The Commandments

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The Commandments are a short list of simple rules that must be followed. It's a much simpler system the any rulebook, lawbook or manifesto. The most famous such list of commandments (at least in western culture) is the one known as The Ten Commandments, featured in Real Life Judaism and Christianity as well as stories about these faiths. However, there are many other such lists popping up in various media, especially fantasy.

If a work has its own list, include the list on the example. (Unless the list is really long, but if it is then it's unlikely that the example truly belongs in this trope in the first place.)

No examples from Real Life religion or philosophy please. Not on the main page.

When rules are played for annoyment, that's Rule Number One. When rules are played for alienation, that's Ape Shall Never Kill Ape.

Examples of The Commandments include:


The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. Third rule of Fight Club: someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: no shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.

  1. Serve the public trust.
  2. Protect the innocent.
  3. Uphold the law.
  4. Never oppose an OCP officer.
  • Zombieland gives us the Rules, as laid down by Columbus. There's almost 40, but they're very succinct (and we never get to hear them all). Examples include:

1. Cardio
2. Double tap
3. Beware of bathrooms
4. Always wear a seatbelt
18. Limber up
22. When in doubt, know your way out
29. Check the back seat

Rule 1: The deal is the deal. The conditions of the deal will not be changed after it has been confirmed.
Rule 2: No names.
Rule 3: Never look in the package.


  • Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, used in his Robot stories and by many other SF writers in works about AI. Note that unlike other sets of commandments, these laws are hard-coded into the robots' artificial brains. As Greg Powell describes it in "Escape!":

"Before it's physically possible in any way for a robot to even make a start to breaking the First Law, so many things have to break down that it would be a ruined mess of scrap ten times over."

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
      • We ought to note that the robots, after becoming totally sentient and ridiculously human, eventually discover a Zeroth law: A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. This comes to light in the prequels and later sequels to Foundation, in which it is a key part of Asimov's Arc Welding.
  • Michael Moorcock's book The Warhound and the World's Pain had the main character go through a valley in which the only law was steal nothing. Not as easy as it sounds, as it's then explained that pretty much any crime can be defined in terms of stealing: murder is the theft of life, lying is the theft of choice, etc.
  • The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space in Discworld are:
  1. Silence.
  2. Books must be returned no later than the last date shown.
  3. Do not interfere with the nature of causality.
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau:
    • Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
    • Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
    • Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
    • Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
    • Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
  • Animal Farm has the principles of Animalism, which are written on the side of the barn for all to see. The first principle was "All animals are equal". As their system slipped into totalitarianism and tyranny, the principles got altered and removed until only a subversion of the first rule remained: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." The other six laws, in order of appearance:
  • The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: Eight of those. Well, 10 actually, but Mosey the pirate captain dropped two of the stone tablets as he walked down Mount Salsa.
  • The Dresden Files has Seven Laws of Magic.
    • Thou shalt not kill by use of magic.
    • Thou shalt not transform others.
    • Thou shalt not invade the mind of another.
    • Thou shalt not enthrall another.
    • Thou shalt not reach beyond the borders of life.
    • Thou shalt not swim against the Currents of Time.
    • Thou shalt not seek beyond the Outer Gates.

Live Action TV

  • Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS has at least fifty-one rules for himself and his team as of the last episode of season 7.
    • Gibbs rules (As of Season 8 Episode 24). Yes there are a few doubles. Word of God explains the doubles of Rules 1, 2, and 3 are Golden Rules imparted on Gibbs by Franks. It was never said which belongs in Franks' set.

