Elements of Roleplay: Personality and Alignment

As both a DM/GM/Narrator and a player, you are tasked with understanding the basic elements of roleplay. I’m going to briefly talk about some simple aspects which I feel are expertly implemented in D&D 5e; Personality and Alignment.

-Personality: It is important to have your character or npc’s personality fairly fleshed out before you ever actually enter them into a roleplay. Personality encompasses a number of different aspects, but for the sake of this blog I’m going to use the ones preset on the D&D 5e character sheets. These are Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.

  • Personality Traits: Personality traits are short little sentences that describe how your character might react to general situations. Examples would be “I don’t speak unless spoken to,” or “I’d rather ask forgiveness than ask permission.”
  • Ideals: An ideal is a focal point of a character’s life; something they strive for. Examples would be things like greed, power, revenge, companionship, etc.
  • Bonds: Bonds are something your character is passionate about to a self sacrificing degree. These bonds will cause your character to act against all other aspects of personality and alignment if need be. Examples would be things like, “I would do anything for the sake of my younger siblings,” or “My territory is my everything, and anybody who dare tread on it shall face my wrath.”
  • Flaws: Everybody has a fatal flaw; something that is a detriment to themselves or those around them. For example, a character might have an overwhelming desire for the pleasures of the flesh or this unsettling twitch that can only be settled by murdering innocents.

-Alignment: Alignment is a much more complicated area to discuss as there are various combinations of alignments and various ways to interpret each. I will do my best to give my interpretation as well as other common interpretations of each, but it is good to get an idea of how other members of your specific group perceive alignments before engaging in roleplay.

  • Lawful Good: A lawful good character has a set of moral guidelines or laws that he/she follows strictly in all circumstances except those that affect his/her bonds. In addition to this strict moral adherence, a lawful good character also ensures that all of their actions tend toward the greater good. Other interpretations of lawful good see lawful as meaning the man-made laws of the land, rather than a character specific moral code.
  • Neutral Good: A neutral good character tends to the greater good like his/her lawful good allies, and he/she also has a moral code to live by. The primary difference between lawful good and neutral good is that neutral good is far more likely to deviate from their moral code; especially when doing so assists the greater good. Other interpretations see neutral good as a sort of true good in which laws and codes are irrelevant as long as the greater good is being served.
  • Chaotic Good: Chaotic good is similar to the way others might perceive neutral good. They have no moral codes or laws to abide by, instead choosing to follow their basic instinct on what is for the greater good; a true utilitarian of sorts. Other interpretations of chaotic good may involve a person who aims to be good but tends to cause more harm than good due to their impulsive behaviors.
  • Lawful Neutral: Lawful neutral is how you might perceive most everyday humans. They have codes or laws that they strictly follow, but they serve no greater purpose. Their actions are for the sake of themselves and the people they care about. I can’t really think of another way to interpret lawful neutral, but if someone else can, please feel free to comment.
  • True Neutral: True neutral is the most self-explanatory of the bunch. A true neutral character serves their own purpose and does so as they see fit, sometimes shirking laws and moral codes to make it happen. Other people may interpret a true neutral character as somebody who refuses to align in any situation.
  • Chaotic Neutral: Chaotic Neutral will do absolutely anything they can think of to achieve their personal goals. They have no sense of right or wrong whatsoever and can often be the most dangerous type of character because of it. Another common interpretation of chaotic neutral is a sort of true chaotic with no rhyme or reason to their actions.
  • Evil (Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic): The evil alignments all work as mirrors to the good alignments. The way they behave toward societal norms is the same, but their causes are opposite of their good counterparts.

If you have a character or npc with both personality and alignment fleshed out, you will almost never be at a loss for how to react to different roleplay situations. This is true for any tabletop you set out to play, not just D&D, and it can help you in any other character based creative endeavors as well. One additional piece you could use to truly flesh out the roleplay elements of a character would be a detailed backstory. If you have and understand all three elements, your characters will be so well played that your parts of the story become seamless.

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