The Hero's Journey

Sir Basil

☩ death knight ☩
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THE HERO’S JOURNEY
sing your death song and die like a hero going home -- tecumseh

WHAT IS A HERO ?

The hero is a tricky thing, particularly in roleplay - where every player is controlling a hypothetical protagonist. No one character should be the protagonist in the traditional sense - it is not solely that character’s story. Rather, it’s the story of the entire group. Nonetheless, there is a tendency amongst players, and GMs, to treat their own player character in a roleplay as if they were the “hero”, regardless of their role in the story, or their relationship with the central conflict. But the truth of the matter, is that the definition of “hero” is nebulous at best - and even its etymology remains a subject of debate. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language claims that the Indo-European root is *ser meaning "to protect". This becomes the Greek “her”, which is the root for both the goddess Hera, and the modern “hero.” However, other words have meant hero as well, including the Latin hapax legomenon; “aeglaecum”, which appears in Beowulf. This word - subject of many scholarly essays including my own - is used to refer to Beowulf, the monster Grendel, and Grendel’s mother interchangeably. Clearly, these disparate elements must have something in common, if they are to be called “hero.”

“Hero” is such a problematic word that academic circles seem to prefer “protagonist”, particularly in works with a heavy sense of realism - or morally ambiguous characters. However, there is an inherent moral ambiguity to the word “hero” -- anyone familiar with the goddess Hera can tell you that she was never the most morally upright goddess. The Indo-European root simply means “to protect”, with all fo the ambiguity that entails. Was Beowulf defending the King and his hall? Was Grendel protecting himself and his mother? “Hero” is an inherently morally ambiguous word - but in modern heroic culture, the “hero” has taken on connotations of “good”, or moral. That good or moral descriptor has been broken down into countless labels. That’s not for a lack of trying; TV Tropes has named a number of distinct heroic archetypes. Their list is quite extensive, covering diverse and particular tropes in heroic characters - The Failure Knight is unique in its characterization it fulfills, for example, and the The Retired Badass has little in common with it on the surface. Both are quite different than the Pink Heroine. But these tropes dance around the definition of the hero. They are descriptors of external characteristics, not the character’s role within a larger narrative framework.

Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist and literary theorist, proposed the idea of the monomyth. The monomyth suggests that all mythology featuring a “hero” follows along the same trajectory. In his introduction to his groundbreaking work, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, Campbell summarizes his theory: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”From Campbell’s definition, we can see that the hero is an exceptional individual, who has gained powers from the magical journey that they have taken part in. The mundanity of the man is overwhelmed by the supernatural supremacy of the hero. This is obviously a dangerous idea; heroes are fundamentally super-human. They have been granted supernatural or mysterious power, which - while they can grant this power to others - no other human can possibly stop them. It’s a terrifying thought.

In my Guide to Grimdark, I began with a quote from Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, and it seems relevant to reiterate it here; “Beware of heroes.” Herbert, in Dune and its sequels, grappled with Campbell’s understanding of the hero as a source of great gifts - what Campbell calls “boons” - but the hero could also be a source of conflict, calamity, and even utter armageddon. The hero is not like us; and Tolkein suggested that the greatest tragedy of Beowulf was that he remained, in his heart of hearts - a man, which conflicted with the superhuman elements of his heroic personality.

Regardless of intention, all player characters within a roleplay are exceptional. The most average and normal characters are made exceptional by the circumstances that they find themselves in, the agency that they display, and the greatness that surrounds them. However, not every character in a roleplay is equal, in terms of their heroism, their stage of the hero’s journey, or in the results of their actions. By defining what a hero is, it is possible to come to a greater understanding about the role of the player characters within roleplay and provide strategies for GMs to enrich their narratives. More important than just understanding is the idea that heroics can be played with, leading to a monomyth that does not reach it standard conclusion. Only when the trope is understood, can the trope be truly subverted.

The Hero’s Journey is the monomyth; what narratologists believe to be at the root of all narrative. Although critics of the Hero’s Journey suggest that it is too broad to be applied usefully, they are speaking from the standpoint of comparative mythology. For the writer, the Hero’s Journey represents a useful framework for the type of epic stories told in many of the roleplays found throughout the site. Understanding the Hero must begin with an understanding of the hero’s journey, and although Campbell was not alone in defining it, all agree that the hero’s journey consists of three distinct parts; The Departure, the Initiation, and the Return. These are further broken down into subcategories that differ upon the narratologist who analyzes them.


THE DEPARTURE


Christopher Vogler, in his introduction to Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” in 2007 made an important distinction about heroic origins. The hero’s story begins in what Vogler referred to as “The Ordinary World.” The Ordinary World is the more mundane, less magical, more sheltered and more safe environment that the hero initially finds themselves in. Fable, the 2004 video game, begins in a tiny farming village for a reason. The hero starting at a farm or otherwise non-descript location, like Luke Skywalker, like Harry Potter, like Frodo, establishes the hero’s lack of knowledge about the outside world. But, it also marks them out special for a seemingly bizarre reason; the hero is a blank slate. Certainly, Luke, Harry, Frodo, and even Fable’s mute protagonist have the traces of a personality; but they have no story yet. Their personalities are just surface level, because they have yet to experience anything beyond their standard life.

In some senses, I feel as if the Departure is the most key part of the Hero’s Journey, and the one that is most neglected by roleplayers. I am guilty of it as well; writing a three to four page backstory that is almost an entirely complete Hero’s Journey even of itself. This concept will be something I address as this guide continues; how much the backstory is a constraint and crutch, rather than a tool. The problem with the backstory is that it robs the player-character of the agency of The Departure. Since the character’s Departure happens “off screen” (i.e. in their backstory), the other players do not have the opportunity to see how the character actively responds to the trauma of the Departure.

Don’t be mistaken; The Departure is a traumatic event. During this act of the Hero’s Journey, the hero is called to go on his adventure, and this is often done through a forceful separation or violation of the Ordinary World. In Fable, this manifests in the bandit raid on the simple farming village where the Hero lives. The Hero’s Ordinary World is torn asunder. Likewise, Luke Skywalker is enticed to adventure by the appearance of the droids, by Obi Wan Kenobi’s mentoring, but he nonetheless refuses this call. And that is where the second part of this trauma comes into play; The Refusal and subsequent Acceptance of the Call to Adventure. One of the great tragedies of the Hero in Campbell’s eyes is that the initial refusal of the cause results in a traumatic death or violence for those that exist around the hero. In Fable, the mute Hero’s family must die, in order for the Hero’s destiny to be fulfilled. Luke Skywalker’s farm must be destroyed, and his aunt and uncle burned to death by the Empire. Not only does this sever the hero from the world that they have grown accustomed to ; but it also provides valuable motivation for their journey.


