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January 25, 2012 / Wythe

d6 RPG: LONG discussion of archetypes

More notes from the early days of the d6 RPG(Warning, kind of long!) I said:

LONG discussion analyzing archetype systems in other RPGs

General thoughts

Love it!  Paul, I think you’ve hit upon something very important re: Warhammer/White Wolf-type stats (which I’ll get to still later).  That said, on to the concept/Devil’s advocacy.

Archetypes

Theorem:  My archetypes and their score associations (specific numbers aside) make sense and work regardless of systems proposed in later emails.  In fact, they stem not from a top-down, old school “fighting-man, spellcaster, elf” idea of a party, but from that same impulse you are feeling, Paul—that you are a fighter because you work out, a monk because you are a meditative, focused person, etc.

Return to concept:  The hero (the name is irrelevant but I like Serres’s list quite a bit) is just the name for the person who has chosen/been thrust into a certain path.  Same down the line.  The genius = someone who’s studied books, or magic crystals, or the psi code, or whatever.  Even with nine ability scores, each concept could still have one primary boost (or, more complex, two, or a mix of pluses and minuses—or whatever).  Why?

The current game:  We currently make PCs and NPCs by distributing stats to reflect both nature and nurture, building up, often over the course of hours… an archetype.  We run around the earth, east, to take one step, west.

My idea (again, no matter how the numbers work) is to reverse the process:  You wanna play the fast guy?  Great, here’s the fast guy.  He gets bonuses to fast stuff.  You wanna play the wizard?  Great, here you go; less strong, more smart.  Boom.  In the end zone.  We’re playing.  Not a lot of futzing.

(Caveat:  As I wrote before, perhaps a minute or two of futzing, yes…  This is almost for fun, for the fun of control, of min/max-ing, of feeling “my guy is really powerful!” and so forth.  But no de rigeuer, “how many points does Hrothmarfeld need to put in Tumbling versus Acrobatics?” BS.  Not even the usual feats-picking or 3-18 rolling and swapping, and saving throw modifying and so forth.)

Again, why?  The paradox:  You can’t play a weak fighter or a dumb wizard.  Can you?  Yes but why.  Who does?  I can’t think of how it really enhances the game, to separate the archetypes in the “classic archetypal figures-with-powers/things they’re good at” out from the things they’re good at.  The things are what make them them.  Hence, archetypes.  You want the fast guy?  Here’s your fast guy.  You want the wizard?  Here’s the smart guy.  Bonuses (+X, +XdX, +dice) to N [fastness, whatever]; minuses to Z [maybe, or not].

(Side note:  This is how d20 Modern does it, “Fast Champion,” “Tough Champion,” “Smart Champion,” and “Dedicated Champion” or some bullshit.  But they just water down the magic and fun of DnD.  So, yeah, screw that.  I still like a good archetypal/iconic name, at least.  “Fast Champion” for fuck’s sake, sounds like a Wu-Tang movie.)

The marriage of bonuses to archetypes is, for me, about speed and simplicity.  In fact, I concede, if we like archetypes but do the numbers differently than I’ve been envisioning (which I think we will, in a good way), then maybe archetypes don’t get “ability bonuses” at all, but some other equivalent in-game, stat-specific bonuses.  (E.g.:  Hero gets +1 die on his Attack rolls.  Genius gets +1 die on magic, psi, or tech rolls.)  Something, still, stat-y.  Something “unique” to speed up character-understanding, the moment when you pick a character and are like, “Oh, cool, she can do [X]!  That will be helpful when [Y]!”

(But that impulse comes from not wanting to redesign Pathfinder, just make this faster way to play one-offs, etc.)

This theory-level shite may not be particularly helpful, I realize, if we are moving toward the numerocentric stage of rules creation, but I just wanted to reiterate that, the more I see it/think about it/based on what we played the other day, an archetypal system is great!  Saves time, makes everyone (player playing fast guy; DM not watching him roll/assign his character).  Or, less emphatically, it’s something I’d like to vote for/explore, even if the numbers around it/within it change.

Perhaps too optimistic of me, but, the way I see it, we can proceed with numbers and easily marry them to archetypes.  And/natch, one can inform the other.

Stats vis-à-vis Archetypes

Patrick, this is mainly in answer to your very legit questions about my associations of certain stats and certain archetypes.  Short answer:  Probably they mostly work but can be tweaked/will change as the stat names and functions evolve.  (Probably we’ll have somewhere between 6 and 9ish stats, right?  With functions based on “classics” such as Strength and perhaps new oddballs such as Sanity and I hope [see below] some slightly perpendicular workhorses of other genres, particularly wargames as mentioned by Paul?)

