Character Alignment in Fantasy: From Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil

Explore the colourful spectrum of character alignments in fantasy fiction. From Lawful Good heroes to Chaotic Evil villains, discover how these archetypes shape narratives and deepen character development.

Today, we’re going to delve into the captivating world of character alignments in fantasy fiction.

You see, fantasy fiction isn’t just all fire-breathing dragons and chivalrous knights, it’s also a grand tapestry woven with intricate character threads.

And the tool that helps us sort these threads into a tidy, comprehensive pattern is what we lovingly call ‘character alignment.’

But, what is this character alignment tomfoolery, you ask?

Imagine a giant Sudoku puzzle.

On one axis, we’ve got the moral compass: good, evil, and of course, the fence-sitting neutral. On the other, we find the scale of obeisance to rules: lawful, chaotic, and, you guessed it, another neutral option.

It’s where these two axis intersect that we discover our character alignments.

The concept of character alignment hails from the granddaddy of fantasy role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons, and is used to define a character’s ethical and moral perspectives.

A character’s alignment isn’t just a label, it’s a fundamental part of their belief system, acting as a guideline for their actions, reactions, thoughts, and motivations.

Understanding these alignments can help readers to make sense of a character’s behaviour.

It aids in comprehending why a character might slay a dragon to rescue a princess, betray their best friend for power, or choose to sit out an epic battle to enjoy a pint at their local inn.

As such, character alignments are incredibly useful for readers and writers alike, as they help flesh out characters, giving them depth and dimension.

In the following sections, we’re going to journey into each specific alignment, exploring their quirks, understanding their motivations, and spotlighting examples from popular fantasy fiction.

From Lawful Good heroes to Chaotic Evil villains and all those intriguing folks in-between, we’re about to discover how these alignments shape the colourful, fantastical world of fantasy fiction.

GoodLawful GoodNeutral GoodChaotic Good
NeutralLawful NeutralTrue NeutralChaotic Neutral
EvilLawful EvilNeutral EvilChaotic Evil

Lawful Good: Unsung Heroes of Fantasy

In the top left corner of the character alignment sheet, with a shiny gold star for good behaviour, we find the Lawful Good character.

Lawful Good characters are morally righteous and abide by the laws and norms of society.

They’re the ones who, when faced with a moral dilemma, always go for the right thing, even if it’s as tough as a two-quid steak.

They’re the reliable ones, the steady Eddies and Edinas, always stepping up to the plate and swinging for justice.

“But, where’s the fun in predictability?”

Sure, Lawful Good characters may not have the madcap unpredictability of their Chaotic Neutral counterparts, but they’ve got something equally appealing—moral fibre.

They’re a beacon of hope, a shining light in the grimmest of times, embodying a sense of justice and righteousness that resonates deeply with us.

Take, for instance, Samwise Gamgee from ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

Reliable, brave, and always putting Frodo’s welfare before his own, even when Frodo’s about as cheerful as a rainy Bank Holiday.

Samwise, the loyal gardener, is a classic Lawful Good character, embodying the ideals of courage, friendship, and unwavering loyalty.

Another example is Ned Stark from ‘Game of Thrones.’

He’s a beacon of justice and morality in the midst of a realm mired in corruption and deceit.

His strict adherence to the law and moral codes is as consistent as a cup of Yorkshire Tea—always high quality, but not quite as entertaining as some of those with a bit more mischief in them.

While Chaotic Neutral characters are the ones who chuck the Monopoly board in the air when they’re losing, Lawful Good characters are the ones who meticulously count every note and ensure everyone’s got the correct change.

And we need these characters.

In a world where it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped, their unwavering moral compass guides us, reminding us of the power of honesty, integrity, and steadfastness.

Neutral Good Characters: The Unseen Heroes of Fantasy Fiction

In between the pillars of ‘Lawful Good’ and ‘Chaotic Good’, comfortably situated like a lovely country pub halfway through a Sunday walk, we find our ‘Neutral Good’ characters.

Neutral Good characters, you see, are a charming blend of righteousness and flexibility.

They are committed to doing what’s right, but aren’t as concerned about adhering to laws or bucking the system.

They’re like that mate who always recycles, but occasionally sneaks a Quality Street into the cinema.

They’re all about the greater good, but they don’t mind bending a rule or two to achieve it.

