The Archaea Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


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The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Archaea ranging from "What is Archaea?" to "What can I play in Archaea?" to "Does it cost anything to play?" to "How do I get a rulebook?" Most of these questions are covered in greater detail in the Archaea 5th Edition Sourcebook. The main Archaea Live-Action Role-Playing and Wargaming Information Page details the 5th edition rules.

To add questions, please email the Elder of the Realm comments and suggestions, or post your questions to the MD/DC/VA Archaea Group message board.

#01: What is Archaea? -- Go to Top

Archaea is a medieval fantasy live-action role-playing and wargaming system. Akin to table top role-playing games (RPGs) like Tellings or Dungeons and Dragons, Archaea takes history, mythology, imagination, and fantasy and translates it into live action like improvisional theatre mixed with the Dragonslayer or The Lord of the Rings. Archaea provides rules, examples, and a game setting for players to create characters, to role-play as those personas, to simulate combat using padded weapons, and to simulate magic and mystical powers. For a fuller introduction to live-action role-playing and wargaming, see the Archaea Live-Action Role-Playing and Wargaming Information Page.

#02: When did Archaea start? -- Go to Top

In the fall of 1992, two people -- Edmond Chang and Arthur King -- set out to start a new, different, well-concieved fantasy live-action role-playing and wargaming game. After years of playing and enjoying other Maryland-based games like Darkon and Age of Steel/Tales of High Adventure (now defunct), both felt encouraged to create a game that focused on telling stories, character development, world building, and campaign-style adventures. By the end of the fall of 1992, after a few months of brainstorming, Ed Chang wrote up the first Archaea rulebook in three days. The first Archaea event, a weekend campout at Little Bennett Regional Park, took place in November 1992.

Currently, the only active Archaea group plays in the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia area. For a short time, there was a small Archaea group at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and a concurrent group in Maryland called Archaea Travels. Rumors, mainly via email from people visiting the web site, have come from around the US of people using the Archaea system -- hopefully the real mccoys will come forward.

#03: Why the name 'Archaea'? -- Go to Top

Archaea is derived from the Greek word 'archaios' meaning 'ancient' and the word 'archi' meaning 'beginning' or source of things. The idea was to evoke the past, the realm of legend, the source of myths, the history of imagination. To continue with the theme, the magic system of Archaea is broken down into ten arche (AR-kay) or schools or forms of spellcasting.

Though Archaea players might like to think they are the largest group of living things on the planet, the game has nothing to do with ancient bacteria. Unbeknownst to the game at the time, the word 'archaea' was coined to describe a unique kind of microorganisms or 'archaeaobacteria.' Hence, a web search for 'archaea' often produces numerous links about microbiology.

#04: What is an Archaea Event? -- Go to Top

Archaea events are called adventures. Much like a story or plot, adventures are a small slice out of the on-going history of the realm of Archaea. The characters, played by the players, are the protagonists in the adventure seeking to solve a mystery, find a treasure, save a town, rescue an important person, or simply to discover what the world has to offer. Like different chapters of a novel, adventures are usually self-contained yet part of a series of events. The history of Archaea is continually being spun as characters embark on their journeys and escapades.

A typical event day begins around 11 AM when players arrive to don their gear, check-in, process Experience Points, have their weapons, armor, shields, and other equipment inspected and passed for safety, and simply gather and talk before the adventure begins. The check-in time is also when new players are welcomed, new characters are created, and new player orientation is held.

The adventuring begins around 12:30 PM. The game officials and referees, otherwise known as Elders, ask for volunteers to play the part of NPCs (non-player-characters), which are the monsters, villains, extra characters the adventuring party will encounter during the day. The NPC players, usually at least a third of the group, are pull aside and given their duties, descriptions, motivations, and roles for the day by the Elders. They are sent off into the game site to prepare to meet the PCs (player-characters). The remaining players are introduced to the day's event, usually given a recap of the previous events, introduced to any new information, and then the adventure starts. Play usually lasts for three to five hours.

