I've recently joined a game of Aberrant, and it's extremely player-driven and roleplay-heavy. This is very different from what I'm used to (D&D 3.PF hack & slash), and I've run into a problem (several actually, but I'll ask as separate questions).

I saw this question about running an elite military team of NPCs, and it has some good advice and several resources. But I'm not the GM; I'm a player, and as such only control a single character rather than a team. Is there any different advice for a player?

Here's a little bit about my character:

Initial Concept: Sigma Force operative. (Sigma Force is a series by James Rollins; excellent read.) Basically, take military or former military (often but not necessarily Special Forces) who are either unusually intelligent (genius-level IQ, etc.), creative think-outside-the-box types, or both, and rush them through one or more PhD programs in whatever field(s) they like. This results in teams of "killer scientists", teams who have the intelligence and scientific know-how to solve complicated puzzles with world-altering consequences and the military training to go up against terrorist-like groups racing to solve the same puzzles without getting themselves killed in the first encounter.

Base Character: Special Forces sniper, with a passion for learning. Particular interest in cybersecurity and cryptography, but that doesn't really crystalize until later.

Superpowers: Since we're playing Aberrant, my perfectly normal soldier got turned into a superhero shortly before the first session's events. So: During a mission gone horribly wrong, she discovered the ability to turn invisible and create illusions. She also got a lot smarter and more manipulative, along with a few physical enhancements that are easy to work with.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7, 2015 at 5:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate? (Not sure how duplicate works) - How do I roleplay a character more intelligent than I am? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nibelung
    Sep 7, 2015 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nibelung it's not a dupe because I'm not asking about how to play the 'super smart' part of the character, only the 'career soldier' part. I've been studying the other question as well, and it has helped. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7, 2015 at 12:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alyksandrei I mean in the sense "my character have knowledge I don't have". Other than specifically telling you to study military tactics, all advice given there is valid for your case as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nibelung
    Sep 7, 2015 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Which Special Forces unit? A lot of them are only open to men, IIRC. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Aug 26, 2019 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


It depends on the game system and the game master, as well as the other players.

In many role-playing games, the tactics of the fictional situation being represented are not modeled directly, and so a character's tactical competence can be entirely abstracted into their character description, and the player doesn't need to understand much about tactics, because they don't exist in the game mechanics.

In some other role-playing games, there are tactical factors of the fictional situation which are represented with some accuracy in the game mechanics, and so for those games, it can be very useful to learn the actual tactics of those situations and apply them in the game.

In all games, there are some mechanics of the game itself which can be played to advantage, which don't relate to the fictional situation but still affect how effective your character is.

So, when playing a character who is an experienced combatant, as a player who is not very familiar with the tactics of the fictional situation and/or game system, I'd say it makes sense to expect the game master (and/or the most tactically experienced player(s) in the group) to support your character's competence. Depending on their agreement with this, and the style of play, you could:

  • Explain and discuss this situation before play begins, so other players aren't surprised and can agree to help you out as needed. (Or, so they can refuse in advance, to avoid problems during play.)
  • Ask others for information and understandings of situations that your character should have but that you don't.
  • During play, before just stating that your character takes tactical actions or gives orders, either start with a proviso (such as: "Assuming my character doesn't know better..." or "Unless this is tactically foolish..."), or if you know you don't know what makes sense, ask for help (e.g. "Ok I know we've got to deploy carefully here, but don't know what makes sense, so what might my character suggest here?").

Eventually, this can become more expected and natural. At least with groups I've played in or run, the new players get used to asking or being corrected, the experienced players or GM get used to helping and checking bad moves, it can flow naturally and gets more natural, and before long, the new players need less and less help and can do it themselves.

However, if the experience level of some players is higher than others, and if some players are more competitive (or apathetic or mean) than cooperative, and the game master doesn't intervene, there can be some issues. (You didn't ask about that and there are many possible problems, so I won't get into examples.)

In your specific example, it sounds like there are many fields where this sort of thing is going to come up, since characters are invited to have all these PhD's and so on which presumably none of the players have. Therefore I would expect that it is entirely reasonable for players to say they want to apply their characters' knowledge, and collaborate a bit with the GM and/or other players to produce the specifics, since clearly players don't magically become knowledgeable of anything on their characters' sheets.

Also, your character has some fairly unique abilities (sniper with invisibility and illusions) which by its nature I would say is actually going to be most effective the more creative you are and the less predictable you are, so even though you could find some fictional examples in film, sci fi, comics, etc., I think you'll do best using your imagination as long as what you come up with makes sense. Actually, what I would do would be to look to examples of invisible illusionists in fiction as inspiration, but only do what they do against typical foes. When you have a harder situation, think of what people have done before, and do something that seems to be doing that, but actually be doing something else that is using that idea as bait.

For example, in Predator (1987), the heroes have a horrible time fighting a ranged attacker who is almost invisible. The attacker shoots from jungle cover and then gives a hint of movement, getting everyone to fire but miss. That's not bad but typical. Your character could shoot someone from a direction no one is looking, so no one knows where you are, then create an illusion of nearly-invisible movement in a direction you aren't (but perhaps where something you happen to want destroyed is), wait for them to notice that illusion and blast away at that, while you slip away or do something else.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I'm the only character like this. The others are a pizza-delivery girl who can shoot fire and heal people, and a homeless man who is super-strong and can turn his body into metal. But you have some interesting advice, which does help. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2015 at 16:51

Your professional soldier will have years of training behind her. Military training is designed to ensure that when a soldier is placed under the stresses of combat, they will be able to function effectively. Repeated training functions as a shortcut and becomes instinct. So for example, when a bunch of guns start shooting at her from a few feet away, she immediately and intuitively understands it's an ambush and has practiced what to do over and over again. She'll rush the attackers without hesitation.

The scientific training and superpowers were attained after all of this military training took place, so you may want to think of the science and superpowers as supporting that training. So her first response will be based on her soldier instincts. Once she has taken immediate action, she'll have a moment to think about how to apply her science and superpowers.

In the close ambush example from above, she might start rushing her attackers then determine that casting an illusory copy of herself while going invisible will make her close attack that much more effective.

While you won't be able to absorb all the tactical skills of a trained soldier by reading about it, individual tactical skills are covered in US Army FM 3-21.8 - The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad (web version). Familiarize yourself with the information in the manual about assessing the situation, individual movement, and communication.

With those basics in mind, you can layer the science and superpowers on top of them in a supporting role and perhaps come up with some SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that your character will use in certain common situations. Again using the close ambush example, you may decided that her SOP for close ambush is to start closing with the enemy immediately, cast invisibility second, then cast an illusion, then attempt to take out the enemy who wields the most dangerous weapon.


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