Aggro and You (and you… and you… and you)

I really enjoy Lord of the Rings Online as a game and as an immersive Tolkien-geek experience, both because of its similarities to games like CoH and WoW, and for its differences.
One of the BIG differences in LotRO is Aggro Management and handling big fights in the game. I’m going to illustrate how Aggro generally works in most MMOs that I’ve played, even for only a few days.
Aggro: Aggression. The amount of “hate” that a computer-controlled bad guy has toward a player’s character. It’s summarized (behind the scenes) as a numeric score.
The BASIC mechanics of aggro work something like this, in most games:

Amount of damage you’ve done to me: 1 point of damage = 1 point of Hate.
Any non-damaging, penalizing effects you’ve done to me: = a set amount of Hate
Any ‘buffing’ effects you’ve done to your friends, while you were near me: = a set amount of Hate
Any healing you’ve done to your friends, while near me: 1 point of healing, PER PERSON HEALED = 1/2 point of Hate
Any special hate-generating abilities: = whatever special amount of Hate they generate, if they hit.
So let’s say four of us are fighting a big boss in Generic MMO. In the first ten seconds of fighting:
– The tank did a special attack that is designed to generate a lot of hate, and hit the guy four times for 100 points of damage.
– The two damage dealers each hit the boss for 200 points of total damage, and both did a ‘special attack’ that debuffed the boss in some way.
– The “healer” healed the tank for 200 points of damage, and additionally healed everyone (including the tank) for 50 points, and buffed everyone once.
At the end of the 10 seconds:
– The tank has 100 hate from the damage he did, and X amount from his special ‘taunting’ attack.
– The two damage dealers each have 200 hate from the damage they did, plus Y amount from their special attacks.
– The healer has 200 hate from healing (400 total points healed, divided by two), plus Z amount from the buff they did to their friends.
And it’s the TANK’S job to stay at the top of the Aggro list. You can see where it’s VERY IMPORTANT to have a good understanding (maybe not hard numbers, but a good “feel” for the values of X, Y, and Z in that scenario.
I’m going to try to answer that, in general, for CoH, WoW, and LotRO.
The Tank’s regular attacks all generate from 1.5 to 2 times the aggro that they “should”. In addition, their special taunting attack is worth… oh, let’s say… 1000 Hate, and it’s available for reuse every 10 seconds or so… and it hits five people at a time — and the tank probably has an aura that also generates Hate in a area around them. In short, in CoH, tank even HALF on the job will Never Lose Aggro, no matter how much damage or healing the rest of the group is doing — if you can keep the tank alive, everyone else will be safe from the boss, and any adds that show up, period. The tank’s actually Hate is probably around 1200, and the next closest person on the list probably has Hate around 250… that divide will only widen as the fight continues.
The Tank must be given about five to ten seconds to establish a “lead” on the aggro list, using special aggro-grabbing abilities. Generally, the more they get hit, the more Rage they have, which fuels those special abilities, so if they lose aggro, they stop getting hit and also lose the ability to GET AGGRO BACK. Maybe the healer is healing him some, but generally no one else jumps in for bit — this cycle of damage = rage = threat keeps the tank’s aggro climbing steadily. Assuming a strong offense, in which the damage-dealers are doing good damage but NOT going all-out, clip-emptying gonzo, and are watching their own aggro, they can expect the tank to hold aggro the whole fight — if they go gonzo, they will overtake the tank’s aggro in about a minute. “Watching it” entails either having an ability that reduces the aggro they build from each attack, passively, or some kind of “aggro dump” they can hit every so often that resets their aggro down to the bottom of the list.
Pretty much everyone has such an ability in the game. Probably half of them know how to use it well. The one’s that don’t know are the ones with the high repair bills.
The Guardian has two standard aggro grabbing abilities — normal attacks that generate extra hate. Like WoW, giving them a few seconds to get those attacks off. It doesn’t feel as though they generate quite as much hate as similar moves in WoW, unless they start working on Traits that boost their Hate generation. They don’t get a “taunt” ability like the one in CoH until about level 26 or so, and it works on fewer targets. Cycling these two attack generates “pretty good” aggro, especially against a single target.
