Dev Notes 2 - RPG Archetypes in Historical Gaming

Warrior, Thief, Wizard, Priest.

They are the four classic archetypes of tabletop roleplaying, so iconic that they have been rendered into one form or another in nearly every class-based RPG since the dawn of gaming. When MMOs entered the scene, they took slightly different names: Tank, Melee DPS, Ranged DPS, and Healer. The MMO has also added the concept of "crowd control," which has in turn made its way back into tabletop gaming. But essentially we can still find places for most roleplaying characters that correlate to those four original archetypes. Certainly, systems and players have added layers of complexity on top of these paradigms, but we fall back into these patterns for a reason. They are powerful in their ability to inspire us and yet clearly understandable in their depictions of role and identity.

Even when using a skill-based or point-based system like Savage Worlds, players still often think along these paradigms. Characters whose roles are unclear can be frozen with indecision when faced with a problem, so most players will decide during character creation the "usual" solution that their character presents. The advantage of skills over classes is that a character might then develop a broader toolbox of solutions to allow greater adaptation. For instance, if you are playing a sailor, you should understand that sometimes your party is going to have to be on land. You need to choose a secondary role so that you have something to do.

So when we set out to make a historical game, we are faced with a difficult question: How can we incorporate these popular and lasting conventions without abandoning the realism of the setting? For example, imagine a squad-based military game in which the players form a single unit. This setup would seem to promote a certain sameness among the characters, but if you play such a game you are still likely to have a medic, a heavy-weapons fighter, a sniper, and perhaps even a knife fighter. The archetypes are still there, added as a tool of clarification to distinguish otherwise similar characters from each other. But what if the system did not allow for such diversity within a party? What if everyone were forced to play a grunt with the same basic skillset and the same equipment? While such a game might appeal to a specific audience, it is unlikely to capture the broader interest of the gaming community. We have to find a balance therefore between the realism of the setting and the players' underlying desire for uniqueness and clarity.


Steamscapes Professions

In Steamscapes, we have added another layer of identity and role to the already rich Savage Worlds character creation system. We have created six new "Professions," which are specific professional edges that help to delineate and define a character's place in the world and (more importantly) in the party. Three of them - Aviator, Gunslinger, and Saboteur - provide access to skills that are not available to the general public. These Professions and their associated skills offer the characters a clear understanding of their usual approaches to solving problems. The other three - Gearsmith, Spark Wrangler, and Steamhand - do all that and more. They also present a path for character progression through the use of Edge Trees. Edge Trees are sets of interconnected, Profession-specific edges that develop a character's abilities within that Profession. We will talk about those in greater detail in later teasers and Dev Notes.

Through these Professions, we hope to offer that uniqueness and clarity that players want while providing an authentic world in which their characters may operate.

-Fairman Rogers