THE INTIATION


Through the nature of roleplay, submitting a character sheet to the OOC thread is, in itself, a fulfillment of the Call to Adventure. The character’s tragic backstory, which is a trope on its own, has been written. In the second part of the journey, the character will be tested. This is called The Initiation. During this portion of the Hero’s Journey, the hero will meet his allies and enemies, will journey along a road where he will be tempted to do evil, and where he will gain powers that he did not have before. This is where Luke Skywalker learns how to use his powers, and meets up with Han Solo, Leia, and later on - Yoda. I am a strong believer that this is the point where most roleplays should begin. Afterall, when a roleplay begins, especially in group roleplays, the first few posts concern getting to know the other characters within the world, and the rules of this world. Joseph Campbell, again in The Hero with A Thousand Faces, emphasizes the importance of the character coming to understand their reality. Luke must learn the ways of the Force, and while a character in a roleplay may already know the world’s rules; the player doesn’t. Therefore, in some sense this stage of the Hero’s Journey is just as important for the player as it is for the character, if not more so.

As I said before, I’m guilty of writing full Hero’s Journeys to serve as the background for my character. But if a character’s quest - vengeance or at least, justice, for those who were claimed by the Refusal of the Call - is already completed, where can the hero go from there?
I think that it is logical for roleplays, D&D campaigns, and any form of collaborative story-telling to begin with the Initiation. The most recent event in a character’s submitted backstory, in my opinion, should be the event that gives them the most motivation to take part in the roleplay: The Refusal -and the consequences of that refusal. For a very basic example, consider the following template: The player character (henceforth refererd to as PC Hero) has been directly wronged by the evil that you, the GM, have created. This event has torn from the events of their backstory, by an upheaval enacted by the primary antagonist of the RP, either directly or indirectly. Their family is either dead, or far away, or somehow estranged from the PC Hero. The RP starts with the PC Heroes, banded together against the thing that wronged them all.
This template can be applied to many different scenarios, and does not need to be as black and white as I have stipulated in this example. The evil that the GM is in-charge of can vary. As I discussed in my Guide to Conflict; those evils can be any of the “Big 5” modes of conflict. Whether that evil is a man, nature, the supernatural, technology, or the self, the players must have a motivation to destroy it. What better way to do this, than to have the player and the character have a personal desire to resolve their PC Hero's’ Journey? If a character’s background is a complete story cycle onto itself, there is no point for that character to be part of a roleplay. As Joseph Campbell would have surely agreed, the character does not need to develop any further, as they have completed the three act structure of the Hero’s Journey. Therefore, a helpful tools for GMs and for players is to consider what stage of the Journey will most likely lead to both a satisfying arc for their character, and lead to a reason for a character to take part in the development of the story. One way to do that is through the above template. But what happens when the hero takes part in the story?

THE QUEST

As I suggested in my Guide to Conflict, roleplays are not like literature. In a RP, when a GM introduces conflict in their story, they are often releasing their control on the narrative. However, the narrative can be controlled with the introduction of the idea of “The Quest.” “The Quest” here refers to the notion of a self-directed mission that, while laid out by the GM’s ever-helpful allies - the NPCs - the characters are intrinsically motivated to take part in the quest. Likely, the reason they are motivated to do this is because of their backstory, and their “slight” by the evil that the GM has introduced into their world. But the GM must give the character’s direction through either narrative clues, or the more straight-forward model of a “Quest-giver”, otherwise it can become uncertain whether or not the characters will engage in the quest at all. Characters, without direction, will inevitably split apart and undertake their own personal directives. Even if unified by common purpose, method can vary wildly from character to character.

Thus, for the GM to gain control of the quest, the aforementioned “Quest-giver” can be helpful. The “Quest-giver” is found in Joseph Campbell’s
Hero with a Thousand Faces in the form of the “Meeting with the Mentor”. Although this is technically part of Act One of the Hero’s Journey - it is my opinion that in the context of roleplay that the “Meeting with the Mentor” should be classified as part of the “Initiation” -- and more specifically, occur within the first post of the roleplay. This is where the Gm has the opportunity to direct the characters through an NPC surrogate, and this is an opportunity that should not be squandered. Vladimir Propp, a narratologist and folklorist, defined this stage as Sphere Three of his own folkloric model - the 31 elements of a story. He called this phase the “Donor Phase”. The Donor refers to the same character as Campbell’s Mentor. This is the figure that according to Propp, that tests the Hero. Before the hero can proceed further on their journey, they must first prove themselves worthy. This initiates the “Quest” sequence within the narrative - and in roleplay. This is usually a small task that the PC Heroes must accomplish. The task is given by the Donor or some other gatekeeper - the Mentor figure - who will reward the hero. In Propp’s model, the Mentor either rewards the Heroes with some magical item, or critical information which aids the Hero on their quest.

In roleplay, the completion of this task if how the characters will not only prove themselves as PC Heroes, and begin the development that will continue through the roleplay. This is also a good time for the GM to solidify these characters as truly exceptional. As I want to continue to reinforce - the Hero’s Journey is not for everyone, and it is possible to fail this journey. Some people never are called to adventure, or continue to refuse the call. In order for the PC Heroes to truly become Heroes, they must show themselves to be truly extra-ordinary, somewhat removed from the world. The assumption if, of course, that these characters succeed at their task. Ideal tasks are ones that test not only the character’s martial skills, but also their motives, and personality. In the Lord of the Rings, I would argue tha the Secret Council of Elrond provides a valuable example. All of the others at the Council argue and squabble amongst themselves - all suspect to the will of the Ring. But Frodo asserts himself, albeit reluctantly, and he is chosen. This action shows that his purity of heart and the strength of his will are both greater than even the greatest men of his time. Following the test completed, the story may continue into the next phase of the quest: what Vogler refers to as the “Innermost Cave,” and what Campbell calls “The Road of Trials”.


TRIALS AND TRANSFORMATION

The Innermost Cave - or the The Road of Trials - are the series of events that drive the Hero closer to his goal. These events are transformative for the Hero, and as such, should be transformative for the PC Heroes as well. These events are intended to challenge, and change, the Heroes as they get closer and closer to their ultimate goal of stopping whatever Evil the GM has introduced. Campbell summarizes this stage with the following comments: “The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed — again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land.” In the context of roleplay, these momentary glimpses of “the wonderful land” are not just looks into the interworking of the world-building, but also foreshadowing and opportunities to confront the evils that the dog the PC Hero’s steps.

