Mixing it up a bit, musings of a mad shaman

The question was thrown out there a long time ago about how to re-invent the healing wheel so to speak. Right now the way healers work is the way they have always worked in pretty much every game I can think of (There are exceptions but they are far and few between). Healing has mostly been centered around the consumption, preservation and regeneration of mana or a similar in concept consumable resource. Since DnD (magic points), Magic the Gathering (mana from lands) etc, when you wanted to heal something you used your resources to cast the spell to heal the target. The concept of mana at this point is quite pedestrian.

The idea though is something that you can’t really change. Its is a rock solid equation. Spend x to get y, changing some form of consumable resource into healing or health. So my thought is this, why try to reinvent the wheel when you can just paint it a different color?

So how do you change things up? Well to be honest it would not be that hard to implement different ways to heal.

Change resources

One of the simplest ways to change the healing game is to change the resource with which a healer spends to heal. Like we said, mana has been done to death in about every way possible. Altering the source of ones power makes perfect sense.

Lets take for example a Paladin. Paladins in tradition mythology are bastions of willpower and determination. Characters in stories that lead in martial prowess in the protection of others while channeling divine gifts to heal the weak or cow the masses of the enemy horde before them. These cavaliers could very easily be represented by that very concept, willpower. A diminishing resource that regenerates on it’s own. It can easily be done similar to how a rogue’s focus works now in WoW. It would make things a bit more interesting I think, and it would eliminate the need for mana pots, replenishment and MP/5. More importantly it changes the flavor of the class making it more interesting to some. This change could also facilitate further role playing opportunities.

You can see why this would be desirable for many people and the mechanics would be easy to work out.

Please also understand paladin was just a random choice here it could work for many other classes.

Change the way you earn those resources

Another way you can mix things up for healers is change the way they earn their consumable resource. Think of it this way, right now you just have mana right? You replenish it over time (and it is never really explained how which honestly I think it should be, but that is a post for another time.) you can regen it through MP/5, through the replenishment ability or various other class abilities. But you don’t really earn them right? What if you change the model to include having to perform certain actions to generate the power to heal. This concept is not anything new and can be found in various other games such as Warhammer Online and Lord of the Rings Online. In both games you perform various tasks that supply you with the power to heal.

Joe’s solution and example

The fundamental problem with any class that uses mana or any consumable resource in any game is that eventually that resource runs out. When the resource runs out two things happen.

  1. The class functionality essentially ceases to exist. Without that resource there is nothing left for you to do.  You have to either use an external source to replenish that resource or wait for natural regeneration to give you enough of the resource to continue on. In WoW think of going OOM and having to drink, use mana gaining abilities such as mana tide totem or evocation, potions or innervates.  MP/5 also counts as an external factor.
  2. When a support classes functionality ceases, it factors towards the termination of the groups momentum. In WoW terms this is akin to waiting for the healer to have mana before being able to continue on with whatever group task is.

What some people don’t know is that I am an amateur game designer by desire. It is what I want to do with my life, I want to make games. Currently I am in the middle of making one game, with another planned after. If you’re interested in details on it. I will be updating about it more frequently on For The Lore’s website . What this means is I think about these things a lot. I am a gamer after all and I want other gamers to like my games when I make them right? So balance and renovation are always at the forefront when I’m making decisions.

In one of the games there are a couple healing classes. And I thought back on all the games I have played and participated in and thought about how I could mix it up and I came up with a couple answers.

To me the overarching answer is hybrids. I’m not saying you should get rid of pure healing classes but hybrid classes are an easy way to eliminate class functionality black holes. They are a pain to balance, but the reward is always worth it. Now I know when you think hybrid probably the first thing that comes to mind is the various classes considered hybrids in WoW (Paladin, shaman, priest, druid and DK). Truth is while those are hybrids, they are not true hybrids. To maintain full functionality for hybridization you need to completely respec. While this is more true in some cases than others it is what keeps them from being “true hybrids”.

