Lawful Evil

Lawful Evil


A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct
without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order, but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises. This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped).
They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains. Some lawful evil people and creatures commit themselves to evil with a zeal like that of a crusader committed to good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a
duty to an evil deity or master. Lawful evil represents methodical, intentional, and
organized evil.

What does this mean to me?

There are 4 styles of Lawful-Evil.

  • those who believe in civic order, and are the villains who believe either in keeping order and control at all costs, or that it’s much easier to become ruler of the world by exploiting the existing system than by tearing it down and starting anew. Maybe they like to rule with an iron fist, or publicly playing by rules gives them enough Good Publicity to get away with their evil schemes. If the villain is supreme ruler of their realm, then they are probably either Lawful Evil or The Caligula. This is the canonical alignment of devils in Dungeons & Dragons. Lawful Evil can be the most dangerous alignment because it represents intentional, methodical and frequently successful evil. More than likely megalomaniacal sorts out to “restore/maintain order” by — you guessed it — Taking Over The World.

  • baddie with a code of honor (personal order) that prevents them from doing truly heinous things, or at least keeps them focused and disciplined. Often a Pragmatic Villain. This code of honor sometimes leads to the Type 2 conflicting with Type 1’s when their values and codes conflict with those of main-stream society. This does not make them Chaotic. Types 2’s do have a sense of order, just not the one that society at large possesses. If this is the case, expect the Type 2 to be a Byronic Hero or Übermensch. They typically value loyalty in their minions and possess Evil Virtues, and tend to be reliable allies in an Enemy Mine situation where alignments would fizzle out. The second type tends to either perform a Heel-Face Turn or suffer death by redemption. The alternative is that they ultimately choose evil over this and cross the Moral Event Horizon. Note that these two types are not mutually exclusive.

  • Perhaps they lack the same pure drive that the Big Bad has, or maybe they’re just not quite as smart, but they both do what they are told or do what they say that they are going to do, taking the most straightforward and efficient means of accomplishing the task they set out to do. They’re a genuine threat, but they’re not the real danger. If they’re loyal to the Big Bad then they take orders without any problems, and they obey the Big Bad without any complaints. If the villains are going to be killed off, you can bet this guy is going to go down with the Big Bad. They are not The Starscream because of their loyalty to their boss, but they’re just as mean in real life as they are at their job, so they’re not a Punch Clock Villain either. Type 3 may work temporarily with The Hero if the Big Bad goes temporarily nuts, but this isn’t a Heel-Face Turn, as they will go straight back to their boss once it’s all sorted out.

  • a common case of characters that simply hate freedom and will enslave people out of malice, or those who get their jollies from imposing ridiculously harsh rules with even more ridiculous consequences for breaking them. (Not totally arbitrary rules, though, that goes over to Chaotic.) Dystopia Justifies the Means can fall under this category and they use law and order principally as instruments of suffering and oppression for its own sake and not (just) that of power or running The Empire efficiently. They might keep up appearances of a Noble Demon but at best they will abuse the hell out of Exact Words and at their worst they will flat out lie and cheat in spite of it. Most Lawful Evil characters in Dungeons & Dragons are this type including Hextor, the iconic god of Lawful Evil. Darkseid is the classic example of this sort of villain and demonstrates just why it is the worst of the Lawful Evil types.

Examples from media

  • Darth Vader
  • The senior house slave Stephen in Django Unchained is utterly devoted to his master and wholeheartedly upholds the institution of slavery.
  • Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

Lawful Evil

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