When the Hero approaches the “Innermost Cave”, as Vogler calls it, they have already been changed by their Journey. They have acquired magical help, and have grown more powerful than they ever were before. They are somewhat detached from the world that they once knew. As they approach the Innermost Cave, they face their greatest challenge yet - and they cross another threshold. In The Lord of the Rings, this is Frodo and Sam’s journey through Mordor - this is where the PC Heroes come close to their goal, but still must find it. Without the road to the final destination, there would be no tension - no arc. This road to the “Innermost Cave” builds tension and develops the characters of the PC Heroes. In modern gaming terminology - this could be the series of Mini-Bosses before the Boss themselves, or the final “zone” of random encounters before the Boss itself is encountered. However, what modern gaming often fails to do, and the Roleplay can do is address the most important aspect of the “Innermost Cave.”

There must be the knowledge of certain death. Unlike in video games, where a character can respawn and start over, roleplay doesn’t offer the same way out. The threat of annihilation must hang in the air. When the “Innermost Cave” confronts the PC Heroes, they are tested on the basis of their humanity. Vogel describes it as: “ To approach the innermost cave is to face death and still go on. This pause helps show the hero as still human and helps build the story tension before the high point of the story.” However - I disagree with this analysis. I believe that this moment is when the Hero proves that they are not human anymore - or shows how far from Human they have truly become. They are tested on the basis of “fearlessness”. And is there anything more natural than the Flight or Fight response? As The Order of the Stick - a webcomic that often deconstructs D&D and narrative tropes - states: a Hero that is immune to fear, and continues on their quest without fear is unnatural. Somewhere along the Road of Trials the Hero has ceased to be burdened with the same human failings that the rest of us endure. It is up to the GM of a roleplay to show the contrast from where the Hero has come from, and the Hero that their PCs are now, in order for the final test to truly sink in. Despite the risk of losing everything - the PC Heroes must continue on, and face their destiny - even with the threat of failure.

Likewise, this is also an opportunity for the GM to show what happens to failed heroes. If the PC Heroes’ fail in their initial task - they are not suited to be heroes, and that failure should be marked and responded to in a way that doesn’t coddle either the characters or the players. Yes, no GM wants their players to “lose” -- but the Hero is not a title to be taken lightly. At least, not in my personal opinion. But what if your heroes do fail? If that happens, a different sort of journey can be undertaken.


THE QUEST FAILED

The Villain's Journey is a relatively modern concept, but the overlap with the Hero’s Journey is striking. The difference between the Hero and Villain's Journey is both in how the steps of the journey look in retrospect - when a Villain is understood to be a Villain - and the choices that the Villain makes. Heroes, at their core, are reactionary. Villains, on the other hand, are proactive, and this is reflected in their journey. However, I would argue that the most crucial difference between Villain and Hero in terms of the Hero’s Journey is failure. When, in a roleplay, the crucial Path of Trials, and the Innermost Caves, the PCs fail, or make bad choices, the GM is put in a unique position : one where he can show the results of their PC Heroes’ actions, and how those actions change their overall narrative. There are several crucial points where “The Quest” can become “The Quest - Failed.”

The Figure of the Mentor, and the Mentor’s Task, can be a particularly damning moment. If the character’s refuse the task, or conduct it in a distasteful way, that can be enough to brand them as villains to the very forces that were intended to aid them later on. However, a GM can be even more tricky. Presenting the Heroes with a task that is truly loathsome or “evil” can provide an engaging moral quandary. In the Villain’s Journey, the Mentor or the Donor becomes something else entirely; The Devil on the Shoulder á la Senator Palpatine in the Star Wars prequels. If the characters perform the task as their Mentor figure outlines, even if it is evil, they have failed this stage of the journey and are more susceptible to further corruption. As well, the guilt that the PC Heroes feel after this action can be manipulated - tragedy touches the Villain, unlike the Hero who is merely followed by it. Alternatively, if they refuse to do the vile act, or subvert it in some way - they have proved themselves pure of heart and can continue along the traditional Hero’s Journey.

Regards of the means or time, there is always an inciting event which begins a character's slow descent into evil.
Within the Villain’s Journey, this event is referred to as the “First Offense.” Either prompted by a Mentor, or incited by guilt or tragedy - the Hero is still responsible for engaging in this destructive and often violent action. Consider Anakin’s slaughter of the Sand People in Episode II of Star Wars. This deed began a different sort of heroic transformation - into Darth Vader. While the Road of Trials can transform Heroes into powerful agents of good, it is possible for the Heroes to stumble, and become a dark reflection of themselves.

And, at a certain point - the Hero crosses another threshold. Rather than cross into the “Innermost Cave” the Hero-turned-Villain crosses over the “Point of No Return”. Whether or not the Villain’s crimes are punished or even known, the Villain feels no remorse for his deeds. This is the fundamental failure of the Hero, and an indication of their own lack of humanity. Whereas, the Innermost Cave stage reveals that the Hero has transcended humanity through fearlessness, the Point of No Return reveals that the Hero has lost their humanity through a lack of soul and morality. The Villain feels justified in their actions. My personal favourite example of this comes from none other than Arthas Menethil, from the Warcraft franchise. The following quote seems to summarize the mentality of the “Point of No Return” better than I ever could: “Yes, I've damned everyone and everything I've ever loved in his name, and I still feel no remorse. No shame. No pity.” He has entirely crossed over - and he has done it because of loss, because of his own failures.


THE TEMPTATION

Crucial to the Hero’s and Villain’s journey is the idea of “Temptation.” Joseph Campbell describes the idea as such; But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion: life, the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul. The seeker of the life beyond life must press beyond (the woman), surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond." Although this is a somewhat complex (and misogynistic) conceit - Campbell is suggesting that the hero cannot at any given time, give into his base desires. But, that the hero must be tempted with it, in order for them to reveal their purity. This is just another of the many tests that the Hero faces on their journey. At any time during the Road of Trials, the Innermost Cave, or even during the final confrontation, there is an element of temptation at play. A temptation to flee, or to engage in evil deeds. And if the hero gives in - they have taken their first steps on the Villain’s Journey.

