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  1. #1
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    Myers Briggs and Alignment

    Ryan, you seem to have some interesting ideas on Myers Briggs and alignment. Do tell.

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    Senior Member ryancaveney's Avatar
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    I'm not sure there's really all that much to tell. My first introduction to D&D was the red-boxed Basic Set, back in 1980. It had only three alignments: Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic -- and all heroes were Lawful and all villains Chaotic. This has at least one glaringly obvious problem: it is impossible to represent the tyrrany against which so many gamers wish to struggle. First edition AD&D at least added the Good/Evil axis to the mix, but the descriptions seemed very wrong to me; for example, Chaotic, Neutral (with respect to Good and Evil), and Chaotic Neutral were all described separately, but CN emphatically did not equal C + N, which meant even the designers didn't understand their own system. Also, my vote for the single most bizarre concept ever introduced in any game is the ludicrous idea of alignment languages. Spells like Know Alignment and Detect Evil have always seemed to be merely annoying ways to circumvent players' responsibility to pay attention to how other characters act and respond accordingly.

    Gradually, I came to feel that the only utility alignment had was as a roleplaying shorthand. That is, if I needed to have a whole bunch of cameo NPCs and lacked the time or inclination to flesh them out, I'd slap a label like LN or CG on them as a behavioral stereotype to aid in inventing their side of their conversations with player characters. As I began to read more psychology books, I came across various theories of personality which were much better developed than Gygax's, so I decided to start using them instead. The one which I like most is the Myers-Briggs Type theory, based on Jung's work and best described in David Keirsey's book "Please Understand Me II".

    When looking at Law/Chaos dichotomies such as the article Duane posted, I see a jumbled tangle of independent elements. Consistency and systematicity mean one thing, while conformity and uniformity mean something very different (to me, the first two are the highest good but the second two are foolish, bordering on evil); the MBTI breaks this into two axes (T/F and S/N), and by that model most people are half-Lawful and half-not-Lawful. Again, dedication to freedom and lack of planning both exist, but to me they are largely independent, so a system like D&D's which confounds them is not very useful to me.


    Ryan

  3. #3
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    I think conformity and consistancy are highly effective as long as conditions are static, and for most of human evolution conditions have changed slowly enough (barring occasional crisies) that even the most traditional acclimate. I recall a story an anthropology prof of mine told about agriculture in East Africa. There, grain agriculture predominated, but yams were planted as well. The young men would complain about planting the yams because no one ever ate them. The old men would recall that when they were young, there was one year when the rains didn't fall and the grain harvest failed and the people survived by eating the yams. For most of the community this would end the argument. While he was there, there was a draught and the community survived by eating the yams.

    I also reflect on the failure of the Green Revolution of the 1960's when higher yield crops were introduced in much of the third world to end hunger. One problem (among many) was that the yield of the traditional strains was very consistant, so the community could rely on feeding itself, while the new strains would produce far more food 80% of the time, but would fail more often or produce significantly less the rest of the time, actually increasing hunger and starvation. Most people, perhaps very rationally, prefered to have less overall with a predictable yield, rather than gamble with starvation in hopes of more in the good years.

    So I think that conformity and cosistancy, and uniformity, deference to authority and so on are survival strategies when the surplus is so small that risking the mode of production on new techniques, tools, or even other cultural forms is sufficiently risky because a mistake can kill the community.

    As a radical example of the other side of the coin, Tom Wolfe tells about how doctors in the late 1960's in places like San Francisco were finding strange new diseases, well actually very old diseases. Hippies and other counter-culture folks were doing things like abandoning hygene as bourgiouse and artificial, and were getting diseases that had disappeared in the 19th century during the hygene movement. As such many of these illnesses had no Latin names, because they were gone before such naming dominated medicine. Even in the modern world, where surpluses are plenty there is always a price for abandoning the experimentally arrived at norms. Continuing to experiment about whether bathing is really neccesary is re-inventing the wheel.

    Finally, there is a case in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point about adopting new seeds. His book, which I think you would enjoy, looks at the dynamics of social change. In Greene County Iowa new seed was introduced in 1927. A study of the adoption of these new seed, which was generally superior, was that even by 1933 only a handfull of farmers adopted the new seed. in 1934, 16 farmers switched. in 1935, 21 followed. Then 36 in '36, and 61 in 1937. 46 switched in 1937. 36, 14, and 3, in subsequent years until by 1941, only 2 farmers were holding out for the old seed. So you have the innovators who started using the new seed before 1933. Then the early adopters, who are not so bold as the innovators, but still have a pretty low threshold for trying something new if it seems to offer advantages. But of course early adopters bought Betamax too. A technically superior recording format that left them having to fully switch over when the larger VHS format won out. There is a price to being early. The early adopters are often opinion leaders, who were setting trends for tomorrow, but were not so adventerous as to be ignored by the mainstream, like the wild innovators were. You can see a big bulge in 1936, 37, and 38, and maybe 39, and you can refer to these people as the early majority and the late majority. This is the deliberate and skeptical mass, who would not try anything until the most respected and successful farmers tried it first. At the end are the laggards, who for whatever reasons, saw no need to switch until it was a proved success.

