Want to know all about the Lawful Evil alignment? You’re in the right place! This article explains the Lawful Evil character alignment, how to play it, and lists character examples.
Keep reading for Lawful Evil traits, character background ideas, how Lawful Evil compares to the other alignments, what their favourite quotes might be and insults they might give out!
Lawful Evil definition
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 and promises. This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly from those who oppose him on moral grounds.Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook Edition 3.5
‘Lawful’ and ‘Evil’
All the alignments in the nine-point D&D chart have two main aspects. The first word in the alignment, ‘Lawful’ refers to that perspective on order and its role in society and individual’s lives. The second word ‘Evil’ describes that alignment’s morals on the Good and Evil axis.
A Lawful character follows the rules, respects hierarchy and believes in power given by society and organizations. Lawful characters believe in honour, following traditions and being trustworthy. They have faith in rules because they are how you create a functioning society where everyone acts in the way you expect.
While they may sound noble, Lawful characters can be dogmatic and inflexible and blindly follow the rules even if they make no sense. They can harshly judge others that don’t follow the same rules and place their loyalty to the system above their loyalty to friends and family. They can even follow the rules because they give them a means to manipulate others.
Characters aligned with Evil will kill others, cause them harm and make them suffer. They do not feel remorse for their actions and will strike down anyone, whether those people are innocent or not.
Characters may be aligned with Evil for many different reasons. For example, it could be because they follow an Evil deity, they work for an Evil master, or because they enjoy it.
For a Lawful Evil character, ‘lawful’ does not necessarily mean legal rules. Lawful Evil characters are often outlaws, tyrants and criminals but they follow their own code. An assassin who is part of an assassin’s guild, dictators and corrupt government members are likely to be Lawful Evil.
A Lawful Evil character views themselves as above other unruly criminals. They are part of an ordered system with codes, honour and often strict hierarchies. They carry out evil acts but they do it according to a carefully constructed set of rules and oaths. For a Lawful Evil character, following these codes and keeping their promises is just as important as it is to a Lawful Good character.
The codes they follow might prevent them from killing children for example, but mercilessly killing their parents is allowed. Even though murdering their parents is a diabolical act, a Lawful Evil character will not see any issue with this. They are unlikely to do it out of enjoyment or passion (though some Lawful Evil might), they are more likely to do it because they are ordered to and they will gain reputation or other rewards for it.
Hierarchy is important to a Lawful Evil character. It is how the strongest rise to the top to lead everyone else. It means that the weakest people are at the bottom of the hierarchy which is where they deserve to be. If they want to rise up, they need to be stronger and prove themselves. That is the only fair way to decide.
A Lawful Evil character will respect and follow those above them. However, they would usually like to be promoted within their order and lead others. They may follow the system because they can use their position within it to manipulate and control others.
The Lawful Evil leader better watch their back though. If at any time they are perceived as weak by their followers, or they start acting out of line with the codes, they may have a mutiny on their hands! Followers will deem them unworthy to lead and will displace them and elect a new, more powerful leader that follows the code.
Because Lawful Evil characters often live within a structured hierarchy, as they progress through the ranks they will have their servants and lower status members carry out terrible acts for them.
Lawful Evil characters are likely seen by those outside of their order as evil, but the Lawful Evil character might not perceive themselves that way. They might think they are doing what is right for society and the world. To them, they could be using brutality to bring peace to the kingdom, or oppression to keep everyone in their place so that society works as it should.
Some Lawful Evil characters might be aware that what they are doing is evil, but they hide behind their codes and laws to justify their actions. As they progress through the ranks of their order, they may get their underlings to do the most heinous acts for them, to further distance themselves from evil.
The longer a Lawful Evil character is involved in their order, the more evil acts they have committed and the harder it is for them to leave. If they leave, what will protect them from society seeking justice for all the Evil they have committed?
A Lawful Evil system is enforced with brutality. Anyone who doesn’t follow their code, acts out of line, or even is of a different race, class or social standing will be punished. Lawful Evil characters feel no guilt, mercy or remorse for causing harm to others in this way.
Lawful Evil alignments are particularly bad because Evil combined with order and structure, often leads to very powerful Evil movements and oppressive regimes of dictators and tyrants.
Some Lawful Evil characters become obsessed with spreading their evil order that they will enjoy spreading evil for evil’s sake. Others will follow a deity and everything they do is to please them.
Other Lawful Evil characters may take pleasure in using the existing legal system to take down those that get in their way. Usually, though, they see the current societal system of law and order as preventing the strong from rising to the top of society.
