Role-playing gamers play characters based on common archetypes: fighter, thief, healer, intellectual among many others. Most balanced game groups contain at least one of each type. This diversity empowers the party to overcome complex challenges beyond, say, a group of fighters alone. It occurs to me that players also conform to certain archetypes. Assuming their is some benefit to a game group from a diverse group of players, what is the optimal player archetype configuration?
Unlike a discussion of PC groups where overcoming obstacles or game mechanics are usually the primary focus, players seek different ends. In my opinion, most players seek a great gaming experience. Since this is a subjective measure , I am choosing the criteria below to define “a great gaming experience.”
1. Have fun
2. Advance an interesting story
3. Maintain some sort of player harmony
Using this criteria, here is my “dream list” of player archetypes that constitute a great game group. I am not distinguishing between game masters and players. A player’s role in the game (DM or player)is not really critical to this discussion, just their participation.
1. The Clown
Any third-rate peasant can kill a brigand. Clowns give the brigand a wedgie and then parade him through town to humiliate the poor bastard. No matter how serious the game, count on this half-crazy player to lighten the mood. While his plans often fall into the “crazy, but funny” category, do not underestimate the occasional flash of brilliance in the madness.
2. The Tactical Computer
Intelligent, cautious and always watching the game table like a hungry shark, the Tactical Computer is the epitome of a wargamer. Yes, he contributes during the role-playing sections, but that is not his strong point. When battle erupts, he grows quiet and dangerous. When he says to the fighter, “go stand next to that orc,” game masters know that his orc is doomed. In a round or two some subtle, unseen tactic will become clear and that orc will suffer a horrible demise. Very rough on players if this is the DM.
3. The Dramatist
Dice and combat are a distant second to the role-playing aspects of the game for this player. When he is playing the mentally disturbed prince with an impossible quest in his destiny, you feel the character’s fear and uncertainty. Having a dramatist at the table raises the bar for role-playing and even non-rpg focused players try just a bit harder to get “in character.”
4. The Combat Junkie
Unlike the careful planning of the Tactical Computer, this player is all about beating down the enemy with sword, mace or a large rock. In some encounters, you have no choice but to charge the dragon head-on. It helps to bring someone along that thinks this is a good idea. Powerful on his own, he really shines when “aimed” by the Tactical Computer at the enemies weak point.
5. The Storyteller
Usually the game master, but sometimes a player, the Storyteller lives for the plot. Expect him to throw out more twist endings than an M. Night Shamylan movie and even fewer hints about where the story is going. Honestly, it is tough to get a really quality game without a Storyteller in the mix.
6. The Judge
Some call him a “Rules Lawyer,” but this is an insult to this valuable archetype. Rules lawyers use their rules knowledge to gain an advantage during the game. A Judge merely has all the rules in his skull and stands ready to quickly resolve any rules issues arising during a game. Even game masters look to him for the truly difficult rulings and value his input.
This is my wish list for a group of players, such as it is. Before I close, I feel it important to list a few archetypes that will NEVER be welcomed at my game table.
1. The Basement Troll
Fourteen year-old children living in their parents basement is fine. Thirty year-old adults who live in their parents basement are just creepy. Yes, this is the gamer stereotype, but it is sadly all too common. No interpersonal skills, poor hygiene and no clue how pathetic they truly are. Most people play games as a fun pastime, this archetype plays to achieve some success in their unhappy lives.
2. God’s Gift to Gaming
I read an article once that the most competent people tend to underestimate their skills and the most incompetent tend to overestimate their skills and not realize it. That is the essence of the GGTG. This archetype knows every rule and tactic, met every game designer and is working on the “next big game system” that no one has ever seen. Expect him to substitute volume for substance when speaking. Incredibly annoying and my personal pet peeve. Avoid at all costs.
3. Mr. Flaky
Games really do need a commitment. A regular game group operates more smoothly than one with irregular attendance. Mr. Flaky is the guy that stands at the precipice of ejection, but never quite goes over the edge. He shows up at the game group just enough to stay “active,” but not often enough to really contribute. Also expect Mr. Flaky to assume some critical role in the campaign and then promptly disappear for the next three sessions. Nothing like having the “Chosen One” vanish at irregular intervals during the campaign.
Feel free to throw your own player archetype into the comments. I am very interested to hear the opinions of other gamers about the “type” of player they seek out for their game group.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer