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This is another guide designed to help people (both old and new) in creating new characters or improving upon old characters - as with all guides this is not a rulebook and we do not have a rigid system of inflexible "character creation" codes like some role-play environments: neither do I profess to be the know-all of character creation.


However this is designed to give a brief look at archetypes and how to make use of them in interesting and (hopefully) fun ways - helping to avoid cliches or other things that people may view as negative to roleplay and story development in general.

What Is An Archetype?

Villain

beware the stereotype (such as the cackling madman) - which can negatively impact your stories (unless, of course, you are parodying such characters)

An Archetype is, simply put, a way of classifying characters - although every character is unique and nobody likes to be given a label in fiction most (if not all) characters can be given a certain "label" determined on certain qualities they may share.

For example the term "Hero" and "Villain" are used to describe two very well known and extremely broad archetypes.

Characters listed as "Heroes" vary immensely in origin, appearance, abilities and so forth but are all linked by certain factors such as the will to protect their world, society or ideals as well as their general battle to uphold some sort of ethical code (even anti-heroes have some standards).

Likewise characters listed as "Villains" vary from world-shattering monstrosities to criminals who pick people's pockets - what links them is certain shared traits such as the desire to damage their world, society or ideals and their disregard for law and order.

Due to the User Battles (also known as Villains RPG) being a complex shared-universe we can't be quite as simplistic as this so we have developed as many archetypes as possible (without, of course, overloading your mind).

The archetypes below are by no means the only archetypes to be found but are hopefully varied enough to aid the majority of roleplayers - also, you may see some archetypes listed and think to yourself "that's not the correct term": don't panic or complain.. everyone has a different way of labelling certain archetypes, as they say: to each his own..

Tragic Hero / Tragic Villain

Romeojuliet

Romeo and Juliet is a real-world example of the tragic hero in fiction.

The Tragic Hero often travels alone or finds it hard to relate to others, they mean well but often end up at the recieving end of some cruel cosmic joke - they rarely get a break and are often destined to lose or continually struggle against forces they can not truly defeat: their victories are often only won with extreme effort and they will usually lose much in the process.

A Tragic Villain is much the same, unlike the traditional villain of fiction they are not necessarily evil characters and the audience often feel empathy towards them - tragic villains are mirrors of the tragic hero, the only difference really being that while the tragic hero seeks to do good the tragic villain gives in to darkness.. the tragic villain can sometimes be redeemed but only a fool would believe all tragic villains can be persuaded to return to the light, often (as is sadly the case in reality) their tragic backstories are simply too much and they lash out at an often unfair world, society or universe..

Advantages

This archetype instantly draws people to a character and avoids the dreaded "2-dimensional" stereotypes that people have associated with high-powered characters in comic books, animation and other storytelling: it also makes a character more "human" and thus easier to relate too (see "The Unknowable Foe" for the exact opposite)

Drawbacks

If played incorrectly this archetype can devolve into the "emo" or "angst" stereotype - however a certain amount of angst is by no means a negative thing (sadly many people forget this), at the same time a character who is nothing but a walking kick-bag with a really really depressing attitude is more repulsive than sympathetic (even tragic characters can have moments of happiness.. without them they seem more a parody than a real person).

Examples In User Battles

Sociopath

Psycho

Sociopaths are twisted, evil-minded characters and are also usually criminally insane.

The Sociopath is a disturbing and threatening archetype that is reserved for characters who are considered by many as either being criminally insane or so incredibly twisted that they may as well be..

The Sociopath cares for no one save himself and will gladly tear apart the mind, body and soul of anything that gets in their way - the sociopath may be driven by power or sheer cruelty and is one of the most feared antagonists in fiction due to the inability of a hero to reason with them and their utter contempt for life.

Advantages

The Sociopath provides a quick and relatively easy antagonist for any story and they make excellent recurring opponents if played correctly - due to their often obsessive natures the Sociopath can easily become the archenemy of a hero and this in turn can advance the two character further.

The Sociopath is also an archetype that has a twisted charm to many, the ability to play a truly wicked being and letting out the darker side of our own personalities - of course this isn't the case for everyone..

Drawbacks

The Sociopath can easily devolve into the cackling madman and tophat wearing "villain" stereotype of old - which is widely ridiculed in the modern world as being cliched (though it can still work if done correctly).

Those who wish to play The Sociopath should be aware that while The Sociopath is a "quick and easy" antagonist an effective one requires more thought as playing a believable madman is not as easy as it seems at first.

Examples In The User Battles

  • Arodnap is a sociopathic villain
  • Pietus is a sociopathic villain

Noble Savage

Spartan

Many fictional portrayals of ancient warriors portray them as being ruled by honor.

The Noble Savage is a character who at first glance would appear to be a barbarian, monster or thug - however upon closer inspection it is obvious this "savage" is actually bond by a strict code of honor and although a fierce warrior may also be a loving father or protector of the weak/less fortunate.

Advantages

The Noble Savage can give a "brutish" character a more human element and instantly makes them more heroic or respectable to the audience, for example if a warrior is seen brutally fighting foes in battle the reader at first thinks of him as vicious but if the same warrior is then seen to lovingly greet his family or refuses to kill a defenceless opponent his "vicious" status gives way to a more respectable status in the eyes of many.

Disadvantages

The Noble Savage must be used carefully or it becomes a potentially offensive stereotype - this is especially true when dealing with characters such as Native Americans, ancient Celts or the people popularly known as Spartans in today's world. When creating a Noble Savage take in mind that although your character may indeed be ruled by honor or ethics his entire society and/or race are not all going to be shining examples of humanity.. in other words don't try to portray an entire species or culture as "noble" - just as you shouldn't label an entire species or culture as "savage".. treat each character as an individual and you (by in large) avoid massive stereotypes.

Examples In The User Battles

Caped Crusader

Superman

Much like Superman the "Caped Crusader" is a colorful upholder of truth and justice.


The Caped Crusader is a character who fights against crime, often in a colorful suit and normally embodying the concepts of "truth" and "justice" - in simple terms this is another name for the classic "superhero" of fiction.

Advantages

Superheroes are a beloved part of our youths (and sometimes into our adult lives) - very few people have never read or heard of at least one superhero and although attitudes vary on their effectiveness most would agree that many children find the concept fascinating.

Superheroes are (to quote a common saying) "modern day Greek myth" and allow people to live out fantasies that are common throughout our lives - plus some people find humor in the often silly and nonsensical adventures these characters can create or be involved in.

Drawbacks

Superheroes are still viewed by many as a character type for children, as a result many superheroes can be seen as "goofy" or unrealistic to older audiences - which can easily be combatted with some creativity (for example Watchmen or Dark Knight are adult-orientated).

Another drawback is trying to get a superhero character to work in settings outwith the traditional "comic book" worlds of DC, Marvel and Image.. although possible it can take some time to do so effectively (especially since most characters in the Villains RPG do not have "secret identities" or elaborate costumes)

Examples In The User Battles

Vigilante

Punisher

The Punisher is a famous example of the Vigilante in fiction.

The Vigilante is a character who works outwith the law and often on the side of good, however unlike the Caped Crusader they rarely (if ever) adopt the lifestyle of a "superhero" and tend to remain - on the whole - more like traditional characters.

Advantages

The Vigilante has a lot of the qualities of a "Caped Crusader" minus what some would consider childish or unrealistic elements (such as a colorful costume, code-name and oddly peaceful relationship with authority).

Of course fictional Vigilantes are a far-cry from their real-world counterparts and are often portrayed in a manner that is just as unrealistic as superheroes - however some see that playing the Vigilante is more rewarding as one can bend the rules a little and become a "grey" character who fights for good but often has to keep his friends at a distance and his enemies close.

Drawbacks

Not everyone particularly appreciates the Vigilante concept - some think it has been overused (which really is unfair as all archetypes have been used a lot - the trick is to add your own unique flair to a character), others may have a problem with the Vigilante as being too "close to home". This has been a problem for characters such as the Punisher in the past, due to the violent nature of Vigilantes and their often dark backstories they can be controversial - however as with all characters it is important to do what you want to do, if people do raise concerns you can either argue your case or alter your character slightly to appease them (remember not everyone enjoys overly dark or dramatic role play - try and keep it balanced).

Examples In The User Battles

Anti-Hero

Ash

Ash from "Evil Dead" is a prime example of an Anti-Hero.

The Anti-Hero is a character of different sides, he may save the world or he might steal your car - depending on his mood.. in general though he is a character who does good but is motivated by greed, necessity or other negative trait.. he is not the same as a Mercenary however since he is not entirely without merit and some Anti-Heroes do geniunely have a moral code - albeit a much more complex one than those of the "Caped Crusaders" or "Enforcers".

Advantages

The Anti-Hero allows you to play the best of both worlds, you can be a "good guy" while still doing and saying things that would normally be considered inappropriate - you become a sort of "loveable rogue" and, believe it or not, people tend to associate a little more with an anti-hero than a traditional flawless hero.

Of course keep things in moderation, making your anti-hero completely unlikeable is not a very good idea as they tend to come across as more of a Sociopath or Mercenary type - remember an Anti-Hero is still a "hero".. even if they may not always act like it..

Drawbacks

Anti-Heroes can easily slip into the territory of Mercenaries, Sociopaths or other negative archetypes if not monitored correctly - while all anti-heroes have flaws they should also have traits that make them likeable to other characters or the audience.

Without traits that make them likeable Anti-Heroes tend to fail and this can be challenging to some creators.

Examples In User Battles

The Demonic

Devil

The Demonic archetype embodies evil in its most basic of forms.

The Demonic is a character or organization that represents a spiritual evil, unlike the Sociopath it is neither madness nor cruelty that drives The Demonic but a literal sense of "evil".

The Demonic may be a devil-like figure ruling over a realm of suffering (such as the Christian concept of Satan) or they may be a non-supernatural being who has a personality so inhuman that they mirror qualities traditionally associated with creatures we commonly refer to as "demons".

Advantages

The Demonic provides an immediate and recognizable adversary that holds universal appeal, a character that embodies "evil" is going to be a major threat not just to heroes but also most sane villains and as such can become the central antagonists of entire sagas as heroes and villains work together against a common enemy.

The Demonic is also an easier character to play effectively than the Sociopath as they do not require a reason for what they do: simply put a Demonic characters does wicked and depraved acts because they wish to do so.

Drawbacks

The Demonic is often a character that can devolve into a "2-dimensional" stereotype due to its very nature - to counteract this one should try and give their character interesting origins, unique appearances and personalities that while still portraying them as "evil personified" allow enough originality that they are not simply snarling parodies of the classical red-skinned devil in popular culture.

Examples In The User Battles

The Divine

Divine

The Divine, much like faith, can represent both good and evil - depending on the setting.

The Divine is the opposite of The Demonic and is a character or organization that embodies concepts found in real-world religions or beliefs (however direct representations of real-world deities is deeply discouraged, for obvious reasons).

The Divine is a much harder archetype to play than The Demonic as those who take this archetype on must be mindful to create a believable character without offending large groups of people - when roleplaying as a "god", "angel" or other divine being one is always walking a fine line but when played right the archetype can be rewarding for all involved..

Advantages

The Divine can bring out the best and worst in characters, for example many "angelic" characters are portrayed as powerful warriors who will defend those of faith and strike out at the wicked - depending on the role your character plays in the story you can have them act as spiritual guides and guardians or as fanatical beings akin to Enforcers.

The Divine archetype also allows people to build belief systems and fictional hierarchies by which to enrich their settings - some have even created entire pantheons of "gods" and "abstract beings", both good and bad.

The Divine is also, of course, a good way to combat particularly powerful Demonic archetypes.

Drawbacks

The main drawback of The Divine archetype is controversy - try as you may to be original you are, sadly, treading on thin ice when dealing with "gods" and other supernatural characters: although a vast majority of people respect the difference between reality and fiction you should always be aware some people will find the use of "Divine" characters potentially offensive - to counteract this try to empathise that your character is not meant to represent a real-world religious figure or concept.

Outwith this fairly obvious drawback lies the problem of "Power Gaming" - many roleplayers, whether fairly or not, associate The Divine archetype with people who are prone to "Power Gaming": as stated in Tips & Tricks there is a difference between the two but sadly some will not agree.. to counteract this negativity simply play nicely with others and in time most will come to respect you.

Examples In The User Battles

The Unknowable Foe

Unknowable

Lovecraftian Horror is often a heavy influence on the "Unknowable Foe"

The Unknowable Foe can come from the furthest reaches of space, time or the human mind and can take almost any form imaginable - it may be a monster so terrible that to gaze upon it will drive grown men mad or it may take the form of an innocent child.

