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Lawful Neutral: The Law vs. Justice?


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Dark Archive

Okay, so they Gray Gardener prestige class says that you must execute a convicted criminal. Their guilt or innocence doesn't matter. That made me think, what if someone who truly believed in the lawful authority of the Gray Gardeners wanted to be a gray gardener?

The person was convicted.

Sure, they might be innocent, but you don't know they are. Just that they were convicted means they are guilty, so as a Lawful Neutral upholder of the law, you execute them.

Now, what if you know that they were framed but there wasn't enough evidence... does doing your lawfully appointed job as a Lawful Neutral person mean you are now committing an evil act?

Disclaimer and request: I know this can be discussed from a real life point of view, and that's somewhat okay with me, it's impossible to discuss such a subject as the nuances of good vs. evil without some real life encroaching, but if you do give opinions about the issue IRL, please keep it respectful, and be respectful of others opinions on the issue, even if you don't agree.


this is messy because evil can be 2 things in pathfinder. A way of thinking and interacting with other, and stuff that is evil.

This isn't 1, Killing him is his job and doing your job isn't good or evil. Now doing it via torture or especially painful when it's not needed would be making it evil for this reason.

but 2 is where it might be evil still. 2 is what has it that creating undead is always evil, no matter why. Some acts just are evil. So it could be said that murdering an innocent falls under the list of always evil acts regardless of why.

This is not something I'm aware of the books labeling so it's a GM's call.


Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:

Okay, so they Gray Gardener prestige class says that you must execute a convicted criminal. Their guilt or innocence doesn't matter. That made me think, what if someone who truly believed in the lawful authority of the Gray Gardeners wanted to be a gray gardener?

The person was convicted.

Sure, they might be innocent, but you don't know they are. Just that they were convicted means they are guilty, so as a Lawful Neutral upholder of the law, you execute them.

From a Lawful Neutral perspective, society has rules and the rules must be followed. The guilt or innocence of any particular person is less important than the overall cohesion and stability of society. This is basically the same argument that "the good of the many is more important than the good of the few or the one," and it's, for example, the argument behind the idea that everyone needs to be of legal age to drive or to drink, without exception.

Quote:


Now, what if you know that they were framed but there wasn't enough evidence... does doing your lawfully appointed job as a Lawful Neutral person mean you are now committing an evil act?

No, you are still following the rules of society and preserving the cohesion and stability of the justice system. Now, the fact that someone else has undermined that cohesion and stability is a problem,.... but that's a different problem.

Sovereign Court

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I would not, as a GM, say it was an evil act just because it was his job as the executioner.


Lots of assumptions here.

Lawful covers a lot territory.
Do you prefer an orderly society?
Do you Always pay debts.
Do you demand rigid adherence to a possibly arbitrary set of laws or rulers?
Do you believe that some actions are justifiable to maintain an ordered society, even if, in a moral/ethical vacuum, they are undesirable, or even evil?

These are interesting subjects for debate, and have been for at least all of recorded history, and great ways to wreck a game if you bring them to the table, make your moral stand, and fight to the death defending it.

Scarab Sages

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I consider Justice, in the sense it is most often invoked, to actually be a Neutral Good quality, not Lawful Neutral at all.


I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
I consider Justice, in the sense it is most often invoked, to actually be a Neutral Good quality, not Lawful Neutral at all.

Traditionally, "justice" is a lawful concept, distinct from "mercy," which is a good concept. Look at MIlton's "I shall temper so//Justice with mercy" or Shakespeare's "Consider this,//That in the course of justice none of us//Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy."

Modern English has drifted from this particular opposition.

Scarab Sages

Orfamay Quest wrote:
I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
I consider Justice, in the sense it is most often invoked, to actually be a Neutral Good quality, not Lawful Neutral at all.

Traditionally, "justice" is a lawful concept, distinct from "mercy," which is a good concept. Look at MIlton's "I shall temper so//Justice with mercy" or Shakespeare's "Consider this,//That in the course of justice none of us//Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy."

Modern English has drifted from this particular opposition.

The concept has evolved as people have continued moving away from the archaic idea that "Law = Good," hence why the concepts, and which should be associated with which from among their subsidiary concepts, can get confused.


Justice has two views.
One is that the bad get punished and the good don't. This is the "good" view.
Like vigilante justice, it's not going around an punishing people for breaking laws. It's going around punishing bad people or free good people. Or breaking laws to help people.

Justice of the Law says follow these rules, break them and be punished, this applies to everyone equally.

Mercy for both is just delivering a punishment less than deserved.


Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:

Okay, so they Gray Gardener prestige class says that you must execute a convicted criminal. Their guilt or innocence doesn't matter. That made me think, what if someone who truly believed in the lawful authority of the Gray Gardeners wanted to be a gray gardener?

The person was convicted.

Sure, they might be innocent, but you don't know they are. Just that they were convicted means they are guilty, so as a Lawful Neutral upholder of the law, you execute them.

Now, what if you know that they were framed but there wasn't enough evidence... does doing your lawfully appointed job as a Lawful Neutral person mean you are now committing an evil act?

Disclaimer and request: I know this can be discussed from a real life point of view, and that's somewhat okay with me, it's impossible to discuss such a subject as the nuances of good vs. evil without some real life encroaching, but if you do give opinions about the issue IRL, please keep it respectful, and be respectful of others opinions on the issue, even if you don't agree.

Not really, especially if the "Justice" system is fair and legitimate. Just because you have knowledge of the real murderer, but can't prove it, doesn't mean you're evil for carrying out what the Law demands, otherwise you would be likewise a traitor, something which is quite Evil to do.

All this really means is that he fought the Law, and the Law won.

(No, I'm not ashamed for using such a blatant quote from a song.)


I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
I consider Justice, in the sense it is most often invoked, to actually be a Neutral Good quality, not Lawful Neutral at all.

Traditionally, "justice" is a lawful concept, distinct from "mercy," which is a good concept. Look at MIlton's "I shall temper so//Justice with mercy" or Shakespeare's "Consider this,//That in the course of justice none of us//Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy."

Modern English has drifted from this particular opposition.

They're separate things; why can't they both be Good?

Largely from the New Testament influence on (Christian) moral philosophy, which for roughly 1500 years was the only moral philosophy anyone bothered to study. The Pharisees got a very bad rep as being more interested in the letter of the law than the actual effects of the law. This goes back all the way to -- literally -- all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12, Mark 3, and Luke 6), so the idea that the Law should be broken in the name of Good is about as fundamental to Christianity as it's possible to get. That's also one of the central themes of the parable of the Good Samaritan -- the priest and the Levite who passed the traveller by were (under the most literal interpretation) literally enjoined from stopping help, because they were forbidden to touch dead bodies to prevent ritual defilement.

Of course, this (slightly) misrepresents Jewish law. The principle of "Pikuach nefesh" states that it is permissible to break Jewish law to save life,.. but not, for example, simply in the name of kindness, charity, or convenience. If the Levite had known that the Samaritan was alive but at risk of death, then he could have helped....

But the fundamental principle that "Law is not necessarily Good" dates back literally millennia.

Silver Crusade

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Just to point out, the Grey Gardener Prestige Class lacking an Evil alignment requirement has been stated to be an error*, as they're an evil organization of necromancers who remorselessly murder anyone at the deranged whims of mob mentality of the bat s~~* crazy that is the CN capital of the world, Galt, and they themselves are constantly rewriting the laws to suit their needs.

James Jacobs' comment #1

James Jacobs' comment #2

*While he has asked that is responses not be used in regards to rules/mechanics questions and the like the fact that we're talking about an actual organization in the world he is the creative director of is an entirely different matter.


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I think your dilemma hinges on the phrase 'know but not enough evidence'.

That is kind of an inherently false statement. If you can 'know' something, then their is enough evidence. If you don't have enough evidence, you might 'believe' they are innocent, but you can't know.

Now it is quite possible that the Executioner has evidence that can't be presented to the court for various reasons. If those reasons are due to subverting the system, then they may attempt to intervene in some manner, since subverted systems are inherently 'not lawful' in the sense of not being orderly, predictable, reliable, unbiased etc.

One other thing a lawful person would do generally is sacrificing their own ego and personal beliefs for the judgement of the system as a whole. So if the evidence was sufficient to convince the executioner of the innocence of the prisoner, but a jury (or whatever) disagreed, then as a lawful person they would accept that judgement. I believe this is wrong, but it is the decision of the group so I'll back it 100% is quintessential lawful behavior.

Good and evil doesn't really enter into it much. Killing someone you are lawfully (in all senses of the word) justified in killing isn't an evil act. Your killing isn't motivated by greed or self gain either.


Dave Justus wrote:

I think your dilemma hinges on the phrase 'know but not enough evidence'.

That is kind of an inherently false statement. If you can 'know' something, then their is enough evidence. If you don't have enough evidence, you might 'believe' they are innocent, but you can't know.

I think this is something of an overstatement. For example, in order to prove treason in the United States, it is necessary to have the testimony of "the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court." This means, for example, that even if I confess committing treason to a dozen investigating officers, leave a mountain of physical evidence behind me, and fail a lie detector test, I still can't be convicted unless I actually confess in the courtroom.

