The Trinity in Vanilla WoW

Liore revived one of the classics of MMO discussion this past week, the question of whether the "holy trinity" of classes being divided into tanks, healers and dps is a good or a bad thing. I'm on her side on this matter as I personally love to heal, though I'm also a fan of leaving room for additional roles such as support or crowd control. I just don't like it when people whine about the trinity without having any realistic/appealing suggestions for how to do things differently.

Anyway, I don't actually want to dive into the question of whether the trinity is a good or a bad thing myself, but seeing so many people get involved in discussing the subject made me want to talk about the differences I've observed on Kronos in regards to trinity gameplay compared to more modern MMOs.

The thing that I've found the most striking is that people are often extremely flexible. Calls like "LF2M" will go out without specifying any roles. Anyone is welcome! You still need a dedicated tank and healer, but getting a group together takes effort in itself and people are willing to be flexible to make the process easier. Warriors may like to do damage, but I've yet to meet one that didn't also have a shield in his or her bag and was willing to assume the tanking role if that was what's needed to get the run going. Likewise druids and paladins may not like being pigeonholed into the healing role, but they are often happy to do it for a five-man nonetheless.

I have a suspicion that the sort of crowd that is attracted to private Vanilla WoW servers may be unusually skewed towards people who are willing to make compromises and take on responsibility in order to make a group succeed - the amount of comments I've heard about characters being levelled as tanks or healers is astounding (and I'm a prot/holy hybrid myself).

But it's not just that - Vanilla WoW was also both not very demanding of tanks and healers while levelling, while at the same time being extremely generous towards hybrids (hybrids in the definition of "any class that can do more than just do damage"). Tanking was largely about being sufficiently armoured to be able to withstand some damage and making at least an effort to hold aggro, while healing was about casting single target heals on the tank and occasionally on a dps. No special tools were required. The warrior tanking as dps spec would take a bit more damage and the healer healing in dps spec would run out of mana more quickly, but in most situations that was perfectly manageable.

At the same time, while many hybrid talent trees were really lacklustre in terms of what they provided if you wanted to specialise, this also meant that there wasn't that much difference between someone specced for healing and someone who wasn't, making it easier to switch to another role for a while even if it wasn't your main specialisation.

I remember back in Vanilla retail I was told that it was perfectly fine to level my priest as shadow while playing the healer in dungeons. Once I'd hit level sixty, a guild even took me along to AQ20 as a pug healer (while fully aware of my dps spec). It just wasn't that big of a deal.

I remember being rather miffed when I briefly returned to retail WoW in MoP and found that Blizzard had made this kind of thing completely impossible with the talent changes in that expansion. If you're a feral druid, you're fully feral now, with little to no mana and no reliable healing abilities. Of course by then the game had dual spec instead, but you can't get that until you're a bit higher level and it's not quite the same, as it still requires you to make a conscious choice between roles instead of being able to do multiple things out of the box.

I enjoy re-experiencing this Vanilla attitude of people being open about what roles to play as it runs counter to the worst outgrowths of individual min-maxing and emphasises working as a group to achieve success. In my Uldaman run, one of the dps took over tanking for the last bit since our tank up to that point was a bit low level for the instance and was starting to have trouble holding aggro - it was the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes pets do some off-tanking or a dps does some off-healing. It's not about maximising your individual performance but about getting through the whole thing together. It makes my inner socialiser very happy.

The only times I've seen people be oddly specific in their group requests (e.g. "looking for one more caster dps"), it usually seems to be motivated by concerns about loot, which is a bit greedy but also understandable when you consider how much more precious every bit of loot was in Vanilla. Nonetheless these calls seem to be the exception rather than the norm.


  1. To be fair, a lot of this is because Vanilla dungeon content was terribly easy (taking 10 people into 5-man dungeons, etc.). This allowed the quasi-tanks and quasi-healers to work.

    As soon as the content got slightly difficult (Molten Core), the tolerance for non-specialists disappeared, which was greatly disappointing to those of us who liked playing hybrids and generalists. (See the first three years of my blog.)

    I gather that the raid game does not really exist on these private servers?

    1. Hah, you'd be surprised! Kronos keeps a log of "last bosses killed", which seems to indicate to me that even on a comparatively low population private server like this, the raiding population is quite active.

      And it seems odd to me that people would have been so strict about specs - maybe they were more so at the beginning when everything seemed new and hard. (My AQ pug happened close to the end of Vanilla.) I also thought it was telling that in this post by someone who raided up to Onyxia/Nefarian on Kronos he notes how there seems to be little point in thinking too much about min-maxing because "in most cases regardless of my damage the boss still dies".

    2. Raidlogging (logging in the game only for the raids) is actually a highly prevalent behaviour on Kronos and motivations to start on a vanilla realm often include a wish to finish some raids. I believe the same could be said for Nostalrius, who also shows an impressive 120+ raids started in a 24h hours period. http://realmplayers.com/RaidStats/RaidList.aspx?realm=NRB&page=1

      You might be a bit less free in terms of talents and spec once you start raiding depending on the guild, for example I did have to show my spec to enter my raiding guild and it was expected that I use some talents (although I believe this evaluation is mostly there to check if you have made some research on your class). Hybrids and unusual specs (moonkins, shadow priests) are welcome but are unlikely to be favored over "stronger" classes like rogues, warriors and mages.

      Beyond success players might also be willing to accept various specs in leveling dungeons because being too specific would take too much time.

      No one ever asked about my warlock spec before Blackwing Lair (progress).

  2. Vanilla had hybrids, current WoW replaced them with role changer. I miss my hybrid druid.

    I think that was one of the many huge mistakes where they sacrificed a great strength of their game for the holy grail that is raiding. Dungeons were more fun when "skill" meant to improvise when a bad pull happened and not beating a artificial enrage timer through a flawless dance.