Gear and Weapon Class Restrictions, Why?

One of the fundamental aspects of MMORPGs and RPGs in general is that certain gear, weapons and items can only be used by certain classes, with generally no explanation as to why. My understanding is that this is done to more efficiently keep classes balanced and to create classic archetype characters that people are familiar with, ie Mage, Warrior, Knight, etc. However from a lore standpoint, there’s still no reason for these types of restrictions. Are you really telling me that it’s impossible for a Mage to carry an Axe or wear breast plate armor or for a Knight to carry a staff?

Star Wars is a good example of how weapon restriction can make actual sense when we look at Jedi or Sith characters. Now I’ve never read any Star Wars books, but from the movie and games I’ve played, I’ve never seen anyone except a Jedi or Sith able to activate a lightsaber.  So as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only ones physically capable of activating it because of their Jedi abilities. Now I can actually be wrong and maybe in one of the books it says anyone can activate it, but you at least get what I’m trying to say.

In MMORPGs, there’s absolutely no reason why any class cannot use any of the other classes items and logically it just makes no sense. Some games like Mortal Online that have no class archetypes, are a good example of what can be done. The more you use a certain skill the better you get at it so the only time you run into any sort of restrictions is if your skill level isn’t high enough.

While there are a few games like Mortal Online with no preset classses, I’ve never run across any game that combines the two.  What I would love to see is a hybrid system where you still select what class you’d like, but there are no restrictions on gear, unless you can explain why there are restrictions through lore.

One system that I came up with would be to make certain materials able to hold more magical enchantment than others.  Materials gathered from nature such as wood or cloth, would be able to hold the most magical enchantments, while leather and other animal materials would hold less, with metal holding the least.  This would provide a logical reason as why Mages would not want to wear plate armor or carry a sword instead of a wooden staff. Then if someone really wanted to create a BattleMage and deck their character out in heavy gear, they would be able to.

While this might create some issues with balancing, you provides players with an almost limitless amount of class types to create. I think eventually a natural balance would be created as players learn what combinations of class, skills and gear work best together.

What do you guys think? Do you care about gear restrictions?


  1. It’s a small price to pay in my opinion to prevent complete loot and balancing mayhem. For example, people would bid on weapons they will never use just because they can and those that actually need them would get screwed out of a nice upgrade. Queue rage and drama. And the balancing would be absolutely crazy… the only way I see to fix it would be to give huge bonuses for using a certain armor / weapon type, which would essentially be the same thing as restricting the others.

    Lore wise, Mages not wearing plate armor is pretty much set in stone. I don’t know ANY fantasy wizard that likes to dress up in huge armor while wielding spells. They’d probably get electrocuted or something. Cloth for warriors is pretty much in the same category. Rogues using plate would also be pretty silly for those stealth jobs and they would have to be stupid to use cloth instead of leather.

    Of course none of the things above are actual restrictions, more like guidelines, but I really don’t see the point in not following them if you’re a game designer, considering the problems that might appear if you don’t.

  2. It’s your lucky day! I have lots of answers for you.

    Archetype Requirements——
    Generally speaking, there is no lore reason for not being allowed to wield a different archetype’s gear. Specifically, however, mages traditionally stick to robes and what not because they require an degree of dexterity to perform the somatic components of their spells. Additionally, there is an element of training required to use various weapons and armor. An archer is likely poorly trained in how to maneuver in heavy armor. Similarly, a mage would be clueless as to how to wield a sword properly. If a game is utilizing an class or archetype system, these restrictions are logical and somewhat inevitable. In a class-less or skill-based game, hard equipment restrictions are rarely based on archetypes.

    Star Wars: Jedis and Lightsabers——
    I’m not any sort of Star Wars aficionado, but I just happened to be browsing the Star Wars wikia yesterday afternoon. There’s nothing preventing a non-force-sensitive individual from turning on a lightsaber, but they’re dangerous weapons. A Jedi’s/Sith’s augmented strength and agility are usually required to maintain control and prevent self-injury. An exception to this would be General Grievous. He was not a Jedi or Sith, but he wielded four lightsabers nonetheless.

    Alternate and Hybrid Systems——
    Dungeons & Dragons, both the tabletop version and DDO, have long had minimal restrictions on a character’s ability to wear or wield whatever equipment they want. It’s simply a matter of proficiency what kind of equipment is best for a given task. A rogue who learns to use a great maul can wield it, but it’s too clumsy to sneak-attack with. Wizards can learn how to wear full plate, but heavy armor hinders spellcasting ability.

    Game Design Reasoning——
    One reason for the limiting of equipment to archetypes, that you may have not considered and that is game design related but not directly balance related, is that it can facilitate a lively economy and a more desirable distribution of loot. When rewards are generated, and every player wants the same item because it’s an upgrade for all of them, there is unnecessary stress and conflict. If one item is better for one archetype, and the other item is better for the other archetype, no one has to feel like they lost out.

