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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Role Playing Games - Character Guide 1

Introduction: In role playing games, they win through skill and skill alone. No, they don't cause massive damage in a single blow. They can't take hit after hit without faltering. They can't hide in the shadow of a nearby sentry. They are simply, routinely successful. They are more likely than most to hit a foe (as long as it isn't a defender), or dodge a blow (if it doesn't come from an attacker), or spot an ambush (that isn't being initiated by a trickster). These are the achievers of the RPG world, the characters who win simply because they are better at succeeding an action than others.

In QoTR, the achiever is represented by the Aptitude preference. These characters routinely get bonuses on checks, improving their chance of succeeding whatever action they take.

Player Tactics: When you elect to play an achiever, understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the character type. An achiever has a high chance of succeeding any action, but it is not as good at any individual action as a specialist in that style. An achiever can't deal as much damage as an attacker, avoid attacks as effectively as a defender, or sneak as well as a trickster. An achiever minimizes the advantages of enemy specialties and maximizes the impact of their weaknesses. Conversely, the achiever maximizes any other specialties it may have (whatever you are good at, being able to succeed more often only improves the value) and minimizes the impact of those areas it leaves open.

An achiever is not strictly a front-lines fighter. This isn't to say they are weak, but they should not be put into a position that emphasizes immediate and direct confrontation with the foe (unless, of course, they are also skilled attackers!) An achiever works best when it is in a position to gauge its opponent's strengths and weaknesses, so it can capitalize on them. If the opponent is weak against stealth, the achiever might take to the shadows to claim an advantage. If the foe's defenses are poor, the achiever should attack as hard as it can.

On the flip side, the achiever is not necessarily a jack-of-all-trades. In role playing games in general, and definitely in QoTR, most characters are specialized in more than one broad area. If you've got it, flaunt it, as the saying goes. And if you are an achiever, you've got more of it than most. Adding specialization as an achiever compounds the threat of whatever your other specialties are. An attacker or blaster may be scary for their ability to deal phenomenal damage, but when they also have a good chance of hitting so they can deal that damage, they become tremendously dangerous.

Although all combinations have merit, achievers often work best when combined with specializations that rely on succeeding actions. Attackers, defenders, and tricksters who double as achievers maximize the value of both specialties.

GM Tactics: Achievers generally make good choices of opponents in an RPG. They are particularly effective as "elite" foes--not quite "boss" enemies but still ranking above "fodder" opponents. Used wisely, an achiever can put players through a lot of stress while not presenting a tremendous threat of imminent destruction.

An achiever hits often, and is generally difficult to hit. Other specialties aside, they tend to have less impact on any action than most. You probably want to keep numbers roughly even in battles against achievers, since hit after hit will quickly wear a party down, and achievers might have some trouble when faced with large groups--high success chance or not, the dice will roll high eventually! This is a primary reason for using achievers as elite foes, since such opponents tend to fight the characters with similar numbers.

From a game master's standpoint, adding a heavy offensive specialty to an achiever is a dangerous proposition. As always, challenging the players is good, but if the party is wiped out, well, there goes the story! However, adding a defensive specialty to an achiever can create a particularly annoying opponent, and one who (due to its improved ability to hit) poses a credible threat. Other miscellaneous specialties, such as trickster or speedster, also make good combinations for an achiever.

Achievers are the masters of succeeding actions--frequently, reliably, and without significant cost. They may not pack the raw power of other character types, but their skill and versatility allows them to win through either exploitation or attrition. Whatever your other specialty may be, skill as an achiever improves it--a fact that all players should use, but GMs in particular should take to heart as both a promise and a warning.

Copyright © 2006 Dustin Schwerman.

Dustin Schwerman has been playing RPGs for over a decade, using an analytical approach to critically evaluate the game systems (and so to create the most powerful characters he could get away with). He used the extensive experience gained doing so to create his own game, Quests of the Realm. QoTR focuses on unlimited character customization, relying on its author's understanding to detect and counter game-breaking power plays. Though balanced, QoTR still allows players to create highly effective characters and run them through heroic story lines. To contact Dustin, read more of his writings, or learn more about Quests of the Realm, visit his web site, Quellian-dyrae [http://www.quelliandyrae.com].

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