The Unknowable Foe is not just an alien, it is an alien that can not be understood by human mindset - they may be malicious or merely so unusual that they cause unease to others.

The Unknowable Foe can also be so incredibly strange and otherworldly that it causes immense danger without even knowing it is doing so..

Advantages

The "Unknowable Foe" effectively obliterates the common stereotype that all species are "human" - in the sense of having culture, language and behavior that complies (somewhat unrealistically) with that of modern day Earth.

Many people have questioned why advanced aliens in fiction, vastly superior to humanity, would happen to speak English or have ideals identical to humans - the introduction of the "Unknowable Foe" pretty much tells such people that not all aliens are going to go along with that stereotype.

Drawbacks

The "Unknowable Foe" is a very hard character to play effectively and in order to have significant impact it should be used sparingly - also, by its very nature, the "Unknowable Foe" is a complex beast and many roleplayers will become confused if you utilize too much cosmic jargon.. for example quoting entire pages of the Necronomicon is all well and good for Lovecraft fans but try to be respectful for users who may not understand such subject matter. Another important thing to remember about the "Unknowable Foe" is that if overused it becomes less and less effective.. so be sure to use the archetype sparingly and with variety..

Examples In The User Battles

True Neutral

The True Neutral is a character who will ally with anyone or anything without care for ethics - they do not do so out of greed like a Mercenary and are quite literally without care over the whole concept of "right" and "wrong". Unlike the Sociopath however they do not actively seek to harm others and can be seen in many varied roles depending on their choice of allies (or if they even have allies at all).

Advantages

The True Neutral allows you free-range in terms of character creation and role - you can be a "hero" in one story and a "villain" in the next, you can pick and choose allies as you see fit (providing they aren't holding a grudge against you from prior experiences) and unlike the Sociopath or Mercenary you don't necessarily have to be an evil character.

Drawbacks

Playing a truly neutral character is an extremely difficult task and as such these characters are very rare - other characters often find their motives and personalities to be alien (making them similiar to the Unknowable Foe) and some creators also find coming up with stories for such characters to be difficult. With the right mind and dedication however this character can be as valuable as any other archetype and enjoyable to play.

Examples In The User Battles

The Mercenary

The Mercenary is a character motivated purely by greed, if you can pay them enough money these characters will quite literally do anything you ask them to do - this makes them dangerous but also potential allies if your character isn't against trying to negotiate a deal with such individuals.

Advantages

Mercenaries are characters that at first may appear to be Anti Heroes or Vigilantes but aren't tied down by any moral code or desire to "do good" - the greedy nature of Mercenaries appeals to some creators and they can make interesting antagonists as well as fleeting protagonists, the introduction of a Mercenary can also "spice up" a story since they can become a friend or foe at any point in the story due to their treacherous nature.

Drawbacks

Unless played correctly a Mercenary will become more of a Vigilante or Anti-Hero, to avoid this make sure your character does not display a code of conduct that involves morals or even overly committed ideals: a true Mercenary archetype will do anything for the right price so having them hold ethics or strong views is usually a bad idea.. although all characters can have charm it's also advisable to ensure your Mercenary doesn't begin to gain the status of a "hero" amongst the audience - they may admire his ruthless streak but if they start seeing him as a nice guy you may want to rethink his role or personality.. mercenaries are not "nice".

Examples In The User Battles

Enforcer

Dredd

Judge Dredd is the ultimate Enforcer of Law - whether it is just or not.

The Enforcer is a character who is devoted to his cause without question, inflexible in regards to this position - they may be merciless enforcers of the law or mindless machines but they all share one thing in common: they will not stop until their task is done.. and heaven help those foolish enough to stand in their way..

Advantages

Enforcers make a formidable opponent and a valuable ally - when they are on the side of good they can turn the tide in the favor of the "good guys" and when on the side of evil they are truly terrifying beings that can not be reasoned with, can not be bribed or intimidated.. normally only the fulfilment of their goal or death will stop them.

Drawbacks

Enforcers can become "2-dimensional" stereotypes if used incorrectly and require interesting backstories, motivation and looks to work right.. having an interesting personality can also be helpful (although sometimes giving the character a more mechanical personality makes them more intimidating - however if one gives a character such a personality don't be surprised if it overlaps with the "Unknowable Foe" archetype since beings with emotionless personalities are hard to relate with, since humans are (in general) emotion-driven).

Examples In The User Battles

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