The Unwritten rule: Do what you have to for family.
1: Never screw (over) your partner.
1: Never let suspects stay together.
2: Always wear gloves at a crime scene.
3: Don't believe what you're told. Double check .
3: Never be unreachable.
4: If you have a secret, the best thing is to keep it to yourself. The second-best is to tell one other person if you must. There is no third-best.
5: You don't waste good.
6: Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness.
7: Always be specific when you lie.
8: Never take anything for granted.
9: Never go anywhere without a knife.
10: Never get personally involved in a case.
11: When the job is done, walk away.
12: Never date a co-worker.
13: Never, ever involve lawyers.
15: Always work as a team.
18: It's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
22: Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation.
23: Never mess with a Marine's coffee, if you want to live.
27: Two ways to follow: First way they never notice you. Second way they only notice you.
35: Always watch the watchers.
38: Your case. Your lead.
39: There is no such thing as a coincidence.
40: If it seems like someone is out to get you, they are.
44: First things first, Hide the women and children.
45: Clean up your own messes.
51: Sometimes you're wrong. (Addendum to original rules, and written on the back of Rule 13)

  • Monty Python's Flying Circus gives us the rules of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Walamaloo:
    • Rule One: No poofters.
    • Rule Two: No member of the faculty is to maltreat the Abos in any way at all if there's anybody watching.
    • Rule Three: No poofters.
    • Rule Four: This term, I don't want to catch anybody not drinking in their room after lights out.
    • Rule Five: No poofters.
    • Rule Six: There is no Rule Six.
    • Rule Seven: No poofters.



  • The Ten Commandments, as noted above. The Pentateuch actually contains 613 commandments altogether; famously when Jesus Christ was asked which was most important, he replied "Love God, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you", which is collectively known as the Great Commandment, and the latter part as the Golden Rule (or Rule of Gold).

Tabletop Games

  • Ars Magica. The Order of Hermes had a Code of Conduct which (among other things) forbade dealing with demons, endangering the Order, interfering with secular governments and spying on or killing other mages.
  • Paladins in Forgotten Realms follow many deities, each with a different portfolio, many of them also with variety of loosely connected orders and churches that can and do emphasize different parts of the same god's agenda or interpret in somewhat different ways... you got the picture: an universal and strict code cannot exist. Yet people have a general idea of what a "paladin" is, which for the gods is a part of the reason to sponsor any in the first place. The commonly agreed-upon guidelines (priorities and interpretations differ) are Paladin's Virtues from "Quentin's Monograph":

An organized approach brings the most good for all.
Laws exist to bring prosperity to those under them.
Unjust laws must be overturned or changed in a reasonable and positive fashion.
People rule; laws help.
Cause the most good through the least harm.
Protect the weak.
Goodness is not a natural state, but must be fought for to be attained and maintained.
Lead by example.
Let your deeds speak your intentions.
Goodness radiates from the heart.
Give others your mercy, but keep your wits about you.

  • Warhammer 40,000 seemingly must have a lot of those, given its themes, but not much is actually given.
    • Dark Heresy introduced "Ludmillan Dictates" - rules of "Cult of the Emperor’s Red Redemption"[1]:

Red is the color of Redemption; it is the colour of fire and blood.
Do not consume narcotics, alcohol or other substances that give pleasure. They are sin given substance.
Do not suffer the witch to live; cast them to the fire.
Do not suffer the mutant to live; rend their flesh apart.
Do not suffer the heretic for they have heard the Emperor’s truth and have heeded it not. Force them to penance and then to death.
Should the Emperor’s service require you to appear as others, do so. The mask and red robes of Redemption must be donned when the time comes to set the sinner to their fate.
When you take up the weapons of the Emperor, do not show your face. You are the Emperor’s tool and not on your own business.
Pain is a gift: mortification is a duty that should be performed daily.

  • World of Darkness, both Old and New.
    • The original Vampire: The Masquerade had Traditions that vampires (Camarilla vampires, anyway) were required to follow.

