Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO ColumnRoleCraft: Aligning RoleplayJim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column - RSS 2.0
Roleplaying the conflict of Good versus Evil is one of the main reasons I am drawn to MMORPGs. These games allow me an outlet for displaying both beliefs through personalities and actions I in real life may and will never have a chance to otherwise. It's not for some grandiose ego trip that I have characters that are Good or Bad, or some combination thereof. I simply like to have in game characters that are unique and individual, because I am.
Personality, beliefs, morals, and ethics, are all things that make up our real life selves, so naturally and logically it goes they should also exist within our RP characters. However, just saying that they exist, and actually manifesting them in game through RP, are two vastly different sides of the same coin. Fret not, my fellow roleplayers, I believe I can help you with this.
For this part, let's take a look at my favorite system for first deciding upon and developing a rock solid basis for your character's personality: the Alignment descriptions from Dungeons and Dragons. Knowledgeable roleplayers and regular RoleCraft readers know that the D&D 4th edition rules were recently published. I personally find the new Alignment guidelines too bare, much like the rest of the new Player's Handbook, so I continue use the concepts introduced with the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons edition. The new simpler definitions are nonetheless useful, and should not be overlooked.
To begin, and in case the theories of alignment are new to you, allow me a brief and in-my-own-words explanation. Alignment is made up of two parts - your character's public and private identity - and is the result of how well those two affect your character's thoughts and actions. If that still doesn't help, then refer to the following links for broader and in depth explanations:
Another basic thought to keep in mind regarding alignment is that it predominately and publicly shows your character's character when faced with a life-sized decision. For example, saving a life may show to the public that your character is noble and honorable. However, your character may have only saved another life because they wish to be the ones to end that life, a thought only known to your character. Such differences are why I think it helps distinguish the true meanings of each alignment, thereby making it easier for me to define a character's overall personality.
I think it should also be noted that alignment stems from conscious thought and decisions. Your character thinks, decides, and acts, resulting in a public or private showing of their alignment. Unconscious actions, such as shuffling one's feet while walking or talking to yourself do not necessarily equate into alignment.
Unless you're a psychology major, I suggest caution towards the danger of delving too deeply into thinking about each alignment. With all the ways it can be thought of and interpreted, it's enough to cause no end to the headaches one could give themselves. I only use it for a foundation to build a character's general psyche and behavior upon. I do not use it as a set-in-stone description for any of my characters. Remember, it's supposed to be just another tool employed in a game, and games are meant to be fun.
Employing an alignment into your character can be done in much more than a few ways. In my experience, roleplayers seem to have more than an average knowledge about themselves and others. That is, they are more empathetic and aware of their own thoughts and feelings, and how and why those develop. Picking and choosing one or more of elements to include into the personality of a MMORPG character and seeing the resulting alignment is therefore rather easily done.
It's also just as easy to steal a particular personality trait or traits from somewhere else. I've created many a character based off a single mental or physical attribute witnessed, either in a movie, book, graphic novel, or some other media. Or, you may even resort to dispensing with logic and instead go with a melding of some random qualities. If you favor the random method, try rolling a d20, fitting the nine alignments to correspond with 01-10, 11-20, 21-30, etc., and with a result of 91-00 being the Dungeon Master choice / 'WAG' / ask a friend option. If you care for a more structured process, try these handy alignment quizzes:
It may even help if you have written or drawn a physical description of your character first, then going with or against stereotypes. Yet another method would be copying your very own idiosyncrasies, or using the opposite ones you possess. Whatever method you use, the key hope is that you create a character with an alignment that you will enjoy playing.
Now, look well into the above links, take what is useful for your purposes, and discard the rest. In part two of this article, I'll be looking closely at each alignment and giving examples of how they may be of use in RP. As always, any feedback you wish to direct my way may be done so here in Comments, or sent to my email - RoleCraft AT gmail DOT com. Role on!