Go to the MD/DC/VA Archaea Group events page for details on upcoming game dates and sites.

#05: What do you need to play Archaea? -- Go to Top

The first and most important thing needed to play Archaea is players. A good starting number of players is around fifteen. One player should take on the role of Elder of the Realm, the main manager of the adventures. Fifteen players allows for two Elders on the field, approximately five NPCs, and the remaining eight player-characters.

Every player should have a copy of the Archaea rulebook. Players should be encouraged to read the entirety of the book and to be at least familiar with all of the system. Elders should always carry a rulebook on the field.

The main cost investment in Archaea is building and making equipment -- weapons, armor, shields, costumes, and props. A player must have a suitable costume. Garb does not have to be period (historically accurate), but it must have the look and feel as if it could have come out of a medieval wardrobe. See Chapter Two of the Archaea rulebook for details on costuming requirements. Next, players may wish to invest in making padded weapons. Weapons and fighting are not requirements to play, but wargaming is an integral part of the game. Archaea weapons are constructed primarily out of soft and closed-cell foam (seat cushion foam and camping pad foam) with a core of fiberglass or CPVC and covered in fabric. Chapter Four of the rulebook details basic guidelines on how to make several different types of weapons. Other than weapons, armor and shields may be used. Archaea uses padded shields with specific construction details explained in Chapter Four. On the other hand, armor is the only thing that is close to the genuine article; again, see Chapter Four for construction requirements. Lastly, players will need some game paraphernelia such as skill cards, game money, and other game items, which should be carried at each event. Sample skill cards, game money, and other materials can be found at the back of the sourcebook and can be duplicated to be used in the game.

Go to the MD/DC/VA Archaea Group Gallery Page to get an idea of costuming, weaponry, armor, and the look of the game.

#06: What kind of characters can you play? Are there character classes? -- Go to Top

Character creation in Archaea does not use a strict class system. Characters fall into a three Disciplines -- Rule of Arms, Rule of Skill, or Rule of Knowledge. Character disciplines determine what kind of background and training the character possesses. Disciplines represent the general area of knowledge and expertise in which the character has been educated or gained experience. Disciplines determine what kinds of skills and abilities the character can gain, what type of weapons, armor, and shields the character can use, and what magical abilities the character can access.

Rule of Arms characters are the warriors, the soldiers, the knights, and any others who have studied the art of fighting, combat, and strategy. Characters that choose this discipline make their way of life by the sword, by the strength in their bodies, and by their skill at arms.

Rule of Skill characters are those people who depend on dexterity, ingenuity, opportunity, luck, and self-made fortune. Those of Rule of Skill are the rogues, the thieves, the spies, the assassins, the bards, and the rangers.

Rule of Knowledge characters are the spellcasters, the mages, the mistics, and the healers. They are the gatherers of knowledge understanding that knowledge promises power over the elements, over the forces of nature, and over the mysteries of the Realm.

However, the disciplines simply defines a direction, a concentration. The player can build his or her character to go beyond the generalization. Because Archaea's character creation is point-based and skill-based, the player will be able to customize their character by buying addition kills and abilities. No skill or ability is completely out of the reach of any discipline -- the cost simply changes for each. Therefore, a character of Rule of Arms can take on spellcasting, a character of Rule of Skill can be both warrior and rogue, and a characte rof Rule of Knowledge can equally wield ritual and great sword.

Furthermore, Archaea encourages players to develop a character history to detail how the character fits in the game world. Players may also invest their characters in one of the Realm's Organizations -- groups, guilds, societies, or peoples with specific benefits, advantages, and perks as well as specific attitudes, tenets, and beliefs.

Cookie-cutter character types such as the fighter, the thief, and the mage are not the intentions of the Disciplines or of the game as a whole. Players are encouraged to develop outward from the basics. See the Archaea Information Page for details on character creation and skills and abilities.

