What systems have mechanics that deal with and express who characters are as people (i.e., with their personalities) in ways that have direct mechanical application in gameplay, not just vague roleplaying outlines or suggestions? This is especially related to morality. There are two aspects to this:

1. The System Can Express Character Personality Mechanically

This includes, but is not limited to,

  • Character personal history
  • Different kinds of approaches characters take to various situations (are they clever and strategic, or prefer a more head-on approach?)
  • Personality strengths, weaknesses, and quirks
  • Relationships to other characters

And so forth.

Again, we're talking about things that aren't merely roleplaying decoration, flavor elements, or "tags" like the DnD alignments system that largely don't affect scene-by-scene decisions directly, but things that affect the gameplay in terms of bonuses, gaining or losing resources, etc.

2. The System Has a Strong Moral Component that Includes Progression

What I mean by this is that the system not only has a way of dealing character vice and virtue, and how these things aid or hinder characters in gameplay, but also contains a system where characters can incrementally overcome their flaws and vices and increase their virtues.


Our group is running a weird home-brew fantasy game that's a mash-up between the Riddle of Steel and Fate, and we're looking for a stronger personality and morality system to use than either of those offered by those games. The setting revolves around a "war in heaven" style game, rife with demons, gods, and spirits, and the demons in this setting work toward manipulating characters via the character's vices and personality flaws, and the players, not wanting this, aim to overcome their flaws. Because of this, we want character progression to be based largely on characters overcoming their fears, emotional damage, and character flaws and growing into more whole, healthy human persons.

The reason that Fate's aspects, which we use for everything else, don't work in this context, is twofold: 1. Using aspects for vices leads to the dynamic where players get rewarded by the GM for indulging in their vices, which sends the wrong message and creates the wrong feel for the setting. 2. Fate doesn't have a system for dealing with the growth and overcoming of vices/flaws and the cultivating and increase of virtues.

What games do you know of that do these two points really well, how well do they work, and why would you recommend them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have shelves of such RPGs. (And they're not multi-volume RPGs either, they're mostly single-book games.) Could you please narrow this down a bit? You don't realise it, but you've cast an extremely wide net. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 6:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you discuss why your homebrew Fate's aspects are insufficient to the task? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 8:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ They may not be insufficient, I'm not sure. I think there are two main issues: 1. A system where character flaws are "bought off" in a given scene to get Fate points (compelling an aspect on that character) has the wrong feel: characters in this game are actively fighting against their character flaws, and getting points for them gives the wrong message. 2. Fate doesn't have (as far as I'm aware) a system of character progression that involves progressively overcoming these flaws and growing into more whole persons. \$\endgroup\$
    – doctorw0rm
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 8:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Edit that in, that's a useful paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 8:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question because the querent ended up asking it better in a different question, per his own comment. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 3:26

3 Answers 3



Sorcerer's Humanity mechanic is nice and customizable - you define Humanity as the moral compass for this particular game or story arc as a unifying bit for the PCs, but the issues and struggles each character takes around that generally tend to be personalized and different.

Humanity can be used as a stat to test with, so having it go up can be useful depending how you customize it. It also punishes you for going too far down the hole by removing your character from play, permanently.


Polaris has a Zeal/Weariness mechanic. When your character violates their moral code as a knight, they have to roll a die to see if their character advances towards final corruption or a death scene.

You could easily flip this and say that when a character overcomes/addresses their personal issues in some way, they get a roll to advance towards overcoming the issue in a permanent, lasting way.


A descendant game from Apocalypse World, it focuses on supernatural teen drama and does this really slick thing - all of the "Moves" you have give somewhat limited options, socially - you can apply all sorts of pressure, but it's not until you get Advanced Moves that you can do things which are both mature, healthy AND have mechanical weight. Literally, one of the options of advancing your character is to become a mature adult who respects and has boundaries!

The way to import this into your game would be to set some limitations on specific outcomes of rolls ("You can only do this KIND of thing when you do this type of action, UNTIL you overcome your issues, then you can do THIS instead.")


Carry has Burden Dice - every character has a deep personal issue as a Burden. Your Burden die is a die you can choose to roll when it's relevant to your conflict in some way, but it guarantees you will suffer injury or pay a price. The burden die not only gives you a boost, you can reroll it for free after the dice have hit the table.

When you use a Burden die, you guarantee that your character will suffer some physical or emotional injury as part of the conflict.

When you finally resolve a Burden, your character advances, and you take a new, different Burden.