This two-witness rule is fairly standard in a lot of contexts (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1), and it makes a lot of sense from a societal point of view..... but it also means that it's fairly easy for me to "know" something in the sense of I actually saw the act happen but not be able to do anything about it. And, yes, there are a lot of abuses (cf. the rules on child abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses).

And, of course, that's before we get into issues of the rules of evidence -- I know something because I overheard, for example, a privileged communication between a prisoner and his lawyer who arranged to get falsified evidence into court. But because the communication is privileged, I can't share it. Or maybe my knowledge derives from hearsay and is therefore inadmissible.

So, yes, it's not particularly surprising to know something but not have enough evidence.

Quote:


Now it is quite possible that the Executioner has evidence that can't be presented to the court for various reasons. If those reasons are due to subverting the system, then they may attempt to intervene in some manner, since subverted systems are inherently 'not lawful' in the sense of not being orderly, predictable, reliable, unbiased etc.

That doesn't follow. Even under modern US law, a court decision is binding until and unless another court overrules it. Even if I witnessed the judge being bribed to issue a verdict, that's not sufficient grounds for me to disregard the verdict. Under fantasy law, almost anything could go.


+1 to Dave Justus's comments. It's inherently a false argument.I can't imagine a scenario where the supposed executioner's own testimony supporting the innocence of the accused - especially when the executioner factually knows the accused is innocent - would lead to the executioner not being replaced in the case of a subsequent guilty verdict awarding the death sentence.


Hugo Rune wrote:
+1 to Dave Justus's comments. It's inherently a false argument.I can't imagine a scenario where the supposed executioner's own testimony supporting the innocence of the accused - especially when the executioner factually knows the accused is innocent - would lead to the executioner not being replaced in the case of a subsequent guilty verdict awarding the death sentence.

Not every environment has the advantage of multiple executioners. And in most military and paramilitary organizations, you are supposed to be able to suppress your own feelings and personal desires and carry out your orders as given.

A soldier who refuses to shoot at the enemy is usually not simply replaced; he's normally courtmartialed. Goodness, the idea that someone might be a conscientious objector and thereby be excused from participating in a war dates (in the US) only to the early 20th century. In the 19th century, American men were drafted to fight against other Americans, irrespective of their personal feelings about the war -- and in some documented cases were expected to fight against their own families.

I see no reason to believe that Fantasy Revolutionary France is any more respectful of the rights of conscience. "You have your orders, soldier."


Orfamay Quest wrote:

A soldier who refuses to shoot at the enemy is usually not simply replaced; he's normally courtmartialed. Goodness, the idea that someone might be a conscientious objector and thereby be excused from participating in a war dates (in the US) only to the early 20th century. In the 19th century, American men were drafted to fight against other Americans, irrespective of their personal feelings about the war -- and in some documented cases were expected to fight against their own families.

I see no reason to believe that Fantasy Revolutionary France is any more respectful of the rights of conscience. "You have your orders, soldier."

This needs a bit of clarification. In the case of a soldier refusing to engage the enemy -- in the heat of combat, summary executions can be performed by the field officer in charge -- especially when you are talking soldiers refusing to launch nuclear missiles, etc.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
That doesn't follow. Even under modern US law, a court decision is binding until and unless another court overrules it. Even if I witnessed the judge being bribed to issue a verdict, that's not sufficient grounds for me to disregard the verdict. Under fantasy law, almost anything could go.

It isn't legal grounds for you to disregard a verdict, but it is certainly grounds for a person of lawful alignment to consider the verdict unjust and not lawful in the alignment sense.

Our hypothetically lawful person, who doesn't care at all about good or evil but does care deeply about order and the rules being followed would certainly take some sort of action in that situation. What exactly they would do would somewhat depend on the exact nature of the society they were in, and they would certainly try to choose the option that was the least disruptive to society, but they would try to correct the system. In some cases, this could extend to illegal activities.

Lawful alignment is only tangentially related to a legal code. A legal code is necessary for a lawful society (just as a personal code is necessary for a lawful person) but just because their is a code, doesn't mean that code is lawful in the alignment sense. As an example, if my personal code is 'Always do what I feel like doing at the moment' then I may well have a code, but it certainly isn't lawfully alligned.

Dark Archive

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Wow, I think actually Ryksy kinda said it best... While I know JJ isn't the one for rules, I definitely agree that in this case his being the creative director of Golarion means the rules should say they must be evil...


Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:
Now, what if you know that they were framed but there wasn't enough evidence... does doing your lawfully appointed job as a Lawful Neutral person mean you are now committing an evil act?

If you know to some morally significant level of certainty that the convicted person isn't guilty then you should bring your evidence to the relevant authorities.

If the relevant authorities don't believe you need to decide if you can be part of a system that sometimes executes innocent people. I think there are multiple responsible ways to answer that question.

I'm opposed to the death penalty on the theory that the system can not be perfect and will inevitably get some cases wrong and execute some innocent people. That's sufficiently terrible that I think it outweighs whatever benefit one gets from executing guilty people over and above the benefit of incarcerating them for life.

I wouldn't automatically call someone who reached the opposite judgment evil though. Organizing society is complicated, punishment, deterrence, and justice are open to interpretation and if someone concludes that some error rate is acceptable if it is very low I think they're wrong but not crazy.

As soon as we accept that some innocent people are going to be executed I don't know that it much matters who actually throws the switch.


That´s what differentiates the L-alignment axis. LG is law tempered by mercy, a thing that often seems to be overlooked when the regular Paladin discussions come up. LN brings us into Helknight/Judge Dredd territory of law without mercy and the necessity of that stance - Justice must be blind.
Surprisingly, the move "Dredd" is actually a very good source for this, especially the contrast between Anderson (LG) and Dredd (LN). Recommended inspiration for anyone trying to play a Hellknight.

Personally, I don´t think that a non-evil Grey Gardener can exist and they will most likely gravitate towards CE as what they do doesn´t have any resemblance to law, maybe mob law....


Well... Don't follow the road of madness...
You're asking if killing an innocent while knowing he is innocent is Evil and if this kind of things should change your Neutral alignment toward Evil...
But if you ask that you should ask if killing an Evil man is a Good action and if you should become Good if you kill too much Evil people... :p

Then you come to the conclusion : Loyal Neutral Executioneer should take notes of the number of Innocent and Really Evil people they kill so they can even the count to not become Good or Evil... :D

Silver Crusade

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Loengrin wrote:

Well... Don't follow the road of madness...

You're asking if killing an innocent while knowing he is innocent is Evil and if this kind of things should change your Neutral alignment toward Evil...
But if you ask that you should ask if killing an Evil man is a Good action and if you should become Good if you kill too much Evil people... :p

Then you come to the conclusion : Loyal Neutral Executioneer should take notes of the number of Innocent and Really Evil people they kill so they can even the count to not become Good or Evil... :D

Killing an evil person is not in and of itself a good act.


Well, you're right, in fact he don't have to even try to do that, all he has to do is cast some [Good] spells and he can kill aimlessly without changing alignment... :p


Loengrin wrote:
Well, you're right, in fact he don't have to even try to do that, all he has to do is cast some [Good] spells and he can kill aimlessly without changing alignment... :p

There is an assumption in a lot of these threads that doing actions that are good in and of themselves will eventually turn your alignment Good.

I'd just like to point out that this assumption is not actually supported in the ruleset, and is also not philosophically well-grounded. Most ethicists -- and in fact, it's even formalized as doctrine in many Christian sects, and much of the D&D cosmos reflects Christian ethics and metaphysics simply due to familiarity -- recognize there are two different components to ethical behavior: the effect, but also the intention.

For example, to carry out an evil act for a good intention is an evil act, irrespective of the intention. But, similarly, to carry out a good act with evil intention is also evil, irrespective of the act. There is a fundamental asymmetry in that good is much harder to carry out (The Dark Side is quicker, easier, and more seductive), and so the idea that an evil person could perform good deeds with the intention of protecting him from the consequence of his evil deeds is nonsensical.

This framework also applies in the law. For example, if I apply for (and obtain) a job as a bank teller with the intention of gaining inside information that can be used by my friends and myself to rob the bank,, I am thereby guilty both of conspiracy to commit bank robbery as well as attempted bank robbery, despite the fact that there's nothing at all evil about taking a job.

In fact, I might even volunteer at the Red Cross office across the street from the bank (itself praiseworthy) in order to get more information. But a superficially good action done for evil purposes is still evil.


Let´s stick to Hellknights, as we actually do have a wealth of background material on them by now.

If "killing Evil" (and vice versa) would make you good by default and regardless of underlying intention, that order would be split into pure LG and LE and pobably face a "civil war" sooner than later because of that.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
There is an assumption in a lot of these threads that doing actions that are good in and of themselves will eventually turn your alignment Good.

Casting a [Good] Spell is a Good act ... per RAW...

