This post was last updated on April 8th, 2023
Hello, fellow D&D roleplayers and welcome to another article of the series dedicated to D&D Alignments.
Today’s topic revolves around the Lawful Evil alignment, which is one of the 9 alignments in Dungeons & Dragons and it’s often considered one of the most complex and intriguing.
Characters with this alignment are known for their compliance with strict codes and laws, but they also have a merciless and often cruel streak that differentiates them from more benevolent ones.
Many memorable villains from video games, films and anime fall under this slice of the alignments spectrum.
In this article, I’ll explore this alignment in depth, discussing what it means, how it differs from other alignments, what kinds of characters and creatures typically embody this alignment and some good tips for players.
Whether you’re a seasoned D&D player or a newcomer to the game, this article will give you a deeper understanding of the alignment and how you could better play a Lawful Evil character.
- What is Lawful Evil in D&D?
- Beliefs and Behaviour of Characters and NPCs
- Characters Examples
- Background Ideas for NPCs or Characters
- How to Play a Lawful Evil Character
- Examples of Lawful Evil character actions
- Why Play a Lawful Evil Character?
- Lawful Evil vs. Other Alignments
- Lawful Evil FAQs
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What is Lawful Evil in D&D?
Lawful Evil creatures methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order. Devils and blue dragons are typically lawful evil.Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook Edition 5.0
A Lawful Evil character is someone who believes in order and structure but is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.
They could be part of a larger organization, like a corrupt government or a criminal syndicate, and they’re willing to use that organization’s power to further their own interests. This can make for a complex and intriguing character, one who is not simply a mindless villain but rather a nuanced and multifaceted foe.
These kinds of characters are methodical and they believe that order and strict adherence to laws is the best way to realize their evil wishes, therefore it isn’t unusual to see a character with this alignment being a guard, a mercenary or a corrupted priest.
They are not afraid to use force or violence, but they will always do so in a calculated and methodical way.
Beliefs and Behaviour of Characters and NPCs
Lawful evil characters value the allegiances that they have with their cause, government, religion, or other organization.
They also value those individuals who can help them achieve their goals and they are willing to use any necessary means, including deception, manipulation, and violence.
LE characters believe that order and structure are necessary for society to function properly, therefore laws should be obeyed, but only when it serves their own interests.
They see themselves as the rulers of society and believe that their power should be absolute.
In popular culture, there are many examples of Lawful Evil characters. Here are a few examples:
|Darth Vader (Star Wars)||Darth Vader is one of the most iconic Lawful Evil characters. He’s a former Jedi who turned to the dark side and became a Sith Lord and Commander-in-Chief of the Galactic Empire. He’s ruthless in his pursuit of power and will stop at nothing to maintain the Empire’s control over the galaxy.|
|Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter)||Dolores Umbridge is a Ministry of Magic bureaucrat who uses her position of authority to enforce strict rules and regulations at Hogwarts School. She’s cruel and takes pleasure in punishing students who break her rules.|
|Admiral Akainu (One Piece)||Akainu is fiercely loyal to the World Government and believes in absolute justice, which means he’ll do whatever it takes to uphold the law. He’s willing to sacrifice innocent lives in order to achieve his goals and doesn’t have any hesitations about using brutal methods to get what he wants.|
Background Ideas for NPCs or Characters
- A king who rules his kingdom with an iron fist, enforcing strict laws and punishing any who oppose him.
- A corrupt bishop who uses his position of power to manipulate and control the masses, all while serving his own selfish interests.
- A band of mercenaries captain who will do whatever it takes to complete a mission, even if it means sacrificing innocent lives.
- A cold-hearted judge who follows the letter of the law to the extreme, often delivering harsh sentences to those who break even minor laws.
- A cunning lawyer who uses his knowledge of the law to bend it to his will, often representing clients who are guilty and getting them off on technicalities.
How to Play a Lawful Evil Character
Alignment and Roleplaying Tips
To start, it’s important to keep in mind that they’ll always prioritize their own interests above others. They may work with others if it benefits them, but they will not hesitate to betray or manipulate them if it suits their purposes.
They are also likely to be very calculating and methodical in their actions, always thinking several steps ahead.
One way to play a LE character is to give them a strong sense of loyalty or duty. They may be loyal to a particular organization or leader and will do whatever it takes to further their goals.
Challenges and Opportunities
Playing a LE character can present some unique challenges and opportunities.
They may be able to achieve their goals more easily than other characters, as they are willing to take extreme measures to achieve what they want.
However, playing a Lawful Evil character can also be an isolating experience as they may not have many allies or friends because they are often seen as untrustworthy or dangerous. They could also struggle with moral dilemmas, as their actions may conflict with their own twisted sense of morality.
Another challenge of playing a LE character is avoiding becoming too one-dimensional. It can be easy to fall into the trap of playing a cartoonishly evil character, but this can quickly become boring for both you and your fellow players.
Try to give your character some depth and complexity, and explore his motivations and backstory.
Examples of Lawful Evil character actions
Actions they would do
- Manipulate the legal system to gain power or influence
- Use fear and intimidation to control others
- Follow a strict code of conduct, even if it means committing evil acts
- Use others as pawns to achieve their own goals
- Work within the law to achieve their objectives, but also use the law to their advantage
Actions they wouldn’t do
- Act impulsively without considering the consequences
- Break their own code of conduct or betray their allies without a good reason
- Disregard the law completely, as this could lead to chaos and instability
- Show mercy or compassion to their enemies, as this could be seen as a weakness
- Act against their own interests or goals, even if it means sacrificing others
It is important to note that these actions are not set in stone, and LE characters can still surprise players and DMs with their decisions.
