Thinking about the Paradigm for Defensive Actors

ScientistWD

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Oh gosh this totally got out of hand...

Firstly, allow me to correct myself with respect to @Wavelength,
  1. You're right, kindergarteners are often smarter than given credit. Though I only imagine they may find reading difficult, especially in an RPG setting.
  2. When I compare Cooldown Skills to Guard, I only intend to compare the Cooldown Skills that create a large increase in Defense, such as the "selective timeframes" of @jonthefox. To the end that they both require precise timing by the player to be useful, and that timing needs to be a tactical choice rather than an instruction from the designer. I hope that clears things up.
But allow me to mention that I am actually really intrigued by @CyberForte. It seems that they have a lot of "tank" experience. And there are "several possible" in their game? The "Evasion Tank" sounds very interesting too (though I am always wary of buffs that need to be constantly refreshed). How do the tanks interact? Do they all mitigate damage for each other? How does this game work?

Furthermore, the concept of "tank" is definitely worth talking about here. From what I remember:
A Tank is an actor that is designed to take more damage than other actors. In addition, they are expected to deal damage in fair if not excess amounts. Usually "physical" damage.
A Defender, what I've been on about this whole time, is an actor designed to prevent their allies from taking damage. In my ideal, they do this by applying their Defense Stat and using Defensive Capabilities. Like in my previous post.

It seems to me, with everyone's input, that people prefer Tanks to Defenders because they can contribute to the team's damage more effectively. But what I wonder is: For what other reasons do people prefer Tanks to Defenders? And also: How can Defenders be made more interesting and engaging to players without being made into Tanks? Is there no other way?

I learn more and more with every reply. I'm constantly surprised. Bring it on, please do, if you can.
 

kirbwarrior

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One thing not brought up or at least directly stated; Movement. Movement plays a ton into defensive characters. Tactical RPGs slap tanks into chokepoints. Dark souls has constant pacing to hit or not get hit. Real Life has you moving around to shove enemies off balance, putting any form of barricade in between enemies and allies, and generally finding a way to make your team unable to take damage while suppressing the enemy.

RPGs don't get the benefits of movement or placement. Actions have to both be reactive and proactive to protect team members.

I actually love how Cover is done in MV. The simple limitation "only lower hp allies" is enough to completely change your view on how you cover. I sometimes just give a class 100% Cover and incorporate it into how combat works.

Characters whose purpose is to mitigate or prevent damage to the party usually do it (in my games) by tying in damage in some sort of way. Shield Bash makes it so you do an attack without the bonus of weapon damage, and this turn any damage you mitigate heal TP by some fraction (the "-b.def" part of the formula). Or maybe your cheap skill decreases the attack of one monster for a turn, which only does something if you are faster. I've done something similar to the Golem spell from Final Fantasy Tactics by having your def be a second HP that protects the party until empty. One of my favorites was having the defender boost an allies stats by his defense for a turn to let the defender 'attack' by guarding.

As for the Guard command, I think 7th Saga and Four Heroes of Light show that a little goes a long way; 7th Saga you guard so you do more damage next turn, nearly necessitating the guard command for the flow of damage, while FHoL has guard heal resources (turns in that game, which later becomes Bravely Default's gimmick). I think it's awesome when guarding heals even 1% of MP or 5% of HP, because the short term mitigation becomes long term sustainability. The simplest upgrade to guard I've seen was making it so you take a flat 1 damage when guarding (effectively none, but 1 so you can't make battles into draws). Then you sacrifice your turn to not worry that turn.

@Basileus I never noticed that. Dragon Quest really is much harder than Final Fantasy. Huh.
 

jade_angel

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In my project - that admittedly is mostly at the planning and mechanics design stages right now - I'm actually using a few different paradigms for each of the defenderish/tanky characters.

The first one you get, Heinrich, is a dark knight who Covers allies (in the same model as Final Fantasy IV's Cecil, not FFVI's True Knight relic), but when enemies hit him, they get marked with stacks of Anger. His various skills either inflict debuffs along with an attack or they do damage, steal health or debuff stats based on the number of Anger stacks the enemy has. When he Guards, enemy attacks put extra Anger on them and usually cause them to gain additional negative conditions.