Horrors Adventures P110 :

Quote:

Evil Spells

This section includes a large number of evil spells. Casting an evil spell is an evil act, but for most characters simply casting such a spell once isn’t enough to change her alignment; this only occurs if the spell is used for a truly abhorrent act, or if the caster established a pattern of casting evil spells over a long period. A wizard who uses animate dead to create guardians for defenseless people won’t turn evil, but he will if he does it over and over again. The GM decides whether the character’s alignment changes, but typically casting two evil spells is enough to turn a good creature nongood, and three or more evils spells move the caster from nongood
to evil. The greater the amount of time between castings, the less likely alignment will change. Some spells require sacrificing a sentient creature, a major evil act that makes the caster evil in almost every circumstance.
Those who are forbidden from casting spells with an opposed alignment might lose their divine abilities if they circumvent that restriction (via Use Magic Device, for example), depending on how strict their deities are.
Though this advice talks about evil spells, it also applies to spells with other alignment descriptors.

Of course I think this rule IS madness... I won't ever tell my players about this rules.. I don't want to see them begining to take count of their Good and Bad deeds, and trying to even the count with [Good] or [Evil] spellcasting... O_o


I imagine that a Lawful Neutral character philosophically doesn't really care about the possible innocence of the victim and is only really thinking about Greater Good and maintaining stability. If that means letting someone who might be innocent dead than so be it. Things like Justice is more of a Good-aligned concern in my opinion.


Delightful wrote:
I imagine that a Lawful Neutral character philosophically doesn't really care about the possible innocence of the victim and is only really thinking about Greater Good and maintaining stability. If that means letting someone who might be innocent dead than so be it. Things like Justice is more of a Good-aligned concern in my opinion.

You mean Good is about "Karmic Justice" while lawful only care about "earthly justice" am I right ? :)

Shadow Lodge

There are different kinds of justice on an earthly level, too, and several strategies for sentencing crimes. Executing someone who has been found guilty of a crime, even when they are innocent, can still serve to express the seriousness of the crime and deter others.


Loengrin wrote:
Delightful wrote:
I imagine that a Lawful Neutral character philosophically doesn't really care about the possible innocence of the victim and is only really thinking about Greater Good and maintaining stability. If that means letting someone who might be innocent dead than so be it. Things like Justice is more of a Good-aligned concern in my opinion.
You mean Good is about "Karmic Justice" while lawful only care about "earthly justice" am I right ? :)

"Justice" is a difficult word to use as nearly every society has some very specific cultural understanding of it, same with "Redemption" and "Punishment". In some cases the legal system also has to do double duty in crime prevention by doling out harsh sentences and make an example on the perp.

So I wouldn't´t actually differentiate between "earthly" and "spiritual" justice, as it´s more about the order of things than the actual laws. The principal thought is that there is an underlying order to everything and if people adhere to it, life for everyone is "good". It´s a bit like confucianism or Zen: If you understand the rules, you don´t need the rules any longer.

Now "Law and Order" can be benevolent or absolute. The former would be the LG variation of it, which tries to prevent undue harm by being merciful, while LN can look quite oppressive at times by putting order first, subjects and mercy second or third.

So that is a spiritual thing at its core and adherents to it try to shape the real world based on that believe.

A funny example are Red Mantis. They don´t assassinate legit rulers as they accept the divine mandate to rule as part of the natural order of things.

Edit: LN and CN may be the hardest alignments to talk about for people coming from a western or christian-based society, as e tend to identify a lot of the uncaring nature that´s associated with them as "evil".

Liberty's Edge

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If you know they are framed, it is your Lawful duty to say it, prove it and find the real culprits

Liberty's Edge

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Purple Overkill wrote:
Edit: LN and CN may be the hardest alignments to talk about for people coming from a western or christian-based society, as e tend to identify a lot of the uncaring nature that´s associated with them as "evil".

Actually the definition of Good, Neutral and Evil imply IMO that not caring is Evil. I think I even saw it printed not so long ago

Good protects the innocents
Evil uses and abuses the innocents
Neutral cares about the innocents but not enough to actually act and protect them


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The Raven Black wrote:
If you know they are framed, it is your Lawful duty to say it, prove it and find the real culprits

I'd say, it might be your lawful duty to say it, but not to prove it nor to find the real culprits.

You have your job, and the duly appointed investigators have theirs. The duly appointed investigators also typically have better training, greater authority, and more appropriate equipment to do investigative work.

Would you really want the local ER physician walking off the job because he believes that the police arrested the wrong man following a stabbing? Or would you rather that he gave his belief (and the evidence supporting it) to the appropriate authorities?

Most "lawful" people -- and, in fact, most rational people -- would rather that the cops did the cops' job and the docs did the docs' job.

