Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Archetypes: Part 1

A key step to developing a great campaign is putting together a party that will generate plot just by trying to work together. It's also a big plus if the party fits the DM's vision for the campaign and gives him lots of good hooks to latch on to.

When I'd originally started planning this campaign, my probable player base was pretty big. My players ranged across all types, personalities, and play styles.

My Original Players

  • We had the guy who likes to role-play interesting takes on iconic character archetypes with fairly straightforward stats to back them up. 
  •  We had the guy who likes off-the-wall moments and will never act in anything resembling a predictable way (which has tacked bad endings onto more than one campaign). 
  •  We had the guy who like to "win" DnD. 
  •  We had the guy who loves playing the smooth-talking noble or scoundrel, but his character's smoothness tends to get lost somewhere between his mind and his tongue. 
  • We had the guy who likes strategy and strategic thinking and tends to always take the leadership roles in this group unless he is purposely trying to avoid doing so. 
  • We had the guy who has quickly developed over the last few long-term campaigns we have run from a soft-spoken background roll-player to role-player who enjoys somewhat ruthless characters. 
  • We had the guy who'd been away from the hobby for a while and was coming back to it by trying to play pretty straightforward and compelling characters. 
  •  We had the guy who may or may not show up from week to week.

Anyway, I had up to 8 PCs to plan for, and I wanted to both restrict what sort of PC they could play to fit with-in the concept for the game and also to offer the widest range of character options from the, at this point, rich offerings from D&D 4ed.

My idea was to make a deck of "Archetypes." Each card would have a brief description of a type of person that would be at Cyre's court, in a position to befriend the Prince. Beyond that, it would offer a restriction of races and classes that would make sense within that role. My goal was to cover every single game element anyone could possibly want to play with in 4ed. Also, I wanted the cards to offer roles that would fit with the wide variety of play-styles my players enjoy. I made multiple copies of many of the archetypes, because there were certain archetypes I could see multiple PCs wanting to play, and felt there was room within the archetype for them to do so with satisfying variety.

The plan was to deal the deck of archetypes to my players and play some sort of modified Old Maid, leaving each player with a hand of 2 archetypes from which to choose (except the Prince, who would just have 1 card) Whomever is stuck with Oargev, plays the prince.

That's not what happened. First of all, I decided these archetypes would replace Backgrounds, but be BETTER. I gave them each a flavorful and useful ability to represent their role at court. Secondly, our group fell apart leaving me with only 3 PCs (tactics guy, developing role-player, and iconic role-player) to run the game with. I just handed the stack of cards to the PCs and let them pick what they wanted to play.

Over the next week or so, I'll post each of the cards and the benefit that went with each.

Until then:
The Deck
1. Prince Oargev
2. Cyran Noble
3. Cyran Noble
4. Cyran Noble
5. Cyran Noble
6. Cyran Patriot
7. Cyran Patriot
8. Cyran Patriot
9. Warforged Servant
10. Dragonmarked Scion
11. Dragonmarked Scion
12. Foreign National
13. Foreign National
14. Sovereign Priest
15. Druidic Initiate


  1. I'll say that I think that starting plan is really interesting, especially with the inclusion of a benefit with that random draw. I wouldn't like that for all conceivable campaigns, because I've played with too many people who would just quit if faced with more of the spotlight, or the wrong kind of spotlight, but it's something I would enjoy having in a campaign.

    Also, I'm sorry to hear that your gaming group fell apart (especially because I can guess who a few of them are), but some of the most enjoyable 4e experiences I've had were three-player sessions.

  2. Part of my plan was that most Archetypes have enough wiggle room to have variable amounts of spotlight. Though, The Prince (and the Warforged) are probably exceptions to this idea, on opposite sides of the spectrum.

    We are possibly getting a new player soon, so maybe the group will build back up some. I do fondly remember the trio FR game you ran for me, Jeremy, and Adam back in college. Playing an Angry Giant-Slaying Halfling Fighter/Ranger/Barbarian was fun.