MMORPG Terms for the Uninitiated

Certain terms are common across the MMORPG genre, regardless of developer or decade of release. They’re so pervasive that I often forget people who don’t play MMOs aren’t familiar with them, even if they do play other types of games. So here are several terms and concepts that are deeply ingrained on my psyche, and that of other MMORPGamers. (What, I can’t do that? I’m doing it. I did it. MMORPGamers. It’s a thing now.)

Tank
Noun: A player whose primary role is to soak up a lot of damage and maintain aggro, keeping the party safe. Also known as the Meat Shield. Usually wades into battle first so enemies focus on them.
Verb: To maintain aggro & absorb damage to protect the team.
Buu is a great tank. He tanks well.

Aggro
Noun: An enemy’s attention
Verb: To draw enemy attention
Aggro incoming from rear. Why did the DPS aggro?

LOS
Noun: Short for Line of Sight; a tactic involving aggroing enemies and then running around a corner so that the enemies must follow you. (They can’t attack you if they don’t have line of sight to you, so since you’re around a corner, they have to follow you.) This is used to group enemies more tightly, and also pull them away from other nearby groups (to avoid accidental extra aggro).
Verb: Employing said tactic
I’m gonna LOS that group. I can’t heal you, I lost LOS.

DPS
Noun 1: Damage Per Second, a measure of damage dealing efficiency
Noun 2: A player whose primary role it is to deal damage. Also known as Deeps.
Verb: To deal damage
That rogue had really low DPS. The tank out-DPSed the DPS. Thanks for the Deeps!

DOT
Noun: Short for Damage Over Time; any power that applies “ticks” of damage for a time after the power is initially cast. Contrast with Burst Damage, which deals a lot of damage instantly. Some powers do burst damage and also apply a DOT. Some games apply types to DOTs, including Bleed (physical damage), Poison, Curse, Magic, and Disease. Other games apply elemental type (Fire DOT or Toxic DOT). Fire and Poison powers most often have DOTs.
Verb: To cast such a power on an enemy
Warlocks have a million DOTs. You can DOT for days.

Healer
Noun: A player whose primary role is to restore party members’ hitpoints, and potentially reduce incoming damage.
Do not piss off the healer.

HOT
Noun: Short for Heal Over Time; any power that “ticks” or restores hit points for a period of time after the power is cast. Contrast with “Burst Healing”, which heals a large amount instantly. Some powers burst heal and also apply a HOT.
A healer with lots of HOTs has to be more proactive than reactive.

Eating Floor
A euphemism for one’s character being dead.
I totally spent that whole fight eating floor.

Holy Trinity
Noun: A game concept around which World of Warcraft and some other MMORPGs are structured. In five-person teams there will be 1 tank, 1 healer, 3 DPS. In a 24-person raid there will be 2 tanks, 4-5 healers, and the remainder DPS. Tank, healer, and DPS are the only roles available in the game, with other gaming concepts sprinkled in sparingly or not present at all.
Not every game uses the Holy Trinity.

Support
Noun: Any class or role that is not DPS
I really enjoy playing support.

Additional Support Roles (not found in WoW)
Defensive: uses powers that cause allies to take damage less often, either by buffing their defense or debuffing enemy accuracy
Resistance: uses powers that cause allies to take reduced damage from attacks, either by buffing their resistance or debuffing enemy damage
NOTE: Many games use the words defense and resistance differently. I’m using them the way they were used in City of Heroes.
Crowd Control: incapacitates enemies (see below)
General Debuffs: Reduces enemy stats in other ways, usually allowing the team to kill them faster or take reduced damage

Buff
Noun: A power that improves a stat
Verb: To improve a stat
I am so glad they brought back Raid Buffs. I’m gonna buff everyone’s stamina!

Debuff
Noun: A power that diminishes a stat
Verb: To diminish a stat
WoW doesn’t have a lot of player-castable debuffs. They didn’t want players to debuff their baddies into the floor, like we did in City of Heroes.

