Law vs. Chaos? Order vs. Freedom

In writing about the Centurion Overdrive overlap idea (“Centurion Overdrive – the Palmyra Connection“), I got to thinking about the Law vs Chaos dynamic, something Basic D&D introduced to me and Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories helped illuminate. It’s been something I’ve never really bothered with, given that Chaos – to me – denotes something much more abstract than evil. I think I can identify evil, and it always seemed to me that Chaos was just another moniker for evil.

The army of . . . Law? (from HBO’s Rome, which is awesome)

Rome as the champion of Law, in its constant quest to maintain order, helped to clarify this dichotomy in my mind. If one accepts Law as order and Chaos as freedom, this conflict becomes one with two acceptable sides, rather than good and evil which has one socially acceptable faction against one generally rejected by societies.

Both order and freedom have benefits and drawbacks, and most societies find some acceptable consolidation of the two. Even moreso than good and evil, they represent a continuum in which compromises are possible. If one wants a complicated conflict in which it is hard (but of course not impossible) to demonize the opposition, Law and Chaos could offer that.

The surrender of Vercingetorix as depicted by Kieron O’Gorman for Centurion: Legionaries of Rome

Consider Caesar’s Gallic Wars. Were these the conflict of Rome’s Order against the Gauls’ Freedom (and so Law vs Chaos)? I think one could reasonably argue that. If we look at Rome’s declining years, Law ceded more and more to Chaos as barbarian nations were commissioned as legions, creating armies of Chaos within the embrace of Law.

You could actually have a group composed of adherents to both sides in a game without it coming off strange. I think most of us have social circles with people on different parts of the Order-Freedom continuum.

This is actually a fascinating concept. I don’t know if it was just poorly presented or if I lacked the intellectual capacity to visualize it in the past. It’s now something I’m interested in exploring.

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