignments
Lawful Neutral vs. Lawful Good
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.
Lawful Neutral vs. Lawful Evil
Lawful evil and lawful neutral characters will have conflicts over the nature of laws. Lawful evil characters will support laws that further their own cause, normally meaning the gaining of wealth and power. They will want laws which ensure that their regime gets the upper hand in society. Any laws that oppress the weak will not concern them, unless they receive no benefits from this oppression. A lawful neutral character will resent a lawful evil character's attempt to control laws to benefit their own group. Lawful neutral characters want all laws to apply equally to everyone, for good or ill. They will also have contempt for the way that lawful evil characters use laws to injure or harass their enemies. To lawful neutral characters, laws exist to provide order and stability for society. To lawful evil characters, laws exist to elevate the strong and cunning to positions of power over others.
Lawful Neutral vs. True Neutral
Lawful neutral and true neutral characters are similar in their morality. Both of these types will tend to return the treatment they receive from others. They differ in their outlook concerning legitimate authority and the structure of society. True neutral characters believe that laws should be followed as long as the law benefits themselves. They will also follow laws out of fear of punishment. If they can break a law which does not support their self-interest, and there is a good chance that they will not be caught breaking the law, true neutral characters may break laws. However, true neutral characters prefer to follow the law, because usually it is in their best interest to follow laws. Lawful neutral characters follow laws not only for their own self-interest, but also because they believe that one should always follow the law, even laws that run counter to self-interest. The lawful neutral character takes issue with the true neutral because the true neutral character will readily admit that he mostly benefits from the law, but he will not go out of his way to support the law. True neutral characters feel that lawful neutral characters are too obsessed with established laws and customs to realize that they may be better able to support their own interests by advancing personal freedom as well as law and order.
Lawful Neutral, Lawful Good, and Lawful Evil
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.
How Lawful Neutral Views the Other Alignments
The chart below shows how Lawful Neutral views itself and the other eight alignments.
Honorable but Idealistic Neutral Good
Unreliable and Idealistic Chaotic Good
Dishonorable and Idealistic
Honorable and Realistic True
Realistic but Unreliable Chaotic Neutral
Realistic but Dishonorable
Honorable but Egoistic Neutral Evil
Unreliable and Egoistic Chaotic Evil
Dishonorable and Egoistic
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 who are morally neutral tend to see themselves as realistic. So-called "good" is actually an idealistic and naive philosophy in their eyes. Moral neutrals also eschew what they see as the radical egoism of darker, "evil" philosophies.
The Philosophy of Lawful Neutral
Lawful neutral is the philosophy that law and order are desirable ends in and of themselves. It is a philosophy of pure equitistic collectivism. This philosophy holds that the best way for all beings to pursue a rational self-interest is within the framework of a strong social order. By putting the needs of the state or social order ahead of individual desires, each being can advance the self-interest of the collective as a whole. Lawful neutral can also be associated with ethical equitism and natural law philosophies. As the philosophical "average" of altruism and egoism, equitism holds that harm to others should be minimized when advancing the self and that harm to the self should be minimized when advancing others.
Lawful neutral 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. Whether the social order supports altruistic actions or egoistic actions is of no concern to the followers of this alignment. Lawful neutral beings want the power of the state to be used to maintain the social order. Any form of justice that maintains the social order is desirable.
(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) Renaud, J.R. "Making law out of chaos." Dragon (#163). November 1990: 74-78.
(4) Parlagreco, Carl. "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme." The Dragon (#26). June 1979: 23.