Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

Last week, we covered some of the basic pro’s and con’s to both 10- and 25-man raid styles. Thanks everyone to their input and comments. I’ll be updating the post soon to get those new items in there! This week, we cover the art of communication.

Now that you’ve donned the crown of Raid Leader, you have to pontificate with your subjects… meaning you have to talk to your raiders. This sometimes can be the hardest aspect of the job. You definitely have to be more “on the ball” than the other people on the team. In my time as a raider, and also as a Raid Leader, I’ve always found the best Raid Leaders have been great communicators.

Choosing Your Style

When I raid, I like a positive and friendly environment. In raid environments, I usually do best when people are laughing, smiling, and overall having a good time. This is a game for me, and although I take it seriously, I work hard to make sure people are having fun. As a Raid Leader, I try to impress that upon my raiders.

It’s on you, as Raid Leader, to decide how you’re going to motivate your team. Positive reinforcement? Brow-beating? Drill Sergeant? I’m particularly biased towards the positive reinforcement, but I also see the benefits of other styles as well. Think of it this way:

  • You can take each good thing from a wipe and build on it. Encourage that kind of behavior or style of playing. Praise the healers for an excellent job handling that attempt, even if they ended up wiping.
  • You can point out the faults in each attempt, in an effort to discourage that from happening again. Even take it farther and threaten substitution if it happens again. Point out that if the mage doesn’t move the split second he needs to, he’s getting replaced.
  • You can be the strong, silent type. No news is good news. Set your assignments, and let the raiders discover what went wrong.

Either way you go, you must be aware of what kind of style you possess. This will easily decide what kind of raiders you’re going to have. There are plenty of raiders out there that enjoy different styles of raiding. Some like tough competition, some like the team environment. Be conscious of the tone you’re setting, whatever that may be.

Your Intentions

Just like in the olden days when a gentleman would court a lady, they would state their intentions. You must do the same. This goes back to our discussion on motivation. Have you been honest with yourself about your motivation? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to go about it (all things we’ll eventually cover)? You need to be up front with your raiders on what the goal of this adventure is:

  • What size are you going with? 10 or 25?
  • Are you going to work towards heroics? or just normal?
  • Are you bringing close friends? or are you valuing performance over history?
  • What sort of attendance policy do you intend to have?

By setting out the groundwork to your raiders, there’s very little room for guessing on your part. When you talk things out, it solidifies it in your own mind. Also, all of your raiders and potential recruits will know what they’re getting into, and what to expect.

Honesty is the Best Policy

An awesome line from my favorite movie, Swingers: “Respect my ass. What they respect is honesty.” The same holds true for being a Raid Leader. You need to be a straight shooter. If you want someone on your team, you need to be up front about it. If something’s not working out, you gotta speak up.

I’ve learned this first hand as a Raid Leader. **STORY TIME** When I was running the original Team Sport raids, we had a warlock that was never up to snuff. We tried to be up front from the beginning about what we expected of the raid team, and we knew that this warlock wasn’t up to it. Nice person, and fun player but just didn’t have the extra “oomph” to raid at the level we wanted to. Constantly long AFKs, not paying attention in fights, etc. Since we let it go on for so long, it had become acceptable to this player to act like that. When it came down to saying that we wanted to move forward but without the warlock, we were met with some unnecessary drama.

Essentially, if we had been honest up front regarding what we expected and that the warlock’s behavior wasn’t what we were looking for, we would’ve saved a lot of trouble. Now, within the Raid Team, I have little to no problem telling people that not signing up is unacceptable, or that not having food/flask is not gonna cut it. I’m not a jerk about it, but I’m honest with my raiders about what I expect of them on the team, and when they’re not getting invites or raid spots, they should know why.

How have you stepped up to the task of communicating to your raid? Are there any alternate methods/tips you’ve used that have been particularly efficient?

Raid Leading 101: 10 vs 25

Probably as old as when Burning Crusade launched is the discussion of 10man vs 25man. The jump from 40man to 25man jolted a lot of raiders and caused the collapse of several teams. Raid teams started out in 10-man Karazhan, which geared them to enter the 25-mans until the end of the expansion (Gruul’s Lair, Magtheridon’s Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Black Temple, Sunwell Plateau), with a 10man Zul’Aman thrown in for flavor.