The GM of a RP as a responsibility to tempt his players, because without this temptation, the hero is not truly tested. There has to be the idea that evil is appealing to people. In the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Warcraft, the respective villains of these franchises are tempted by the power of the Dark - and they fall to their temptation. They are told that they have the opportunity to make the world a better place - or that this is the only way that they will survive. These are reasonable motivations for taking the evil path, and these options must be presented to the PC Heroes as well. They must be tested, after-all, before they face their final foe.

“The Supreme Ordeal” is what Vogler calls the confrontation with the object of the Hero’s Journey - the great evil that the DM has unleashed upon the world. This is summarized by Vogler in the following way; “This is the ultimate test that the hero takes, where the real story perhaps is the inner battle whereby the hero overcomes their own demons in facing up to the enemy outside.” The battle is both internal and external, and the element of temptation is present here as well. The hero can fail here as well, and become a Villain -- this can be the Point of No Return. However, this can also be a moment of triumph for the Hero - where the final temptation is denied. Although Joseph Campbell calls this “Atonement with the Father” - the point is that this overwhelming, often patriarchal force, has been confronted and either redeemed or confronted. Luke has this moment with Darth Vader in Star Wars, where he accepts him as a father, and makes a final choice : to save him. If Luke had killed him, given into his rage, he would have become part of the Dark Side -- and that would have been the start of his Villain’s Journey.

Even when killing the greatest threat, what started the Hero on their journey to begin with - the Hero can fail and fall. A clever GM can play with their players’ motivations, and force them to truly hate the evils in their world -- only to test their morality in the final confrontation. This sort of RP is amongst the most rewarding, in my opinion. If the Hero fails, it becomes tragedy, if the Hero succeeds -- it becomes myth. The Hero achieves Apotheosis and the Final Boon. The Hero has transformed into a new state -- a superhuman one, where fear is a distant memory and they are capable of even greater feats. Although the reward can often be an external reward, the most important boon is the resistance against temptation the Hero showed, and the Hero’s inner growth and development.

THE RETURN

The final stage of the Hero’s Journey is the Return. When the Hero - or even Villain! - returns to their homeland, they are often unrecognizable at first. They have been so changed by their journies, and their magical prowess and wealth is so great, that the “conventional” world has become distant to them. Although this is rarely covered in either fiction or RP - the fate of a hero is a traumatic one. The Hero has undergone more violence, change, and temptation, than likely any other person that they know. Consider Peter Jackson’s filmed adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. When the Hobbits return to The Shire, they are almost unrecognizable from their peers in their elven cloaks. While Sam, Merry, and Pippin are able to assimilate into the world of the Shire - Frodo isn’t. He is now Frodo the Nine-Fingered with a wound on his chest that aches no matter what he attempts to do; he has been physically traumatized as a result of his transformative journey. And for this reason, he is unable to truly return. He instead goes into The West with the elves - the Undying Lands. The fate of Frodo cements that the Hero has been changed so much by his experiences that he is no longer part of the human world, and thus - must exit the narrative, so that a new narrative can begin.

The Return is where the journey, and the roleplay, must end. Although the PC Heroes have likely grown incredibly in power, and have the ability to return to the people mentioned in their backstories and make their lives better - the story must end here. There are two reasons why: the first is a practical one. The PC Heroes likely come from all over the place, and at this point, the “Fellowship” between the heroes is now broken. Following each individual PC Hero - forcing the GM to RP dozens of NPCs - can be a taxing chore. The second reason is a purely narratological one; the story has ended, and dragging it with the long back and forth of (and often slow) RP posts makes for a dull conclusion. On the other hand, the PC Heroes have worked hard to Earn Their Happy Ending, as TV Tropes puts it. A series of player written epilogues can provides the conclusion that the players deserve. The PC Heroes can return to their families, save their friends, mourn their kinsmen - whatever needs to be done. But there should always be the element of trauma under the surface - the idea that the hero has been utterly changed. But what if they changed for the worse?

For a villain - the Hero’s Journey doesn’t end with “The Point of No Return”. The Villain-Hero has gone through a point of transformation, and now - they have their own journey to take part in, with its own trials. In some ways, a PC Hero that fails is an ideal way for a GM to continue the story that they have developed. New characters can take place of the old - or the PC Heroes can change their directive towards their old friend. The PC Hero-Villain can escape - and the RP can continue in a sequel, where new heroes must fight the last vestiges of the old Fellowship which has turned rotten and corrupted. The journey doesn't end, when a hero fails. It begins again, cyclically. There must always be a hero - just as there must always be a villain.


THE JOURNEY ENDS

Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” received international acclaim, and has influenced countless writers and artists, not to mention narratologists and mythologists. Nonetheless, the work has received its share of criticism as well, including from such fantasy titans as Neil Gaiman. Of course, the belief that there is a monomyth itself leads to its share of problems. Gaiman’s criticism of the text reads as follows; “I think I got about half way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true—I don't want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it's true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is.” However, this comment betrays the importance of knowing the intricacies of the Journey. Without knowledge of the common tropes, an author cannot possibly hope to subvert them, or play with them in any meaningful way. It is my opinion that “Hero with a Thousand Faces” and the Hero’s Journey, provide an invaluable tool-box for the player and GM alike, in order to structure and develop their RPs and stories.

I suspect that there will be the inevitable cry from some players that by suggesting GMs use the Hero’s Journey I am somehow responsible for “railroading them” to a specific narrative mode. I would like to stress what I have touched on throughout this guide: player’s choices matter. The PC Hero can entirely change their narrative, depending on whether they give into temptation, are swayed by the Dark, or cross the Point of No Return. The player remains in charge of the fate of the PC Hero, regardless of whether or not the GM imposes the structure of the Journey upon their roleplay. And, I believe that through understanding the intricacies of the The Journey, a player can explore the psychology and development of their characters that they may not have been capable of before. Afterall, it is the journey that matters, not the destination.
 
R

Ravenfrost

Guest
Good job, Sir Basil-fur, thank you!

I couldn't help having my mind turn to the Dorsai! books as I read the above (Necromancer / Tactics of Mistake / Dorsai! / Soldier, Ask Not). This was not a perfect sequence of books; the last book - Soldier - didn't click for me, the writing might be considered old-fashioned, and certainly doesn't need genius intellect to read --but it was fun. My favorites are (in this order) Tactics of Mistake, Dorsai! and Necromancer (circa 1962). And I think some auxilliary stories were written as well.

