Archetype of the Week: The Noble Savage

Category: Archetype of the Week
Created on Thursday, 24 June 2010 Written by Steve

The noble savage is a character from a primitive culture who is uncorrupted by the prejudices and quirks of "civilized" society. As a result, the noble savage is seen as embodying a high level of spiritual enlightenment despite his barbaric nature. His simple, straightforward way of looking at the world allows him to point out the irrationality of many of modern society's most treasured rituals and beliefs. 
A variation on the noble savage theme is the "Magical Negro" archetype, which includes characters like Uncle Remus, Bagger Vance, and numerous Morgan Freeman characters. Although the Magical Negro is generally less overtly primitive than the noble savage, the core concept of a character who is wise despite his otherness is very similar.

Likely Stories
The noble savage most commonly appears in historical and fantasy stories, westerns, and science fiction stories featuring alien races.

The Name Game
The noble savage's name will reflect his culture. In most cases, this means that the character's name is either a completely nonsensical, alien-sounding collection of syllables or a translation of the meaning of the character's real name. These translations often describe the character in some way, often by evoking animals or natural phenomena.

The Numbers
Because noble savage typically live much harder lives than other characters, they tend to have above-average Body Numbers. Brain and Nerve can fall anywhere in the usual range, but language barriers, cultural differences, and the character's unfamiliarity with mainstream society often cause the character to experience difficulties interacting with other people and can make him seem simple or dull. The easiest way to handle these societal differences it to require the character to take an appropriate Weakness or assign penalties to rolls involving modern society.

Suggested Jobs:
Aborigine, Amazon, Archer, Barbarian, Berserker, Brave, Bushman, Cannibal, Chauffeur, Chief, Gaul, Gladiator, Guide, Harpooner, Hun, Hunter, Indian, Manservant, Medicine Man, Mountain Man, Nomad, Pict, Pilot, Pirate, Porter, Raider, Sailor, Sasquatch, Savage, Scout, Shaman, Sherpa, Sidekick, Slave, Sorcerer, Talking Gorilla, Tribesman, Vandal, Viking, Warrior, Wildman, Witch Doctor, Wookie

Suggested Gimmicks:
At One With Nature, Battle Frenzy, Born In The Saddle, Danger Sense, Fearless, Forest Ninja, Hard To Kill, Horse Whisperer, Keen Senses, Lightning Reflexes, Lord of the Apes, Mighty Thews, Powerful Kung Fu, Survivor, Tough As Leather, Unerring Direction Sense

Suggested Weaknesses:
Alcoholic, Battle Scars, Big and Dumb, Code of Honor, Savage, Social Stigma, Sticks Out Like A Sore Thumb, Stranger In A Strange Land, Superstitious, Underestimated, Uneducated

Suggested Skills:
Ambush, Animal Lore, Archery, Axe, Climbing, Contacts, Dancing, Dodge, Drinking, Fishing, Foraging, Healing, Herbalism, Horseback Riding, Hunting, Intimidation, Martial Arts, Mythology, Sailing, Spear, Stealth, Swordsmanship, Tracking, Wilderness Survival, Wrestling

Andre The Giant, Halle Berry, Moon Bloodgood, Don Cheadle, Wilt Chamberlain, Rae Dawn Chong, Iron Eyes Cody, Sybil Danning, Rosario Dawson, Johnny Depp, Michael Dorn, Graham Greene, Rutger Hauer, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Grace Jones, Vinnie Jones, Val Kilmer, Keira Knightley, Sonny Landham, Lucy Lawless, Bruce Lee,  Jet Li, Mako, Russell Means, Mr. T, Miles O'Keeffe, Lou Diamond Phillips, Tonya Roberts, Mickey Roarke, Arnold Schwartzeneggar, Jay Silverheels, Stellan Skarsgard, Ringo Starr, Wes Studi, Gina Torres, Danny Trejo, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Johnny Weissmuller

Tag Line:
"He is very fortunate to have such a woman looking after his weapon."--The Groosalugg, Angel

Tools of the Trade:
The noble savage's most important possession will probably his weapon, though medicine men and other magic users will also carry an assortment of holy or mystical items.

Where You'll Find Him:
With his tribe. If for some reason the noble savage has been separated from his tribe, he can usually be found alone in the wilderness. If for some reason he finds himself in a city, he will typically stay close to whoever brought him there, at least initially.

Social Circle:
His tribe. If the character has lost his tribe, he will most likely spend his time with a small circle of companions who have gained his trust.

Sample Character
George of the Jungle
Brain: 8
Nerve: 12
Job: Ape Man (12)
Gimmick: Animal Allies (13)
Weakness: Watch Out For That Tree! (13)
Skills: Vine Swinging +3; Feats of Strength +2; Climbing +1
WWPHITM? Brendan Frasier
Dumb Fact: Has an ape friend named Ape.
Tag Line: "Sometime George smash into tree.'
YY: 3

Inspirational Materials
Books & Comics
Conan series by Robert E. Howard
DragonLance series by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hikckman (Goldmoon, Riverwind, the Kagonesti)
The Epic of Gilgamesh (Enkidu)
Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Queequeg)
Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Movies & TV
Angel (The Grooosalugg)
Avatar (The Na'vi)
Brotherhood of the Wolf (Mani)
Dances With Wolves (the entire Lakota tribe)
King Arthur (2004) (the Woads)
The Lone Ranger (Tonto)
Star Trek (Klingons)
Star Wars (Chewbacca)
Superfriends (Apache Chief)

©2012 by Hex Games
Archetype of the Week: The Noble Savage.
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