July 26, 2020

Character Roles in LOTRO and Which Classes Fit Them

In RPGs, a character's role defines what they do and how they contribute to group content and in-game encounters. In the Lord of the Rings Online, there are 4 main roles to fulfill - tank, DPS, heal, and support. In this guide, I will to discuss the roles in LOTRO and breakdown which classes and specs can fulfill them.

The first half focuses on new players with an overview of character roles, while the second half covers the roles individually and which classes fulfill them and how.

This guide was written during Update 27 in July 2020.

Overview of Roles and What They Mean

The role of your character describes what your character does in combat. Like many other games, there are four main roles in LOTRO. Role summary:
  • Tank - Someone who can survive a lot of damage, takes aggro from enemies, and protects allies.
  • DPS (Damage Per Second) - Someone who focuses on dealing damage to enemies.
  • Heal - Someone who raises the morale (health) of allies, preventing them from dying.
  • Support - Someone who does not fit solely into the Tank-DPS-Heal trinity, often strengthening allies and weakening enemies while providing a lot of utility to battle.

In LOTRO, each class has three specializations which allows them to narrow their focus, boosting their abilities in a certain role. Importantly, some classes and specs can also fulfill multiple roles at once (most commonly with a combination of a support and something else). At endgame, classes that best fulfill their roles are often the first choice for the toughest group content and raids, while when leveling and for casual group content, every class is viable in its role and flexibility in roles can be important. For more information on classes and their specs: https://www.lotrobasics.com/2020/04/guide-to-classes-in-lord-of-rings-online.html.

Each role can be further split into subcategories (e.g., "Support-DPS", "Tactical DPS"). Along with the main chunk of the guide, these will be gone into more detail in the next section. An overview may seem messy at first because of this, but below is a quick list of the classes and their roles!

The Classes and Their Roles Quick List:

  • Beorning - Tank/DPS/Healer-Support
  • Burglar - DPS/Support
  • Captain - Support/Tank/Support-DPS/Support-Heal
  • Champion - DPS/Tank
  • Guardian - Tank/DPS
  • Hunter - DPS/Utility-DPS
  • Lore Master - Support/DPS
  • Minstrel - Heal/Heal-Support/DPS
  • Rune Keeper - DPS/Heal
  • Warden - DPS/Tank

For more information, I suggest continuing on or checking out the Classes of LOTRO Guide!

Roles in LOTRO and Their Classes/Specs

This section will cover each role in LOTRO individually with:
  • What that role entails
  • What sub-roles and hybrid roles there are
  • Which classes and specs can fill that role and how they do so


What is a Tank?

As defined by Google, tanks are "heavy armored fighting vehicles...". Translated into MMORPG terms, tanks are "heavy armored fighting characters..." that put themselves at the front of combat. Tanks play the key role of taking aggro of enemies to ensure the enemies don't run rampant on their allies. Because of this, tanks are built for strong defenses and can take a lot of hits before being defeated.

Playing a tank is no small task - they have many responsibilities other than staying alive, including managing enemy positions, maintaining aggro, and setting the pace of group content, among many other things.

Tank Sub-roles

In LOTRO, tanks can have a few areas of focus:
  • Main tank (MT) - serves as the primary tank for the group or encounter
  • Off-tank (OT) - serves as a secondary or backup tank for the group, often used in raids (12+ members)
  • AoE - focuses on tanking large groups of mobs
  • Boss/ST - focuses on tanking a single target, often bosses in group content
  • DPS - focuses on maximizing damage while maintaining all characteristics of a regular tank, often at the cost of defenses
  • Support - through buffs and debuffs, supports allies while maintaining tank characteristics
  • Solo - focuses on solo survivability to do difficult content on their own

Tank Classes and Specs

Beorning - Blue Line - A moderately-sturdy tank that can also deal moderate damage for a tank. Beornings have great AoE threat and can serve well as a main tank or off-tank. They also offer great survivability to solo difficult content.

Captain - Yellow Line - A very sturdy support-based tank that excels in single target fights and at high levels. They bring high survivability, a lot of utility, and support via defensive buffs to their group. For these reasons, Captains are considered the best Boss/ST main tank for high difficulty endgame content (as of Update 27, at level 130).