The First Tradition: The Masquerade. "Thou shalt not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing so shall renounce thy claims of Blood."
The Second Tradition: The Domain. "Thy Domain is thy concern. All others owe thee respect while in it. None may challenge thy word in thy Domain."
The Third Tradition: The Progeny. "Thou shalt sire another only with permission of thine Elder. If thou createst another without thine Elder's leave, both thou and thy progeny shalt be slain."
The Fourth Tradition: The Accounting. "Those thou create are thine own childer. Until thy progeny shall be released, thou shalt command them in all things. Their sins are thine to endure."
The Fifth Tradition: Hospitality. "Honor one another's Domain. When thou comest to a foreign city, thou shalt present thyself to the one who ruleth there. Without the word of acceptance, thou art Nothing."
The Sixth Tradition: Destruction. "Thou art forbidden to destroy another of thy kind. The right of Destruction belongeth only to thine Elder. Only the Eldest among thee shall call the Blood Hunt."

    • In the successor game Vampire: The Requiem, these Traditions are simplified down to three: Masquerade (pretty much the same as above), Progeny (same as above), and Amaranth ("Do not commit diablerie").
    • Werewolf: The Apocalypse presents the Litany of the Garou Nation.

Garou shall not mate with Garou.
Combat the Wyrm wherever it dwells and wherever it breeds.
Respect the territory of another.
Accept an honorable surrender.
Submit to those higher in station.
The first share of the kill for the greatest in station.
Ye shall not eat the flesh of humans.
Respect those beneath ye -- all are of Gaia.
The Veil shall not be lifted.
Do not suffer thy people to tend thy sickness.
The leader may be challenged at any time during peace.
The leader may not be challenged during wartime.
Ye shall take no action that causes a Caern to be violated.

    • Werewolf: The Forsaken likewise has the Oath of the Moon, with precepts such as. "The Wolf Must Hunt," "The Herd Must Not Know", "The Low Honor the High; the High Honor the Low," "The People Do Not Murder the People," "Respect Your Prey," "The Uratha Shall Cleave to the Human," and "Do Not Eat the Flesh of Man or Wolf." Each tribe has a little sub-clause to this Oath, such as "Offer No Surrender You Would Not Accept" (the Blood Talons), "Pay Each Spirit in Kind" (the Bone Shadows), "Let No Sacred Place in Your Territory Be Violated" (the Hunters in Darkness), "Honor Your Territory in All Things" (the Iron Masters), and "Allow No One to Witness or Tend To Your Weakness" (the Storm Lords).
    • Geist: The Sin Eaters has the Old Laws of the Dominions of the Underworld. Each Dominion has its own set of laws, such as "Take nothing, leave nothing," "Speak not to the shades" or "Bow before passing guardsmen." It's suggesting that Storytellers tempt the players into breaking them... but in-game, most Sin-Eaters are very reluctant to break them, as doing so draws the instant attention of the Kerberos that runs the Dominion.

Web Original

Video Games

  • In the third Quest for Glory game, the city-state of Tarna was ruled by this simple code of law:

Thou shalt harm none
Thou shalt not use magic upon the streets of Tarna
Thou shalt not take that which is not thine.
Thou shalt behave with honor.

Visual Novels

  1. It is forbidden for the culprit to be anyone not mentioned in the early part of the story.
  2. It is forbidden for supernatural agencies to be employed as a detective technique.
  3. It is forbidden for hidden passages to exist.
  4. It is forbidden for unknown drugs or hard to understand scientific devices to be used.
  5. (Not Included)
  6. It is forbidden for accident or intuition to be employed as a detective technique.
  7. It is forbidden for the detective to be the culprit.
  8. It is forbidden for the case to be resolved with clues that are not presented.
  9. It is permitted for observers to let their own conclusions and interpretations be heard.
  10. It is forbidden for a character to disguise themselves as another without any clues.
    • The Van Dine commandments were featured shortly in EP7, but only a few commandments were used, and the gameboard possibly doesn't use those commandments.
  1. one of the non-heretical Imperial Death Cults made into character options, for pure joy of playing a member of the sect even The Ecclesiarchy sees as a bit too strict, aggressive and generally over the top