The second, Puscari, is a warrior that prefers single combat. He uses a Provoke mechanic to force a single enemy to target only him then beats them up with counterattacks and ripostes. He doesn't have many self-heals or sustain-oriented skills, preferring to deal damage as his secondary role, but healing spells work better on him. At high levels he gets a risky AoE Provoke

The third, Xenos, is a fast robot that's literally clad in adamantium armor head to toe. He has passive threat - basically just a higher than normal TGR and skills that raise it still higher, plus very high defense, high EVA and high HP, plus ranged weapons (guns) so that he can be placed in the back row and take still less damage. The catch is that healing isn't as effective on him and his damage output kinda sucks (while the other two actually deal more damage when enemies beat on them), but he can tank harder hits than anyone else. At high levels he can get an outright Taunt effect that draws nearly all fire to him for a short time.

I'm also incorporating a Stealth mechanic that makes enemies very unlikely to target the user as a sort of "reverse Taunt", though most of the squishy clothies don't actually get that - it's more of a Thief thing. Thieves take hits like a chump, but generally have better armor and HP than wizards.
 

Yakly

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One other aspect that could make defense interesting is an enemy-management class. As in, a class that itself is not a tank, but can cause enemies to focus on other characters. The tank itself focuses on maintaining defensive abilities, while the manager makes sure the enemy is directing its attacks at the tank.

For example, in Final Fantasy XI, the Thief job does high burst DPS, which generally gets them attacked by an enemy in retaliation... but then Thief has an ability, Trick Attack, that can combine with their high damage abilities, giving the damage credit to another party member (i.e. the tank). At later levels, the Thief can just outright taunt/provoke monsters on behalf of the tank as well.

By having an enemy-manager like that, it allows other job classes to do more dangerous/damaging attacks... if the enemy turns to them in response, a talented Thief can redirect the attention right back at the tank. This helps the tank (in Final Fantasy XI at least) to also add healing or damage to their repertoire instead of only defense, since they have a backup if an enemy gets away from them.
 

jade_angel

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That makes me think of Everquest's Jolt mechanic, where you smack an enemy and they get less annoyed at you. I'm not sure how Jolt would translate in a JRPG format (or more to the point, how it would be different from Stealth), but I think there might be something to be had there.

Actually, maybe that's where a Shield Bash would come in - do some damage based on your DEF and maybe daze, and the enemy stops targeting the tank/defender. Normally that's the opposite of what you want, but when the tank's low on health, the healer is OOM and the two melee DPS guys are untouched, just maybe it is...
 

kirbwarrior

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DnD4 actually has what I think is one of the coolest Taunt variants, and each tank class uses it differently, but the core is; The targeted enemy gets a fairly strong penalty to attacking anyone else (and knows this), while you get to do specialized things to your targets when they try (I believe the Fighter gets a free attack when their target tries to attack someone else). This would require a complex core for enemies determining attacks, but it lets the player actively try and trick, abuse, and manipulate the enemy ai without movement. Mind, a large part as to why this works is the units the enemy wants to attack (the damage dealers and healers) already are annoying to hit (DPS usually had some form of amazing evasion and the healers had similar self preservation options that tanks and controllers had), so the enemy wants to attack the tank. It also helps that no healer class (except the marvelously absurd Alchemist) was nearly as dedicated to healing as in most rpgs. They were spending most turns (or all with the Cleric) doing something to forward the fight while simultaneously keeping the party alive. Tank were HP batteries that found ways to take enemy hits. And, like the healers, were still constantly moving the battle forward to it's end. (Did you know that the intended design of DnD4 was that no battle lasted longer than 8 turns?)

I like the idea of making it so all characters are doing something to continue getting the battle finished instead of dragging it out with survival. One of my favorite healers used Drain but also chose who got healed by it instead of direct healing spells. A favorite tank of mine had an ability to replace an allies defense stat with their own using "Strafe" which also hit two targets at random for half damage to try and confuse the enemy as to what was going on.
 

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