To me a hybrid class is one that can flow between multiple roles seamlessly and without respeccing. Perfect examples of this can be found in Warhammer Online (Battle Priest) and Lord of the Rings Online (Rune Keeper). Both games have hybrids that fill both roles period. No respeccing, no hassle. The mechanics of these vary, but you get the idea.  So I’m going to share with you a little bit about two of the healer hybrid classes I have come up with for one of  my games.

These will be short descriptions of each just to give you an idea, more in depth write-ups will be available on for the lore in class descriptions as I complete them.

Monks of zhi bde

The monks of zhi bde are peaceful in nature, tending to the weak and sick with care and gentleness. Their monasteries can be found throughout the land and all who seek shelter or enlightenment are welcome. The monks of zhi bde are however not blind to the world and know that daemons and men can often be found lurking in the shadow wishing to cause harm to those weaker than themselves. The monks have honed their fighting skills to defend innocents from both arcane and mundane threats.

Monks of zhi bde are tireless defenders of the weak. Through use of their sigils and martial arts  they are able to take the fight to those that threaten the innocent while still supporting those they fight along side and those they protect. As they focus, they generate Ki that can then be released to heal the wounded.

In game:

This is a Healer/ DPS hybrid. The class revolves around a basic mechanic. As the monk buffs party members or attacks enemies through use of sigils and chants (a definable resource) they generate Ki(a second definable resource). That Ki can then be used to cast various support spells.

The sigils and chants are renewable and regenerate over time as they are used, Ki that is generated from the use of sigils and chants does decay over time if not used.

The idea is to keep the class mobile, always able to do something, whether it is buffing the party, attacking an enemy or healing the idea is to reduce downtime and keep the game moving allowing players to experience more of the game without having to stop and recuperate.  There are non combat uses for the sigils for those that wish to purely heal in group environments.

This is similar to the model WoW has put in place with DK’s  runes and runic power. Honestly it’s a great idea that I feel would benefit well the hybrid healer.

Field Medic

Where there is conflict and war there is suffering and death. For every army there are those that seek to mend the broken and save lives. Trained in both the arts of healing and the ways of war they stalk the battle field attempting to make their way towards the wounded, often fighting through enemies to get to their target. When confronted by an enemy they will fight with a martial prowess of a seasoned soldier in both melee and at range.

Each action is a measure of control that feeds into the field medics movements as they build momentum.  Every army boasts a slew of field medics, but some serve no nation preferring to sell their services to the highest paying adventuring party or seeking glory.

In game:

This is a DPS / Healer hybrid and it is a true hybrid. They earn momentum which can shift from offense to defense. For example the more healing they do, the better that healing becomes but their damage dealing abilities are reduced. The more damage they do the better that damage becomes but the weaker their support and healing becomes. When the player shifts gears their momentum swings to the other extreme. When they stop casting all together their momentum is reduced to a state of equilibrium.

Instead of traditional consumable resource, the effectiveness of the class abilities is the commodity payed along with the cool-down of abilities. This is also used as a balancing point for the class as peak performance for either role is back loaded.  This gives players free choice in the middle of an encounter to switch gears as needed and creates a more dynamic game play. While a field medic fully engaged in combat may be keeping up on DPS they are not removed from their ability to heal. It simply doesn’t heal for as much as it would if momentum was in full heal mode.

This is similar to how rune keepers function in LotRO

Again these are rough ideas that will change as I work on the game, but you can see that my intention is to spice things up a bit for healers, and give some options to hybrid players. Again I’m not advocating the removal of pure healers, just offering up ideas on how to shake things up a bit and maybe make things a bit more interesting. It ultimately is still spend x to get y, but x is sometimes time and cool-downs, sometimes another resource entirely.

How would you mix it up if you were tasked with changing the way healing was done?

That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed my musings. Until next time Happy Healing!

