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Beginner’s Guide: The MMO Trinity – DPS

December 7, 2011

Most of you probably know about the MMO Trinity, which is Tank, Healer, and DPS (Damage Per Second). However, with this blog swinging towards a new MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, some people may be looking around for information on classes and not know what they are looking at when it comes to their class role. So I have decided to take it upon myself to explain the MMO Trinity as if my audience has never heard of it.

Hate it or love it, most MMOs are built with the idea that there will be someone to take the big hits, someone to heal back up the big hits, and someone to dish out the big hits. That is just a fact of life. There have been other class roles defined by different games, such as Pullers, Support, and Chippers (only know this last one from Rappelz, was kinda like Debuffer). Support is the only class-role besides the Trinity that has seen wide usage.

DPS is the most played, least-respected class role of all time. Ever heard of Huntards? Basically, you have a player that memorizes a rotation and pwns noobs. Their actual skill is measured in Damage Per Second, and they can practically watch TV without failing at their job.

Sometimes skill is required

On the flip side, some games require a good amount of skill to play a DPS class well. For example, the Hunter in LOTRO. Some will say that it is an easy class, and it is somewhat. However, there are some caveats that really make the Hunter powerful, if used correctly. Power-regeneration is required for skill usage, and it is an issue in long fights, so you can’t always just hit your most powerful (and most costly) skills all at once. Plus, depending on which skills are modified by your Legendary Items (which can’t always be made to fit a “cookie-cutter” setup), you might have a different “best” rotation than another Hunter with different Legendary Items.

So what are the DPS classes in <insert your game here>?

I don’t know. But I will tell you what they are in the two games I am most interested in: LOTRO and SWTOR.


All classes have at least one DPS specialization, so I am only including the ones here that would be considered top tier DPS.

  • Champion
  • Hunter
  • Lore-master
  • Rune-keeper


All of the advanced classes have some sort of DPS specialization, but four have only DPS options.

  • Jedi Sentinel
  • Gunslinger
  • Sith Marauder
  • Sniper

So what does a DPS class have to worry about?


The DPS class basically has to struggle with managing their “aggro,” which is basically a measure of how much your target(s) hate you. The more damage you do, the more the monster hates you (go figure!) and the more “threat” you have. Some DPS classes are “squishy,” meaning they can’t take a lot of damage, so the tank must always keep the aggro to keep the squishy DPS class from getting one-shotted. One of the tank’s jobs is to keep the aggro, but most tanks can’t compete with a DPS class going all out on damage, and the DPS class will get too much threat and “pull aggro,” causing the monster to attack them instead of the tank. So it is the responsibility of both the DPS class and the tank to keep the maximum amount of damage going out and also maintain that balance of DPS to threat.


DPS classes often have rotations of skills they use to maximize DPS. Rotations are often worked out with the aid of a combat parser, which processes in-game data to produce DPS measurements, or even old-school with spreadsheets. A good rotation is about maximizing threat-management, resource management (such as mana or power, whatever fuels the skills), cooldowns of skills, and of course, the big numbers that you do to the enemy.


Rotations are not always the best way to produce good results of DPS. There are things we like to call priority skills. Sometimes, you have really amazing skills that are on a 3+ minute cooldown that don’t really fit into a rotation (because it would be ridiculous to have a 3-minute rotation). A good example of this is the Lore-master’s  Lightning Storm, a great AoE skill doing a ton of damage, but only can be used every 5 minutes. Sometimes you have skills based off of reactives, like you must parry before using skill X, etc. For example, a Burglar in LOTRO has a few good attacks that don’t require anything but to be awake, but the instant one of his skills crits, his crit chain is opened up, and he has 4 or 5 skills that are hard-hitting and lead to great effects. The Jedi Knight in SWTOR has a skill called Riposte that can be used after a parry. This skill does a lot of damage, and more-importantly, doesn’t follow the global cooldown timer, meaning it can be used in-between other skill uses very easily.

Not just another pretty blade

So yes, DPS can be easy, and a mediocre player can do a decent job at it. But a great player can do an excellent job, and there is something amazing about watching five well-played Hunters working on a monster and watching its health be whittled down in no time. DPS may not be respected as much in general, but people can tell when you play your class well, and a good DPS’er is like a good batter in baseball. Knock it out of the park, and people will notice.

  1. December 10, 2011 at 12:57 am

    isnt the “mmo trinity” Tank, Heals, and CC? DPS is just filler. So I guess this blog post is misinformed from the start. Sorry, didn’t get past the first sentence.

    • Torvox
      December 11, 2011 at 8:48 am

      I must completely disagree with your comment. The trinity is: Tank, Heals, Dps. The first reason to support this is because you can’t really beat enrage timers on bosses with CC classes and in addition, most bosses are immune to CC. Why would developers make one-third of vital game design useless in end-game raiding in favor of “filler.” I was going to post a reference website for you to go read on but it would be a waste of time since you won’t “

      krionic :

      get past the first sentence.

      ” Let it suffice to say that if you ever want to get a better understanding of the mmo trinity then all you have to do is read the guides on this site or simply google it. There are plenty of people who agree with Geld.

  2. December 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Great Guide ! thanks for Sharing this! 🙂

  3. Frank
    July 5, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Yeah because CC is vital for dropping bosses…

    • July 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

      Depends on the boss. Even in SWTOR, using CC on adds helps a lot sometimes. Also, Wildstar is planning on having something called Interrupt Armor, which is like a stacked buff that is removed by CC. If you remove all of the stacks, you can CC them.

      Also, in LOTRO, Fellowship Maneuvers are basically CC in some ways.

  1. December 7, 2011 at 9:42 pm
  2. December 10, 2011 at 7:32 am
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