The Value Inventory is a system meant to get players thinking about what intrinsically motivates their character's behavior. Under this system, players choose one or two values that are their character's guiding principles for their life. Generally speaking, some values might be opposite each other, but they are by no means mutually exclusive.
What is a value?[edit | edit source]
A value is a belief that motivates action. They transcend specific situations. They must be standards or criteria of behavior. For example, requiring that one’s needs be met doesn’t necessarily indicate Hedonism. Things such as sating hunger are a basic requirement of living. However, someone who seeks self-pleasure and fulfilling their own needs above those of others is likely to actually value Hedonism in comparison to someone who only eats because they need to do so to live.
Values are grouped into four broad categories: Openness to Change, Self-Enhancement, Conservation, and Self-Transcendence. While some values might be opposite or mostly incompatible, it is possible to value two seemingly “opposite” values, especially if the values are hierarchal where one is more important than the other (but the second value is still very important).
Most of the time, a character should have only one or two values. Avoid having three or more values for your character, as it goes against the general premise of choosing a character's "most important" values.
Openness to Change[edit | edit source]
These values are mostly opposite of Conservation values. They focus on the independence of thought, action, and feelings, and readiness of change. Typically, there is an emphasis on changing one’s circumstances, though not necessarily for any tangible benefit. It is effectively an intellectual or intrinsic need that drives “Openness to Change” values. Consider someone who climbs an enormous mountain. If their reasoning for climbing it is, “Because it is there” or “I wanted to challenge myself” that would likely be Openness to Change.
Self-Direction[edit | edit source]
Independent thought and action in choosing, creating, and exploring. Those with this value need control and mastery of their lives. They are often curious, creative, and independent, emphasizing self-respect, intelligence, and privacy. Self-autonomy is vital for them. They will not be happy with someone else making decisions for them. Unless they are in charge of their own life, they are likely to be discontent.
Stimulation[edit | edit source]
Excitement, novelty, and challenge. They thrive in daring or risky situations, but only when self-chosen and not past whatever their threshold of “danger” is. New things and situations thrill them, and they may crave unpredictability or randomness just to keep an element of novelty in their lives. Variety is the spice of life for the Stimulation-focused.
Self-Enhancement[edit | edit source]
These values are mostly opposite of Self-Transcendence values. They focus on the self and one’s station relative to others or their own needs. There is an emphasis on surrounding culture and context, as what constitutes Achievement or Power are culturally specific. To use the mountain climber example again, a Self-Enhancement mountain climber might explain their actions as being “To show I’m better than others” or “Because it’s something I can be proud of”.
Hedonism[edit | edit source]
Pleasure or sensuous self-gratification. Hedonism is having needs and fulfilling them, whatever they may be. There is an emphasis on enjoying life; nothing else quite matters so long as one’s needs are satisfied, though when paired with other values, what these needs are can vary dramatically. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we die” is an extremely hedonistic quote.
Achievement[edit | edit source]
Personal success and demonstrating competence according to social standards. They have certain objectives they seek to fill, and those objectives are according to set standards, usually from a culture, religion, or other surrounding group. Social approval is crucial for Achievement; if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, it did not make a sound. Similarly, if nobody witnesses or hears of the accomplishment, it may as well have not happened.
Power[edit | edit source]
Social status and prestige, holding control or dominance over people and resources. Authority and portraying the self a certain way are elements of power. It is the ability to be “on top,” the dominant force that does not have to answer to anyone. Where Self-Direction is an internal drive for autonomy, Power is an external one; Power is meaningless without people beneath someone who holds it.
Conservation[edit | edit source]
These values are mostly opposite of Openness to Change values. They emphasize keeping things the same, either to maintain how things have always been done or just for the stability that conservative action brings. A Conservation-focused mountain climber could give their reasons as being, “Because I’ve always done this” or “It’s what is expected of me”.
Security[edit | edit source]
Safety, harmony, and stability of society, relationships, and self. Unpredictability is the enemy of Security. There is often a drive to be part of a group or other affiliation, as there is safety in numbers and comfort in being part of something greater. Security is not always solely individual focused. They may also seek for social order and lawfulness in their surrounding environment or for people they care for.
Conformity[edit | edit source]
Restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social norms. Obedience and discipline are the hallmarks of Conformity; it isn’t about what someone wants to do so much as what they should do and what needs to be done. In fact, doing something out of pure desire that disrupts social order is a negative thing to do. Loyalty and responsibility also define Conformity, as groups cannot function well without either of those traits. When the group changes, so does the conformist, as it’s better to go along with what others do.
Tradition[edit | edit source]
Respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one’s culture or religion provides. Tradition tends to be more abstract than Conformity, though the two are closely related in their adherence to specific rules that they might not have necessarily chosen for themselves. Unlike Conformity, Tradition is an immutable expectation; this is how things have always been done, and thus it shall always be. The rules of a traditionalist can vary depending on what the tradition they adhere to is, but they commonly emphasize being devout, accepting one’s position in life, and putting the traditional law above the needs of the self.
Self-Transcendence[edit | edit source]
These values are mostly opposite of Self-Enhancement values. They are focused on other people or things apart from the self, most usually in altruistic ways. Self-Transcendence is about looking outside the self and seeing what others need. A mountain climber with values relating to Self-Transcendence could explain themselves as, “Because I want to help other people who get stuck on the mountain” or “So I can see the beauty of nature from another point of view”.
Benevolence[edit | edit source]
Preserving and enhancing the welfare of others within one’s “in-group”. The “in-group” aspect of Benevolence is important for defining the value, as is the intrinsic, internal motivation for doing it. Conformity may suggest to help others to stabilize society, but Benevolence seeks to help those around them for their own sakes. There is a need to be part of something and be affiliated with something, and they hold concern for others’ welfare that may manifest with traits such as honesty, forgiveness, and friendship.
Universalism[edit | edit source]
Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature. As the name suggests, Universalism is more about broader applications of cooperation and altruistic actions. A resource scarcity would lead someone that values Universalism to solve the problem for all groups, not just their own. In fact, Universalism may even forsake such affiliations in favor of neutrality. Peace, unity with nature, inner harmony, and equality are their concerns. It isn’t enough for their own circumstances to be comfortable, peaceful, and safe -- all people and things should be granted these rights.