Lawful Evil character examples
Lawful Evil characters are called the ‘Dominator’ in the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook Edition 3.5. You can see why. They are the characters of organized evil, those who are part of an oppressive regime where they can hide behind the rules of their order to commit evil acts. Organized evil is terrifying as it can lead to widespread, oppressive regimes.
Lawful Evil female character examples
- Delores Umbridge (Harry Potter)
- Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
- Princess Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Lawful Evil male character examples
- Darth Vadar (Star Wars)
- Lex Luther (DC Comics)
- Dr Horrible (Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)
Lawful Evil traits
Personality traits will differ from character to character, but there are some that are more often associated with Lawful Evil characters.
Lawful Evil personal code
For a Lawful Evil character, the codes they follow are of utmost importance. The personal code for a Lawful Evil character might look like this.
- I will not betray my allies and superiors.
- I will follow my personal code above all else.
- I will respect and obey the authorities that I recognise.
- I will harm and kill others for personal gain and to advance my order.
- I will not help the weak and needy.
- I will promote order in society.
- I will seek power and control over others.
- I will always avenge my allies.
- I will turn over family and allies that break the codes of my order if they are disloyal to me.
- I will not lie to those I respect.
Lawful Evil character’s perfect world
A Lawful Evil character’s perfect world might look like this.
- I am the ultimate authority in the world.
- My servants enforce my rule with forceful oppression.
- Order prevails everywhere and society functions like a smooth machine.
- Law breakers are punished with harm, execution, torture or some other brutality.
- Traditions, law and order are upheld.
- The strong rise in the social order and the weak stay low.
- Everyone tells the truth.
- Contracts are never broken.
- Those who have earned respect are given it.
- No one aids the forces of Good.
Lawful Evil quotes
If a Lawful Evil character has some favourite quotes, they might be these!
“The way to have power is to take it.”William Magear Tweed
“With self-discipline, most anything is possible.”Theodore Roosevelt
“Great empires are not maintained by timidity.”Tacitus
“Training distinguishes an army from an armed mob.”Douglas MacArthur
“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”Albert Einstein
Lawful Evil conflicts
As a Lawful Evil adventurer travels around the world, seeking power, wealth and status for themself, they will face some tough situations. How they react will reveal which aspect of their alignment they identify with the most. Is it the Lawful aspect or the Evil aspect?
Take this situation for example. Your character is part of a squad assigned to pillage a town and kill some specific people there to teach them a lesson for not sending enough food from the harvest. Killing people without being ordered to is against the code of your order but some of your allies are doing it anyway. What does your character do?
Law before Evil
If your character places Law before Evil, they will not join in with the others. Following the codes and law to the letter is the most important thing to them.
Because of their vehement adherence to their order, if your character is not friends or especially loyal to those taking out the other people, they may even report them to their superiors.
Evil before Law
Generally speaking, this option is less likely for a Lawful Evil alignment. If they were more driven to do Evil than be Lawful, their alignment would more likely be Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil.
However, if your character gets swept up in the moment and their need to spread Evil overrules their Lawful nature, then they will join in with the killing. This opportunity to do more Evil in the world is just too good to miss.
Perhaps they see it as a weakness of their order that they can’t deliver more extreme punishment and feel it is justified. If possible, they may even leave their order and form a new group with the other law-breakers to spread more Evil in the world.
How to play a Lawful Evil alignment
Role-playing a Lawful Evil character is interesting if your Dungeon Master allows you to. Some DMs don’t allow mixed Good and Evil player groups because it can lead to the adventuring party splitting up.
The actions you take in character are influenced by your character’s alignment. Most of the time you’ll make decisions that match their alignment. It’s fine to make decisions that don’t align but when that happens your character might feel uncomfortable with it, or be angry at themselves or reflect on who they are.
If your character takes several decisions in a row that don’t match their alignment, it could show character development and a move towards a different alignment for your character. This can lead to some great stories!
Actions aligned with a Lawful Evil character
- Eliminating an important government official who stands against your cause.
- Forcing others to join your order or be punished.
- Proudly accepting a promotion within your organization.
- Collecting taxes from the poor and starving without any remorse.
- Challenging an ally to a fight to become the next champion of your order.
- Using your position as a noble to bankrupt the businessman who sold you poor quality weapons.
- Training hard and completing contracts to improve your rank within the thieve’s guild.
- Manipulating your fellow officials into passing a law that would benefit you but mess up the lives of thousands of others.
- Bribing the guards at the prison to set your ally free.
- Mistreating people of lower social standing than you.
Actions not aligned with a Lawful Evil character
- Following a leader that you believe to be weak.
- Giving gold and food to beggars.
- Helping an old man load up his horse with his belongings.
- Breaking societal laws when you know you’ll be caught.
