Archetype of the Week: The Mentor

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The mentor is a character, usually older or more experienced than other members of the group, who uses his experience to prepare the younger heroes for their ultimate mission or destiny. In addition to acting as an adviser and sometimes teacher, the mentor often acts as the conscience and voice of reason for the group. It is traditional for the mentor to die (or at least retire) once he has taught the younger heroes everything they need to know, but this is not strictly necessary in an RPG setting.

Likely Stories
The mentor is one of Campbell’s classic archetypes, and appears in some form in most stories, regardless of setting or genre.

The Name Game
Because mentors are usually older than the other characters in the group, they are likely to have “old people” names. They may also have titles to reflect their age and wisdom. Since mentors often hide their true identity from their charges, they may also have a secret (and often famous) name that isn’t revealed until late in the game.

The Numbers
Mentors need good Brain Numbers to reflect their wisdom and experience. A high Nerve Number is also typical, since mentors tend to be cool-headed and confident in their abilities. Because mentors are usually old, they are unlikely to have extremely high Body Numbers.

Suggested Jobs:
Bouncer, Drill Sergeant, Eccentric, Fortune Teller, Gentleman Adventurer, Gunslinger, Guru, Karate Instructor, Knight, Jedi Warrior, Manservant, Monster Hunter, Mystic, Police Chief, Priest, Professor, Retired Cop, Shaman, Squad Leader, Swordsman, Watcher, Wizard

Suggested Gimmicks:
Always One Step Ahead, Citizen of the World, Friends In High Places, Godlike Powers, Good Judge of Character, Grizzled Veteran, King of the Road, Knows Everybody, Lifetime of Experience, Powerful Kung-Fu, Reputation, Second Sight, Seen It All

Suggested Weaknesses:
Absent Minded, Alcoholic, Compulsion (Speaks in Riddles), Delusional, Doomed, Enemies, Getting Too Old For This Shit, Lecherous, Post Traumatic Stress, Red Tape, Technophobe, Victim of the Past, War Wound

Suggested Skills:
Alchemy, Bad Jokes, Brawling, Brewing, Classical Music, Chess, Disguise, Fishing, Gambling, Gardening, History, Leadership, Magic Tricks, Martial Arts, Military History, Philosophy, Pianist, Politics, Religion, Riddles, Sailing, Tactics, Topiary, Woodworking

Joan Allen, John Amos, Kathy Bates, Michael Cain, Cab Calloway, Helena Bonham Carter, Linda Carter, Jackie Chan, Sean Connery, Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, James Garner, Ron Glass, Pam Grier, Sir Alec Guinness, Gene Hackman, Anthony Stewart Head, Richard Jenkins, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Keaton, Cloris Leachman, Ian McKellan, Pat Morita, Willie Nelson, Michael Parks, Keith Richards, Susan Sarandon, John Schneider, Wes Studi, Donald Sutherland, Lilly Thomlin, Robert Vaughn, Christopher Walken, John Wayne, Betty White, Nicol Williamson, Henry Winkler, Jonathan Winters, Chow Yun Fat

Tag Line:
“Do, or do not. There is no try.”–Yoda

Tools of the Trade
Varies according to the mentor’s profession, but most will have a lifetime’s worth of trinkets as well as a few very powerful or useful pieces of equipment.

Where You’ll Find Him
In all likelihood, the mentor has done his fair share of saving the world and is now ready to take it easy, so you’ll probably find him engaging in hobbies like gardening, fishing, or playing the slots.

Social Circle
Because of his advanced age, there’s a good chance that most of his old friends are dead or too senile to remember him. While some mentors have families who they keep in touch with, most mentors’ only friends are the young heroes who they’re training (ie, the other PCs).

Sample Character
Rupert Giles
Brain: 15
Job: Watcher (14)
Gimmick: Master of Research (13)
Weakness: Habitually Unconscious (13)
Skills: Singing +3; Black Magic +2; Classic Rock Trivia +1;
WWPHITM? Anthony Stewart Head
Dumb Fact: Hooked on the soap opera Passions
Tag Line: “Demons after money. Whatever happened to the still beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore.”
HP: 14
YY: 3

Inspirational Materials
Books & Comics
Dragonance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman (Flint Fireforge, Fizban)
Harry Potter series (Most of the adult characters are mentors to some extent, but Dumbledore fits the archetype most closely)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (Ford Prefect)
JSA/The Flash (Jay Garrick)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (The Three Wise Men)
Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (Gandalf)
Superman (Jonathan Kent)
X-Men (Professor Xavier)
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (V)

Movies & TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Giles, Merrick)
The Dukes of Hazzard (Uncle Jesse)
Excalibur (Merlin)
Firefly (Shepherd Book)
Free Enterprise (William Shatner)
Happy Days (Arthur Fonzarelli)
Highlander (Ramirez)
Hudson Hawk (Tommy Five-Tone)
Hustle (Albert Stroller)
The Karate Kid (Mr. Miyagi)
Kung Fu (Master Po)
The Men Who Stare at Goats (Lynn Cassady)
Mystery Men (The Sphinx)
Six Feet Under (Nathanial Fisher, Sr.)
Smurfs (Papa Smurf)
Spooks/MI-5 (Harry Pearce)
Star Wars (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Splinter)

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