Stat
Noun: Short for statistic; a player’s score in any given category, usually including strength, intelligence, dexterity, and so on.
Her stats are really low.

Spec
Noun: Short for specialization. This is the role the character intends to fill. For example, most classes in Warcraft get three specs each. Paladins get a tank spec, a healer spec, and a DPS spec. Rogues get three different DPS specs. Players can swap between specs as long as they’re in a main city and not in combat.
What spec is that priest? 

Respec
Generally a verb meaning to respecify (or re-choose) the powers of a character. Can also be used as a noun. In City of Heroes, this required the completion of a special trial, or certain tokens. It was not as trivial as changing spec in WoW.
I really need to respec my blaster. Can anyone give me advice on a respec?

Crowd Control
Noun: Also known as CC or Mez, short for Mezmerize, these powers incapacitate the target in some way. Different games use different terms, and may not have all of the following. Most traditional MMOs have limited CC, with each player class getting only a couple CC powers, and with all CC powers being relatively weak and short in duration. City of Heroes took CC to an extreme, with an entire class built around it.
Verb: To mezmerize an enemy, or to indicate that one is mezzed.
Is anyone bringing CC? We need to mez the boss. I spent that whole fight mezzed. The CC was real.

Types of Crowd Control

  • Target cannot move or act in any way (Held, Stunned)
  • Target cannot move or act, but damage dealt to target will release them (Sleeping, Incapacitated)
  • Target cannot move, but can still cast powers (Immobilized, Rooted)
  • Target cannot cast powers, but can move slowly (Disoriented, Stunned)
  • Target cannot cast powers, but can move normally (Silenced)
  • Target’s movement speed and power recharge speed is reduced (Slowed, Snared) Ice powers usually cause Slow.
  • Target cannot choose who to attack (Taunted)
  • Target uses friendly powers on enemies and harmful powers on allies (Confused, Charmed, Controlled)
  • Target either cowers and can only use powers every few seconds, or target flees (Feared)
  • Target is either pushed to the ground, or thrown up into the air and then slammed into the ground, or is pushed backwards and knocked down. Target must stand up before casting powers or moving. (Knockup, Knockdown, Knockback)
  • Target is turned into something else, usually an animal, and cannot use any powers (Polymorphed)
  • Target’s screen becomes fuzzy, and camera wanders woozily as you walk (Drunk)
  • Target is immune to effects but also cannot act or move (Banished, Caged)

Toon
Noun: a character on a player’s account.
I have a lot of toons.

Trash
Noun: Non-boss level mobs in a dungeon, which are supposedly easier than the boss, but because there are so many of them they can sometimes be harder than the boss.
We need to clear the trash before we aggro the boss.

Mob
Noun: Short for Movable Object, from the early days of text-based RPGs and MUDS/MUCKs. An enemy, critter, or other object in the game. Used most often to refer to enemies.
Interrupt any mobs standing in the back.

Spawn
Noun 1: Another word for mob
Noun 2: Several mobs that all spawned as part of the same group
Verb: To be generated by the game environment
His pet aggroed every spawn between here and the entrance. The mobs respawned right on top of me.

Adds
Noun: Additional trash mobs spawned as part of the normal course of a boss fight.
DPS please focus on adds.

Mana / OOM
Mana is the primary resource of most spell-casters. OOM is short for Out Of Mana, meaning the person needs to pause momentarily to refill their bar.
Did you seriously just aggro while the healer is OOM?

Oh Shit button
Noun: Any power that is meant to be executed in emergency situations. Usually “Oh Shit” powers provide extremely high defense or immunity, or greatly refill the hit points bar, or make the target much more survivable in some way, for a short duration.
Yay! I unlocked my last Oh Shit button!

Nerf
Verb: To reduce a power’s effectiveness, usually in an effort to balance the power (or the class overall) against other powers or classes.
Noun: Any such reduction in effectiveness.
Oh man, Neverwinter really nerfed the hell out of Tank Bubbles. :[

There you have it! It’s a short list, I’m sure I’ve missed some important ones. Be sure to tell me in the comments what other terms I should include!

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