“But, what’s so great about a goody two-shoes?”

While the Neutral Good characters may not have the thrilling unpredictability of Chaotic Neutrals or the moral rigidity of Lawful Goods, they possess a captivating flexibility.

They’re the ‘pragmatic heroes,’ willing to do what’s necessary to achieve good, and that makes them a right interesting bunch.

Take, for instance, the beloved wizard, Albus Dumbledore from ‘Harry Potter’.

While he is generally a force for good, old Dumbles doesn’t mind bending a few school rules here and there, does he?

As long as it’s in the name of stopping He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, of course.

He embodies the Neutral Good alignment, maintaining a strong moral core whilst occasionally sidestepping the rules when necessary.

Then there’s Bilbo Baggins from ‘The Hobbit’, a quiet, peace-loving hobbit who steps out of his comfort zone (and the Shire) to do what’s right, even if it involves a bit of burglary.

He’s the epitome of a Neutral Good character, isn’t he?

Comfortably sitting between a saint and a scoundrel, doing what’s necessary for the greater good.

In a world that’s often as clear as mud, Neutral Good characters offer a refreshing middle ground.

They represent the balance that we often seek in our own lives—the desire to do good, without being bound too rigidly by the rules or slipping into utter chaos.

Chaotic Good Characters: The Unruly Heroes We Can’t Help But Love

In the realm of ‘good’ but on the side of ‘chaos’, we find the Chaotic Good characters, causing a ruckus and saving the day.

Chaotic Good characters are the mavericks of fantasy.

They’re driven by a moral compass as true as a Yorkshire terrier to its favourite toy, but they won’t let a silly thing like ‘rules’ stand in their way.

They’re the sort of characters who will pick the lock to a city’s gates to let in reinforcements, all while flashing a mischievous grin.

“But isn’t that just anarchy wrapped up in a hero’s cloak?”

Chaotic Good characters infuse the narrative with a thrilling unpredictability, while their steadfast commitment to doing good keeps us firmly in their corner.

Consider Robin Hood, the legendary socialist outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor.

He broke the law left, right, and centre, but always with the aim of helping those less fortunate.

He’s a top-notch example of a Chaotic Good character—a rebel with a righteous cause.

And who could forget everyone’s favourite smuggler, Han Solo from ‘Star Wars’?

He may not be one for protocol (or for paying his debts), but when push comes to shove, he always ends up fighting for the forces of good.

Chaotic Good characters remind us that sometimes, rules need to be bent to achieve a greater good.

They are the embodiment of moral flexibility, proving that it’s possible to remain on the side of good without always following the straight and narrow.

Lawful Neutral Characters: The Unswerving Champions of Balance

Tucked in the middle of the Lawful spectrum and neither good nor evil, we find our steadfast Lawful Neutral characters.

These characters are the epitome of structure and order.

They abide by laws, traditions, and personal codes with a dogged determination that makes a bulldog chewing a bone look positively lackadaisical.

But they’re not necessarily out to save the world or plunge it into darkness—they’re all about the balance, the fairness of it all.

“But isn’t that a tad dull?”

Lawful Neutral characters may not ignite the page with anarchic antics or saintly deeds, but they provide a crucial anchor in the fantastical storm.

They uphold the rules of the world, lending an air of realism and balance that’s as comforting as a mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s eve.

Take Stannis Baratheon from ‘Game of Thrones.’

Now there’s a bloke who sticks to the rules, even if it won’t make him the life of the party.

His rigid adherence to the law, without leaning towards good or evil, makes him a classic Lawful Neutral character.

And consider Judge Dredd, the iconic comic book character who serves as judge, jury, and executioner in the dystopian future city of Mega-City One.

He’s not out to serve personal morality or malevolence, but simply to enact the law, making him a solid Lawful Neutral chap.

Lawful Neutral characters remind us that not everything is about good vs evil.

Sometimes it’s about maintaining balance, upholding traditions, and sticking to one’s principles.

They’re the steadfast lighthouses in the chaotic seas of fantasy narratives, guiding the story with their unwavering dedication to order and fairness.

True Neutral Characters: The Balanced Conduits of Fantasy Fiction

Bang in the centre of our character alignment square, refusing to take sides like a well-behaved football referee, we find our True Neutral characters.

True Neutral characters are the epitome of balance.

They’re not overly concerned with moral standings or societal norms.