In the 4-book compendium, Necromancer kicks it off - with a hero in the middle of his journey. A man regains consciousness after almost drowning. Or perhaps (as he thinks) he really did die and was brought back to life. He continues through a series of adventures, of discovery, of choices of great significance, impacting others. Only to find who he is really is - and that is not metaphorical or a spiritual journey.

The hero tells a would-be mentor: "It's not possible to change the future except by changing the present. And it is not possible to change the present except to return to the past and change that. "

"Return? Change? Who could do that?" the other man asks, bewildered.

"Perhaps," the hero replies, "someone with intuition. . . . . A man, say, who has conscious intuitive process and immediately realizes all the end possibilities of an action the moment he considers it."

But we don't know the whole story - the beginning of the journey or the end or his real identity, but still the device worked (for me), to have it start in the middle like that. Two out of three is not so bad.

This was my first time using a spoiler. Yay!
 
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Sir Basil

☩ death knight ☩
Original poster
Roleplay Invitations
Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
One Post a Day, A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Primarily Prefer Male
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Aggressive.
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, GrimDark, ModFan, Horror, Historical, D&D, Lovecraft
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The hero tells a would-be mentor: "It's not possible to change the future except by changing the present. And it is not possible to change the present except to return to the past and change that. "

"Return? Change? Who could do that?" the other man asks, bewildered.

"Perhaps," the hero replies, "someone with intuition. . . . . A man, say, who has conscious intuitive process and immediately realizes all the end possibilities of an action the moment he considers it."
I love this example so much. I think this is a perfect example of the Hero vs. Mentor and/or Monster wisdom duel - something you see a lot in Medieval Literature, especially from Medieval Scandinavia. The Mentor represents the status-quo, the old way - and humanity itself - and the Hero represents something on the periphery: something super human.

I love the hero's comment here: "{...} who has conscious intuitive process and immediately realizes all the end possibilities of an action the moment he considers it." This really reminds me of both Dune, and the traditional idea of Heroic Fate / Heroic luck... the Hero already knows what's going to happen to him. The Hero is somewhat meta-narratively aware of the Hero's Journey and knows that he is going to fight, win, and eventually, die. I find the idea of the self-aware hero absolutely fascinating, and this is a wonderful example of that. Thanks for mentioning it!
 
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Ravenfrost

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Aye, Dune will alway be with me, I reckon. I read that book so many times! (I was very excited when I got to view the movie, though I wish I could have seen it in a movie theatre! That must have been so much better.) The lead actor was a little bit off for me - just visually jarring - but it was fun! I read a few of the other books in the series, though not too many as it started pulling away (just IMHO), from the vision it gave me with the first two books.

(The hero of Dune reminds me a lot of the hero of the Dorsai series.)

This is a terrible thing to post publicly, but really - pride is overrated, right? So here goes: Sometimes when I'm chatting with a guy that I think might be somewhat compatico, I murmur very quietly "Tell me of your homeworld, Usul."

No one has EVER known what the *blankety-blank* I am referring to. Isn't that sad? They usually jump a little and go "what!?!" in a rather panicked manner. (::snickers::) Then I smooth it over in my smoothy way. But geez....you'd think someone would get the reference at least once!
 

Sir Basil

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I like how you used Berserk images for this.
I think that Berserk is very aware of the Hero's Journey, and thus, is able to make a character (GRIFFITH) that perfectly twists it and plays with the very notion of a hero.
 
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Greenie

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This is a terrible thing to post publicly, but really - pride is overrated, right? So here goes: Sometimes when I'm chatting with a guy that I think might be somewhat compatico, I murmur very quietly "Tell me of your homeworld, Usul."
Had to rainbow you for this ^_^'
 
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Greenie

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I understand... In this case, rainbow definitely = "fweak". No ambiguity! But I am not ashamed!

::waves freak flag with gusto::
No way! XD I just found it great that someone would use that quote. I'm a bit of a Dune fan myself so I was rather amused.
 
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Kestrel

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While I really appreciate the formatting and berserk pictures, my main question is... What specific reasons does a roleplayer have to use the hero's journey, for what purpose and how do they go about it?

Like, you technically cover this in part, but it feels so fragmented and oddly paced, the only reason I would feel this article would be of help would be if the reader was already interested in applying the hero's journey. Which might have been your intended audience, I don't know, but regardless of my own familiarity with the device, I find it a bit inaccessible and I think that has a lot to do with the structure of your article. Like. You have the discussion of your research in your intro. You allude to missing out on showing and interacting the departure being a bad thing, but then argue in favour of starting a game in medias res. There's a lot of stuff like this that makes it feel like you did not plan this piece out.

I don't know if you're waiting for this kinda criticism to begin with, but it is something that I struggle with when trying to understand what messages you're trying to get across.
 
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Sir Basil

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While I really appreciate the formatting and berserk pictures, my main question is... What specific reasons does a roleplayer have to use the hero's journey, for what purpose and how do they go about it?
The central idea for this guide is that the Hero's Journey provides a valuable tool for pacing roleplay development, and character development.

It can be a useful tool for writers struggling to decide what to do with their characters , and when to do it with their characters. As you mentioned, I suggest that characters have the Hero's Journey (up to a certain point) incorporated in their backstory. This is intended to provide some motivation and structure to the character's position within the story.

Also, I think there might be some confusion; my arguement is that the character's backstory ends with the Departure - the traumatic event that sends them on their path - and that the game itself begins with the Initiation.

The Hero's Journey can also be useful for GMs. It gives them an idea about which characters to introduce and when - like the Donor figure, which I briefly touch on. I also suggest that a GM should create certain moods for their PC heroes dependent on what stage that they are in Journey - such as the Innermost Cave stage, where I argue that there has to be a knowledge of certain death.

Likewise, a piece of advice I give to both PCs and GMs is to reinforce that being a hero is ultimately traumatic. Both the GM and the PCs have to work together to create that mood, but it's an important theme to address in my personal opinion. Although many RPs don't ber reach that point and for many RPs the idea of including this aspect of trauma is irrelevant ; I personally believe it's an overlooked aspect of many characters in RP. Afterall, RP changes characters-- otherwise it wouldn't be a very good story!

The journey can provide a valuable structure for both GMs and players to deepen their character's and plot arcs. I believe that understanding it is helpful for anyone who wants to write a story ; and I think that includes RP. Obviously , it's not for everyone , but this is the point that I'm trying to get across. I offer examples for how it could be incorporated or interpreted, but ultimately, I believe it is it a hard and fast rule ; just a loose resource that may be helpful for blossoming writers.

