A thing to wonder at beyond most wondering;
Hero, buffoon, half-demon, and half-dirt,
Praying, instructing, desolating, plundering;
Now Mars, now Momus; and when bent to storm
A fortress, Harlequin in uniform.
- Don Juan
What a strange hybrid is the player character!
For those who like to have a sense of who their character is before play begins—as opposed to letting a character's personality emerge during play—the following list of virtues and vices might be helpful for defining your character's personality.
Each virtue and vice is arranged in a binary pair that represents a possible tension within the character's psyche; divide 10 “points” between the virtue and vice of each pairing to determine the extent to which the character favors the virtue or the vice. For example, a particularly superstitious character might have: Reason 3/Superstition 7 or a character torn between chastity and lust might have Faithfulness 5/Lasciviousness 5.
You could even random-roll mechanize this to decide how your character (or an NPC) might react in a situation where you are unsure about what they would do. Alternately, you could use these pairings as the guidelines for handing out inspiration in 5e D&D.
- Reason/Superstition – does your character confront the supernatural with the light of reason or do they resort to the ancient ways of folk belief?
- Reserve/Passion – does your character exercise control over their emotions or do they give their impassioned impulses free reign?
- Restraint/Excess – when exposed to drink, gambling, and other vices, does your character place limits upon their conduct or do they indulge past the satiation of their urges?
- Faithfulness/Lasciviousness – are your character's romantic entanglements limited to one beloved object of affection or is your character prodigious with their lusts?
- Forgiveness/Vengeance – does your character pass over the many slights offered by the world or do they swear to exact revenge against those who wrong them?
- Authority/Liberty – does your character respect the temporal and religious restrictions imposed by the civilized world or do they value their personal freedom of action above all else?
- Lawfulness/Criminality – does your character follow the laws of the land or are they inextricably pulled toward the underworld?
- Piety/Worldliness – is your character's worldview colored by the hues of spiritual belief or are they instead drawn to the worldly glitter of wealth?
- Valor/Fearfulness – does your character confront the world's darkness with bravery or do they cower in the face of danger?
- Mercy/Cruelty – does your character temper their conduct with mercy for the weak and defeated or do they exult in the agony of others?