Everyone has that struggle within them: the better part of their natures versus the more selfish, baser part. Some of us see it in black and white terms: good against evil, the angel on your shoulder versus the devil. It all boils down to our choices, and asks the same basic questions of all of us: what kind of person am I, when it comes down to it? Am I a noble, self-sacrificing soul, or am I self-absorbed and out for only myself?
I take a somewhat less conventional–and infinitely more geeky–approach to this question. For me, it comes down to the struggle between two D&D archetypes that seem to encompass my personality and mindsets pretty well: the paladin vs. the rogue. Tending towards the side of angels, we have the paladin, the lawful good, the person who plays by the rules, works tirelessly for the good of others, and who will sacrifice when it comes down to it. A little less angelic, there is the rogue, the chaotic neutral. The rogue is more self-serving, greedy, and at times downright lazy or cowardly.
They are both archetypes I identify with.
The attraction for this dichotomy, for me, is the imperfection inherent in the assumed natures of the characters. Sure, paladin’s can be noble and holy and selfless, but they’ve also been highly destructive and myopic in their vows to “serve a higher cause.” Likewise, while rogues are presumably less noble and more selfish, they’re also often portrayed as being more grounded in human nature than paladins, and often able to sympathize with others in closer ways. We all know the trope of the jerk with a heart of gold. More often than not, that jerk tends to fit the rogue archetype (Han Solo, anyone? Mal Reynolds? Strider, aka Aragorn?).
I’ve often been called to task by others for my tendency to both know and follow the rules, or at least my perception of them. For the most part, for example, I don’t lie on insurance forms; I report bank errors that occur in my favor; and I don’t exploit flaws or bugs in video games, especially if I feel they give an unfair advantage over others. My rigidity on these things has often been met with mild annoyance, or amusement, and at one time I was referred to as being “lawful good” on certain matters such as this. I therefore tend to think of this as the paladin portion of my persona.
On the other hand, I’ve committed the occasional selfish action, usually if I feel it doesn’t really hurt anyone and that doing the nobler thing would be far outweighed by the sheer inconvenience, pain, or potential harm I would have to endure. I’ve been lazy when meaning to be productive; I’ve strayed from or flat-out ignored diets and/or exercising; and I’ve occasionally ignored whimpering pets clawing at my door so I could sleep a little bit longer. This hedonistic, rationalizing rascal is the rogue portion of my persona and temperament.
These two characters battle for control of my actions all the time, and each side scores victories to varying degrees regularly. And again, while one may seem better, or higher than the other, it’s actually a lot more complicated that you might initially think. Often times, I’ll roll up a happy-go-lucky rogue when I’m playing Dungeons & Dragons or some similar type of roleplaying game (tabletop OR video), but often my play style ends up being that of the goody-two-greaves paladin.
I’ll go more into how they influence me and how I view them later, but for now, I like to think it’s these two archetypes that exist on my shoulder rather than the angel and the devil.