Character creation (part six)

5 11 2009

This is the most technical aspect of the creation of NPCs (or your own PC if you’re a player).  Few will venture down this path, but it can be rewarding and doesn’t have to be that time-consuming.

If you want a significant NPC to be a truly believable character, follow these suggestions.  Similarly, if you want your PC to be believable and consistent, read on.

Different types of personality profiling

There are many different psychometric tests on the market. They are designed to help you to either predict or understand behaviour.

Their most common use is in recruitment but they can be handy tools for creating characters.

There are two types that are used more often than any other and both are outlined here.

Understanding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a common tool for identifying personality types. It is not without its critics but for the purposes of character creation, it is useful.

The MBTI is not about caricatures. Instead it indicates a preference for behaviour.

Choosing one from each pair does not mean the character does not display some of the other preference. If you equate it to a percentage, people are never 100% one type. Some may be as close as 51% and 49% – and the indicator simply specifies which is the majority preference.

For example, someone with a preference for Judging over Perceiving is not automatically more judgemental or less perceptive than someone else.

a. Energizing

Extroversion or Introversion (E or I)

This indicates how the person gains their energy. E’s draw that energy from social situations. I’s on the other hand, need time alone to recharge their batteries.

The extrovert focuses on people, activities or other external things.

The introvert is focused on internal issues such as ideas or emotions.

Someone with an E preference is not necessarily the life and soul of the party, just as someone preferring I is not necessarily a wallflower.

b. Attending

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)

This dictates which preference the person has for gathering information that will be used for making decisions. Specifically it is how new information is understood and interpreted.

Sensers deal with the here and now – with reality.

Intuition means dealing with the world of imagination – with what could happen or be meant.

c. Deciding

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)

Linked to Attending, Deciding dictates which preference the person has for making decisions.

Thinkers deal with logic and use objective methods to make decisions. Feelers use hunches and gut feelings to make choices.

d. Living

Myers and Briggs also noted that people showed a preference to exhibit either their Judging function (T or F) or their Perceiving function (S or N) when relating to the outside world. This is broadly how others would perceive the character.

Judgement (J) or Perception (P)

People who exhibit Judgement show the world their Judging function (either T or F).

This means that TJ’s tend to appear logical, and FJ’s as empathetic.

P’s show the world their Perceiving function (either S or N). SP’s appear as concrete, and NP’s will be viewed as abstract.

There are by definition 16 combinations possible although two with the same profile will not appear identical – but similar.

The work on the MBTI was in part based upon the work of Carl Jung. Another aspect of Jung’s work is that of perception and that our reading of others is based on who we are (not always who they are). 

It is our MBTI ‘profile’ that is used to judge others.  So two different personality types will view a third person quite differently.  Neither will be wrong in their assessment (but this is getting a little deep now).

This is also linked to our belief system of right and wrong with regards to personality types. We tend to look most favourably on those that think and act like us and are least well disposed against those we see as different.

To make this less abstract – STJ’s will appear as very logical and well-reasoned to a fellow STJ but to an NFP, they may appear fixed, stubborn and cold.

Reversing the roles, the NFP will appear open and intuitive to a fellow NFP but may seem some sort of sixties hippy to an STJ.

Using the Five Factor Model

The ‘Big Five’ traits are: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). Some refer to them as CANOE.

a. Openness

This is described as an appreciation for right-brain activity e.g. art, emotion, imagination, curiosity, and the need for a variety of experience.

b. Conscientiousness

This is a tendency to show self-discipline, to act dutifully, and plan for achievement.

It does not lend itself towards spontaneous behaviour.

c. Extraversion

This is the desire to seek stimulation and the company of others.

d. Agreeableness

This is about being cooperative and compassionate rather than suspicious and antagonistic.

e. Neuroticism

This is an inclination to too readily experience unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety or depression.

f. Overall

Logically, characters would score between 1 and 100 on each scale – with 50 being the typical score. Thus people can be very high on a scale, high, average, below average or very low. Their ‘score’ dictates how readily they exhibit the behaviours noted for each trait.

And this concludes the series on character creation.

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