Hopefully that clears up your concerns , and removes any confusion ! Thanks for reading . ;)
 
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RiverNotch

Sanguine Bile, Troll and Boy
It's been a long time since I read Joseph Campbell. I loved his book, and his theory has influenced the way I compose and take in works of art ever since. I'm probably way less of an expert than you, but I hope this response helps expand upon the ideas you've thoroughly introduced. That said, to everyone reading this thread, I really suggest you read the book as well, especially since Campbell's style is very easy to read, and the way he elaborates on his theories with examples (that is, with summaries) is both enjoyable and informative.

The following was written in the middle of the night alongside my reading of the article, so it goes sort of like a section-by-section of the original article, and is probably rife with miswrites, particularly with to whom I refer to when I use "you". Of course, this doesn't excuse this from any critiques and such, especially since, as I have noted, it really has been a long time since....there's probably more opinion on his work here than hard detail. I'll try and edit this to a more cohesive whole later in the day, but for now, my itchy heart demands I post, I loved (and love) the book that much.

"From Campbell’s definition, we can see that the hero is an exceptional individual, who has gained powers from the magical journey that they have taken part in." -- I think that sort of limits what Campbell really said. The hero is most certainly an exceptional individual, but his treatment of the monomyth seemed to me deliberately vague -- the scope of that exceptionalness or those powers or that magic could be as small as an everyday Jew receiving some midlife insight in early 20th century Dublin. Though most of his examples were of the supernatural sort, I think he relied on those only because they're more accessible, more vivid and on-the-nose than any modernist epic. Thus why the monomyth isn't particularly useful to in-depth criticism, although particularly useful as a basis or an introduction.

Of course, your discussion doesn't affirm that the hero is purely supernatural, but there doesn't seem to be an affirmation to the contrary, either. To be useful, consider instead the hero as a person with human characteristics to overcome, from the more broad man-god overcoming the human characteristic death, to the demigod overcoming the human characteristic wrath, to the king overcoming the human characteristic pride, etc. And these human characteristics, mind you, don't have to be psychological, as is the case of the hero Oedipus defeating the Sphinx -- there, the Sphinx is the human characteristic, the inhuman being that represents the old human social order -- or in the case of Commander Shepard convincing an ignorant galaxy of the threat of the reapers.

Another important note is that even Campbell recognizes there are exceptions to his rule (though rather than framing them as exceptions, he frames them as variations). Let's start with the departure. I don't think a hero has to be a blank slate every time he undertakes the hero's journey. There is a sense that the hero's journey can also correspond not only to the hero's whole lifespan, but also to individual obstacles the hero has to face, albeit obstacles much bigger than the single monster or the single dungeon.

I think a fair enough illustration of this is the Bible. The Bible, taken as a whole, is the story of God saving man. The departure is the fall -- the initiation is the Exodus -- the nadir is the death of Christ, and the apotheosis is his resurrection -- and the return is the apocalypse. At the same time, it's composed of two individual cycles, each corresponding to the central story of its constituent testaments: Christ is introduced via conception, initiated via baptism, etc; Israel departs via the fall, saved via the passover, etc. At the same time, it's composed of many individual cycles, each corresponding to a character in the text. And, for some really complex characters like Moses or David or the Christ, they have to pass through multiple hero's journeys, each to overcome a different obstacle; there was David the shepherd boy overcoming his powerlessness, David the runaway prince overcoming the corrupted order of King Saul, David the king overcoming his lust for Bathsheba, etc.

Another note on the Departure is that it isn't always traumatic; some hero's journeys start with a whimper. Again, the rule for this lovely mess of a system is its exceptions; Phaethon didn't have to lose his family just to find his father. The rule is less trauma, more change; even as Phaethon only had to be teased by his friends to leave, he still had to pass from the dull world of men to the divine world of his father Apollo.

Yet another note is that it isn't always followed, period; some stories really do make it a point that the hero simply doesn't follow the call to adventure. Of course, though that sort of deviation is if I remember right discussed in Campbell, it's effectively a dead end, so consider it only when you seek to "subvert" the structure (and a story about a mundane person constantly avoiding the call of the supernatural would be pretty interesting, I think).

Though less a note on the text and more a note on your critique, I don't think it's particularly good for a roleplay, really for a story, to start right off the bat with initiation (unless it's all in medias res and shit). Another thing about the hero's journey is it's a journey -- the hero has to pass from world of the mundane, to the world of the really weird, and back to the world of the mundane again. There are two worlds, and though some hero's journeys end with the hero staying in the world of the really weird (although that is, as I have noted, a dead end), all the stakes really belong to the world of the mundane (whether it be a literal world, such as movie-Frodo's Shire, or a psychological world, such as Stardust-Tristram's idea of true love) -- and really, following one of writing's cardinal rules, it's better to show than to tell. That's why the Lord of the Rings starts in the Shire, or the Odyssey, though ostensibly about Odysseus, bothers to tell Telemachus's search for his father as well.

The real kick is making that departure interactive. I suppose when I mean "to start", what I really mean is "to show" -- it probably is best for a roleplay to start in medias res, but you have to dedicate a good amount of time showing, either through flashbacks or really vivid storytelling sessions (the second being a device Tolkien used to really great effect), a world without adventure as well. Use the backstory only as a guide -- your character's refridgerator wife is as much a part of the adventure as the evil villain whodunit.

Usually, I think, the departure is only skipped if the hero is already well-established, or if the hero is some sort of god. So if you're using a character who's already participated in a previous roleplay, or if your only concern in a roleplay is the accumulation of power, then feel free to skip this section. In fact, one of the things about Campbell's structure is that you could very easily skip steps without destroying the whole thing. The return could be as breezy as movie-Frodo's return to the Shire (or it could be as "oh my goodness, how we have changed!" as book-Frodo's return to Sharky's Shire); the mentor could plainly not exist (say, the character's already pretty handy on his own); the trials could be skipped straight for the confrontation with the father. As long as there is some sort of transformation and some sort of switch between a mundane and a supernatural world, you've still completed the hero's journey.

An interesting variation on the meeting with the mentor you seem to endorse here is the meeting with the goddess, which is somehow more enigmatic. If the mentor acts as a teacher-figure, essentially the goddess acts more as a lover-sibling figure, like Galadriel meeting Frodo. One could fuse them, of course, and in fact a lot of stories do do that, but usually the goddess is truly met after the hero has undergone some trials, as per say Frodo entering Lorien only after Khazad-Dum.

