Anyone who has taken a semester or two in college has likely been introduced to the Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. Despite typically being classified as a Psychology exercise it will also routinely crop up in the business world as a way for employees to be either classified or be more introspective of their own “type”, which explains why the last time you applied for a job at Burger King you had to answer roughly 300 “personality” questions. The MBTI breaks down an individual’s personality preferences across four spectrums:
- Extroversion or Introversion – How someone prefers to respond and interact with the world. Outward turning, action oriented, and a seeker of wide social interaction (Extroversion) or inward turning, thought oriented, and prefer limited, deeper, social interaction (Introversion).
- Sensing or iNtuition – How someone prefers to see the world around them. They may focus a great deal on reality, what the sense (Sensing) or prefer to pay attention to patterns and impressions, the abstract (iNtuition).
- Thinking or Feeling – How someone makes decisions with the information they have. Do they place a greater emphasis on fact & objective data (Thinking) or do they prefer to consider the feelings of others when making a decision (Feeling)?
- Judging or Perceiving – How someone deals with the outside world. A preference for structure, firm decisions, and timeliness (Judging) or a preference for being more open, flexible, and adaptable (Perceiving)
There are countless ways to become intimately familiar with the science and research regarding this system but I’d rather keep the description less complicated for our purposes, thus you get the limited descriptions above. (Here is a good place to take this test)
I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about this test and its uses in the business and psychology realms and had something of an epiphany the other day. Why can’t this test be useful for a group of Tabletop Role-players? My answer is, of course it can! Any manner of breaking down RPG play is interesting to me so I went ahead and applied my own thoughts on the matter into the below.
THE MBTI IS TO HELP ONE LEARN MORE ABOUT THEMSELVES, NOT PINPOINT DYSFUNCTION
I needed to get this out of the way first. Within the MTBI there are no wrong answers. There is nothing wrong with your results, post taking one of the tests. The preferences you receive help to indicate where your strengths lie and to indicate how strongly you prefer those “types”. Take my recent test I took through my job. I came back as an ENTP (Extroversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving)(Also the same as Theodore Roosevelt’s, so Hell yeah!) . I think this type fits me well, especially when I look at the numbers behind it. There were 120 questions, 30 for each spectrum. Some of my results strongly indicated a preference i.e. Extroversion: I answered all 30 questions like an Extrovert, showing that I am, very much and Extrovert. Others maintained a slimmer margin i.e. Perceiving: I answered 17 questions as Perceiving and 13 as Judging, this means I’m practically undecided on whether I prefer being flexible or structured.
So to reiterate, no wrong answers, these are just preferences of mine. They are where my strengths lie. If a situation arises that requires someone good in a crowd of people, I’ll likely thrive. Put me in a situation where I need to be more thoughtful and deliberate and I may falter. There are strengths on both sides, and I suppose weaknesses as well. In fact, part of reason we go about discovering our preferences, at least in the business world, is to learn about the areas you may need to work on. That is going to be a later topic though.
USING MBTI TO BETTER RUN YOUR GAME
Perhaps you’re preparing to run a game for a brand new table of players, and you want to gear things toward a successful cohesive nature. Why not give your players an MBTI test prior to the game? See where the dominate preferences show up within your collective of players. After you have that information you may have a better idea of how to run the game. This may also be of use for a table of players you’ve played with for years as well. Perhaps you’re finding that your style isn’t working for them anymore. Give them the test, maybe you just aren’t bringing the game to them in a way they prefer. Let’s look at some examples shall we?
EXTROVERSION VS. INTROVERSION
With Extroversion and Introversion we will be discussing how your player’s characters may wish to interact with NPCs and some of the decisions they may make within the campaign. Namely its a question of where they derive their energy to play the game from.
If your players lean in the direction of Extroversion you may wish to run your table in a far more raucous manner. Allow for a lot of verbal communication between them and NPCs, allow more actions for call-outs in combat. Keep them engaged and expect them to take immediate action. An Extrovert table is going to thrive under speed and immediate results. Figure out a way to provide this without allowing them to just roll over your plans. Plan for it and it will just be part of the action. Not to mention they’ll want that spotlight a lot!
Do you like to run games of intrigue and complicated details to be pondered? Perhaps your perfect group would be mostly in the introverted category. They will enjoy a slower pace of play, one that rewards someone for taking a more cautious route to a solution. They may enjoy communication in writing prior to a game, something for them to ponder coming into a big decision. They likely won’t care to be rushed, especially when something big is at stake. You may have trouble drumming up a “face” for the group though.