From what I saw, there was a stigma that 10mans were inferior to 25man. 25man Raid Leaders were thought of as more commanding and needed more control over their team, whereas 10man Raid Leaders didn’t have as much responsibility. The only way to get any decent gear in Burning Crusade was to run 25man raids. Legendaries were obtained only in the greater of the two. The end result was people preferring 25mans over 10mans, even lasting into Wrath of the Lich King. Anyone else remember needing to get into 25-man Trial of the Crusader to get a decent trinket at the time?

However, with Cataclysm, the tables have shifted toward more balance. With the changes that Blizzard implemented, there is less pressure on needing to raid a certain size. Let’s take a look at the pro’s and con’s (as I’ve seen it).

25-man

  • More likely to have every raid buff due to a larger raid.
  • Raiders of the same class can feel more free to tweak their specs.
  • More forgiving to players that may be a little “sub-par”.
  • Battles have a more “epic” feel with a bigger raid.
  • More players = wealth of opinions in strategizing fights.
  • Three in-combat resurrections allowed per fight.
  • Raid competition may not be as crucial (melee vs ranged).
  • ————————————
  • Maintaining control over a bigger group.
  • More standby’s may be needed.
  • More people may equal conflicting egos/personalities.
  • Possible to run into scheduling difficulties.
  • Harder to start up from scratch.
  • Easier for people to slightly slack at times.
  • More officers may be needed.

10-man

  • Usually tighter-knit group.
  • Easier to start up from scratch.
  • More responsibility on each player.
  • Possible to have one of each class (very little gear competition).
  • Fewer standby’s may be needed.
  • Fewer officers or leaders needed.
  • ——————————–
  • Less input for fight strategies.
  • With fewer people, the fights may feel “less epic”.
  • More responsibility on each player.
  • Less room for error.
  • One in-combat resurrection available per fight.
  • Possible to miss certain raid buffs because of limited raiders.
  • Less room for error because of fewer players.
  • Raid composition may matter more (melee vs ranged).

The Choice is Yours

When you’re deciding on which side to go with, keep all of these things in mind. Some of the pro’s and con’s are the same. “More responsibility for each player” may be a good thing for your team or it may not be. You and your team are going to weigh these points differently, and that’s perfectly fine. It all goes back to what you want out of your team. Maybe you want the “epic feel” of 25man and don’t mind dealing with more people/schedules. Perhaps you like less gear competition but don’t mind putting more responsibility on each individual raider.

Remember, the same ilevel gear drops off of 10man vs 25man, so that’s no longer a factor. More gear drops on 25-man than on 10-man to even the scale. Also, Blizzard is still working on balancing the difficulty of the raid sizes, so one doesn’t feel noticeably harder than the other. Personally, I feel this is hard to achieve, but I’m fine with them getting it as close as they can.

As for me, we’ve decided on 10-man since the beginning. I don’t want to put in the extra effort needed to wrangle 24 other players, and we like the greater responsibility placed on each raider. We may not have that “epic” feel because we prefer a more intimate raiding environment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy 25man raiding, but I prefer 10man.

What about you and your team? Have you already made a decision? Are you split? What other pro’s and con’s can you add to the above list?

 

Friends and Raiders: Saying goodbye to guildies

How to properly leave a guild has been a topic often talked about, and even more so as of late with the imminent expansion. It’s that time of year when some folks try to find a better fit than the guild there in, others are taking the opportunity to step away from the game and focus on real life more and some are just out-right quitting the game. No matter the reason, it’s never an easy choice to make. You’re effectively stepping back from one thing you love to focus on something else that you likely care about equally.

Let’s be honest here for a minute. It is incredibly rare for someone to play a game contractually, and in the case of an MMO until the servers go dark. I said incredibly rare because even though you hear of players (or you may very well be one) that still play EQ, for the most part that is a small cross-section of the modern gamer totals. Entering into an MMO you have to have an expectation that people have the potential to leave. Yes, making friends in an MMO can be an extremely rewarding experience, but if you aren’t prepared for the possibility that the person may walk away from the game, you can be left quite devastated.

