View Full Version : Bartle's Taxonomy - relevant in TTRPGs?

2016-03-06, 12:33 PM
I was just watching this Extra Credits ep - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxpW2ltDNow&index=11&list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5DZUWTC25vSZbJ6OCk1XB1p - and I was wondering if people thought if it applied to TTRPGs. Obviously - it wouldn't apply in the same way. But - do the player types apply at all? Do they help explain why different people like different types of RPGs?

2016-03-07, 10:19 AM
The short answer is yes, but not all the quadrants in the taxonomy apply to all multiplayer games, tabletop included. To illustrate the quadrants, I'll pull out the graph they used in the video:


If you haven't already, you may want to watch the follow-up video to that one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1drDuaQXm_U), which discusses the practical applications of BT; in that second video, they talk a little bit about applying it to smaller-scale multiplayer games (using the specific example of Call of Duty.) I think that's the part most relevant to tabletop gaming because it tends to be much smaller in scope than a MMO or even a MOBA; after all, for tabletop to work, you're literally expected to get your friends around a table. In their example, they talk about how Call of Duty is aimed primarily at Achievers (who seek to master the intricate weapon mechanics and map layouts), and Killers (who seek to use that mastery to assert dominance over other players.) The Socializers, if they stick around at all, are likely to spend more time on forums discussing the game or sharing videos than actually playing, and the Explorers will get bored as soon as they see all there is to see and move on at least until a patch drops that shakes things up with new or rebalanced content.

Which brings me back to tabletop's smaller focus. Take a cooperative game like Arkham Horror for instance - it wouldn't be very attractive to Killers, because preying on/interfering with the other players in a game like that just increases the chances that everyone in the group fails - the deck is stacked against the players even if they work together perfectly after all, never mind if they don't. Socializers and Achievers though love being able to work together and strategize on defeating the various Lovecraftian terrors, while Explorers would be attracted to seeing all the different interactions, curses, monster and player abilities lurking in the box (at least for a while.)

Compare that to a PvP-focused tabletop game like Munchkin - the backstabby nature of that game is hugely appealing to Killers, while the bargaining aspect can scratch a Socializer itch. But a game like that is almost wholly reliant on acting on and interacting with other players; the highly random nature of the game makes it difficult for Achievers to achieve the consistent mastery that they crave, while the Explorers will quickly learn all the various cards out there and move on.

A larger TTRPG like D&D or Pathfinder can appeal to more of these, but still not as many as an MMO. D&D is designed to be cooperative, so there isn't a whole lot for the Killers to do. Explorers will get enjoyment from new splats, adventure paths and mechanics being introduced to the game, whether published ones or ones created by the GM, but without a steady stream of new content or updates they will get bored. Achievers can get enjoyment out of overcoming challenges the game says should be difficult for them, though here again the human element can add undesired randomness. By far the players most attracted to a party-based TTRPG like D&D would of course be the Socializers.

2016-03-07, 06:24 PM
I didn't choose the club. The club chose me.