Well I like to play games that give me a wide breath of options. For most part I see games implementing certain archetypes like the usual RPG trinity (tank, DPS and healer).

So far the most archetypes I've seen are in fighting, card and strategy games.

Fighting games archetypes I've seen are:

  • Rush down (GG Accent Core Venom, Kof 2k1 heidern)
  • Grappler (SF Zangief)
  • Zoning (SF Dhalsim, KoF Billy Kane)
  • Ranged(GG Dizzy)
  • Trapper (GG testament)
  • Well rounded (SF Ryu)
  • Status effects (GG Baiken)
  • Chance (GG Faust)
  • Counter (GG Baiken)
  • Time (Arcana Heart Anutpada, Psychic force Wong, Jojo's Bizarre adventure Dio)
  • Positions control (Arcana Heart Dieu Mort).

Card Games: Burn, milling, OTK, counter, graveyard based, trapping (Yu-gi-oh), remove from play, restrict.

Strategy games: League of legends have a number of them so I'll just link to their wiki. Note not all are archetypes though, add to that builders as well.

So any other that you guys might know that is worth mentioning?

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    \$\begingroup\$ An interesting topic but since there is no "correct answer" I'm converting it to CW. \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Aug 25 '10 at 7:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah ok I though community wiki was only for no correct answers not questions with multiple correct answers. My bad. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 25 '10 at 8:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be better described (in this case) as also being more appropriate for questions that are basically asking for a list of something. \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Aug 25 '10 at 15:41

A while back I sat down and tried to come up with all of the fundamentally-different MMO combat roles I could, and I ended up with the following list. Note that this is pasted pretty much directly out of my voluminous ideas file and makes a lot of references to WoW, since that's what I was playing when I wrote this up.

Standard trio

DPS: Kill monsters through sheer quantity of outgoing damage.

Tank: A tank's sole job is to take a lot of damage (or, rather, to not take a lot of damage when anyone else would be taking a lot of damage.)

Heal: Repair damage done to tank or to other players.

Conventional support

Buff: Make the group more powerful. Difficult to make fun - you'd need a situation where the optimal buffs were constantly changing.

Debuff: Make the enemy monsters less powerful. Again, difficult to make fun.

Crowd control: Completely nullify single enemies or groups of enemies so that the players can focus fire more effectively.

Screening/defense: I'm thinking there's a distinction between "heal damage that has been taken", "be a tank", and "prevent damage to other players". Some kind of a super-discipline priest. Fundamentally different, but difficult to show that.

Unconventional support

Sniper: Class whose sole purpose is to nullify single important parts of enemies. "Spell interrupter" would be a form of this. As a slightly more complex example I'm imagining a group of enemies that have a "damage-dealing module" and a "damage-reflecting module", where only one can be disabled at a time - disable "damage-dealing" for the group that the players aren't killing, and "damage-reflecting" for the single creature the players are killing. Things can get arbitrarily complex from here.

Threat management: Usually rolled into tank, but why? Make a class that can funnel threat from one character to another, or modify how threat is accumulated, or masquerade as one character. Misdirection+Intervene+Vigilance+more.

Command: Raid leading is tough. Make a "class" whose sole purpose is to direct players, give them a bird's-eye view of the battle, stop forcing them to run their own character as well as the raid.

Mobility/positioning: We've got a little of this with Death Grip, and now Life Grip in Cataclysm, but a class whose sole purpose is to move players or monsters around for optimal placement. Imagine some kind of crazy Thaddius/Hodir combo, where positioning is vital and everyone is moving around constantly, with this dude fixing issues as they come up.

Recon: A class built around dealing with monsters that have not attacked yet - the ability to interrupt/redirect patrols, see who's coming before they come, split up groups temporarily. Rogue has a little of this with Distract.

Obviously it's difficult to come up with a way that many of these can actually be, you know, interesting, but I don't think it's impossible. You would, however, need a thoroughly different model from WoW's. Also I kind of dread the idea of "okay it's time to go run Deadmines, we need twelve players from twelve completely different classes", so I feel like any functional game would either just pick a different set/layout of these from WoW or wrap up a bunch of them into one class.

Just as an example of a possible combo, I really like the idea of Tank+Debuff+Sniper being one class, Threat+Mobility being another, and DPS+Healing being the third more common class. Your tank's job is to stay alive and keep the monsters from obliterating the party, you have one utility character constantly trying to redirect every monster to the tank and keep people out of fire, and you have three damage-dealers punching enemies and making health fly out. I think there's potential here. You can easily generate other interesting combos by just mixing and matching various roles.

It's also worth pointing out that, with these roles in mind, WoW's "standard trinity" is actually much more complicated than you might think. It's not just "Tank/Heal/DPS", it's Tank+Threat / Heal / DPS, but virtually everyone is also Buff/Debuff, DPS often has CC, Priests do Screening, and half a dozen classes have Sniper (for spell interrupts). But those are always in a rather minimal form, it's never the focus of the class.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Some nice examples. The caution part is a very good point. One easily missed issue of balance between variety and accessability/convenience. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 27 '10 at 2:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ instead of forcing characters to take multiple of these roles, perhaps one could design things so not all roles are required but rather you have different avenues of attack which are equally viable but depend on personal preference/play style. Or dump the class model and allow people to learn abilities that suit them as they please. I'd love to be a buff+debuff+threat guy but how many others would want to do that? \$\endgroup\$ – lathomas64 Aug 27 '10 at 5:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lathomas, I think you'd be surprised :) If the game mechanics make it fun, people will find something they want to do. I think that if you were trying to make a good solid MMO boss battle, you'd have to specify what combination of roles was intended one way or another, and it would lead to instant frustration if some battles required different sets of people. WoW does that by just having every battle require roughly the same combination and I think that's by far the best approach. \$\endgroup\$ – ZorbaTHut Aug 27 '10 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's always kind of funny when you see a post, and you think "oh man I have the perfect answer to this", and you go to look at the replies and the top answer is you from a year and a half ago, making exactly the post you were about to make. \$\endgroup\$ – ZorbaTHut May 11 '12 at 6:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lohoris, it's actually a shortening of Zorba the Hutt, Jabba the Hutt's father from Star Wars. (Only in the books.) I shortened it for EFNet many years ago and the shortened version stuck. So your misreading is actually reasonably correct :) \$\endgroup\$ – ZorbaTHut May 11 '12 at 13:25

If you step back one level of abstraction all of the various character classes boil down to 3 archetypes. The extremist, the specialist, the Jack-of-All-Trades.

