Blaugust Day 7: Playing Multiple Roles

It’s funny, but I feel like I have so many game-related things to do – games to play, games to grind in, games I haven’t played for a long time but would like to revisit, game videos to watch, beta games to beta – that I keep resenting the feeling of obligation to get a daily post out.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from a week of doing this, it’s that I much prefer a 2-3 day posting schedule so that I have some in-between time to reflect a bit more, chew on things and ponder, before I can build up enough excitement/motivation/intriguing revelation that I want to share in a blog post.

So I’m grabbing another writing prompt from Izlain today to get this post out:

Do you find it difficult to play a role outside of your typical class choices? This can be in an MMO, MOBA, single player RPG or any other game that uses class as a distinction for gameplay.

The short answer is, it depends.

I have a distinct class/role preference that I normally gravitate to first, in any game, especially when I’m just trying it out for the first time and want to play something within my comfort zone.

Specifically melee damage, sturdy/tanky, with preferably a side helping of support and/or control.


A Brief Word on Role Definitions

The holy trinity of Tank/DPS/Heals is too ‘binary’ for me, in the sense that I dislike the co-dependency of the ‘pure’ holy trinity roles. I would definitely lean more towards the tank + DPS side of the spectrum, but just saying that loses the usefulness of drilling down into specifics.

I’m fonder of using the more modern damage/support/control/(utility) role definitions, or a more City of Heroes style definition of tank(aggro control)/tank(absorb alpha strike)/damage(ranged or melee)/defending(support+heals)/control/debuffs to break things down into broader functions.

On Wading into Combat and Being Supportive


I gravitated to tanks quite early on, but if you asked me what I really enjoyed about tanking, it’s the following:

  • Being big and sturdy and leading the charge into combat
  • The sense of being able to control the battle from within the thick of things, to position enemies where you want them, to drag them to a corner or wherever (aggro control being a part of this)
  • Being able to thump things with a big badass weapon
  • Inspiring and supporting teammates from within the fray
  • Being able to take an immense amount of punishment and remain standing, outlasting the opponent and ending victorious

What I hated (and still do) about tanks:

  • The sense of being codependent on a healer to keep you upright, just being a big but squishy health bar reservoir to be kept topped off or blam, everybody dies
  • The feeling of obligation to know a dungeon well, in order to bring your little lost sheep (aka the rest of your party, who seem exceedingly content to be handheld through the experience instead of being equal partners) through safely, and to set a ‘good’ pace, for unfamiliar people whom you have no idea whether they like or hate your speed or lack thereof, and may be silently judging you

So generally, you’ll find me playing non-holy trinity games where everything comes with a side helping of damage so that you’re not helplessly waiting around for another person to ‘complete’ you, and looking for tough, high hp melee fighters that can apply control and/or offer defensive or offensive support.

On Spreading Out and Being Flexible

I enjoy variety and novelty and learning new things, and am a chronic altholic, so it is quite natural and easy for me to diversify roles. I just pick something that has most of the things I like, plus one or two switchups in role/function.

Ok, let’s do melee dps, but be squishy and stealthy instead!


Or let’s do ranged damage, but be relatively sturdy and have a lot of support/control/buffing functions up our sleeve!


Or let’s be tanky, but in a ranged fashion, summoning lots of minions to do your tanking/damage for you and control/supporting from the back!


Strangely enough in FPSes, I enjoy the sniper role a great deal, but rarely get to play it in a successful manner due to my ping and general lack of superb twitch aim.

So I have no real qualms about roles that involve sitting at the back and throwing vast amounts of damage and sniping or nuking things either.


One hit kills, be it from melee or range? Yes, please.


I enjoy the tactical and strategic aspect of waiting for the perfect moment and the payoff of the “BLAM, let the bodies hit the floor.”

Never knew what hit them...
Never knew what hit them…

Any roles that involve a great deal of fire-throwing? Absolutely, I have a little closet pyromaniac in me.

(I figured this out when I was playing fire tanks in City of Heroes where you get to burst into flame, /fire powers where you get to thump things with FIRE, fire blasters which throw great balls of fire and sheets of flame around, and fire/fire dominators which control things with the power of flame and smoke, summoning itty bitty demon imps made out of fire, and yes, deal damage by blowing things up with fire.)


The Role I Just Can’t Bring Myself to Play

There’s just one, the antithesis of my playstyle preferences, that I just cannot tolerate for long.

