Thoughts Behind the Archetype System

Before delving into the Archetype System or the Riddance Role-playing Game, I wanted to provide a little history of, and personal motivation for, the project and also give credit to the many role-playing systems and settings that have inspired me to take this project on.

The Riddance Role-playing Game has been floating around on my “desk” for quite some time now, though called by numerous working titles. Its origins lay in my desire for a near-future setting that was less fantastic than many already established worlds; a setting with an extreme contrast between dark, crushing, sorrow and the ever optimistic drive for survival, for a better life; and, yes, a setting without an established cannon. Way too many settings, novels, and films have influenced my vision for Riddance to list, but I have been striving for a near-future noir with survival and intrigue themes. More details on the Riddance world will be presented in posts to come. With this post, I wish to focus on the game system.

The Archetype System was born out of a personal interest in role-playing game system design and desire for a skill-based system than was both robust enough to define a character well and flexible enough to allow for fluid game play. Surprisingly, I’ve never been completely satisfied by existing systems. That said, I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Storyteller System, but disliked the ever-growing dice pool. I’m a fan of the Fate System, but want more structure and the ability for character growth. I long for a system that allows for the same depth of character development as GURPS, but without the complexity. The Archetype System is, at its core, an amalgamation of these three gaming systems with a number of innovations that make it wholly its own.

The Archetype System is built around two fundamental concepts: the Two-of-Two mechanic for all resolutions; and the character Archetype that encapsulates the essence of a character in one sentence. The combination of these two concepts creates a rather robust and flexible gaming system that is both deep in possibilities and quick in execution.

The Two-of-Two mechanic is, fundamentally, a dice pool system with a set number of six-sided dice: two positive dice and two negative dice. Though the mechanic benefits from the die roll result averaging typical of dice pool systems, it stays a manageable four dice in size, no matter how skilled, or experienced, a character may be. For those interested in some of the math behind the Two-of-Two mechanic, the roll result has a numerical range from negative ten (-10) to positive ten (+10) with a mean of zero (0). The likelihood of a roll result between negative two (-2) and positive two (+2) is very high with the probability curve falling off severely. A roll result, positive or negative, between four (4) and six (6) is unlikely and a roll result of eight (8) or more is highly improbable.

The character Archetype allows a player to quickly define a complex character idea that is rooted in the game’s setting and has a direct influence on the game’s mechanic while preserving enough flexibility to not hinder creativity. The character Archetype is a simple sentence with a rigid structure: Attribute + Affiliation + Title + Location. Each of these components of the character Archetype is provided with a number of options to choose from that can be customized for any setting or mood imaginable. Two examples, specific to the Riddance Role-playing Game,  are: Witty Corp Agent from Nilos or Massive Nomad Operator from Andorra.