Code of Honour

"I will not bring dishonour on my sacred arms nor will I abandon my comrade wherever I shall be stationed. I will defend the rights of gods and men and will not leave my country smaller, when I die, but greater and better, so far as I am able by myself and with the help of all. I will respect the rulers of the time duly and the existing ordinances duly and all others which may be established in the future. Furthermore, if anyone seeks to destroy the ordinances I will oppose him so far as I am able by myself and with the help of all. I will honor the cults of my fathers. Witnesses to this shall be the gods Agraulus, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalius, Ares, Athena the Warrior, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Heracles, and the boundaries of my native land, wheat, barley, vines, olive-trees, fig-trees..."

In order to have Lawful characters, you first need to have a law. Most works provide that law in the form of The Code of Honour.

The Code is basically any code of honor or conduct that governs a certain group of people. Codes can be written down or oral tradition, they can be short or long, or practical or philosophical; the gist of the trope is that it has the more lawful characters of the cast mulling over which course of action would be "true to The Code".

Orders and Ancient Traditions are very likely to possess one of these. The Obstructive Code of Conduct is the most important (or just first) article of The Code. The Commandments are a very brief Code presented in the form of an enumerated list. The Big Book of War is a written-down Code that pertains specifically to war. Honor Before Reason is what happens when someone insists on following The Code even when this is obviously a really stupid thing to do.

See also, Heroic Vow, which sometimes coincides.


    open/close all folders 

  • Justified in Jericho. The titular Jericho has a very simple one, with only two specific entries about rules he must not break. Jericho explains that they exist to keep him from becoming an irredeemable monster, since Jericho is a sociopath. The code is:
    • "Harm not children. Commit not rape."
    • However, the Code/Kodex only gets elaborated upon after Jericho accidentally breaks it when he kills a child. And then willingly kills several more children. And their parents. And ends up murdering every single member of the small town of Sleepy Oaks. Because they're trying to murder him after enervation drives them all homicidally mad, giving Jericho no choice. After breaking the Code, for the first time ever does Jericho break down and lose his sense of optimistically dark humor, becoming a Stepford Smiler as he tries to hide his sins from his companions.

  • The Jedi Code in Star Wars. Depending on the era and individual, the Sith code can also function as one.
  • The "Code of the West" is sometimes mentioned in The Western genre.
  • The Pirate Code of Pirates of the Caribbean is more like a set of guidelines rather than actual rules, but it still works.
  • The Arthurian code of chivalry, as referenced in Dragonheart.

  • In A Brother's Price, there seems to exist a code of honour, although it is never described in detail. Princess Trini, who was unwilling to marry in the first place, invokes her "duty", when her husband is in danger. "It is a wife's duty to protect her husband" - and she will do so, and risk her life for it. Whether she loves him isn't important.
  • The Code that the barbarian heroes (and their opposite numbers, Dark Lords) live by in Discworld.
    • Also, the Igors in Discworld have a Code which requires such things as "The Marther is always right." and "Don't ask [big] questions." At one point in Thief of Time, an Igor has to answer a question he cannot due to the Code. He simply says "I would be unable to say that." They must also not betray the Master but at the same time the Code doesn't forbid them from leaving right before the villagers come with torches and pitchforks.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • The Alethi Codes of War are an ancient set of rules that the local Proud Warrior Race gave up centuries ago as part of their devolution into Blood Knights. Dalinar is the only one who still holds to them, and the other highprinces scoff at the idea, insisting that no one ever actually followed them, they just claimed to so that they could pretend to be honorable. The really sad thing is that any modern real-world army would find the Codes perfectly reasonable, and in many cases less restrictive than real military doctrine: Stay in uniform while in a war zone, don't drink while on duty, don't duel unnecessarily in case important officers get injured, don't ask your men to do something you wouldn't do yourself, and don't abandon allies on the battlefield or seek to profit from their loss. It shows how much the Alethi have fallen that they refuse to even consider the wisdom in any of that.
    • The Knights Radiant had the Immortal Words, five oaths they lived by. The first Ideal ("Life before Death, Strength before Weakness, Journey before Destination") was the same for all ten Orders, but the other four were different. They derived these codes from a book called The Way of Kings, written by a ruler who had achieved peace throughout his kingdom.
  • In The Witcher Series, Geralt pretends he has one of these and will often bring it up when he refuses a job or stays neutral in any given conflict. There actually is a code but all it really covers is not sharing Witcher secrets and lore and preserving the secrecy of the mutagens that allow them to do their jobs. So Geralt is just bullshitting people when he quotes the Witcher Code when he doesn't want to do something.
  • The Warrior Code in the Warrior Cats series. It's eventually deconstructed in the Power of Three arc when Hollyleaf, who had used the code to determine morality, realizes that the code is imperfect and goes on a murderous rampage. Then it gets reconstructed in SkyClan's Destiny and The Forgotten Warrior, when the characters realize that the code is a guideline that can be changed, and when Hollyleaf uses it to atone.
  • In The Dresden Files The Fair Folk live by this. All their actions, both benign and malign, fall under this. Any debt incurred must be repaid in kind. Any injury must have an appropriate response. To claim a Fae has violated this is a grave insult. Another dangerous action is giving them a gift because they do not like being forced into being a debtor. The prospect of reneging on a debt owed to a mortal, because if the mortal is dead the debt cannot be repaid, is enough to make a powerful Fae assassin halt and listen to the request for repayment and then act on it. If the mortal was still targeted once the repayment happened, the assassin would finish the job then.
  • The Shadowhunters' Law from The Mortal Instruments, which provides a moral framework for what they do, but which is often very restrictive. Both the heroes and villains have a distinct tendency to try to circumvent it, even while accepting it in principle.

