In my last two posts (here and here), I've discussed some of the benefits that MMOs could have on Tabletop RPG Design, with my most recent post discussing the benefits of having multiple classes that do similar things in different ways. Today, we're going to dive into actual gameplay a bit more, and get some ideas about tactical combat.
Status Effects are Good Tactics: One thing that's very nice about World of Warcraft (WoW) is that classes all have different methods of fighting that aren't just direct attacks. Direct attacks are generally all that is available to melee or ranged combatants in Pathfinder / 3E Dungeons & Dragons, which leaves their contributions to a fight merely at "hit it", which can get very boring to players after a while. While feats like Bleeding Critical do allow you to apply some status effects, the player has little to no control over when and how the status effect is applied.
Warriors in World of Warcraft can hit quite hard with their various physical attacks, but they definitely have their share of status effects that make them more interesting to play. A warrior can inflict Bleed damage by using the Rend attack (deals no initial damage but causes the foe to bleed out for a period of time), and can stun their foes with attacks like Concussion Blow, and slow their foes down with Hamstring, or stagger them a bit with Shield Slam (which slows their movement slightly and interrupts spellcasting).
This was one of the best things about the Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords, which was released towards the end of the 3.5 D&D printing run. While many meta-game tests were done that concluded that the core 3.5 D&D classes could out-damage the classes available in the Tome of Battle more often than not (the iconic examples being Barbarian and Warblade), the classes from the Tome of Battle were just simply more tactical, and to many, much more fun. You adapted your combat routine to the here and now, and could run interference for your group (in other words, you could hold an enemy off while your team got into position).
Damage Prevention: One mechanic I've really enjoyed looking at in World of Warcraft is the priest's "Power Word: Shield" spell. For discipline priests, this is a staple of their healing routine; but it's a very new concept in terms of RPG healing. It's effectively preemptive healing. Casting PW:Shield creates a "bubble" around the target for the duration of the spell. This bubble then absorbs incoming damage, similar to Temporary HP from spells like vampiric touch in D&D and Pathfinder.
In fact, a properly played Discipline Priest actually heals very little over the course of a battle, but is considered an invaluable healer. When they do heal, their healing is very efficient in terms of resources spent versus health gained, though the amount of health healed is generally kind of low (with the exception of their iconic spell, Penance which strongly heals an ally in a quick burst, or alternatively harms an enemy for about half the damage it would have healed. Very nice.
I've become a bit fascinated with these kinds of mechanics, so I will probably be toying with similar concepts in some of my upcoming pdf books for Pathfinder; which will be something fun to look forward to. ☺