Naturally while I was researching my Prophesies campaign outline, I read over a number of other articles on the Guild Wars wiki — I have a rather predictable tendency to get lost in a tangent while in the midst of research.

Of the articles I read — and most were about the history of Tyria — one of them spoke about the “schools” of magic in Guild Wars, which to my understanding have little to no bearing on the game itself. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall them in-game.

Aggression, Destruction, Preservation, and Denial.

Yeah, I mean, apart from the Mesmer’s apparent dedication to Denial, what are the others even supposed to mean? I guess you could say the magic of the Monk embodies Preservation, and the Elementalist’s magic reflects Destruction, but how “Aggression” reflected in the Necromancer’s magic?

They just don’t really compute for me, they seem more of a mechanical flavoring to me, rather than any kind of… I don’t know, “philosophical underpinning.”

On the other hand, the world “Denial” stuck in my mind, as did thoughts of the Mesmer’s role in Guild Wars, and the Heroic Mesmer I designed.

Sunday afternoon, I revisited one of the concepts I focus on in class design: the connection between a class’s role and damage — using damage dealt (or prevented) as a measure of effectiveness, for a feature, power, or the entire class itself.

And that was when the word “denial” came to the forefront of my mind with regard to the structure of a controller feature array. I jotted down a note like this:

At-will: push, slow, knockdown
At-will: blast or burst (close or area)
Encounter: daze, blind, weaken, or immobilize

Creatures in Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons are largely melee-oriented. While dynamic movement and terrain elements are a big part of 4e, a lot of the action still happens within about two squares of the heroes. Changing position is dangerous.

Forced movement like pushing an enemy, slowing an enemy, or knocking down an enemy — are each effective, if basic, means of denial. If you can force an enemy to re-position themselves on the battlefield, they might not be able to attack a preferred target, and if they’re out of range they might not be able to attack at all.

For the last couple months, I’ve been focusing instead on the “Area of Effect” aspect of a controller’s role, and now I have the opportunity to combine the two with a new concept I realized on Sunday, which I’m calling “insurance” until I can come up with something better. It represents each controller’s ability to ensure a given effect.

For example, my Heroic Wayfarer class has the Force Spike power, which ensures the Wayfarer can deal damage to one or more enemies during his turn. Even if he misses with every other attack, or the effects sour, he has this power to fall back on.

The Wayfarer (May 9, 2013)

Other ways to guarantee an effect are through the use of zones, miss effects, and aftereffects. Zones create an area of effect that affects creatures within it. Miss effects guarantee that even on a miss, the character gets some damage or applies some effect. An aftereffect provides an effect even if the target successfully saves.

It’s through the combination of the different effects that one achieves a “top tier” controller, per the “Tier System for Roles” concept. A controller must be able to move enemies, hit several at once for damage, apply an ongoing condition or effect, and finally — ensure that they do something every round, even just a little damage.