I wish I could take credit for this, but it was midknight129 from the RoM forum who said -- to paraphrase -- "Classes don't have to be equal; they just should be equitable." Any player should want to play his class because he enjoys the skills and abilities that his preferred class provides, but he should also want a class that will hold up when compared to the other classes. This is especially true in a PvP environment. It's just hard sometimes to compare the damage-dealing capability of a Priest to that of, say, a Scout. All of this brings me to the idea of learning to play specific roles around intermittent patch updates and skewed mechanics. Can we enjoy our favorite class in such a gear-heavy MMO without worrying about maximum damage or healing output?
Gear frees us and binds us
One of the cool things about gear in RoM is that it gives a player the ability to concentrate more on enjoying a favored class for its role, but at the cost of time and money. If I want to play a Rogue/Priest, I don't need to worry that it's less efficient than a Rogue/Druid or anything/Druid. By the way, I'm two steps away from making a hotline for Druids. Druids are not the worst class in the game. If anything, they are more fun for players who want to step up to a more complex build. Besides, anyone can make up for a lot of disparity between attributes by further upgrading gear.
I have oftentimes struggled with articles I wanted to write that delved more into mechanics and certain builds and felt an invisible wall stopping me. But maybe there really isn't a wall preventing me from seeing the gritty innards of the game. Another MMO, like World of Warcraft, might generate hundreds of articles describing different builds for different situations, but I think RoM precludes me from writing many of those types of articles because they rely a lot on the limitation WoW has set for gear and attributes. RoM is a lot more nebulous because in most situations one could say, "Throw some more stats on your gear," and you're done.
I think RoM has a need for a new way of thinking about running instances and crunching gear stats that is just now starting to show itself. Is the answer more about how we derive fun from RoM? I could write an article or three about specific builds within the confines of wallet size, but it largely boils down to a small strategy guide. That's fine. I will probably venture into that territory and very soon. This gets us back to learning about how we can enjoy a specific class based less on how fast it propels us through content, because what any class wears is more about that. What does this teach us about the class we choose?
It can teach us to look more at what the classes' roles can do and less at how much they can do. RoM has its own mechanics that flirt and dance with mechanics found in other games like WoW, yet they definitely aren't the same. How many MMOs have come along and torn a hole in the box that specifies limitations on character power that directly affect how you approach content? If I wanted to, I could buy enough diamonds, turn them into gold, and purchase tier 10+, over-durability, +12 armor for my level 44 Rogue/Priest and pretty much make any talk about DPS moot. There are still many great articles in there concerning what a player wants to do under self-imposed limitations, but I think there's also a lot of great content that focuses on how to play a class.
There's going to come a time -- possibly soon -- when Group Heal or mana gets nerfed again. Runewaker has already assured us of this. You'll have basically two choices: reroll or learn to play your class. Option one is not too attractive when you're looking at a level 62/62 character that you've decided to put a fair amount of real cash into. You can use a Fruit of Forgetting to wipe one side of your class-combination, which lessens the pain, if you are happy with at least half of that combo. If you know you like your class choices, option two is the way to go.
When you get really close to level cap and start running cutting-edge content, mechanics and stat choices do take on a more palpable role, even with highly upgraded gear, but for the majority of the content, it's simply about finding the base minimum of what you need. The role you play can also be diminished in a similar manner, but it's something that can prove to be more important in more situations and throughout a player's career. If you're not paying attention to how often you're spamming Group Heal on your Priest or watching your aggro, the uber cloth armor you're wearing isn't going to matter after the party wipes.
Learning how to play your role can be very important at every level and in every dungeon. It's also important to find the role that you can have the most fun with. If you're looking for the most DPS or biggest heals possible, any patch could change that at any time. You'll probably still have a viable class, but it may be one that you won't particularly enjoy for its role as much as for how uber you thought it was.
Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or an in-depth look at the Rogue/Priest combo, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.