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Basic Information

An archetypal role in myth and legend, usually filled by a supernatural being that provides the hero with aid or advantage, sometimes in the form of a deus ex machina.

The most familiar form of this archetype is probably the Fairy Godmother of fairy tale fame, but ghosts of dead relatives talking animals and mentor figures like Iron John also count. If the donor actually acts on the hero's behalf then they belong more in the helper archetype - the donor usually restricts him or herself to gifts, advice and/or initiation.

Motivations for donors vary - some act out of gratitude, some to annoy a rival, some out of altruism and others out of kinship or obligation whilst a few are more inscrutable and have motives that are (best) left unexplained. Telling a good donor from a villain in disguise can be tricky.

Some donors set tests of character for the hero - either explicitly (possibly by means of a fetch quest) or implicitly by acting in response to his good deeds. Others provide their gifts unearned. Mistaken for the gardener can also kick in, when the protagonist's kindness toward some random individual is rewarded when they turn out to be something far more than they first appeared - or at least have access to more resources than was first thought.

In some traditions - especially traditional comedy and theatre - the Donor archetype may include, or be taken by a healer - frequently represented as an outlandish quack or a menacing plague doctor who appears, almost as a Deus Ex Machina to restore life to a character previously shown to be dead or perform some other improbably and nigh miraculous act of healing.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Hard to use convincingly in traditional RPGs, although of course few PCs will refuse a free gift.
    • May serve best as a quest giver - sending PCs on missions to obtain plot relevant items or rewarding them with something the GM needs them to have.
  • Of course a donor doesn't have to be supernatural - the rich relative who died and left the PC their starting wealth also fits the role.
  • Also useful for arc development - NPCs the party helped out pro-bono early on in the campaign can appear at a key moment with something useful. Conversely, someone who helped them out in the past can be set up as the villain of a future adventure…
  • Of course, any given donor doesn't have to be nice - even overt villains may occasionally provide aid to someone who is currently directing their attentions at a shared enemy.
    • And of course, it's a good idea to look for strings attached to the gift: favors expected in return, social or magical obligations, "c'mon kid, first hit's free"…
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