This weekend has seen some big stuff go down. Our surveys are going out. I’ve finally said goodbye to my day job, which was a tremendous shift for me. And in terms of Coyote & Crow, I’m finally dialing in what we’re internally referring to as the third draft of the game. Next is going to be a round of play testing and fine tuning of rules, some re-writes and minor additions, and the start of a whole lot of art direction.
In the coming weeks and months, I’ll keep you updated on how the game itself is developing and we’re going to start today by talking Archetypes. Before I get into that though, I wanted to talk about Coyote & Crow as a company. When I started this endeavor, really all the way through the first week of the Kickstarter, it wasn’t imagined as anything other than a book. Something created by myself and our team and put out into the world with an open heart and a love of games.
But the response we got changed those plans. As I mentioned above, I decided I was going to have to quit my job and take this on as a full time responsibility. That wasn’t an easy decision for me. This game was supposed to be a hobby for me, not a career change. It means lawyers, and bookkeepers and CPAs. It means dealing with state and federal government, arranging for my own health insurance, and – well, you get the picture. It’s a lot to take on.
I’m not telling you this because I want any sympathy. We should all be as lucky as I’ve been this last month. Instead, I’m just asking that you all be patient with me. An unexpected million dollar Kickstarter would play havoc with any publisher, let alone a tiny little team like ours. We’re going to deliver you a great game, as quickly as we can and we’re going to bring you more amazing Coyote & Crow media beyond the core RPG. We just ask that you bear with us while we scale up and get things in their proper places.
Okay, let’s talk about Archetypes!
Like many of you, my first attempts at creating RPG characters as a kid were based largely around “class”, so much so that it’s pretty much the primary label people use when describing their characters to this day. I think for some games, class makes a lot of sense. There’s a need to gamify real world concepts into things that fit into neat buckets and translate to a graspable tabletop mechanism. Over the years, D&D has certainly deepened the possibilities outside of those original classes. But there’s something about class that never really clicked with me.
I’m going to use shepherd Book from Firefly as an example. If you were to see Book as a D&D character, what class would he be? A cleric? One could argue that if the player playing Book started the game with him during the first episode of the show, that might be right. But what makes shepherd Book interesting isn’t that he’s a shepherd, it’s that he wasn’t always one. Those little snippets of his past that shine through are what help define his current role and they make him a fascinating person. So then maybe you make the argument that he’s dual class. A fighter and a cleric. Sure.
But to me, both of those classes (or really, any two D&D classes you could choose) don’t really do a good job of capturing Book. That intangible quality of Book’s is what I wanted to strive for when designing Archetypes, which meant going against the very gamification concept I mentioned earlier. Rather than narrowing the scope and creating characters who fall into neatly defined buckets, I was going to have to create this broad canvas that encompassed the Books of the world.
There are six Archetypes in the core book. They’re one of the first things you choose when you’re creating your character, but rather than act as rails that help narrow subsequent options, they’re a piece to the overall process that hopefully helps players bring their characters into focus.
From a mechanical standpoint, your Archetype is really just a way of conveying an aptitude or natural talent. It gives a character a +1 in a related Stat and a free Rank in one of two commonly associated Skills. That’s it. It doesn’t limit your Path, Abilities, Skills, anything. Your Archetype is a permanent, one-time choice. It’s a reflection of where your character started their journey, not their present or future.
In each Archetype description there are examples of what that Archetype might do on a day to day basis, some comparable to well known genres and tropes, others that we’ve highlighted as being more in line with the themes and ideas behind Coyote & Crow. But you aren’t beholden to any of them. Want to make a Scout that earns their living as a dentist? Sure. Go ahead. Outside of the Archetype mechanics mentioned, there’s nothing stopping you.
Here’s the list of Archetypes in the core game, along with their related Stat bonus
- Warrior (+1 Strength)
- Scout (+1 Agility)
- Tinkerer (+1 Intelligence)
- Seeker (+1 Perception)
- Healer (+1 Spirit)
- Whisperer (+1 Charisma)
Going back to Book, if you creating them in Coyote & Crow, you’d likely choose Healer. It would give Book a boost in Spirit and a free Rank in a Spirit related Skill. But outside that, their player would still be able to give him ranks in Skulduggery, or Unarmed Combat or any of those other things that made the crew of the Serenity often give Book the side-eye when he seemed to have knowledge that was decidedly un-shepherdly.
It’s tempting to see Archetypes as limiting from a numbers perspective. You might be thinking, “If I choose Healer, I’m going to be the Healer in the group.” Not necessarily. Again, you’re only getting a +1 to a Stat and a free Skill Rank out of it. But let’s roll with that for a second. Let’s say you actually want to make a character whose purpose in life is healing. That idea can take a lot of forms. It’s not always about applying bandages to physical wounds. In the case of Healer, they could be counselors, spiritualists, surgeons, or psychologists. But let’s say you want to play a character that is a death doula (for more on death doula’s, I suggest this excellent episode from the Toasted Sister podcast: https://toastedsisterpodcast.com/2021/01/19/e72-the-death-and-food-episode/). Being a death doula has no in-game mechanics, no effects. It just lets the players at the table and the characters in your game know what your character does, or enjoys, or feels a calling towards. They aren’t defined by it.
I have this idea for a character who’s a death doula who also has a really high Unarmed Combat Skill Rank. His Archetype would be a Healer but his background and many of his Skills point in a different direction. He grew up in a family where his father and older brothers made their living through violence as professional warriors. From an early age he was taught that his self-worth was defined by what he could do with his fists. But not long after he took the Adahnehdi and became an adult, he had to deal with the death of his father, who met a violent end. No one in his family was able to help him with his grief. Instead, it was a death doula, a stranger before then, that helped him come out from that shadow of pain. When he emerged, he found that he no longer had it in him to pursue his family’s legacy and chose to apprentice under the death doula that had helped him. He still has combat skills though and he’s terrified that some day he’ll be put in a situation where he might have to use them. He still struggles with his family, who believe that he’s weak for choosing a different path. To me, that sounds like a fun character inspired a bit by shepherd Book.
Hopefully, this helps you all understand where my heart and head were when I developed Archetypes and why I want you to see them as less about constricting to you a job and more about helping you develop your character’s identity.
In future development blogs, we’ll get into other character creation aspects, including Stats, Paths, Abilities and Skills. My hope is that by the time you have the game in your hands, you have at least some smoldering ideas for your first characters.
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