    Live action TV 

    Professional wrestling 
  • The Code Of Honor was/is the defining trait of Ring of Honor. It used to be a five point law that could earn one severe penalties if they violated it, put in place to cut back on the usual antics that go on in professional wrestling. For two years it seemed to be working, with even most of the heels subscribing to it at least partially. But then its obvious flaw became apparent; if most of the roster decides to violate it, are you going to suspend them all? Having strayed from its super indie roots, finding replacements in time for the next show would prove nigh impossible, so Gabe Sapolsky did away with the code. After he left the company it was brought back, although simplified to what amounted to "play nice" as there were no longer penalties for violators.
  • Samoa Joe tried to end the career of Christopher Daniels in TNA, AJ Styles accused Joe of violating the unwritten code of honor that comes with being a part of the X-Division, a code Joe said he did not care about in response. This was a great divergence from Joe's usual gimmick, where he refused to break ROH's code even when Christopher Daniels paid him to. He also kept upholding an honor code in The Pure Wrestling Association.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS has various Codes of Honour as disadvantages. While many of them are connected to specific organisations, there's also things like the "Pirates' Code of Honour" and "Gentlemen's Code of Honour"
  • The Oath and the Measure of the Solamnic Knights in the Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance setting.
  • Forgotten Realms has too many specific organizations. Even paladin orders of the same god don't have exactly the same charter: they were founded by different leaders for different goals. Of those published, there's The Code of the Harpers (they got a separate sourcebook).
  • The Paladin's Code from Dungeons & Dragons is intended to be a non-denominational version, and the paladin must adhere to it or lose his abilities. Unfortunately, sticking to the letter of the code will result in a Lawful Stupid character. They're not even allowed to render aid to chaotic characters.
  • The Aslan Fteir code in Traveller.
  • There are many Codes of Conduct found in Rocket Age, from the oaths taken by Maduri warriors to the ethics practised by reporters and private detectives. All are covered by the Code of Conduct bad trait.


    Video Games 
  • The code of the Asari Justicars in Mass Effect 2.
  • The titular Assassin's Creed is a sort of anti-Code that still manages to be a Code: "The wisdom of our creed is revealed in these words: 'Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.'" Naturally, there isn't much debate over what fits with a Code like that, only how it should be applied. Their was originally a whole slew of other rules (no poison, a number of ritual requirements like removing a finger to earn hidden blade privileges, absolute loyalty to superiors, etc.) but these were mostly abandoned over the centuries and each protagonist follows the warrior code appropriate to their culture.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, some thieves follow specific rules of honour known as the Code of Thieves. The Code specifies what thieves can and can't do. Over the years many thieves have abandoned the Code as they see it as antiquated, but others have successfully integrated it into their guilds and their way of life.

    Western Animation 
  • Da Rules in The Fairly OddParents!.
  • The Code of Thundera in Thunder Cats: "Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty."
  • The Unwritten Kids Code of Honor in Recess
  • The Code of The Schoolyard mentioned in an early episode of TheSimpsons. After Bart is beaten up, he won't tell a teacher because that would violate the code.
  • Two episodes of Defenders of the Earth reference this trope:
    • "A Demon in His Pocket" reveals that the Defenders have a Code of Honour which forbids them from fighting unnecessarily. So when Kshin is targeted by the school bullies, he feels unable to fight back, leading to him disobeying a direct order not to touch Mandrake's sorcery books and summoning the titular demon.
    • In "Return of the Skyband", the Phantom tells the other Defenders about an incident where his grandfather encountered an all-female band of Sky Pirates, but was unable to fight them because of a Code of Honour which forbids those who assume the Phantom title from harming women.

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s): Code Of Honor