Mystic101’s Guide to Creating Archetypes

mystic101
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Mystic101’s Guide to Creating Archetypes

Postby mystic101 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:58 pm

Well, I signed up to make another archetype, and also go to this year’s special Gen-Con session again. Last year was only supposed to be a one-off . . . it’s expensive, and I’d only gone because I’d gotten a tiny inheritance and needed something special to do . . . but it was so much fun that I decided to try and find a way to do it again. In fact, other than meaningful family-time stuff, it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a vacation. This time around, I did it by working nights and weekends for a couple of months at a Halloween store. Which, it turned out, was actually a pretty fun way to raise the cash! I’m glad I did.

Now that I’ve gotten one cycle of archetype construction under my belt, and some positive feedback so far regarding my second attempt, I thought I’d share some of the loose design principles I personally use, in case it would be helpful to anyone else out there. Current backers. Those who’re considering doing it in the future. Those who enjoy doing it for their own private use, or just as a thought exercise. Anyone, really. None of this is official Ulisses policy or anything, it’s just my personal guidelines, so caveat emptor. I’ve divided them into two main sections, The Fluff and The Crunch. I’ll use my most recent archetype idea as an example here and there, for illustrative purposes (and also as a shameless plug, natch!). :)

THE FLUFF
A. Universal appeal
When creating something and putting it out there, I want as many people as possible to pick it up, give it a try, and enjoy it. That means designing it in order to appeal to as many different people as I can. Here’s a few ways to do that:

1. Make it gender neutral, if possible.
There are male players playing male characters, males playing female characters, females playing females, females playing males, and none of the above/everything in between. If your character concept works equally well as male or female, and/or if one specific gender isn’t central to how it functions, you’re giving yourself more opportunity for more people to give it a try. My Fire Dancer practices tanoura, which is an Egyptian dance traditionally performed by both men and women. It’s got options.

2. Religiously/Politically versatile, if possible.
Nothing divides people quite like real-world politics and religion. If your concept has to be a follower of one specific non-made-up religion, or from one particular side of the political aisle, be aware that you’re potentially limiting who’ll give it a try. Concepts that provide design space for a player to include this aspect under their own initiative, or instead leave it out if they’d prefer, help alleviate this problem. Tanoura dancing has its roots in Islamic Sufi practices, but it’s also become a separate and fully secular practice, too. This lets a player throw some faith adds and Miracle perks onto the Fire Dancer’s chassis later, if they want to emphasize a religious background, or to remain completely secular instead if they don’t. Both approaches fit smoothly and effortlessly onto the base archetype.

3. Be original.
Some people will be more likely to give something a try if they’ve never seen anything like it before, so try to think of something unique. For example, there are a lot of superheroes and supervillains out there with fire-based powers . . . it’s not that original by itself . . . but none that I’m aware of have both fire and whirlwind powers. So until Marvel has The Human Torch and Storm make a baby, if anyone wants to play a character that’s a flaming tornado, they’ll need to pick up the Fire Dancer archetype. Think outside the box, and try to put your own “spin” on something (see what I did there?).

4. Don’t be original.
I know, that’s exactly the opposite of what I said to do in #3! That’s because another way to get someone to try a thing is to invoke nostalgia, or something that happens to be close to their heart. And that means invoking something that’s been done before. I grew up reading superhero comic books and watching superhero cartoons, so superheroes hold a special fondness for me. Plenty of other people feel the same way, from their own life experiences. If your character concept hearkens back to some mass-media phenomena from your potential players’ past, they may be willing to give it a try. For maximum appeal, make the concept fit #3 and #4. A fresh take on an oldie-but-a-goodie.

5. Visual appeal.
If your character has strong visual appeal, it’s more likely to get noticed. You can certainly make a fun, interesting character that’s just wearing, oh I don’t know, a sweater and khakis, and just standing in a waiting-for-the-bus pose, but realize you’re giving up an opportunity to seize the potential player’s eye and intrigue them if you do. The Fire Dancer’s intricate, super-colorful costume, the spinning motion of it, the way the arms/swords/skirts will flare out and take up space, the fire blazing all around them, it’ll be practically screaming out, “LOOK AT ME!!!”

