I was thinking of Lawful dragons originally but this question could apply to extra planar creatures and even Paladins visiting from another country. It also applies to followers of gods who might obey a "higher law."

Whose laws do they follow?

Let's take a Dragon who flies into the Neutral kingdom of Adventureland from the Dragon Kingdom. In the Dragon Kingdom it is a law that any dragon can be challenged to personal combat and the loser forfeits his lair. Also slavery is illegal. In Adventureland dueling is illegal and slavery is legal.

A Lawful Good dragon might decide slavery is bad and free the slaves of someone in Adventureland, claiming that his act was lawful because 1) slavery is against the laws of Good. 2) he challenged and defeated the slave owner as legal by the laws of his home. 3) self defense as he was attacked by the slave owner for no reason, honest. 4) I'm a dragon what are you going to do about it?

Would he do that though, if roleplaying his alignment correctly?

Now a Lawful Good paladin from Adventureland visits the Dragon Kingdom. He challenges and wins against an evil dragon and takes his stuff under Dragon Law, including the illegal slaves the evil dragon was keeping.

Is that right for the paladin? He violated the dueling law of his homeland. He's now the owner of illegal slaves. Under the laws of his homeland he's now responsible for his slave's care and feeding and it isn't legal to free them if they can't support themselves. In the Dragon Kingdom he's obligated to kick them loose to fend for themselves.

Or what if the slavery law of Adventureland conflicts with the laws handed down from the paladin's goddess? What is "lawful" for him?

Is that paladin pretty much not allowed to live in Adventureland since he can't follow the law and his goddess's definition of Good at the same time?

Now what happens if the paladin is sent by his goddess on a Crusade to free the slaves of Adventureland? This being war, even if it is a one-man war against his former homeland, he's now under what, no law but his own? That paladin could get pretty Judge Dredd it seems. Judge. Jury. Executioner. And still be Lawful even though just him and his goddess define the Law.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ This is far too broad and opinion-based. At the absolute minimum it'd need to specify an edition of D&D, since alignment is handled differently in various iterations of the franchise. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Dec 17, 2014 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


A lawful character abides by a specific set of rules, laws, or a particular code. Which rules, laws, or code the character follows is decided by the character at some point in time, either explicitly or implicitly.

A paladin, for example, follows a code in the form of a vow that he or she has taken. Most commonly, this is a vow to a Lawful Good god, but it doesn't necessarily need to be so in certain versions of D&D. A paladin sworn to never cheat, steal, lie, or harm others without cause and to maintain honor must live his or her life following those rules. This vow and the way the paladin upholds them stays constant, despite of the current land the paladin is in. In your examples, the paladin would do whatever fits with his or her vow and could even potentially break the laws of the realm if the laws of the realm were contrary to his or her personal dedication to the code. So yes, if the paladin's goddess sent him to free slaves, he will do so. He's dedicated to the law of his oath to his goddess.

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alignment_%28Dungeons_%26_Dragons%29#Lawful_Good:

Lawful Good characters, especially paladins, may sometimes find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to obey law or good when the two conflict: for example, in upholding a sworn oath when it would lead innocents to come to harm; or where legal injunctions conflict, such as between their religious law and the law of the local ruler.

In the Complete Scoundrel sourcebook for D&D 3.5, Batman, Dick Tracy and Indiana Jones are cited as examples of Lawful Good characters.

It's actually a common thing to pit Lawful characters (lawful good in particular) against the laws of society. Batman is definitely a good example of this. He has a code: stop crime, don't use guns, don't kill, etc. but the way that he carries out this code can come into conflict with local law enforcement at times. He isn't forced to abide by society's laws, just the laws that he chooses to dedicate himself to.

In short, a Lawful character obeys whatever laws they choose to, as long as they are dedicated to said laws/code/ethics/rules very consistently. Switching which laws you follow based on context is more of a neutral or chaotic character trait.


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