Combining MMO Classes
by Tyler Edwards, January 12, 2014
Classes in MMOs are a bit stale by now. You've got your plate wearing tank, your sparkly healer, your shifty rogue, and some guy in a dress who throws fire from his fingers, plus a few other miscellaneous archetypes. After a while, it gets pretty boring playing the same characters in every game. But at the same time, those archetypes do serve a purpose. People like to be able to jump into a new game and have a reasonable idea of what each class is going to offer. Perhaps the solution, then, is to just be a little more creative with the traditional archetypes. Maybe it could be as simple as blending some of classes to create something new, yet familiar.
Warrior and beastmaster:
Just about every MMO has some kind of class that makes heavy use of combat pets, and one of the main uses for these pets is as makeshift tanks while the person is questing. It makes them great soloists, but it means half their pets are useless or downright disruptive in groups. Many a tank's day has been ruined by a ranger's pet constantly pulling mobs off them.
So why fight the inevitable? Why not make the tank classes the ones with pets - or at least the ones with tanking pets?
It could open up a whole new set of strategies for tanking. Who needs an offtank when you've got a giant beast watching your back? A pet could be dispatched to defend the rest of the group from a group of adds while the tank focuses on the boss. You could have pets for tanking enemies themselves, pets for transferring threat to the tank, or pets who buff the tank's survivability.
Plus, a crazy guy with a sword charging at you might have some intimidation factor, but if that guy is accompanied by a giant bear, then you really start running.
Monk and mage:
While mages are normally a ranged class, it's not unheard of to twist the archetype by giving it plate armor and melee weapons. Thus, the battle mage is born.
But maybe we don't need to go so far from the archetype of mages as cloth wearing masters of the arcane. One could look closer to home to give mages a twist of melee, by merging them with the monk archetype - the martial artist.
Mage and monk don't seem like a good match at first glance, but there's actually a fair bit of overlap. Both traditionally wear little or no armor. Both have little use for weapons in their fighting style. Both have a disciplined persona based on years of study and practice, and both wield arcane and mysterious forces - magic and chi.
The end result would be a class based on raw kinetic energy. Their bodies would flow with magical power, allowing them to perform feats of strength and agility that would otherwise be utterly impossible, while also controlling the battlefield with shields, force waves, and telekinesis.
Rogue and warrior:
In most MMOs, the two main melee fighters are warriors and rogues. Plate wearing juggernauts and agile but vulnerable assassins. Why can't there be any middle ground between these two extremes?
Imagine a class based on medium armor and two-handed weapons with an agile, quick hitting play style. Rather than being slow and reliant on brute strength like a warrior, they would be an elegant duelist. They'd lack some of a rogue's more devious tricks, but would make up for it with a better ability to fight toe-to-toe.
It's interesting to note that, contrary to popular belief, great swords in reality tended to be fairly light and allowed for the wielder to command a significant level of agility, so there really is no need for wielders of such weapons in MMOs to be slow and clumsy brutes.
Cleric and ranger:
Traditionally, the ranger archetype in RPGs has had some limited healing skills, through either magic or herbal medicine. This is something that seems to have been lost in translation when rangers made the jump to MMOs, as they are almost always treated as physical damage dealers, with their magical and support abilities all but forgotten.
With the current trend of hybridization in MMOs, it only makes sense to develop the healing side of rangers.
At the same time, it also makes sense to equip traditional healers with bows. Healers generally want to stay away from the thick of battle anyway. Why not merge their toolkit with that of a ranged attacker, so they can shoot off some arrows in between heals?
When you think about it, rangers and clerics are a perfect match. You wind up with a cunning, moderately armored character who can use their knowledge of the wilds to support their allies with either ranged combat prowess or restorative skills.
Rogue and necromancer:
Most every MMO can be counted on to provide two "evil" classes: the rogue and the necromancer. Sometimes they might be slightly different - some rogues lean towards assassins, while others are general vagabonds; sometimes necromancers are instead warlocks or the like - but the main themes remain the same. A stealthy, ruthless melee killer, and a wielder of dark magics.
Neither of these classes are strangers to the shadows, so why not bring them together? Most rogues these days already use plenty of quasi-magical abilities, hiding in plain sight and teleporting around the battlefield. It's not much of a stretch to imagine them taking up magic in earnest.
These assassins would not only cloak themselves in darkness, but bend it to their will to blind and suffocate their enemies. Instead of simply poisoning their blades, they would imbue them with dark power, allowing their cuts to inflict disease and corruption upon their victims.
Mage and ranger:
If there's one thing that mages should never do, it's use melee attacks. In the vast majority of games, they're a purely ranged class. But yet, they almost always wield melee weapons like staves, swords, or daggers.
Of course, such weapons are merely "stat sticks" - they're used for their attribute bonuses, not as weapons.
Still, wouldn't it make more sense to equip mages with ranged weapons? If all they need is an enchanted piece of wood, why not make it a bow instead of a staff? That way, a mage's weapon could be a worthy part of its toolkit.
A full hybridization of a mage and a ranger is called an arcane archer, and it's an often-ignored archetype in MMOs. However, you don't even need to go that far. Perhaps mages could be designed to occasionally swap to bow attacks when their mana is low.
Monk and druid:
MMOs have a few different ways of interpreting the druid class, but one is to make them shapeshifters who fight by taking on the form of savage beasts. That makes them share something with monks: They do not need weapons to fight.
This overlap creates an interesting opportunity to bring these classes together. You'd end up with an unarmed fighting class that would be savage and feral in its fighting style, as opposed to calm and disciplined like traditional monks. It could also serve as a welcome break from most nature-based classes, who tend to be gentle magic wielders. This hybrid would instead call upon the raw, brutal fury of the natural world.
Shapeshifting could be used as a cooldown ability, where transformations are temporary but extremely powerful. Or they could shapeshift in a limited fashion, turning their hands into mighty bear claws while maintaining the rest of their normal form.
They could also draw on other aspects of a druid's toolkit to further strengthen their abilities. Imagine kicks empowered by lightning or fists that strike with the power of earthquakes.
Cleric and necromancer:
Healer classes tend to be the goody two shoes of the character selection screen. They're peaceful druids, noble paladins, or pious clerics. The logic to this is obvious; healing is by definition helping your fellow players, and so it makes sense for healers to all be good-aligned classes.
But then again, tanks are defenders of their fellows, and MMO developers have no problem making them shadow knights or savage barbarians, so why not give healers more of a darker edge?
Necromancers already often have abilities to drain health, self-heal, and manipulate life as their personal plaything. It's really not that much of a stretch to turn them into a full healing class. Instead of simply calling for divine aid, they'd rip life from their foes and use it to restore their allies.
Perhaps they could even sacrifice their fellows to save a more important player... Has equal use in saving a tank at a critical moment, or in getting back at that nimrod mage-monk who stole your loot earlier.