They’re the types who’d happily sit on a seesaw all day, making sure neither end touches the ground.

Their primary concern isn’t with good, evil, law, or chaos, but with neutrality and equilibrium.

“But doesn’t that make them as bland as unbuttered toast?”

True Neutral characters may not blaze a trail of heroism or villainy, but their dedicated impartiality provides a unique perspective that’s as intriguing as a twist in an Agatha Christie novel.

Consider, for instance, the enigmatic Tom Bombadil from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

This whimsical character lives in harmony with nature and shows a conspicuous indifference to the power of the One Ring.

He’s neither swayed by its evil, nor particularly invested in the quest to destroy it.

Bombadil is a classic example of a True Neutral character, following his own beat without getting tangled in moral or societal knots.

Another fine example is Dr. Manhattan from ‘Watchmen,’ who observes the world with an almost aloof detachment.

He doesn’t bend to human morals, laws, or chaos, but rather maintains an absolute neutrality, making him a brilliantly engaging True Neutral character.

True Neutral characters, in their refusal to pick sides, remind us of the importance of balance.

They’re the tranquil centre in the maelstrom of fantasy narrative, providing a counterpoint to the grand battles of good and evil, law and chaos.

Chaotic Neutral Characters

Moving to the middle-right square of the character alignment Sudoko, we find the Chaotic Neutral characters.

They’re a right ‘mish-mash,’ aren’t they?

Neither good nor evil, neither lawful nor completely disregardful of rules.

They’re guided by their whims and desires, and they don’t fancy being shackled by rules or a dogged determination to do the ‘right thing’.

These are the ‘bloody hell, what are they going to do next?’ type of characters.

The ones that make the audience shout, “You did what, mate?!” at their telly, Kindle, or maybe even an actual physical book if you’re a bit old school.

But why do we love these unpredictable rapscallions?

It’s simple, isn’t it? They’re unpredictable, cheeky, and bring a breath of fresh air to the classic hero-villain narrative.

They’re like that one unpredictable mate in your group, the one who might show up at the pub wearing a tuxedo or maybe just their pyjamas. They keep things exciting.

Traditional heroes are predictable.

You know they’ll always do the right thing, the honourable thing.

They’re like a comforting, predictable old British weather. “Oh look, it’s raining… again.”

You know what’s coming, and it’s mostly, well, rain.

In contrast, the chaotic neutral character is like a whirlwind trip to the local fair.

They’re the candy floss, the rickety roller coaster, and the dodgy bloke who scams you at the ring toss.

They’re an entire experience packaged into one unpredictable and compelling entity.

Take, for example, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. A veritable poster boy for the chaotic neutral alignment.

He’s self-serving, unpredictable, but he’s entertaining as hell.

Is he going to save the day or nick the treasure and do a runner?

Who knows, but we can’t wait to find out!

Another such character is Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series.

Now there’s a gent who doesn’t give two hoots about laws or social order.

He’s an absolute rogue—but with that irresistible charm and quick wit, we can’t help but cheer him on, even when he’s pickpocketing the city’s elite.

Lawful Evil Characters: The Dark, Orderly Titans of Fantasy Fiction

At the intersection of orderliness and a decidedly wicked agenda, we find our Lawful Evil characters.

Lawful Evil characters are the meticulously organised villains of the fantasy world.

They’ve a grand evil scheme, sure, but they also have a five-year plan, colour-coded spreadsheets, and a solid retirement strategy.

They adhere to a set of rules and codes, even if their ultimate aim is as friendly as a wasp at a picnic.

“But isn’t that just a rather fussy baddie?”

Lawful Evil characters may not be the anarchic villains of nightmares, but their cunning, organisation, and adherence to their own codes make them captivating figures to follow.

Take Tywin Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones’ as a prime example.

He might not be the sort to cackle manically in a dark tower, but his ruthless dedication to family legacy, power, and order embodies the Lawful Evil alignment.

He is a villain with principles and rules, making him an intriguing and complex character.

Another shining (or should we say, shadowy) example is Lord Voldemort from ‘Harry Potter.’

Despite his unquestionable evil, he still adheres to certain rules, showing respect for ancient wizarding laws and customs.

This complex mix of evil and lawfulness makes him a character we love to hate.

Lawful Evil characters are the dark stars of the narrative cosmos.

