Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thor's Day Trope - Lawful Stupid

So one of the most common bad tropes we as gamers see if the Lawful Stupid trope. The character playing the Paladin invariably causes grief for the party by enacting Lawful Stupid behavior. This is so incessant that GAME SPEAK, leaked into TV Tropes. When a player indicates he wants to play a paladin, usually a series of groans goes with the pronunciation, as it is assumed that Lawful Stupid behavior will ensue. Judge Dredd is not lawful stupid...Westboro Baptist, yeah, I'd consider them Lawful Stupid...

From TV Tropes.org

Lawful Stupid
"How dare you break the traffic laws! Taste steel, fiend!""The laws were made to help us govern ourselves...but it's been left to rule on it's own. Somewhere along the line it's been twisted into...scripture! And it's used as an excuse not to think." - Keith Keiser, TwoKinds 
Also known as Lawful Anal, these people may call themselves Lawful Neutral, or perhaps Lawful Good (but often forgetting about the "Good" part). They lean toward such rigid adherence to the law that anybody who breaks any law, anywhere, for any reason, is the enemy. Even saying an unkind word to someone is an act of pure evil, and the Lawful Stupid can and will act as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. That is why they are called Lawful Stupid, not Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil.

Woe be to the fellow party member who fails to live up to their almost obsessive-compulsive standards. If the thief so much as jaywalks, Mr. Lawful Stupid will insist on turning him in to the "proper authorities" (regardless of what alignment said authorities actually are), or perhaps even execute him on the spot. Then he'll berate the other members of his party for "condoning" the thief's behavior, and may turn on them as well. This makes this guy highly irritating as well as stupid for turning in his only allies, to the point where despite usually calling themselves Lawful Neutral, or Lawful Good, they look a lot like Lawful Evil. Or maybe Chaotic Neutral. For newbie DMs, the best solution is usually a blunt force object applied to the head of the offending character -- if not the player
In tabletop roleplaying games, it's apparently such a common behavior for paladins (see Leeroy Jenkins) that it seems this is what everyone expects paladins to do these days.
In fact, it's so common that the Dungeons & Dragons Sourcebook Book of Exalted Deeds spends a good number of pages explaining how to be Lawful Neutral or Lawful Good without being a total dimwit. The creators themselves got sick of it
Basically, this trope is a Lawful character carrying the Idiot Ball because that is the Lawful thing to do. A Lawful Neutral character is just someone who strongly supports a governing body and doesn't care much about the whole good or evil thing. Or perhaps they do care for the latter, but just shares enough traits from both sides to not truly be aligned to either. A truly Lawful Good character, on the other hand, believes that a lawful, orderly society is necessary for good. He does not believe that rules must be followed no matter what or that leniency is always wrong. Lawful Evil doesn't fit too well into this either, as it can involve enforcing laws that protect innocents and block CorruptCorporateExecutives from practicing slave labor. 
Also compare Honor Before Reason, which has a tendency to overlap with this if done badly. When this behavior is caused by faith, Belief Makes You Stupid is present. Compare and contrast Chaotic Stupid, Stupid Good, Stupid Evil, and Stupid Neutral, which are the Moral/Ethical Alignment: Stupid equivalent tropes for Chaos, Good and Evil. The Fundamentalist and Knight Templar usually fall under this alignment, and may eventually develop into Tautological Templar. A government under The Caligula normally becomes Lawful Stupid, as history has shown. Worth noting, this is actually how Lawful Neutral was classically written, but it has since been redefined.