Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MMO Terminology in D&D

4e class roles system has, for our group, been a very good thing. It's similar, in its broad strokes, to the way MMO's organize their classes. They map almost exactly to the archetype set-up of City of Heroes, my MMO of choice; the execution of each role is quite different, and CoH breaks strikers down into melee and ranged, but the basic structure of tank, damage dealer, buffer, and debuffer is the same in both games. I'm told that World of Warcraft has a similar system, though I don't have any direct experience with it.

The advantage for us is that half the group has played various MMOs, and the other half is familiar with the basic principles and with similar ideas in other video games. It was very easy for the players to understand the basic sorts of things that each class could do, how they should be played, and how they interact with each other. We're learning the finer details in play, but the basic structures are familiar.

This'll be a bigger deal with new players. Not all the people I've taught to play D&D have been video gamers first, but a lot of them have been; the interest areas do overlap. And these days, if a video gamer doesn't play an MMO, chances are good that they know someone who does, or have played a game that borrows some of that class architecture. That D&D now uses some of this common language may make it more familiar to these people, its outlines easier to understand, and provide some common reference points to aid in my explanations of the system.


  1. Yeah, I don't know. I really don't understand the tank and striker or defender thing beyond that a tank has awesome strength and HPs, but I'm sort of an anomaly in that I don't play video games or computer games. I think that I've heard enough about these sort of archetypes from my gamer friends that using the framework is helpful, but depending on the newbies you're working with, it might just make things more confusing.

    (also, as a side note: what exactly is aggro and how do you pull it?)

  2. *sigh*

    Pulling aggro is not what they're doing at all. "Aggro," standing for "aggravation" is a system that MMO monster AI uses to decide who to attack. Attack a monster gives you more aggro (in point form, I suppose) but so does using certain spells on it, particularly hold and confusion sorts of spells.

    Wizardly types, then, tend to naturally acquire insane amounts of aggro, because they're holding or damaging lots of creatures at the same time. The "tank" role in games of this sort is defined by being able to aquire aggro without actually damaging enemies, by taunting them, or some other similar ability. Other classes (often sneaky ones) have ways to reduce their own aggro.

    4e uses marking to give monsters a mechanical reason not to attack other characters, which is similar in effect to the aggro system but designed for use by a thinking person rather than a computer. The big difference is, if you are good at managing aggro in a computer game, you or your vital allies will never get hit. Sometimes, though, a marked monster may decide it's worth the -2 penalty to go after your squishier friends.

    And yeah, I was being overly broad. But I would think that a group that didn't have any video gamers in it would just ignore those terms or use only the book definitions of them. A group like ours could cause a problem, but only because the players are throwing around terms like "aggro" and "dps" that don't make any sense because they don't have a non-video game English meaning.