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Vana'diel Time

Boot Camp

If you've never played an online RPG before, or even if you have, be prepared to change the way you think. Sometimes it seems like the game bashes you over the head with rules - written and unwritten. So why do people bother? Because it turns out these rules actually help more than they hurt, most of the time - and the games are so addictive, anyway. In Final Fantasy XI, many of the rules are designed to force players to play with one another, and others simply aim to get them to spend more time playing. Today we'll clue you in to a number of these conventions, as learning about them on the fly can often result in an untimely death.

Battle Concepts

While Final Fantasy XI may have much more gripping story than most MMOs, you'll spend a much bigger chunk of your time killing monsters for experience points than watching cutscenes. The battles have a pretty rigid structure, but FFXI 's own special gameplay mechanics build on that.

First: Checking Monsters

You see a monster walking around the world. It doesn't look so tough - in fact, it might even look a lot like a monster you whooped hours ago. Be careful; you can't judge a monster just by its appearance. To find out just how badly it might eviscerate you, "Check" it.

Targeting a monster from a safe distance and selecting "Check" from the action menu will tell you the monster's relative strength, in the following loose categories.

Too Weak
Easy Prey
Decent Challenge
Even Match
Very Tough
Incredibly Tough
Impossible to Gauge

Watch out - the game uses the difference in your level and the monster's to figure out who's going to lose. Some of the more difficult monster types may be deadlier than the game may communicate.

Too Weak monsters give no experience points, so don't even bother. When playing alone, you'll generally want to fight monsters labeled Even Match or below, while six-man parties generally aim for Incredibly Tough monsters, or sometimes rapidly kill Very Tough monsters. Monsters that are Impossible to Gauge are "Notorious Monsters," and they could be easy or hard - find out more about that particular monster before attacking it, because it could go any way.

Second: Hate

Common to all MMOs is the concept of "Hate." It's called "Enmity" in Final Fantasy XI, and learning to manage it is probably the single most important concept in the game. From the lamest little battle you'll fight, to the epic struggles against final bosses, managing Enmity is essential to your success.

When fighting monsters as a group, every action a player takes angers the monster more and more. If one player angers the monster significantly more than another, the monster will turn its attentions onto that player. If the player is a mage or other job with low defense, this is a very bad thing - they're going to be taking a dirt nap in seconds.

"Tanks" - or "Shields," as the Japanese players on Final Fantasy XI refer to them - are solely tasked with managing Enmity and keeping it focused on them. Using abilities specifically designed to draw a monster's attention, they protect other players from pissed off monsters and minimize the number of targets the healer has to focus on. On top of that, some jobs have abilities to manipulate or even get rid of Hate, making the tank's job easier.

The game keeps track of each and every player's Enmity, and if you're in a party, the game keeps track of its Enmity too. Generally speaking, every point of damage dealt to a monster or healing lavished on a friend, translates into one point of Enmity for the player. The idea, then, is for other players' total Enmity to never exceed that of the tank. However, since everyone's Enmity adds up, if one player deals too much damage too quickly, the tank may not be able to regain the monster's attention before it's too late.

Third: Weapon Skills, Skillchains and Magic Bursts

Each time you smash an enemy with one of your physical attacks, you'll earn some "Technical Points," or TP - only a tiny bit, though. When TP reaches 100% or higher, you can execute a "Weapon Skill," which is a special attack for increased damage or negative status effects.

Early on, players should learn to coordinate Weapon Skills by chatting with their party. You shouldconstantly discuss the status of your party's TP. When multiple players execute certain weapon skills in a particular order, it creates a "Skillchain." Skillchains come in a variety of elemental flavors and types, and deal additional damage of that element to the monster.

Beyond extra damage, Skillchains have a more important function: setting up "Magic Bursts." Because of the concentration of elemental energy from a Skillchain, casting a spell of the appropriate element - Fire, Blizzard, etc - at the right time will boost its damage by one third. This is a crucial strategy to learn, especially once you start to take on the game's bosses.

Fourth: Experience chains

The final important concept is one of efficiency. By killing monsters above "Even Match" in rapid succession, a party will earn bonus experience points. To make the most of your possible experience

points requires careful coordination between the players. Everything from Skillchains to maintaining the mages' magic reserve is crucial.


Unless you're dedicated to going it alone, you're going to be earning most of your experience points while partying with other players. A typical party consists of six people and has one tank, two damage dealers, a ranged or magical damage dealer, a healer and a support member.

