Introduction: Ah the attacker. How can one go wrong? Truly, this is the specialty that needs no introduction, but we'll give it one anyway. In a role playing game, the attackers are the solid, effective damage dealers. Whether through their high chance of successfully hitting, their ability to inflict severe injury, or their capability at causing debilitating status damage, attackers master the art of taking their opponents down. Solid and dependable, attackers don't need a variety of tricks and tactics. Give them their weapons, point them at their opponents, and watch the combat end.
For purposes of this article, attackers can include any and all of the following: a character who has a reliable chance of hitting in combat; a character who deals significant damage; or a character who can weaken opponents with status effects. An attacker, however, should not be confused with an achiever (who has a high chance of succeeding any action, not just attacks) or a blaster (who deals massive damage to multiple opponents). Generally speaking, an attacker can attack only a few foes, typically one, on any given turn. Attackers also are able to attack without cost; they don't usually have major limitations on how often they can utilize most of their abilities.
In Quests of the Realm, attackers are represented, logically enough, by the attack preference.
Player Tactics: Obviously, if you are playing an attacker, your tactic is to attack. It helps, however, to determine just what style of attacking you prefer. In QoTR, you can decide this on the fly in battle if you want, varying your tactics. Depending on the game you play, the type of character and abilities you choose may limit your options.
If you plan to go for damage power over accuracy, you might not get many hits in, but those you do achieve will be decisive. This can be a weakness against defenders, who take your already low chance of hitting and further reduce it. If you favor hitting often, don't expect to turn the tide with a single move; you need some time to wear your foe down. This, then, is of less use against tankers, who can take more of your hits. If you favor status effects over direct "hit point" style damage, your attacks are better at directly weakening a foe in combat, but not strictly better at wearing them down. The effectiveness generally varies depending on how your game handles status effects, but generally speaking, it is easier to deal damage than to blind, stun, or confuse a foe.
All combinations have merit, and an attacker certainly compliments any other specialty in a combat-oriented game. Attacker/defenders or attacker/tankers have both offense and defense covered. If you favor direct damage, being an attacker/blaster might suit you well. On the flip side, if you like a high chance of hitting, you might prefer attacker/achiever. Generally speaking, an attacker/user might be better able to inflict status effects than others, while an attacker/enhancer is good at weakening foes while augmenting allies, which can make for an interesting combination.
GM Tactics: Attackers are good at dealing damage, which makes them deadly. If you put your players up against a boss-level attacker, you are putting their characters at significant risk of death. Although some groups prefer a "take us to the edge" style of play, the focus of these articles for a GM is to help challenge the players while maintaining a respectable chance that their characters will survive the encounter.
That in mind, attackers are best used as fodder foes--that is to say, opponents who are individually weaker than the main characters, and tend to fight in numbers. The numerical advantage indicates that despite their lesser power, these opponents will probably score a hit eventually. As attackers, they can deal respectable harm even to higher-level foes, making them into credible threats. A couple elite-level attackers focused on status effects helping out a boss can strongly intensify the challenge of a climactic battle, though you may want to tone the boss down some. If you wish to use a boss attacker, you might go for a character who hits often at the expense of pure damage power. This maintains the attacker's threat and helps get around pesky defenders, but also gives characters a chance to retreat, heal, or overwhelm the foe through numbers.
Attackers are front-lines fighters, plain and simple. They don't need tricks and tactics, but that doesn't mean they can't use them, and it certainly doesn't mean that all attackers are alike. By choosing your preferred attack style and selecting specialties that compliment it, you can create a highly customized warrior. This variety can also help wise QLs use offensively-oriented foes to threaten the players without putting them at excessive risk of character death.
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].