6. The “Cool” Factor.
This one’s hard to quantify, and different for each person, but it’s kind of like pornography. You may not be able to define it, but you definitely know it when you see it. It’s something that makes a potential player sit up and go “wow”. For the Fire Dancer, it’s partly having swords spinning through the air all around them, all by themselves, at whirlwind speeds. That’s kinda, sorta cool, a little bit. But even more importantly, they’re basically a tornado made out of fire. A TORNADO. MADE OUT OF FIRE. Hopefully, at least some people will think that’s, like, approaching Sharknado levels of cool or something. :) So try to think of things that make you, and hopefully many others, go “wow”.

B. Personal appeal.
Ultimately you’re the most important consumer of your archetype, because it’s you who’s putting forth the time, effort, and money to make it happen. Your concept should be close to your heart, and it should please you deeply to see it come to fruition. With that in mind:

1. No compromising your values.
Don’t “water down” your concept by trying to appeal to as many different potential players as possible, at the expense of diluting what it is that you yourself love about it. That’s how soulless, derivative crap gets made, and we all know the world has way too much of that. Instead, consider ways to weave in the concepts I’ve outlined above in order to increase appeal, but in ways that don’t diminish what already makes it awesome to you individually.

2. Personal Easter eggs.
You can hide things of significance to you in plain sight within your concept. It’ll add deep personal meaning to it for you, but without shoving it in the audience’s face. For the Fire Dancer, it’s how it’s secretly honoring the female family members in my life, just as the Luchador honored by deceased father. It’s a firestorm of a character because my wife is working on finding and honoring the “fierce goddess” aspect of her personality right now, and it’s a whirling dervish because . . . well, my six-year-old daughter loves to spin in place until she’s super dizzy. :) No one would know any of those things without reading this, but I knew. And you’ll know, for yours. It’ll help make your character special to you.

2. Break all these rules.
Know when to “break the rules” and ignore any of the suggestions I’ve outlined above, if that’s what’s needed for your concept, and to follow through on your vision. Is making an Amazon important to you? Ignore Point #1. Really want a religious saint character? Ignore Point #2, etc.

THE CRUNCH
Now that the high concept stuff is out of the way, there’s some rules-based stuff to consider. Some of it comes from Ulisses’ design philosophies, and some of it comes from being considerate toward your potential players.

A. Don’t min-max the character.
Your archetype shouldn’t have +3 adds in every skill, with maxed-out primary attributes and 5’s in everything else. Partly because that’s not “realistic”. No one’s that hyper-focused on only one single aspect of their existence. Even Olympic athletes and cloistered religious fanatics have hobbies, outside interests, things they've "wasted their time on" in the past, etc. Also, it’s because the person who picks up your character sheet may never have played Torg before, and you don’t want to saddle them with some potentially crippling weaknesses as a by-product of the min-maxing, and ruin their first play experience.

1. Skill distribution.
Pick a single skill to be at +3, the “tag skill”. Have a handful of the rest at +2, and a handful of the remaining ones at +1.

2. Non-combat/backstory skills.
Sprinkle in some non-combat skills, and some skills that are just there to enhance the character’s personality and backstory. I picked scholar for the Fire Dancer because they’re bright and likely to have a modicum of education, and first aid because the character would want to treat any burns that might occur as collateral damage from the use of his/her powers. They’re not “wasted” points, not in a game about role-playing.

B. Make the character versatile, for any new players.
Someone new to Torg may not know what kind of character they’ll like to play yet, long-term. By making a character capable of filling multiple roles, you’ll give them a taste of several different things, so that they can make a more informed decision. You’ll also keep them from feeling “useless” in certain situations if there’s multiple different things they can try to do.

1. Include melee and ranged combat options.
Have at least one way to engage in melee, and at least one way to engage in ranged combat. The Fire Dancer can toss around firebolts at range, or get in close with swords. If the concept is focused specifically on one or the other, add in a token way to do the secondary thing just in case. My Luchador was all about unarmed combat, but I threw in a taser just to check that second box off. Even a fully non-combat character should have token ways to engage in both. A bookworm scholar with a penknife in his/her pocket and a slingshot memento from when they were a kid, etc.