Tenra Bansho Zero

In TBZ you have "Fates" which are like Riddle of Steel's Spiritual Attributes - they're the issues or goals your character has which grows during play and gives you bonuses. The problem is that if they go too high, your character goes berserk and turns evil.

The math is set up in such a way that you can only commit to having one of those Fates be high, so you have to start choosing between your competing goals and issues, and second, that in order to lower a Fate, you have to change it or give it up completely.

TBZ, is one of the best games that demands growth in this way.

Primetime Adventures

PTA doesn't -quite- meet the additional conditions you request, but I feel very strongly that it's mechanics would also be worth considering.

Each character in PTA has an Issue. The game is set up such that everyone is framing scenes, and everyone knows to aim scenes generally at each others' Issues. When people roleplaying in entertaining ways (often, by addressing their Issues), they get Fanmail - aka bonus tokens, they can use later. Each character gets a "Spotlight Episode", aka a session where their Issue will be addressed full on, and either resolved or deeply transformed - the character takes a new Issue, and play continues.

Burning Wheel

Burning Wheel's Belief system is one in which you pick strong ideals and goals related to those ideals, and by struggling to achieve/resolve them, you get Artha (aka, bonus tokens). If you choose to set the limitation on the Beliefs that they are all things that are incorrect, misguided, or in some way an issue to be transformed, you get a lot of what you're looking for.


It sounds to me like you are looking for the game Pendragon.

Your main stats focus around 13 personality traits, in which you track your trait between polar opposites.

If for example you have a chaste stat of 16, you will auotomatically have a lustful stat of 4.

These are thirteen opposing values that represent a character's personality. The Traits are: Chaste / Lustful, Energetic / Lazy, Forgiving / Vengeful, Generous / Selfish, Honest / Deceitful, Just / Arbitrary, Merciful / Cruel, Modest / Proud, Pious / Worldly, Prudent / Reckless, Temperate / Indulgent, Trusting / Suspicious, and Valorous / Cowardly. The values on the left side are Virtues and the values on the right are Vices. The Traits are 1-20 points split between the opposing values (e.g., 10/10, 14/6, 5/15). For every point above 10 on a Virtue, a point must be placed below 10 on another Virtue.

Your actions during the game will adjust these stats, and these stats are used to see how well you react to a situation using that trait. Wikipedia describes the use of the stats better than I can, so:

A d20 roll is made to use a Virtue (e.g., Merciful to show mercy towards a captive mortal enemy) or resist a Vice (e.g., Deceitful to deceive a friend). If the roll is at or below the value, it Succeeds and the desired result occurs. If the roll exceeds the value, it is a Failure and the opposite result occurs. If a Virtue or Vice is rated at 20, the opposite is rated at 0; any roll on this trait is automatically successful (e.g., an Energetic character's attempt to persist in a difficult or arduous task) or automatically unsuccessful (e.g., an Indulgent character who must use Temperate to resist gluttony or intoxication). This is congruent with Arthurian legend, in which a hero's weaknesses are his downfall (like Lancelot's lust for Guenevere) or a villain has a moment of nobility (like King Uriens of Gore showing mercy to Prince Arthur rather than striking him down).

This system of traits can be easily imported into a Riddle of Steel style game, by lowering the numbers such that the range of values goes from -3 to +3, and having traits grant extra dice rather than a bonus to the die roll. The opposing traits can also be rolled into the 5 traits of riddle of steel by creating sub traits, for each focus. The values would then override the base trait when applicable, making tasks either easier or harder based on what you which personality trait would be relevant. You might also want to change the traits a bit to be less focused on Chivalry and more on the setting you are using.

Earlier editions of the game had a very complex character creation process which defined who your parents and siblings were and how they relate to the nobles and government of the area you are from. These relationships defined what professions you could take, which equipment you got, how you raised a family, what sort of spouse and children options you had and a host of other characteristics that defined who your "next character" would be. (Either children or siblings) All these rules however were very setting specific, and you might want to use them for inspiration. Your background, country, and religion also defined which of your traits had to be at a certain levels to get certain bonuses. How you would convert all this into your mashed up system of Fate and Riddle of Steel would require more information on your setting to make reasonable sense of it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Possibly of interest is a WFRP trait and personality conversion: mmsprofiler.com/PDF/… \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 10:09

Although it isn’t geared around personality like Pendragon, HeroQuest lets you have personality traits which act like any other ability, and are often considered Flaws. There are rules for overcoming flaws. And they go up like any other ability.

For example, I had a character who had a significant Disrespectful of Authority ability. It made it hard to take orders.


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