Architecture of a Lifepath

Since we are encouraged to post our own lifepaths in the forums, I wanted to know how precisely a lifepath is build and what qualifies as a lifepath. This question is primarily directed at Luke, but everyone else is more than welcome to help me out here.

I am especially interested in informations about your structuring of the lifepaths (as in: how do you decide how many hit points a lifepaths grants, how do you decide which skills a lifepath gets, etc.), and how you decide what can be a lifepath and what not.

From your discussions in this forum I learned that a lifepath should be a) precise, and not a concept that could be taken on by any lifepath that is already in the game, b) available to both, men and women (and arguably to other forms of gender ids, too, I guess?), and c) historically accurate.

What bothers me with the first point is, that in the rulebook a lifepath is defined as either a profession or a calling. I know what a profession is and have no problem understanding what you mean by that. But I am not sure I understand what your understanding of a calling is.
I understand your argument why you wouldn’t include a spy lifepath, but I would also argue that to be a spy could be understood as a calling. In the lifepaths pdf you uploaded in the forums, you also added a lifepath called duelist. A duelist is hardly a profession, but could be a calling. Although being a duelist is available to most lifepaths, too. A petty noble can be a duelist, aswell as a soldat, musketeer or clerk. All have potentially the ability to duel each other. What unifies them is the masculine interpersonal violence and the bad behaviour they show (a point made by the historian Sharon Howard, although she talks about 17th century England, but I guess her argument still applies to 17th century France:
So, where do you draw the line what can fuction as a lifepath and what not?

Looking forward to some answers, thanks!

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Hi there,
A lifepath needs a name, requirement, a starting age range, starting HP, Lifepath HP, two or three saves that it modifies, five or six skills, starting equipment, suggested names and five to eight experience conditions.

All lifepaths have six levels, so the activity on which they’re based should be one that allows for growth or development. But neither should they be something diffuse that one does as part of one’s life. For example, being a mother or father isn’t a lifepath in this context.

Lifepaths should be documented historical activities, professions or roles—or a role from period fiction. A good way to think about it is that a lifepath is a role that someone else could recognize. It’s a box that society would put you in.

The original intention for lifepaths is that they be societal roles that could lead one on an adventure. Obviously, with actors and authors coming up, I’m exploring the edges of that concept, but I think we’ll find play distinctly less satisfying the further we get from the core. Lifepaths for echevin, cloth dyers and architects will likely make for very unsatisfying games.

Stick to lifepath designs that could benefit from an argument or a street fight and you’ll be good.

There’s no gender requirement for lifepaths. You’re misreading or reading into my post on prostitutes. Jesuits and musketeers are both explicitly male, for example. When I find historical examples of gender that defy the dominant narrative, I’ll include them. But when the history is clear, we’ll play with what we have. That said, stay away from explicit gender requirements as part of the lifepath. There’s probably an exception out there, and we’ve probably got it wrong in the historical record anyway.

For hit points, it’s all by feel. Most lifepaths should have 2d2 starting HP. Some lifepaths that involve more physical danger should have 2d3 starting HP. And a few hardy souls get access to 2d4 starting HP. Most lifepaths should grant 0-1 point per level after the first. Some involving more physical activity should grant +1-2. And rarely should a LP grant a flat +2 per level. It’s very important to resist the urge to inflate hit points. The physical violence of the game will quickly lose its bite. So when assigning HP, err on the side of less rather than being generous with more.

Regarding the duelist: I haven’t read that book, but it’s my understand that professional duelists did exist. These daring souls were paid to fight in the stead of gentlemen or -women who preferred not to risk their necks. They were a hair’s breadth from being assassins themselves. My duelist is based on the character Etienne Latil from Dumas’ Red Sphinx.

Regarding spies: Comte de Rochefort is referred to as one of Richelieu’s spies, as is Milady de Winter, as are Souscarrier and Mme Cavois in the Red Sphinx. I would venture a guess that none of them has walked the same lifepath. Rochefort Souscarrier are skilled (3rd or 4th level) Petty Nobles of the Sword with titles. Milady is closer to a filou, though I don’t think I know exactly what her lifepaths are yet. Mme Cavois is a mother of 10 with good business instincts.

There’s no spy school in France. Richelieu and Mazarin instead built trusted relationships with nobles or suborned members of the bourgeois or even peasants. These people then undertook missions for the cardinals while in the guise of their old roles. No training, no acknowledgement, no special skills.

Hope that helps,


Hi Luke,
thanks for the quick answer. That clarifies a lot for me. Actually, I think that this is a pretty good explanation of what a Lifepath is in M&M. I found the description in the book a bit too vague in this regard.

Concerning the Duelist: I haven’t read Red Sphinx, but since the lifepath for the Duelist had no introductory text, I assumed it was just a person who likes to duel. You make a good point why the Duelist can exist as a lifepath.

I would argue, anyhow, that even a cloth dyer or a carpenter can make a good lifepath. Just think of the records of guild members and members of the bourgeoisie who would fight in the streets of the great european cities when there was a conflict of interests. Wouldn’t that make a good hook?

Anyhow, thank you very much for your answers. Your book is a great addition to the rpg landscape and I wouldn’t want to miss it. I hope to see more of your work in the future.

I’m not invalidating the stories of the working classes or bourgeois in the 17th century. It’s not about the hook. It’s about the system. The system focuses on violence and arguments, backed up with some adventure-type activities like running across roof-tops or breaking open locked strongboxes. Thus the stories of cloth dyers and farriers won’t be well told in this game. Hence my note about the the focus of the lifepaths themselves.

No game can do everything. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

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Then I have to ask for more clarification, I guess.

  1. I get your point, but in how far would you consider the Clerk a lifepath that fits in a story of violence, arguments and adventure-type activities? Wouldn’t the Clerk be a borderline lifepath according to your description of what a lifepath is? Together with the author and actor?
    Historically, the everyday life of a clerk would be pretty boring, to turn this lifepath into something that engages with the system you just mentioned, means to assume that the character acts in some form atypical.
    Do I get this right? The experience cards give a good hint, that a player is in some form asked or pushed to engange in situations where new advntnure paths could emerge from.

  2. Wouldn’t it be possible then, to alter pretty mundane lifepaths in a same way? To make it part of the carpenters experience card to question the taxation laws or act in a way the guild rules would normally forbid?

  3. In how far is a lifepath considered to be only profession a character has taken on? Do I have to assume that my character was always a passeur if I chose this lifepath or is up to me to decide that the character pursues this profession for only 3 years now?

Sorry for bombarding you with questions, and thank you for your patience. I am just trying to understand the system correctly.

Historically, so many authors, adventurers and occultists started out as clerks, I had to include it as a lifepath. Also, students became clerks and students were nothing but violent and argumentative in our period.

You can switch lifepaths in character creation. So no, you don’t have to consider that you have always been one thing.

Would Captain Diego Alatriste be a good example of a duelist (although Spanish and not French)?

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