7 Mar 2010

An Architect of Archetypes

I’ve recently joined the Blog Azeroth community in order to get advice and guidance as a fledgling Warcraft blogger. There’s a seasonal topic currently running called the Blogger Elder Project, in which a writer tries to impart advice, information or expertise to their readers. I’d been thinking about it for a few days, but was really struggling to find something to write about. There are already some fantastic guides on the Mage class written by others, with everything from gear selection to talent choices covered.

It was when I came across Tamarind’s idea for a Bloggers Guild that I finally got an idea. Single Abstract Noun is a fresh guild on the Argent Dawn roleplay server in the EU cluster. I rolled a blood-elf mage, joined the guild and started chatting to other bloggers and readers. A common theme that emerged was about the roleplay server itself, how refreshing the experiences were compared to other server types and how much fun it was to watch others roleplay.

Now maybe I’ve been spoiled by my own server choices – I rolled my first character on a roleplay server because that’s what I was used to. I’d been a fan of pencil and paper roleplay games for some time and enjoyed them as much for the roleplay aspects as the social and gaming aspects. I figured that roleplay would be just another facet of the game like questing, instancing, raiding, crafting and so on.

One of the integral parts of almost any character I create is it’s archetype – how the character fits in the game world, how it perceives others and how those others view him. I tend to do this regardless of the server type I’m playing on because it helps to differentiate what would otherwise be a long list of Mage. It means I can match my play to my mood – if I’m feeling chaotic and bouncy, rebellious and anti-establishment or generally old  and cranky. The character I pick is also a clue to my guildmates and server friends about what kind of mood I’m in. You can even use this kind of technique on non-roleplay servers – just by having a character with an archetype or backstory helps to make it feel more real than just a sprite on a screen, helping you remember why he’s cool even once every quest is completed and every achievement has been earned.

As a result, I figured that a list of the major mage archetypes would be a useful thing to have. So here it is! Although each class has several archetypes to suit it (there are even several archetypes that would suit several different classes) I’ll be focusing on the ones suitable for mages.

Don’t think that you have to pick one in isolation – you may feel that your character can use a combination of archetypes. Be wary about choosing too many though, as it can make your character directionless. It’s better to have a clear focus than wide coverage, much like talent specs.

Also, don’t feel that Mages=Dalarani or Kirn Tor. As you can see from the list below, there’s a huge spectrum to choose from.