Silver Crusade

"Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice." - Thoreau


If you question what is justice, do what Moon Knight would do. WWMKD is the best thing to think at all times.
Talking to imaginary figures while planning is needed sometimes.


The Raven Black wrote:
If you know they are framed, it is your Lawful duty to say it, prove it and find the real culprits

Just because someone is framed does not mean they are innocent. You can frame the guilty.

A police person finds a bloody glove near the spot where a suspect was recently seen, and drops the bloody glove at the dead body in the suspect's house. This ties the killer's DNA inside the glove to the victims DNA outside the glove.

This act can be seen as chaotic/evil if you are doing it out of spite or hatred for the person, or as neutral if you are breaking the law [by disturbing the scene and planting evidence] if you know the person is guilty. It is definitely unlawful.

[And yes, I am referring to one Heisman Trophy winner and taking allegations against the police to an extra level.]


Justice is another of those annoying concepts no one can agree on the details of. People feel that certain actions should be punished and others should be rewarded; this is the only universal.
They also tend to see justice as distinct from the law, because they often disagree with the law.

The best simple definition I can come up with is:
Justice is the system of rewards and punishments for actions based on a set of ethical assumptions which may or may not align with the law.


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

Justice is another of those annoying concepts no one can agree on the details of. People feel that certain actions should be punished and others should be rewarded; this is the only universal.

They also tend to see justice as distinct from the law, because they often disagree with the law.

The best simple definition I can come up with is:
Justice is the system of rewards and punishments for actions based on a set of ethical assumptions which may or may not align with the law.

That's not a bad definition, but I have a few quibbles, which may illustrate some of the annoyance you were talking about, but hopefully will also enlighten the discussion.

"Ethical" is another problematic word. There is a tradition in D&D and similar games of using "ethics" as a shorthand for the law/chaos axis, and reserving "morals" for the good/evil axis, but there's also a tradition of using "ethics" as an effective synonym for "morals" in this context, where a Good action is both ethical and moral.

Justice is NOT concerned with "what is good?" I would say instead that justice is based on a set of behavioral norm (this is how people should behave) that may or may not be related to morality.

The other thing I would stress is that justice is systematized; it is "a systematic system of ..." That's one of its defining features; you do something outside of the behavioral norms, and your punishment is meted out according to the system, even if the punishment is inappropriate according to what most people would consider "good," or even if the systematization didn't expect the specific circumstances. This is the idea behind the Western ideal of "justice tempered by mercy," where "justice" demands that the letter of the law be applied, but mercy allows exceptions as appropriate.

Still, pretty good.

Dark Archive

Personally, I've always considered Justice to be the CG ideal.

D&D/Pathfinder I think represents my world view very well in the inclusion of Lawful Evil as a concept.

Never forget, Everything Hitler and the Nazi's did was LAWFUL, because they made the laws. (Sorry for Godwin-ing, but it really is the best example I can come up with).

Lawful Good is the belief that What is Lawful is, baring mistakes or deliberate sabotage of the system, Also what is Just. It includes the belief that those in power will normally act for the good of society, make laws fairly, and treat people equitably. (Lawful good is a little naive)

Lawful Neutral is the belief that What is Lawful is USUALLY Just, and that in the balance of all things, Maintaining order and societal function is MORE IMPORTANT than the few people who fall through the cracks. Lawful Neutral society is great, unless you're one of the people who falls through a crack and goes to prison for 15 years due to a clerical error.

Lawful Evil is the belief that any action is Okay, as long as it is not specifically banned or punished. Lawful evil is most TV Lawyers, most real world CEOs, and all politicians everywhere always. Yes even that guy you like who is different. Yes, it IS unfortunate for those orphans if the orphanage is shut down BUT I own it now and I want to put up a casino instead, so I'm evicting them, it's legal go suck an egg.

Neutral Good is the belief that Lawfulness is NOT a metric of whether something is Just or Injust. Law is useful for keeping society ordered, and NG will obey the law while it is Just, but will also actively work against the law if doing so is more Just. The Underground railroad was a Neutral Good organization.

Chaotic Good is the belief that Government is either inherently corrupt, or that positions of power either attract the corrupt or corrupt those who hold them. Lawfulness and Justice are completely divorced concepts, and if a Law is Just it's nice but purely an accident of chance. Also any Law, no mater how just and reasonable can still be manipulated for unjust purposes. Societal Order doesn't matter, only that treatment of the people is Just and fair. Chaotic Good is they guy who shoots the Lawful Evil king and doesn't quite understand why the populace isn't singing his praises and thanking him.

