What Character Archetypes do you enjoy playing, reprised.

24 March, 2017

We were discussing what character types our current group tend to gravitate to, so I thought I would repost this article and see what people think of it (almost seven years later):

The Naive Expert / Talented Innocent

Who to be today?This is one of my favorite character conceptions, someone who is very, very skilled in a specific field but naive about the greater world.  These character are very good at what they do and very confident of their own abilities in their field and totally lost once they step out of that narrowly defined area.  They are usually young and without much in the way of social or combat skills, at least at the start.

Why play this archetype?

These character types are very good in a particular field, so if you need the best hacker/ magical field theorist/ bagpipe player in the world, they are at least up there on the league tables.  Since they are very lost outside their comfort zone, this allows the character to ask lots of questions as they try to figure out the world around them, usually in context of their specialized field.  (“Ah, so this is like a mass-energy conversion then?”) As others will likely see them as harmless, they might let their guard drop around them and reveal useful information.

Also it can be fun to flip between the complete confidence of  “oh, I already reprogrammed the security system” to the completely clueless “Why does that man have a weird haircut and why is he waving that knife around?  Someone could get hurt.”

What do they bring to a game?

As mention above, a very focused skill package.  Often exceedingly specialized knowledge or techniques, cutting edge technology or obscure magical spells.  They also give worldly characters someone to play off of and protector characters someone to watch over.

Naive Expert / Talented Innocent Examples:

•    The Closeted Hacker – The whole world is online, why do I need to go out?  A technical master and a social disaster.  This sort of character often has trouble dealing with people without a technical interface (“Can’t I just text you?”).
•    The Musical Sensation – You know you play well and you are glad that people like your songs but cannot they just leave you alone otherwise?  You just want to write and play music.
•    The Wizard Protege – Trained from a young age in the magical art, this character knows everything about magic . . . that can be learned from books.  Their knowledge of the rest of the world is similarly filtered, making them very confused when thing do not work the way their expect.

The Pro from Dover (to steal a term from Aaron Alston)

Another variation on the expert theme, the top man or woman in their field, or at least one of the top people.  I like having characters that are good at what they do and who are recognized for it.  Rarely that is the only focus of the characters existence, being the best at what they do.  To some extent this is the better adjusted or experienced Naive Expert, though they did not necessarily have to go through that phase.  Usually, there character are seeking to build things, be it their reputation, a company, but something that will outlive them in some fashion.

Why play this archetype?

You get to be someone at the top of your profession, probably someone who is recognized as an virtuoso as least by your fellow professionals.  So, you have the skills, you have the reputation and, hopefully, the tools of your trade as well.  As long as you are working in your field, you should be succeeding -and probably exceeding- at the tasks set before you.

You should have contacts, at least among your peers and possibly much wider, and resources.  This is a character going places and everyone should know that.

What do they bring to a game?

Purpose, the Pro wants to build things, big things.  Such designs can help move the game forward and, hopefully, motivate the others characters as well.  They have high skills, the right contacts and -usually- resources, that can be drawn upon by the rest of them team.  They may not be the team leader but they can be the team’s patron.

The Pro from Dover Examples

•    Corporate Hero – Equipped with the best technology you can invent and that your company can afford, you are a living testimony both to your genius and your company’s potential.
•    Daring Doctor – Your medical skills are in demand worldwide, you only take the most challenging cases and get paid well for your success.  When not working, you hobnob with the rich and famous.
•    Masked Thief – Socialite by day and night, cat-burglar in the predawn hours.  You use your social skills and connection to study your targets and your skills to rob them, leaving behind a signature of some sort so that your artistry is recognized.

The Reforming Zealot

A religious true believer who wishes to insure that the other followers of their faith do not go astray unfortunately, they view the current state of affair in the church as questionable at best and corrupt at worst.  Inevitably they are in conflict with the hierarchy of the faith who naturally support the status quo.  These characters wish to see the truth they see as self evident spread throughout the faithful to bring the people closer to their god or gods.

Why play this archetype?

For the challenge of playing a true believer.  Most of us gamers, even those of us with rock solid core beliefs, are usually pretty tolerant people.  This person is not, they know the will of the divine and they intend to see it carried out.  They are entirely inflexible in their belief but they are willing to work with others to get the job done.  They are willing to do terrible things if their god asks them to.

From my experience, this type of character  usually works best in a setting that has a primary, dominating type of church/faith.

What do they bring to a game?

Drive, relentless drive and focus.  The zealot knows what need to be achieved if not the way to achieve it.  Divine power perhaps only in the form of personal inspiration but also in the form of fanatic followers and divine magic(in the right setting).  They are willing to talk religion, of course they know which one is the truth, which is a rarity from my roleplaying experience.

Reforming Zealot Examples:

•   Last Paladin – The last surviving member (or one of the last) of a once widely respected order of religious knight.  You carry the banner of proud tradition.  Can you restore the order to its rightful place?
•    Protesting Priest – The have seen the rot and corruption that hides behind the church’s facade.  You must drive out the evil and restore what is right and proper even at the cost of your own life.

As I like to occasional play characters that have a entirely different world-view from me, the reforming zealot really gives me a chance to explore new viewpoints.  However, most of my characters share a broad similarity in beliefs with me (which I suspect is true of most of us).

What sort of character archetypes to you find yourself drawn to?  Which are your favorite?  Are there any archetype you have not had a chance to play but you really want to see played?

So, my Shadowrun character PinkCat, is very much in the Talented Innocent mold, while my character our Ravenloft D&D game is much more a Pro from Dover, though with Naive Expert elements.  In other words, these archetypes still frame my characters quite often even now.

Image is “Masks” by Julio Greff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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