Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Combat Terminology and Tactics 101

Everquest II has many players who are new to the game, and perhaps new to MMORPG's in general. So, I thought I'd write a little article about the basic combat terminology, abbreviation, and tactics.

Mob The bad guys. The npc characters who take offense to you and try to kill you. Or perhaps you took offense to them and tried to kill them. The term "mob" comes from some of the earliest role-playing games, the text-based multi-user dungeon, where a single entity in the code might well represent several characters, an angry mob. However, the term mob can still be used to refer to any one of the characters in the linked group.

Main Tank(MT) This is the guy who is supposed to be taking all the damage, and who holds the attention of all the mobs in the encounter, also known as aggro. This is typically a figher archetype, because they have the most hitpoints and are the most effective at reducing the amount of damage that they take, whether via better armor or via better avoidance. The other ability that is unique to fighters is their ability to taunt, gaining the attention of the mobs. Other classes can tank some, particularly some scouts, though it isn't what they are best at. Templars are qualified to wear the best armor, so they can potentially tank as well.

The basic tactical concept is the tank/healer concept. The tank gets the mobs' attention via taunting, and the healer makes sure the tank doesn't die. Healing has a tendency to get the mobs' attention, so the longer the healer can wait to do the first heal, the better off you are. Depending on how things go, the healer can melee some, and nuke or dot or debuff, but the healer's number one job is to keep the tank alive.

Main Assist(MA) It's usually much better to focus on killing one mob at a time, because once he's dead, he can't hurt you. In addition, if you have someone doing crowd control, especially through mez (see below), spreading damage around will interfere with it. So, one person is designated as the Main Assist. Which ever mob the MA is targeting, that's what everyone else should be trying to kill.

Targeting can be difficult and confusing sometimes, so there are two ways of managing this effectively. First, you can use the /assist command. It will switch your target from the current target to the current target's target. Typically this command gets put into a macro hotkey. Now we can use the function keys to target group members, so when the MA targets a new mob, everyone else can first hit a function key to target the MA, then hit their assist hotbutton and they will have acquired the desired target.

The second way that assisting can be accomplished is through the auto-targeting system. If I have another group member targeted, a big blue arrow will appear over whatever he has targeted. If I melee or cast a damage spell or a debuff, the game will automatically transfer my target to the mob with the big blue arrow pointing at him. So, I can just keep the MA targeted throughout the entire fight, and things should work pretty well.

The MA and the MT are often the same person. This works out well for the priest types, who need to keep the MT targeted for healing purposes. That way, they can melee and nuke if power permits without changing targets.

There's one down side with this system. Let's say that the healer has had to heal too soon, and some of the mobs have split off and attacked him. Usually they aren't the ones that the MT/MA has been beating on, so the MT will have to switch targets to taunt them. But with the auto-assist on, that means all the damage has switched targets, which is somewhat undesirable.

Puller Engaging a combat is known as pulling. Often, one group member will run up to a mob and hit it, or shoot it at range, and then let it chase him back to where the rest of the group is set up to fight. This allows the group to find a spot where they are unlikely to get other mobs wandering by at the same time, or adds. One of the critical jobs of the puller is to control the tempo of the group's fighting. Pulling something big when the healer is low on power is a problem, but so is waiting too long. Different groups have different paces and different styles, so the puller must figure out what works best for each group. Pullers are often the same person as the MT/MA, but this isn't necessary either. A brigand might sneak up and pull with a backstab, or a bard with a song, and hand off aggro to the MT when they get back to the group.

Brigands have a skill that allows them to hand off aggro to someone else, and a big taunt is often sufficient. Pulling with ranged weaponry or techniques is often to be preferred. EQ2 is designed to make it hard to run faster than a mob while you are fighting them. Speed increases when you yell for help and the encounter is broken, so you can get away should you decide to run. But that's not the case when pulling. So if the puller tags the mob with something short range, like melee or a kick, he will suffer damage all the way back to the camp. Then the healer will likely get aggro from healing before the MT has built up enough hate. This is where things often go pear-shaped.

