The Benevolent Healer
Many of us crave power, we concentrate on swinging our swords, or finding the perfect time to strike. There are those, however, who sacrifice the ability to cause damage to stand in the back, praying to virtual gods to heal group members. Ever necessary and many times rarer than most, the Benevolent Healer is one of the only archetypes which requires a personal sacrifice on the part of the gamer. While a healer can be powerful in his or her own right, they almost never do the damage nor have the sustainability of other classes. Sure, the role of a Paladin or other "semi"-healer can be argued, but helpful as they are, they do not fit in this archetype. Healing brings many real world emotions to play, requiring a skilled healer to take criticism with a grain of salt and more concentration than most.
There are those that take breaks mid-pull to go grab a drink, there are those that push the same three buttons over and over again, mindlessly using their skills, then there are healers. Of any class that requires constant attention, the Benevolent Healer takes the crown. The survival of the group depends on the total understanding of a healer's spells and always being aware of their surroundings. One who gets drawn into the intricacies of the game and enjoys being in the zone would most likely have this skill.
No one class aside from the tank will consistently draw the rage of his group, than the healer. If the tank isn't cursing for more heals, the whole group is hexing the healer's name as they wipe. Any healer past the early game has withstood a virtual hurricane of internet rage and more than likely, can handle the pressure. While there may be a somebody out there whose avatar has never died, more than likely the question is not if you're going to die, but when. Healers always do what they can, but often times mistakes made by others can still lead to the Healer getting blamed. The gamer who plays this archetype might also enjoy Sims: Babysitters as it is probably the closest experience.
Tactical Proficiencies of a Healer? Give me a break! No, really, the Benevolent Healer has several proficiencies that can help seal the deal in combat. With this archetype, however, using these proficiencies is dependent on the gamer, if they have not taken the time to learn these things, then there are no side benefits.
Yes, Group Understanding, you heard right. No, this isn't some hippy crap I made up. Group Understanding stems from the hours and hours a Benevolent Healer has grouped and watched each and one of you other weirdos casting your Magic Missiles and doing your Stabbity Stab Stab. If anyone can tell the capabilities of a group, its the healer.
The benefit of understanding group capabilities is to maximize their effectiveness, especially considering large Player vs Player environments in Age of Conan. Its not all about what class can do what, its about understanding the capabilities of the players in the group, something a healer is intimately familiar with. While most of the group is concerned about the people or things they are fighting and possibly the tank, the healer is watching every single person in the group.
In present MMORPGs, most groups are "supposed" to have healers, especially in Player vs Environment play, when mobs are balanced with expectation that given a mix of classes, one will need to be a healer. Given the PvP nature, though, it is often that other classes could trump the need for "HEALZ PLS". What a good healer provides in PvP is sustainability. By managing who gets heals, the Benevolent Healer can strengthen the line, so to speak, and change the balance of anything from a small skirmish to a major battle.
Here we are again, talking about RP. The Benevolent Healer is an archetype that has very broad scope in terms of the character they represent. The most beneficial thing they provide, however, is the inclusion of faith and a glimpse into the mythology of their world. By providing the knowledge of some higher power or powers, other characters can see the Benevolent Healer as a window into their faith and go to them as one might visit a priest or monk in our world.
While religion or mythology can be touchy in itself, this archetype can also represent a foundation of good, guiding the wayward rogue away from a vendor's stall or comforting a warrior whose sword is died in the blood of too many to count.
While it has been argued that healers only exist to fill a need in the core mechanic of a game, I think most people would find that the Benevolent Healer archetype offers a place for those who yearn to provide for a group and hold great responsibility.
In my next column in this series we'll move from the holy world of the Benevolent Healer to the bloodstained Stalwart Defender.
Until then, fight the good fight and I'll see you there.