Discuss the Lawful-Chaotic scale

Joined: July 26th, 2017, 10:03 pm

June 13th, 2018, 1:33 am #1

So, DnD people and character creators often use a 2D scale :
1) The Good to Evil scale
2) The Lawful to chaotic scale

If the scale (1) does not need a lot of explanation,
it downed on me the the scale (2) can be seen as imprecise/imperfect.

Indeed, let's say you are talking about "altruistic monk Bob".
-> In an imperialist and repressive empire, Bob should be "Chaotic",
from his beliefs alone.
-> However, in a peaceful utopia, Bob should be "Lawful",
because there is no reason his belief might contradict the laws.

This is why I feel like the The Lawful to Chaotic scale,
is dependent on the setting and thus is not a true character trait.
Of course, a character might mostly be in one setting...

Then, I think it is interesting to consider a
"critic of law - indifferent to law" scale.
Basically : Is the character using its wits and belief to analyse laws ?

The idea is : (not) believing in laws because they mostly (don't) suit you
is not the same as
(not) believing in laws because they (don't) hold the society together.

In the end, I thought this concept should be a good discussion theme.
So, let's talk about what's defining a character, together.

Joined: April 29th, 2015, 3:44 pm

June 13th, 2018, 3:33 am #2

Amusingly, the lawful/chaotic scale is somehow both clearer and more confusing in French. You see, the word used for lawful is the same as the one for loyal, so it can be interpreted as both being a good follower of the law, or just someone who will always remain true to his word/beliefs and can generally be trusted to act in a similar manner when two situations are mostly the same. Since that's how I've learned it, I've pushed that way of looking at it in English too even though lawful doesn't technically include the latter part, simply because "follows the law or not" is far too vague and pointless since moving to a different city could switch a character from lawful to chaotic, but including loyalty to beliefs/self-given rules into the mix makes it a stable trait that means something even if it also makes it more vague at the same time. It's kind of a contradiction, which makes it even more amusing from the irony of making the word less specific, but the meaning itself becoming something more stable and, in a sense, more specific because of it.

From there, chaotic becomes the disorderly meaning of doing whatever you want whenever you want with no shackles from beliefs or attachments rather than just being a criminal, which sounds truer to the meaning of the word "chaotic" compared to simply not following the law.

With that little bit of trivia out of the way, I approve of your idea of moving to critical/indifferent to law for the sake of clarity, but I'd like to point towards a different and larger grid I've found online a long time ago. A 5x5 alignment chart that uses the following:

Those simply add the missing categories that would be awkward to place in the usual 3x3 chart. The good person would be a paragon of virtue, but a moral person wouldn't be opposed to doing evil for the sake of a greater good, while the corrupt wouldn't be malicious but only work for personal gain at the detriment of others if necessary, compared to evil who just enjoys watching others suffer. Comparatively, the lawful→chaotic scale becomes far more complex, as the lawful would strive to follow the laws of whatever place they are in no matter what, while the social would do whatever makes them accepted by society, which tends to be lawfulness but can sometimes branch out into non-lawful if society sees the law in a bad light(under dictatorships, for example). Rebel is where your altruistic monk example would come in, it might seem weird to have him closer to the side of chaotic, but rebel shouldn't be seen as an in-between neutrality and chaos. The rebel is someone with a fixed set of beliefs unrelated to any society. They will be lawful in a society of similar values, they will be criminals in one of different values, the point is, the rebel has fixed morals they follow religiously and no society or law will change that. And finally chaotic which is exactly what it says on the label, do whatever, whenever, because you feel like it or some other arbitrary reason like "it would be funny".

I honestly feel the 5x5 chart is the most representative thanks to the amount of variety and being more specific on what each label means, unlike the common 3x3 which either means nothing or ends up creating heavily stereotyped characters. Unfortunately, it was never used anywhere outside of some visibility in certain parts of the internet, so no widespread knowledge of it leads to it never being scrutinised or used since people would generally not recognize the added terms without a paragraph to explain them like I just did.

