Created By: dsollen on January 25, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on January 31, 2013

Perpetual Defender

Character (or class) in an RPG that spends most of their time using the defend ability

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Trope
Characters in RPG's get a wide assortment of cool and exciting abilities. Your fighters and warriors may attack with their sword, your thef will steal his stuff, Your Black Mage will drain some magic to feed his attacks, your bard will sing a song that makes everyone faster. It can seem as if everyone has a interesting way to contribute to the fight, but not every character is so lucky. This character gets skills that are only worth using occasionally, are too weak to use or won't work even if used, instead most of this characters turns are spent on defending. They defend over and over again.

At first glance a defender character can appear rather useless in combat, after all how much can they be contributing if most of their turns are spent defending? But these characters can still be powerful and useful assets in many games. The most common cause for defender characters are mages conserving their magical reserves during easier battles so they have enough power to easily destroy more credible threats. Alternatively a defender character may be legitimately less useful in combat, but provide powerful and needed non-combat abilities which support the characters. Even a defending character can be an asset in a battle, as their increased damage mitigation while defending make them better able to absorb powerful enemy blows while sustaining less damage then allies focused on attacking, and thus requiring fewer resources to heal.

This sort of character most often comes up in older western RPG, especially games with a strong emphasis on a class system and switching between classes. These games tend towards characters who are so specialized in their given field that they have limited fighting talent outside of that field. More modern games tend to be moving away from this style of character. Modern games tend not to specialize their characters to such extremes, ensuring even their mage style characters have sufficient attack power that they contribute more to the fight by attacking with melee abilities then they would by defending. Modern games that contain characters with negligible melee attack power tend to compensate by giving them other cheap/free abilities which they can use rather then defending, such as allowing the White Mage to cast a small free heal that increases everyone health by a negligible amount, or giving the Black Mage a Mana Drain ability so he can afford to cast spells without worrying he will run out of mana.
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • January 25, 2013
    dsollen
    This is the early draft. I ran out of time to continue updating this, so I'll have to come back to add more later. I think you can get the general idea though, even if the description will need work.

    Does everyone agree this is tropeworthy? I don't know how much time I'll have to update, so if anyone wants to take over and update this, even correct what is probably a lacking description, you have my blessing to do so.

    also, are there already tropes for the standard Defend ability in an RPG? or for RPG that cause Defend to do more then defending (ie allowing power up through gaining mana, staminia, or points to be expended later to do more damage)? If not there should be tropes for them lol
  • January 25, 2013
    StarSword
    What's the difference between this and Stone Wall?
  • January 26, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I don't see any... Specifically, this the basic function of both Turtling and Shielding flavors of the Stone Wall.
  • January 26, 2013
    spacemarine50
    ^I disagree. Maybe:
    • This is someone that uses defensive moves a lot more often than any other move type. (Stone Wall included)
    • Any defensive character/build that isn't a Stone Wall
  • January 26, 2013
    Koveras
    Can you name specific examples where defensive builds are used for anything other than tanking? (And healing, which is covered under Combat Medic.)
  • January 27, 2013
    spacemarine50
    You guys think that defensive moves means Stone Wall. I disagree with that.
  • January 27, 2013
    Khantalas
    The problem as I see it is that both active abilities that are geared towards tanking and commands that allow characters to skip a turn because they have nothing else to do can be called "Guard" or "Defend", whereas the latter would be better called "Wait" if it has no purpose other than to skip a turn. This draft seems to cover both kinds of actions because of how games generally name them.
  • January 27, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    I can't think of any examples except the Sentinel role from Final Fantasy XIII

    Besides, we already have Defend Command for...well, defend command
  • January 27, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Isn't the Sentinel a classical case of Stone Wall?
  • January 27, 2013
    Khantalas
    While a tabletop example, here's the kind of thing that 1) prevents the character from doing something and 2) isn't about tanking.

    • In the mecha RPG Remnants, one of the actions available to a mech pilot is "Focus". While focusing, a character cannot attack, and only has the barest of defensive capabilities. However, accumulating Focus is necessary for the use of the more powerful abilities. A mech built around the use of such abilities spends most of the battle in a state of minimal activity, but everyone notices when they do something.
  • January 27, 2013
    Sackett
    I get what this is about. It's not a Stone Wall, it's about the character that is always using the "Parry" command when you are in battle.

    For example, in Wizardry the typical starting party is:

    2 fighters 1 priest 1 thief 2 magi

    Arranged in that order. Only the front line (ie the first 3) can use melee attacks. Fighters of course go in the front, and magi in the back.

    You might think you'd put your healer/priest in the back, but actually in Wizardy priests have much more survivability and physical attack power then thieves. So you pretty much have to put your thief in the back row.

    But thieves have no magic, and no ranged attacks. So the only way they can contribute to a battle is to use magic items, which are not common enough to be used in more then maybe 1 out of 1000 battles.

    So all the thief does every single battle is "Parry". In other words, stand around and try not to get hit. Even if one of your front line fighters dies and your thief moves up to the front row, about half of the time it's better to just have him parry so he survives longer and keeps your magi out of melee.

    So you might ask why bother carrying around the deadweight of a thief. Well, that's because most monsters have their treasure in a treasure chest, which is booby trapped. These booby traps are nasty, occasionally killing the person who opens the chest, and sometimes even wiping out the whole party. At low to mid level, only a thief has much hope of disarming the traps. So you carry around a thief and have him constantly "Parry" during combat.

    That's what this trope is describing.

  • January 27, 2013
    Koveras
    Hmm. So this is kinda like the video game mechanics equivalent of the Non Action Guy?
  • January 27, 2013
    Chabal2
    Not sure how well this counts, but... In Golden Sun, you get extra gold, experience and items by killing monsters with a Djinni of their opposite element rather than attacking. On higher-HP monsters, it may be necessary to have three characters defend (or perform a non-damaging action) for round after round so the character with the appropriate Djinni can act.
  • January 29, 2013
    Koveras
    Since this is less about defending and more about not attacking and only valid in the context of a Player Party, how about The Team Noncombatant for the title?

    • In the Baldurs Gate series (and any Dungeons And Dragons-based game, really), the resident party thief can turn into this unless specifically built for combat. Most of the time, however, you will keep them in the party for their specialty skills like picking locks, disarming and setting traps, scouting ahead, backstabs, etc., rather than their meager regular damage output.
    • Dragon Age Origins attempts to counteract this, with its character system allowing you to build a rogue either for DPS, or for specialty skills. Dragon Age II goes even further and streamlines the latter (40 Cunning is sufficient to let a Rogue perform all class-specific actions at maximum efficiency) while playing the former to make the Rogue a pure DPS class.
  • January 30, 2013
    Chabal2
    Dawn Of War: Fire Warrior squads can attach a shield drone to themselves. As the name implies, its only purpose is to erect an energy shield around the squad, but can't attack otherwise. The Tau commander gets one in the campaign.
  • January 31, 2013
    CapFox
    • The Footsoldier units from [[Alicesoft Sengoku Rance]] has this as their bread and butter. They usually does nothing except erecting guards to defend your other units.
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