- Breaking a promise to a friend.
- Cheating on your spouse.
- Lying to a barkeep about how many dragons you have slain.
- Risking your own life to save someone you aren’t loyal to.
- Walking away from a challenge.
- Cheating at a game of Dragonchess.
Lawful Evil insults
As a Lawful Evil character, you aren’t concerned about the feelings of most people. So go on, dish out some burns!
- “They say beauty is on the inside, you better hope that’s true.”
- “You’re my favourite person besides every other person I’ve met.”
- “You’re not the dumbest person in this world, but you’d better hope he doesn’t die.”
- “You’re so dense, light bends around you.”
- “Shut your mouth when you’re talking to me.”
- “If ugly were a crime, you’d get a life sentence.”
- “If you really spoke your mind, you’d be speechless.”
- “You started at the bottom and it’s been downhill ever since.”
- “Someday you’ll find yourself, and you’ll be disappointed.”
- “Anybody who told you to be yourself couldn’t have given you worse advice.”
Lawful Evil background ideas
The background for your Lawful Evil character can be whatever you want it to be providing your DM allows it. You’ll want to make sure that your background makes sense for who your character is today.
For some ideas, here are a few backgrounds from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook that work really well for a Lawful Evil alignment.
You are an experienced criminal with a history of breaking the law. You have spent a lot of time among other criminals and still have contacts within the criminal underworld. You’re far closer than most people to the world of murder, theft, and violence that pervades the underbelly of civilization, and you have survived up to this point by flouting the rules and regulations of society.Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, Edition 5, page 129.
You understand wealth, power and privilege. You carry a noble title, and your family owns land, collects taxes, and wields significant political influence. You might be a pampered aristocrat unfamiliar with work or discomfort, a former merchant just elevated to the nobility, or a disinherited scoundrel with a disproportionate sense of entitlement. Or you could be an honest, hard-working landowner who cares deeply about the people who live and work on your land, keenly aware of your responsibility to them.Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, Edition 5, page 135.
War has been your life for as long as you care to remember. You trained as a youth, studied the use of weapons and armor, learned basic survival techniques, including how to stay alive on the battlefield. You might have been part of a standing national army or a mercenary company, or perhaps a member of a local militia who rose to prominence during a recent war.Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, Edition 5, page 140.
Lawful Evil vs other alignments
Lawful Evil vs Lawful Good
Lawful Good and Lawful Evil agree on one thing, that laws like codes and traditions should be upheld. However, they believe they should be upheld for very different reasons. For the Lawful Good person, it’s because they believe that societal norms are there to encourage Good in society and that’s generally how they use them.
For Lawful Evil, their code can give them a moral right to do Evil. Kill people in the name of their code? Sure thing. It’s what their law says they must do, it’s nothing personal.
To take a closer look at the Lawful Good alignment, check out my article.
Lawful Evil vs Neutral Good
There’s nothing these two alignments agree on!
In every situation, the Neutral Good character makes the decision that furthers the greater good, even if that means breaking a law or two. In contrast, a Lawful Evil character will not generally break the rules of their code to do more Evil. By sticking to the boundaries of their code, Lawful Evil characters may use their code to justify their Evil actions. The more Evil actions they commit under their law, the more they will fight to uphold it.
Neutral Good characters are good people at their heart, while Lawful Evil characters might have joined or founded the Evil regime they follow to spread Evil for Evil’s sake.
For more info on Neutral Good, take a look at my article.
Lawful Evil vs Chaotic Good
At diagonally opposite positions on the alignment chart, Chaotic Good and Lawful Evil are about as different as you can get!
The Chaotic Good character believes that laws are not beneficial to individuals and restrict freedom and individuals abilities to do Good. Whereas, the Lawful Evil character does not care about the freedom of individuals and instead seeks only to spread their order and gain power and reputation for doing so.
A Chaotic Good character will break laws to help them do more Good in the world. They may even be part of a rebellion to change the existing system. Of course, for a Lawful Evil character, order, traditions and codes must be upheld no matter what.
Find out more on the Chaotic Good alignment, check out my article.
Lawful Evil vs Lawful Neutral
Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil characters both follow strict codes, traditions and laws but they are motivated to do so for different reasons. For a Lawful Neutral character, it’s because they believe that an ordered society provides equal treatment for everyone. For a Lawful Evil character, it’s because their order gives them opportunities to use power for themselves.
For both of them, breaking the oaths they have made is unthinkable. For a Lawful Neutral character, it’s because they break promises, lose reputation and status for doing so. For a Lawful Evil these same things apply, but it may also be that they have committed Evil acts in the name of their code and need it to protect them. The more Evil they commit, the harder it is to break or leave the order they follow.
