Lawful and Orderly is the most unusual real play podcast I have reviewed to date. As the name implies, it’s a podcast full of nerdy pop culture references, and it may be unique in its premise among all the shows I will review (I can’t say I’ve listened to all that I’ve bookmarked, so I’m hedging my bets). The show is a light-hearted police procedural set in a homebrew city where the PCs (all detectives in a division called the Special Visions Unit) try to solve some of the most dastardly crimes in the city using more or less the rules of 5e D&D. There are definitely some heavy homebrew rules, and it’s a refreshing change from the never-ending quest slog that so many long-term games pursue, since each episode is a stand-alone story and doesn’t really depend on knowledge of previous episodes or context within the series to make sense.
|Lawful and Orderly||Audio and Video||https://dndsvu.rpg.academy/||Weekly||PC-G|
Lawful and Orderly has been around since January of 2017 and airs weekly episodes live on Twitch on Monday nights. The show doesn’t really focus on leveling characters or gaining experience, but instead is a heavy role-play show with a lot of people who have the personalities of theater nerds and radio deejays. While the show is a centered around solving crimes, they do make a strong effort to keep the tone whimsical and light-hearted, finding the humor in everything from botched skill checks to quirky personality traits of their characters.
Lawful and Orderly is set in the homebrew city of Lan Arcanum (LA), which sits at the convergences of several magical ley lines. This means magic is especially prevalent and potent in the city, and there are a number of police consultants gifted with the power of visions, who can share those visions with the police in order to show the scene or aftermath of a crime. The most clever of criminals can keep their identities hidden or obscured from these visions, in which the Special Visions Unit (SVU) is called in to handle the case. The SVU Chief is a shape shifter who seems to prefer a female minotaur form, and her clothing and accessories often give away her mood to the detectives that work for her.
Lawful and Orderly is a part of the RPG Academy network of podcasts.
Any game which takes a look at a ruleset and says, “that’s fine for playing as intended, but how does it work when we try to use it for xyz” makes me sit up and take notice. I like risk takers for doing something different. I’m not always a fan of the results, but I like it when people try something unexpected and see what they can create with it.
Lawful and Orderly tries, and largely succeeds, in using the D&D 5e ruleset for something completely different than what anyone might expect or project. The format is episodic more than serial, so that the same general cast of players and characters appear every week, but the stories are not generally connected or built on top of each other in the way that the podcast episodes of an ongoing campaign are related. Another twist is that nearly every episode features a rotating DM for the session. There are five principal players in Season 1, and within the first ten episodes all five run at least one game, and their own character sits out that adventure.
The cast features some talented voice work and includes one regular PC who has a deputized dog companion named “Barq” whose canine barks and growls and whines the player pulls off very convincingly. The DM usually has an entire rogue’s gallery of NPCs they have to try to juggle (sometimes there’s comedy simply in trying to keep the whole list of them straight) and there’s almost always a point at which the PCs get entirely derailed by something unrelated or only a mere tangent to the main plot.
Among the homebrew rules there are two that are interesting, one of which can be applied to any game and another which depends on a format with live feedback like a twitch stream. The former is a mechanic called the “Scales of Justice.” Each episode includes a character development subplot for one of the PCs, and when skill checks are required, the DM keeps track of balancing the number of successes vs. failures for the group. At the end of the episode, it affects the outcome of the individual’s development arc depending on whether the group had more successes or more failures on the skill checks.
The latter mechanic that depends on live feedback is the actual “trial” of the suspect that the officers identified as the culprit during the episode. Once they build their case and make an arrest, the twitch audience is asked to weigh in on whether they think the suspect is guilty or not guilty. That verdict impacts whether the investigation was deemed “successful” or “unsuccessful.”
Mostly the show is entertaining, and it’s one of the few shows I am confident in giving a PC-G rating to, making it safe for family listening. The whimsical nature of the show and the characters can make it fun and accessible for listeners of all ages, and the fact that they strive to keep it lighthearted and clean means that there won’t be awkward questions or explicit language if folks want to keep that from their kids.
The show does get graded down in my personal opinion for two reasons. The first is the podcast audio quality. I don’t know who is doing the conversion of audio from twitch to podcast but they seriously need to assess what they are doing and figure out how to do it better. The audio quality of the twitch stream is fine, but the audio on the podcast comes across muddy and slightly distorted, as though they are trying to upsample or downsample between different bit rates. Other podcasts I have reviewed that have both a twitch feed and podcast archive do not have this problem (Acquisitions Incorporated, the C Team and There Will Be Dungeons to name two) so it’s not a problem of technology but a problem caused by lack of technical savvy or use of an inadequate process to get the audio to the podcast feed.
The second reason it gets graded down a little is because it just doesn’t grab me as an audience to hold my attention. I suppose I’ve become so accustomed to the epic campaign format of these podcasts that maybe I’m just expecting that, or expecting that something learned or seen in one episode will have consequences later, and it doesn’t seem like that matters in this show. So for me, it’s a little harder to engage and invest, but that may be the perfect style for other viewers and/or listeners.
Without the audio issues I could give this show a solid 5 of 6 rating since I blame the mismatch of format with my enjoyment on my own expectations. I just simply don’t have time to sit down for an hour or two and watch another weekly stream on twitch and I need to be able to consume my podcasts in audio form while I’m commuting, at the gym, walking on my lunch break, or doing chores around the house.
If you are looking for a show you could share with your family or that tries something a bit different and experimental, I would highly recommend giving Lawful and Orderly a try. You may find that you need to go to the Twitch archives to get the best sound quality, but the lighthearted approach is definitely a good palate cleanser and change of pace if you listen to a lot of gritty, dark stories.