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WoWSep 20, 2017 2:00 pm CT

Weapon restrictions and class identity

World of Warcraft has weapon restrictions built into its class system. Over the years, it’s changed and relaxed some — Rogues didn’t used to be able to use axes, for example. However, Legion introducing Artifacts in a way reversed that. Even if you can still equip axes on your Rogue, you’re not going to be thanks to the Artifact system. Assassination and Subtlety Rogues will be using daggers, while Outlaw Rogues will be making use of swords.

There’s some flexibility in terms of your specific look thanks to unlockable Artifact appearances and transmogrification, but there are limits there, too. While a 2-handed weapon can be transmogged into almost any other type of 2H weapon, you can’t transmog to a weapon type you can’t equip. Similarly, there are some odd limits in the system for various one-handed weapons like daggers and fist weapons.

Now, I think some limits need to be in place. I think Titan’s Grip needs to be Warrior only — it’s a class-defining feature at a time when precious few of them are left. Letting any other class dual wield 2H weapons or transmog their 1H weapons to 2H weapons cannot be allowed any more than you’d let Warriors summon water elementals or raise the dead.

But aside from that — and that’s only because Titan’s Grip has been associated with Warriors since Wrath of the Lich King — I’m thinking hard about weapon restrictions and class identity, both visually via transmog and generally through weapons that can be equipped.

Restrictions unnecessarily confine player choice

At this point, Shaman can equip maces, axes, daggers, and fist weapons — notice, however, that they cannot equip swords. Death Knights can equip swords, maces, and axes — no daggers, no fist weapons. Amazingly, only Rogues — of all classes — are unable to equip some kind of 2H melee weapon. A case can be made for these restrictions on being class defining.

As an anecdote, a Rogue who uses a giant 2H sword can be found in the Conan stories. Conan himself is clearly a thief and a pirate, and he uses them. Oh, and of course Fafhrd, of the famous Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber wields weapons in a similar fashion. Come to think of it, lots of real-life people wore light armor and used big weapons while stealing things via boats — what real justification do we have to not allow Outlaw Rogues to use 2H weapons?

This is where I feel like weapon restrictions may have passed their usefulness. All they do is confine players and prevent you from playing the way you want to. Class identity is important, though, and I’m not willing to abandon it casually. Rogues have been unable to use 2H weapons since the game’s inception, and whether or not we can find examples from fantasy fiction doesn’t change that World of Warcraft is its own setting with its own rules.

Hammer time all the time.

There is a limit to ‘class flavor’

But there’s a difference between letting Rogues use 2H weapons and telling a Draenei Shaman that they can only use axes, maces, and fist weapons when these aren’t particularly “Draenei” weapons. Orcs are the reason that Shaman have the weapon restrictions they do, but as new races like Dwarves, Draenei, Goblins, and Pandaren have become Shaman, the class has drifted away from the Orcish Shaman stereotype.

Similarly, I have yet to understand why Death Knights can’t use fist weapons. If you want to say, “Well, they need runeblades!” then explain why they can use maces. A fist weapon can be a bladed gauntlet, a set of claws, or even a long blade used like a tonfa. All of those could be classified as runeblades more easily than a gigantic hammer, but we let DKs use those.

At this point, it feels like many of these weapon restrictions exist to prevent or cause competition for drops in an arbitrary fashion. And with us returning to a non-Artifact system in the next expansion –presumably, at least, though we have no idea for sure — it feels like a good time to revisit these restrictions. Letting Shaman use swords and DKs use fist weapons wouldn’t be a major change, and it would open up more options. But we also need to see some transmog changes.

Specifically, 1H weapons like daggers and fist weapons need the same attention that 2H weapons got back when Polearms and Staves were made transmoggable — which, mind you, was not only with one another, but with 2H swords, maces, and axes. It may be silly, but my Fury Warrior can absolutely dual-wield two staves. If I can dual-wield 2 staves — and even Paladins and DKs can mog their maces to polearms — why are two entire Rogue specs only able to mog to daggers when they can equip axes, maces, swords, and fist weapons? With Artifacts locking us even more tightly to a specific weapon or set of weapons, this is more important than ever.

I haven’t even covered things like wands vs. other ranged weapons because there’s no real overlap here. Crossbows and wands, for example, aren’t even equippable by the same classes. Only Hunters can actually use bows, crossbows, and guns, while wands are the sole purview of Priests, Mages, and Warlocks. These restrictions are both as old as the game and seem fully reasonable to me, and I don’t think we need to relax these restrictions nor allow wands to be transmogged to other ranged weapons. Wands are a specific bit of caster flavor, ultimately.

Likewise, only Warriors, Shaman, and Paladins use shields, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, nor do I really feel like it’s necessary at this point. Restrictions that add to class flavor I can accept a lot more easily than those like the DK/Shaman ones that seem arbitrary and not particularly part of class flavor. But I definitely feel that even if we retain those restrictions in actual use, we need to abandon them in terms of transmog.

At the very least, adjust transmog restrictions

If a class can use a weapon, they should be able to mog to it. Period. If your Protection Warrior can equip Fist Weapons, they should be able to tank with that appearance. And I’m still not sure why Paladins can’t use fist weapons when they can use great honking hammers. It doesn’t have any real class identity reason that I can think of. For that matter, Warglaives as a Demon Hunter-only weapon is something I’m really not sure about once we move into post-Legion content. It’s going to get old fast when your guild is disenchanting the sixteenth set of End-Boss Warglaives because nobody but Demon Hunters can use them.

Either they’ll almost never drop and DH’s will always be using swords, or they’ll have to make them usable by more classes just so they’re not universally despised. And that, to me, sums up the problem with weapon restrictions in a lot of cases. Do the restrictions reward or penalize, and how much of that are we willing to accept to maintain class identity?

I would definitely loosen up all transmog restrictions. We’ve had transmog for years now. It’s time to let people mog — at the very least — more options when it comes to weapons. And it’s time to really consider which restrictions still make sense for classes and which ones don’t. Rogues not using 2H’s and only Warriors with Titan’s Grip is one thing, but randomly deciding that DKs and Paladins can’t use fist weapons, that all Shaman are suddenly Orcs even if they’re really not, or that Hunters can attack you with a sword the size of a Pontiac but a 2H mace isn’t a Hunter weapon… Well, that just seems silly to me.

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