Minimizing impact

People leaving the game  can be tough on a guild as well, especially if it is a person in a leadership position or someone who has become a person that others depend on in a raid. It’s even harder when it’s someone you consider a close friend.

Let us say that an officer is leaving the game in any serious capacity for what may very well be forever to pursue activities in the real world. Let us also say that said officer is an integral part in the running of the guild, like recruitment, raid leadership or any of the various other administration tasks. That leaves a gap in leadership that has to be filled, and in most cases, pretty quickly. The same holds true for a raider, let’s say the top DPS in the raid decides it’s time to leave. Depending on the rest of the guild and group composition it can leave you with a hell of a damage gap to fill. That affects the rest of the guild’s progression through content later on. This becomes compounded when the departures are unannounced or rather sudden. If people think others are leaving out of the blue, it can sometimes cause a panic attack and cause enough of a stir to leave lasting ripples with other members.

If you are considering leaving a guild or quitting the game, the most important thing to keep in mind is communication. This is especially true if you are in any position of power, or importance, within the structure of a guild. You should never feel you have no choice but to play the game. While some of us have chosen to make a profession out of gaming, for most people it is a source of relaxation and venting. A safe haven if you will. That said, if a game becomes no longer fun, or if you need to find a better place in order to have that fun you should be allowed to do so. The same goes for real life. Anything that happens out of the game should take precedence over any obligations in game. One of the key things when even considering breaking off from a guild or the game in general is communication. Letting key people know ahead of time can help lessen the impact of your departure, and it can afford you some much needed piece of mind in making your decision. Talk to your GM about it, if there is a morale officer in the guild talk to them about it as well, maybe even your class lead if your guild has implemented those ranks.

The point is talking about it, even if you’re just considering it, will not only give people a heads up, but give you an outlet to talk things out. It may help to make you feel a lot better about your choice if you decide to move on. If your guild has forums set up, it is advisable to make a going away or stepping down/back post just to let people know where you’re going. You may be surprised how your leaving affects people around you in game on a personal level, and how much just knowing ahead of time that you’re leaving can help them cope.

Story time

I’ve made a lot of friends in game over the years. On several of those occasions it has turned into a real life friendship. In my previous installments of Friends and Raiders I’ve discussed making lasting friendships, walking the balance between friends and leadership and I’ve even introduced you to my healing team. One of my best friends, Eromon, I met through the game, and found out we lived in the same city. He has since left the game mostly but we still remain in touch. Before he left, we talked about his departure in great detail before anything was said to the guild. It helped him know he was making the right decision, and helped with being able to answer guildie question.

So about a month ago, Unpossible decided it was time to take a break from raiding. We’ve been hitting ICC pretty hard since it was released with little to now time off. Officers gathered and decided that a break before Cataclysm was a good idea and would give people a chance to unwind, relax and have fun doing random things like achievements or *gasp* play other games and maybe leave the house! ( I kid, I kid.) Before this break, one of our top DPS and an officer expressed that he felt it was time to leave the game behind, or at least step back from it. He felt that it was time to focus on other things in his life. We showed him how much we loved him at BlizzCon this year by playing one hell of a prank on him. For the last two weeks, he has been true to his word and hasn’t logged in. Not only is he a big chunk of our DPS and an officer, he is a really good friend of mine. He was one of the first people I met in Unpossible 6 years ago, and was always someone I had great respect for and someone I’ve grown to call a friend. Him leaving marks a hole in our DPS, our leadership structure, and our guild. We’ll still keep in touch over media like facebook and email, so at least on a personal level I’ll still have contact with him.

A few days ago, another two members of our guild announced that they too would be stepping back. One, a rogue who was consistently in our top 3 slots for DPS for as long as I can remember. The second is his wife, and a core member of my healing team. She is also an officer in our guild. Losing him is another big hit on our DPS, and honestly he’s one heck of a guildie and a great guy. His wife, for me, puts a very large hole in my healing team that I will need to fill as well as marking the falling of another tree from my “Forest of Win™”. On a personal level, I will miss them both in game dearly but will try to keep in touch with them via other media.

