The WoW Musings are a series of posts in which I identify and dissect different aspects of gameplay in my favorite MMO, World of Warcraft, and musing about what needs to change to keep the aging game feeling fresh and viable in a hungry MMO market.
RPGs with rulebooks dating as far back as, you know, the Bible, have often outlined basic battlegroup structure, normally assigning a battlefield specialization to one of three main roles: tank, damage dealer, and healer (imagine: The Father, The Son and the Holy Spook, respectively).
Because I have readers who aren’t familiar with RPG archetypal battle roles (i.e. the boyfriend), I’ll take a moment to briefly explain the basics (notice the awesomeness of this first graphic):
Picture a UFC fighter often the size of the Hulk, a dialogue as extensive as every one-liner spewin’ action hero of the last 30 years, and a propensity to absorb as much damage as Tony Montana with a semi-automatic high on an amount of cocaine that could fill every skyscraper in Manhattan. In a party/raid, the tank’s job is to fearlessly garner the attention of big bads and beasties through threat-generating attacks while taunting those that escape their aggro radius with such sophisticated vituperations as “nani nani boo boo” and “Hey! Your mama is so fat when she went to church and sat on a bible, Jesus came out and said “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”
The Damage Dealer
Whether through sword, rifle, bow and arrow, the arcane, or the sharp edges of a DPS ranking board, the damage dealer’s varied attacks pack quite the wallop. They hide behind their meat shields fluttering about throwing (shade) and shooting, or standing behind the big beastie as it focuses on the tank so they can go stabby stabby pokey pokey. They are usually considered “glass cannons” for their lack of heavy armor so a more skillful damage dealer will hold off on his/her most powerful spells/abilities when the mob/boss isn’t focused on the tank so as not to get one-shot into an early grave. Their worst enemy tends to be themselves as they insist on finishing off an attack or spell before moving out of the fire.
“How much faith does an angel have? We don’t have any at all, absolutely none. You see, we don’t need it, but you do. That’s what makes you strong; believing today in the light that doesn’t come until tomorrow.” — Touched By an Angel (bahaahaha, just because)
The common misconception is that a tank or damage dealer that’s seemingly invincible is toting a “pocket healer.” Ironically enough, it’s actually the other way around. What healers lack in offensive capabilities they make up for in the puppetmastering they perform by allowing others to fight for them while they restore health and heal wounds in the background, often while they’re having a (mana) cocktail, reading Cosmopolidungeon, and gossiping about the aesthetics of the latest tier of raiding gear (“Gurl! These shoulders are just so…Joan Collins in Dynasty”).