And that’s the -ranged- squishy pure support healer that is reliant on adopting groups and other players as their pets to tank and do damage.


Ranged is slightly discomfiting, but I can deal.

Squishy makes me feel useless if I keep dying.

What? I do damage like I’m waving a tissue paper around? Why am I even bothering to fight things then?

Whack-a-mole on health bars is not my idea of fun “combat,” since it’s more staring at the UI and less actively affecting the world…

… and are you serious, I have to rely on other people being competent and not braindead in order to make any headway? I can’t solo? Can I have some NPC bots to heal instead please? I think they’re likely to target faster and do more damage…

Yeah, well, even DOTA 2 ranged supports can output a very decent amount of damage with certain skills, which would make the rest of the somewhat thankless tasks slightly more worth it.

It’s just the ‘pure’ thing that I can’t stand.

I wouldn’t mind damage/healing at long range, though it’s a role I’m not likely to play often or favor first. At least you get to do -something- in between healing, and watch/affect the flow of battle from afar with good timing.

In a similar fashion, a sturdy tank that hits like a wet noodle and only focuses on aggro generation and control and is heavily dependent on a third party keeping them upright with a constant stream of heals is also equally boring to me.

I could probably play it, in the sense that the role functions are familiar and fairly second-nature. But I’d definitely begrudge it after some time.

Fortunately, there are a lot more games out there that have broken away from the holy trinity and realized that players can deal with multiple roles, applying the appropriate skill at the appropriate time, making combat both more interesting and complex, and also allowing for -anyone- to be the hero and come in and save the day with good gameplay (be it throwing a heal or revive, tossing a crowd control or doing damage at the time when that function is most called for.)

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, I for Izlain and “I keep forgetting to add this last line until I edit the post” and the number 7.

5 thoughts on “Blaugust Day 7: Playing Multiple Roles

  1. So…you just want everything 😉
    hehe I think the whole point of the holy trinity should be mutual dependency, as equally as possible. The more self-sufficient and solo-capable you are, the less that’s going to happen. The issue arises because MMOs aren’t all about group content, obviously they want players to be able to solo stuff as well. So they end up giving everyone some dps while some have it easier than others.

    I am the opposite of you when it comes to the roles I pick, I have been a glass cannon or healer in every MMO I have ever played. 😀 I love having to deal with tradeoffs – jack of all trades aren’t my thing in games (I kinda wanna pwn in something). It forces me to prepare and think strategically, I can’t just barge into an encounter.

    When we consider what you said about the fragility of healers, I wonder if we could declare healer types the most cooperative of all players, at least in terms of being willing to give up most of their soloability.


    1. I’m an altholic, of course I want everything! 🙂

      The word that comes to my mind to describe healer types is ‘martyrs.’ 😛

      Always giving first, in the hopes that -something- might be returned. I have a family member that has a similar personality, and seeing how disappointed they got when their expectations of “I should get this in return, since I gave so much already” weren’t met, kinda dissuaded me from taking a similar mindset.


  2. I would say that even after all these years the absolute peak of my immersive involvement in MMOs was playing a Sit&Heal Cleric in Everquest. My definition of a perfect session would be one in which not only did no-one die but in which I did not one point of damage to a mob. Very, very rarely achieved, that one. Probably never although sometimes I came close.

    Pure healing in a group in which every member knows what he or she is doing is the essence of MMO gameplay. It took a lot of networking to get to the point where I could come home from work with a reasonable expectation that that’s what I’d be doing for four hours though and I really don’t like networking.

    In the end that was the trade-off: peace, quiet and full control of my own time vs The Best Gameplay. Couldn’t have both, not indefinitely. It was a good couple of years while it lasted though.


  3. Someone definitely needs to play the healer in most games, and thankfully there are people out there who enjoy the role. When I’ve played it, I’ve typically felt bored.

    Which makes me wonder why some healers make it seem like such a difficult role to play. Perhaps it’s because I never played a healer to end game activities where it might be more difficult.

    I enjoy the concept of Paladins, a tanky class that can do some dps via combat/spells but can also heal in a pinch or off-heal at least. As a matter of fact, I’m with you in that I enjoy hybrid classes more than the pures. I also miss having true support classes, though they can be seen in MOBAs quite readily.


  4. I’d love to have the City of Heroes approach back in more games. That’s the only MMO that I’ve seen successfully take the Holy Trinity and bend it almost to breaking to make it more fun, dynamic, and replayable.


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