These actions could serve as a general guideline for players who are new to the game.
Why Play a Lawful Evil Character?
Playing such a character could be a unique and exciting experience for players who want to explore the darker side of roleplaying.
While it may seem counterintuitive to play a character that is both evil and lawful, this alignment can offer a number of benefits and challenges that can make for a compelling gameplay experience.
One of the main advantages of playing an evil character is that it allows players to explore the grey areas of human consciousness.
These characters are willing to bend or possibly break less important rules here and there in order to achieve their goals, and this situation could lead to interesting internal conflicts, as players must balance their own desires with the expectations of society.
Additionally, Lawful Evil characters can be excellent baits for other players in the party, because everyone may have different motivations and goals, which can lead to interesting interactions and conflicts.
This can help to keep the game fresh and engaging, as players must constantly adapt to the changing dynamics of the group.
Imagine playing a game where all the players are good. BORING!
Playing such a difficult character can also present some challenges. The worst and sure-to-happen one is that other players may see you with suspicion or even hostility. This can lead to tension, I’ve experienced it myself, and conflict that may detract from the overall gameplay experience.
In general LE characters are more difficult to play than other alignments, because of the constant balance of being lawful and evil at the same time, while trying to not be an a***ole towards the other party members/friends.
It could definitely be a rewarding challenge for experienced players, but it may be overwhelming for first-time players.
Lawful Evil vs. Other Alignments
Lawful Evil vs. Neutral Evil
Neutral Evil characters prioritize their own desires and interests above all else. Lawful Evil characters are often more methodical and calculating in their actions, while Neutral Evil characters may act impulsively or unpredictably.
Lawful Evil vs. Chaotic Evil
LE characters may work within the system to achieve their goals, while Chaotic Evil characters may cause chaos and destruction simply for the sake of it.
Lawful Evil vs. Lawful Good
These two types of characters both believe in order and structure, but they have very different ideas about what is right and wrong. Lawful Evil characters prioritize their own interests and may be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, while Lawful Good characters prioritize the greater good and may be more willing to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of others.
Lawful Evil vs. Neutral Good
Neutral Good characters prioritize doing what’s right and helping others. Lawful Evil characters may see Neutral Good characters as naive or weak, while Neutral Good characters may see Lawful Evil characters as cruel or heartless.
Lawful Evil vs. Chaotic Good
Chaotic Good characters prioritize individual freedom and doing what is right. Chaotic Good characters may see Lawful Evil characters as oppressive or tyrannical, while Lawful Evil characters may see Chaotic Good characters as reckless or irresponsible.
Lawful Evil vs. Lawful Neutral
Lawful Neutral characters believe in order and structure, but they are not necessarily concerned with morality or doing what is right. Lawful Evil characters may see Lawful Neutral characters as too passive or indecisive, while Lawful Neutral characters may see Lawful Evil characters as too rigid or inflexible.
Lawful Evil vs. True Neutral
True Neutral characters prioritize balance and neutrality, and they may not take sides in conflicts between good and evil. Lawful Evil characters may see True Neutral characters as weak or indecisive, while True Neutral characters may see Lawful Evil characters as too extreme or uncompromising.
Lawful Evil vs. Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Neutral characters prioritize individual freedom and may act unpredictably or impulsively. Lawful Evil characters may see Chaotic Neutral characters as too unpredictable or unreliable, while Chaotic Neutral characters may see Lawful Evil characters as too rigid or oppressive.
Lawful Evil FAQs
Can a Lawful Evil character work with a Good-aligned party?
Yes, a Lawful Evil character can work with a Good-aligned party, but it would require compromise and negotiation on both sides. Trust and cooperation would need to be established between the two sides, with the Lawful Evil character following the rules and guidelines established by the party, and the Good-aligned party being willing to overlook some of the Lawful Evil character’s shady tactics and actions.
Can Lawful Evil be good?
No, Lawful Evil can’t be considered “good” as it’s an alignment that prioritizes personal gain over the greater good a character with this alignment is willing to use any means necessary to achieve their goals, including deception and violence.
Can a hero be Lawful Evil?
It’s unlikely for a hero to be with this alignment, however, it’s possible for a character to have a complex and nuanced personality and still perform heroic actions.
How can LE characters justify their actions to others?
They may justify their actions to others by emphasizing their adherence to rules and order, and by arguing that their actions are necessary to achieve a greater good, such as maintaining stability or protecting their own interests. They may also use manipulation and deception to convince others that their actions are justified, even if they are motivated by personal gain.
Additionally, they may argue that their actions are necessary to maintain the status quo or to prevent chaos and anarchy.
Can LE characters ever find redemption?
LE characters would have to undergo a significant change in their values and beliefs and would need to prioritize others over their own self-interest. Therefore it may require a major event or a powerful influence to prompt this change. Possible but very unlikely.
What class and race are best for a LE character?
There aren’t “best” classes and races for a LE character as the alignment can be adopted by all of them.
Classes and races that prioritize intelligence, charisma, and/or manipulation, such as wizards, warlocks, rogues and tieflings, humans, drow may be particularly fitting for this alignment.