Massively Overthinking: What are your most on-brand MMORPG class archetypes?

Please listen.

A while back in MOP’s work chat, we were chatting about Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons and how its elite specs line up with our personal preferences for MMOs classes, the types of classes we pick over and over without even thinking about it. For example, MOP’s Tyler said that we could put him firmly in camp shadow magic, as his top three RPG archetypes are rogue, dark caster, and paladin.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I want to indulge this idea and pose this question to our whole team and our readers: Suppose you get to choose three archetypes, three “class” tropes or categories that are “on-brand” for you in MMOs and RPGs. What are they, and why do you keep rolling them?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Gosh, this is super hard for me because I tend to pick classes based on what my friends or guild will need.

PvP Tank: I tend to like something sturdy because I’ll lead the charge to get the randoms moving in the right direction, but it also helps make sure my friends have a tank they can rely on. I’ve done support tanks, but more often, I’m a tank that’s very mobile or high on CC. Shields can be cool, but more often than not, my tank uses dodge, parry, shields, and HP reaping to live. Ever been stuck 2v1 against a guy who couldn’t really kill you but also just wouldn’t die? That’s usually me.

Triage support: I don’t mind healing, but I lean more toward PvP where I may not be able to get off those big fat heals before someone gets ganked. Healers with bubbles, ways to pull people out of danger, CC and CC cleanse… that’s me. It may not always be the best for raiding, but it often gets the job done and lets people who love to have the breathing room to get in those big heals.

Mean CC: I don’t really do damage dealers. Even in Monster Hunter, where the trinity is very soft, I use switch-axe more than my beloved hammer because people don’t cut tails, which decreases the monsters’ attack range and sometimes prevents one of their attacks. RIFT’s Dominator class best represents my style: Storm Shackle to try to get people to stop moving or else punish everyone around them, then drop Haunting Pain which deals a lot of damage unless they start moving. Mind Controlling or knock-backing people off of cliffs is fun, as is CC/stun locking the enemy healer right before the damage starts to pour in, no doubt. But making someone choose between them and their group in a large battle? God, that was always fun to watch, especially when they triggered the trap and the AoEs rained down on all of them.

Andy McAdams: I really like support classes and within that, my support class preferences fall into two buckets: Illusionist/Shadow-y castery types or stealthy, stabby, swashbuckley rogueish “dex monkey” types. I usually lean toward the DoT playstyles too.

I usually don’t play full plate classes; I would rather be quick and speedy. But I do have to admit that I really liked Death Knight in WoW once I got into it. I played blood/frost, but it was definitely an outlier.

Really I like classes that come at you head on; mages in games tend to be glass cannons with big boom-boom power. I like to come at things sideways: DoTs that slowly ramp up, illusions that confuse and damage, roots and stuns to control the battle field (back when those things mattered more than uncapped AoE).

As a rogue-y type, I always like the class fantasy of being the stealthy guy in the shadows, hard to see, hard to hit. Or the pirate swashbuckler type: hard to hit, duelist types. Being able to buffs others is fun too; I really liked Bard in FFXIV and Dancer for that reason, and it’s originally why I rolled my metaphysicist on Anarchy Online. I wanted the tips from being able to hand out moochies!

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I don’t know about archetypes, but I tend to pick ranged classes like casters and archers/rangers. The reasoning is fairly simple: In almost all cases, I find the animations more interesting than the up-close melee-type characters.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I wrote this topic thinking it would be easy, but it’s not!

Bards/light fighters – If the game has a bard, it’s a sure bet I’m going to roll it, though whether I stick with it depends on how castery or roguish it winds up being – I don’t want to play a just a rogue or caster DPS. I really prefer the EverQuest-style of bard, with support/crowd control songs plus light off-tanky melee, and if I can’t do that, I’d rather just have a light fighter, like a swashbuckler type. My old SWG pistoleer/fencer/musician fell into this category perfectly. I do sometimes play tanks, but I like them to feel more like light fighters if I can. Although I like bashing things in the face with shields too; it’s just not my first pick.

True archers – Ideally stealth archers, ideally without rangery pets, although pets in some games are so much fun that I don’t mind them, but my focus is usually on archery. In non-MMOs, I love playing stealth archers especially, and MMOs get bonus points for adding lots of tricks and traps to make it feel skirmishy rather than basic melee at close range. I’m a fan of arcane archers too. Fun fact: My favorite Ultima Online toon is what they’d call a “disco archer” – archery along with debuffing bard skills, combining my two loves.

Weather/earth casters – I’m not quite sure what to call this category, but I find myself playing a lot of druids and shamans with weather magic, water magic, or earth magic. I’m not much of a fire or ice or shadow or holy magic type of person. These types often end up as healers, but whether or not I actually fall in love depends entirely on the healing mechanics and UI.

Those are my three for the typical MMO. There are a couple of specific classes in MMOs that are absolute favorites but aren’t really common enough to be repeats, though; bulk summoners and turret toons like Ritualists and Masterminds are epic, plus crowd control toons like Controllers – those get me every time. When I go through this list, I can sorta see why City of Heroes has stayed a favorite game for so long; it really offers a lot of my favorites.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I actually have an on-brand archetype for all three members of the Holy Trinity!

The mitigation tank: I generally love tank classes to death, and my all-time favorite sort of tank is the one that simply wins by attrition. I don’t want to be the one who outpaces you because I hurt the enemy more, I want to win because my defenses and health pool were better.