  • The Hero – Body, classic fighting stat.  Seems to work for us, no?
  • The Genius – Intelligence, Mind, whatever.  Again, seems to work?
  • The Saint – Sanity (or Wisdom or Perception or whatever).  Makes perfect sense to me:  In every culture, the healer (physical or mental) is supposed to first off be grounded, sane, empathetic, what have you.  This one works, as far as I can think it.  The Catholic priest resists the Devil.  The Shaman of the Fierce People guides you on a spirit quest (she alone appears immune to the ayahuasca’s mind-warping effect).  If anything, we’ve become too quick to de-psychologize the game, to make the “cleric” a healer-bot (the fantasy-medieval role) instead of a force of rational, moral thinking in the heat of conflict (the medieval-medieval role).
  • The Hapless – Luck (or whatever corresponds).  Love this as a wild card.  See it working in part because the Hapless is a norm and has money/equity of some kind.  Has not been wasting time/brain cells/muscle tissue by fighting Golgothan Steam Liches from the Next Dimension Over.  Probably has worse/less Body or some fighting relevant stat.  Seems like some version of this works for us.

That leaves the Rebel and the Madman.  Personally, I like that the “dark, mysterious, possibly insane” one should be charismatic, but then I agree, the assignation of “Rebels are fast” is pretty lame.  Maybe points to a flaw in the whole six stat, archetype+stat thing (though, again, I vote to at least keep this scheme on the table as we move forward, solidifying ability scores).

To me, these two are also the most genre/game-specific:  The Rebel really comes alive fighting the system in different settings:  Is he Luke Skywalker or Scarface?  Both are sort of quick-thinking, hellbent fuckers, but with very different motives.  Same with the Madman:  Is he a murderer or Monk, the neurotic detective?  Is he Conan’s Rain Man-esque sidekick or the snake wizard bent on drinking the blood of every man in Shem?  Ultimately, most good ideas for characters can be cast as several archetypes.  But they are, I take it, for speed/elegance, not for vetting/fleshing out grand ideas.

Unique Powers in Place of Stats, in Addition to Stats

Regarding what you are saying about archetypes having special powers instead of stat bonuses, I’m conflicted on how to respond…  That’s where I’m heading! is what I want to say, but I realize my words to date may not have borne this out clearly at all.  What I see by “Genius = +X [Mind]” is not “the Genius gets cool rolls;” it is exactly what you said:  The Genius is virtually the only person who can work the Transgravitating Gizmo and get the party out of the Shrinking Asteroid alive!

This related directly to how stats actually work.  I like where y’all are headed with 1–6 everything; DC 6 is standard; 12 is goddamn super hard.  Then a big bonus like +2 matters.

This does not AT ALL rule out cool unique powers (the Genius alone can use Science; the Madman can use Sudden Insight, whatever).  I like both.  In tandem.  One stat boost, one power.  Tied to the archetype and the DM’s info on the setting, BOOM, you got a character.  Y’all got a party.

Body, Mind, Routine, Etc.

I’m less concerned with all these stats, and I’m sure my initial attempt was off-base.  But explaining my thinking may prove helpful.  When I approached these, I saw a weakness in marrying a Hero archetype with a Sick or Fat body type.  So I changed the idea, a little (not enough, re-reading), to reflect that it’s not so much Body or Mind as it is some other element of life.  In my mind, this is totally subordinate to the archetype and just another random or choose-one-of-six way to give the PCs a little more control/feeling of uniquity.  Again, works no matter the system we decide on for stats.

My idea was that a Genius could be an athlete easily:  He’s not a pro, not a pro-fighter or boxer or gangbanger.  But he works out and is ripped.  Many super nerds (not most, but still, a few) work out, in part to balance/disguise their actual, job-related, primary attribute—smarts.  Ditto the fighter who’s as fat as Newman (or somehow else out of shape):  He’s still a warrior, an ex-Seal or Black Legionary or whatever.  But he’s gone to pot or become obsessed with Twinkies.  One interpretation, anyway.

Again, I can lose it easily:  Just want to throw out there the idea that some version of this works, regardless of stats we decide on, to give the PCs a nice, quick way of feeling they “know” their characters, in body and mind.