While this is the very definition of a "balanced" party, there are tons of variations that may be even better, depending on the situation. While Final Fantasy XI players are notoriously rigid about their party make-ups, as long as you have a tank, you'll be fine. Don't waste time waiting around for the ideal party. Some experience points are always better than none.

When partying, typically players find a safe spot to set up "camp," and it's up to one player to attack monsters and lure them back to the camp.

As noted above, a tank (or shield) is a player that holds the monster's attention so the other players can go nuts. Paladins and Ninja are the most popular tanks, but early in the game Warriors, Monks and Samurai can make serviceable tanks in a pinch.

Damage Dealers
The term "damage dealer" typically only refers to front-line fighting jobs, but can also include Rangers, Black Mages and Summoners. Most parties have at least two damage dealers smacking enemies around, in order to set up Skillchains for a mage, but more can work very well as long as they can manage Enmity effectively.

Mages fill a variety of roles in a party, from dealing damage to healing to supporting other players. The one thing all mages have in common is magic points, and the need to keep a healthy stock of them at all times. This usually means resting while the other players fight, and getting up at the right time to cast a crucial spell.

Support and Weakening
Support classes can be mages or front-line attackers, depending on what jobs you're talking about. The role of support characters is to make the party go as smoothly as possible, by weakening or "debuffing" monsters, strengthening or "buffing" other players, or speeding the rate at which the mages regain their magic points.

A puller, often called a "Fisherman" by the Japanese players you're likely to encounter, is tasked with luring monsters to the party for them to attack. Typically these are players with ranged attacks, like Rangers, Thieves, Samurai or even Warriors.

World Concepts

In MMOs, you spend a lot of time running from place to place, especially starting out. Along your adventures you're bound to run into a variety of things that will either screw you up or help you out. The following are a few of the most important ones.

Aggressive Monsters and Linking

Many monsters around Vana'diel are quite tame and won't attack, but others will. You can avoid fighting these aggressive monsters if you know how they detect their prey, and use that knowledge to your advantage. Whenever you're attacked by an aggressive monster, they're said to have "aggro." You'll be seeing and using this term a lot, so you'd better learn it.

Many monsters attack on sight. You can avoid being attacked if you sneak behind them and they don't turn around to see you, but an Invisible spell or an application of Prism Powder will eliminate that risk entirely. Almost all Beastmen attack on sight.

Other monsters attack based on sound. These monsters don't need to see you to know you're there, just hear you within a certain radius, so there's no getting around them in many circumstances. The spell Sneak or an application of Silent Oil will quiet your movements, allowing you to move by undetected.

Monsters classified as "arcana" or elementals attack when they sense magic in the area. With no way to mask magic, players simply must not use any.

Undead monsters can sense the wounded, and try to kill them to increase their ranks. If you're around undead monsters, be sure that your hit points aren't yellow or red, as this will draw them for miles.

Finally, some monsters just simply can't be avoided. These typically are known as "Truesight" or "Truesound" monsters. They behave the same as the sight and sound monsters, but there's nothing you can do to stop 'em.

While many monsters have loose guidelines as to if and when they'll attack, these are not entirely consistent, and may require research or testing before you understand them. Just because a bat in one area doesn't attack sound, doesn't mean it won't in the next.

Most monsters, regardless if they're aggressive or not, will "link" to other monsters around them,bringing their pals into the fight. 

Notorious Monsters

If you're ever wandering around and see a normal-looking monster with an abnormal name, you're looking at a Notorious Monster.

Notorious Monsters, or "NMs," are more difficult versions of the local fauna. They are almost always aggressive. Everyone wants to fight them because of the rare treasures they carry. If you ever see players milling about an area staring at one spot, chances are they're waiting for a particular NM to appear.

It's hard to predict when a Notorious Monster might show up. Some appear based on a timer, while others randomly show when monsters in an area are killed or when the weather changes. If you find an item that comes from an NM, learn how and when it appears, and prepare to compete against other players for it.

Beastman Seals and Burning Circles

Throughout your adventures, you're likely to come across seemingly useless items called "Beastman Seals." Do not throw these away, as these are a currency used to fight special boss battles that reward players with some of the best and most expensive equipment in the game.

Beastman Seals drop off of any monster that gives experience points. When you reach the central city, Jeuno, Beastman Seals can be traded for orbs that give access to "Burning Circle" fights, or BCs. If you defeat all the monsters in the BC, a chest will appear that contains untold treasures, so save up as many as you can.

Starting Out →