Friday, May 22, 2015

I Love Lawful Stupid

I am going to hop on the bandwagon and throw my two cents worth at the alignment question asked over at Tenkar’s Tavern. It should be obvious to anyone who has read this blog over the years that alignment is an important part of the game to me, since I have spilt so much digital ink on the subject; however, I am not going to re-tread over that ground. Rather, I’d like to spend some time with the phrases, “Lawful Stupid” and “Chaotic Selfish.”

As a player and as a GM/Referee/DM/whatever I love “Lawful Stupid” characters and I find “Chaotic Selfish” characters to be utterly boring. It is much more challenging as a player to bring a Lawful Stupid character to life in a meaningful way. The choices they make and the reasons they make them are often alien to even to my own predilections. As such, they push me as a player — especially if I want this Lawful Stupid character to find a way to survive holding the bridge from a small army of goblins as the party gets away with the prisoners we’ve just rescued. That is fun to me — finding that creative balance between fulfilling the Lawful Stupid role and finding a way to accomplish some of the primary goals of the typical player — survive, get enough treasure to level up, etc.

Just going around a world being chaotically selfish is neither challenging nor particularly very fun. From a player POV, it is so easy to do and I’ve done it so many times that I am not really interested anymore.

From the perspective of a GM/Referee/DM/whatever, my favorite aspect of the game is seeing how my worlds interact with player action. Lawful Stupid characters are the ones most likely to have the greatest impact — even in death. Think about how many Lawful Stupid people the world lionizes verses the billions of Chaotic Selfish people that we bump into every day. My worlds evolve and become living things when Lawful Stupid characters do their thing — most especially when they are creative about it. All Chaotic Selfish characters do is allow the status quo to be the status quo.


  1. I had a DM who was surprised when most of us rolled up Lawful characters in one campaign figuring wekd be typicla chaotic greedy but we weren't.
    We wanted to play the good guys but we knew Lawful characters could still be heroic, maybemre so.
    Lawful characters challenge people to fair(ish) fights. They agree to meet on the field of battle at midmorning in 8 days with 200 men and no fireball wands, give warning to an out/classed foe it is best to surrender (when not making things worse by doing so). War is declared by sending messengers with white flags that are not butchered. Jousting for suis of armor and securing the goods of a knight who dies in such a challeneg so they may be returned to an heir (as only the armor was up for grabs). All that sort of stuff is playing lawfully without being stupid.

    1. I would agree with your sentiments; however, I would also argue that the term "Lawful Stupid" is regularly used to describe exactly the kind behavior you outline here.

    2. I think I'm Lawful or at leas. en joy the opportunity to play games in a setting where behavior can be defined by lawful expectations. sure ene can play a heinous pilfering criminal in such a setting but they should expect to be treated as such
      I often wondr why so many DMs don't have the peope in a campaign. treat Chaotic outcasts as outcasts.

  2. Around here (ie in my play circles) the term Lawful Stupid refers to the Paladin who steps out of the room to make a sandwich, and returns to find the the prisoners have all slit their own throats rather than talk, and says "OK" and moves on. Generally, being Lawful and accepting any excuse from the rest of the party to cover up their un-lawful behavior.