Myers-Briggs And RPG Classes

Buckle up, because I’m about to go full nerd in this post. This will be your only warning.

I have something of a fascination with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and its variant the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. The Keirsey is my favorite between the two; I like his methodology after having read his book. My interest in typology comes not from a true scientific basis (I’ve heard it said that typology has as much scientific accuracy as a fortune cookie) but from the perspective of a writer. I spend a lot of time thinking fictional personalities and archetypes and the MBTI and KTS provide a language to facilitate such discussion.

One way this interest has manifested itself is an attempt to correlate MBTI results with character classes in roleplaying games, both tabletop and virtual. Although RPGs encourage you to create and be whoever and whatever you desire, I have found in my gaming career that most, if not all, players will trend towards a few particular archetypes. Some will play the same type of character repeatedly while others will choose from a small but interconnected pool.

There are two particular factors I’ve noticed that motivate these choices: archetype and mechanics. Archetype refers to the fantasy and storytelling aspect of a particular character: wizards are brilliant and studious, rogues are, well, roguish and devil-may-care, etc. A person may be drawn to a character because he or she enjoys the style, perhaps because it synchronizes well with one’s own internal version of the idealized self. In this example, what the character does in the game is secondary to what the character is in the fantasy context.

The second factor is the mechanical aspect. This is the inverse of the archetype aspect. A player operating from this perspective prefers characters that perform a certain roll or function within the context of the game. It might be a preference for characters with a wide variety of options, lending itself to versatility, or it might be a character that plays a vital role, such as defending more vulnerable characters. The archetype of the character is only important if it informs what the character can do. The player will choose a villainous death knight over a heroic paladin if it turns out the death knight’s abilities make it better at protecting others.

I’m planning on writing more posts about this subject, particularly after I can gather some actual research data on what characters people play and compare that to self-reported MBTI types. So far, I’ve been able to poll my weekly D&D group, which is hardly a conclusive sampling. I’m hoping that this post will lead to more information so I have something to followup with.

I also have my hypothesis on how I assume the class/type arrangement will be. It can vary by game to game, of course, and I may end up writing up arrangements for a few different popular RPGs. The archetype aspect is the easier of the two aspects to arrange in this way. I may try doing the mechanical aspect in the future.

For this chart, I’m going to go with the “default” assumptions of the class’s archetype and flavor. I’m not going by any one particular game, although if you’re talking about the fantasy genre, in some form or another, you’re talking about Dungeons & Dragons, so feel free to free to that if you need a background context although not all of the classes have a direct D&D analogue.

I’ve also included a few notes about my choices and experience in arranging the classes. Generally speaking, I believe that the Sensing preference lends itself better to the more martial archetypes, compared to the abstract focus of iNtuition which trends towards a mystical or magical aspect. This is why all the rogue and fighter types are grouped into the S temperaments while the N types are all magic users to some degree.

RPG Class/MBTI Type Comparison According to Archetype

Guardian (SJ)

  • ESTJ: Marshal
  • ISTJ: Monk
  • ESFJ: Fighter (Warrior Archetype)
  • ISFJ: Fighter (Defender Archetype)

Artisan (SP

  • ESFP: Bard
  • ISFP: Rogue (Thief Archetype)
  • ESTP: Rogue (Swashbuckler Archetype)
  • ISTP: Ranger

Idealist (NF)

  • ENFP: Paladin
  • INFP: Druid
  • ENFJ: Cleric
  • INFJ: Shaman

Rational (NT)

  • ENTP: Artificer
  • INTP: Mage
  • ENTJ: Summoner
  • INTJ: Wizard

Guardian: In the guardian temperament, all of the class choices are all variations on the same martial archetype, but this does not mean they all fill the same rolls. The Marshal is a leader that supports the other characters while the monk is characterized by inner power, discipline, and focus. I chose not to use the term barbarian, as even though it’s an iconic part of many RPGs, the word carries more of a negative connotation than I’d prefer. Characters of that type can be considered part of the “Warrior Archetype” of the Fighter. Overall, we see a group of characters that, although different in ability, are categorized by their more down-to-earth nature and their focus on protecting or supporting others, whether through leadership, defense, or combat skills.

Artisan: For the most part, I think the choices here speak for themselves. The Bard was already referred to as the Performer in Keirseys’ types. This group, like the Guardians, is more martial than mystical as a result of their S, but these characters are more individualistic than the Guardians. I thought about changing the name of the Thief to something that didn’t imply criminal larceny, but the term is fairly well situated in the fantasy genre. The only one that seems out of place is the ISTP Ranger, but Keirsey describes them as “looking for any opportunity, and just because they feel like it, to play with their various toys: cars, motorcycles, boats, dune-buggies, hunting rifles, fishing tackle, scuba gear, and on and on.”

Idealist: This is the arrangement I feel the most confident about, possibly due to my own familiarity/bias as an NF. Cleric and Paladin were placed due to their Extroversion; in my opinion, these are characters that are leaders and champions of their churches and faiths which suggests an Extrovert mentality. Shamans and druids are more isolated and removed from social structure, meditating alone on the elements and natural world respectively, which to me indicates Introversion. All four derive their power from an abstract, mystical source, a trait they share with the other N temperament.

