The (L)awful (Good) Truth, Part 3

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Implementations and Habits

 

Up to this point the discussion on Lawful Good actions may have created a conundrum in how the literal interpretation works in the face of some of the examples presented thus far. It should be noted that characters in such circumstances come across as Lawful Good in all sorts of stories where these and other dubious predicaments exist. As such, we may have to rethink what is Lawful Good. Quite possibly how the alignment is implemented and the habits in question are will not suffice to explain the alignment in all situations.

In the last section, our Lawful Good character was born in a Lawful Evil nation. How does he live up to his beliefs without breaking the laws? This character is left with a difficult decision if we hold to the strict interpretation of the alignment. Two reasons for this: the protagonist in a story is the moral center of good and adages such as “the path of least resistance makes for crooked rivers and crooked men.” But it is clear the laws of the nation goe against the moral fibers of the character if he willingly follows them, right? Yet, if caught fallowing a Lawful Good deity, he would risk certain death, presuming he knows his god is LG and those sanctioned by the state are not.

The character is walking a fine line in searching for fellow worshippers in order to fulfill any desires of companionship. The risks are great on both sides. The character cannot attract too much attention and his would-be friends are going to be suspicious of his intents. After all, how do you trust when your nation’s laws promote ethics in opposition to yours? A lot of loyalty tests are likely to ensure as such groups will want to sniff out agents of the state before the secrets of the faith’s places of worship and meeting are disclosed. When lives and traditions are at stake, it’s prudent to be overly cautious.

Alternatively, the character could give the illusion of being a part of the social order. Such a character may go through the motions of the ownership of slaves. To keep the fiction alive, he could have the slaves scream out as the whip cracks above their heads. Granted this is a greater effort than just giving in and following the dictates of the law, but where’s the struggle that marks the story’s conflict? Heroes are supposed to struggle with these issues, stumbling along before conquering the temptation to conform to a system the audience feels is wrong. We wouldn’t care much for the characters if they didn’t take a stand, even if they ultimately realize they were wrong to challenge the system. We applaud them for taking a stand and asking the question along with the lumps earned from the attempt.

What is the key to winning an audience over in any medium? As hinted at above, it focuses on making the main characters sympathetic. The audience has to identify with the protagonist in order to foot for him or her. The challenge has to appeal to what the audi3nce wants to do but may not feel capable of doing in reality. It’s during the struggle that we begin to root for characters and hope the underdog wins in the end. After all, isn’t that a reason why people enjoy reading epic stories? The same holds true for epic quests in games right?

Habit can provide a power impetus for implementation of culture. After all what is tradition other than codified habits passed from one generation to another? So, an act done in the past, like enslaving a race bent on total destruction, may start out as a solution to a problem that no longer persists. When the legal or cultural codification governs how the habit cum tradition is to be performed, there is the kernel of the question “for what purpose does this rule still serve?” As a case in point, the traditions of the Lilliputians were ingrained habit for efficiency in egg consumption. Lawful cultures try to live orderly lives. To such ends were the Lilliputians a lawful society. And, if these are the habits that preserve the society, they become the traits that define the culture, especially when similarities between the two are so great that the smallest of contrasts are brought into the sharpest focus.

The adaptation of beliefs by governing bodies can follow similar principles. The political climate in America has grown ever more hostile in the past two decades (not that it hasn’t been heated before this time). As the two wings work to boil down their core beliefs into so-called “purer” concepts to define what they represent, what is really happening is a hyperfocusing on the scant differences between the parties. Replace the egg with the budget and the ends become the revenue sources the sides wish to tap. Ironically, both sides are trying to approach the same issue from a different vantage point. The Republicans have traditionally championed the concept in the adage of “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime” as their plan. Democrats concurrently urge the establishment of programs to provide immediate assistance to those in need. Before a person can “fish,” you have to help him or her out while the skills are learned. Both methods of implementation comply with the Constitution’s order to protect the citizens and, depending on your viewpoint, promote the greater good.

Personal agendas, perceptions, and a lack of cohesion within the parties have helped blur the lines and tinted the lenses through which observers within and without the parties see both groups. So, while the pervious comparison might not ring true to some, it doesn’t invalidate the point that the goals of the parties are rooted in the methodology described above. Time, human error, and entrenchment of rhetoric have led to the distortion of the two parties and the murky divisions between them. In part, this is because so little exists to separate them.

Turning to a real-world religion, Muhammad was a soldier. He was also a faithful adherent of the religion he founded: Islam. He stressed the belief that Islam must be the dominant faith –by the sword if necessary. This is what a paladin does in OGL games. In this context, Muhammad was a crusader, which is the one-word summation of the Lawful Good alignment. Through such conviction and crusade, he preached that others who believed in the “one true God” and accepted Islam as the true and dominant faith would be tolerated, even if they would not receive the same privileges as Muslims. The European crusaders did much the same. And both sides persecuted those who didn’t accept the Judeo-Christian god; yet, followers of each faith believe what they did was both lawful and promoted the greater good. As in reality, many settings have included a theocratic state, such as Fire Emblem: Path of Radience, Warhammer 40,000’s The Imperium of Man, and The Theocracy of the Pale in Wizard of the Coast’s World of Greyhawk. In the instance of the Theocracy of the Pale, there are many similarities with the tenets of Islam. The key difference seems to be that the real-world efforts to subjugate secularism and other faiths within nations have been more successful than their fictional counterpart. There is a crucial difference in the doctrinal approach of the Theocracy of the Pale, however. The point of all of this: Lawful Good religions can go on the offensive without the need to terrorize a land first. All that’s required is a threat to the faith and the potential of corruption by dissenting viewpoints that might destabilize the power structure.

In the end, what matters is that we can see that the habits and methods of implementation of laws and traditions can vary widely while seeming strange, and possibly chaotic, to another. The traditions or methods can slip from good to evil without vigilance, one of the problems that can creep into any system that doesn’t allow some dissent in criticizing any shifts in policy from the established order. Hence, even if the society isn’t Lawful Evil, those enslaved beings are still in a precarious position along with their overseers. No matter how the deviation occurs or the conditions for the original traditions have ceased to exist, you have a source of tension that can lead a Lawful Good character to question what others perceive as being Lawful Good.

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