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MMO Gaming Dictionary - Combat Terminology

by: Michael Hartman ; edited by: Michele McDonough ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

MMO terminology can really overwhelm someone new to the genre. It can seem like people are speaking a totally different language. Buff, debuff, DPS, aggro, and all sorts of other terms do not make sense to the uninitiated. This guide and the others in the series should provide a useful reference.

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    Combat Terminology in MMORPGs

    The MMO Gaming Dictionary is an ongoing project here at Bright Hub. It was originally begun on my blog, Muckbeast. It has been expanded here on Bright Hub and is updated periodically.

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    AoE through HoT

    AoE: Area of Effect; spells that have an area of effect from around the target or a radius from the caster.

    Aggro - This term is short for "aggression" and it generally refers to the current attention of a mob. Whoever "has aggro" is the person currently being attacked by a mob.

    Aggro Management - This is the process of maintaining hate or aggression levels so you control who a mob is attacking. Usually this means making sure the mob(s) is attacking the tank and not squishier targets like healers.

    Buff: A temporary status effect that is generally beneficial. It raises or improves some stat or attribute.

    CC - See Crowd Control.

    Critical Hit - Critical hits are hits that do bonus damage due to the fact that they have hit a vulnerable spot. Typical critical hits in MMOs do double damage. Characters often have "critical hit rating" or "critical chance" which is their percent chance to deal a critical hit. Critical hits are generally very important for PvP as they deliver potent, much needed burst damage.

    Crowd Control (CC) - This refers to the concept of mesmerizing, stunning, or otherwise "locking down" mobs or players so they are unable to act for a period of time. Early MMOs focused very heavily on crowd control as something necessary for success. WoW and more recent MMOs seem to ignore crowd control and focus more on pure DPS. This is a shame because crowd control is an interesting and challenging tactical element of combat in online games.

    Debuff - A temporary status effect that lowers a statistic or other attribute of an opponent.

    DoT - Damage over Time. This refers to an effect that deals damage in some portion smaller than the whole periodically. For example, a 50 damage DoT that was applied every 4 seconds for 40 seconds would deal a total of 500 damage (or 550 if it applied a tick of damage immediately as well at the end).

    DPS (Damage Per Second) - The basic concept of DPS is simply a calculation of damage done per second. The term is also often used to refer to a certain type of class or player - someone playing a DPS class/character. A DPS class is a class designed with the primary role of dealing damage. DPS classes generally do not provide tanking, healing, or other significant forms of utility. In some games, however, DPS classes do provide utility, which generally throws off class balance enormously.

    Experience Points - One of the most common methods of representing your character's "learning" is through the awarding of experience points. When you earn enough experience points, you either gain a level or you can spend the points on training.

    HoT - Heal over Time. Powers of this type do not heal you all at once. Instead they apply some amount of healing periodically. For example, a HoT may heal you for 100 points of health every 10 seconds for a total of 10 ticks. That would mean 1000 health healed over 100 seconds.

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    PBAoE through XP

    PBAoE - Point Blank Area of Effect. This is an effect (often damage, but it could be a buffer debuff) that originates wherever the caster is standing and radiates outward from that spot.

    Pulling - The act of attacking or aggroing a specific mob and causing it to leave its current location and run to a more convenient or practical location. The main reason for pulling a mob away from its location is to avoid "aggroing" additional mobs you do not want to fight yet.

    Raid - A shorter term for a raid dungeon, or sometimes a term for the raid group itself.

    Raid Boss - A major boss mob that is located within a raid dungeon.

    Raid Dungeon / Raid Instance - An instanced dungeon or zone that is designed for the purpose of raiding.

    Raid Group - The players who make up the multiple parties/groups that together are taking on a raid dungeon.

    Raiding - A type of game content that requires multiple parties or groups of players. Raiding generally requires 10, 25, 40, 50, or 100 players (sometimes a few less if the players are highly skilled or extremely well geared). The cynical definition would be that raiding is a process that generally involves entering a raid dungeon, spending 10-20 minutes buffing, clearing an hour of trash, killing a boss, and then arguing over loot for 30 minutes. This process is repeated until the dungeon is completed, people are too tired to continue for the night, or the guild is disbanded from excessive drama, loot debates, and other arguments. The less cynical definition is that raiding involves enormous amounts of planning, coordination, and teamwork to accomplish shared goals against end game content.

    Resistance - Resistance generally refers to the ability to reduce the amount of incoming damage of a certain type. MMOs typically make use of resistances on a percentage based scale. For example, if you have 10% fire resistance and you are hit with a 100 damage fire spell, you would take 90 damage.

    Respawn - This word was originally an FPS term but it has made its way into MMOs. Permanent death systems are exceptionally rare in MMOs. Usually when you die you are given the option to re-appear at some location - either a nearby graveyard, a bind point, or some other spawn point. Dying and respawning usually carries some kind of penalty - lost experience, lost levels, damage to gear, etc.

    Resurrect - Resurrection is the ability of some players to bring a fallen player back to life. This is generally done so they do not have to respawn to some location far away. Sometimes resurrection carries a lighter penalty than if you respawn.

    Taunt - This generally refers to an ability (usually possessed by tanks) that allows one player to immediately can aggro or the attention of an opponent mob/npc/boss. Most taunt abilities are "snap aggro" which means you can use them to immediately get the focus or attention of an opponent.

    XP - SEE: Experience points

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    Visit Our Blog and Add Your Own Terms

    The MMO Gaming Dictionary is a work in constant progress. We invite all of our readers to visit the blog post connected to this project and suggest other terms that should be included. Please visit the MMO Gaming Dictionary blog post.

    Thank you!

MMO Gaming Terminology

MMORPGs have a language all of their own. It is heavy on acronyms, backronyms, and other confusing terms. This series of articles is a handy reference that explains many MMO terms.
  1. MMO Gaming Dictionary - Combat Terminology
  2. MMO Gaming Dictionary - Character Terminology
  3. MMO Gaming Dictionary - General Terminology