Many of you may have studied about character archetypes in relation to stories, such as in novels or movies. What is an archetype? An archetype is basically the ‘pattern’ or ‘structure’ for a character, often associated with a trait or a concept; some examples are hermits, warriors, guardians, tricksters, sages, etcetera. More genre specific would be characters like a comedic, drunkard dwarf, an arrogant assassin, a wise but weary mage, and so on and so forth.
Sound generic? You’re not wrong. Remember, archetypes themselves are not complex! They can be made complex by adding depth to them; if you stick with the surface, though, you will end up playing a fairly bland character. However, borrowing general elements from archetypes can provide a great base for a character as long as you flesh them out convincingly.
How do we do this? As with any other character, when selecting an archetype, justify why your character behaves the way he or she does. Don’t be content with simply accepting the state of your character as-is based on what’s expected, and think about the consequences these stereotypical traits and history might bring. Start out with a base, then expand on those traits. For example, if you’re playing a young man new to the city from his father’s farm, where he’s lived all his life, think about how exactly his rural upbringing would have affected him instead of taking for granted that he might be naive and innocent. What kind of life experiences would he have had that those in the city might not have? How is he adjusting? It’s important to think of your characters as people, not just stereotypes. Additionally, think about throwing in small, unexpected things that might jive with the rest. Don’t draw huge attention to it; you want to add spice, not make a huge deal out of what makes your character a special snowflake.
Want to try this method on a new character? Come and join us with your archetype in one of the Top MUDs from IRE!