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Timmy, Johnny and Spike - thoughts on Magic's player psychographs vis a vis Exalted

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  • Timmy, Johnny and Spike - thoughts on Magic's player psychographs vis a vis Exalted

    I'm assuming that most folks on the forum are at least passingly familiar with the card game, Magic: The Gathering.

    I'm personally a fan with an on-again, off-again magic habit. But one of the things that attracts me to the game has nothing to do with Magic directly, and more to do with the head of R&D, Mark Rosewater. In particular, his articles on the hows and whys of specific points of design in Magic- the interplay of different forces at work, some of which are obvious, some of which are not. He doesn't always persuade me, but I can generally accept that Rosewater's positions are considered and reasoned.

    One of the ideas that he comes back to fairly frequently is one which I think could have some value in the homebrewing Exalted community- the player psychographs.

    In brief, when designing new cards, there's three major player 'types' that Wizards designs for; Timmy, Johnny and Spike.

    Timmy is the player who plays primarily for the experience of playing. They like the social element of the game, and would rather win big or not at all. Timmy doesn't enjoy ekeing out a win, and they don't mind losing as long as they've gotten to have a cool experience while doing so.
    Cards that provide very modest, incremental advantage- especially advantage that doesn't directly impact the board -tend to be undervalued by Timmy players. Likewise, they tend to be shy around symetric effects (like board wipes), as they enjoy advancing the board state and symetric effects tend to inhibit doing so. Conversely, cards that are very 'bursty'- expensive but with game defining effects -or which visibly advance the board state tend to be very Timmy cards. Timmy likes buffs, because they focus on the upside (big bad creature is bigger and badder) while underplaying the downside (putting more eggs in one basket can lead to greater disruption)

    Johnny is the player who plays to express themselves via playing. They like making theme decks, or decks with cards that people discount- they want to prove that they can make 'worthless' cards integral to some crazy deck. Johnny is the player the most likely to have some weird combo deck that doesn't seem to be doing anything until suddenly they win- one time in ten, maybe, but that one time in ten is *glorious*. They'll have decks that break the conventional wisdom of what makes a good deck, in order to take advantage of some specific effect that other folks disregard. Johny tends to dislike cards that are straightforward, even if those cards are straightforwardly good- they don't want to do what everyone else is doing! They would rather do something that's statistically worse as long as it's unique and different!

    Spike is the player who plays to prove themselves via playing. They play to *win*. They love eking out the narrowest wins, because it means they proved themselves the better player against someone at their own level of quality. They don't invest themselves in the decks or the cards, but rather the action of play itself; Spike will play the most popular deck they can find if they think that it will help them to win more often. They're drawn to efficient creasures, disruption, and incremental advantage- especially incremental advantage that isn't neccesarily obvious to their opponent.

    Of course, no person is wholy one thing, or wholy not one thing; most folks are some mix of all three. But it's worth considering- what kind of player is going to be interested in what kind of effect.

    Now, bringing this back to Exalted- I think there might be some utilitious ground in considering how different player psychographs respond to different Charms.

    Timmy likes the experience of being powerful. He would rather roll 20 dice than get 10 successes, because of the visceral sense, the weight and clatter of the dice. Timmy enjoys effects that have a large and dramatic impact on the scene.
    Timmy is the kind of player that enjoys overkill; they tend to max their excellency usage well beyond what's 'needed' because getting super legendary successes is super cool. They like the visuals of wide swatches of destruction (or standing unharmed at the center of a wide swatch of destruction) over subtle power. They like charms that buff their character, because they enjoy the end result of the buff more than the time cost of buffing. The original Heavenly Guardian Defense is one of the most Timmy charms possible; it's so cool to see some unstoppable force of destruction and say 'No'.

    Johnny likes to make use of Charms that others disregard. They like finding the hidden synergies in the system, the places that are seemingly disconnected and how they can be wired together in ways that no one else has thought of. Cup Boils Over is a great example of a Johnny charm- it basically screams 'Hey, in some hyper limited circumstance I am amazing- but it's up to you to find how to best engineer that circumstance'. Johnny also tends to be the player of special snowflake characters and weird custom charms and martial arts- they want to do something no one else has done before, to prove how creative they are.

    Spike would be easy to dismiss as the classic powergamer. Jon Chung is probably the closest thing to the platonic ideal of the Spike player in Exalted as is possible to imagine; every challenge is a contest to prove yourself, and anyone who isn't doing so in the most optimal fashion possible is almost incomprehensible to him. The discussions we've seen on the board, of the relative merits of Excellent Strike vs using the Excellency, strike me as being very Spike discussions- they are about mathematical optimization without regard for the experience of play or novelty of selection, because the experience of play and novelty of selection are both secondary to the experience of *winning*, and winning requires making the most mathematically optimal choices.

    -----

    Where's the value in this? I believe it's valuable to be able to evaluate charms and effects from perspectives and priorities other than your own.

