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True Roles of the Fellowship

One of the lead perks of alt-i-tus for me is the class balance discussions. I just love to see the interplay of the various professions the developers have designed into the game. Today, I turn my roving eye to the classes of Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

The funny thing about this game is the developers tried to make the class roles really simple by boiling them down into a few words, for example, "Nuker." Nevermind how immersion-breaking that is: For whatever reason, these official roles are often inaccurate. Fortunately, a little research is all it takes to assemble an understanding closer to the truth.

Class: Burglar
Official Role: Debuffer
Actual Role: DPS, Crowd Control, Off-Tank, Stealth, Debuffer, Conjunction Starter
Summary: A powerful combatant who does so on his own terms.
Burglar Role Breakdown

  • DPS - Burglers often out-damage the Hunters or Champions in the group and can pull the aggro off even a talented Guardian - if they get a particularly good string of critical hits going, that is.
  • Off-Tank - Their exceptional damage mitigation abilities make them more effective tanks than most other classes, even those wearing heavier armor.
  • Crowd Control - With their various stuns, they're only slightly worse controllers than the supposed experts, the Lore-Masters, are.
  • Stealth - They get the most effective sneak in the game, and are able to do things like picketpocket their foes or set up buffs from stealth.
  • Debuffs - Their debuffs, taking the form of "tricks," are indeed the most effective in the game for cutting a dangerous foe down to size.
  • Conjunction Starter - "Conjuctions" are fellowship-wide combo attacks and are only reliably started by Burglar abilities.
(Source Post)

Class: Captain
Official Role: Buffer / Pets
Actual Role: Buffer / Pets, Healer, Debuffer, Off-Tank, Inertia-Establisher
Summary: A born fellowship supporter who is not without the means to defend himself.
Captain Role Breakdown