13 thoughts on “Mixing it up a bit, musings of a mad shaman”

  1. I really think that true hybrid classes/specs would be AMAZING. I recently did VOA 10 on my ele shaman, and it was really interesting to toss a few chainheals in between my dps rotation when a few people got low.

    Actual hybrids break the tunnel vision issue very well. (IE; you don’t just spam heals, or dmg, you constantly need to evaluate the situation and make the best decision.)

    I think that mana management can be interesting, running ZA on my H-pally back in the day, needing to bring mana pots, and really watch my mana on the encounters was much more interesting for me than just spamming holy light and divine plea now.

  2. They tried this, more or less, way back in Vanilla.

    In Vanilla, Priests were more or less pure healers. But the other healers were “hybrid”. Not as good at healing as a Priest, but they could do – other stuff. Shaman can switch healing/dps roles seamlessly! Paladins can heal while buffing and melee-ing! They even had gear that supported this playstyle – Druid leather with Str and Spirit on it and so forth.

    Hybrids are really good at soloing -they are, by definition, able to call on a broad range of abilities for every situation. However, grouping favors min-maxing. If your choice is 25 toons specialized for their chosen tasks, or 25 hybrid toons that may not be as good at their specified tasks, but who can role switch? We know the answer already: look at Vanilla and BC – rets, boomkins, ferals, etc laughed out of the raid, and shadowpriests brought for what amounts to replenishment. Unless you make boss encounters where players are expected to switch roles, this model will always force hybrids into second fiddle positions.

    You could do the opposite as well: make some classes able to only DPS, and then make healers who can DPS just as well as they can heal. Then no one plays the pures. Why would you?

    Hybrid-ness just doesn’t work out so well in MMOs. Its too easy for a class to go one way or the other: overpowered (see season 5 Paladins – bursty DPS combined with healer/tank cooldowns) or just not worth the raid slot beyond their buffs (for example: Shadow Priests in t9 or Ele Shammies in t7, all hybrids in vanilla and BC).

    Now, there have been some interesting things about hybrids. Innervate and Battle Rez make Druids of any flavor capable of helping out your healing team, even if they’re primarily DPS. Shadow Priests currently have some of the best survivability of any ranged DPS, due to Vampiric Embrace. They can also be put in a group with classes/players who have a penchant for having low health or dying, providing that little extra buffer. Both classes have a long healing cooldown (divine hymn, tranquility) that is trainable. I think this is a good way to go for hybrids in WOW – interesting abilities that are unique to the class that allow toons to excel at their chosen role while being able to help out in another role in a pinch, but that aren’t so overpowered that you bring the hybrids over the pure DPS classes.

  3. I don’t think this applicable to WoW circa 2010. Everything is about homogenization. Fewer resources/stats. Merge MP5 and spirit so pally/shammie can use preist/druid rings and capes; get rid of ArPen – or is it expertise; The days when there were items with shadow damage or healing power are gone. just a single “healing power”. Soon non-plate will be getting more stam and armor.

    Although I suppose how the consumable resource could renamed from mana to something like combo points or runic power.

    I miss TBC tunnel vision. I think watching 25*3 bars and managing my mana efficiently was fun. WotLK healing with lots of movement and twitch healing was enough to get me to stop healing. Fast clicking, fast movement, no thinking – its just a bad FPS/xBox. How about a TBC Healer hybrid? Like an imp, you phaseshift out of this world, immune to damage and heal with your unit bars.

    Excuse me, I have to go yell at the kids on my lawn.

  4. I think I would dig a true “hybrid”. I’m [ ] this close to heading to sleep, so my ability to really wax (or wane) philosophical on the idea is extremely limited (see: nonexistant) but… yes, it’s intruiging.

    I can’t really compare healing in WoTLK with healing in BC or Vanilla because I didn’t actually start healing ’til the end of BC, I was a Disc priest, and I can hardly remember last week let alone nearly two years ago. … Or was I healing as a Disc/Holy solo build? … Probably that one. Whatever.