    Like- personally, I tend to be fairly Timmy/Johnny. I like doing weird shit, and I like for it to make a big splash. I like finding ways to combine charms in unanticipated ways to create synergies that are greater than the sum of their parts. I like seeing a charm like that one Linguistics charm that raises your Guile while you are reading and trying to imagine when I would use that. My favorite character that I've played has been Morteza Nasser, a Chiroscurian con artist and storyteller Eclipse, who was constantly setting up Rube Golderberg-esque social situations and who the length and breadth of his combat ability was his Thrown excellency and Dexterity 3, Thrown 3. He was a character that lived and died on my getting to do clever shit in play, and I loved when (for instance) I could trick a Realm garrison into firing on their own incoming new Satrap.

    (Note: I'm not trying to imply that Spike is exclusively combat focused; it tends to be an easy or obvious route to prove themselves competitively and thus a common space to explore, but Spike != Murderhobo)

    I have a tolerable enough sense of bowel cognition for math to not just disregard Spike concerns, but they are a secondary concern to me. Charms that make you feel cool when you use them, and charms that combine, compare and contrast in interesting ways are much more my jam.

    And when working on just a handful of one off charms, they'll probably mostly satisfy one or two priorities- the priorities that the writer most personally identifies with. Because, I mean, duh

    But when working on larger sets- and I will contend that most homebrewers eventually have the urge to do so -it becomes important to ensure that you have charms which can satisfy all those desires. Not all at once, but collectively across the work. I believe that this is one of the elements that helps to generate a sense of cohesion across such works.


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  • #2
    Reminds me of the Bartle Test, with a personality type (Hearts/Socializers) taken out because we're not dealing with MMOs and socializing happens OOC.

    Personally I think Bartle's gamer types are pretty useful when homebrewing and storytelling, not as psychological predictors of what players are gonna do, but as general areas one wants to cover with their story.

    Also, Extra Creditz did a thing on this which is an interesting watch. Another episode talks about how the types interact (less relevant, but still interesting).


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    • #3
      Good comparison, interested to hear what folks think. Should we inclde Vorthos & Melvin? If only because I feel I'm more Johnny/Vorthos in both MtG and roleplaying than any other combo.

      Will post more details on these ones when I get home, if no one beats me to it.


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      • #4
        I have been such a Timmy for most of my life. It's only in the last few years I've been shifting towards a Johnny. I can't imagine myself ever being a Spike though.

        Fascinating!


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Xerxes View Post
          Good comparison, interested to hear what folks think. Should we inclde Vorthos & Melvin? If only because I feel I'm more Johnny/Vorthos in both MtG and roleplaying than any other combo.

          Will post more details on these ones when I get home, if no one beats me to it.
          I thought about it, but Vorthos and Mel are psychographs that are kind of orthogonal to the act of play.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Fata-Ku View Post
            Reminds me of the Bartle Test, with a personality type (Hearts/Socializers) taken out because we're not dealing with MMOs and socializing happens OOC.

            Personally I think Bartle's gamer types are pretty useful when homebrewing and storytelling, not as psychological predictors of what players are gonna do, but as general areas one wants to cover with their story.

            Also, Extra Creditz did a thing on this which is an interesting watch. Another episode talks about how the types interact (less relevant, but still interesting).

            Neat! *goes to watch*


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            • #7
              Originally posted by wastevens View Post
              I thought about it, but Vorthos and Mel are psychographs that are kind of orthogonal to the act of play.
              I would say the opposite, actually - many, many Exalted arguments I see stem directly from a Vorthos-Mel conflict.

              Or, at least, they seem to - in Magic and in Exalted, I am primarily interested in the lore... but when I talk about things like natural language, people's opinions mostly seem to break down along lines of "more flavorful" versus "clear rules," which is very much a Vorthos-Mel thing in theory.


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              • #8
                How I would like charms to be written:

                Flavorful In-character perspective of what the charm does and how it is perceived by my character.

                Clear Mechanics that talk to the player how the charm works.

                To me, both those parts are necessary to how to charm operates. Unfortunately, I don't think there is room in the book for every charm to be broken down like that.


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                • #9
                  Didn't WotC make a Timmy-Johnny-Spike for when they designed D&D 3e as well? Or perhaps I'm just remembering some RPG-related discussion somewhere else...

                  When it comes to Bartle, I'm definitely primarily an Explorer, with a large side-order of Socializer.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post
                    How I would like charms to be written:

                    Flavorful In-character perspective of what the charm does and how it is perceived by my character.

                    Clear Mechanics that talk to the player how the charm works.
                    Absolutely seconded. I would kill for Charm writeups to borrow the philosophy of Magic cards/D&D 4E/MOBA characters and have a flavor section separate from a (concise and technical) rules section.