  • Buffer / Pets - Indeed, Captains have some of the more potent buffs in the game, and this is mostly what their "Pet" banner-bearing heralds do.
  • Healer - Nothing says "healer" like being the only other class that can resurrect during combat, albeit more infrequently than a minstrel can out of combat. Their various morale (hitpoints) restoration skills seal the deal.
  • Debuffer - Though not Burglar-potent, the Captain's debuffs can direct their companions to take down foes much quicker than without them.
  • Off-Tank - Wearing heavy armor and using shields wouldn't be enough alone, but Captains also have certain self-defense enhancing abilities and the capacity to intercept damage intended for other group members.
  • Inertia-Establisher - This refers mostly to the Captain's capacity to execute potent short term buffs each time an enemy is defeated, spurring the group forward to continue fighting instead of taking a breather.
(Source Post)
Class: Champion Official Role: Area-of-effect damage / Damage-per-second Actual Role: Area-of-effect damage / Damage-per-second, light Off-Tank. Summary: A specialized tool for taking down the bad guys fast. Champion Role Breakdown
  • Area-Of-Effect Damage / Damage-per-second - In truth, the official role describes the Champions pretty well here: they're about dealing out damage, not enduring it - much to the shock of those who figured wearing armor means they're good at taking damage.
  • Light Off-Tank - That said, they are nonetheless an effective light Off-Tank because they have certain abilities to take and transfer threat (aggro) at will, allowing them to potentially rescue classes that are even squishier than they (few as they are).
(Source Post)
Class: Guardian Official Role: Tank Actual Role: Tank, Puller, Pauper Summary: Yep, he's a tank alright. Guardian Role Breakdown
  • Tank - Turbine's got this part nailed down - heavy armor, self-damage mitigation abilities, lots of morale (hitpoints), and a good (though not unlimited) capacity to pull all the fellowship's aggression make the Guardian aptly named.
  • Puller - Seriously, let the durable guy get the bad guys' attention first.
  • Pauper - Okay, this isn't really a group role, but bears mentioning. Though I've yet to witness this personally, I hear that repairing armor is extremely costly for the Guardian, rendering many of them penniless or simply unable to have fully functional armor.
(Source Post)
Class: Hunter Official Role: Nuker Actual Role: Nuker, Traveling, Tracking, Camping Summary: This specialized tool for taking down bad guys fast knows a few handy out-of-combat skills as well. Hunter Role Breakdown
  • Nuker - Just as the Champion excels at doing damage close up, the Hunter excels at doing damage at range.
  • Traveling - The Hunter gets skills that can accelerate the non-combat movement rate of his fellowship or quickly whisk them away to civilization.
  • Tracking - Simply put, an ability to find certain monsters nearby.
  • Camping - Hunters can create campfires that (among other things) greatly decrease downtime.
(Source Post)
Class: Lore-master Official Role: Crowd-Control / Pets Actual Role: Crowd-Control / Pets, Mana Battery/Generator, Debuffer, Healer Summary: A jack-of-all-trades that subtly shifts the balance of power in combat. Loremaster Role Breakdown
  • Crowd-Control / Pets - Crossed out because these are rather poor. (Frankly, I might have written up this whole article to complain about this.) His main crowd control skill only works on a few types of foes, leaving many of the more dangerous unaffected. His pets have been nerfed to exceptional impotence, especially bears, and their main role is just to distract foes. That said, Lore-Masters do (slightly) better Crowd Control than any other class and his pets aren't (completely) worthless.
  • Mana Battery/Generator - The main role of a Lore-master, especially later in the game, is to use his unique abilities to siphon power points from foes and transfer it to the exhausted members of the group who have used up all their power points in executing their skills. Given the power-balance of certain classes, it's a surprisingly important role.
  • Debuffer - The Lore-master's capacity to debuff foes is actually pretty potent. Throwing area-of-effect powers that reduce the foes' melee damage output by 30% or ranged damage output by 50% is truly sigificant. However, somebody needs to tell Turbine that this is not the same as crowd control.
  • Healer - Although they are unable to resurrect, Lore-Masters do have some potent fellowship morale restoration and harmful status removal skills at their disposal.
(Source Post)
Class: Minstrel Official Role: Healer Actual Role: Healer, Damage, Buffer, Controller Summary: The life of the party - but they can do a few more things besides heal. Minstrel Role Breakdown
  • Healer - Undeniably, but not in every way the best at it. Minstrels do have the best morale-restoration abilities in the game, but their resurrection does not work during combat. (This might be something they can get around with certain traits.)
  • Damage - Surprisingly, their light-based musical attacks and melee combo attacks are actually quite potent. This isn't what a Minstrel should be doing when there's healing to be done, but it's not something to be ignored, either.
  • Buffer - A number of Minstrel skills grant certain advantages like greater regeneration or resistance to fear.
  • Controller - Where Lore-Masters can't control undead, Minstrels can. They also get unique controllery skills that do things such as cause foes to run away.
(Source Post)

Overall, I have to say that Turbine has done a pretty good job of developing 7 classes I'm not particularly excited about. The trouble is that they all stop a little short of sophistication, preventing them from being something I can creatively apply myself while playing. Thus far, this seems to me like a casual player's game, balanced to kept things relatively simple for fear of scaring them away.  However, I'm hanging on because there are some interesting additions, such as traits, that might render the game adequately complicated for my liking. That, and the atmosphere does have a certain charm.

In terms of my personal preferences, the ability to creatively apply myself with perhaps trappings of visceral action and depth, the best candidates I've played so far are the Burglar and Lore-Master. Both classes take the least straightforward method of defeating their foes, and this helps fill the gap in creativity that is the lead inhibiting factor stopping this game from being fun for me.
  • My lead concern about the Burglar is I suspect they're a good candidate for nerfing, as possessing great offense, defense, and utility in the same package is fairly asking for the nerf stick's sting. 
  • My lead concern over the Lore-Master is the opposite - they're too weak, and I'd be counting on the developers to boost them to make one my main. In the end, the best compromise may be to play a little of both. 
With school starting tomorrow, perhaps my time is up... but, then again, how much can three credits take out of my time? I'll soon know.
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