In EQ2, it is often true that pullers will have an ability that does damage to the entire encounter group at range. This is ideal for some sorts of pulling, since it creates some good aggro on every mob in the encounter group. If the puller is trying to hand off aggro to the MT, perhaps less so.

Crowd Control If you are fighting an encounter group, or as happens all too often, another mob or encounter group should Add while you are already fighting, things can get very hairy. This is when you need to try and keep the extra mobs, the ones that you aren't trying to kill at the moment, from doing damage. There are 3 main techniques for this:

Mez When a mage decides at level 10 to become an enchanter, the first spell he gets is called Fascinate. This skill mesmerizes a mob, so that they won't fight or cast spells. The mob will stand there staring at the pretty lights for the duration of the spell. However, if the mob takes any damage, or gets a debuff, the spell is broken and he begins to fight as normal. Furthermore, once he wakes up, he's likely to be really mad at the enchanter that mezmerized him.

An enchanter can be very effective in a group, reducing the amount of damage taken by perhaps half or more. However, this effectiveness is dependent on the group's ability to let the mezmerized mobs stay mezmerized. We've already covered the concept behind the MA, that it's a good idea to focus on one mob at a time. Enchanters in the group make this even more so. Some area effect (AE) spells and abilites will break mez, it's best to avoid them, and assist the MA at all times.

Root All mages come with a spell called Arcane Bindings. This spell summos magical chains that hold the mob in place, rooted. Every time damage is dealt to the mob, there is a chance that the root will break. If rooting is the form of crowd control you are using, you will need some room, because the mob can still hit things close to him, and cast spells. Still, it's better than nothing.

Split Tank Usually done if there is more than one tank-capable in the fight, this is the poor mans crowd control. The most typical use is to peel off a mob that has decided to beat on the healer or mage instead of the main tank. This allows the MT, who is probably also the MA to stay focused. The split tank can also handle adds, especially of solo wanderers. Splitting a second group mob may put too much of a burden on the healer, but sometimes there's no other choice. It works well with a second healer, though. The split tank and backup healer keep the add entertained while the MT and main healer and the two people left in the group kill the first pull.

RUN There's no need to explain what this is. However, let's focus on the necessity of obeying this command instantly. If the MT calls RUN, then he has decided that the group can't win the combat, and is likely to wipe, and wind up face down, chewing dirt. In this case, there will be no revivals, just a shard run, and lots of debt. It seems disloyal to run away from your group member who is about to die, but if he's smart, the MT will thank you for saving him some experience debt. The debt from his death will be shared among you anyway.

If the healer goes down, it's also time to run. If he's smart, he's given a token that will allow his revival to someone else. If you have that token, it's your duty to the group to stay alive so that you can revive the healer, who can then revive any other casualties.

If it's time to run, break the encounter by yelling. You will then regain power and health much faster, and you will be able to run faster.

At higher levels, scouts get the ability to evac, a skill that will transport the group to safety, this is always preferred to simple running.

Here's a few other terms for you:

Nuke Any spell which does damage to a mob (or mobs) directly is a nuke. All mages have good nukes, sorcerors have the best. Priests also have some nukes, although they are not as good, and tend to be resisted more. Any mage or priest who is nuking must manage two things: First, don't nuke so early that you get aggro. Second, don't nuke so often that you run out of power.

Dot Other spells and abilities do damage over time (DOT). These spells typically use less mana for the same amount of damage, and come with a debuff. They also tend to generate less aggro, so it's often a good idea to start a new mob off with a dot, then move to nuking.

Debuff Any spell which reduces the target's capabilities somehow. It might slow movement speed, or attacking speed, or make it do less damage, stop it from casting for a while. Combat debuffs can be valuable when you have no other form of crowd control.

These are the basics, let me know if they are useful, or if I've left something out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best combat summary I've seen yet. Great job, Toldain!


1:51 PM  

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