Champion - Blue Line - Offensive-focused tank that uses a 2-handed weapon or dual-wields while dealing AoE and ST damage with self-defensive boosts to stay alive. Their inferior defenses and relatively low damage often leave them behind other tanks, but are sufficient for casual content.

Guardian - Blue and Yellow Lines - The classic LOTRO tank, offering two tank specs - one focusing on being a very sturdy tank with a shield and the other focusing on dealing damage and debuffing enemies with the option for 2-handed weapon tanking. Guardians can fill as a sturdy main tank or opt to reduce their survivability in favor of becoming an AoE DPS-oriented tank.

Warden - Blue Line - A largely AoE DPS focused tank, that has fallen in favor due to its outdated tanking mechanics. Their tanking core has been based around evading attacks and self-healing, however, for a long time in LOTRO, the limiting factors for tanks is how much damage they can take and how well they can mitigate large hits, rather than avoid them altogether. All that said, Wardens are still excellent choices for the highest ST and AoE DPS tanks, but bring little survivability and utility to their group. They also offer the ability to solo difficult content, similar to Beornings and Captains.


What is a DPS?

DPS, short for "damage per second", is the term used for the role that focuses on dealing damage to enemies, occasionally also called DD for "damage dealers". DPS are usually built with little defense, focusing on offensive stats and boosting their damage wherever possible. 

While DPS is often considered one of the simplest roles, valuable DPS have to prioritize the correct targets, master their rotation and skill priority, and know when to sacrifice their damage output to use their utility when needed.

DPS Sub-roles

In LOTRO, DPS can have a few areas of focus:
  • Single Target (ST) - focuses on dealing damage to a single target, with little damage that hits multiple enemies.
  • Area-of-effect (AoE) - focuses on dealing damage to multiple enemies at once with area-of-effect skills.
  • Damage over Time (DoT) - damage dealt is applied over a duration as a "debuff" effect.
  • Instant Damage - Damage is dealt instantly, often any spec not considered to focus on DoTs is considered instance damage DPS.
  • Melee - damages enemies with melee skills in close range that deal physical damage.
  • Ranged - damages enemies with ranged skills from afar that deal physical damage.
  • Tactical - uses magic and spells to deal tactical damage to enemies, typically from afar.
  • Utility - characters who can provide a large amount of utility to their group outside of just dealing damage to enemies, often with crowd control (CC) or other support-like features.

DPS Classes and Specs

Every class can DPS. However, they do so differently with different sub-roles and by providing various benefits and drawbacks. This list will go spec-by-spec because of the uniqueness of how they each fulfill the DPS role (each class has three specs - blue, red, and yellow).

Red Beorning - Has a variety of AoE and ST skills to serve as a well-rounded melee DPS.

Blue Burglar - A ST DPS-focused spec that provides some utility and a small amount of support to the group. Blue burglars are inferior in total damage output, but can be useful for their increased survivability and utility.

Red Burglar - The primary DPS spec for Burglars, focusing on serving as a ST DPS with limited low-target AoE available.

Red Captain - Although technically a support spec that buffs group damage, this serves as the Captain's only DPS-focused spec. They deal little damage on their own, but are largely valued for their strong boost to group damage and utility.

Red Champion - The ST DPS spec for Champions to serve as a melee DPS.

Yellow Champion - The AoE DPS spec for Champions to serve as a melee DPS.

Red Guardian - Deals DoT with a variety ST and AoE skills to serve as a melee DPS.

Blue Hunter - A mobile ranged spec that serves as a primarily ST-based DPS, often preferred for solo play due to the mobility and instant cast skills.

Red Hunter - A steady (stand-still) ranged spec that focuses on inductions and servers as a primarily ST-based DPS.

Yellow Hunter - Provides utility-based DPS with an emphasis on DoTs, CC, and slowing enemies. Usually not considered viable for the DPS role in group content, but it does have its merits and can provide a strong solo experience.

Blue Lore Master - Spellcaster with an extra emphasis on their pets, which provide utility, physical damage, and a small amount of support. Most often used only for solo play, but serves as tactical DPS.

Red Lore Master - Focuses on ST and AoE DPS as a spellcaster serving as a tactical DPS.

Red Minstrel - Mobile, instant-cast based "spellcaster" (using instruments and songs as "spells") that has AoE and ST options to serve as a tactical DPS.

Red Rune Keeper - Steady, induction-based spellcaster (using fire) with a variety of ST and AoE skills that deal DoT to serve as a tactical DPS.