    The fact that we have this distribution of experimenters and skeptics, I think you will agree, is desirable, because if the seed had proved to be New Coke, then the absence of skeptics would have been dangerous. Experiementers often pay a price for being first, trying bad ideas and proving they are bad, and allowing the rest of the community to avoid the bad ideas. Of course without the innovators, we have the contrast beween France and England.

    In France, agriculture was controlled by the peasants, who simply paid taxes to their landlords. In England, the landlords owned more of the land directly, and collected no taxes, only rents. So the lords, with surplus capital to risk, could experiment with new tilling procedures, crops, rotation schedules, designs of plows, schedules of chemical augmentation (manure for nitrogen, marl for calcium), and produce a second agricultural revolution, which allows England to go from five million souls in 1700 to ten million in 1800. Its unfortunate that France could not follow suit, but because the lords has less control, they could not engage in risks, because they risk in France would borne more by the peasants.

    Survival and innovation are not just trade-offs made by airplane inventors.
    Last edited by kgauck; 06-03-2007 at 08:24 PM.

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    Senior Member Elton Robb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryancaveney View Post
    When looking at Law/Chaos dichotomies such as the article Duane posted, I see a jumbled tangle of independent elements. Consistency and systematicity mean one thing, while conformity and uniformity mean something very different (to me, the first two are the highest good but the second two are foolish, bordering on evil); the MBTI breaks this into two axes (T/F and S/N), and by that model most people are half-Lawful and half-not-Lawful. Again, dedication to freedom and lack of planning both exist, but to me they are largely independent, so a system like D&D's which confounds them is not very useful to me.


    Ryan
    I agree with Ryan Caveney. The Myers & Briggs personality assesments are much better in describing how a PC or NPC acts. Looking through the types, the Alignment model in D&D really doesn't cover personality. It's just used as a catch all to help roleplaying. Although in D&D's universe, Alignment serves as a basis (look at all the spells with alignment descriptors); personality is just too complex to break back down into alignment.
    Regent of Medoere

  5. #5
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 11:50 AM 6/3/2007, ryancaveney wrote:

    >I came to feel that the only utility alignment had was as a
    >roleplaying shorthand. That is, if I needed to have a whole bunch
    >of cameo NPCs and lacked the time or inclination to flesh them out,
    >I`d slap a label like LN or CG on them as a behavioral stereotype to
    >aid in inventing their side of their conversations with player
    >characters. As I began to read more psychology books, I came across
    >various theories of personality which were much better developed
    >than Gygax`s, so I decided to start using them instead. The one
    >which I like most is the Myers-Briggs Type theory, based on Jung`s
    >work and best described in David Keirsey`s book "Please Understand Me II".
    >
    >When looking at Law/Chaos dichotomies such as the article Duane
    >posted, I see a jumbled tangle of independent elements. Consistency
    >and systematicity mean one thing, while conformity and uniformity
    >mean something very different (to me, the first two are the highest
    >good but the second two are foolish, bordering on evil); the MBTI
    >breaks this into two axes (T/F and S/N), and by that model most
    >people are half-Lawful and half-not-Lawful. Again, dedication to
    >freedom and lack of planning both exist, but to me they are largely
    >independent, so a system like D&D`s which confounds them is not very
    >useful to me.

    Near two decades ago I played with a guy who threw out the D&D
    alignment system in favor of a set of dichotomies for exactly the
    kinds of reasons you describe. It`s been so long I can`t remember
    them all, but they had names that seemed ridiculous at the
    time. Polite/Rude, Selfish/Sharing, Happy/Depressed, etc. There was
    something like a dozen pairs and players picked 3-4 to describe their
    characters, with the assumption that the PC was "neutral" on the
    remainder. I was very skeptical of such a system at first, but to my
    surprise it worked remarkably well as a way of expressing
    role-playing characteristics game mechanically. I never adopted it
    in a setting of my own, but I still have fond memories of the concept
    and I know from experience it can work with at least as much facility
    as the often hamfisted alignment system.

