4 Essential archetypes of RPGs
In RPGs, be they massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) or table top roleplaying games, they’ve long had few roles that appear as constants for decades now. Even in the beginning of RPGs (Roleplaying games), the creator of the most popular tabletop roleplaying games, Gary Gygax defined the heroic roles his players would take in four different classes (don’t confuse with Marxist class warfare; these classes are equal… supposedly). In Dungeons and Dragons, the game that Gygax created, originally had types of heroes: Clerics, Fighters, Thieves (Rogus in later editions) and Magic-Users (nowadays more commonly known as Wizards). Each of these classes filled a specific niche their abilities were designed around. These abilities were exclusive to each class but complimented each other.
Most of the classes abilities were designed around the two main components of the original game: combat and exploration. Never versions of the game have changed these classes and abilities quite drastically, but even current D&D rules can be seen as enforcing these roles (even though there are three more times more classes than in the 70s’).
Fighters (or Tanks in modern parlance or MMO) are the front liners of any adventuring parties. They are designed to draw monsters and enemies’ attention in a battle and take the hits. They can handle the most damage and punish any enemy that dares to attack their companions.
Clerics are healers and buffers (meaning that they boost, or “buff”, their allies abilities) of D&D. Usually they are servants of gods and can cast potent spells to help their allies. They can also turn or destroy undead creatures, like vampires and skeletons.
Thieves are exactly what it says on the tin. They are sneaky strikers who lurk in the shadows and precise, very damaging blows to their enemies. Their abilities are designed around sneaking and getting where they’re not supposed to go. They can pick locks and scale walls.
Magic-Users receive phenomenal cosmic power (without the itty-bitty living space). They control the battlefield with huge area of effect spells that can turn the tide of a battle. Their abilities are versatile, as they learn more spells than other classes.
Why am I talking about these classes? I think they can be used as archetypes and figures of comparison for teamwork and especially for way people can participate in dialogue. Fighters are loud and boisterous, clerics are conciliatory negotiators, thieves are quick with striking comment and Magic-Users possess surprising insights that can alter the flow and context of a discussion. Surely these attributes can be mapped to different types of communicators.
Fighters in a dialogue are confident in their positions, speak often and speak with loud voices. They are strong and opinionated; they enjoy debating and defending their positions. Thieves are quieter. They also debate, but rather than do it boldly and loudly, they wait for their moment, a lull in the conversation, and strike! When they see their moment, they make a quick, but biting comment and stay silent just as quick.
Clerics are conciliatory. They seek compromise and avoid confrontation. Instead, they offer points to all sides of a debate and strive to bridge the gaps between debaters. They might have ideas of their own, but they are loath to vocalize them, in fear of conflict.
Magic-Users have a wide berth of knowledge. They can see discussions on a higher level and because of that, they can interject facts that are pertinent to the discussion, but outside of the discussion. Recontextualizing the discussion is their greatest spell.
Just like the four colors of Thomas Erikson, these four classes can’t survive, much less thrive on their own, without the support of the other four classes. Four fighters will just fight amongst each other, four thieves will just snipe at each other, four clerics will have a nice conversations (but no debate, never debate) and magic-users will quibble over minor details that have no effect on the actual matter at hand.
So, which are you? Master of the sword, greatest sneak-thieve since Bilbo, a divine conduit to the gods or master of all matters of arcane? How do you suit your team, be it at your work or your adventuring party?