Rational: All four of the classes here are variations of the same core archetype, that of the mage. Fortunately, the mage archetype has many different permutations which allows for a wider variety. The Artificer could also be called the alchemist; this is the character that uses magical items or enchanted equipment such as potions and the like. The difference between wizard and mage was harder to articulate, due to the imprecision of the terminology, but in this context, the INTP mage was the more reclusive sort who would be focused on the study of magic while the INTJ wizard would more resemble Gandalf, an entity who is not eager to lead but steps in during moments of crisis.

Originally, I conceived of this list as mapping specifically to World of WarCraft’s classes, however, I decided to change to a more general approach when I realized that WoW’s classes were missing a few of the important fantasy archetypes. Even with the larger, more general approach to fantasy RPGs that I took, I still missed a few popular archetypes. I wasn’t sure where to include the fighter/mage and sorcerer, for example.

One final note: in preparing this list and reading through the descriptions, while there were a few choices I felt were very strong, most ended up being more arbitrary than anything. If I were to revisit this list, I might better note the places of ambiguity: mage, for example, might be better classified as xNTP, rather than indicating a particular preference for Extroversion or Introversion.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment and let me know where I got it right or wrong. And if you are feeling so inclined, feel free to post your own MBTI type and the class or classes you prefer to play, whether in WoW or in other RPGs. It’d be great to get some hard numbers for future comparisons.

16 thoughts on “Myers-Briggs And RPG Classes”

    1. Exactly. The basic idea is that a person who scores a particular type on the Myers-Briggs would be more likely to prefer playing a particular fantasy class based on the flavor of the archetype. SJs are naturally protective people, according to Myers-Briggs, so they might prefer to play characters more devoted to protecting others.

      There are a few core problems with the basic assumptions in my methodology, including the fact that some people prefer to play characters that are VERY different from themselves. Still, it’s fun to think about.

  1. I would probably change a couple of the Rationals. I feel like INTP might make a good Sorceror, because they are a little less studious and a little more natural. INTP’s tend to have more faith in what they learned by doing or through their own thought process than something they picked out of a book.

    ENTJ is tough. I feel like there are several flavors of wizard that would work here. A summoner works, but I think a battlefield controller or buffer could work, with the more team-oriented mindset of the ENTJ. Of course, a lead-from-the-front gish could also make sense. Basically, any of the more support-oriented wizard variants fits here pretty well.

    1. The more I look at this list, the more I think it was a mistake to try and hone down to such a specific archetype for each class. It might have been better to attribute a general archetype to each core temperament. SJs prefer fighter-types, SPs prefer rogue-types, NFs prefer divine-types, and NTs prefer arcane-types. Like you said, ENTJ could fit a summoner, but also fit a battlefield controller.

      Certain types of sorcerer might fit INTP, but there’s also the idea that sorcerers, with their D&D focus on charisma, are forceful personalities that seem more E to me. Maybe ENTP would be a good fit?

  2. There’s a difference between Charisma and Extroversion, though. Remember that Johnny Carson of Late Night fame was a legendary introvert, but he was an incredibly charismatic entertainer as well.

    I think Sorcerers as the face-of-the-party is just a vestige of the idiosyncratic nature of D&D stats. CHA is a dump stat for everyone who doesn’t specifically need it, so sorcerers get roped into leading for that reason alone. Note that the only social skill on their skill list is Bluff!

    E vs I is also about where you focus your energy. Sorcerers are supposed to have inner strength and strong magical intuition, represented by CHA. They focus their energy on themselves and their magic. Sounds like an introvert to me!

    1. Very well argued and really, considering the post I wrote yesterday about introverts, a point I should have considered myself, since I believe myself to be rather charismatic when motivated, but still strongly introverted.

      Johnny Carson is a great example of your point. Also a great point on the only social skill for the sorcerer being bluff. You’ve convinced me: INTP for sorcerer!

  3. Thought-provoking discussion. Despite the fundament of D&D underlying the many tropes of fantasy games (and Tolkien underlying that), it was never a game I played so my ability to assess from there is skewed despite the many other fantasy games I’ve played online and off. Of course, we share the WoW lenses, but I think you’re right to say it doesn’t map extremely well. I’m going to give this some more thought and get back to you!

    1. I originally wrote this post with the WoW classes in mind, but ultimately found it too difficult to make the connections work, so I went with a more generalist approach. The fantasy archetype comparison is still there, though, and it’s easy to imagine most of the D&D roles correlating to WoW classes.

      WoW, however, has such a large gulf between the fantasy aspect of the classes vs. the social role in groups and mechanical abilities of the class. Death knights are a great example of that gulf. Blood Death Knights in archetype are vampiric monstrosities that revel in inflicting pain on others. In gameplay terms, they’re tanks who are watching out for their groups and protecting their parties. These seem to speak to different personality types.

