Introduction to a Three-Part Series
In previous posts, we’ve gone over some ideas for balancing adventuring parties based on character class and on alignment. However, there’s a lot more to character development than these categories, and taking personality into account can be a really fun way to think through and add nuance and detail to the characters of your central party and your game in general.
As a brief reminder, we use the term “central party” to talk about the player character (PC) and the core NPCs who travel around with them. We recommend you start with one additional member of the central party and add on from there, probably not to exceed four members total (the PC and three companions).
Personality and One-on-One RPGs
One of the unique things that might come into play in your duet is that, at times, the player may RP as a character normally portrayed by the DM. This is where understanding characters’ personalities can be so crucial—you both want to be able to help the character(s) progress forward and seem realistic and genuine throughout. Having a good read on their personality, central motivations, and desires enables you to maintain that continuity.
This series of posts aims to help you deepen your understanding of the characters in your game and think about them in new ways. I break down a few different personality systems that you can use as inspiration in character creation or to help you determine motivations and tendencies.
A quick caveat: The different methods of personality typing are meant to serve as general systems that organize patterns and trends in human behavior. There will of course be exceptions and nuances with a given character or person, which is part of what makes us all unique! I suggest approaching the characteristics of different types as tendencies rather than as absolutes.
A second caveat: One personality type is not better than another! There can be a danger of bias on behalf of the person writing about the various types, which I will try hard to avoid, but the types themselves are inherently equal.
In this introductory post, I cover one of the primary ways our society talks about personality, extroversion and introversion, and how these different theories of personality can complicate that classification in a helpful way.
I recognize that we have readers from all over the world, which I still sometimes struggle to wrap my head around, and we’re so thrilled you’re here! To some extent, different cultures have personality types and modes of being that are preferred or that tend to do well in a particular environment. The US, it will likely not surprise anyone to know, tends to privilege extroversion—being “outgoing” or gregarious—more than it does reserve or introversion. As this is where I’ve grown up, that cultural dominant has shaped how I see personality and how I understand myself, others, and my characters as well. It might be interesting or helpful to think about your own culture’s preferences as well as what the different cultures in the world of your game would privilege: who is going to be set up well from the beginning to come out on top?
Setting the record straight
Before we go any further, it’s important to undo some potential misunderstandings about introversion and extroversion.
- Being introverted does not mean that you are shy or unfriendly, for example, just as being extroverted doesn’t necessarily mean the exact opposite of that either.
- Both of these categories exist along a spectrum. Some people may be very extroverted while others may be slightly introverted. We all need some amount of time around other people just as we all need some amount of time alone by ourselves. The proportions of those needs are what shifts.
- These two terms refer to where an individual person gets their energy. Being around other people or in social situations is draining for introverts; they recharge, so to speak, by spending time by themselves. For extroverts, they gain energy by being around other people. So again, it doesn’t mean that introverts hate people or extroverts can never spend time on their own. It’s more of a question of where you get inspiration and energy.
- Ambiverts! Part of the problem with this binary, like so many others, is that it leaves out ambiverts, people who gain energy both by being around other and by themselves. Like anyone else, they still need to find a balance that works for them, but they oscillate between what is often discussed as an either/or.
The three systems this series covers
I picked these three, as there are plenty of others, in part because they, together, move the conversation beyond a division of introverts and extroverts. The first one we’ll discuss, the Four Temperaments or DiSC method, breaks down its primary categories into two subsections: introverts and extroverts.
However, the second system we’ll cover, the Personality Compass, doesn’t bring introversion and extroversion into play much at all! It’s more focused on how people make decisions and what those tend to be.
Finally, we’ll work through the Myers-Briggs classifications, which do talk about introversion and extroversion, but only as one of four overarching categories, all of which operate along a spectrum.
I’ve been really fascinated by personality types for a long time, and I hope this will be interesting and helpful for you as well.
Some questions for reflection
Starting with yourself, what feelings or associations do you already have with introversion and extroversion? How do those preferences or understandings shift depending on if you’re thinking about others or yourself? Where do you feel the most energized? What do you find draining?
Now, for your PC and/or NPCs, what are their tendencies? What kinds of social interactions and behaviors do they find meaningful? What wears them out? How do they spend time alone and go about carving out that time, especially if they’re traveling often with others?
A small caution
We discussed this somewhat in the collaborative worldbuilding and role-playing posts, but one potential difficulty that can arise in a duet is two of your primary characters, especially if they’re the first two, being more private or introverted.
Please do not hear that there’s anything wrong with that being the case! However, what we found for ourselves was that having two of our characters being more reserved meant that we got a bit stuck in their character development because they weren’t talking to each other very much.
Being aware of this potential speedbump does so much toward avoiding any sort of problem, and you can address it between the two characters and between the two of you as well.
First, in gameplay, make sure that within reason, your characters are talking to one another and asking each other questions. If they want to respect one another’s privacy and so won’t ask extremely personal questions, that’s totally fine!
Second, between the two of you, in-game but out of character, you can narrate your character’s thought process a bit. This is also what insight checks are for! For example: “He would be able to tell that she’s being a bit evasive because she’s not totally comfortable yet. Maybe if he asks again in a couple days she’d be willing to say more.”
Ideas for further reading
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is an amazing study of introverts that discusses what society stands to gain from listening harder to those who aren’t necessarily as eager to speak up. She has a great TED talk to get you started, one of my favorite lines being “stop the madness” when referring to the constancy of group work in public schools.
Interesting note: Quiet also posits that settlers who crossed the Atlantic from Europe were more outgoing (rather literally) than those who stayed behind. On some level, personality is inherited, and so this may in part explain why the balance between introverts and extroverts in the US is the inverse of most of the rest of the world, 1:2 introverts to extroverts rather than 2:1.
This series is dedicated in memory of my amazing mentor and friend Danielle who first introduced me to personality types and, as a fellow melancholy, recognized a young high school girl’s need for a way of going about understanding herself and the world and people around her.
If you like what you’re reading, please consider supporting the blog by purchasing our adventures and supplements in our shop or on DMsGuild or sponsoring us on Patreon. We’d also love for you to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We appreciate you so much! Thank you for reading. – Beth and Jonathan