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Mixing Archetypes

May 17, 13 Mixing Archetypes

Earlier on, we looked at the more common character archetypes in gaming, and also some of the less common ones. While these eight archetypes stand out as the most dominant, they are far from an exclusive list. However, many other gaming archetypes are less archetypes of their own and more of a mix of some of these previously mentioned ones. Examples of these include the fan-favorite mystic-warrior, a skilled combatant who also wields impressive magical talents, dividing focus between the two or, when able, combining the two into something altogether unique. The scoundrel, combining the rogue and face archetypes, though the warrior-face is also a common choice, which grants a measure of charisma to a character’s repertoire of abilities. The duelist is a dexterous warrior that relies on finesse more than strength. There are many possible combinations, some that work better than others depending on the game in question.

The problem that comes with mixing archetypes in gaming is that characters are forced to divide their focus, making them seem less impressive at each of their chosen specialties when compared to characters who focus on just one. Let’s take the previously mentioned mystic-warrior. This is an archetype common to fantasy novels, movies, and games alike. At times, they are the righteous Paladin, wielding divine powers against their sworn foes. Others are arcane swordsmen, channeling their magical powers through their weapons and their bodies. While both of these are impressive, in terms of sheer combative prowess, the mystic-warrior can rarely stand toe to toe with a full-fledged warrior. In short, they cannot out fight the fighter. Why? Because that would be unfair to the player playing a pure fighter character, as why should their character be no better at fighting than the one who can fight and to magic. The reverse is also true, as a mystic-warrior should not hold the same mystical powers as a pure mystic of equal experience/level, for it would be unfair to the player of the mystic also.

This leaves players of mixed archetype characters in a difficult position, as some games can be very unforgiving of characters who don’t specialize. They will be a lesser in both fields, and thus they will sometimes start to feel underwhelming when compared to their specialized fellows. This is unavoidable; however, this isn’t meant to say that mixed archetype characters are a poor choice. Quite the contrary. I find that mixing archetypes leads to creative new ideas and interesting character outlooks. The mystic-warrior cannot out fight the fighter, nor can they out magic a mage; but what they can do is look at how the two different specialties can work in harmony to do things that cannot easily be done (if at all) by either archetype individually.

Playing a mixed archetype character can be a challenge, more so than playing a character of a single archetype, in that the player will be expected to understand all that their character is capable of. They will need to learn multiple elements of the game rather than focusing all of their attention on a single element. Now, this can be quite rewarding in its own right, as it leads to a greater understanding of the particular game in question, but it can also be a lot of work. Make sure that this is really something you want to do before you choose to play such a character, especially if you are new to a particular game. It is often a good idea to stick to basics on a first time run.

Image Credit: Ralf Juergen Kraft / Shutterstock

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About 

Joshua is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist, and avid table-top gamer who has been in love with the hobby ever since it was first introduced to him by a friend in 1996. Currently he acts as the Gamemaster in three separate games and is also a player in a fourth. When he is not busy rolling dice to save the world or destroying the hopes and dreams of his players, he is usually found either with his nose in a book or working on his own. He has degrees in English, Creative Writing, and Economics.

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