#07: Are there non-human characters? -- Go to Top

Player-characters are primarily human. Archaea is a human-based realm. Rather than using "race" as a differentiating characteristic, Archaea encourages players to develop three-dimensional characters with histories and personalities. Characters are defined culturally by their Province of origin, their skills and abilities, by their Organizational affiliations, and by their interaction with other characters.

See the Archaea Information Page for details on the realm, the Provinces, and character Organizations.

#08: What kind of skills are available? -- Go to Top

Players can customize their characters depending on the skills and abilities they choose. At the start, characters begin with 30 points to buy skills and abilities. Through adventuring, the character earns Experience Points to spend on additional skills or increasing the levels of current ones.

There are over 50 skills and abilities in Archaea ranging from Animal Lore to Armorsmithing to Find/Remove Traps to Immunity to Poison to Magic Research to Mistic Ability to Pick Pocket to Streetwise to Tracking. Some skills need only be bought once. However, most skills can be bought multiple times to increase their level of effectiveness, power, or depth of understanding. Depending on the character's Discipline, the cost of a skill will vary.

For example, the skill Aid has a cost multiplier of x2 for all Disciplines. To buy the skill costs the level bought times the cost multiplier. Therefore, to buy level one in Aid, which allows the character to bind a Light wound, costs 2 points. Level two would cost 4 points. Level three would costs 6 points and so on.

See the Archaea Information Page and for details on skills and abilities.

#09: How does the character earn Experience Points? -- Go to Top

Experience Points (XPs) represent the knowledge, wisdom, and additional know-how the character gains from adventuring. Experience Points can be saved and used to increase the level of existing skills, abilities, and magics or to buy new ones. As they player-character adventures, he or she gains XP for every event. Generally, for single day events, the character gains 5 XPs. For multiple day events such as campouts, the character gains 10 to 15 XPs.

#10: How does combat work? What is fighting like? -- Go to Top

Archaea is a live-action padded weapon wargaming system. Weapons are constructed out of layers of foam with a core of fiberglass or CPVC and covered in soft cloth. Archaea is considered a full-contact "sport" and combats are real-time, real-skill.

Combat isn't staged or choreographed. Players swing their weapons, block with their shields, run, dodge, and grapple as if they were in a real melee. Combat is often fast, furious, and exciting. Weapons are always carefully checked for construction, safety, and feel. There are specific rules and guidelines about how to wield weapons, how to strike, what legal hit locations are, and how to behave in combat.

No one has been seriously injured in an Archaea combat. Players are encouraged to be extremely conscientious when fighting. If there are complaints, it's usually only bumps and bruises. Archaea has been likened to a friendly pick-up football game in the park.

Different weapons are assigned different levels of damage. The character suffers different severities of wounds depending on the weapon strike, the location struck, and the number of hits. Armor and special character abilities (e.g. Constitution) grants the character protection or added hit points. See the Archaea Information Page and for details on fighting.

Basically, there are four weapon types measured by the amount of damage they can inflict: Light (a Short Sword), Critical (a Long Sword), Mortal (a Great Sword or Pole Arm), and Death (a Ballista). A Light weapon does 1 hit point of damage. A Critical does 2 hit points. A Mortal does 4 hit points. And a Death does 8 hit points.

Characters do not have a hit point pool (e.g. in the table-top RPG sense), but each hit location (such as the Arm or the Torso) can suffer a certain amount of damage before becoming incapacitated or the character is killed. Special skills, abilities, and magics can offer added protection or strength in combat.

For example, the ability Constitution allows the character to soak more damage. The ability Feat of Speed allows the character to dodge an attack. The ability Increased Damage increases the character's attack damage.

Though wargaming is an important part of Archaea, fighting is not required for play. Players can create characters who are non-combative or who are useful and helpful in combat situations without the need to take up a sword.

Go to the MD/DC/VA Archaea Group Gallery Page to take a look at some action pictures and to see what weapons look like.