      And then you have the hybrid classes. Restoration Druids are so very different from Guardian Druids, you’d be hard pressed to pigeonhole the druid class into a single type. Ultimately, I think you’d either have to chart out all 33 possible specs to different types and allow for overlaps, or else pare things back to a broader scope and try to identify if, perhaps, SJs are more likely to play a tank class. But even that runs into trouble because tanks have a very strategic and cerebral role in most fights and arguably need to understand the encounter better than any other class. This might make tanking the most appealing role to an NT.

      The more I think about this, the more I do want to write about the psychology of MMO roles. I find this stuff to be absolutely fascinating.

  4. My initial reaction was a very strong No. I’ve tried to give it time, and to think about it, but I’m still of the opinion that your model, as fascinating as it is, wouldn’t describe people’s actual preferences very well. For instance, both me & hubby are INTs, but where I am J, he’s P. He LOVES tanking in WoW, especially but not exclusively druid tanking, but also has a holy priest & a rogue he plays a lot; I love healing with my druid & pally, but my mage doesn’t see that much action even though she was my very first toon. She’s my potion maker, but that’s about it. When table-topping, I guess I tend to gravitate towards hybrids but again I’m not that fond of wizard-types. Also, some of my gamer friends consciously try to create different types of RPG characters every time, pushing themselves. (We/they could be the exception that makes the rule, though…)
    It might be more applicable to relatively inflexible systems like WoW or D&D, but I have a really hard time using your model to describe, say, characters you could create with GURPS. Now, as you say, describing the roles that people tend to pick (and leaving classes out of it), that has potential. I could also see your model as a great help with generating NPCs.
    But all nitpicking aside, I agree that personality types and how they reflect into your game play is fascinating. I do hope you will eventually write down your thoughts on the psychology of MMO roles.

    1. Yeah, I agree that this model is ultimately flawed and not really indicative of anything substantial. I’m still glad I wrote the post, however, because it’s been fueling some great discussion on psychology and gaming. It’s like any good science experiment: even if your hypothesis is proven incorrect, it’s still an opportunity to learn something.

      I think the three things that throw off the model are:

      1: Like you said, many players consciously choose to “play against type.” “I’m thoughtful and analytic in real life, in game, I just want to smash faces with a hammer.” It’s a legitimate approach to gaming, although I don’t know how rare or common it is. If I had to guess, I’d say it would be roughly 50/50, with the other 50% choosing a similar role each time they play, if not the same class.

      2: Different classes represent different archetypes or we each interpret those archetypes differently. I’ve been thinking about how I interpret the druid class: removed from the civilized world (introverted), focused on the balance of nature and understanding of life (abstract), focused on harmony (feeling) and perceptive and flexible (perceiving). But any one of those could be interpreted differently. You could argue that the fierce druid who turns into a bear is an extrovert. Or that a druid’s focus on the natural world implies a preference for a concrete understanding of reality and an appreciation for what is real and physical, which would be Sensing instead of Intuitive. Who’s to say which archetype is the “true” one?

      3: It’s impossible to separate game play mechanics from class archetype. Nobody chooses a class purely based on archetype (although they might do so for game play mechanics, maybe). Even if you prefer the flavor of a particular class, if its play style is not to your taste, it’s probably not going to stick. Thus, a player’s choice of class has to be a blend of both archetype preference and game play preference, which is too many variables to chart into type.

      So, all in all, this has been a fun thought experiment, but ultimately, I reject that my model really corresponds to anything meaningful. I’m still going to write the post about the psychology of MMO roles, since I think those are devoid of the baggage that made this attempt too unwieldy. I’ll write that post hopefully soon.

  5. This blog is probably no longer viewed… But… Random thought.

    Could the RL MBTI be different to the Virtual MBTI? As in the persona one becomes, or rather when the mask one shows to society is lifted in a virtual environment, does that persona have a completely different MBTI?

    1. Absolutely. In fact, in most practical instances, I’d say it’s much more likely that a player tends to create characters that are substantially different in temperament (and thus would score a different MBTI, if tested) than their real life selves. Drawing purely on my own subjective experience from almost fifteen years of tabletop RPGs (with most of that as the DM or GM), about two-thirds of players will do something either radically or partially different from themselves, like INFJs playing ESTP barbarians.

      The remaining third will tend to stay “in type,” like an INTJ playing an INTJ wizard.

      Thus, the interest in playing an RPG character that matches your RL personality is, I think, rather niche. The fantasy provided by an RPG is an opportunity to be something other than what you really are and to experiment as a different personality within a social context.

      1. I’d absolutely agree that RPGs (or even MMOs, per my original comment) provide a platform for psychological experimentation beyond what the person themselves would map as — the very essence of role playing.

        I vaguely recollect a psychological analysis of a prolific author’s characters, and the manifest differences between his primary protagonist and the supporting cast. In this case, the simple analogy is the psychological (not intellectual) differences between Holmes and Watson. Because I know Matt to be a writer as well as a gamer, I think the corollary is useful to consider — we are all, after all, larger on the inside. Writing or gaming or creating art of any kind, we can draw on multitudes. Sometimes the blender is set to 1 and sometimes it is set to 11. [And that delivers another sneaky prod to read one of the books I recommended elsewhere!]

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