2. Multiple interaction skills.
I’d recommend including proficiency in multiple different interaction skills as well. You never know what Approved Actions will come up most often in a player’s first game, or which ones they’ll like to do the most. The getting and using of cards is an important aspect of game play. Giving a new player plenty of opportunities to experiment with interactions and collect cards can only help. The Luchador was proficient in all four interactions, and the Fire Dancer is good in three out of four. I’d recommend trying to be decent in at least two, at a minimum.

Well, thanks to anyone who took the time to read this, and don’t forget the most important guideline of all . . . have fun!

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TorgHacker
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Re: Mystic101’s Guide to Creating Archetypes

Postby TorgHacker » Thu Jan 03, 2019 2:26 pm

For the record I pretty much agree with all of this.
Deanna Gilbert
Torg Eternity designer
Ulisses North America

Zackzenobi
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Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:52 am

Re: Mystic101’s Guide to Creating Archetypes

Postby Zackzenobi » Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:31 pm

This is Really interesting!

Thanks for taking the time to share this. I was the one who submitted the Ruins Seeker for the Living Land Archetypes. I pretty much did the same things without realizing it. I also have purchased a Backer Archetype for the Nile Empire. I got positive feedback from Darrell, but I'm not as far along in the creation process as you are so I dont think I'll show my hand just yet.

My main goal when making an Archetype is to try to bring something new to the table. I want to give players an option they didnt have before, while at the same time presenting an option that seems natural to the setting. For instance, Ross Watson improved the Living Land by adding the Lost Worlds, many of which have treasures galore. Well it seemed to me that if there are treasures to find there would naturally be someone who would seek them out. Also Living Land players had the option of playing Priests or Brutish Warrior types. Now they have the option of playing a Eidinos version of an Archeologist/Realm Runner.

As for Easter Eggs, I gave him cut up jean shorts as an homage to Kamandi. Talk about Lost World adventurer cred!

I think I have something for Nile of the same caliber. Though only my fellow Torg lovers will know for sure. I am a little concerned how I can come up with something Original for Aysle, as Fantasy has been done to death.

mystic101
Posts: 280
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:13 am

Re: Mystic101’s Guide to Creating Archetypes

Postby mystic101 » Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:16 pm

Zackzenobi wrote:This is Really interesting!

Thanks for taking the time to share this. I was the one who submitted the Ruins Seeker for the Living Land Archetypes. I pretty much did the same things without realizing it. I also have purchased a Backer Archetype for the Nile Empire. I got positive feedback from Darrell, but I'm not as far along in the creation process as you are so I dont think I'll show my hand just yet.

My main goal when making an Archetype is to try to bring something new to the table. I want to give players an option they didnt have before, while at the same time presenting an option that seems natural to the setting. For instance, Ross Watson improved the Living Land by adding the Lost Worlds, many of which have treasures galore. Well it seemed to me that if there are treasures to find there would naturally be someone who would seek them out. Also Living Land players had the option of playing Priests or Brutish Warrior types. Now they have the option of playing a Eidinos version of an Archeologist/Realm Runner.

As for Easter Eggs, I gave him cut up jean shorts as an homage to Kamandi. Talk about Lost World adventurer cred!

I think I have something for Nile of the same caliber. Though only my fellow Torg lovers will know for sure. I am a little concerned how I can come up with something Original for Aysle, as Fantasy has been done to death.


Thanks! Oh, and of course, I forgot something for the original post, and it may be something that'll help you out with your Aysle problem. Here it is:

ADDENDUM #1
Incorporate real-world customs and traditions whenever possible.
Torg is set in an action-movie version of our own real world, and it's a world chock-full of amazing, wonderful things. So many, in fact, that most of us haven't even heard of most of it. Do some research into where your character is from. There are resources out there like Atlas Obscura, or Ripley's Believe It or Not, or the latest issue of any scientific journal, that will have you going, "No way! That's actually real? That's so cool!" And hardly anyone even knows about it . . . until you highlight it for them with your new character. Ancient traditions, modern marvels, natural wonders galore. All food for the creative engine, and it's particularly fitting that in a game about infinite possibilities come to life, there are plenty of those amazing possibilities already in existence right here on ol' Mother Earth. There's a reason the High Lords think Core Earth is bursting at the seams with possibility energy. Show them they weren't wrong about us. Show us they weren't wrong about us.


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