#11: How is magic handled in Archaea? -- Go to Top

Both broad and detailed, Archaea's magic system boasts ten arche (AR-kay) or schools of magic and over 250 spells. Drawing from areas of Air, Animal, Body, Earth, Fire, Mind, Plant, Power, Spirit, and Water, mage characters have access to a wide array of effects and powers.

Mages gain a certain subset of spells automatically as they gain experience in an arche. Some spells are considered "lost" and must be found during the course of adventuring. Magic users have a certain number of "magic points," which represents their available energies for the day. The mage may cast an spell in their learned repertoire as long as they have the magic points.

Each spell requires an incantation of a specified number of words, which must be spoken clearly out loud to invoke the magic. Certain spells have no visible component (e.g. Detect spells) but require role-playing or an Elder's presence. Visible spells are represented by various material components -- spell balls, spell rings, spell hammers, headbands, armbands, or ribbons. Each arche of magic is assigned a color to designate their effects.

For example, a Lightning Bolt is represented in game by a 8" diameter blue spell ball (a ball of foam covered in bright blue cloth). If the caster successfully finishes their incantation, they shout the invocation and throw the spellball. A target struck by the ball suffers the effects.

For example, the Fire spell Fire Charm enchants a normal weapon to inflict magical damage. A red ribbon is tied to the weapon to show the spell is in effect.

For example, the Earth spell Armor grants the mage protection against a single hit of any kind. The player wears a brown headband to signify the spell is in effect.

See the Archaea Information Page for a spell list and details on magic and casting.

#12: How is religion handled in Archaea? Are there priest characters? -- Go to Top

Though Archaea is a medieval fantasy game, the rulebook does not allow for religion in the game in the interests of creating an environment that does not infringe on any player's belief system. There are healers in the place of clerics. There are mistics in the place of priests. The game fosters a wondrous setting full of mythos and heroism rather than any specific doctrine (real or imagined).

#13: Who can play Archaea? -- Go to Top

Like table-top role-playing games, anyone can buy an Archaea rulebook and start their own personal, community group. New players in the area of an existing Archaea group may wish to join the running game instead of starting from scratch. Presently, the only fully running Archaea game is in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area.

Currently, there is no formal Archaea organization or membership. Players who start an Archaea group must do so of their own accord, at their own expense and risk, and they must find accomodations for play themselves. Players should be of at least 18 years of age, especially Elders and game officials; minors must get parental consent in writing in order to participate and should be "sponsored" by an older player; generally, players under 16 can participate as non-combatant characters. New players starting a new group may write for suggestions and are encouraged to contact existing games for start-up help.

All players should remember the following disclaimer:

Archaea is a game. Players are encouraged to play this game reasonably, sensibly, and responsibly and to use the rulebook as merely a sourcebook. Always play safely and always use common sense. Because the information found in the ruelbook may be used in circumstances or situations out of the control of the author and publisher, neither author nor publisher assumes any responsibility for any loss or injury occasioned by such use.

#14: How do I get an Archaea rulebook? -- Go to Top

You can download (currently under construction) an abridged version of the 5th Edition Revised Archaea Sourcebook to get a sense of the game. However, it's recommended that players obtain a full copy of the sourcebook.

The 138-page book is professionally designed, cleanly photocopied, measures 8 1/2" x 11", and is neatly kept in a 3-ring binder. Please contact to get information on the rulebook, which are currently made available on an as-need basis.

#15: How do I start my own Archaea group? -- Go to Top

Players in areas without an existing Archaea group need only buy the rulebook to start playing. Players are responsible for finding legal, usable sites for play, obeying any local laws and restrictions, building their own equipment, and creating their own adventures.

Players are welcome to contact the MD/DC/VA Archaea group with questions and advice for starting up their own game.

1992-2010 Archaea & Edmond Y. Chang. All rights reserved. This site is maintained by the Elder of the Realm.
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