Playing a Recognizable Archetype

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 30, 2009

“What would the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise look like if they were D&D characters?” I’ve asked myself this question numerous times over the last few weeks as I’ve watched old episodes of Start Trek: The Next Generation. It’s an interesting exercise, and it got me thinking about what it would take to play these archetypes in an ongoing camping.

Over the years I have participated in games that borrowed famous characters from familiar stories. It was an interesting way to create new characters and the games were a lot of fun.

The first time we tried this, we played a campaign set around King Arthur and the Knight of the Round Table. We began by doing a little bit of homework so that we could familiarize ourselves with our options. Next we drafted characters. And finally we created our own versions of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Merlin and the rest of the Knights. The DM gave us a lot of latitude when it came to playing our characters. All he asked was that we try to stay true to the personality of the legendary figure we’d based our characters upon.

I actually enjoyed having a model upon which to base my PC. I find that the vast choices available when creating a new character are often overwhelming. If you don’t have a particular concept in mind, playing this type of campaign can be comforting. You still have choices, but they fall into much more narrow categories. For example, is Sir Lancelot a Paladin, Warlord, Swordmage, Warden or Fighter? Or is he a different class all together?

Our second attempt at this type of campaign was based on Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Again we did our homework first, drafted and then created characters. Making these PCs was even more challenging than making the Knights of the Round Table. Is Will Scarlet a Ranger (archer), Ranger (melee), Rogue, Bard, Seeker or Fighter? You may be playing a familiar archetype but you’re not necessarily nailed down to one particular interpretation of that PC. It’s up to you to make him your own character.

The Knight of the Round Table and Robin Hood and his Merry Men are just two examples of campaigns I remember playing when I was younger. They were easy to adapt into a D&D game. But if this concept of using familiar archetypes and established characters appeals to you, don’t think that you have to stick to medieval or fantasy based stories. I’ve often thought that a game where the characters are based on Marvel Comic’s X-Men or DC Comic’s Justice League would be cool. Stories set in a more modern or even futuristic setting may require a little bit more interpretation before they work as D&D characters, but it may just lead to some of the best gaming you’ve ever experienced.

Getting back to my original question about the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, here’s how I see them based on the current options available in 4e D&D.

  • The Enterprise
    House Lyrander’s flag ship, largest and faster air ship in the fleet
  • Captain Picard
    Half-Elf, Bard level 10, Mark of Storm, trained diplomat, war veteran
  • First Officer, Commander Ryker
    Half-Elf, Ranger level 8, explorer, ladies man, con artist
  • Second Officer, Schema
    Warforged, Wizard level 5, perfect memory, quick study, curious about “breathers”
  • Engineer, Forge
    Dwarf, Artificer level 7, tinkerer, builder, terrible with the ladies
  • Medic, Crusher
    Elf, Cleric level 8, healer, war widow
  • Captain of the Guard, Worf
    Goliath, Fighter level 5, war orphan struggling to find an identity, extremely honourable, weapons master
  • Troi
    Kalashtar, Psion level 4, adoptive daughter of house Lyrander scion, social chameleon

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1 NthDegree256 November 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm

TNG and Eberron combined? This just may be my favorite blog post ever.

2 Nick Wedig November 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Worf fits a lot better as a Half-Orc than a Goliath. Worf’s backstory is all about being a Klingon raised by humans and trying to find a medium between the two cultures and such, which is classic Half-Orc territory.

3 NthDegree256 December 1, 2009 at 3:38 am

I have to add, Forge and Schema are inspired naming choices. Even better than the time I was brainstorming a new BBEG, a master thief who has used her dragonmarked affinity for teleportation magic to pull off her daring heists of some of the greatest artifacts and monuments of Khorvaire. She has been denounced and excoriated by her House for her actions, but she still proudly takes the House name, and after each mysterious theft inquisitives are left wondering… where on Eberron is Carmin’san d’Orien?

4 Ameron December 1, 2009 at 11:29 pm

@Nick Wedig
You know what; I think you’re absolutely right about Worf. These were just my initial, first drafts of the ST:TNG crew. If I decide to actually create the characters I’ll certainly make Worf Half-Orc.

I’m glad that you liked this post. I must admit that I knew I needed to change Data’s name to something more Eberron, Schema came to me the day before I published this article. I think Carmin’san d’Orien is a pretty good Eberron sounding name.

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