December 08, 2013

Examing RPG Player Types

Has it been that long since my last post? Yikes. Sorry, gentle reader; occasionally life gets in the way of blogging. Now back to our semi-regularly scheduled program...

I've been considering player breakdowns I've seen. There is, of course, the classic Bartle breakdown, which separates players into the camps of Killer, Socializer, Achiever, and Explorer.

Wizards of the Coast did their own player surveys in 1999 and they broke players down into the categories of Thinkers, Power Gamers, Character Actors, and Storytellers (see more information here).

I've created my own, albeit flawed, chart:

I breakdown player types as follows:

Powergamers: For these players, it's mainly about "winning" the game. Min-maxing, or exploiting the rules legally for maximum gain, is seen as the challenge. Character "builds" and optimization are the main pursuit here, a sub-game to itself, and the demonstration of the resulting build's success in play provides enjoyment. These players may feel constrained by roleplay-heavy scenarios or games wherein the GM limits access to magic items and additional player/character options.

Tacticians: For these players, the rules are viewed in a tactical sense, much as in a wargame or certain boardgames. Enjoyment typically comes from combat and tabletop figure actions, movement, and defeating the opposition via strategy and shrewd moves. These folks can get restless if combats are spread out too far apart, and they often enjoy sub-games within the overall game, such as bargaining sessions or gambling games. Skill challenges via dice are preferred to the roleplay only style.

Thinkers: For this player type, the game is often about figuring out puzzles or mysteries, and campaigns or adventures that contain an element or plot to be deciphered is key to the enjoyment. Battles are enjoyed, but ultimate enjoyment comes from the steady unravelling of the plot, providing of clues, a d the success of one's hunches. Character builds are viewed as less important to this player, as they trust their own (real life) brain power more.

Storytellers: For this player type, the overall game goal and enjoyment stems from advancing the overall narrative, and in line with that establishing memorable scenes, NPCs, and an "epic" story. These players enjoy longer campaigns more that one-offs, and long advancement of levels and character growth is valued for the narrative more than the acquisition of power(s). Short, less meaningful battles that do not advance the story may be accepted but are not valued as much as key set pieces.

There are some subsets to the above. The Storyteller quarter could actually be broken, subdivided, into halves—one half of which might contain an Actor subtype that focuses exclusively on the roleplay aspect, enjoying the game for the person-to-person (or PC-to-PC) conversation, the "be another person" escapism, etc.

Unlike many charts of this type, you'll notice the dividing line between the blue and yellow boxes. This chart is more an arc than a square, truth be told, with the player type ranging from the pure "role"-player to the "roll"-player.

I must think more on this, but here are my early impressions on a cold winter day.
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