Removing the Tank – A Solution

A more dynamic, free flowing play style

This is the second part to my Time to remove the Tank.

My Experience:

There have been numerous times when I’ve been playing that the tank has died but the group has managed to pull through through a combination of luck, tactics by each DPS and damn good healing by the healer.

One such time was in World of Warcraft while levelling my priest (healer) up to the new max level after being away for nearly three years. There are a couple of points need to be considered here:

  1. We were in old content. Although old content in WoW has usually been made easier we were in a Time Warp dungeon which means that it was at its difficulty as it was when first released. In a word:- hard.
  2. Old content is made for the game at the time of release but things had changed including many DPS classes having their own self-heals.

For this run the tank was a bad tank. He was treating the dungeon as if it was still in easy mode and was running ahead. This usually had him either out of my range, out of line of sight or, even worse, both. This resulted in him dying a few times. Even so we’d managed to down the first boss.

After that the path went up a spiral staircase, along a hall and then out onto a large platform that connected two bridges to the last two bosses. On that platform were two groups of three, one group four and a two patrols of two. Careful pulling and agro management meant that a group would never have more than four mobs to deal with and, if it did go bad, no more than six.

I did mention that he was a bad tank? Yeah, he rushed in, pulled all three groups and a patrol all while I was still at the far end of the hall – he was out of sight and out of range. That’s twelve mobs if you’re counting and all of them agro’d on the tank. We managed to kill a couple before the tank died. Oh dear, how sad – never mind.

Luck was on our side as none of those mobs focussed on me and that was probably due to me being so far away. The DPS knew their classes well and played them to the full while tanking three or four mobs each and then I got there and kept them up.

After we had finished and while we were patting each other on the back for damned good play the tank complained about the bad healing and left. Yeah…

We went back into the queue for another tank but we actually completed the last two bosses before one became available in the group finder – as I said, tanks are few and far between.

I relate this story for a couple of reasons. The first being that it was this experience when I fully realised that the game was far more enjoyable for the DPS and healers without the tank. Secondly its also what I’m basing my theory of a non-tank RPG.

Damage Incoming:

The first thing to do when removing the tank is to address the massive health pool that the tank typically has. Its not as simple as simply removing the health and making them the same as every other character. The reason why the tank has such a large health pool compared to the other roles is because the mobs, either alone or in groups, are going to be dealing damage to them and they need to be able to survive that intense damage long enough for the healer to start healing them. This means that that damage needs to be reduced so that any one who is attacked survives long enough.

If it’s a group that has been pulled then instead of all of them going after the one person they now all get spread across the group. This means either of three things:

  1. That all characters are going to have to have some form of agro control or
  2. Some form of crowd control or
  3. That mob AI is going to have to split up the group so that it’s one on one or
  4. all three.

Yeah, I think its obvious that it will be all of them.

If it’s a single mob then its most likely going to be a boss mob. They are still going to have to take and do more damage than the trash mobs found elsewhere but they shouldn’t be able to one shot any one as is normal for RPGs. This means that the mechanics will change around boss mobs.

First, because no one will be able to take more than one or two hits, all characters will have to have a way to grab agro and so stop the boss from attacking attacking someone a second time. This is actually a fairly common mechanic in WoW its just that it won’t be switching between tanks but between everyone.

Another difference is going to have to be crowd control mechanisms such as stuns that normally don’t affect boss mobs in RPGs as it could, potentially, make the fight too easy. Removal of the tank would require such mechanisms to work but would require that there’s some mechanism to prevent them from being abused.


Healing will have to be less than what is presently the norm in RPGs. Presently heals are scaled to the damage that boss mobs can inflict upon tanks which is way beyond what’s necessary if we don’t have tanks nor moss mobs doing huge damage. But there’s an other question as well:

Is the dedicated healer the way to go?

IMO, it could go both ways.

Healing is one of the more challenging and rewarding roles in RPGs so there’s no impetus to remove it from a fun perspective but there’s no reason why even that couldn’t be across the entire group either. In fact as I said earlier, in World of Warcraft, many damage only classes now have their very own self-heal. It wouldn’t take much to have such self-heals morphed into group heals.

Splash heals, such as those used by WoW’s Discipline Priest, are one mechanic that allows someone to do damage while also healing the group while also having the healer have to stop doing damage to cast a dedicated healing spell when someone in the group gets low.


Its possible to remove the crutch that is the tank from an RPG and do it in such a way that game play improves and becomes more fun and challenging for the players.