Thursday, August 9, 2012

NPC Personalities

I've thought about using real-world personality tests (such as Myers-Briggs) when creating important NPCs before, but I've been thinking more seriously about it since the TCK seminar I was on last week, when I was introduced to the DISC personality test, which is much simpler than Myers-Briggs. DISC also has the perk of including what each of the four personalities (D, I, S & C) want. To put it in a messy, probably inexact way:
  • D's want power
  • I's want fun
  • S's want stability
  • C's want correctness
Because these four personality types include goals, they strike me as being an easy, quick way to give NPCs depth, especially if each NPC's second dominant personality type is included. Potentially, it could take just the roll of a d4 or two to make sure that NPCs feel different from each other to players. I don't have time to investigate more before I fly out for a wedding (so no more posts this week), but this definitely merits further thought.

Have you ever seen or used real-life personality tests, or another method altogether, to give NPCs depth and make them feel different from each other to players?


  1. It strikes me that (at least by my interpretation) this isn't much different from D&D's 3x3 system.

    Good characters are others-centered (stability)

    Lawful characters are rules-centered (correctness)

    Chaotic characters are liberty-centered, for lack of a better term (roughly associated with 'fun')

    Evil characters are self-centered (power)

  2. I suppose there is a rough correspondence… one problem is that the two-axis alignment system is more about moral and philosophical stances, while this is about personality, though there certainly is an overlap. Also, I'm not eager to label the D personality type as "evil."

    The fact that DISC uses a second personality as the secondary personality does work really well with the whole "Lawful Good," or "Chaotic Good" or "Lawful Evil," etc. pairing… except that DISC would allow for, say, an S/D, which would be "Lawful Evil" with this mapping.

  3. Gah, I just lost a long write up.

    Any ways... I hate that the terms are Good and Evil. I've said so in one of my posts (if not the one I liked), and I think I'd prefer Altruistic and Egoistic a lot more. Good/Evil connotes an objective morality that I don't think has been present in the game (really) since we left Chainmail's cosmic Law-versus-Chaos was, if it even existed then.

    DISC does have a bit more flexibility (10 combinations instead of 9? Or can you have 3- and 4-combo personalities?), but I think there's a fine line between "philosophical stances" and "personality" -- I believe one informs the other, constantly. Still, a LE High Cleric is a bit different if he does his thing for Stability versus Correctness versus Power.

  4. I recently stumbled across Ashs' Guide to RPG Personality and Background (, which I am currently using. Instead of modeling what makes the motivations, it focuses on the behaviors, which is surprisingly effective.

    1. That's certainly a more comprehensive way to do personality than rolling a d4 or two, but it also precludes inventing an NPC on the spot, as needed, and rolling 2d4 to give me a starting point for improvising the NPC's personality. The simplicity of DISC, compared to Myers-Briggs, is what initially attracted me to the idea of using DISC as an NPC personality system.