Chapter 5: Personality and Motivation
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
The following is an excerpt from the upcoming pen & paper rules for Master of the Rogue Spire.
Moral “alignment” is a common trope in RPGs, be it fantasy or otherwise. The most simple presentation being a choice between good and evil with a stoic neutrality in between the two extremes. Another axis - like adherence to the rule of law versus spontaneous chaos - was added to make characters more two-dimensional. Not all characters needed to be hand-wringing evildoers or cat saving boy scouts.
Although, even with the two-track approach, options are limited. The other problem with this type of black and white morality is that it doesn’t speak to why a character is “good” or “evil”. Master of the Rogue Spire presents a more piecemeal approach to personality generation for players and Game Masters. Those familiar with the traditional nine alignments will be able to find some overlap in the new system, but there is much more room for customization and experimentation in your character’s Personality Traits.
When deciding a character’s personality, players and Game Masters should think of what motivates their character into action or inaction. Below, Chart 5.1 shows the relationship of the 10 general personality traits. They form a circular pattern from altruistic motivations to dominant motivations and back around again. Altruistic characters take action selflessly, while dominant characters focus more on what they can gain from each situation.
One the left side of the Personality Wheel are personalities focused on individual action while the right side is more motivated by social structure. Traditionally, this was called the axis of chaos versus law, but while chaos implies randomness, those motivated by their individual wants may be very focused and organized.
Characters can have up to four different personality traits, but most have only one or two. After choosing an initial trait, remove all opposing traits - these are traits more than three spaces away on the Personality Wheel. Opposing traits may be admissible by your Game Master, but a character cannot have two diametrically opposing traits as they stand for the exact opposite motivation. These diametrically opposing traits are highlighted in italics in the Trait descriptions.
Characters can be motivated by something other than what their Personality Traits dictate, but the traits should take precedence in any important decisions that have real repercussions in your game world.
RANDOM TRAITS FOR NPCs If a player or the Game Master wants to quickly determine traits, they may roll for 1-4 random traits for each character: 1. Roll 4d10 and place them in a row. 2. Record the Trait selected by the first die number. 3. Remove all dice with opposing Trait numbers. 4. Remove the first die. If any dice remain, go to step 2. 5. Repeat until no dice remain.
Game Masters should keep track of a player’s traits and have them available during gameplay. If a player is making a tough choice with two wildly different outcomes, there are benefits they can be given for choosing the outcome that coincides with their character’s motivations. At the appropriate decision point, adjudicated by the Game Master, they may gain the Encouraged status. This can be a personal decision or a decision that the entire party makes. In the case of a party decision, the Game Master may give multiple characters the Encouraged status for the same action.
A Selfless character could be encouraged if he stayed an extra day in town to heal the sick even though a storm is coming, an Independent character could be encouraged to disobey the direct orders of his leader because he saw an interesting shop on the street, or an Imperious character could be encouraged by forcing his way into a leadership role in his gang over someone that better deserved it. Characters need to make an actual choice to receive the Encouraged status, which usually means facing some repercussions.
If a player already has the Encouraged status, they may choose to spend the new Encouraged status at that moment or lose it forever. If a player has the Discouraged status they remove it instead of gaining the Encouraged status, or if applicable, downgrade Stressed to Discouraged or downgrade Overwhelmed to Stressed.
When players go against their character’s motivations, the Game Master may give their character the Discouraged status to represent the regret they are feeling. Characters can also be affected negatively by the actions of the other members of their party. If someone in their party makes a decision that is diametrically opposed to their personal beliefs, the Game Master may give the Discouraged status to any characters that were aware of the action happening and could have stopped it. If a character has the Discouraged status, they upgrade it to the Stressed status, and if they already have the Stressed status they upgrade it to the Overwhelmed status.
DEGRADING STATUS ORDER: DISCOURAGED -> STRESSED -> OVERWHELMED More information will be found on these statuses in Chapter 4: Morale and Status.
A Dogmatic character would be Discouraged when another party member steals from the inn where they are staying, a humane character would be Discouraged when another party member tortures a captive orc, or a Righteous character would be Discouraged when the party decides not to intervene when the town is being unfairly punished by their leaders. A Game Master cannot bar a player from taking an action opposed to their Personality Traits, but players that continue to take Discouraging actions should be allowed to change their character’s Personality Traits.
NPCs that already have the Discouraged or Stressed status will refuse to take another action against their beliefs and can be further discouraged by the actions of their group if their happiness is not managed. NPCs that have the Overwhelmed status will immediately leave the party if they deem it safe to do so. Once they have left the party, they will not return without some intervention from the players to explain their actions or how they have changed.
