The Holy Trinity is Alive and

By Ralsu

Back in December 2005, two months before the launch of Dungeons &
Dragons Online, Simon "Zed" Roe expressed his feelings on the how DDO
would probably break the holy trinity mold to DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer.
Zed's href="">editorial
asserted that the versatility of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)
system would allow Turbine to create a game that permitted game play
that wasn't centered around the holy trinity: a tank, a healer, and a
crowd controller (CC). At the time Zed wrote his piece, he'd had some
experience with the DDO beta, but the non-disclosure agreement was
still in effect, forcing Zed to focus on tidbits released by Turbine
for public consumption. Please indulge me while I recap Zed's position
and offer my own opinion--that, sadly, Zed was dead wrong.

Zed's Take

Based on public information and extensive knowledge of D&D, Zed
first addressed clerics, the only "pure" healing class announced to
DDO. D&D clerics can do more than just wear heavy armor and spam
heals from the back row as in so many other games (I'm looking at you, href="">EverQuest 2 and href="">World of Warcraft). D&D
clerics are pretty skilled warriors, and their self-buffs allow them to
compensate for many of their combat deficiencies when compared to the
other melee classes. As Zed points out, " Having a cleric – the
traditional holy trinity healer – stand toe to toe with a giant,
wielding a flaming great sword and wearing full plate armor isn’t a
sight you see in many MMOGs." Like all D&D classes, the cleric is
designed to be versatile. That fluid design only becomes more apparent
when a player chooses to multi-class a cleric. Zed rhetorically asked
if a cleric 5/fighter 5 were a healer or a tank.

Building from the concept of a cleric/fighter multi-classed character,
Zed next turned his attention to the tank classes: the barbarian, the
fighter, and the paladin. His focus was on the variance among those
classes compared to what we usually see in games. The barbarian's Rage
and lack of heavy armor almost makes you think it's a melee class akin
to a berserker, but its high hit point growth and damage reduction mean
that a barbarian can do some pretty fine tanking. Fighters do more than
look pretty in shiny armor and soak up hits; they also pack quite a
wallop--not to mention all the different ways they can be built.
Finally, paladins combine healing magics and heavy armor to last longer
in combat. Perhaps the paladin is the only one that follows the typical
trend for tanks. The barbarian and the fighter certainly seem different
in D&D.

With healers and tanks out of the way, Zed examined crowd control. He
wisely noted that wizards and sorcerers had to prepare or build
specifically to accomplish CC, that the bard is the natural CC in
D&D. Nevertheless, a rogue with a good Use Magic Device Skill and
the right wands could serve in the role of CC in a pinch. Zed's
argument wasn't that CC would not be needed--just that it would not be
confined to one class and that groups could invent ways to suffice
without a pure CC caster in the party.

The coup de grace for Zed
came in the form of the rogue, D&D's fourth element. D&D rogues
discover and remove traps that could otherwise quickly end a party's
journey. Thus, Zed's argument was that DDO could throw a wrench into
the works with the judicious use of traps. The holy trinity doesn't
even account for traps, and neither to most games.

My Take

What really happened after DDO launched? Well, if you didn't catch on
from the title at the top of the page and my last sentence in the first
paragraph above, I think DDO did not do enough to stop the holy trinity
mold. Allow me to quickly counter each of Zed's points of conjecture
(and hope).

href=""> alt="dungeon"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 250px; height: 188px;" align="left">Despite
the prevalence of Cure wands and potions and the variations allowed by
multi-classing, a pure healing cleric is still the best thing a party
can have in the tougher missions in DDO. Sure, I'll grant that many
quests are possible without a cleric. It's just not as many as it
should be. I wish we had more quests that relied on the traits that
make us choose our classes. Give us a quest that tests the Strength of
a character. I don't know. Make us protect someone from a collapsing
rafter. I personally enjoy player characters who focus more on wit than
brawn. Let me be the star in a quest for that reason. Or let Diplomacy
and favor mean something on a quest. Worst of all, DDO has only one
healing class. I can play another game and lament, "We need a healer
for this quest." Then I can see who is looking for a group and pick
from multiple healing classes. In DDO, I can only pick cleric.

Just as the cleric, or healer, corner of the holy trinity remains
strong in DDO, the tank is necessary as well. DDO throws a lot of
monsters at us in a short time. Party members take a lot of damage, and
we need to tanks to be able
to soak up a lot damage in the short bursts that come with the frenzied
battles in DDO. Try Walk the Butcher's Path in a full party without a
tank. It's  a nightmare.

If I were to try Walk the Butcher's Path without a tank, I might
succeed by having some good CC. While that strategy won't work in every
quest (in fact some quests make CC worthless), a lot of the fighting
tactics in DDO revolve around reducing the number of enemies actively
attacking the group at one time. Since enemies tend to come in bunches,
CC is the natural way to achieve this. Be it Web or Hold
Person/Monster, CC rule in many quests in DDO.

At least Zed was right about rogues being able to use wands to achieve
CC. In fact, they be all they are good for in the higher levels. Early
dungeons do a good job of showcasing the special talents of the rogue,
but the later dungeons make traps less dangerous. One theory for this
is that Turbine did not want to have players feeling like they style="font-style: italic;">had to have a rogue to complete
quests. If that is true, I think Turbine made a poor decision. I'm not
saying I want a rogue to be necessary to clear the path to fight Velah.
I'm just saying it would be fun to know there are too paths to Velah:
one very short one filled with deadly traps and one very long one
filled with hordes of monsters. Players would be able to adapt to the
makeup of their party--just like in D&D.

Parting Thoughts

So, am I saying Turbine screwed up and that DDO is a terrible game?
Hell no. DDO has been the only game I've subscribed to in 2006. I'm
simply saying that Turbine did not execute DDO to the full potential
afforded by D&D where the holy trinity is concerned. If I were to
roll some alts with the Ten Ton Hammer guild today, I'd know we'd want
a cleric to heal, a fighter or paladin to tank, and a bard or wizard
for CC. The other 3 slots in the party could be filled in any manner,
but leave out one of the holy trinity and we'd feel disadvantaged.

In the end, the holy trinity isn't horrible. I mean, I'm used to it
from every other game I play. This whole issue is simply one of the few
ways in which Turbine failed to make DDO different from the industry
standard. There are too many great things about DDO for me to obsess
about this issue, but it sure was interesting to read Zed's perspective
prior to launch and compare his ideas to what really happened.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016