Introduction: The majority of role playing games available rely on dice to create a system of random chance. As such, one can never truly predict how things will go. Even an attacker, blaster, or speedster can't guarantee victory before the foe gets a chance to make a crucial attack. Even an achiever, trickster, or defender can't assume that a foe will never succeed to score a hit. Eventually, sometimes even often, characters will take hits. If anything in an RPG is guaranteed, it is this simple fact.
How to deal with it? Play a tanker. Tankers are the characters who take the hits and keep on going. They do not fall easily, do not succumb to single blows. All tankers are alike in their ability to take the hits, but in some games, they also heal rapidly over time, making them virtually impossible to wear down through attrition and compounding their incredible stamina with constant recuperation.
In Quests of the Realm, tankers are represented by the endure preference.
Player Tactics: The tanker, like the defender, is primarily a protective specialty. In QoTR, tankers supplement their stamina with some functional options. They can sacrifice their resilience to improve their actions, and can ignore some of the penalties that come from being badly injured (and, indeed, gain bonuses instead!) This isn't always the case, however, and being able to take a lot doesn't matter much if you can't likewise dish it out.
The tanker, thus, is a specialty that helps to maximize other advantages more than granting benefits of its own. Since a tanker doesn't fall easily, it has more chances to make use of its abilities. When other characters are falling back to get healing, the tanker is still going strong, possibly even stronger than it was in the beginning of the fight.
A tanker should never go for minimal impact. Do whatever you can to pester your enemies so they turn their attention onto you. As with a defender, your value to the party, other specialties aside, is strongly limited if foes elect not to attack you. On the other hand, don't let the value of your strength defeat itself. Tankers are hard to take down--but not impossible. You want to draw attacks off of your allies, but much as with a user, if you rely too heavily on your ability to resist hard, it will be used up when you need it later.
Although any combination can prove effective, tankers do lend themselves to certain other specialties. A user/tanker, used wisely, is a master of winning through attrition. A blaster/tanker might risk a high chance of burnout, but played with some caution, can devastate the enemy force without fearing being taken down quickly due to the perceived threat of blasters. An enhancer/tanker, able to take the hits and heal, is virtually immortal on the field, while a defender/tanker is not only hard to hit, but also requires more hits to drop (and may be able to lower the damage of those hits it takes, to boot).
GM Tactics: Tankers share many of the same advantages of defenders for villain design. They make great boss opponents, especially if a lot of the players have high-damage characters that would otherwise eradicate a boss in one or two hits. If tankers can gain in effectiveness as they are injured (as in QoTR), the challenge of such a battle increases as the characters get closer to winning, not unlike in some video game RPGs.
Attacker/tanker fodder opponents are a pretty safe bet. Since they are lower level than the party, their ability to take more hits and deal more harm make them credible threats. And, since their tactics are straightforward, the GM can use them without having to worry about complicated strategy. As with defenders, though, tanker fodder can mean a much longer battle. On the flip side, they're a great choice if the party contains a slightly-too-effective blaster.
Tanker elites can prove effective, especially if combined with more powerful allies. A trickster/achiever boss, for example, with a couple of tanker elites can make for an interesting challenge. All in all, the tanker specialty is among the best choice for villains--it makes them effective without making them unnecessarily devastating, and nicely complements any other specialty they have.
Tankers can take the hits and keep on fighting. They lack powerful offensive abilities of their own, but if they have a halfway decent fighting specialty to back them up, they can win their fights through attrition. Players should value the added survivability of tankers, since a player's character is naturally subject to more attacks--and more successful attacks--over the course of a long-running game than any individual villain. However, enemies too can benefit from a tanker's capabilities, allowing them to actually stay in the fight long enough to cause an effect, even against a group of high-damage characters.
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].