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"Leonardo leads,

Donatello does machines,

Raphael is cool but rude,

Michelangelo is a party dude!"

A Five-Man Band specializes by role to the team. Someone leads, someone disagrees, someone is smart, someone is tough, and someone ensures that none of the above kill each other.

Unfortunately, when writing within context of a certain profession, goal, or genre, some of these roles are useless, and especially when characters are in groups that are supposed to be specialized, it doesn't make sense to have some of these roles; in a group of scientific researchers, wouldn't all of them be smart? In a group of politicians, wouldn't all of them lead and disagree? Don't astronauts have to be well-rounded and exceptional in many ways?

But there is a way to make a group of people diverse without giving them specialized roles in a form of a group that would probably best be specialized for questing. One way is through personality, in this case based off of a long-since discredited wacky ancient pseudoscience (though it is still used for profiling).

The four temperaments (also called the "four humors") was a theory that behavior was caused by concentrations of body fluids — the "humours" of Classical medicine: namely blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Each of these would affect a person's personality differently, and the way these fluids were thought to affect behavior eventually became a part of personality theory, eventually separated completely from the idea that fluids actually controlled behavior. However, the names still remain. An ensemble based on these four humors can make the ensemble diverse without actually changing the roles of the characters in the show's continuity.

The four temperaments (humors) are:

Alternatively, a system of five temperaments has been proposed, in which the Phlegmatic is moved into a central, fifth position, with the fourth corner being filled by the Supine temperament:

  • Supine (tears): Introverted and people-oriented; a follower, not a leader. Basically the first-type phlegmatic category narrowed down to the shyness and/or low self-esteem reason for introversion. Tendency to be friendly, amiable, affectionate, relational, thoughtful, compassionate, elegant (in simple ways), the Fettered, observant, open-minded, emotionally intelligent, and non-confrontational (except when needed as an empath taking a stand in unambiguously abusive scenarios); but also docile, dependent on others for self-esteem (whether by choice or because of insecurity), difficulty saying "no", and too easily clouded by empathy to focus on anything else, which can be easily taken advantage of by most anyone. If female (and it usually is), may be a submissive Proper Lady and is sure to be the Heart; the Empath will often come into play.
  • Phlegmatic II: The "middle of the road" temperament. Someone who typically doesn't exhibit the extremes or weaknesses of the four basic temperaments. In a positive light: Balanced and well-rounded in character (mid-way among all temperaments). In a negative light: Empty and devoid of character (having no temperament). If the character is a hero, then Hot-Blooded can hold this role (due to being standard, and most other characters would be typified Choleric or Sanguine for such behavior). The positive light is commonly reserved for secondary characters such as Wise Old Mentors, because the more extreme "temperamental" characters are easier to identify with and thus make more popular heroes.

A Four Temperament Ensemble will have one character to fit each one of these four temperaments. Sometimes a Five Man Band with four members will also be a Four Temperament Ensemble, but in many cases, they're mutually exclusive. For the five-temperament version, the most common match-ups for the roles: The Hero (Phlegmatic II), the Lancer (Choleric), the Big Guy (Phlegmatic), the Smart Guy (Melancholic), the Chick (Sanguine), and the Sixth Ranger (Supine).

In Red Oni, Blue Oni, a Red Oni will likely be Choleric or Sanguine, while a Blue Oni will more likely be Melancholic or Phlegmatic/Supine.

There is also some overlap with Power Trio and Freudian Trio scenarios, with the five-temperament version possibly taking them to their maximum extension: The Kirk/the Ego is either the eclectic, balanced leader (Phlegmatic) or relational heart and glue for the team (Supine and Sanguine). The two triads slightly differ in their match-ups, however, in the other two roles: The Spock is the Choleric and Melancholic (cold logic and hard facts only, the latter as the withdrawn side), but the Superego ranges from Melancholic to Supine (the moralizer and the altruist, respectively). The McCoy is usually Supine and Sanguine (the compassionate, idealistic side and the expressive/dramatic side, respectively) if the eclectic mood gamut doesn't average out to Phlegmatic; but the impetuous Id ranges from Sanguine to Choleric. In a total of four, the one temperament remaining will be filled by a prominent supporting character who is still clearly outside of the triad; a group of five results in a Three Plus Two.

They are also similar to the four Personality Blood Types, and are sometimes also a Four-Element Ensemble. See also Cast Calculus for the overarching archetypes in this and differently numbered ensembles. Here is an Image Archive for this trope.

Additionally, Pseudolonewolf (of MARDEK fame) has a page that goes into great detail on the four temperaments (the original names), here.

For another way to split up a group of four, see Four-Philosophy Ensemble.

Examples of Four-Temperament Ensemble include:

Examples of Four-Temperament Ensemble include:

Categories with their own pages

Eastern European Animation

Choleric Melancholic Phlegmatic Sanguine
Parrot Elephant Python Monkey


Choleric Melancholic Phlegmatic Sanguine
Light L Matt Mello

Tabletop Games

While FATAL does have a humors system, there is no rule forcing your party to be a Four-Temperament Ensemble. Indeed, this would actively contradict the obsessive randomisation inherent to the FATAL system.

Magic the Gathering has this with the five Praetors of New Phyrexia:

Choleric Melancholic


Sanguine Phlegmatic II
Elesh Norn Jin-Gitaxias Urabrask



Intentionally invoked in Promethean: The Created. The five Lineages of Prometheans are Frankensteins (choleric), Golems (Melancholic), Galateids (Sanguine), Osirans (phlegmatic), and Ulgan (associated with the "humor" of ectoplasm.) The character's balance of humors is actually an important gameplay point.

Also invoked in Tribe8 with the monstrous Z'Bri, whose 4 types are named after the four humors: Koleris, Flemis, Sangis, and Melanis.

In Warhammer and Warhammer 40000, appropriately enough, the four gods of Chaos each represent an emotion and mindset. Khorne (the god of anger and bloodshed) is choleric, Slaanesh (god of passion and lust) is sanguine, Tzeentch (god of ambition and hope) is (ironically) melancholic, and Nurgle (god of despair and disease) is (appropriately) phlegmatic.


The final Hasse Och Tage revue Fröken Fleggmans mustasch is constructed around this trope, to the extent that the characters of the four person ensemble (if one excludes the pianist) are named accordingly. The quartet consists of:

  • Count Niklas von Sanguin (played by Hans Alfredson).
  • The banker Kurt S.[2] Wresig, alternatingly his impostor son Kolerik Wresig (both played by Gösta Ekman).
  • The maid Frida Fleggman (played by Lena Nyman).
  • The Mysterious Stranger Alvar F.[3] Dysterkvist (played by Tage Danielsson).

Real Life

  • The 4 aspects of a person's DISC assessment each have a direct parallel with one of the 4 temperaments:
    • Dominance = Choleric
    • Influence = Sanguine
    • Steadiness = Phlegmatic
    • Conscientiousness = Melancholic
Choleric Melancholic Sanguine Phlegmatic II
Walter, Achmed and Baby Seamus Jeff Peanut, Bubba J, Melvin and Daddy Dee Jose Jalapeno
  1. And whenever a female joins the group, they become a five-man version.
  2. Stubin
  3. Ragnar (It Makes Sense in Context)