Another Look At Myers-Briggs And RPG Classes

Back in October, I wrote a post in which I attempted to correlate different RPG classes with the various Myers-Briggs types. After some discussion in the comments, I decided that it was far too limiting to essentially argue that “all paladins are ENFP or all wizards are INTJ.” Even accounting for the variation within a particular type, it’s still too limiting, especially since one’s RPG class is really more like one’s fantasy career choice than a reflection of personality.

Nevertheless, likely due to some sort of accidental search engine optimization, that post continues to be the largest source of traffic for my site, bringing in a few hundred new viewers each week. Clearly, it’s a topic that people are interested in.

If it’s too restrictive in scope to say that one type correlates to each class, would it be possible to note larger trends? Keirsey considers the second letter continuum (S/N) to be the most important of the four, given that one’s preference for Sensing or iNtuition is what determines whether one is a Guardian (SJ), Artisan (SP), Idealist (NF), or Rational (NT). Thus, the S/N preference is that largest separating factor, at least according to Keirsey.

There are a few other differences but these two are the most relevant for the discussion of type as it relates to roleplaying.

In most fantasy roleplaying games, the largest divide between characters tends to be along the lines of whether or not the character has magical powers. Wizards, sorcerers, clerics, druids, etc. all have magic of various kinds while fighters, rogues, monks, etc. rely on physical ability. There are a few character classes that overlap, like paladins and rangers who are primarily martial characters but posses magical powers. This varies by setting and system, of course.

The question I’d like to pose is whether or not it makes sense to divide character classes along the S/N continuum. Does a preference for intuition indicate that intuitive types are natural magic-users?

Here is how Myers characterizes the preference for Sensing:

Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come “out of nowhere”. They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data.

Here is how Myers describes the preference for Intuition:

Those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

On the one hand, magic seems like the sort of thing that would make sense to someone with a natural inclination towards the abstract and the theoretical. Magic is abstract by its very nature . . . except when it isn’t. D&D shows this divide when it comes to the two primary arcane magic-users. The wizard approaches magic in a logical, rules-based way; spells are learned from books and cast through performing the proper incantations. Sorcerers, on the other hand, derive their magic from their own selves, whether through latent power in their blood or through inspiration or intuition or whatever other means. In other words, one could argue that wizards are Sensors while sorcerers are iNtuitives.

And that’s just between two arcane characters. What about somebody like the D&D druid? In Third Edition, the druid is a spellcaster, but instead of using arcane magic, they use divine magic like a cleric, but unlike the cleric (who draws that magic from a deity), the druid derives power from the natural world (which might be what led to the creation of primal magic in Fourth Edition). Regardless, the druid is a nature mage. But is nature-mage the preference of a Sensor or iNtuitive? Concrete or abstract?

What do you think? Does intuitive seem a characteristic for spellcasting character classes? Or do the different discrepancies and conflicts prove that it’s too varied to say for certain, and that mages are just like everybody else; some are intuitive, some are sensory?

5 thoughts on “Another Look At Myers-Briggs And RPG Classes”

  1. I actually agree with the line between Sorcerers and Wizards, but I’d go the opposite direction from your post. I think Sorcerers are Sensing, while Wizards are iNtuiting.

    Wizards are the most clear. To Wizards, magic is basically a science. Something with rules and consistencies that can be learned through books and taught in schools. Great Wizards attend academies where they learn different subjects for each of the schools, and eventually master all of the intricacies of the art. This is consistent with the iNtuition, because it relies on theories and principles, rather than direct reliance on the senses.

    Sorcerers, on the other hand, are more natural with their experience of magic. Magic flows through a Sorcerer, so it actually is something tangible to them. When sorcerers cast spells, they feel the magic and control it directly. They don’t need to understand how it works, just like how a baseball player doesn’t need to explicitly calculate trajectories, masses, and forces to hit a baseball.

    I think Myers’ wording is unclear for sensing. Myers says, “They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come ‘out of nowhere’.” But I think that’s deceptive. A better description is that sensing individuals don’t trust what others tell them, or what theories indicate, until they see it with their own eyes. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” is the unofficial motto of the sensing. Considering that Sorcerers can directly sense magic and feel it coursing through them, they don’t have any difficulty believing or understanding it. Wizards have to rely on theories to cast spells, Sorcerers don’t need that crutch.

    1. A fair point and a good analysis. I think the reason I lean towards keeping sorcerers as intuitive is from a line in the D&D 3.5 handbook. It describes sorcerers as having magic that is “intuitive rather than logical.” But that might be using intuitive in a different context than what is presented here under the MBTI description. Certainly, your description of how a sorcerer feels magic sounds like a good claim for Sensing.

      Two questions: does that invalidate the idea that magical characters tend to be iNtuitive? Where do you see clerics and druids?

      1. “But that might be using intuitive in a different context than what is presented here under the MBTI description.” Yeah, MBTI uses intuitive in an idiosyncratic way that’s almost the opposite of how normal english uses it. Note that iNtuitive is part of the “Rational” type, which is basically pure logic.

        As for the other spell casters, I think you can make arguments for either iNtuition or Sensing. Only Wizard/Sorcerer draws a firm line between the two. For example, I could imagine a Sensing druid who has a deep connection with the forest that feels the heartbeat of nature in rhythm with their own, but I could also see an iNtuitive druid whose introspection leads them to see the forest as an interconnecting web of life that they can manipulate through careful interaction with the forces of nature. Likewise, with Clerics, I could imagine one who has a direct personal relationship with their god just as easily as one who pours over their church’s teachings and prayers.

