Common Gaming Archetypes
May 11, 2013

Common Gaming Archetypes

In more traditional role-playing games, there are a number of character archetypes that have become the norm; so much so that I have seen some groups admit that they feel that they cannot function unless all four of the better-known archetypes are filled. Although I plan on going into greater detail on each one of these archetypes in future articles, I have chosen to present an overview of the four most common archetypes in gaming.

The first among these is the warrior or “tank” archetype. This is the sort of character who is built to both give and receive damage on a massive scale. In class-based games, these are most often called Fighters, Paladins, Barbarians, Soldiers, Warriors, and the like. These characters are usually most fun to play at the lower tiers of games where some of the other archetypes haven’t fully come into their own yet and the party as a whole tends to rely on the tank character’s raw physical power to carry them through.

The second of the common gaming archetypes would be the rogue, thief, or sneak archetype. This is the character who can get in and out of somewhere without being seen. They can often pick locks, pick pockets, identify and disable traps, and usually have some greater advantage over foes that aren’t aware of their presence. The Rogue class from D&D or Pathfinder is the most iconic of this archetype, but other sorts of characters fit this role as well, including assassins, ninjas, pickpockets, and more. These are also often the most skill focused of all the archetypes, meaning that they must often pick up the slack of the others who focus on different sets of abilities.

Third is the healer archetype, the one that keep the party going. Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition tried renaming this archetype the “Leader,” but healer tends to be what players want out of that sort of character. Often this archetype relies on some sort of magical talent in order to perform its duties, though in other games it can be a character that is just highly skilled in medicine, first aid and immediate response treatment. There is also a trope of this archetype being associated with divine beings, mostly from its originating with D&D‘s Cleric class; it can just as often be a magical practitioner who simply has access to a spell that restores hit points or a doctor who is just really, really good at getting people back on their feet again. When the option of such a character exists, it is often the most sought after archetype to have in a party, though not always the one people want to play.

Finally, there is the mystical archetype. Now, obviously, in games without a magical element, this archetype does not exist, but in most there is something akin to it. This is the sort of character who can call upon supernatural powers at will, often using them to blast their foes with fire, lightning, or cold from afar. This is also the archetype most closely associated with knowledge and learning, so they are often looked too when the group must make those all-important lore checks. Where this archetype differs from the healer archetype is in its function. Healers heal the party while mystics are looked to when you want to set your enemies on fire.

Again, this is merely a quick rundown of the four most commonly found archetypes in gaming, particularly in fantasy gaming, I might add. Each brings something unique to the gaming table and, when working in conjunction with one another, serve to give players what many feel is their best chance for survival against all the evils that their Gamemaster is going to throw at them.

Image Credit: Jaimie Duplass / Shutterstock

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