    I adore the concept behind your monks, though – that sounds like it would be fun in practice.
    .-= Matojo´s last blog ..Matojo Plays “Ms. Obvious” =-.

  5. I don’t know exactly how it would work, but it would be cool if the whole raid was connected through resources. F.ex. if all mana users had one big manapool, and you had the ability to waste mana on huge spells, or play it safe on weaker spells.

    Ooo, or maybe a healing model more like a scale, where balance is the key to survival, not just pouring heals onto the tank. Would be alot harder tho, and maybe not that much more fun.

    Last idea would be to add more healing spells that require you to watch the game. Like if your best aoe heal was targeted the same way as blizzard. Or a priest shield like the dk antimagic zone.

  6. What if they had a class that worked similar to the emerald dragons in Occulus. You have a variety of DOTs and spells that damage mobs to gain health and then other spells to transfer your health to other players.

  7. Gotta get this off of my mind so I can go back to work 🙂 so forgive me if this is terse.

    A class focused on maintaining a balance would be cool. Their resource would start in ‘the middle’ and certain spell families would move it ‘left’ or ‘right’, but the farther off center, the spell effectiveness changes.

    For example: a healing/absorption ‘hybrid’. Effective Heals move left, effective absorbs move right. If you spam heals, you become left aligned and your heals are less powerful, but you can cast an extra-poweful absorption spell. You’d would probably need to use short cooldowns to balance everything effectively, but it would make an interesting playstyle where you have to anticipate the upcoming damage in the fight and know whether healing or absorption would be best.

    The same class could have other trees that provide different hybrid types: debuff/damage, healing/damage, absorb/damage, etc..

    [Edited to add:] I just finished reading the post, and this is somewhat similar to your field medics 🙂 Sounds interesting. If you need any help with the game design/development let me know! I’m a Ph.D. student in CS and have always had aspirations to get into game development.

  8. I’ve long thought systems like what you are suggesting would be cool. RPGs like WoW are really about resource management, so why not make that more interesting?

    One thing that I think has a lot of unexplored opportunity is more active buffs, debuffs, and damage prevention.

    When I think of a heal/dps hybrid who becomes more and less effective when he casts one school or the other, I think more in terms of “each heal spell causes my heal spells to heal for less and my damage spells to hit for more.” This encourages someone to swap back and forth and really play the “hybrid” instead of just casting all heals to get the maximum healing, switching to DPS halfway through the fight would be too costly.
    How you balance the rotation is what makes this interesting. Is it best to heavily invest into onefor the maximum burst, or do you want to constantly be swapping back and forth?

    I’ve been working on a system for resource management that is inspired by a CCg like MTG or WoW, once I write something on it I’ll let you know. I’d love to see what you think.
    .-= RaydenUni´s last blog ..Demigod builds and balancing =-.

  9. Why play a pure if I can have the flexibility of a hybrid?
    I see 3 answers to this. Certainly there are more.
    1. There are no pures. Everyone has two roles they can fill.
    2. Pures are better than hybrids. Hybrids will always be expected to heal primarily and shift to dps only when the need for healing lowers.
    3. Pures get utility. Things like mobility (stealth or blink) or synergy (auras that have big stacking effects).

    Good luck on your game!

  10. The tinkerer

    3 stacks of “ammo”. spare parts, fuel, healing crystals.
    1 upgradeable tool. effects speed, power, range, etc. of devices.

    Devices costing various levels of the ammo types and time:
    Healing grenade – one time throw and heal.
    Healing beacon – aoe health pulse. Needs refueling.
    Healing gun – frontal cone healing pulse. Needs refueling.
    Fuel pump – sucks fuel from the ground for the tinkerer to refill from.
    Crystal synthesizer – creates crystals over time. works faster if there is a life form nearby. bad or good guy.
    Shield – Absorbs some damage for the chosen device. Tinkerers have to worry about aoe damage.

    It’s like a shaman relying entirely on totems or a Team Fortress engineer’s turrets.

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