This is also why, in any game with a Paladin or other class with a moral code where violation results in 'falling' and loosing class features, I like to establish up front what that code is.
For paladins I like to establish, up front, that they LAW a paladin is bound by is the moral code of their patron deity, NOT the law of whatever random kingdom they're in. So if you're a Paladin of Pelor (3.X sun god, hates undead) and you're in a kingdom ruled by a lich with laws that say "Undead have rights, undead are the only citizens, slaying undead is a crime", you don't risk falling for slaying undead. Pelor doesn't care if Billy the Lich King says something is Law, Pelor cares if you follow PELOR's LAWS.

So, to the original question. If a Grey Gardener executes a wrongfully convicted person, is it an evil act? It's certainly Injust, so I would call it evil. But I would say the difference between evil and EVIL is intent. If you don't KNOW they are innocent, if you believe the law is just and that they were convicted properly, but your wrong, you have not acted with evil intent. If you KNOW (or even suspect) they are innocent, and still execute them anyway, THEN you have acted with evil intent. And that's they line I would draw for risk of alignment shift. Although as far as I can tell Gray Gardeners don't have an alignment requirement, so does someone who would do that care if their alignment changes?

Dark Archive

I'd also like to say, this edges up on being a really good topic for a season of Lincoln Douglas Debate.

Resolve: When in conflict Law is More important that Justice.

My Definitions;
Lawful: In compliance with the Laws. LG with the spirit of the Law, LE with the Letter of the Law.

Just/Justice: Objectively Morally correct. Reasonable and appropriate punishment for acting in an objectively morally incorrect manner.


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My quick take:
Justice is best represented by Lawful Good, as justice implies and requires fairness and equity. This is the practice of law that seeks truth and always ensures that punishment is merited and appropriate, assuming innocence until truly proved otherwise.

Adherence to the letter of the law, and hidebound deference to traditional rulings is best represented by Lawful Neutral. This is the practice of law as a formal but impersonal system, concerned with society as a whole more than individual rights.

Use of the law as a tool of oppression is the hallmark of Lawful Evil. This is the practice of law that features hypocrisy, discrimination, and/or equivocation, and is more focused on benefit for those who have authority than on truth or society.

So, a Lawful Good enforcer would be unlikely to execute someone they knew to be innocent regardless of process (it would be unjust). A Lawful Neutral enforcer probably would execute someone who was convicted by proper due process, regardless of personal opinion (no one is above the law). A Lawful Evil enforcer would execute someone regardless of guilt/innocence or legitimacy of process if it was advantageous and had even the flimsiest legal pretense (I am the law).


Something important to note is that in our society (When I say our society I refer to American society but this concept applies to most legal codes that developed from Roman legal practices) is that our system is not a just system. When I say that, i do not mean that our legal system is corrupt or faulty but rather that Justice is exceptionally difficult to achieve in our world. Even if we had access to the magic of the Pathfinder universe I imagine Justice would still be exceptionally difficult to achieve. The reason for this situation is simple, laws must be broad and firm in order to be effective.

Let us take a law against killing sentient beings. The basic version "Thou shall not kill" is pretty straight forward, but gets more complicated when you start talking about self-defense, assisted suicide, heat of the moment killings, accidental killings, abortion, and other such issues. Now, achieving Justice for all would require that every individual situation is examined, the circumstances taken into account by unbiased council, and a fair determination delivered. However, this is a slippery issue because there are very few unbiased individuals. Honestly no one is without bias, it is how humans are programmed. Additionally, allowing every situation to be evaluated individually takes time and would require standards to be created from scratch for every single case.

Because the world isn't perfect, evaluating every case by different standards would create a situation in which achieving fairness would be challenging, and natural human bias the law does not strive to deliver justice. No matter how much it might insist otherwise, instead the law is about being applied to everyone equally, which is quite different from Justice. In our case, a crime is a defined action. While mitigating circumstances may be considered by the Judge, those guilty of the defined action suffer from a varied punishment based upon mitigating circumstances. Sometimes, those circumstances are not considered appropriately, like how elected judges statistically give longer and harsher sentences during their electoral year. Or when a jury is rigged whether through purpose or simple bias slipping under the radar. Or when the politicians create mandates regarding sentence length. Regardless, people slip through the cracks in our world because no one has ever built a better enduring system. Back to Pathfinder, a king might uphold justice through mercy and magic but as a Ruler his time is limited. He cannot rule on every case, and magic is expensive. Eventually he will die and there is no guarantee his successor will uphold the law in a similarly merciful manner. This is the weakness of a monarchic legal system, and if the laws fall into the hands of the church I could soon you tails of Clerical Law screwing up lives due to abuse.