  2. To my point of view, any classes can be played by any types. I mean, an ISTJ wizard can be some hard worker wizard, following scrupulous method and learned magic “as the book said !”, whereas an ENFP wizard could be drawn to anykind of magic, learning a bit of any spells and trying to invent new ones. More than all, he can be the one who goes on adventure willingly to learn new things…

    But what the point if we couldn’t make separation, and what can we do if we trow to bin our fun to say: “ISFJ are that, and ENTP are that” ? Well, hold on.
    Note that I take the classes from Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.

    To get to put classes in cases, I get back to Jung definition of type (and specialy about functions).
    He make differences between Rational types and Irrationnal types. That means, the one with “perception leading functions” (i.e.: Si/Se/Ne/Ni leading function) are Irrationnal, and those with “judging leading functions” (i.e.: Ti/Te/Fi/Fe leading function) are Rationals.

    I take the following axiom: Magic, be it of Divine or Profane source, is Irrationnal, as I see it as a form of energy that some one must sense before making a thing of it.
    So it put 2 big boxes:
    1) One side, the ISTJ – ISFJ – ESTP – ESFP – INTJ – INFJ – ESFP – ENFP
    2) Other side, the ISTP – ISFP – ESTJ – ESFJ – INTP – INFP – ENTJ – ENFJ

    First boxe are magic users. Second aren’t. That seems awkward as INTPs and INFPs are staying in my mind as magic users, but it’s fine, I’ll manage.

    Okay, in first box. Now we have the power (I got the powaaaaa…errr…nevermind) of Magic. But where does it comes from and how should we use it ?
    Diviners: “to make good and it come from our believes !”
    Arcanists: “to resolve situation and it come from knowledge !”
    Basicaly, I divide F as divine magic users and T as profane magic users. So we get:
    Arcanists: ISTJ / INTJ / ESTP / ENTP
    Diviners: ISFJ / INFJ / ESFP / ENFP
    (same as INTPs and INFPs: to my mind ESFP gets more to the Bard…)

    I focus more on Arcanists (as we spoke of them in first place).
    Here is my distribution:
    – ISTJ: Mage Specialist. More than wizards, I feel like ISTJ are very specialized and focused in narrow field.
    – INTJ: Wizard. Contrary to the ISTJ, INTJ has same concentration and focus, but with a broader angle of learning.
    – ESTP: Sorcerer. Learning from their own power and spontaneity.
    – ENTP: Entropist (wizard specialized). A class of mage, learning broad magic, but tries to learn the difficult Chaotic Magic of entropy, and try to do something of it.

    Back to diviners:
    – ISFJ: Monk. Taking from their innerself and discipline, to bring some faith and strong training for others benificial.
    – INFJ: Priest. Faith from a big unknown formulate for the greater good.
    – ENFP: Druid. Defending causes of Nature and having that kind of amazement in everything.
    – ESFP: Metamorph (Specialized Druid). Like druid, but having a more concrete aspect in their shapeshifting abilities.

    Then it comes to Judger box. For that part, I take 2 more boxes: One are the martial one (Te/Fe) and other is the subtle (Ti/Fi).

    Martialists:
    – ESTJ: Warrior. The Basic refinement between efficiency and learning.
    – ENTJ: Ranger. Same as warrior but with a less learning aspect. More prone to strategize and using their favour field.
    – ESFJ: Barbarian. The use of their strong feelings with the aspects of martial warfare.
    – ENFJ: Paladin. Strong feelings for a greater good and a wider view of “goodness”

    Subtles:
    – ISFP: Bard. Well. Artist…
    – INFP: Jester.(specialized bard) As well an artist but with more spirit and second degree.
    – ISTP: Thief. Analyzing and taking opportunity. Concrete, but no fool.
    – INTP: Shadow Master (specialised Thief). Same as the thief, plus magic.

    Some classes are awkward, but it suits almost well.

    1. I like your ideas about grouping the different types and looking at the similarities between those various groups as they might relate to class. I do agree any class could be any type, realistically speaking. Wizards can easily have this variety, just compare the wizard archetypes represented by Gandalf, Merlin, and Harry Dresden to consider the possibilities.

      Regarding your specific class/type assignments, the only one I would dispute would be the types assigned to “subtle.” Of course, anything I say can be taken with a grain of salt since any class can really have any personality. But since we’re going with the idea that type can equate to class (because it’s fun to discuss), here are my thoughts:

      My feeling is that classes like Bard and various archetypes (jester and such) are going to be Extroverted by nature of the fact that the Bard is a performer by trade. While it’s certainly true that introverts can perform and perform well, they generally don’t do it with the same zeal and enthusiasm of an extrovert. I think that’s going to be the biggest difference between a charismatic rogue vs. a charismatic bard. Bards are showy performers, which equates to extroversion in my opinion.

      Druid and its various versions, likewise, seem introverted to me. Druids are usually more solitary, usually the among the “quietest” of the fantasy archetypes. I think a class that feels more comfortable with animals or being alone in the wilderness lends itself to introversion more so than extroversion.

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