Yellow Rune Keeper - Mobile, instant cast based spellcaster (using lightning), mostly with ST skills and few AoE options, serving as a tactical DPS.

Red Warden - DoT-based ST and AoE damage that serves as melee DPS.

Yellow Warden - Deals DoT and instant damage in ST and AoE, serving as a ranged DPS.


What is a Healer?

Healers restore the health of their allies ("morale" in LOTRO) and keep them alive in group content. Healers are a vital part of group content, ensuring allies can continue to perform their own roles. In LOTRO, healers often have additional support-based aspects to them, where they can buff allies, debuff enemies, or even damage enemies.

While a healer's primary focus is keeping allies alive, what sets better healers apart from the rest is their ability to maintain supportive, utility, and damage-dealing aspects of the class while still maintaining fully healed allies. 

Healer Sub-roles

In LOTRO, healers can be specialized in a few areas:
  • Off-healer (OH) - serves as a secondary or backup healer for the group, their heals often work passively or they can sufficiently do other things in combat when not healing.
  • AoE - focuses on healing many allies at once.
  • ST - focuses on healing a single ally at a time, usually for a large amount.
  • Support - heals while having additional buffs and debuffs which can support allies.
  • DPS - heals while dealing a small amount of damage on their own (much weaker than true DPS specs).

Healer Classes and Specs

Beorning - Yellow Line - A versatile healer with AoE and ST heals that also can debuff enemies and deals damage during downtime.

Captain - Blue Line - Support-based healer with many passive AoE heals that work while dealing damage with regular combat. Often picked for the off-healing role.

Minstrel - Blue and Yellow Lines - The classic LOTRO healer, offering two heal specs - one focusing on maximizing healing output with lesser support and the other focusing on maximizing support via buffs with lesser healing capabilities. Minstrels often serve as dedicated healers in the blue line, but can opt for a more supportive and utility based role with the yellow line, which can still offer sufficient off-healing capabilities.

Rune Keeper - Blue Line - Healer that focuses on ST and AoE heals over time (HoT) and preventing damage via morale bubbles. Often serves as a primary healer with very little support, but a lot of utility.


What is a Support?

A support character is somebody who does fit solely fit another role, but contributes in some way towards completing content. In LOTRO, this is usually done through buffing allies to empower them and debuffing enemies to weaken them. Also in LOTRO, content is balanced around having support classes where certain buffs and debuffs are necessary for the most difficult content and raids. Although, for casual content, group composition is much less important.

Playing a support can be a tricky thing to get the hang of if you are used to the tank-DPS-heal trinity. Your focus becomes debuffing enemies, buffing allies, providing utility, and potentially even providing off-healing all while dealing relatively small amounts of damage (much less than pure DPS specs).

Support Sub-roles

In LOTRO, supports can be supportive through a few areas of focus:
  • Debuffer - focuses on weakening enemies through debuffs.
  • Buffer - focuses on empowering allies through buffs.
  • Heal - while being overall supportive, this role provides heals/off-heals to their allies, though not as strong as a dedicated healer.
  • DPS - while being overall supportive, this role also serves as a DPS with less damage than a pure DPS role.

Support Classes and Specs

Burglar - Yellow Line - Focuses on debuffing enemies, making them weaker and take more damage, while still dealing melee damage.

Captain - All Lines - Every spec for the Captain is based around them being a full support class, with their focus being buffing allies. For yellow this is through defensive buffs, red gives offensive buffs, and blue gives a mix with additional healing tossed in.

Lore Master - Yellow Line - Focuses on debuffing enemies, making them weaker and take more damage, while providing some buffing capabilities and additional utility. Yellow LMs still deal a little tactical damage on their own and provide additional boosts and little melee damage through their pets.

Minstrel - Yellow Line - This Minstrel provides buffs to allies while balancing damage and healing. Their primary focus is to maintain allies' morale and buffs, then they can provide chip tactical DPS.

Note: some classes and specs have been traditionally considered support in the past, but do not actually play out as support. Thus, you may heard of other supports not listed here which may include Yellow Beorning (healer), Blue Burglar (mostly DPS/solo utility), Yellow Hunter (DPS/utility/CC), Blue Rune Keeper (healer), and Yellow Warden (ranged DPS).

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