DoTs for days: Kind of similar to the win by attrition thing, I love the kind of DPS class where I watch a foe wither to nothing or near-nothing, letting them get taken out in one or two shots by the time they can get a chance to attack me. Something about watching a target waste away speaks to me in a very carnal manner.

Support Support Support: If I have to be a healer, I’d rather be the CC/support/buff kind of healer. Sure, direct healing is fine and good, but that feels a little too much like babysitting. I don’t necessarily want to bother myself with topping up health bars, I want to make the people I’m playing with do their jobs better, either through buffs, debuffs, or crowd control trickery.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I generally gravitate toward classes that do a lot of DoTs, self healing/health draining, buff/debuff support, and if possible, pet management. Put all of those mechanics together, and you get a Necromancer. So while I normally roll my eyes at edgy, death magic archetypes, I usually end up playing them for their mechanics.

On the other hand, I will play any class that you slap the name “Engineer” on. It doesn’t really matter what the mechanics are; just give me a class that’s themed around a character who fights by MacGyvering machines together on the fly and I’m there.

The third would probably be the paladin/cleric/holy warrior type. Not only do I thematically enjoy playing the super good guy, even if it is cliche, but these types of classes also tend to be healer-tank hybrids, which is my favorite type of tank to play.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): This is an easy one because I’m always a sucker for the same three archetypes: The pet class, the hybrid jack-of-all-trades class, and the gadget engineer-with-a-gun class. Having an expansive toolkit is important to me, as is having any sort of combat companion alongside for my adventures. So Elder Scrolls Online’s Warden (pet class), Lord of the Rings Online’s Captain (hybrid + pet class), and WildStar’s Engineer (gadgets-with-a-gun + pet class) are all down my alley.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): Once upon a time, I almost exclusively played caster-tank hybrid classes – shadow knights, paladins, or whatever flavor of that sort a game had to offer. I liked tanking in groups and being a second string, crowd control, or pulling tank in raids.

In recent years, I have switched to short-range DPS – your rogues, your berserkers, your AoE wizards and the like. It is less responsibility in a group and more solo-friendly. Raiding is not something I do anymore, but if I did, I feel like I’d be fine with the new roles I have taken on.

No matter what, I am not a stealthy type. It’s a running joke that my idea of sneaking is running into the middle of a room and hitting everything I see.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I might be a simple kind of person, but I always go the same route, although it may come in a few different forms. I’m almost always going to play some form of paladin, but not for traditional support reasons – it’s actually for entirely different reasons. It’s so I can be self sufficient at least to the point that most games will let me. But I won’t main a hammer. It’s just not my style. Give me a sword, a scythe, or any sort of slashing weapon and I’m game. I just want to get up into those baddie faces and start swinging all the while healing myself up.

Equally likely, I might play some sort of dark knight. Basically the same thing, but rather than self heals through holy magic, I’ll heal through life drain or the like.

Back when the original Guild Wars was still new and we didn’t have any expansions, I played a pretty mean Warrior/Necromancer build that could catch players off guard. It’s so fun dropping bleeds and HP draining DOTs while healing from it.

If for some reason I can’t go for self healing but I still choose to play, it’ll be a toss up between a fast swinging assassin type or a classic sword and board tank. I’ll play those, but grumpily.

Tyler Edwards (blog): Well, my answer is already spoiled a bit in the intro, but I’ll explain in more detail.

Rogue: Considering this is one my top go-to archetypes, it may surprise you to hear I’m not really into the sneaky assassin angle. I just want to be an agile melee combatant, ideally a swashbuckler dazzling their foes with feats of skill and dexterity. I don’t want to be a ninja; I want to be Inigo Montoya. It’s just that in most games, rogue is the closest fit for that. Some let me get closer than others; WoW’s rogue scratches this itch pretty well with its outlaw (formerly combat) spec, and that’s where my rogue love affair began.

Dark caster: I love magic and will almost always include at least one caster in my roster, but the vanilla mage archetype doesn’t quite do it for me. The idea of magic being some abstract thing learned from dusty tomes never clicked in my mind. To me, magic is something wild and primal; you can harness it, but never truly tame it. Casters that push the bounds of what is advisable or sane fit that image so much better. Specifically, I lean towards necromancers. There’s something so viscerally satisfying about withering your foes with curses, disease, and poison (plus purple is my favorite color). That said, I’m open to many styles of reckless casting, and backstory matters as much as aesthetics or mechanics. If you don’t pay attention to the lore, Diablo III’s wizard might seem like any other mage, but their backstory is all about pushing beyond the bounds of normal, safe magic. Just another reason why the wizard has been my D3 main since launch.

Paladin: I don’t often play tanky characters, but when I want that experience, I go straight for paladins. I enjoy hybrid characters who can do a bit of everything, and paladins have that in spades. They can take a hit, they can dish it out, and they can buff and heal their allies. Plus there’s just something iconic about the holy warrior charging into the maw of darkness. Feels much more dynamic than a basic priest or cleric.

To expand on the above, in terms of group roles my preferred choice is a hybrid of damage and support (say 60% damage, 40% support), but video games tend to reward specialization much more than hybridization, so I rarely play such characters in MMOs. Thankfully tabletop allows me to scratch this itch. D&D 5E has lots of options for builds that can heal and harm in equal measure, whether it’s my Circle of Stars druid or my Oath of the Ancients paladin/Life Domain cleric multiclass.

And when it comes to games where you build your own “class,” I pretty much always end up with some mix of magical and physical abilities – i.e., my sword/blood build in TSW.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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