Changing Personality Traits should not be done on a whim, but if a player is consistently being discouraged by their own actions or by their party, they may petition the Game Master to change their traits. If done in the first few sessions of play, there should be no problems switching out traits - the purpose of the traits is to give the players a basis for their role-playing decisions and reduce table arguments over character motivations, not to punish players for trying to refine their character's personality during play.
If a penalty for changing traits is needed to reduce players taking advantage of the Personality Trait system, Game Masters may give the Discouraged, Stressed or Overwhelmed status to characters that change Personality too drastically or too often. They may also bar a character from getting XP for the next session to represent the stress of their character's emotional upheaval.
Motivation: Malice Motto: “Show no mercy” Opposing Traits: (6) Humane, (7) Selfless, (5) Principled
Cruel characters take great pleasure in hurting or dominating others, especially their enemies. They may extract a steep penalty for any wrongdoing or serve a cruel master, but they aren’t concerned about helping anyone or progressing the greater good through their cruelty.
They want to hurt others.
They would only show mercy to inflict more pain.
Motivation: Power Motto: “Might makes right” Opposing Traits: (7) Selfless, (8) Righteous, (6) Humane
Imperious characters wish to take power over others and feel no need to help other characters whether they are in trouble or not. They may use their power to progress the greater good, but they are not concerned about the well-being of individuals other than themselves or the idea of justice unless it is what they justly deserve.
They want to dominate others.
They would only help someone to gain power over them.
Motivation: Order Motto: “The law is the law” Opposing Traits: (8) Righteous, (9) Independent, (7) Selfless
Dogmatic characters follow the law to the letter, whether it be the law of the land or their religion or their group’s ethos, but never their own personal whims. They may be ambitious for status and wealth or kind to the unfortunate but they do not seek out independence in action or desire to give their life in service.
They want to follow the rules.
They would only do what is right if the law allows it.
Motivation: Duty Motto: “Just following orders” Opposing Traits: (9) Independent, (8) Righteous, (10) Ambitious
Obedient characters follow the orders of their commanders, whether they be good, evil, legal or illegal. They may serve selflessly or as an extension of their personal cruelty, but they aren’t concerned with their personal ambitions or what is the just course of action in any situation.
They want to serve their leader well.
They would only do what they want if their leader allows it.
Motivation: Unity Motto: “For the greater good” Opposing Traits: (10) Ambitious, (9) Independent, (1) Cruel
Principled characters try to do the best for all, even if would cause suffering for some - some would call it the pragmatic side of good. They may try to consolidate power around themselves to do this or have their own sense of right and wrong, but they not driven by selfish or cruel motivations.
They want to make the world a better place.
They would only act for themselves if society would benefit.
Motivation: Altruism Motto: “Kindness is never wasted” Opposing Traits: (1) Cruel, (10) Ambitious, (2) Imperious
Human characters are always kind and never cruel, even to their enemies. Their kindness does not have an agenda. They may take personal joy from kindness or it may be part of a deeply held belief system, but they don’t care about status, competition, or hierarchical dominance.
They want to be good to others.
They would only hurt someone if it can not be avoided.
Motivation: Service Motto: “Living is service to others” Opposing Traits: (2) Imperious, (1) Cruel, (3) Dogmatic
Selfless characters live in service to helping others even if it may be detrimental to themselves. They are independent agents serving causes that they believe to be just and good. They may blindly follow the orders of a just leader or seek to gain prestige and fame for their service, but they don’t enjoy cruelty or following rules they believe to be unjust.
They want to serve the cause.
They would only take power over another to save them.
Motivation: Justice Motto: “More justice; less law” Opposing Traits: (3) Dogmatic, (2) Imperious, (4) Obedient
Righteous characters do what they think is fair and just and are not concerned with what the law says they can or cannot do. They may fight for the greater good or enjoy handing out cruel punishments, but they are not interested in power for power’s sake or following their leaders blindly.
They want to right wrongs.
They would only follow the law if they agreed it was just.
Motivation: Freedom Motto: “Live in the moment” Opposing Traits: (4) Obedient, (3) Dogmatic, (5) Principled
Independent characters do what they want to do and are not concerned about what others think. They may thirst for power or do good for others, but they care nothing for the rules of society or a nebulous sense of the “the greater good.”
They want to enjoy life.
They would only follow orders that they wanted to follow.
Motivation: Achievement Motto: “First come, first serve” Opposing Traits: (5) Principled, (4) Obedient, (6) Humane
Ambitious characters want to be the best, the richest, the most loved or if they cannot be any of those, simply be most famous. They may get there while slavishly following the rules or through heroic self-sacrifice, but they are not concerned with being nice or following the will of others.
They want to improve their holdings and status.
They would only help others if it helped them personally.
This is still in rough draft form, so any questions or comments are much appreciated!
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