Archetype of the Week: The Trickster

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The trickster (often called the shapeshifter) archetype is closely related to the fool, but tends to be a more subversive character than the fool. The fool is (whether he knows it or not) is the object of others’ laughter; the joke is on the fool. With the trickster, the joke is nearly always on someone else, and it’s the trickster who’s laughing. The trickster only reveals his true nature once the joke has paid off, and in many cases doesn’t even do so then. Andy Kaufman played both roles and offers a good example of the difference between the two: as “the foreign man” (who later became Latka on Taxi), he was the fool; as Tony Clifton, Andy embodied the trickster. In literature, the trickster is often revealed to be something more than he pretends, usually a king or a god.

Likely Stories
Like the fool, the trickster is a universal archetype that can be found in any kind of story.

The Name Game
Because the trickster is at heart something of a con artist, he uses a variety of false identities and names. Such aliases frequently subtly reveal something about the trickster’s true nature, however, because the victims’ failure to notice the hint makes the deception that much sweeter.

The Numbers
The trickster needs a high Nerve Number to pull off his tricks, which usually require convincing the victim to take the trickster into his confidence. A high Brain score is useful for making sure there are no holes in a scheme, and a a good Body can be quite useful when a deception falls through.

Suggested Jobs: Activist, Actor, Animal Spirit, Artist, Beatnik, Cartoon Animal, Comedian, Confidence Man, Criminal Mastermind, Culture Jammer, Eccentric, Elvis Impersonator, Fairy, Fixer, Ghost, Graffiti Artist, Hacker, Hippie, Imaginary Friend, Hustler, Journalist, Musician, Performance Artist, Philanthropist, Poet, Politician, Prankster, Prophet, Pornographer, Private Detective, Psychologist, Pundit, Punk, Radio Personality, Revolutionary, Self-Help Guru, Scientist, Serial Killer, Showman, Street Performer, Televangelist, Traveling Salesman, Wizard, Writer, ‘Zine Publisher

Suggested Gimmicks:
Almost Famous, Bag of Tricks, Born Salesman, Citizen of the World, Cool Toys, Cult of Personality, Friends In Low Places, Everybody’s Buddy, Honest Face, Master of Disguise, Shapeshifter, Smooth Talker, Stretching, Supernatural Powers (Specify), Underestimated, Wealthy, Weird Luck

Suggested Weaknesses:
Absurdity Magnet, Assumed To Be Full of Shit, Bad Karma, Conspiracy Magnet, Creepy, Dazed and Confused, Delusional, Drug Addict, Easy Come Easy Go, Enemies, Lecherous, Narcissism, OCD, Overconfidence, Paranoia, Quixotism, Reputation, Superstitious, Victim of the Past, Wanted Man, Weird Luck

Suggested Skills:
Acting, Bar Tricks, Brawling, Bullshitting, Comic Book Trivia, Computers, Conspiracy Theory, Cross Dressing, Disguise, Dumpster Diving, Drug Lore, Eavesdropping, Fast Talking, Freeloading, History, Law, Magic Tricks, Mythology, Panhandling, Practical Jokes, Public Speaking, Puppetry, Religion, Riddles, Role Playing, Satire, Singing, Stealth, UFOology

WWPHITM? Jeff Anderson, Dietrich Bader, Jason Bateman, Mel Blanc, Jeff Bridges, Matthew Broderick, Steve Buscemi, Michael Caine, Nicholas Cage, George Carlin, Emma Caulfield, Tommy Chong,  Stephen Colbert, Gary Cole, Clare Kramer, David Cross, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Minnie Driver, Cary Elwes, Robert Englund, Nathan Fillion, Albert Finney, Kyle Gallner, Janeane Garofalo, Natasha Gregson-Wagner, Paul Giomatti, John Goodman, Michael C. Hall, Woody Harrelson, Neil Patrick Harris, Eddie Izzard, Lady Gaga, Heath Ledger, Jason Lee, Richard Jenkins, Rinko Kikuchi, Cheech Marin, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Tim Blake Nelson, Paul Newman, Brad Pitt, Amy Pohler, Kevin Pollack, John C. Reilly, Tim Robbins, Christina Ricci, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Michael Rosenbaum, Tim Roth, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, Mark Rufallo, Adam Sandler, Peter Sellers, William Shatner, Sarah Silverman, Kevin Spacey, Ryan Stiles, Nicole Sullivan, Hilary Swank, Audrey Tautou, Alan Tudyk, Patrick Warburton, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson,

Tag Line:
“The only difference between me and a madman is that I’m not mad.”–Salvador Dali

Tools of the Trade
The specific tools required for a trickster will depend on the character concept, but are often not the tools that one normally expects.

Where You’ll Find Him
Wherever the universe takes him.

Social Circle
The trickster will have a small circle of like-minded friends and a large number of acquaintances who serve as audience members, foils, and test subjects. A trickster who has received some degree of fame for his work will also have a large number of admirers, minions, and hangers-on who he most likely detests but view as useful.

Sample Character
Tyler Durden
Brain: 12
Job: Revolutionary (12); Recall Specialist (10)
Gimmick: Minions (13)
Weakness: Multiple Personality Disorder (13); Insomnia (15)
Skills: Fighting +3; Soap Making +2; Support Group Lore +2
WWPHITM? Edward Norton and Brad Pitt
Dumb Fact: Has a night job as a movie projectionist, where he adds frames of penises to movies.
Tag Line: “You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
YY: 3

Inspirational Materials
Books & Comics
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (Puck)
The Adventures Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
American Gods (“Low Key” Lyesmith)
Calvin & Hobbes (Hobbes)
DC Comics (The Joker, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Plastic Man, The Riddler)
Dragonlance Chronicles (Fizban the Fabulous)
Harry Potter series (Severus Snape, The Weasley twins)
QAGS (Sparky in Sample of Play Theater)

Movies & TV
Big Fish (Ed Bloom)
Dexter (Dexter)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Ferris Bueller)
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (Neil Patrick Harris)
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Tony)
It’s Your Move
The Onion
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (Parker Lewis)
Later Nightmare On Elm Street movies (Freddy Kruger)
Saw series (Jigsaw)
The Simpsons (Bart Simpson)
Six Feet Under (Nathaniel Fisher, Sr.)
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Q)
Warner Brothers Cartoons (Bugs Bunny)

Mythological Characters
Brer Rabbit
Reynard the Fox
Robin Hood

Real People

P.T. Barnum
Jello Biafra
Tony Clifton
Stephen Colbert
Salvador Dali
Charles Fort
Larry Flynt
Gregory Hill
Andy Kaufman
Lady Gaga
Timothy Leary
Emperor Norton I
Kerry Thornley
The Yes Men

Religious Organizations
The Church of the Sub-Genius
The First Church of Shatnerology
Landover Baptist Church
Objective Ministries

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