Introduction: Its stats are low, its abilities limited. Why should your character, a mighty warrior skilled in both offensive and defensive arts, fear this foe? You strike with confidence, only for a quick augmentation to increase its defense for the action, blocking your attack. It returns the blow, scoring a solid hit and improving its damage--and adding in one of its most potent special abilities to further augment the effect. Wary now, you ply your own powers to defeat its next two moves, but you can only use these abilities so often. Your opponent, however, confidently continues to activate two or three of its abilities on every attack.
In a role playing game, this sort of character type can be referred to as the "user", a character who can quickly but temporarily improve otherwise low stats and/or activate its powerful abilities very frequently. The user is not a jack of all trades, but a versatility specialist. They may not have all the powers of other specialists, but those they do have they can use nearly as well, and much more often.
In Quests of the Realm, the advantages of the user are reflected in the ARN preference.
Player Tactics: In QoTR, a user--that is, a character with the ARN preference--has two main advantages. They can increase their stats on a by-action basis, and they can use their special preference aspects more often. Other RPGs might have characters that function as users with one or both advantages to varying degrees. Being a user is much less straightforward than being an attacker or defender. The advantages of the user--especially in the area of being able to use special abilities more often--can vary strongly based on the game.
Thus, the first step to effectively playing a user is to understand which advantages your character has, and to what degree. If you have both, you might also want to consider which you plan to use most often, since using one might impact the other. In QoTR, for example, simply activating the action improvement is itself a special ability, and so carries a correspondent cost in and of itself.
If you expect to most frequently use stat improvements, understand that while you can probably face a character so specialized on its own terms, you are unlikely to overpower its advantage. Much like with the achiever described in article one, you are skilled in all arts, and you have a strong advantage over the standard specialist if you specialize as both a user and the other specialty. Unlike with achievers, users are not so much the masters of succeeding actions as being able to improve the value of their actions. Thus, the best way to use stat improvements, much like with an achiever, is to minimize the foe's advantages (as by improving defensive stats against a powerful attacker) and maximize its disadvantages (improving stealth skills against unsubtle foes).
If you prefer the significant ability access, use it but don't get overconfident. A user might be able to utilize its abilities more often, but that does not mean they can do so forever. A user is also more likely to tap its special abilities, which can lead to burnout if they aren't careful. You might also want to consider not overusing your abilities. Use them only as needed, and win through attrition. This is particularly effective if you also have some sort of defensive specialty.
All combinations are valid, and the user specialty combines as well as any, but creating a user/tanker (or better, a user/defender/tanker) creates a character with a very good chance of winning through attrition. Combining user with achiever and/or enhancer creates an incredibly versatile character.
GM Tactics: Users can make very effective opponents thanks to their versatility. Generally, they aren't necessarily the best fodder foes, since they don't tend to get the chance to showcase all of their talents. Also, multiple users in the same battle can make for something of a headache to run. Users, thus, are best utilized as "boss" enemies, and can be particularly effective as recurring villains. Even better, a single opponent of similar power to the characters can make for a very effective user. Such a villain can stress the characters greatly by engaging them when they separate, attacking one at a time and always using tactics that work best against them. Such an opponent should probably make use of a defensive specialty as well, and it certainly wouldn't hurt for it to also be a troubleshooter--particularly, one who can teleport away when the going gets tough.
Users in numbers can be a bit more deadly than you might want, mainly due to the attrition aspect. Such battles promise to be long, grueling, and probably overly complicated, with a reasonable chance that the characters will be slogging away through most of the fight and then be virtually unable to utilize their powers and forced to retreat or fall after an hour or so of difficult fighting. Not the most entertaining scene.
In a role playing game, users are the masters of versatility. Whether they use their powers frequently or boost whatever stat is necessary to the situation, they often seem to always have another trick or tactic to ply. Players can take advantage of this versatility to improve whatever other specialties they possess, or utilize it in its own right to claim an advantage over foes. Villains, too, can find this build advantageous--especially for thoroughly annoying the players!
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].