  • The Extremists prioritizes one stat/ability to its limit in exchange for weaknesses in all others
  • The Specialist prioritizes a small group of stats/abilities (to a lesser degree than the extremist) in exchange for weaknesses in all others.
  • The Jack-of-All-Trades has average ability in all stats/abilities.

The more stats/abilities you have in the game the more extremists & specialists you can have.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is true in some cases, while in others it's more of means of attack that stats i.e. Grapplers uses close range unblockable moves for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 26 '10 at 1:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ IMHO this answer is way too vague to be useful in any context. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. May 10 '12 at 19:35

Worth checking the recent post from Richard Bartle (co-creator of MUD), on the evolution of the DPS/tank/heal team structure, and alternatives.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting read a good perspective for the RPG trinity. But no actual concrete solutions to this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 25 '10 at 8:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ There aren't really any 'actual concrete solutions' to the question. They're abstract concepts in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – Rushyo Aug 25 '10 at 10:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean there weren't any archetype discussed in the article. Except maybe the trinity and possible tweaks to it. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 25 '10 at 11:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ The variety of distinct archetypes is going to depend entirely on the conflict system in question, and to a degree on the game fiction. \$\endgroup\$ – Kylotan Aug 27 '10 at 10:35

You might get some ideas from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Magic:_The_Gathering_keywords

Magic is so lovingly designed - it's just a shame they obsolete and replace their wonderfully designed series after what feels like five seconds... it's a business model I guess - but it doesn't get my money anymore.

Your archetypes are going to vary wildly based on the context. A grand strategy game might have 'civilian', 'land military', 'naval military', 'air military' concepts, for example.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I know that it will change in context of the game genre that's why I specified them as well. Conversely some can archetype can be translated to other genres hence me posting the question. =) \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 25 '10 at 11:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ would be a fun thought experiment to try and make a game mechanic out of as many of those keywords as possible. \$\endgroup\$ – lathomas64 Sep 1 '10 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ :D I'm currently developing a sci-fi game where I've essentially based the entire concept on every keyword I can associate with sci-fi's 'epicness'. \$\endgroup\$ – Rushyo Sep 2 '10 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ "it's just a shame they obsolete and replace their wonderfully designed series after what feels like five seconds" um what? \$\endgroup\$ – Miles Rout Aug 31 '16 at 21:40

TVTropes has an interesting list of archetypes in game characters. While the terms used are less than technical, I'm sure you can translate them to whatever vocabulary you wish to use.

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I think this would be relevant more in fantasy style RPGs, but stealing from competitive Pokemon battling:

  • Special Sweeper/Special Wall - A sweeper being one that is designed primarily for attacking with high speed and special attacking skill, and a wall for blocking opponents with high hp, defenses. Special meaning high magic attack/defense.
  • Physical Sweeper/Physical Wall - Same as above, but for physical attacks.
  • Healer - Kind of obvious.
  • Trapper/Annoyer - The one that would lower stats, restrict, and in some types of games stop mobs from running away.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pokemon also has the baton pass build which is a sort of buffer in other RPGs. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 27 '10 at 8:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah yes, I forgot about that one. One thing that does surprise me about pokemon is the lack of a tank. \$\endgroup\$ – The Communist Duck Aug 27 '10 at 9:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Experimented a bit and Snorlax and Blissey can act as a tank/deflector but at the same time serve a different purpose. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Sep 9 '10 at 1:17

There's a part about fighting game archetypes in this paper: Fighting genre design guidelines.

And I am currently working on a taxonomy for some of the most famous fighting games (just have had a little time to do it recently).

I think it's important to go away from older loose definitions such as grapplers. A grapple is a mechanic and not truly a gameplay style, a character can be fast and still have special command throws e.g Yang/Yun in Street fighter. I instead use the term Slow/strong for a slow but very strong character, which is a more accurate term for a character like Zangief as there are characters who are strong and slow but do not have any command throws.

The archetypes that exist in the fighting genre are, according to me:

  • Slow/strong
  • Strong Control
  • Control
  • Speed Control
  • Fast/weak
  • Short combo speed
  • All around
  • Explosive.

(Check my blog or my full research report on mechanics and examples if you are interested.)


leader - helps keep the team fighting and helps them fight better

controller - debuffs the enemies, are damage to keep swarms at bay

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  • \$\begingroup\$ these are covered by buff and debuff types. \$\endgroup\$ – Wight Aug 27 '10 at 8:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ a debuff archetype hadn't been mentioned yet when I wrote this \$\endgroup\$ – lathomas64 Aug 27 '10 at 11:44

Some other types I've seen in games I haven't written on my first post are.

Fighting: Sacrifice (Samurai Showdown Rasestusmaru)- sacrifices something for better performace in the given example it life for a full rage meter.

Tabula Rasa (Darkstalkers Marionette and shadow)- one is a character that copies his enemies while the other possess the previous character beaten.

Card Games: Sacrifice/Recycle decks- discard to get a tactic going and recycle cards for viability.


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