Sunday, March 1, 2015

Archetypes, part I: Outlining your archetype

In the past few weeks, I've discussed the different rounds of RPG Superstar -- magic items, maps, monsters, and encounters. The adventure proposal round wasn't a very strong round for me last year, and I'm probably not going to write anything about adventures at this point even though there are many useful things I learned while writing my Pathfinder Society adventure, the Golden Guardian.

Instead, I'll discuss archetypes (which used to be a round in RPGSS), describing my process of designing them.

Even if your publisher or developer doesn't ask you to pitch your ideas before you start writing, it may be useful to write down a few sentences that outline the concept, just for yourself. The outline you write for yourself may be of any length; write as much as feels natural. Anything you write in the outlining phase may be useful later, and even the things that end up on the cutting room floor may become useful in later projects. It's better to have too many than too few ideas, as long as you know how to restrain yourself so you don't end up with a 2-page archetype.

Some things that your outline might contain:
  • The main idea. A concept, a theme around which you'll build the whole thing.
  • Short descriptions of class features. They may be just flavorful ideas that fit the theme, but you can also jot down ideas for mechanics (or what features to replace) if anything comes to mind at the time of writing. I've noticed that a lot of new ideas are born the moment you write them. Simply put, the process of writing also activates your brain for producing ideas. However, if you don't have a lot of class feature ideas yet, don't worry about it.
  • A preliminary name. A name often helps you stay focused while designing the archetype. And sometimes you accidentally come up with a brilliant name already in the outlining phase because the process of thinking about a placeholder name activated your brain.
Here's an example of a short outline for an archetype. It's part of an actual pitch I wrote for a 3PP publisher; unfortunately I didn't get a chance to write the archetypes I pitched.

"Wayfarer - a nature-themed monk archetype, zen with nature; loses some of the more monastic monk abilities but gains animal companion that can also use ki."

To be continued next week! Coming up: Going through the original class description and developing your ideas.

1 comment :

  1. I also use outlines for drafting the mechanics. I find it a good idea to write a list of how the mechanics work and then write the game text. Separating the crunch from the presentation makes it easier to focus on the game design and the writing separately. It also helps better evaluate whether the final text reflects your intent with the mechanics.

    For example, the outline for Windpath Razor in RPGSS 2015 looked something like this:
    +1 scimitar
    three times per day on unsheathe, create 30 foot line of wind
    bullrush first enemy in line
    allies float above ground if more than 1 space along line until end of movement
    line lasts 1 round


A Sword for Hire