    Gary

  6. #6
    Senior Member ryancaveney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geeman View Post
    Polite/Rude, Selfish/Sharing, Happy/Depressed, etc. There was something like a dozen pairs and players picked 3-4 to describe their characters, with the assumption that the PC was "neutral" on the remainder... it worked remarkably well as a way of expressing role-playing characteristics game mechanically.
    Yes, I think this is a very much superior system. One example of an RPG with this type of personality mechanic is Pendragon; I recently posted the pairs from that game in http://www.birthright.net/forums/showthread.php?p=39669 . I think I like your old DM's list even better, in that one of my many problems with paladins was how extremely rude the game seemed to require them to be...


    Ryan

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    Site Moderator AndrewTall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryancaveney View Post
    I think I like your old DM's list even better, in that one of my many problems with paladins was how extremely rude the game seemed to require them to be...
    Ryan
    I never understood people who played paladins like that - paladins needed charisma 17 in AD&D - the charisma equivalent of near-godlike genius. Yes some people - those who were weak, criminal etc might resent the paladins strength of will, skills, etc as they resent anyone better than them, but the vast majority of people should have been positively disposed towards a paladin meaning that the paladin has to be someone who can be respected in such a amnner. All too many paladins I read about seem to have been at best strident pedagogues, which doesn't fit the charisma requirement at all and seems to have been an inability to interpret lawful good as including tolerance, fairness, and respect imho...

    Paladins should have been the sort of person you couldn't help but admire, the 'Ace Rimmer' of heroes for those of you who know red dwarf. I.e. the sort of person who you may disagree with, but respect and even love all the same. A paladin should no more have been rude than crude - insistent on occasion, but in a charming manner.

    Things have of course changed in 3e as Charisma has moved from a 'wow that guy is sooo coool' in AD&D to include strength of personality in 3e (formerly part of wisdom) but I thing the core concept of the shining knight that people adore is unaltered - and a knight should of course never accidentally insult anyone which would be the natural consequence of rudeness...

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    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    This is the problem of role playing a character with stats way beyond the player. Its easy to role play super-human physical characteristics, but not so easy to play a character with greater charisma, intelligence, or wisdom than you have.

    There is a school of role play dominance that seeks no dice and strait role play, objecting to diplomacy checks or any skill that could be performed by the player. This is fine if your style of play is to play yourself in a fantastic situation.

    Another style of role play is where the player wants to play someone else, perhaps someone fantastically charismatic. In this style of play, I'm much happier with out of character descriptions of what the player wants the charatcer to do and using the skills to resolve the checks.

    The first style is cool, but it can't handle players with characters whose INT, WIS, or CHA are significantly removed from the players own basic attributes. I've been in games where the decryption operation was a handout for the players, which is cool, until you realize you are supposed to have super-human intelligence, but can't seem to access that skill right now.

  9. #9
    Senior Member ryancaveney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgauck View Post
    Its easy to role play super-human physical characteristics, but not so easy to play a character with greater charisma, intelligence, or wisdom than you have.
    Nor is it easy to play a character with significantly *less* of those than you have. For example, I generally restrict myself to playing roles having at least 13 in both Int and Cha, since in 20+ years I have never yet been a member of a gaming group in which I wasn't universally acknowledged as the primary planner and best debater, especially in combat and politics. Since I as a player am unwilling to sit back and watch the rest of the party make bad decisions, I feel I really ought to play characters who have a decent chance of influencing the group of characters as much as I influence the group of players.

    Quote Originally Posted by kgauck View Post
    The first style is cool, but it can't handle players with characters whose INT, WIS, or CHA are significantly removed from the players own basic attributes.
    I think this is true for the second method as well, at least for Int. That is, while a shy mumbler can easily play a commanding orator by saying "I roll to influence those people," or an easily indimidated player can properly operate a character with a very high Will save, it is much harder to mechanic the character having Int which the character doesn't, since in an RPG the player's intelligence is the main factor guiding what actions the character chooses to attempt. Even when you try to roleplay the numbers as much as possible, having a character with higher Int than the player still requires situations like "I roll to come up with a better plan" -- but someone at the gaming table has to have the Int to actually invent that better plan, unless the GM is content to say, "uh, OK, that means you're still gonna try the same thing, but the party now has a +3 cunning plan bonus on all rolls related to the thing you were planning about."


    Ryan

  10. #10
    I personally simply throw out the alignment system altogether with no replacement. I do not like put a label onto a character beforehand, instead I simply let my players RP their characters according to their own views. Usually that produces characters that are a lot more interesting and in depth.

    If you absolutely -have- to use a system for something that should really be role played, then have a look at the World of Darkness 2.0 morale system. It allows every player to make his own choices, but instead of forcing you into a set behavior your character suffers consequences if he acts against the moral code that is common for his culture.

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