Ande’s Holy Trinity 2.0 – Prelude

Ande’s Holy Trinity 2.0

This is related to a series of posts related to changing/updating the Holy Trinity model used in modern MMORPGs. Here is my botched explanation of it.

For the uninitiated, the Holy Trinity is the requirement that a group for specific content (dungeons), must have at a bare minimum; a Tank, a Healer, and (typically multiple) Damage dealers (DDs from here on out). Different types of content, and even some games require more of one, two, or all three parts of the Trinity. The important thing isn’t the ratio, but the fact that all three are needed across many levels of group designed content. It is ultra rare that PvE (PvM) content is designed without the need of all 3.

Why do we need a Tank? 

To understand this, we must understand how group content is designed. Game designers aim to make group content challenging – at least relatively more challenging than single player content. Increased challenge means increased chance of failure – which pretty much translates to increased chance of dieing – which pretty much translates to you taking a lot of damage – which basically translates to “the mob will hit really hard”. 

OK, so the mob hits hard, so what?  Well, who will he hit?  If he’s hitting the healer, then the healer won’t be able to heal effectively, as his heals will be interupted.  Ok, we all know that a mob will attack whomever is doing the most damage to it.  So how about someone else just do lots of damage to it?  OK, that sounds good at first.  But what happens if the Rogue starts doing a lot of damage to it – the healer heals him.  Well, then the Mage starts doing more damage than the Rogue, so the healer frantically starts healing the Mage.  Then the Rogue starts doing even more damage, so the healer has to react, and switch to the Rogue.  Then outta nowhere, the Hunter starts dishing out heavy damage and the healer has to switch again.  Obviously, not a well designed system. 

OK, let’s designate one person to be the highest damage dealer so that the healer will know who to focus heals on.  That works out pretty good.  Hey, how about if that player grabs high armor items to make it even easier for the healer to heal him?  That works even better!  While we’re at it, why not throw that big 2-handed axe down, and grab a 1-handed axe and shield, so you’ll have even more armor, and the chance to block attacks?  You know what you have now – what we refer to as a Tank. 

Slight changes were made over the years to allow Tanks to keep the attention of the mob (aggro), through high threat attacks.  Eventually we ended up at the low-damage high-survivability (both compared to their healer or DD counterparts), threat machine that is a Tank. 

Why do we need a healer?

I would hope that it would be evident now – to heal the massive incoming damage that the Tank is recieving.  Healers also typically heal most all damage done to most all players in group content. 

Why do we need DDs?

If a Healer can keep the Tank alive, why do we need to bring in others players?  Encounter designers thought of this.  This is why they place limits on how long a healer can sustain healing.  This is typically done through depleting resources – I.E. running out of mana (OOM).  A Healer can only cast so many healing spells before his mana runs out.  At this point the tank is pretty much dead. 

OK – new solution have a tank, and many healers!! You can do this for many encounters.  But that would be pretty boring. Encounters would just be about physcial attrition on the people (as in the people behind the keyboard, not on the characters).  I.E. Can you beat the mob before you fall asleep or pass out from exaustion?

To counter this designers have place what are refered to as hard or soft enrages on mobs.  A “soft enrage” is typically a mechanic in a fight that starts off easy to deal with, and becomes increasingly hard to deal with after a while.  This can be represented in many ways, and the end result is usually the same – mucho damage.  Examples include continuously spawning mobs (so that players become overwhelmed), increasing debuffs on players, or increasing buffs on mobs. 

There are also “hard enrages” where after a preteremined time, the mob basically gets a buff that gives him a huge boost to damage.  The buff is so high (e.g. 10x normal damage) that healers are typically unable to heal it for more than a few seconds before the tank and/or everyone else dies. 

To counter both of these types of enrages, it’s important to kill the mob(s) before we get to that point.  This is where DDs come in.  They specialize in doing high damage to mobs, and therefore are your best bet to prevent the encounter from becoming uncontrollable.

So there you have it. The Holy Trinity is basically just the byproduct of a system designed to stress the group through high mob damage output.  It’s worked pretty well over the years, and gone through many changes both in the genre and within specific games.


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