By Colin Doberstein
As a minstrel, I smite the forces of evil in Middle-Earth with my cowbell, a one-dwarf symphony of destruction. My lute solos drain the life from my enemies’ bodies and my voice strikes fear into their very souls. Hordes of goblins, however, are beyond my power, so I found myself in a fellowship with two dwarven champions, whose methods of combat, while nowhere near as stylish as my own, are significantly more effective. This posed a problem for me: as I am accustomed to fighting on my own, I normally have to use my various ballads and cries to inflict enough damage to win a fight. Since my two companions were armed with swords and axes, rather than words and percussion instruments, I realized that my role as a dealer of direct damage was insignificant at best. I found myself grudgingly trying to boost my companions’ strength, healing them on the rare occasion that a puny goblin scored a lucky hit. My most significant contribution was looting the corpses that my fellows left behind in their haste to make more. We completed our quest with ease, but even though I was two levels higher than my compatriots, I felt completely unnecessary to the proceedings.
I’m fairly sure that the two champions in my fellowship did not feel the same way. This is an example of what I’ve been told is the crippling paradox of a minstrel’s existence: we exist to aid our fellows, but in order to gain enough levels to do so, we must be able to fight on our own. This leads to a radical shift from the way I fight when I stand alone to the way in which I fight when part of a team. While this seems like a necessary consequence of being a supporting class, it really does get in the way of me developing a style of playing, since I have to throw it out the window once the situation changes. This breaks whatever immediate connection I have going with the game at that time, since I need to step outside my murderous musician for a moment. I can adjust to singing arias of aid, but I would rather be able to stick with songs of slaughter, since that’s what I do for 95% of my fights.