Towards a One-Metric Stat System

What I really got excited about, reading y’all’s emails, was Paul’s reminder about Games Workshop stats:  WTF, that’s so awesome.  Yes.  One stat metric.  Everything is equivalent.  1–6.  BOOM.  1 is bad, 6 is good.  And yes, speed and attacks and all that shit is equivalent to strength, and even wounds and damage.  May not be totally possible, but would be nice to make all stats/as many as possible equivalent in terms of scale.

Meaning, maybe we don’t have “ability scores,” “body/mind,” “combat stats”—we just have (betraying my preference for ~6 “ability score”-esque stats over 9) something a little like…

THE PROPOSED BANGING SIX n TWELVE

Choose an archetype (stats just thrown back in to see what they look like; again, I’m open to whatever):

  1. The Hero – +BOD, can use all weapons with no penalty [or, +X bonus with one chosen weapon].
  2. The Rebel – +SPD, can roll to resist any killing blow (going to 1hp instead) [love this, fits scrappy mobster/terrorist archetype].
  3. The Genius – +INT, can use all Science Objects [can use psi/magic?].
  4. The Madman – +CHA, can use all Psionic Objects [seems weakest to me, as the object-oriented powers go, but I got no real idea].
  5. The Saint – +SAN, can roll to stop Bleeding. can use all Medical Objects [check mark].
  6. The Hapless – +LUK, can substitute Luck stat for any other stat (limited times) [check mark].

Assign X points to stats (max A, min B):

  1. Body – Wounds mod, fortitude save mod, melee mod, melee damage mod.
  2. Speed – Initiative mod, dodge mod, reflex save mod, missile mod.
  3. Intellect – Science/magic/psi (all related) mod, learned skills mod.
  4. Perception – Spot/listen/search skills mod, tracking skills mod.
  5. Sanity – Sanity/terror save per CoC mod, concentration skills mod, empathy skills mod.
  6. Charisma – Sexiness skills mod, lying skills mod.
  7. Luck – Luck.  New.
  8. Melee – To hit with melee weapons/martial arts mod.
  9. Missile – To hit with missile weapons mod.
  10. Attacks – Number of attacks you can make a round, also used for combat maneuvers (?).
  11. Wounds – Number of wounds you can sustain before falling.  (Is death 0 or -6?)
  12. Armor – Bonus to not be hit, based on physical armor and dodge.

Could we in any genre roll out 6 unique characters, using 6 archetypes, 12 stats, all 1–6 scale, all modifiable in a matter of one or two minutes?  (Maybe you only mod the ability score-esque ones anyway; the others are determined by them?)  Too complex?  Seems like a nice halfway point between BS simple RPGs (there are many) and Pathfinder…

P.M. said:

I like where this is going. Ability scores stood separate from everything else in D&D because they defined you as a character. In our version they are another simple aspect of you as an individual. I like the idea that you can put points in different types of areas, even though the zones are not specifically related. Perhaps the archetypes would force you to put a certain number of points in or two categories. The thing we need to be careful about is the minmaxing (for example, 1 point in attacks may be worth a lot more than 1 point in sanity), but those specifics can probably be worked out later. I never felt super comfortable that a guy who spends all his time practicing with a rifle can pick up a sword and wield it better than a lower level character who spends all his time wielding a sword. Mayhaps this can address some things. I agree that you should be able to have a smart hero who can figure some things out, he’s just not as smart as the genius (or smart in a different way, think Ender’s Game).

Also, worth noting, the simplified skills we have been building up to work great in this format. I can’t remember exactly how many there were, but it was around 12 or 13. nice.

I like the object-oriented nature of the archetypes.

Just a quick thought, our roles look very much like Johnny Quest. Ace is the hero (and I like how he is just good at everything, I think the hero should just be able to use all weapons), the doc is the genius, the Indian dude is the saint, Johnny is something, bandit is the hapless. That makes me happy.

P.D. said:

Tons of thoughts and ideas brewing. Will write up longer explication of new ideas but quickly: we should abandon the very structured take a BODY category, take a MIND category, and just have a large table of random character traits. As in: Everyone starts out with a 2 in every Ability (just the primary 6 maybe). Then choose a class/archetype. That adds +1 to your “key stat”. Then either roll/choose/whatever from the table/tables/long list of random things that are like: Former Model, your Cha is automatically 5. or Twitchy you can re-roll every perception check, but if you run out of drugs, you get minuses to HP. Srsly, just a huge grab bag of stuff. No symmetry, just fun.

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