Your character’s beliefs and personality should be the basis of 80% of the “Role-Playing.”. But in most games it is Roll-Playing. Most people just play themselves as a character, and never internalize the beliefs nor all the internal and external conflict that comes with them.
Tradtional alignments (LG, CG, NG, LN, NN, CN, LE, CE, NE) lock a character in to a never changing character. Those two (2) letters are supposed to mean a lot but most people only pick NG or CG and never think about it again; we play it the way we want. But, why? It is the essence of our alignments (Personality) that brings our character so many opportunities to delve into the depth of a character and shine above the "two letter" cookie cutter.
I think it is because alignments can’t truly identify our personality, and we can’t see every decision we make in one alignment.
First, I will illustrate a reason I put together the form you will find below. I was playing in an old Greyhawk game a decade or so ago, and I was playing an Egyptian based Paladin. The unusual thing about him is he owns slaves. My stance to my DM was that they were enemies that we captured in battle. It was our way, and those captured expected that we would treat them well; and we did so, knowing if the we were ever captive, we would receive the same treatment. My other point was they were not taken for any economic gain but as captives, who knew the alternative of being a defeated enemy was death. There was no dishonor in this cycle, and since we all treated everyone well, it was good. He agreed that I could be Lawful Good and play the character. Go ahead and discuss this subject with those around you.
The party members were aghast when they found out and could not believe it. My paladin was a stalwart warrior, good to his word and doing all those things a paladin should. But how do I account for this schism and still hold onto my Paladin status?
It is like this: No one is a single alignment. We all have things that make us good and bad. We all have our demons and skeletons in our closet. So what I did was put together a list of fluid numbers that define us. They will change as our experiences change us. Many of us have had moral dilemmas and had to work our way through them. These things change who we are. The attached sheet will help you weigh your choices more according to what the character finds necessary at the time. Good and evil is more of an overall blending of some of the numbers.
I call it a Personality Profile. It is broken down into five sections. Each section defines an area of your personality. These numbers represent your value or belief.
First, I allow them to modify checks both positive and negative. I.E. If someone is bribing you and have a negative number in your (Greed/Generosity) then you gain that as a penalty to that check. However, if someone is seducing you and you have a high (Perversion/Chaste), you would gain a bonus to resist the seduction.
Most importantly; if your numbers come into conflict, your character should typically choose the higher number. However, when they don’t your character will grow and change, and that is why the numbers can change over time.
Let me illustrate how this drive character development. Let us say your Morality Revenge/Mercy is -3 (Meaning you lean toward revenge) and your Value Others (Family) is a +2. Now your family member has just killed your best friend. Should you take things into your hands and kill him? Well maybe, look down at how high your “Secular Values (Justice) is. If it is low, you may just kill him, but what if he is your only brother? These situations are where the numbers might shift. If you don’t follow your numbers; you and the GM should agree to change a number when you make such a decision, over time this changes your character. This way of doing personality is more genuine character development. Does that make sense?
You choose your numbers. With that said, I believe that everyone is born wth +5 in all of the red section and a few other numbers (GMs choice though). That means life changes you before you even start playing your character. These numbers should give you some ideas for writing your character background.
In the colored sections the higher the number (more positive), the more you lean toward the right-hand side of the two items. In the black areas, it is just a simple 0 to 5 rating of how important or valued this item is to your character.
First the red section is how we evaluate good and evil. You add them together, and a positive number means you are good, and a negative number means you are evil. Now it is a matter of degrees. A clergy of one God might need you to be a total of +10 or better while another might need you to be +15. Further, this blending of numbers allows the characters to have things about their personality that still need work.
After creating your sheet, look it over, see what numbers might come into conflict and see how it will create high drama and stories for you. Your GM will certainly do this.
I as a GM keep a copy of the first sheet they create for the character. I use it for notes on areas I can exploit. Extreme numbers that will come into conflict or average numbers I can use to help a player develop some strong beliefs.
As a player, these are your beliefs not what someone put on you. So they should feel natural to the character, not the player. We should play the character as the character we created, not how we want to play the character. There is a difference once you give that character their own personality.