This installment of Baranor’s Den continues the short story he’s featured through his last few columns, and uses it as an introduction to a discussion of “the tank,” both in video games and throughout history. What’s it like to be the tip of the spear, or perhaps more appropriately in this case, the oak of the shield? What sort of character or real person is best suited to taking as much as he dishes out? We’ve seen the Barbarian in D3, and various combat characters in D1 and D2. What more might this genre hold?
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Baranor’s Den #12: Of Swords and Masters
“So he says look what the cat dragged in and draws his sword. I pick up a rod of metal the smith had lying around, parry a blow, jump on the table and kick him in the face. And that’s how I brought that sneak-thief of a Regnald to justice.”
Arrakan’s lively tales of battles always seemed to impress soldiers, and the soldiers at Castle Krag were no different. Most of them were drunk or heavy into the wine, a few were asleep and one was snoring as if it was his last night on earth to spend sleeping. This was the fourth tale Arrakan had spun that evening, whilst Sylvie and the others had kept the wine coming. One by one the soldiers nodded off. The last few got a helping hand from Sylvie’s sap and then they were off. A week ago they had arrived at castle Krag and in that week they’d uncovered a plot aimed at the local priest who was a real goodie-two-shoes. The plot involved getting the priest to lay hands on a young servant girl, she preferably being partly undressed, to heal her, and then getting him kicked out of the castle so that Lady Krag could continue her worship of some definitely dubious gods and goddesses. Uncovering a plot is usually not enough though so now Arrakan and Sylvie distracted the guards whilst the other two went looking for the priest. With the guards all asleep they moved out of the barracks and into the castle itself.
“Nobody ever taught you how to move silent? All that armor keeps clanking. Unless we muffle it with something someone is going to take notice.”
Sylvie’s voice was as close to a hoarse whisper as it could get without actually whispering. What few people knew was that whispering carries further in the night than actual talking. Arrakan sure did not because he whispered as hard as he could to reply.
“What clanking? I can move as silently as a mouse.”
“Never you mind. Just keep still, and don’t talk… I hear someone coming…”
Down a hallway came the lady Krag herself together with four of her personal guardsmen. Judging from the speed they were walking they were heading somewhere and with haste.
“Sylvie, its the Krag-woman. This opportunity is too good to pass up. We should kill her now and be done with it.”
“What here? Are you mad? You’ll have to carve a way through her bodyguards to get at her.”
“You hide behind that pillar. I’ll do a frontal, pull back and then you get to sneak around and stab her.”
“All four of them? You sure?”
“Yes, I can take em… now go..”
Arrakan waited another three seconds for Sylvie to get into position and then stepped into the open. He drew his bastard sword, a gift from a king he defended a long time ago and shouted something insulting at the foremost of the guards. The lady Krag responded. To his surprise her voice was sweet as honey.
“Great warrior, why do you stand here in the open ready to smite me? Am I to be despised so much that you will, nay, must assail me?”
“Witch! Your voice tries to enchant me but it will not work.”
Yet, the tip of Arrakan’s sword dropped a few inches.
“Ah, but a mighty warrior you are. Surely all the woman in the world would desire a husband as you. Strong. Protective. Skilled with the blade as with other things, I have no doubt. And why not? Why should you not be fit to be a husband? Do you not desire women?”
The lady Krag moved one of her legs to reveal more naked skin. Arrakan’s sword dropped another few inches… and then, with a snarl on his lips he rushed forward and caught one of the guards by surprise, ran him through with his sword, and pulled back before anyone could respond.
“You are evil as surely as evil is within you. It ends here!”
The other three guards stept forward and attacked, leaving room for Sylvie to strike. Just a little bit further… a little bit… his swordplay, entirely aimed for defense, allowed him to retreat step by step. He saw Sylvie, sword in hand, ready to leap at the lady Krag who moved her hands through the motions of a spell.
“Fool! You could have been the next Lord of this castle. Now you will die…”
Tank. That’s how we call the warriors these days. Most of the time they get to stand still in the middle, take a massive beating and pin the enemy around them so that other players can kill the enemies. Historically speaking, warriors are also easy to pin… there are a lot of warriors in history. From legendary figures like Beowulf to historical ones like Spartacus, men who had skill at arms abound like no others. Some of the greatest warriors, like Napoleon, led armies from the back as master strategists. Others led from the front, fighting as hard as the soldier next to them. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar… the list of great war-heroes goes on and on. And then there are people like Rodger Wilton Young, who are not famous for laying waste several civilizations but rather for a heroic act worthy of medals. A far cry from the all-conquering fantasy warrior with his sword perhaps, but no less a warrior than any other. Mankind has seen its share of wars and warriors alright. Unlike wizards who are most likely non-existent (note the “most likely” here… one can never be sure ) warriors are plentiful.
Since real war is a real mess and not a good place to be, I’ll focus on fantasy figures for now. The first and foremost, and most likely a big inspiration for the Diablo Team whether they realize it or not, is Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Conan was less a barbarian than his name suggested, for he displayed a lot of chivalry in his actions. He always fought like a cornered tiger, never failed to defeat his foes and was mightily strong and good with his blade. Noble and powerful, never taking an insult lightly and always ready to get drunk, Conan is the archetype by which we judge the Barbarian created by Blizzard. There is a strong contrast between Conan and the other warrior in Diablo, the Paladin, whose descent from the Arthurian legends can be more easily traced. The paladin, purely as a fighter-class, most closely resembles the medieval knight in shining armor. Always ready to defend virtue and valor, clad in metal plates and never-yielding, he is a fine picture of bravery. I think we should dub him “Lancelot, Lancy for friends”… that would be nice. And then there’s that tree-hugger and defender of plant-virtue, the Druid, but he turns himself into an animal… and the Assassin who also displays some of the characteristics of a Warrior. Skill at arms she has aplenty, and more exotic abilities as well. Historical assassins were usually unscrupulous men-at-arms with a large degree of skill and cunning, so in other words, warriors. The Amazons… they were legendary alright… and warriors too. Skilled with spear and bow and reputed to live in the Brazilian jungle somewhere, or indeed in ancient Greece depending on who you must believe.
So… we’ve seen the Barbarian, and he is a mighty warrior alright. A lot of nice skills, good combat ability, I assume he is going to have a load of hit points as well as a couple of buffs. With a good selection of weapons and armor which make the warrior as much as his skills (although your local kung-fu master might not agree with me… he’ll kick your ass with his bare hands) we can dress him up to be really impressive. The melee combat itself looks suitably impressive with blood and bodies flying everywhere. A tad overdone, perhaps, but that is not really an issue… I don’t mind a little unrealistic fighting. If the fighting gets too realistic, it makes me sick… I’m not suited for real warfare I doubt this is going to be the only melee class we get to see but most likely the other melee class will be less of a tank and more of an exotic crossbreed like the assassin. I’d expect a good number of melee skills, a good number of ranged skills and a third tree, maybe pet-control. Something like a hunter. Or a druid/amazon crossover. At any rate, I’d like to see a bear-pet return… I like bears, I do 😀
Baranor’s Den is a weekly column that explores all things RPG and fantasy, with a special focus on the Diablo series. Views expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net. Leave your comment after the column, or email Baranor directly.