    There are plenty of lore-specific reasons for archetypes to exist and have equipment restrictions. If the designers of a game decide to explicitly limit an archetype to specific kinds of equipment, it’s not necessarily arbitrary.

  3. Certain classes have their own weapons and armor training. Some equipments fit better for a certain class naturally.

    Melee classes get the physical training for their stuff. Magic classes spend more time with their heads in the books with only what physical training is necessary to keep mobile during casting. Other ranged classes put a great emphasis on agility as well as creating traps.

    Also look at the game mechanics for the weapons and armor. Inherent stats (physical and magical) fluctuate depending on which gear you have equipped. That’s why wands and light/cloth armor work better for magic class because bonuses for the stats they need are higher than wearing plate armor or having a 2 handed sword for casting.

    It makes sense in our minds and it definitely makes sense to the game developers.

    Also being unrestricted in gear customizing would grossly unbalance the game. You have battle priests…high defense plate mail with self heals? Nearly unkillable.

  4. There are no restrictions on gear in Perfect World, a game by Perfect World Entertainment (wow who wud’ve guessed?!)
    in that game it is actually rather common for mages to wear medium armor and there have been heavy mages too

  5. Going farther into the mechanics of Mortal Online– which is a full-loot PvP game– the only armour that drops in that game is that which someone else was wearing or carrying. Everything else must be bought, and with the exception of very simple types of NPC vendor-sold stuff, it must at the beginning be bought from another player who crafted it himself.

    The only stats I know of on armour in Mortal Online are resistance to physical blows, and weight. The rarest of materials are simply metals that are strong and perhaps light for their strength. There is one skill that allows armour heavier than one could otherwise carry without impediment to be worn with ease, and there are varying levels of dexterity. Aside from the limits those factors impose, one can wear whatever one can walk around in and thus there’s not a lot for which to claim a need that anyone will dispute.

    This might not and probably does not eliminate squabbling about who should loot what from who, but the way it usually works out is that there is plenty of ‘extra’ armour that one’s Distinguished Opponent(s) does not need any longer. It cannot be sold to vendors, so it is often given away if not destroyed, unless the winner wears it home.

    Logically, one expects that seldom does anyone manage to kill an opponent with vastly superiour armour, but when it happens, the winner almost certainly deserves to be the one to wear it instead.

    Did I mention that weapons can also wear out and break?

  6. PWI is HORRIBLE!! And yes there are armor restrictions in PWI (at least if you dont obey them you will fail. And PWI is a perfect example of one of those crap games where, like Mynsc said: “It’s a small price to pay in my opinion to prevent complete loot and balancing mayhem. For example, people would bid on weapons they will never use just because they can and those that actually need them would get screwed out of a nice upgrade. Queue rage and drama. And the balancing would be absolutely crazy… the only way I see to fix it would be to give huge bonuses for using a certain armor / weapon type, which would essentially be the same thing as restricting the others.” – The proof of that: Start PWI. PRess MAP, look at “Territories”. 1 paying guild rules them ALL!

  7. In some MMOs, this has been tried and found to fail horribly. Others, it works out pretty well when done right.

    In Aion, there used to be a stigma that would allow you to equip any weapon. This ended up causing a huge balance issue with assassins in particular. One of the weapon types, a polearm, causes people to be stunned whenever it performs a critical strike. Assassins had a naturally high critical chance, and thus were able to keep enemies pinned almost indefinitely. This is an example of it not working due to mechanics.

    I THINK Cabal online lets you equip whatever you want just as long as you have the stats for it. (Note, I said THINK.) This means yes, a mage can equip heavy armor, but then he probably won’t have the stats to use a staff that he wants, or will simply have stats that are poor for a spellcaster-type class. This balances the system, makes sense, and works due to the mechanics.

    The only major issue here has been mentioned already, the absolute chaos of everyone looting everything. While there is no lore reason why games are this way, the way some games are designed just prevents this from working.

  8. Mabinogi is an awesome game for the exact reasons that this guy wants. Only 3 races (human, elf, giant). Aside from race specific skills, all can learn any other skill. I have an elf (range weapons like bows) that can melee fight against the best of humans, or giants, using swords, shields, maces, etc. along with their bows. And, to make it even more fun, he can throw a bolt of lightning when needed. Even heal himself, and others. Same for humans. They can learn bow skills, magic skills, melee skills (of course). Even my giant can wield magic when needed. If you don’t want to fight you can craft, fish all day long, open a store of your own, whatever. It’s so cool though that recently hackers (prob. hired from other gaming sites…haters) have been terrorizing the game. They are coming out with a Mabinogi 2 with better graphics like Assassin’s Creed (-ish). Can’t wait for that.

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