  • Dalarani – These are probably the most popular type of mage, particularly for Alliance roleplayers. Formal training and rigorous academic trials are all hallmarks of a Dalaran Mage. Magical research and experimentation are also elements of a Dalarani, although not as common. Subgroups such as the Kirin Tor may also provide inspiration for players of this type. Dalarani tend to wear their power on their sleeve, wearing violet robes and tabards to show their allegiance. Items such as the Dalaran Wizard’s Robe or the Tabard of the Kirin Tor are essential in this regard.
  • Hedge-mage – Traditionally mages that have had no formal training from Dalaran, the hedge-mages used to be rounded up and either forced into Dalarani academies, stripped of their magical ability or even killed. Today they remain mistrustful of the motives of the Kirin Tor, and are strongly anti-establishment. For players that like to be rebellious or those that don’t like Dalaran, this is a good choice.
  • Techno mage – There are mages out there with a proficiency in engineering, augmenting their machines and gadgets with arcane powers. They conduct research in how to make their latest creations even more powerful through the use of their arcane ability. Mages with Engineering and Enchanting professions are ideally suited for this archetype, especially Gnomes and Goblins.
  • Runemaster – Drawing power from arcane runes and symbols tattooed all over their body, the Runemaster wears little armour and carries only the most basic weapons. Ideally suited for melee combat, their physical blows are empowered by the arcane runes that decorate them. Ideally suited to Hordeside players, but can equally be used by players that haven’t rolled a mage. As an example, a Tauren warrior or enhancement shaman would be able to pull off being a Runemaster. Professions such as Enchanting and Inscription are also a good fit.
  • Noble mage – These characters are traditionally aristocracy first and a mage second. They may have been sent to a Dalaran academy for an education, but wield little magical power and are unlikely to have seen combat. This type is ideally suited to low level mages, particularly Blood Elves or Humans due to their strict social structures. Professions are optional – if you’re a noble why do things yourself?
  • Highborne -The original ruling class of the Night Elves, their use of primitive magic from the Well of eternity gradually changed them into a distinct racial group. During the War of the Ancients, many Highborne either fled to Dire Maul, or were transformed into naga or satyr. Other remnants formed High Elven societies or joined Kael’thas Sunstrider to form the Blood Elves. Although Highborne can be played by both Night Elves and Blood Elves, it is ideally suited for those planning to play a Night Elf mage in Cataclysm.
  • Felblood – Essentially Blood Elves that have fed on demon blood and been transformed into demonic hybrids as a result. Usually Kael’thas’s closest mages, the offer of demon blood was seen as a reward for their loyalty. Would typically be played by Blood Elves, although it would need to be handled with care.
  • Wretched – Blood Elves that have failed to control their magical addiction. By drawing on fel energies, they have started to undergo a physical transformation. Wretched can be seen all over the Eversong Woods. Although this would typically suit a Blood Elf mage struggling to maintain control on his addiction, it could theoretically apply to a mage of any race.
  • Warlock – A class in it’s own right, Warlocks are usually seen as mages that gave up on their academic training in pursuit of even more powerful sources of magic. Drawing upon demonic fel energies and shadow magic, the Warlock is interested in inflicting pain and suffering as well as damage to their enemies. A warlock does not grant foes a merciful death, and instinctively is interested in his own affairs rather than the greater good. Some warlocks seek to hide their demonic pacts from others, remaining integrated in mage societies. Others are open about who they are, feeling that anyone who disagrees with them can eat shadowbolt.
  • Bookworm – Another one for low level mages, this is the mage that studies the theory of magic but has little to no practical ability. If having discussions and debates about magical lore, theory and uses sounds like your cup of tea, this one is for you.
  • Battle mage (Warmage) – Usually armed and well trained in melee combat, the Battle Mage is usually part of a royal or senior guard. Using their magic to fight alongside warriors and rogues, their use of magic has been refined to a collection of simple gestures and rituals that gets traded between a close group. The battle mage is ideal for a raiding mage seeking a background, or for those playing part of a city guard.
  • Necromancer – From the depths of Scholomance, the Cult of the Damned have been training former mages in the arts of Necromancy. Some mages such as Ras Frostwhisper have since gone on to become Liches, further aiding the Lich King. The Necromancer role would suit any mage looking to play one of the bad guys. Equally, a former member of the Cult might be a suitable concept. The Cult are not particularly fussy, so this would suit any race.
  • Shadow hunter – One for the trolls! The Shadow hunter is a practitioner of voodoo magics, being neither good nor evil. They draw on the power of dark gods to help themselves and their allies. A lot of their power is surrounded by ritual and ceremony, and as such makes a great concept for a roleplayer. Items such as the Bad Mojo Mask make great props  for someone choosing this archetype.
  • Witch doctor – Another one suitable for trolls, the witch doctor uses their magic combined with alchemy to twist nature to his bidding. Not just suitable for mages, this can also be played by shaman or druid alchemists of the Horde.
  • Ley walker – Rather than drawing their powers from the undead or the Twisting Nether, the Ley Walker seeks to use the streams of power that cross the world, pulling on them like threads in a loom and weaving them to create their spells. Usually outcasts or outsiders, the Ley walker is comfortable in solitude and their place in the world around them. Not exclusive to mages, this archetype is also a good fit to priests, druids and shamen.
  • Blue Dragonsworn – The forces of Malygos have many mages that are allied to them, seeking to control and regulate the use of magic in the world. As with Necromancers and Felblood, this is essentially a case of being able to play the part of the enemy. That said, there are examples of those who have been captured, coerced or manipulated into fighting for the Blue Dragonflight. A character could also play a dragonsworn of a different dragonflight, although there would need to be care in ensuring that the ethos of the dragonflight is aligned with that of the character. Most characters tend to be secretive about any relationship they may have with a particular dragonflight.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it contain everything that there is available on each archetype. If a particular one inspires you, it’s worth having a look for further information on WoWWiki.

Also, bear in mind that most roleplay servers have their own roleplay community. It’s worth getting in contact on either the realm forums or the general roleplay forum before creating the character, in order to ensure that the concept works and is a good fit with the server. They also might be able to offer advice and guidance on how you can improve the concept further.

Don’t forget, if you’ve got anything to add or have any questions, feel free to post it in the comments!

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