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Law vs Chaos

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
I see Robin Hood as potentially Lawful Good. he had a code of honor he stuck to, tried to do right by everyone. He remained loyal to the rightful king. Rob from the rich, give to the poor is certainly good.

Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham are what happen when you get Chaotic Evil rulers of a basically Lawful Good society. They are also examples that Chaotic Evil does not have to mean wildly disorganized and psychotic evil.
 

RadioKen

well versed in chalupa law
RPGnet Member
Validated User
To me the Lawful vs Chaotic dichotomy (for personal alignment as opposed to cosmic, that is) only really makes sense when the core issue is about authority and institutions. A personal code is fine in a chaotic context, that's you following your truth and it's all good. But when you start accepting somebody else's authority to govern your (and other people's) behavior, whether it's one person or an institution or a deity, you're moving towards the domain of Law.
 
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Marc17

Registered User
Validated User
I'm going to disagree. Both Law and Chaos can have authority and institution, but it has more to do with how they come by that authority. Lawful institutions are typically based on something like laws, honor, or traditions that define them. Chaotic institutions are usually about doing what the person above you says, or else! The Nazis are a prime example of a chaotic force taking over a lawful society. Propaganda was developed to lie to the German people to control them, but even when they could rubber stamp any law they wanted, they didn't bother. They just gave orders and anybody who argued would just be removed.

Another way to look at it is if they are lawful, it can probably be codified or understood what they want and how to deal with them. They will act in a certain way. When a Modron shows up, some wizard should be able to look up in a book and find out the reasons they might be there, how to interact with them, and ways to pacify them. When a Slad shows up, nobody really knows. It's probably just working on the orders given to it which might be to ask politely or it might be to attack without response.
 

RadioKen

well versed in chalupa law
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'm going to disagree. Both Law and Chaos can have authority and institution, but it has more to do with how they come by that authority. Lawful institutions are typically based on something like laws, honor, or traditions that define them. Chaotic institutions are usually about doing what the person above you says, or else! The Nazis are a prime example of a chaotic force taking over a lawful society. Propaganda was developed to lie to the German people to control them, but even when they could rubber stamp any law they wanted, they didn't bother. They just gave orders and anybody who argued would just be removed.
But isn't that mostly just stealing other people's institutions and wearing them like a skin suit? (Not that the Party didn't have its own organizations, but those were mostly copied or adapted from the Lawful society it arose in.)

I am also inclined to think, at the risk of falling into no-true-scotsmanism, that the moment you've actually accepted somebody's authority over you, as opposed to obeying only because you fear punishment, you've taken steps toward lawfulness.

Another way to look at it is if they are lawful, it can probably be codified or understood what they want and how to deal with them. They will act in a certain way. When a Modron shows up, some wizard should be able to look up in a book and find out the reasons they might be there, how to interact with them, and ways to pacify them. When a Slad shows up, nobody really knows. It's probably just working on the orders given to it which might be to ask politely or it might be to attack without response.
Now we're dealing with cosmic rather than personal or social alignment, and I think trying to keep the two consistent is a road to madness.
 

Grumpygoat

Give a damn
Validated User
A strong part of the reason why I define Law as believing in, supporting, and working within institutions, while Chaos is about personal bonds is that it skips the problem of, say, a rebel cell where the people clearly do have a leader that they willingly follow. Or a traveler entering a new nation where they have no idea about the laws. Because a lot of the ideas that get wrapped up in lawfulness and chaos don't actually work well otherwise. A rebellion doesn't go anywhere if it's not organized and if there's no hierarchy. Freedom - to a strong degree - relies on laws to protect it. Similarly, law requires a lot of interpretation and, because no one can know 100% of all laws in a sufficiently codified society (particularly since lawfulness shouldn't be based on education), there needs to be something more integral about being lawful than just obeying laws.

And, within this context, a Chaotic society could still have institutions...but they're pretty much just a thin veneer over nepotism, personal relationships, and myriad other ways that subvert any of the factors that should be important to an institution.
 

Patchwork

Registered User
Validated User
I am also inclined to think, at the risk of falling into no-true-scotsmanism, that the moment you've actually accepted somebody's authority over you, as opposed to obeying only because you fear punishment, you've taken steps toward lawfulness.
I'd see that depending on so many things that can make it go both ways. A more lawful aligned person following the 'authority' because the persons positions makes it justified in their mind. While someone more chaotic might accept the 'authority' because of the person in question and not their actual position or title. Goes back to the group vs the individual for me.
 

Lukas Sjöström

Society of Unity scholar
Validated User
I feel that no matter the actual fidelity to the legal system, the fascist ideology contains enough ideas that I'd classify as lawful: loyalty and willingness to sarifice oneself for the race or nation being paramount virtues, dislike of ambiguity and love of categorisation, highly conformist and conventional in its rejection of "degenerate art" or people defying traditional social norms, hierarchy seen as a function of the natural order and not just caused by current power dynamics, an obsessive need to maintain clear boundaries between groups of people, etc.

In general, every direction of the alignment compass is likely to contain some internal contradiction. Lawfulness encompasses both traditionalism and legalism, even when these are at odds with another, but that is no more strange than goodness encompassing both forgiveness and justice, even when these virtues might clash. Thus, even beings of pure Law might be focused on different parts of what that means, which will of course cause no end of trouble if they encounter each other.
 

RadioKen

well versed in chalupa law
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'd see that depending on so many things that can make it go both ways. A more lawful aligned person following the 'authority' because the persons positions makes it justified in their mind. While someone more chaotic might accept the 'authority' because of the person in question and not their actual position or title. Goes back to the group vs the individual for me.
That follows, with the slight caveat that it should also include fundamental agreement about goals and not merely admiration of a leader's personal qualities.
 

Borbetomagnus

Head Redcap
RPGnet Member
Validated User
For what it's worth, here's one gamer's explanation of the D&D Alignment System.

It's good to read for reference and input into how you decide implement the alignment system in your d20/f20 game. This is a good discussion thread and offers perspectives on how alignments can be interpreted, and used in your game(s). Overall, the right way to do it is your way.

In my d20 games that use alignment I tend to boil down the Law and Chaos alignment spectrum from adherence to imposed rules, regulations, authorities, static concepts, and man-made institutions as aspects of Lawful alignment. Chaotic alignment is defined by tendencies toward working with an inherently changing natural environment, where social institutions with experts (authorities) are fluid and created as the need arises.

I tend toward using the Allegiance system of Elric!/Stormbringer in my d20/f20 games. In my opinion it offers a system that facilitates role-play where allegiance to the concepts of Law, Balance, and Chaos, take a prominent role in the campaign. I see D&D's alignment system restrictive in the sense that entities don't change their alignment, or it only happens rarely.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
It's tricky if not impossible to come up with an axis where Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral are all distinct and equally viable and praiseworthy/defensible. (Vs. axes where one is basically wrong, like Chaos being disorganization or insanity.)

One I came with is personality bias: sensible people will obey rules that make sense and subvert or disregard rules that don't or that are morally offensive. But what if you have no idea why a rule exists? Lawful people would tend to obey it until proven senseless, while Chaotics would tend to disregard it until proven justified.

But that doesn't leave room for Neutral to be much of anything, and is hardly comprehensive or worth a cosmic conflict.
 
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