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Bartles and Bards in RPGs

The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is a way of organizing MMO players into 4 different categories: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers. MMO designers still use this system today because knowing what types of players prefer your game makes it easier to market your game. I recommend the Extra Credits YouTube episode for more details on understanding how this all works.

Now a while back, we did a blog post on our own categorizing: Sticks and Stones, Rubber and Glue. In that post, we classified RPG player characters into 4 different categories: Sticks, Stones, Rubber, and Glue. The purpose of that article was not only to address differences in player characters but also to point out that a good RPG group needs all four of these player types.

Today we are going to take a step back and look at RPG PCs from a GM’s point of view. Like MMO designers with the Bartle Quotient, a GM that knows her players’ styles and preferences can better design adventures and campaigns to let players thrive or target new players for recruiting. But GMs also often have to be bards, doing a little bit of everything through storytelling and performance to make it seem more real.

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Playing a Support Character

Today we are going to talk about playing a Supporting character, and by that I mean a character that is tied to one or more PCs. This is the best friend, the bard that is in love, the champion of faith that is desperate to save a soul, the lunar exalted that is bound to the solar champion, and the librarian that is desperate to feel needed by the hero that saved his life.

Every group needs a supporting character, a glue to hold them together. We previously talked about the role of the Glue of a campaign in a previous post. Dungeon delvers need a healer. A starship crew needs a commander. Raid parties need stat buffs. A group knows it will survive longer and can tackle tougher challenges if at least one person in the group is dedicated to supporting them.

The Story of the Glue

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Sticks & Stones, Rubber & Glue = Successful RPG campaign

When you and your friends sit down to an RPG you invariably get to the question “what characters should we choose so we can be successful?” The answer to this can often be different based on the types of players and the type of campaign you are playing.

What we would like to remind you is that at the core of playing an RPG game you are trying to tell a story. No matter the setting/world/system, a way to guarantee enjoyment in a story is to have some kind of drama. In a physical campaign like a D&D game or Pathfinder game, this drama can usually come from the fighting and the chance of death. In other systems the drama can come from a more social aspect and how the different characters interact and what happens after. No matter what kind of campaign or system you are running, we have the 4 types of characters that can guarantee you a successful campaign.

We believe, that to tell a successful story you should use these 4 character roles: stick, stone, rubber, glue. Now, the idea of having 4 different character types in a successful story is nothing new, if you are familiar with Humorism this may seem very familiar. There is even an interesting CRACKED video  that covers that as well as a TV TROPES. The types of characters we are going to be talking about have different temperaments and provide a different purpose. We believe these 4 types of characters ensure a longer more successful campaign.

Below, Joshua and I have a little conversation on these 4 character types. Enjoy!

The Stick

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