And then there's the flipside to that, meeting the temptress. In fact, another interesting thing about Campbell, though one I don't think we really need to discuss, is its seeming emphasis on dichotomies. There's a guide, afterwards there's trials. There's the goddess, afterwards there's the temptress. There's the father, afterwards there's the troll. In fact, if you haven't noticed already, the whole concept hinges on two dichotomies: the spatial dichotomy between the world above and the world below, and the temporal dichotomy between the human element before and the godlike element after.

I disagree with your disagreement that a hero ultimately proves to be inhuman when passing through the valley of the shadow of death, if only because it seems fundamentally....misleading. If history has shown us anything, it's that it's most human (or at least most animal-like, which in this sense we are) to face death and have even the tiniest inkling of strength to go on. And yet at the same time Campbell does fuse the whole idea of a descent into and ascent from the underworld into one chapter, "Apotheosis", so really, what I disagree with is the false dichotomy you, I, and Vogel seem to introduce. The culmination of the quest, the apotheosis, is the point of temporal transition from the hero before to the hero after -- thus, it's ultimately a Mysterious affair, where the hero is alternately both Human and Inhuman. And that's where the tension comes from -- to which side will the hero ultimately err? Was Jesus purely man after all, or will he come back from the dead? Will Frodo cast the ring into the fire, as Isildur failed to do before him? Will Luke have it in him to kill his own father, or will he go the superhuman way and transform something that seems to be irrevocably lost?

I honestly have no idea what the Villain's Journey is, but since one of the things Campbell discusses is the destruction of the old order for the sake of the new, I don't think there should be any real difference at all. Some villains are definitely "failed" heroes, but others -- say, Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now -- did succeed, it's just that the value system in which they succeeded is fundamentally different to that of the new hero's story. Colonel Kurtz succeeded in paving a way to victory Vietnam, but the new order, less interested in victory and more in "virtue", now sees his methods as cruel, as barbaric, and so sends in Captain Willard, the story's hero, to destroy him. The villain just happens to be the agent, whether in the trials or throughout the quest itself, in the way of the heroes; whether they are truly good or evil is up to the players and the society which reads their stories.

I don't think it's fair to note how misogynistic the concept of the temptress is, either, since it seems to note that this is original to Campbell's idea. Much of what Campbell did was observe and collate, and if the concept of the temptress is misogynistic, that's only because most stories seem to be focused on man-heroes, or the languages in which they are told are fundamentally gendered.

Temptation also doesn't need to come from evil. In the Incal, John Difool's temptation was always to just give up the quest, get a bottle of Vhisky, and enjoy the rest of his days on some beach planet full of Homeo-Whores -- and Han Solo never seemed to be particularly dedicated to the rebellion, in the first half of the original trilogy, fighting only for money and such. I think there's a reason why Campbell doesn't lump Temptation in with the Apotheosis, or even put it afterwards.

Another thing he doesn't really lump with the Apotheosis is the other sorts of quest=win. Really, the hero overcoming death isn't the same as the hero finding his father, or the hero meeting his soulmate, or the hero finding the cure to his native country's sickness -- at the same time, it sort of is, but I think in a more impressionistic sense, in a more "oh they're win-states!" sense than an actual framework. Keep that in mind -- as alternatives, there's the meeting with the goddess, the atonement with the father (although that is mentioned in the piece), and the ultimate boon. Or rather, as additions, because a lot of stories do fuse those elements together.

The fate of the hero is "traumatic", but only in the sense of great change -- it doesn't have to show the same level of trauma as Frodo or your standard war veteran. Again, though Frodo couldn't really return, Sam, Merry, and Pip did -- in fact, a closer reading suggests that it was really Sam who underwent the complete hero's journey, starting out as the lower class batman to Frodo, then growing to become Sam the slayer of Shelob, Sam the savior of Frodo, Sam the wooer of Rosie, etc. It doesn't make it any less engaging (or any more "edgy" or "deep") if you don't end your story with a whimper, as long as the hero changed.

And just as the hero can refuse to depart, so too can he refuse to return. It is in a way mentioned here, but not really as straightforwardly as Campbell seemed to put it -- I think when he details that in the corresponding chapter, he acknowledges that not merely as a dead end, but as a legitimate form of the return. The clearest example of this is in Star Wars: neither Luke nor Anakin ever return to Tattooine. The character can decide to turn the supernatural world into his new mundane, and that is just as complete a variation on the hero's journey as actually returning to the original mundane world.

Ultimately, yes, the hero's journey is a fun toolbox, either as a framework for a proper romp, or an anti-framework for something Godot or Tristram Shandy like. Note that Lucas claims to have used the Hero's Journey in structuring Star Wars -- and though such claims of his tend to be conflicting and dubious, at the very least it comes through a lot in the original film (with the Belly of the Beast being the Death Star, and the quest focusing on a sort of Apotheosis into Jedihood) and the original trilogy (with the Belly of the Beast being Bespin, and the quest focusing on the Atonement of Anakin Skywalker). And the hero's journey really shouldn't lead to any sort of railroading, if the player's actually interested in setting out the story in the first place -- it's universal enough that any decision eventually leads to some form of it happening anyway.
 
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RiverNotch

Sanguine Bile, Troll and Boy
*addendum, and also as partial address to the recent q&a:
Actually, come to think of it, the Hero's Journey is sort of a shit concept to work with while either writing or critiquing. That's not to say it's a bad idea, but if you use it practically, you'll end up using its concepts either vaguely, if you strive to do something original, or inevitably, if you're going for a classic romp. It's that universal ---- however, it's that same universality that I think informs its real use, which is a way of thinking, or rather a way of feeling, or rather a way of intuiting. Knowing and understanding the concept, especially in detail, sort of changes your point of view on the way stories work, clarifying other bits of knowledge you already felt to be true, and thus better guiding your hand when you're the storyteller, or your eyes when you're the storytrasher (lol), and in a way that I can't really explain. Thus, I think this is a case where it really would be better to just read the book, especially since the book is a fun and easy enough read as it is.
 
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Sir Basil

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Thus, I think this is a case where it really would be better to just read the book, especially since the book is a fun and easy enough read as it is.
Unfortunately , I don't have time to address al of your points at the moment (about to leave !!) but I do want to say that I fundamentally agree with you in a lot of them.

