Examining Player Personality Types

It’s no secret that players and GMs with different personality types behave differently at the gaming table. But it can be difficult to clearly identify exactly what those types are. Several groups have suggested different types of classifications for the players, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This week, I’d like to share a bit about two of them:

Robin Laws’ Player Types

Role-playing game designer and writer Robin Laws summarized several types of players in his excellent book Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering. He identifies:

  • The Power Gamer, who wants to optimize and improve their character
  • The Butt-Kicker, who enjoys dealing with combat and beating up enemies
  • The Tactician, who likes thinking about complex plans with realistic solutions
  • The Specialist, who always plays the same type of character
  • The Method Actor, who immerses himself into their character’s role
  • The Storyteller, who games for the story
  • The Casual Gamer, who is there to hang out with people and games because it’s what everyone else is doing.

The big thing that Laws does with this is classify players based on their behaviors at the game table and what sorts of scenarios (e.g. more combat, more puzzles, etc.) the GM should present to satisfy each type of player. It doesn’t really explain what elements of a scenario a player likes, but it does a great job of helping a GM determine the structure of a scenario that might appeal to each player.


BrainHex is a fairly recent project that examines why people play games and what elements they are drawn towards. It’s more focused on computer games, but it does apply to role-playing games as well. BrainHex identifies seven classes of gamer play styles:

  • Seeker, who enjoys discovering things and exploring new situations
  • Survivor, who enjoys the excitement of escaping from terrifying situations
  • Daredevil, who enjoys the thrill of risk taking
  • Mastermind, who enjoys solving puzzles and creating strategies
  • Conqueror, who enjoys “fighting tooth and nail for victory”
  • Socializer, who enjoys interacting with other people
  • Achiever, who enjoys collecting things and completing everything they can

This one is interesting in that it describes gamer play styles, but has a stronger connection to the types of gameplay elements that each prefers. Most of these can be applied to role-playing games too, although it may be more difficult to create a role-playing game that satisfies a Survivor or a Daredevil.

With these two classifications, it’s possible to get a really good idea of what sort of game a role-playing gamer might enjoy. That’s not to say that they won’t enjoy other things, but it’s all about trends.

I’ll use myself as a case study for this. I would consider myself primarily a Storyteller when I play (although I think I have a bit of Power Gamer in me). I took the BrainHex quiz and was identified as being a Mastermind, with Mastermind-Seeker being my subclass. Laws would say that I’m primarily there for the story and combat can bet itself in the way. BrainHex suggests that I like solving puzzles and forming strategies and I enjoy video games like Animal Crossing, Chess, Chrono Trigger, Fallout, Half-Life, and Zelda. The Seeker part of me also enjoys games like The Elder Scrolls, and Grim Fandango.

I’d say that these are pretty accurate classifications of me. I enjoy the story the most about a role-playing game and I do love forming plans or find the most satisfying ending to a story. I haven’t seen many puzzles in role-playing games, but I suppose I would enjoy them. Several games on the video game list are games I’ve played and enjoyed immensely, so I guess they are on the right track there.

So to guarantee that I would enjoy a certain scenario, it would have to be about the story with an emphasis on solving problems and strategizing with a bit of exploring new situations and possibilities. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy a different scenario (and I often do), it’s just that of all the situations I’ve seen like this, I almost always walk away satisfied.

In practice as a GM, I try to appeal to each player’s gaming style by making each session focused towards a different player. Sometimes that means including a plot hook specifically for their character, but oftem times it means forming a scenario with the structure and elements that they will particularly enjoy. Generally this works pretty well and it’s something that I think other GMs should try.


Posted on November 13, 2011, in RPG Thoughts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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