Saturday, June 28, 2014

Character Building in Hero's Journey: Archetypes and Ethoi

It's been a long and full week of mythology and Kickstarter updates, so we haven't talked about any of the game's nitty gritty in a bit. We're here today to change that up by talking about two central stats for all characters in Hero's Journey: Archetype and Ethos.

All characters, when you create them, will have a single Archetype, which you choose from a list of possibilities. The Archetype is intended to give players some guidance in how to represent their characters, as well as some rewards when they do so, but it isn't necessarily a description of their personality or who that character is as a person. Rather, it represents what kind of hero your character is most inclined to be - are they primarily concerned with taking care of people? Doing great deeds? Fighting the system? Making order out of chaos? Almost all possible heroic archetypes should be on the list characters have to choose from in one form or another, and once you've chosen one, it's up to you to take on its mantle.

So what does that mean for you mechanically, as you go about your daily adventuring lives? Well, it means that when you do the things that your Archetype suggests you should be doing (don't worry, there are plenty of guidelines for how to be both good or bad at each Archetype), you get the opportunity to see if you can gain dots in it. Each dot of your Archetype you possess grants you a bonus Labor that you can use to perform magical deeds, so the better you are at fulfilling your Archetype, the more awesome stuff you'll be able to do. On the other hand, if you are frequently doing things that run counter to your Archetype or refuse to act in accordance with its concept, you might lose dots of it, cutting down on your pool of bonus Labors as a result.

Basically, Archetypes don't force you to do anything, nor do they dictate or control your actions unless you decide that they should. But when you're the kind of hero that your Archetype represents, extra bonuses can come your way.

Ethoi work superficially similarly to Archetypes, but they're not concerned with an individual hero's chosen path, and rather represent their connection to the pantheon that has chosen them to act as their representative. All pantheons have three Ethoi, which are stats that represent the most important traits that those pantheons and their religion display and expect from their heroes (things like bravery, respect, holiness or whatever else a given pantheon might most highly prize). Your character will get to choose two of these three Ethoi to call their own, thus allowing them to decide what aspects of their pantheon's heritage they want to represent and what aspect really isn't part of their own makeup as a hero. Every pantheon has Ethoi unique to them; the options to choose from for each pantheon's heroes are different, and are designed to encourage those characters to be heroes by the standards of the gods who have chosen them.

Just as with your Archetype, if you perform actions that support one of your Ethoi, you may gain dots in it, and if you refuse to do so, you may lose some. However, your two Ethoi share the same pool of points; you have an Ethoi rating that is calculated from the total of both of them, rather than each being separate. This is important because your Ethoi are very important to your ability to progress forward as a hero and gain new powers and abilities: you can never progress higher in a stat than your Ethoi rating, so while there's no punishment per se for not doing what your Ethoi might require of you, you may find yourself unable to progress very far until you start kicking it up a notch.

So if your combined Ethoi rating is low, your powers will be low as well. But take heart; you can have any combination of Ethoi in that rating that you want. If you decide to have an even number of both, rocking two of one and two of another to get four, that's cool. If you decide to totally ignore one Ethos and focus on the other and just raise the one to four while the other sits at zero, that's cool, too. The result for your ability to move forward is the same, and so you can play with your character's actions and investment as you see fit.

Flexibility in concept for both Archetypes and Ethoi are essential to the game; while examples and guidelines are provided to help players understand how to succeed or fail at supporting these stats, for most there is not a single specific way to do either. If your character is moved to save people, they can do that however they are good at saving people; you can succeed at any of these things with investment in any Aspects, Domains or Talents, although some may make it easier for you than others. Much of this system relies on us giving you the best possible examples and guidelines for how to work with these stats, and then placing the ball in your game's court to make those decisions as you go along, so every heroic saga will interpret its characters' actions through the lens of its story.

I know you guys probably want lists right now of all the Archetypes and Ethoi in the game, but alas, it's not time for that yet (although feel free to speculate, as always). Until next time!