The Bazaar #29: OCC Overview – Operator
Updated: Jan 21
General. In the far future, where technology is seen by many as the saving grace against the inhuman and monstrous, and combat roles are the primary draw, one could be excused for not immediately latching onto the idea of playing a mechanic. That said, there certainly is an appeal to playing something *other* than the combat-oriented characters, something I believe the Rifts RPG does a very good job in supporting; the Operator is a clear indication of this. Typically presented as ‘wandering tool benders’ or mercenary repairmen, there is an unofficial brotherhood or association with other like-minded Operators. They are very well received and typically barter for their services when credits are not the currency, which makes them pretty adaptable to almost any setting. This special skill set actually places the Operator in the unlikely position as a hero for knowledge and education that the Coalition States would certainly take umbrage with, making them only slightly less a target than the Rogue Scholars.
Type of Characters. As one of the Scholars and Adventurers, he is another skill jockey with a niche specialty on mechanics and repair of technology. They are definitely a unique class that has game (pardon the pun) in pretty much any setting, as they can apply their expertise both to their own party, or the setting in which they are adventuring. With such a highly niche selection of skills, the implication is that this character would be at least somewhat cerebral in how they deal with the campaign adventures, but are certainly capable and willing to pick up an energy rifle and join the fight. Given the respect they are typically afforded, under the right circumstances there is a good chance this OCC could play a leadership role for the party, leveraging their skill set to mollify the locals or gain the kind of traction the party may need to progress.
Key Characteristics of the Operator. Initially presented in the RPG as a wandering or adventuring mechanic, this was pretty much limited to their OCC Skills, their selection of Other/Secondary Skills, and the role-playing approach the player brought to the table. This gets some very welcome amendments within the RUE version, providing some explicit rules and abilities that once had to be “jury-rigged” by the GM (pun intended). Repairmen extraordinaire, we have a character with a tight set of skills that fit a niche role very well. Whereas in AD&D they expound on the ‘healer’ role to fix and maintain the characters, the Operator provides much the same in terms of keeping the PC’s vital technology running smoothly. In any world where tech is a key component to survival, this character will find a place. Something of note is the relatively low attribute requirements, something unchanged in RUE.
Relevant Books with Updates. First and foremost, the Operator benefitted from a *significant* series of buffs from the RPG version to the RUE version; not the least of which was the better definition of what a Psi-Operator (not to be confused with the WB 12: Psyscape OCC) could accomplish, despite the limitations they imposed on psi-power selections. After that, not much further development on this OCC in any of the World Books/Sourcebooks.
How I Would Play This OCC. The way I see it, the Operator can go one of three possible streams: full human and rely on skill-set; psionic that leverages the abilities available to them; or, augmented human with cybernetics/bionics. Myself, I’d lean towards a limited version of option 3 (cybernetics) and head over to the nearest mercenary outfit looking for a tool-bender to join in for some adventures. I wouldn’t look to play the egghead, smartest guy in the room, but more as the quiet confident member of the party that knows their role and takes the lead when needed; akin to a medical professional is suddenly thrust into the lime light when there is an injury. The cybernetics would likely be limited to sensory augmentations or the types that allow me to jack into a system and mentally root around for the problems. Otherwise, I would love to play this as an adventurer-explorer mechanic hunting down technological artefacts from pre-Rifts and PA era ruins; pretty sure that would put me at odds with the Coalition States, but hey, I’m sure the GM wouldn’t leverage that option space at all…
The Operator in Context
All Human. As one of the Adventurer OCCs, the Operator certainly has something to offer to the group, if nothing else than a character that can fix the party’s gear and lend a hand in the firefight. That said, they offer so much more. The implied respect this OCC has can have some really impactful role-playing opportunities; defusing a prickly town’s disposition with some free labour and repairs, or using some fairly esoteric skills not found in many other OCCs that can solve those niche problems allow an inventive and crafty role-player (man, these puns….) some real room to grow and stretch their chops. In some contexts the psi-powered version of the Operator may have some stigma or issues when dealing with Coalition entanglements, but hey, you’ve got others in the group that handle that much better than you. But hey, it’s not like a wrench applied with some stern use of Newtonian physics hasn’t knocked sense into either man or machine before….
With the Big Boss(es). When we talk about heavy hitters, we start getting into the realm of robots and power armour, very often other OCCs as well that center around technology. As such, the Operator becomes much less of a force to deal with in the combat aspects of the game. Otherwise, this is one of the few Adventurers that actually finds themselves with an increased role of importance with respect to the remainder of the party. You want that SAMAS, Behemoth Explorer or Mountaineer kept in top shape? This is your guy/gal! In some cases, their social positions and the unique skill set might even position the character into a leadership role, as NPCs may look to the Operator as the more approachable (read: less likely to blow off an NPC’s head) or have a more pertinent approach that guns ablaze. Let’s call it though, once combat is triggered, this guy lends a hand (or wrench), but isn’t going to be your primary damage dealer.
With the Demi-Gods. A squishy SDC character in MDC armour running around with giant stompy robots, dragons and demi-gods certainly makes them the odd-man out. Once again though, the majority of those demi-gods are very (like, *very* very) limited in their skill selections, relying on natural abilities. The Operator is going to be a skill jockey that, ironically, may help keep the party afloat or exploring (e.g. space ship, naval craft). Likely the least imposing of the group, they can still lend a hand through their pretty important role, perchance a plucky mechanic trying to jury-rig something to keep a fellow PC’s robot fit-to-fight? If that doesn’t net you some XPs, I don’t know what would.
Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). As previously mentioned, the Operator was initially billed as your wandering mechanic extraordinaire. As the game developed, there were a number of secondary abilities the original class simply lacked in comparison. With the release of RUE, we have a *much* better and well-rounded OCC. We gain the Jury-Rig skill, Find Parts and Components, Recognize Machine Quality, as well as some rules for souping-up machines and vehicles, which was a really nice touch, and sorely needed. We have a set of rules for a psionic-flavoured Operator, which is a subtle but dramatic upgrade; from minor to major psionic and access to many more abilities (including Super) that make the option much more palatable and capable; otherwise, why would you not play the Psi-Tech from World Book 12: Psyscape? Finally, the class has been updated to include some OCC Bonuses. The OCC Skills get fleshed out some more, and there some slight shifts in the number of skills available for Other/Secondary with a slightly wider field of skills to choose from.
Final Thoughts on the Operator. In the spirit of the post-apocalyptic environment, the Operator is a class that has a number of implied benefits and roles. The mechanic that can be the key role-player for the group and still lend a hand in the firefight, or more importantly in the post-battle consequence management phase of things. One of an unofficial fraternity, there are myriad adventure ideas open to the OCC, more so when one takes into account the significantly niche skills the OCC comes with. There are other Scholar/Adventurer class that come close to the same niche skill selection, but they miss out on a few important OCC abilities that make this one rather unique. It is certainly an interesting option for those looking to have some level of party relevance, even if they are not the heavy damage dealers – you are likely those damage dealers’ best friend though!
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