They may be the baddies, but their respect for order, laws, and personal codes adds layers of complexity, making them deeply compelling.

Neutral Evil Characters: The Self-Serving Strategists of Fantasy Fiction

Nestled between chaos and order on the evil axis, we discover Neutral Evil.

Neutral Evil characters are the opportunistic pragmatists of the fantasy realm.

They have an agenda as sour as a week-old lemon, but they aren’t fussed about obeying laws or inciting anarchy to achieve it.

They’re about as loyal as a tomcat on the prowl and won’t let anything, or anyone, obstruct their path to power.

“But aren’t they just nasty without a cause?”

Neutral Evil characters may not champion a cause or adhere to strict rules, but their crafty manoeuvres and flexible morals make for a riveting read.

Take Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish from ‘Game of Thrones’ as an exemplar.

His moral compass is as reliable as a chocolate teapot, but he’s not exactly a rabble-rouser either.

He’ll scheme, manipulate, and play all sides to get what he wants—a classic Neutral Evil tactician.

And who could forget the White Witch from C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Chronicles of Narnia?’

She’s not about upholding order or fomenting chaos; she’s simply after power and will use deceit, magic, and a particularly tempting Turkish delight to get it.

Neutral Evil characters, with their flexible strategies and personal agendas, add a hefty dose of intrigue to the narrative stew.

They’re the self-serving schemers that keep us guessing, proving that sometimes, the middle road can be the most treacherous one.

Chaotic Evil Characters: The Unpredictable Malefactors of Fantasy Fiction

Where chaos and wickedness converge, we unearth our Chaotic Evil characters.

Chaotic Evil characters are the unrestrained villains of the fantasy world.

They’ve got a moral compass that spins more wildly than a child on a sugar rush, and a respect for rules that’s about as sturdy as a paper umbrella.

They’re the wild cards of malevolence, pursuing their own selfish desires without a jot of regard for law, order, or the well-being of others.

“But isn’t that just being unpleasant without any trousers?”

Chaotic Evil characters may not be tied to rules or causes, but their anarchic villainy creates unpredictability that’s as addictive as a bag of sherbet lemons.

Consider the inimitable Joker from the Batman franchise, a character who takes pleasure in sowing chaos and relishes his own unpredictable malevolence.

With no respect for laws or other people’s well-being, he embodies the Chaotic Evil alignment in all its unsettling glory.

Another sterling example is Bellatrix Lestrange from ‘Harry Potter.’

This lady isn’t exactly what you’d call a stickler for rules, and her wickedness is as untamed as her hair.

Chaotic Evil characters, in their unbridled pursuit of their own whims and desires, infuse the narrative with a volatile energy.

They’re the stormy seas in the voyage of a fantasy narrative, unpredictable and dangerous.

The Fluid Spectrum of Character Alignments: A Conclusion

As we reach the end of our journey through the varied alignments of fantasy fiction, it’s time to set down our tea and contemplate what we’ve learned.

From the righteous Lawful Good characters to the untamed Chaotic Evil personas, and the delightful mix of characters in-between, it’s clear that these alignments provide a framework to understand and predict character actions.

They’ve given us insight into the motivations behind our favourite characters, shedding light on the underpinnings of their choices and behaviours.

However, it’s important to remember that just as the bumblebee doesn’t exclusively stick to one flower, characters needn’t be bound by a single alignment for their entire existence.

Indeed, one of the great joys in fiction is observing character development, which can often involve a shift in alignment.

Consider Jaime Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones.’

He starts as a seemingly clear-cut example of a Lawful Evil character, but throughout the series, we witness a dramatic character arc.

As his story unfolds, he moves away from the ruthless dedication to his family’s power, towards a more morally complex identity, embodying aspects of the Neutral and even Lawful Good alignments.

In a similar vein, characters might temporarily adopt different alignments in specific situations, providing depth and flexibility to their characters.

This fluidity of alignment keeps readers on their toes, preventing characters from becoming as predictable as rain in a British summer.

So, as we come to a close, let’s raise our last cup of tea to the rich tapestry of character alignments.

Whether you’re a writer looking to flesh out your characters, or a reader seeking to delve deeper into the worlds you love, understanding character alignments is a tool as useful as a compass for an adventurer.

And remember, the best characters, much like a well-brewed cup of English breakfast, are a blend of several elements, making them all the more delightful to savour.

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