Friday, May 8, 2009


With the scrapping of 9-square alignment, we lose a helpful tool for quickly defining personality. As much as alignment could be a straightjacket, it was also handy for defining NPCs in a hurry, or even for low-level PCs.

Luckily, since the time of the ancients, people have tried to evaluate personalities. The Four Humors could work. The italic text here is excerpted from Wikipedia.

Sanguine indicates the personality of an individual with the temperament of blood, Night, the season of spring (wet and hot), and the classical element of air. A person who is sanguine is generally light-hearted, funloving, a people person, loves to entertain, spontaneous,leader abilities, and confident . However they can be arrogant, cocky, and indulgent. He/She can be day-dreamy and off-task to the point of not accomplishing anything and can be impulsive, possibly acting on whims in an unpredictable fashion. This also describes the manic phase of a bipolar disorder.

Choleric corresponds to the fluid of yellow bile, the season of summer (dry and hot), and the element of fire. A person who is choleric is a doer . They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics. On the negative side, they are easily angered or bad-tempered.

Melancholic is the personality of an individual characterized by black bile (hence Greek μέλας, melas, "black", + χολή, kholé, "bile"); a person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art - but also can become overly pre-occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world, thus becoming depressed. The temperament is associated with the season of fall/autumn (dry and cold) and the element earth. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist, being very particular about what they want and how they want it in some cases. This often results in being unsatisfied with one's own artistic or creative works and always pointing out to themselves what could and should be improved.

This temperament describes the depressed phase of a bipolar disorder.

A phlegmatic person is calm and unemotional. Phlegmatic means "pertaining to phlegm", corresponds to the season of winter (wet and cold), and connotes the element of water.

While phlegmatics are generally self-content and kind, their shy personality can often inhibit enthusiasm in others and make themselves lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Like the sanguine personality, the phlegmatic has many friends. However the phlegmatic is more reliable and compassionate; these characteristics typically make the phlegmatic a more dependable friend.

If the DM chooses to expand on the simple four-part system here, you can easily use a full set of astrological signs. Basically, in addition to their element (Humour), everyone gets a Quality:

* Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) are associated with initiation and creativity.
* Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) are associated with focus, powerful concentration, individuality and determination.
* Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces) are associated with resourcefulness, holism and adaptability.

You could make astrology an important part of the campaign by tracking when the various planets are in rulership and so on.

Thus, fully defining a character with this system might be done like so:

You can either make a quick sketch on your own, or you can just hit up an astrology guide, look up Capricorn, add a dollop of respect for tradition and authority (the lawful tendencies) and call it a day.

Note that many of these concepts tie in with the classical elements (and thus my language system), with ideas in medieval alchemy, and with Greco-Roman western tradition. So there is a wealth of flavor to be mined here if you so desire.

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