"Ethos" and "Willpower" mechanism

I’m trying to write my own game and thought of a mechanism of ethos and willpower, inspired by other games.
The main character gets to pick an “ethos”, which basically indicates their motivation. “Willpower” indicates how strong are you mentally, the higher the willpower, the more belief you have in your “ethos”, gameplay wise it is basically like giving a bonus to certain skill checks, such as when you need to exert yourself a bit further physically, but it cannot help you do things that you cannot actually do, such as trying to hack a computer without the appropriate knowledge. So far, I thought of three possible “ethos”, an altruist one where the main character is focused on helping other people, a materialist one where the main character just wants material wealth and self indulgence and a “nihilist” one where the main character is more morally unscrupulous.
Is this a good design? While I think it is an interesting design, I do feel like it is somewhat “limiting” as it kinda forces the main character to fit into one of the tropes I just shaped.


I think its pretty interesting (feels kind of similar to Samurai of Hyuuga’s Attunement system where the player is rewarded for making decisions consistent with their character).

If you’re worried about the “ethos” mechanic restricting a player’s actions too much, you could leave changes to Willpower putting more emphasis on why a character does something more than what they do. For instance, if the player decides to rob a criminal, are they doing it because the money would be used to hurt someone (altruist), because they want the money for themselves (materialist) or because why not/no honor among thieves (nihilist).

Finally, the only aspect of this system I think might cause problems is if an event in your story affects the main character so much that it changes their perspective on things, changing their ethos. While you could just not write a situation like that, mechanics would be something you’d have to consider if you do want to write a world shattering moment for the main character.

*sorry this is kind of rambly, just thoughts I had about this, none of this is definite criticism, just how I would personally approach this idea


Yeah. I definitely agree with you. I was thinking what if the character changes from a jaded nihilistic character and becomes more receptive to more altruistic ideas, how would this work out in an organic way. I’ll definitely have to work on this idea some more. Thanks!

Interesting concept. I would personally drop the ethos though and focus on the willpower. Does the character have enough motivation to do what they want to do at that moment? As pointed out above, motivation can change throughout the story.

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