lawful good [law-fuhl-gud]
1. The alignment that upholds society and society's laws in the name of the greater good and prosperity for all. This alignment upholds the values of truth, justice and compassion, while striving to bring structure and security.
2. Anything that falls within the perimeter of the lawful good alignment (see 1. above).
EX. Holy crap! I am opening up a big can of worms by doing a word of the day about an alignment without explaining the other alignments but, if you have to start anywhere, I suppose Lawful Good is a good place to start.
Real life morality and ethics is complicated. So complicated that it has led many a philosopher to question the definition or validity of these terms in relationship to real humans. After all, real humans are far more enigmatic than most fictional characters because, hypothetically, we can know exactly how they feel and think about everything. In reality, one only knows one true self or that only one could possibly know one true self. Still, we categorize the way that individuals and organizations act based on what they espouse through their words and actions. In fiction, we can have debates about where characters fall upon the spectrum of good versus evil and chaos versus order.
Dungeons and Dragons uses these principles for the alignment system.
The morality axis (Good vs. Evil) and the ethical axis (Order vs. Chaos).
Good is most simply defined by altruism and the respect of other living beings and evil is by lack of altruism and a lack of respect for other living beings. Law is defined by a focus on honor and respect for society's rules and chaos is defined by a focus on individual freedom and expression. Neutrality defines the middle ground between these two extremes with true neutral having neither defined morals or ethics.
Today we're talking about the strict but idealistic alignment, Lawful Good or "the Paladin alignment" (despite the fact that a paladin can be any alignment but tend toward lawful alignments).
What's a paladin?
That's a paladin. In the literal sense.
A paladin is a holy knight that crusades in the name of good and order while wielding divine magic and martial discipline. In the dungeons and dragons sense.
A paladin, in a less literal sense or even Dungeons and Dragons sense, are righteous heroes who sacrifice their own comfort & safety to protect and promote the greater good. They can also be called "paragons".
Paladins and paragons are heroes. And (usually) they are lawful good. Because, arguably, lawful good is the most heroic alignment.
Lawful good characters strike a balance between law and good; good dictates their altruistic morality and motivates them to put others before themselves and law dictates their means to altruism through creating and/or upholding systems that promote the greater good.
Lawful good societies are built upon laws that protect and promote the populous. They build institutions to uphold the law and build further institutions to protect these institutions. The promote those that serve these institutions.
A lawful good character must strike a balance between justice and mercy and a lawful good society must strike a balance between placing importance on structures and rules creates to protect the people and the freedom of peoples these structures and rules are designed to protect.
An example of a morality-ethics based conflict for a lawful good character would be catching a hungry street urchin stealing an apple from a vendor. Law would dictate that they hand the urchin over to the authorities. Compassion would dictate a more merciful path, especially if the law is harsh on thieves, considering the specifics of the situation. After all, not all crimes are equal. A starving child stealing an apple cannot be compared to a thug robbing a carriage. As a lawful good society, it would be important to try and solve the problem on a macro scale by making sure punishments fit the crime while also seeking to create institutions that promote welfare and opportunities for the poor/downtrodden while also seeking to protect the innocent from suffering in the future.
What are some examples of lawful good characters?
Aragorn, Superman, Spock, Captain America, Robocop, Carrot Ironfounderson, Optimus Prime
So, why pick Lawful Good? You want to play a character that upholds the law, protects the weak, and serves as a paragon in his society.
And, if you don't know just how controversial alignments can be (trust me when I saw someone will take umbrage with my definitions), try to see if you agree with all of the characters in the following image. I don't. But I do agree with most of it. And that'll do!