Yesterday, GC brought up an interesting issue: ret paladins tend to love the idea of abilities that tap into the concept of retribution, but past implementation of these ideas (i.e. Eye for an Eye, Ret Aura) just haven't seemed to deliver on the fantasy. Passive damage reflection never really felt impactful enough, and passive RNG is always frustrating to some degree or another. GC said he would be open to more long term ideas that addressed these problems. What I intend to do with this thread is to spark discussion about abilities that would make a ret pally feel like they're actually taking retribution. To that end, I detail a couple of my own ideas.
For the sake of full disclosure, you should probably know that I've never played ret as a main spec. I was a Holy Pally that raided up to heroic LK in wrath, with a ret offspec that was decently geared but I never really put to use. So none of these ideas are based on any sort of sagely experience playing ret. They are, however, based on my academic experience as a social psychologist. My particular area of study focuses on revenge, punishment, and justice, so I think about these kinds of things for a living. I've read dozens of articles on the subject and conducted detailed interviews with people that have exacted retribution in real life. Based on that I hope I have some idea about what motivates vengeance, as well as what makes retribution satisfying.
One thing that's absolutely clear, from what I've learned, is a passive ability just isn't going to cut it in this case. People take revenge because they want to feel powerful. They want to feel a sense of control. Being the victim of injustice makes you feel powerless and makes you doubt yourself and your abilities, and taking retribution is an effective way to correct that. Yes, you could make ret aura hit for meaningful amount of damage or tune the RNG for Eye for an Eye so a warlock thought twice about throwing out a Chaos Bolt, but neither of those solutions puts power in the hands of the paladin. An active ability, particularly one that was visceral in terms of visuals and practical effect, would make pallies feel like they were the ones in control. They would be the ones to decide when to drop the guillotine, not their enemies.
It's also hard to talk about revenge or retribution without talking about anger. Obviously, the angrier you are, the more likely you are to take revenge, but the kind of anger you're talking about makes a difference. First, there's the immediate sort of anger you might get when someone punches you in the face. If you feel that kind of anger, you're probably going to respond immediately by punching them back in the face. Another kind of anger, and one I think is more interesting, is what's called ruminative anger: anger that bubbles beneath the surface, sometimes taking months or years to build up. You get that sort of anger by sitting and thinking about all the bad things someone had done to you, and, when you do finally take retribution, it tends to be purposeful and deliberate.
Now, the former kind of anger I would associate more with a warrior, and the ability Revenge delivers well on that concept. Paladins, though, strike me as more even keeled. Sure, they can get angry too, but I think the latter kind of anger fits them better. The image in my head is someone like Fordring, brooding for years about what the scourge and Arthas had done to his family and his people, releasing all that pent up anger with one stroke when he busted Frostmourne in half. Delivering on this idea is admittedly tough to do in a fast-paced pvp or pve setting, but I think it's an important part of the fantasy. Having some sort of ability that keep track of what's been done to you over a certain period of time, and then allows you to use that to hurt your enemy in some way, might be one way to get it done.
There's also the idea of having justice be poetic. Poetic justice is tough to define, but you know it when you see it. Arthas being finished off with the help of all the souls he sucked into Frostmourne, for example, is easy to call poetic, but it's hard to nail down why. It might be easier to talk about what doesn't constitute poetic justice. What we call symmetric revenge, getting even with someone by doing the exact same thing they did to you, is not usually poetic. You hit me, and then I hit you back--it might be effective, but no one would find it particularly meaningful. It's this idea that makes me dislike straight damage-for-damage retributiion abilities in WoW. It's easy, and it works, but aesthetically it doesn't push the right buttons. An ideal ability, in my mind, would deliver justice in at least a somewhat poetic manner. Non-symmetric examples (i.e. You Hamstring me I disarm you, or you Frostbolt me I decrease your casting speed) might be a better sort of model to go for.
So in sum, my ideal retribution themed ability would have these three characteristics:
1. Active as opposed to passive.
2. Enacted in return for a series harmful events done to the paladin over time (damage, stuns, slows, roots, etc).
3. Leverage the idea of poetic justice.
The first two would be essential, in my mind, while the last would certainly be a nice touch. What would such an ability look like? I have detailed two ideas below that I think could do the trick. I would pay less attention to the details of the particular abilities, since they’re subject to the vagaries of balance, and more attention to the concepts that drive them. Both abilities would be Retribution specific.
1. Tooth for an Eye
Whenever you are stunned, rooted, slowed, or dazed, you gain a stack of Biding Your Time. When the buff reaches five stacks, the ability Tooth for an Eye is activated. When Tooth for an Eye is used on an enemy target, it will either disarm the target or increase the target’s casting speed by 100% for 10 seconds depending on the target’s spec. Biding Your Time persists through death when in a battleground. Being stunned, rooted, slowed or dazed by a non-player character automatically activates Tooth for an Eye, and Tooth for an Eye inflicts 50,000 damage when used on enemy NPC’s.
2. Delayed Retribution
When Delayed Retribution is activated, you begin to ruminate on the wrongs of your adversaries, keeping track of all damage taken over the next 10 seconds. When Delayed Retribution is used again, it will do 50% of that damage to the nearest enemy target. If you die while affected by Delayed Retribution, the damage accrued will go off automatically.
I particularly like Tooth for an Eye, because it captures the idea that getting someone back for all the nasty movement impairing effects I’ve had to endure. Persisting through death would allow that to work over the course of an entire BG, potentially. Yes, I may have gotten blasted by the group of three rogues that stunlocked me to death by the lumber mill, but the next horde I see is going to pay for that. Plus, it’s a little poetic. That warrior hamstrung me using that lovely axe of his, and now he doesn’t get to carry it for the next ten seconds. That warlock slowed me with her conflag, but now that next Chaos Bolt is gonna take six seconds to go off. Serves them both right.
Delayed Retribution would be my less ideal choice, but it’s still a nice active ability that makes me feel like I’m avenging what’s been happening to me, even if the retribution isn’t necessarily poetic.
What would your ideal retribution themed ability look like?