Unlike WoW, they don’t get Rage from getting hit — but they do rely on getting hit to maintaining aggro — they have a series of special attacks that become available for a short time (five or six seconds) after they:
– Successfully parry an attack
– Successfully block an attack
… and that doesn’t happen if they aren’t getting HIT.
The attack available after a successful block is a shield slam that generates a great amount of threat on ONE target. If THAT attack hits, that opens up two more options:
– A HUGE shield slam that generates HUGE aggro on one enemy.
– A sort of “challenge” ability that generates decent aggro against a group of three or four bad guys.
The special attacks that open up after a parry are nice, but don’t generate any special amount of hate.
Now… look at what’s happening here:
CoH: Tank generates huge amounts of hate, immediately, and will only rarely loose that aggro.
WoW: Tank generates some hate, which spikes pretty quickly and continues to climb a solid, predictable rate as long as they keep getting hit.
LotRO: Tank generates some hate, which continues to climb at a moderate but predictable rate, and which MAY spike unpredictably, depending on whether or not you get shield blocks that open up your BIG HATE attacks, and on whether or not that attack actually hits.
LotRO: smaller amounts of aggro from the tanks, with somewhat unpredictable growth patterns — lots of folks say LotRO is one of the most challenging games in which to tank, and would have to agree.
It’s also the most FUN. If you are doing your job as a tank in that game, you are whirling around, SMASHING orcs in the face with your shield, knocking them senseless, hollering dwarvish battle cries at em and generally entertaining the HECK out of your player. 🙂
Playing Geiri (who I’ve worked very hard to build the most aggro-heavy set of Talents I can), I’ve found that Tiranor (a Hunter, who generates the second greatest amount of hate in the game after minstrels in big groups, doing a lot of healing) can pretty much open up with whatever attacks she has pretty much as soon as I’ve hit the bad guy with one attack. Generally, Tiranor and Geiri kill things REALLY fast, cuz Tiranor can go gonzo right from the start. In groups, I sometimes have secondary or tertiary enemies leave me and go attack the healer, though… I’m still working on that. When I get my Challenge ability next level, that should stop happening as much.
Playing Tyelaf, who’s teamed up with Kate’s captain (who has no ‘special’ aggro-generating attacks) I have to walk a much more careful line: I start out with just a basic auto attack until the bad guy is down about one-quarter of his health, then I can really open up. If I start too soon, I’ve got a guy in my face, making it impossible to shoot — if I start too late, Tirawyn takes a lot more damage before the bad guy dies.
If we get it just right, the bad guy switches to me when he’s down to about 25% health and spends that last quarter of the fight running from Tirawyn to me, doing no damage to anyone while I shoot him in the face, Tira hits him in the back of the head… and then he dies at my feet.
it’s not as fast as with Geiri and Tiranor, but it does make fights really interesting. 🙂


  1. Just a quick WoW note, since that’s all of my tanking experience. Paladin’s are probably the best at front-loading aggro in a tanking scenario. With Righeous Fury up, all holy damage done is increased in the amount of hate you generate from it. I believe it’s 1 point of holy damage = 1.9 points of hate. So a decent paladin can shield throw, judge Righteousness, and if it’s undead, cast Exorcism. Usually leads to, without crits, about 2000 holy damage. On my tank, assuming I was tanking an undead mob, I could open with that, and have the DPS open up on them right after the Exorcism hit. Makes for shorter fights that way.
    Granted, paladin tanks actually have an inverse tanking bar, since their mana goes down as the fight goes on, unlike the warrior tank. Now healing them does give them some mana regeneration, thanks to Spiritual Attunement.

  2. Yep, I love my pally tank for that reason — HUGE spike of aggro right at the beginning of the fight — let me start the fight, and you can go nuts. It’s a very nice set up.
    I didn’t talk about it in my example, since pallys tend to be the exception, rather than the rule, in WoW — in practice, they work a lot more like a CoH tank, honestly.

  3. Interesting. I never played CoH, so my only experience really is with WoW. I’ve always preferred playing as, or with pally tanks. My Shadow priest loves them. 🙂

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