Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The archetypes of a setting

Potential Ghostbusters for the reboot/remake have been announced. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy were widely guessed because co-writer and director Paul Feig has worked with them before. I haven’t seen Saturday Night Live regulars Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon in anything (although I have heard McKinnon was the voice of PEZ Cat in Toy Story Of Terror). So now I have to see things they’ve done, because I’m curious and optimistic.

They may not be called Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore (update: we may now have names and roles) (update six months later - mostly right, two surnames changed) but with a team of four again we might expect Wiig to be the wiseass leader and McCarthy to be the bumbling optimist. I would guess McKinnon, the youngest, would be the late addition, and Jones the third member of the startup team.

The Ghostbusters RPG encouraged the creation of new PC groups as local franchises, but their driving goals were reflected in the original cast and nudged them towards certain archetypes - Egon was all about Soulless Science, Ray cared more about Serving Humanity, Winston was happy with a steady paycheck and Peter was in it for the sex. So this encouraged a PC group that mixes nice helpful types, cynical opportunists, and weirdoes who like to build EKG readers out of colanders. It fits the tone of the source material, and make sense in-setting that the business of busting ghost would attract hustlers, altruists and pseudoscientific nutbars. To that you could easily add people with a stronger interest in the occult side of the paranormal - which the spinoffs did with Kylie in Extreme Ghostbusters.

West End Games followed it up with the first Star Wars RPG, where one way to start out was a template - and quite a few of those looked familiar as well, like the Brash Pilot, the Smuggler, the Young Senatorial, the Wookiee and assorted Jedi types. They brought in some other broadly-drawn characters like the vengeful Outlaw and the happy-go-lucky Kid that you could easily imagine in a Star Wars group, but a PC group might well end up with someone who could fly a piece of junk, someone who was good in a stand-up fight, someone good at talking around problems, and someone with some sort of connection to the Force. See Star Wars: Rebels for another group that looks a lot like a PC party. Including a Kid.

MWP’s Leverage takes this further still by having the five skillsets of the main characters, called out in the show’s titles, as the game stats, so everyone is rated in Grifter, Hacker, Hitter, Mastermind and Thief.

There hasn’t been a Star Trek game that went that far - they usually assume Starfleet PCs but make options for specialties pretty wide and varied even before factoring in alien species and the like. When I hacked Cinematic Unisystem for it I made the departments into about half the skill list. Engineering, Medicine and Science are already there, after all.

This all works to encourage characters with a resemblance to the skills and motivations of the canonical - which players in licensed games often gravitate towards anyway, and which lends to them getting into similar kinds of adventures. You can easily play against type, create something new to do and expand the pool of character styles, but you still have to be ready to get into the setting’s preferred kind of trouble.

In related news, Chris Pratt as a possible new Indiana Jones? Same character, not just an archetype? Hmm...

No comments:

Post a Comment