However, there's something a little unsatisfactory about that label when it is applied to player characters. Don't get me wrong: I don't have a problem per se with player characters attaining power and then abusing it in egregious ways. It's part of what role playing is all about, and I don't believe I'd ever game with anybody who I thought would support iron fisted tyrants in real life. But at the same time are budding Hitlers and Pol Pots all that Lawful Evil characters can be?
This is where we see a disconnect between what D&D always could have been, but never was, and was never likely to become. Lawful Evil is a perfect alignment for a 'devious, greedy merchant', an amoral lawyer, a scheming lower-rank politician, a sophist philosopher, or a con man. But the trouble is that none of those archetypes are viable in a game whose rules are fundamentally about killing things in dungeons. And unless you have a group of very like-minded friends, using that game about killing things in dungeons to play something else can be tough.
That isn't a complaint, of course. I would love to play D&D games involing amoral lawyers or sophist philosophers, but I recognise that such campaigns would have to be achieved in spite of, not through, the rules. They just aren't D&D. You might as well play a free-form game instead, for all the support the rules will offer you. Such is life.
The existence of Lawful Evil shows how fundamentally odd aligment is - a system which categorises all of human life into 10 sections, and which allows a very slender sub-section of society (adventurers) to choose from all 10. It shouldn't be surprising that there are some alignments which fit the adventuring lifestyle less well than others. The fact that the designers did not seem to have considered this is an indication of the amazing scope of their ambition: D&D was a game whose rules were for killing things in dungeons, but which reached for something far greater than that - literally, to be anything its players wanted to use it for. That the rules didn't always jibe with this ambition is obvious, and it stands in sharp contrast to the very narrowly defined games which the modern 'indie' movement produces - where every rule is there to serve a specific goal and any superfluity is ruthlessly severed. I know which I prefer.