Designer’s Log 5 – Archetypes

Designer’s Log 5 – Archetypes


Scott Pyle, Play Unplugged, 4/16/14

My long experience reading comic books and subsequently playing TSR’s Marvel Superheroes game when it came out in the mid 1980’s, left indelible marks on my perception of the various characters in the stories I was reading. It’s natural to put things into “boxes,” to categorize and organize them by type. Superheroes provide no exception to this. Many writers naturally balance teams with various types of heroes and villains. You have to have a strong guy (or gal), a character who blasts away at range, and maybe some inspiring leader-type who combines various other elements to make him/her effective. This categorization process becomes almost necessary when you start gaming in the supers genre. The rule of niche protection demands it.

When I say niche protection, I am suggesting the idea that if player A wants to run a super-strong gal, player B should not steal her thunder by ALSO running a super-strong character. So starting with Champions in the early 1980’s, GM’s and game designers came up with loose categories for RPG supers, archetypes if you will.

In SuperSystem 4th ed. (SS4), we continue this tradition with our own versions of the classic super archetypes: Blaster (ranged attacker, usually energy projection, think Cyclops), Brawler (close-in fighter, think Wolverine), Brick (big, strong guy or gal, think She-Hulk), Mentalist (mind powers, think Marvel Girl), Metamorph (shape-changer, think Martian Manhunter), and Speedster (really fast character, think Flash). Since SS4 is mostly a skirmish game, players can build their teams any way they want to. Want a team of all Bricks? Go for it!  Your group will give opponents plenty of trouble up close, but they might get blasted trying to get there, and lack of variation might make them weak in special scenarios that call for diverse powers and abilities.

Variation can also exist within archetypes. Two bricks need not be alike. Maybe one flies while another one leaps. We addressed this idea in SS4 with the Super-Archetypes section at the end of Chapter 3: Character Creation. Pick one of the six archetypes, then customize it with one of the finishing package selections, and bam! You’re done. Here’s an example of the Brawler Super-Archetype straight from the book:

Dark Avenger: A Cunning Brawler

Dark Avenger: A Cunning Brawler

=== The Brawler ===


Bloodthirsty battlers, brave soldiers of freedom, swashbuckling mutants, and

martial arts masters are just a few examples of the brawler in comics.  They

may not pack the raw power of the brick, but they can be just as deadly up close.

Whether they rely on weapons, berserker’s fury, or supreme skill, they can

bring even the mightiest foes down!

BP: 54 + package options

AP: 10


Stk 8[1]  Str 4  Dge 7[1]  Tou 4

Mnd 2  Res 3 Sen 2


Super-Strike x 1

Super-Dodge x 1

Vitality: 7


=== Finishing Packages (+21 pts.) ===


The Dark Avenger


– +1D Mind (+1 AP)

– -1D Dodge

– Edge x 3

– Gadget Pool (6 pts., 2 Full Slots, 2 Half Slots)

— Pool Options: Climbing, Cloak, Reach +3”, Super Leap

He Just Won’t Quit!


– +1D Resolve (+1 Vitality)

– +2D Toughness

– -2D Dodge, Remove Super-Dodge

– +2D Sense

– Super-Sense x 1

– Super-Toughness x 1 (+1 Vitality), Regeneration

– Weapon +4D, Super x 1

– Extra Vitality x 2

– Lone Wolf

Lucky Striker


– +1D Strength

– Fortune x 3

– Edge x 3

– Instant Stand

– Sense Weakness

The Shield Slinger


– +2D Resolve (+2 Vitality)

– +1D Strength

– +1D Toughness (+1 Vitality)

– +1D Sense

– Extra Movement x 2

– Instant Stand

– Reach +5”

– Tactician x 1

As you can see, each package will result in a very different character. So no two brawlers need be alike, especially on the same team! The Super-Archetypes also ease new players into character creation by doing a lot of the heavy lifting for them ahead of time. They just pick a package, add its values to the base character, and go!

When these appear in the book, we’ll feature brand new art pieces to go with them–just one more thing that will continue to make SS4 special!  

-Scott Pyle

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