In Dungeons and Dragons, characters have many categorizations. Race, class, and abilities are some of the obvious ones, but one very important classification for characters is alignment. Alignment determines many behavioral aspects of the character, and these classifications hold true for characters in a story as well.
Does the character abide by all local laws of the land and live an orderly existence, or rail against authority and thrive on chaos? Do they strive to do good by everyone they meet, or snuff out life any chance they get? These things are determined by alignment. Each specific classification has its quirks, but lawful evil is one of the most challenging alignments to get right.
This alignment rests at the extreme end of two spectra that don't mesh particularly well, and actually mastering this alignment takes great skill on the writer's part. Having a character who is evil by nature, but who also lives by a strict set of rules, respecting law in some form is quite hard.
Being lawful does not necessarily mean that the character lives by the laws of the land, though. In fact, it may simply mean that the character adheres to a personal code of conduct, even if that conduct includes doing things that would otherwise be considered immoral or illegal. Writing about a character who is lawful evil can take you to a dark place.
The other side of this alignment, evil, does not mean that the character is malignant, thoughtless, or heartless. A lawful evil character is calculating and methodical. They won't hesitate to torture or kill, but will never do it for no reason at all, and certainly not solely for pleasure, though they might take joy in performing the act if it is done in accordance with their own personal code of conduct.
So you can see how walking the lawful evil line can be a challenge.
Why bring it up?
If you've read Legacy, you've already had a brush in with a character who walks this line. Gladius meets him in Findoor, and puts himself in the debt of this shady character. He's an assassin, but he doesn't take just any job. Chronic gamblers who have taken out more loans than they can pay back, or shop owners who bought from the guild, but have failed to make payment and are dodging the collectors, or anyone who has crossed the guilds of Galadir for whatever reason. When a person can't be found, they turn to Taraxle.
He tracks them down, unafraid of whatever deep, dark hole they have crawled into, and makes them pay. When a job is handed to Taraxle, it's beyond cash payment. He doesn't care for their groveling or begging. The law has already been broken, and his job is to carry out punishment. There are no judges and no juries, their fate is decided.
Taraxle is by far one of my favorite characters of all time, which is why he is set to become the subject of my next trilogy. The Spell Breaker Chronicles will focus on Taraxle and how he became one of the most dangerous criminals, and yet, possibly one of the greatest heroes Galadir has ever known. But how do you take a character who is lawful evil, and make them a hero?
That's the big challenge. That's where learning to be lawful evil is going to be imperative, because in order to write about a lawful evil hero, everyone else must be worse than him.
The Spell Breaker Chronicles will take Galadir to a dark place I've never explored before, and I hope you'll journey with me.
Thanks for reading!
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