Lawful Stupid

The behavior of the paladin (who is a fairly recent addition) in the Order of the Stick has caused quite a bit of controversy on rec.games.frp.dnd.  Then again, it’s degenerated into an alignment discussion, and that’s always good for a little flaming over there.  There are OotS spoilers upcoming, so you don’t want to read this post if that’s a consideration.

The example that stirred up rgfd is Miko, who decided to take out a camp of sleeping ogres by waking them all up and insisting they arm themselves before she began killing them.  Once they were all gathered around her, ready to fight, she had her party cast fireball and lighning bolt centered on her; she evaded with her |33t skillz, but the ogres were crisped.

So, the question is, is stereotypical paladin behavior not actually Lawful Good?  Are paladins, in fact, Lawful StupidThis depends, IMO, in large part on how you interpret the paladin’s code.  This piece of text requires a paladin to be Lawful Good and never willingly commit an evil act; to act honorably and respect legitimate authority; to help those who need it and punish those who harm the innocent.

The question arises when bits of the code come into conflict.  It would arguably have better protected the ogres’ innocent prisoner to have killed them as they slept, so that none of them would have the chance to make him into a hostage or kill him lest he be a burden in running away.  But it’s not honorable to kill sleeping opponents, right?  (Even so, waking them up or even letting them arm themselves does not require that the paladin also insist that they eat breakfast so as not to be fighting on an empty stomach.  But I digress.)

Would it, however, have been dishonorable?  Most codes of honor don’t allow dishonorable behavior merely on the grounds that the opponent is himself dishonorable.  There are, however, codes of honor which only govern interactions with one’s equals–bushido1 springs to mind, especially as Miko calls herself a samurai at one point.  The ogres aren’t her equals, so honor needn’t apply, and she doesn’t have to worry about them being innocents and therefore protected by another bit of the paladin’s code; they’ve taken a prisoner for no reason, apparently, except that it’s fun to have someone around to beat up and/or eat.  By that reading, she could have slit their throats with impunity and still been a paladin afterwards.

1: Yes, I’m simplifying greatly here, but I think the general point holds up.

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