Ultimately, Justice is an ideal rather than a practice and is something towards which all good characters strive to achieve. Yes, even chaotic good characters want Justice (they simply don't care about lawfully obtaining it). Lawful Neutral characters are not just "for the greater good" types, they can also be realists who understand that Justice is sometimes not possible to obtain and do the best they can working within the system because standing up and rebelling will just get them replaced with someone who doesn't care. LE characters do tend towards the letter rather than the spirit of the law, but might also follow a personal code to which they do uphold both the spirit and the letter...it just happens to have nothing to do with justice. You might see this behavior from a race of warrior raiders, who unlawfully attack settlements but refuse to kill any who choose not to defend themselves, only take what they need, or who honor ransom agreements. The actions are undoubtably evil but it does not stop the character from having a code of laws which they follow without needing to twist those laws. A good example may be the Quinari from Dragon Age, Sten is a pretty solid example of LE who is not a slimy devil lawyer type.


Actually, I feel the opposite.
You brought up the Qunari and Qun from Dragon Age. I would be ready to argue that Qun is actually an extreme form of Lawful Good rather than Lawful Evil.

So the Qunari and everyone who joins the religion of Qun subscribe to the caste based society which is very Lawful. But the Good comes from its focus on self-sacrifice. You sacrifice your personal happiness and ambitions for the sake of the whole. Truly Lawful Evil society in Dragon Age is Orlais, where the quest for personal gain and political backstabbing has bulldozed all others priorities under it.


The fact that Qun demands the assimilation of all people and the Qunari have literally crusaded against non-believers makes them Lawful Evil or Lawful Neutral at best.


Not to mention the Qun has a lot of fubar stuff in it. You can't really call the treatment of Serrabaas (or whatever the spelling is) Good even if they did their brainwashing thoroughly and it results in a lot less d(a)emons ripping through the Warp-I mean Realms of Chaos-I err mean Fade.


Delightful wrote:
The fact that Qun demands the assimilation of all people and the Qunari have literally crusaded against non-believers makes them Lawful Evil or Lawful Neutral at best.

Assimilation of people is pretty much the Good way. Let's not even kid ourselves here, the standard trope is that good guys somehow persuade the villain out of his bad ways to the good ways. Qunari to the Thedas was as true as Last Wall to Hold of Belkzen in Golarion. Oh those poor orcs, those damn knights are crusading against the non-believers of the good alignment. What a bunch of Lawful Evil people.

Also the Qunari Mage situation is mostly question of Law vs Chaos than Good vs Evil. Who knows how common, but all the examples presented in the game have portrayed them as real g+#!!$n menaces. Practically tear apart reality if they get out of control.


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That reasoning would work if the Qunari only crusaded against say Darkspawn or maybe Tevinter depending on if Inquisiton kept them as the token EVIL EMPIRE (tm) or bothered giving them some depth.

Thing is, they do that to everyone and generally when you start crusading against Good or Neutral places just because you think your ideology is better, you sorta start losing your right to be deemed Good.

As for their mages. They're chained up and brainwashed to immolate themselves if there's a lapse in their control all the while being used as what amounts to disposable magic artillery. It may be a better way to keep demons out than the Circles but just because it gets results doesn't make it less Evil (or at best very borderline Neutral).


In the Law there are always competing priorities. Justice - ensuring that the guilty are punished and only the guilty is one. Finality is another. It disrupts the orderly procedures of the court to have to continually retry cases.

In fact, in the US, if new evidence comes up that proves actual innocence, they do not need to hold a new trial. Herrera v. Collins


Envall wrote:
Delightful wrote:
The fact that Qun demands the assimilation of all people and the Qunari have literally crusaded against non-believers makes them Lawful Evil or Lawful Neutral at best.

Assimilation of people is pretty much the Good way. Let's not even kid ourselves here, the standard trope is that good guys somehow persuade the villain out of his bad ways to the good ways. Qunari to the Thedas was as true as Last Wall to Hold of Belkzen in Golarion. Oh those poor orcs, those damn knights are crusading against the non-believers of the good alignment. What a bunch of Lawful Evil people.

Also the Qunari Mage situation is mostly question of Law vs Chaos than Good vs Evil. Who knows how common, but all the examples presented in the game have portrayed them as real g%*$!~n menaces. Practically tear apart reality if they get out of control.

The paladins in Lastwall *defend* the Inner Sea from the orcs and contain them in the Hold of Belkzen, not crusade into their territory and convert them by the sword. The Qun is more like the Cult of the Dawnflower if anything.

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