Lawful Evil

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Lawful Evil is one of the nine alignments in Dungeons and Dragons


System Reference Document

Lawful Evil, "Dominator"

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 is sometimes called "diabolical," because devils are the epitome of lawful evil.

Lawful evil creatures consider their alignment to be the best because it combines honor with a dedicated self-interest.

Lawful evil can be the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, organized, and frequently successful evil.

First Edition

Lawful Evil: Creatures of this alignment are great respecters of laws and strict order, but life, beauty, truth, freedom and the like are held as valueless, or at least scorned. By adhering to stringent discipline, those of lawful evil alignment hope to impose their yoke upon the world.


Lawful Evil is referred to as the "Dominator" or "Diabolic" alignment. Characters of this alignment see a well-ordered system as being easier to exploit, and show a combination of desirable and undesirable traits; while they usually obey their superiors and keep their word, they care nothing for the rights and freedoms of other individuals and are not averse to twisting the rules to work in their favor. Examples of this alignment include tyrants, devils, undiscriminating mercenary types who have a strict code of conduct, and loyal soldiers who enjoy the act of killing.

Like Lawful Good Paladins, Lawful Evil characters may sometimes find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to obey law or evil when the two conflict. However, their issues with Law versus Evil are more concerned with "Will I get caught?" versus "How does this benefit me?"

In the Complete Scoundrel sourcebook Boba Fett of Star Wars, and X-Men's Magneto are cited as examples of lawful evil characters.

The Lawful Evil outsiders are known as Baatezu (Devils).

Old TV Tropes

The ordered sort of Evil, that often ends up in charge. Can be a lot like Lawful Neutral, but nastier. Well-structured, large-scale and often scarily successful evil. May believe in keeping order at all costs, or may simply believe that a well-ordered system is so much easier to exploit. Whether an Obstructive Bureaucrat is Lawful Evil or Lawful Neutral is basically a function of whether he enjoys what he's doing (see Lawful Neutral example of kicking the family out of the house). Knight Templars are almost always this alignment. If God Is Evil, he's almost always Lawful Evil. On the "bright" side, the Worthy Opponent and Noble Demon are often Lawful Evil (if they're evil at all), as they tend to develop a "Code of Honor" to guide their actions, and can in fact be dependable allies in an Enemy Mine situation where other alignments might fizzle out. In circumstances where you are not a threat to their intentions, Lawful Evil might well be the "lesser of the three evils". BBEGs in general tend towards Lawful Evil - mostly since they plan to construct their very own empire that you'd better fall in line with - as do many Magnificent Bastards. A mercenary who always keeps his contract (good or evil), but enjoys a job where he gets to hurt people, is Lawful Evil and more likely to end up working for the bad guys. The baatezu (devils) of D&D rule the plane of Baator with a Lawful Evil fist, and some of of these were originally Knight Templar angels. As a good reference point, Big Brother from 1984 would be Lawful Evil.

TV Tropes Full Lawful Evil Page.

TV Tropes (Extended Version)

A Lawful Evil character is an evil character who either tries to impose or uphold a lawful system, and / or adheres to a particular code. They believe in order, but mostly because they believe it is the best way of realising their evil wishes, or they feel it is a realistic and necessary compromise or restraint on them.

Though Lawful Evil characters are often found in charge, these characters also make good henchmen or mooks. Though they lack any moral scruples that may impair their work, a cautious villain will find they respond well to concepts like 'loyalty' 'duty' and 'honour'. The caution however should be remembered though, as these characters also respond poorly to Bad Bosses and Dirty Cowards, as well as simple incompetence that could lead them to deciding to either find a more worthy master, or take over 'for the good of the cause'.

A Character Alignment made popular by Dungeons & Dragons, Lawful Evil comes in four flavors:

  • Type 1 is 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 and 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.
  • Type 2 is a 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 form of Principles Zealot. 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.
  • Type 3 can be The Dragon in a Five-Bad Band or a minion of lower rank. 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.
  • Type 4 is a rare 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. Dystopia Justifies The Means can fall under this category and it tends to be the Lawful Evil type that is most likely to be a Complete Monster, as 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.

All four variants are likely to take advantage of Questionable Consent, pushing people into "agreements" and then pushing them to uphold their end of the "bargain."

Remember, being Lawful does not imply at all that you have moral standards, and any one of these character archetypes have just as much potential as a Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil character to be truly despicable. Being lawful is thus a matter of ethical concerns and not moral ideas; alternatively, a lawful character may work within and abuse the rules. Lawful evil is not always the "Nicest" of the Evil alignment. It is just the most consistent and orderly. In short, an evil character who feels that the rules is what gives them strength or superiority. This includes upholding Evil as an ideal in and of itself, coupled with a sense of duty to promote it wherever possible and by any means. They're likely to have standards, but they're just as likely to have such a warped moral code that they're Complete Monsters regardless.


Lawful Evil is neither considered an Honorable nor Dishonorable Alignment. Honor is generally relevant in Eastern campaigns.

Other Notes

Lawful Evil is combined with Neutral Evil in an alignment simply called "Evil" in 4th edition D&D

The closest alignment in the Palladium system would be Aberrant

Intensely detailed description on Lawful Evil, in case this wasn't enough. It also has a 36 question alignment quiz.

Lawful Good Neutral Good Chaotic Good
Lawful Neutral True Neutral Chaotic Neutral
Lawful Evil Neutral Evil Chaotic Evil