Many games use systems, often called "alignment" or some such, to give a general idea of the character's beliefs and morals.
These systems often attempt to describe things in terms of the concepts of "good vs. evil" or "order vs. chaos". These terms are subject to much controversy, as they are very dependent on the society the character is from, or is currently in. As an example, the elderly and infirm in native American tribes used to consider it proper to leave the tribe and die in the wilderness, to avoid placing undue strain on the rest of the tribe, while today's societies generally frown on this sort of behaviour.
Infinite Horizons uses a different system, called commitment ratings, to perform a similar task, in a much more flexible way. A character's commitment ratings measure, in rough terms, their moral fibre, in a way which is less affected by predefined points of reference.
There are seven categories in which your character will be rated. Each rating will be a number between -10 and 10, inclusive. (This means that there are a total of 1,801,088,541 possible variations, which should be more than enough for any given campaign.)
A brief description of each category, and its applications, follows. Note that the term "low negative" refers to a number in the approximate range -1 to -6, while "high negative" means somewhere around -6 to -10.
This measures how strong your character's sense of self-preservation is. A high positive commitment would indicate a character who values his own life over almost anything else, possibly fleeing from a battle if that looks like the only way to survive. A low positive commitment would belong to a character who values his own life to some degree, but feels that there are other things which are more important. A zero commitment would indicate a character who doesn't care either way about life and death. A negative commitment would indicate a somewhat suicidal character, with the degree being determined by how negative the rating is.
This measures how dedicated your character is to her friends. A friend is defined rather loosely here; any acquaintance, who is not trying to kill your character, is considered a friend. Family, close friends, and anyone else your character has close ties to, are not generally covered by this; it is intended more for the larger circle of friends one has: co-workers, school chums, casual acquaintances, and so on. A character who is totally devoted to her accomplices would have a high positive commitment. A feeling of obligation would accompany a low positive commitment. A character with a zero commitment here might betray their friends if a better offer came along. A negative commitment might indicate a character who would actively steal from other members of the party, or even assassinate them in their sleep if there was profit to be made (these characters usually end up adventuring alone after a short time).
This is an indication of your character's feelings towards "generic" enemies. This means any person or other creature which your character ends up fighting for one reason or another; similar to Friends, it does not cover any specific enemies whom your character has developed hate relationships with. A high positive commitment would represent a character who prefers to knock out their enemies, and leave them somewhere safe to recover (like maybe a jail). A low positive commitment would belong to a character who would try not to inflict killing wounds in battle. A character who doesn't really care whether or not his opponent lives would have a zero commitment. A low negative commitment would indicate a character who tries to kill his enemies, while a high negative commitment would be a character who goes out of his way to destroy his enemies, possibly even tracking them down if they flee.
This is an indication of how your character would react to normal people, who are neither friends nor enemies yet. A high positive commitment would belong to a character who is very outgoing and tries to make friends with everyone. A low positive commitment would show a character who is more introverted, but still friendly. A zero commitment would indicate a character that really couldn't care less what others think. A character with a low negative commitment might feel that people are not to be trusted, and treat them all with contempt. A character with a high negative commitment might very well go around killing for the sheer thrill of it, never even considering the victims.
This measures your character's long-term dedication to the task at hand. If your character will hold true to the goal, and do nothing that does not in some way further these aims, she would have a high positive commitment. A low positive commitment would belong to a character who keeps the goal in sight, but may be sidetracked by interesting items along the way. A zero commitment would denote a character who will follow along, but abandon the quest if it is more convenient to do so. A low negative commitment would mean that the character might accept missions just for the downpayment, and then skip out. A character with a high negative commitment might take missions, and then attempt to accomplish the opposite.
This is a measure of how your character relates to society in general, including its laws, customs, and government. A positive commitment indicates that your character supports the government, and tries to uphold any laws that may be in effect, even if they are stupid, and go against other morals. The degree of vehemence is dependent on how high the rating is. A character with a zero commitment would ignore laws and the government, and not really care for the local customs. A negative commitment here would mean that the character tries to undermine the government, and destroy the customs that define the society. Again, the intensity of these actions would be determined by how negative the rating was.
This measures how strongly your character is attached to his religion. A high positive commitment to belief would indicate that the character gives regular tithes to the church, and would fight (either physically or verbally, depending on the character and situation) for his belief. A low positive commitment would denote a character who actively believes, and would carry on a spirited argument concerning his beliefs. A zero commitment would indicate that the character is an agnostic, swayed neither one way or the other, and awaiting further evidence either for or against before deciding. A low negative commitment would show that the character is an atheist, but would probably not care to discuss religion often. A high negative commitment would indicate a character that actively campaigns against religion.
Keep in mind that these descriptions are only guidelines. A character with a +7 Self and a +6 Friends will not abandon their friends at the first sign of danger, any more than a character with a +7 Friends and a +6 Self will lay down their life for their friends at a moment's notice. Various ratings will play off against each other to varying degrees in different situations. Don't let the numbers dictate the character and their actions; rather, let the character dictate their own actions and numbers.
These commitment ratings may be changed at any time to reflect changes in the morals of the character. Often, these changes will be the result of some profound realization that strikes the character. For example, a character's commitment to society might drop slightly if their family was killed, and the local law enforcement agency was lax in pursuing the perpetrators. Alternately, changes may come about slowly as a natural result of the character being exposed to new people and experiences.
Infinite Horizons makes no attempt to limit a character's commitment ratings. However, some combinations do not make a lot of sense. Having a -10 Self is fine, but such a character would probably have committed suicide years ago. A character with a +10 Enemies and a -10 Friends would obviously be somewhat out of touch with reality (although this could make for interesting role-playing situations).
Some players have a very difficult time identifying with their characters. These players will often rely fairly heavily on the Commitment ratings of the character to determine their reactions to situations.
Others have a very clear idea of what their characters are all about. The character may or may not be similar to the player, but either way the player knows the character intimately, and hence knows how they will react in various situations. For these players, Commitments may seem somewhat pointless, as they are simply an expression of the character, and can't tell them anything they don't already know.
Most players fall somewhere in between.
As it turns out, Commitment ratings can be useful regardless of where the player lands on the above scale.
First, almost no players know their characters absolutely, and there will likely be at least occasional situations where there is some ambiguity or the character is torn between two options. Commitment ratings, possibly in conjunction with a die roll of the player's choosing, may help to decide.
Second, Commitment ratings are a good way of telling the GM what the character is like. A good GM will be able to take this information and use it to craft more compelling adventures, by knowing what buttons to push in order to get the desired response from characters.
Third, GMs may use Commitment ratings to determine whether a particular group of characters will be able to get along with each other. If a new campaign is being started, the GM could even mandate that certain Commitment ratings fall into a given range, in order to ensure that the characters will form a compatible group, and that they will be willing to undertake the adventure the GM has designed.
GMs sometimes have a fine line to walk with regard to Commitment ratings.
On the one hand, players should always be encouraged to play their character according to the Commitment guidelines that the player has defined for the character.
On the other hand, to try to tell a player that their character should not be doing something that the player believes they should will often cause undue conflict.
Sometimes it only takes a reminder to the player that they are going out of character, but if the problem persists, it should usually be addressed outside of the game, possibly with the GM taking the player aside for a discussion.
There are two obvious solutions to such situations: modify the player's behaviour to match the character's Commitments, or modify the character's Commitments to match the player's behaviour. Which solution is used, or what conbination of the two, is up to the GM and the player.