Not all Lawful Evil characters are obsessed with spreading Evil. Some Lawful Evil characters might believe they are doing the right thing and are on the side of the good guys, regardless of the Evil acts they commit to spread their order. In contrast, no Lawful Neutral characters care about spreading Good or Evil. They simply follow their order and are not interested in moral plights.
For a deep dive look at Lawful Neutral, check out my post.
Lawful Evil vs True Neutral
A True Neutral character takes the most pragmatic decision in every situation without referring to societal order and chaos or moral perspectives on Good and Evil. They see all these perspectives as extremes which lead to black and white views of reality when it’s always shades of grey.
A Lawful Evil character, on the other hand, believes that law, order and traditions are the foundations of a fair functioning society where the strongest rise to the top. They follow laws and codes to commit Evil acts without any moral consequences for them and to manipulate the system for their own gains.
In any given situation, a True Neutral character will take the most pragmatic action, usually with the best outcome for themselves that doesn’t cause harm to others. In contrast, a Lawful Evil character will take the action that furthers the spread of their order in society even if that harms another.
Discover more about True Neutral in my article.
Lawful Evil vs Chaotic Neutral
There is nothing for these two alignments to agree on! A Chaotic Neutral character hates laws, traditions and codes because they can be abused by those in power to restrict freedoms. Lawful Evil characters are often those oppressive people that Chaotic Neutral characters hate!
A Lawful Evil character follows their code of laws and traditions above anything else, even killing others. A Lawful Evil character might have created their own Evil code or they could follow an Evil leader, or be an Evil leader. They might be aware that they are doing Evil, or they might even think they are doing what’s right. Either way, they feel no remorse for carrying out Evil because it’s what their code says to do.
Chaotic Neutral, on the other hand, would never follow such an ordered set of codes and traditions because that wouldn’t make them free. In fact, they will rebel against anything that restricts their freedom. Morally, they are just out for themselves. They will generally do Good things because they work out better for them. But if they are in a situation where they can steal from a stranger and get away with it, they will.
To find out more about the Chaotic Neutral alignment, see my article.
Lawful Evil vs Neutral Evil
The main difference between Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil characters is why they are committing their Evil acts.
For a Lawful Evil character, it’s because they are part of something bigger than themselves and they follow the codes, traditions and power structures of that group. They commit their evil deeds to gain power and reputation for themselves, but also to spread order for the cause they are part of. They will not trample on those they are loyal to get what they want.
A Neutral Evil character, on the other hand, is only out for themself. Whatever they want – power, wealth, reputation – they won’t follow someone else’s codes to get it. If they want something, they will take it. If that means backstabbing a friend, they will do it. They are only loyal to themselves.
Neutral Evil characters aren’t motivated to disrupt order for chaos’s sake though, and they will not just go around breaking every law especially if they will be caught. Instead, they will weigh up their options and decide if risking the consequences for breaking a law is worth it to get what they want.
Delve into the details of Neutral Evil in my article.
Lawful Evil vs Chaotic Evil
A Chaotic Evil character hates law and order as much as a Lawful Evil character loves it.
Chaotic Evil characters are out for themselves and don’t care what laws they break or who suffers as a result. Some Chaotic Evil characters cause chaos because they hate order and the current laws, others do it just for fun or because they are on a plight to spread Evil in society. They will kill others out of hatred, bloodlust or just for fun.
A Lawful Evil character in contrast, follows the codes of their order for personal gain. They can use the law to manipulate others and gain power. They commit Evil acts but in the name of their order, not themselves. Their behaviour is less emotion and passion-fuelled than a Chaotic Evil character as abiding by their laws applies some restraint to their actions.
See more about the Chaotic Evil alignment in my article.
How Lawful Evil views the other alignments
When evaluating another character, a Lawful Evil character is always themselves, “Does this person follow a guiding set of principles and are they ambitious in developing themselves or wasting time helping others?”
Principled but distracted
Unpredictable and distracted
Unprincipled and distracted
Principled but aimless
Unpredictable and aimless
Unprincipled and aimless
Principled and ambitious
Unpredictable but ambitious
Unprincipled but ambitious
Conclusion – Lawful Evil alignment
The Lawful Evil alignment is a lot of fun to play as because you can be part of an order and gain reputation while still serving your own interests.
It’s a perfect alignment for a power-hungry street kid who wants to rule over his street gang, a nasty law enforcer who serves an oppressive high lord, or a noble who rules over his land and serfs with an iron fist.
The evil-looking mini carrying the severed head that I used as the image for this article is Jakob Knochegard. Check out his mini on Amazon.
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