                    "For me, there's no fundamental conflict between really loving something and also seeing it as very profoundly flawed." -- Jay Eddidin

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chejop Kejak View Post
                      Absolutely seconded. I would kill for Charm writeups to borrow the philosophy of Magic cards/D&D 4E/MOBA characters and have a flavor section separate from a (concise and technical) rules section.
                      Absa-flippn-lootly thirded.

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                      • #12
                        I seriously doubt that very many folks- including the devs -would argue in favor of an intentional lack of clarity. There is a difference, however, between writing to the technical specification that, say, Magic or a computer game has, vs writing to use in a vastly more freeform environment which is intrinsically going to depend on more interpretation. Could E3 have had tighter language while still retaining the use of natural language? Probably, but it's a bit of a tangent from raising Timmy/Johnny/Spike as ideas for lensing about thinking about stuff.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by wastevens View Post
                          Probably, but it's a bit of a tangent from raising Timmy/Johnny/Spike as ideas for lensing about thinking about stuff.
                          Yes, to my reading, it seems less like the kind of thing that comes through any time natural language is brought up, and more the distinctions that are made apparent if somebody ever, say, insists that a dice pool of seven is too low to accomplish anything.

                          Incidentally, while my distinctions with RPGs are still a bit nebulous due to insufficient experience, I got a kick out of looking at those three types and thinking of how I approach Dark Souls with each of them, depending on what mood I'm in.



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                          • #14
                            Oh, god. For someone who hates it when threads get derailed, I do seem to have a knack, don't I? Here, let me try to get back to point:

                            Originally posted by wastevens View Post
                            I have a tolerable enough sense of bowel cognition for math to not just disregard Spike concerns, but they are a secondary concern to me. Charms that make you feel cool when you use them, and charms that combine, compare and contrast in interesting ways are much more my jam.
                            This isn't an unreasonable observation, but I feel like there's a lot of unspoken assumptions when people talk about how mechanical optimization isn't important to them, because such-and-such is "cool".

                            See, take Excellent Strike. It's easy to do the math and show whether it's beneficial to use in a given case, so when someone comes in and says "I don't care about the math, knowing that my attack is super-perfect feels good," it becomes easy to see that as a conflict with the math crowd. But I don't think that conflict matters, really - if someone doesn't pay attention to the math, effects which generally give math (which Excellent Strike is) won't upset them more than effects which generally give bad math (say, Threefold Magnetic Ardor). By definition, if they don't know, it doesn't impact them - there is no conflict, since the same effects can work for both types of player.

                            That's not totally true in Magic, because some cards need to be constructed viable, but they cannot all be, due to (1) making money, and (2) the existence of other formats. In Exalted, however, some Charms being optimal and others clearly suboptimal is known as a "noob trap," and it's generally derided by the devs and players alike.

                            The real conflict I often see in Exalted is between "knowing that my attack is super-perfect feels good," and "having to buy math Charms instead of ones which let me do new things is boring." That is to say, not the battle between Timmy and Spike, but between Timmy and Tammy. Two players with the same goal, but different ideas of what feels good. And that's... harder to resolve.

                            (Well, all psychographic stuff is harder to resolve in Exalted than in Magic, really, due to the way Charm Trees make you buy a lot of arbitrary stuff in order to get what you want, but that's a topic for another rant.)


                            "For me, there's no fundamental conflict between really loving something and also seeing it as very profoundly flawed." -- Jay Eddidin

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                            • #15
                              Okay, so - i played Magic back in early high school and built a Goblin/Capture deck. Completely weak and silly except when it worked and overwhelmed the opponent (usually much to their great dismay). All my friends were Spikes though with small Johnny leanings so i didnt end up enjoying thir highly competitive styles and fell out of the game. (Still have my deck though)

                              In later years i picked up Yu-Gi-Oh and loved it to peices because it was perfectly suited to my play style, peicing together a victory and announcing each part and i revealed it, even when it left me screaming in horror when a simple effect i hadn't counted on shatters the chain and turns all my work against me.

                              Later still, i picked up on League of Legends from the urging of friends and, while largely wasnt very impressed with the longevity of the fun (one game is enough for me in any given sitting) what i did enjoy about it was playing the Champions stereotypically known for being played by crappy players (massive burst damage, hard carry - taditional Spikes by the above i guess) and then playing the early game pretending i was easily goaded and throwing away a few deaths to see where the opposing team were most lilely to set themselves up for kills, and then switching mid-game to a much more tactical play style and catching them by surprise when my champ is suddenly a hard counter to their game, often luring them out into gank mode by pretending i was out of position. I jave to keep switching out which champs i play though because they intoduced a mastery system that badges me loud and clear as NOT a bad player

                              And then came Exalted. Again something i picked up because my friends reccomended it. The scratching post i've been digging my claws into, Charm Combos. I love piecing together my victory. I like leading my opponents with a trail of breadcrumbs to their doom. I love losing when the combo is shattered, not just ignored. I love misdirecting my foes, showing them a hand so they build to counter it while my real ace is something completely different.

                              /introspection

                              I think i'm a hard Johnny.


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