Rule of existence: Whenever luck is involved, somehow, somewhere, someone will get trolled by it.


Joined: July 19th, 2016, 3:17 am

June 13th, 2018, 4:37 am #3

If I remember correctly, the argument about the ruling party should apply far less than it does. Lawful-chaotic in D&D is supposed to be about a code of beliefs more important than the individual vs personal freedoms whatever, and whether that code is affected by the laws of the land...is more a problem for the Lawful side's specific codes and varies from lawful group to lawful group. Whether you are bound by honor and principles, or whether you openly reject such things and don't particularly value self-discipline.

Lawful Good can be both Law-leads-to-Good and Good-assisted-by-Law, or tilt more one way or the other as needed. It can range from seeking to change the law first and bring people to restrain themselves until it reaches the severity that direct intervention must occur. The specifics can be left up to the will of the people as long as they're relatively harmless, and if problems occur over things like marriages or gambling, it shall be dealt with at the scale needed.

Lawful Evil can be both unscrupled management that exploits the protection and grace of law to do as they please while being above indiscriminate destroyers, or those who are strong taking their control over the weak by law as well as force either out of belief others are unfit to rule.

Now, Lawful Neutral governs a lot of separate things. It governs people who value personal order/self-discipline/a code of rules to live by, people who value strong government/society's pressures and hierarchies/organization of a wider sort, and then those who are letter of the law over the spirit/order regardless of good or evil/unfeeling killbot ostensibly for justice/etc. People who view their honor or values as above anything else, people who view organization, government, and society above anything else, and people who simply abjectly uphold the Rules as they Are regardless of the good/evil carried out. They can all be separate things, and they may or may not align depending on whether their society imposes personal-first code or not. Perhaps slightly more aligned on the good-evil end of the axis when push comes to shove, but they're separate even on the same virtue axis.

I could see the 5-part scale being a thing, but we still need to sort out what the Law end is a bit more tightly. It's interesting that you place 'personal code' closer to the Chaotic end: maybe the axis would be more appropriate as 'society vs individualistic' because what the society is could change, with the apex of Society being stuff like colonial insects and those in favor of casteism, and the apex of Individualism being complete hermits? Then we have to deal with the 'but what society are we following?' problem in cases where someone is completely torn out of their context (i.e. zapped to a different world and told their home civilization's core parts got killed by meteors, which while not normally an issue in day to day life unless you really screw up might be a problem in the types of fantasies these axes tend to get invoked for) and include it in the definition one way or the other.

Criticism vs. Indifference could be an alternative axis, but it seems to have a mild intellect bias toward the Indifferent end. Smart people can go anywhere from dissection to achieving entirely new ways to not give a crap, but people who don't understand the context of the laws will often tend toward Indifferent simply because it takes them more effort and research to really understand. Additionally, where does 'neutrality' fall here? What about people whose support or disrespect of rules (the specific ideology or law/chaos in general, whichever) overrides their analysis? I wouldn't say 'indifferent' is an appropriate term.

What about people who are very focused on their own thing, is that neutrality? "I only pay attention to laws that I actually have to live with, I could care less what affects other demographics. If it affects me, I'll go pretty deep, but if it doesn't, I'll ignore it entirely."

I think we need to clarify which clusters of stuff are being fused together if we want to avoid an extra axis or 'alignment files disrespect of foreign cultures under good-evil lol'. Like D&D Law says 'I'm fusing both personal code above self and society above self regardless of code or society'.

EDIT: Edited repeatedly after rereading something.
Last edited by Nedben on June 13th, 2018, 4:44 am, edited 6 times in total.

Joined: May 28th, 2018, 6:21 pm

June 27th, 2018, 12:43 am #4

From what I've been told, the Law/Chaos scale is the one that works - it was when D&D added morality into the mix that things got messy. I'm not sure on the particulars though - a lot of this is hearsay from some of my friends. I'm not too big of D&D player, so take it with a grain of salt.