Pin Me

Concepts of Threat in MMO Games - What is it?

by: John Hewitt ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Threat is a mechanic common across most MMOs that determines which character a monster chooses to attack. Despite the fact that it's fundamental to understanding how to play an MMO, it's almost never explained in manuals or in-game tutorials.

  • slide 1 of 1

    Managing Anger

    Threat is a common mechanic across most MMO game. Threat determines which character a monster chooses to attack. However, despite the fact that it's fundamental to understanding how to play an MMO, it's almost never explained in manuals or in-game tutorials. This often leaves new players terribly confused as to why their actions end up causing a group's failure, as they don't understand how the mechanic works. Typically, people have to learn about it from trial and error - the hard way, by drawing the attention of a monster by mistake, sometimes many times.

    Every monster has what's called an internal "threat table." It's easy to think of this as a list of names unique to each one. The monster chooses to attack the name at the top of the list - the character with the most threat. If another character builds more threat than another on the table, they will advance upwards. Generally, any action that a player performs will cause threat. Healing in a game like Lord of the Rings Online or World of Warcraft will build threat on all of the monsters in the encounter, making it potentially even more dangerous than doing damage.

    Often, there will be a "tank" character whose responsibility it is to build threat on all the monsters in the encounter. They increase this by using their special abilities to keep the attentions of the monster on the most heavily armored and defensively focused members of the group, and away from those who are very vulnerable.

    Unfortunately, there's rarely an in-game method to tell as to how much threat you're building on a monster. You basically have to eyeball it, learning how much is too much depending on the tank that you're grouped with, your abilities and your actions. Generally speaking, if you're not the tank, you should only do as much damage or healing as you can without putting your threat above that of the main tank or tanks. You do this by scaling back how much damage or healing that you're doing - don't go at full blast all the time, unless you can be confident that your tank can hold threat throughout the entire encounter.

    In most games of this type, many classes have abilities to shed threat as well, so that they can increase how much damage or healing that they do without relying on the tank to increase their threat output.