But, again, the purpose of this guide was to adapt the Hero's Journey for RP, and take some useful ideas from Campbell and apply them to the RP model. Obviously, there's differences and discrepancies between both myth, literature, and roleplay that lead to stages and modes being different between all three of them. It may be the universal story -- but it wears a 1000 faces. :p

I would LOVE if everybody read Hero with a Thousand Faces, but ultimately I am just attempting to provide a useful introduction for RPers. I hope that after reading this, people do their own research and consider different aspects of the Hero's Journey. I hope that people have the chance to explore Campbell's many ideas in depth, and adapt them to their RP as they see fit. I'm only offering one perspective, and as I said to @Kestrel , I cover the aforementioned ideas.

As for the Villain's Journey -- it's something that modern literature scholars are working with. Personally speaking, I believe it's fundamentally the same as the Hero's journey -- just with a very different "attitude" , which I touch on when I describe it. However, I thought it would be useful to include nonetheless.

Ultra motel to, this guide isn't meant to be proscriptive , so much as it is meant to offer an option for structuring RP and RP character development. I personally find the Hero's Journey very useful in my own RPs and I am hopeful that this is a fraction as useful to other folks.

Thanks for reading, and your comments !
 
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Francis

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Basil, I admire your effort to adapt the Hero's Journey for RPs and I think it really can be a handy reference and tool for group roleplays, especially when there is a mission at the core of the rp and the characters band up to accomplish it.

Hero with a Thousand Faces definitely provides a useful framework for a story structure that resonates well with broad audiences (and so, hopefully, also with a lot of roleplayers). It's a typical structure that works well over and over again, and also provides enough flexibility to the author to "bend the rules" and still arrive to an emotionally satisfying story so long as the main elements remain in place.

There's quite a beautiful example of a story that bends the rules and yet still works within the broad framework: Dracula, The Legend Takes New Life.
The Departure is shown in flashbacks from Vlad's life as a mortal prince, with the Call to Adventure introduced in the scene of his resurrection by van Helsing. As he goes through the Initiation and hunts down his enemies, he at times yields to temptation whether it's personalized by Mina or Lady Jayne. In the name of his revenge, he does things which may be considered morally questionable and yet always appeares more human than his adversaries. He succeeds in his quest and destroys his enemies, and he is definitely transformed through his trials. But he doesn't lose a tinge of his human nature, in fact, he regains plenty of it. At the stage of Return, he returns to himself, to his old essence, and dares to love anew. The three arch story structure is still in place, the transformative journey is undertaken, the quest pursued and mission fulfilled. At the same time, Vlad is flawed as a hero, his pursuits are not always those of a "pure soul" and his struggles are of a very "human" nature. And in the end, the ultimate boon is not so much the doom of his old enemies, the very reason why he set out on his "hero's journey" in the first place, but the fact that he's won Mina's love and healed wounds within himself that he thought unhealable.

The structure and some of the archetypes are obviously at work in this TV series, while the writer didn't hesitate to alter them where it benefited the story. As you said in your guide, "Through understanding the intricacies of the The Journey, a player can explore the psychology and development of their characters that they may not have been capable of before." Whether or not someone uses the framework is indeed their choice. However, it only is a choice once a person is aware that the framework exists in the first place. You've introduced it succintly in your guide and thus gave many people a tool which they might not have had before. Well done!

Would you perchance have a link handy to your Guide to Grimdark? I'd love to read your thoughts about the genre we both love.
 
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Sir Basil

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Hero with a Thousand Faces definitely provides a useful framework for a story structure that resonates well with broad audiences (and so, hopefully, also with a lot of roleplayers). It's a typical structure that works well over and over again, and also provides enough flexibility to the author to "bend the rules" and still arrive to an emotionally satisfying story so long as the main elements remain in place.

[...]

There's quite a beautiful example of a story that bends the rules and yet still works within the broad framework: Dracula, The Legend Takes New Life.

[...]

The structure and some of the archetypes are obviously at work in this TV series, while the writer didn't hesitate to alter them where it benefited the story. As you said in your guide, "Through understanding the intricacies of the The Journey, a player can explore the psychology and development of their characters that they may not have been capable of before." Whether or not someone uses the framework is indeed their choice. However, it only is a choice once a person is aware that the framework exists in the first place. You've introduced it succintly in your guide and thus gave many people a tool which they might not have had before. Well done!

Would you perchance have a link handy to your Guide to Grimdark? I'd love to read your thoughts about the genre we both love.[/JUSTIFY]
I'm so glad that you found this guide useful ! I absolutely agree with you - the Hero's Journey has to be learned and understood before you can actually break the rules, or twist them to your diabolical purposes.

I love your example from Dracula - I think it's perfect for talking about the moral consequences of the Journey and the distance between humanity and inhumanity that gets created over the course of the plot.

Here's a link to my Guide to Grimdark ! The coding for it is a little nasty , but hopefully the content still holds up !LESSON - A Guide to Grimdark
 
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Francis

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Thanks for the link! I wanted to go to bed but could not before I read your thoughts on grimdark. It's another excellent guide, indeed.

I'm glad you liked the example from Dracula. When it comes to the moral consequences of the Journey in this case, I love that Vlad who on account of his vampire nature could be considered a monster generally has more humanity in him than his mortal adversaries, and definitely is a better man than Van Helsing.
There were some very good twists to the classic tale in this TV series, too bad that they did not make Season 2.
 
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RiverNotch

Sanguine Bile, Troll and Boy
Relevant, and also funny. Currently marathoning classic Bioware, latest down (Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic) -- all good, and solid proof that working with the same archetypes over and over doesn't mean a reduction in quality (although it can get tiring -- which is why I'd recommend reading, say, Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, because it's archetypal criticism with variety, xD)

 
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Sir Basil

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Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
One Post a Day, A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Primarily Prefer Male
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Aggressive.
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, GrimDark, ModFan, Horror, Historical, D&D, Lovecraft
Genre You DON'T Like
Romance, Highschool, Yaoi, Yuri, Anything Anime / Manga based
Relevant, and also funny. Currently marathoning classic Bioware, latest down (Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic) -- all good, and solid proof that working with the same archetypes over and over doesn't mean a reduction in quality (although it can get tiring -- which is why I'd recommend reading, say, Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, because it's archetypal criticism with variety, xD)
Bioware games hold a special place in my heart, especially Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age. :)
 
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Aenthor

Guest
Great guide!

I have actually read Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" a few months ago and found it not only a truly fascinating read, but also a very inspiring guide of sorts. Not only for the Heroes Journey, but the aspect of the Monomyth which actually got me into reading old Saga Literature from various cultures.

Can only recommend it for anyone, who wishes to explore the nature of stories from various cultures further.
 
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