SENSING VS. INTUITION
For Sensing or iNtuation driven players the focus will lay with how you present the game to them. This is how they perceive your world and it can be important to present it to them in a fashion they prefer to take it in.
For someone who prefers a Sensing approach, they want to see this world in a literal fashion. This doesn’t mean they only want games with little to no fantasy but rather it means they want to see this game, and see it in a precise manner. Your descriptors should be less analogous, and more to the point. Use props, miniatures, battle-mats etc., these types of physical items give them a real item to latch onto. When they interact with NPCs perhaps those NPCs can present information in a step by step fashion rather than wax and wane with metaphors and the like.
An individual that thrives on iNtuation would rather have the bar keeper tell them the story of the haunted cave atop the hill rather than explain that a few townsfolk have gone missing lately. These are your players that thrive on visualizing the big picture and will be more likely to think of what they will do with all the treasure a dungeon may have than what steps they need to take to make it through. Engage them with metaphors and analogies, use colorful language when explaining landscape or weather. Feel free to embellish a mite as well.
THINKING VS. FEELING
It gets a bit dodgy here because a fantasy world may skew how someone would naturally respond using these two items. In real life a Thinking individual will tend to make decisions based on the cold hard facts, and someone with a Feeling slant would take another’s emotions into play. I would have to surmise that almost everyone skews a bit closer to the Thinking framework when playing about in fiction, but you may still get some Feelers at the table.
Thinking players will be the easiest to work with for a DM, and, as referenced above, likely the most prolific. They are going to look for measurable details and facts that they can pit against one another to discern the most likely avenue of success or the most utilitarian approach to a social challenge. You can use this to mess with such players as well by presenting something that may look better on paper but in the end results in a less than optimum outcome because they didn’t take the emotional response into account. It can be a fun way to shake things up when used sparingly against a Thinker, but could alienate them if used too often.
A player who makes decisions based off Feeling will take NPCs and other Player Character’s emotional well being into account when solving the various problems you throw their way. I’ve completely inferring this but it’s my gut instinct that even those who are Feeling based in life often change when faced with a fantasy world to play in. I can cite my own wife, very much someone who makes decisions based on her feelings in day to day life, in game she is often one of the coldest, “Thinking” players I’ve ever seen. Many an interrogated monster lay slain at her feet just to not have an enemy at her back. If you do get someone like this you’ve got a rare bird! They may shake things up constantly in your group. Other players may feel they work against the grain. You can use this to add a little more emotion into the game. Try to reward them from time to time for taking the road less traveled.
JUDGING VS. PERCEIVING
With these two frameworks your focus will be on how you approach your timing of game day and how you may present the flow of your game. It’s all about the structure here, or lack there of.
If you have a player that falls along the spectrum of a Judging individual you can certainly be happy that this person is likely to show up on time and prepared. Judging aligned folk tend to adhere to schedules, enjoy lists, and love to be prepared ahead of time for anything. These players may actually enjoy when you pay strong attention to aspects of the game sometimes brushed under the rug. Things like keeping track of arrows or rations might be interesting to them and they’ll pay attention to such things. Try to reward times where their characters prepped well for a situation (i.e. a long wilderness journey). If you want to shake them up a bit, have a moment where no amount of prep can protect them. Keep that limited though, it may frustrate.
For someone along the Perceiving line of thought you’ll have a player who lives and dies by the credo “Let’s play it by ear“. These players may frustrate you by showing up late or not at all and if they are really poor about keeping to your schedule may need to be relegated to pickup games. Within a game they are most likely the players who wish to “fly by the seat of their pants” and may be an element of chaos for the group. This can actually be a bit of fun and you can certainly let it play out from time to time to liven up any situation, and can be perfect for pickup games as referenced above.
I’ll admit, this is all a bit heady, and most people can discern the types of players they play with and their styles anyway. It is an interesting idea though. This article isn’t actually the meat of what I came up with for using MBTI for Tabletop RPGs, or rather, how you can use Tabletop RPGs to adjust your MBTI. What I found when I looked at my “types” when it came to RPGs it surprised me how often I went another way, highly interesting stuff there. I plan to get into that in Part 2 of my lecture series*, so stay tuned!
*Melvin Smif is not considered by anyone, but himself, to be qualified to do “lectures”.