Lawful Neutral: Tropes, Examples, and How to Best Use this Alignment

Dungeons and Dragons Character alignments began as a rule of thumb for building characters for use in the iconic game. However, with a greater acceptance of “nerd” culture, these tropes became engrained in our social awareness and are used everywhere in pop culture, from movies to video games.

There are nine primary D&D character alignment types. These are lawful neutral, neutral good, lawful good, chaotic good, lawful evil, neutral evil, chaotic evil, true neutral, and chaotic neutral.

Lawful neutral is an interesting alignment because they only care about the rules, whether good or bad.

What Does it Mean to Be Lawful Neutral?

Lawful neutral characters love rules and law. They will follow the rules of their organization to a tee, whether those laws are good or evil. They will arrest people for stealing food, but they will also arrest murderers. Lawful neutrals aren’t guided by a sense of morality or right versus wrong. They only care about the rules.

However, it’s important to note that lawful neutrals will not obey all laws. They believe rules are essential to the order of society and will gleefully follow and enforce laws from their side. However, if kidnapped, for example, they will not automatically obey the laws of an opposing viewpoint just because it’s the law where they are.

Personality Traits of Lawful Neutral Characters

Lawful neutral characters, like any, can have many different personalities. However, a few traits are common in most of these characters.

Obedient – Lawful neutrals will obey the laws and rules from their side

Strict – There is no spirit of the law. They will follow the letter of the law and expect others to as well

Authoritative – Lawful neutrals expect others to adhere to the law and enjoy an authoritarian environment where all rules are followed.

Honorable – Honoring their code is vital to lawful neutrals. They value honor above most other things. Their definition of honor is the strict adherence to the rules of whichever society they have aligned themselves with.

How to Play a Lawful Neutral Character

The main point to remember when playing a lawful neutral character is that the law matters. The letter of the law is the most critical aspect of this character’s motivations.

If you choose a lawful neutral character, you must follow the rules and the laws to a fault. Lawful neutrals also want everyone else to follow the law and will strictly enforce both just and unjust laws if in a position of authority.

Remember, though, that it’s not every law. Lawful neutrals have a strict code of honor. They are loyal to their set of laws and their personal code of conduct. Other systems of laws may hold no meaning for them. When playing a lawful neutral character, it’s essential to identify and define their backstory and who they work for so that you can ensure they always follow the laws of the system they support.

Character Classes and Races that tend to be Lawful Neutral

Though any character can be lawful neutral (or any alignment), monks easily lend themselves to this alignment. They enjoy the structure of being a monk and are well suited to obeying and enforcing a code of standards.

Examples of Lawful Neutral Characters in Fiction

Fictional characters are complex, like real people. Although they may trend towards a specific alignment, none will fit perfectly. Many traverse multiple alignments as they grow, which makes for compelling storytelling and excellent character development.

However, some fictional characters follow the trends closely enough to illustrate a character’s main aspects well. Here are a few examples of lawful neutral characters in fiction.

Principal Snyder

Principal Snyder, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, isn’t exactly an evil man. He doesn’t like students and makes that known, but he doesn’t want them to die. He wants them to follow the rules, and he doesn’t care whether those rules are just or not.

Many viewers will see Snyder as an evil character. But it’s important to note that he was on the Mayor’s side before he knew that the Mayor was evil and on a quest to become a demon. Sunder’s lawfulness could not abide by the Mayor eating students and destroying the school, as a school has rules that must be followed. Snyder stood up to the giant snake mayor’s unlawfulness and was ultimately killed.

Storm Troopers

The Storm Troopers from Star Wars are a classic embodiment of lawful neutral. Although they fit on the side of evil, evil is not their motivation. They are soldiers, cloned and bred for one specific purpose – to be soldiers and follow the Empire’s orders.

A Storm Trooper’s entire existence is to follow orders and enforce the Empire’s laws. They have no moral code and no sense of right or wrong. They are almost machine-like, unfeeling in the way they carry out their orders. Storm Troopers do what they are told because they are told to do it, which is the most simplified example of a lawful neutral character we can find.

Judge Dredd

Lawful neutral is often nicknamed “the judge” because their primary motivation is following the letter of the law. Judge Dredd is a classic embodiment of this archetype that leans towards the good.

Judge Dredd is primarily motivated by law and order. He will enforce the law by any means necessary. Dredd is judge, jury, and executioner while policing the streets, taking that responsibility seriously. He even arrests his own brother for corruption because his belief in the system of law and order is his supreme guiding force.

Character Alignments are Just Guides

Character alignments aren’t meant to be rigid. They are guides that will help you build your character for both Dungeons and Dragons and creative writing.

However, no character has to strictly follow any specific alignment. They are great starting points to help you determine your character’s goals, motivations, and actions, but you don’t need to adhere to them strictly. Use an alignment as a guide, and let your imagination fill in the gaps.