When I heard that these three were leaving, to be honest I was a bit devastated. It took a little bit for me to work it all out. With Zabos I at least had time to let it sink in and get used to the idea. Because we talked about it before hand. With our rogue and his wife, I had zero warning. These are people that I had come to rely on in raids, in guild structure and honestly were people that I had grown so accustomed to talking to during raids I couldn’t imagine not having them around. When I saw their post declaring that they were essentially stepping back that day,  it hit me all at once and in between personal feelings about their departure, I had to start planning to replace at least my lost healer to make my raiding heal team whole again. It’s something I’m still a little at odds with, just because it blindsided me. Thankfully their posts were very comprehensive, so there are no questions as to why they are stepping down. I know a lot of people in the guild are sad at their leaving, and many have already started asking how we are going to fill those gaps in our raid team.

The difference between the two really is simply that Zabos talked to me about it well before coming to a decision. It didn’t hit nearly as hard, and I was better prepared to deal with it. The other two really hit hard especially on a personal level. I had no idea they were even considering stepping back from the game. Both however communicated why they were leaving so that when guildies found out, there was not mass panic, and no jumping off the proverbial cliff.

Endings are just new beginnings

The world still turns and the server hamsters are still, hopefully, running. Cataclysm is less than a week away, and everyone is getting excited to have new quests, new dungeons and to have that fresh new game smell. Unpossible will still be there. We’ve survived since the game was brand-spanking-new, and we’ll likely be around until the server go dark. Sure, we’ll lose members along the way, but we’ll gain more friends as well. We’ll promote new people to officer as it’s needed and continue to thrive. People are already beginning to step up to try to take the place of those that left, and we’ll be able to fill the raid rolls and keep the ball rolling. That’s the nature of the game after all. We’re going to go ahead and punch Deathwing in the face, and chew through whatever the game throws at us. We’ll miss those that have left, and we’ll tell new guildies all the awesome stories about those that came before them. It’s like keeping an oral tradition alive, their stories will live on. For me though,  I know this newly minted Dwarf Shaman is a lifer. I’m in until the world goes dark.

So how about you? Have you lost any important members to your guild? Did they let you know they were leaving before hand? Have you left a guild and let them know?

Well that’s it for this week. Until next time, Happy Healing!

Crafting Your State of the Guild Address

For guild leaders, expansion transition is one of the most perilous moments. I know it can be difficult at times to convey thoughts and desires, but it is absolutely vital to do so before the expansion. This guild leader has a bad habit of occasionally forgetting to communicate. Like any relationship, back and forth discussion is always key.

What is in a state of the guild address?

Every guild will have different points to cover. There are a few similarities. The basic intent here is to state what it is your guild is going to do in the expansion. Even if there is zero change in purpose from Wrath to Cataclysm, it’s a good refresher for existing players and serves as a good place to start for prospects.

Some things your might want to cover are:

  • Direction: Casual guild? Social guild? Raiding guild? PvP guild? What is the point of this guild?
  • History: This is a good time to reflect back on the expansion of your guild accomplishments and anything you wish you could have improved upon.
  • Recruiting: Has anything changed regarding recruiting? Are you accepting max level characters only? What about re-rolls?
  • Raiding: Is the  raiding schedule going to change? New days or new times? What about 10 vs 25 man?
  • Policies: This is a great section to list any updates for any policies like alts, guild bank, loot system changes, attendance and so forth.
  • Timeline: For progression oriented guilds, consider stating intended timelines for leveling and raiding. Which week will the guild hit level 85? When will the guild begin formally raiding?
  • Leadership: Any officers stepping down? Any promotions being handed out?

In your address, you mainly want to target your guild. Your members want to know what is going on because there will be players who might wish for a change of scenery. At the same time, leave it in a publically viewable area like the front page or on a recruiting forum. This way, potential applications can read it and have a better idea of what your intentions are.

Here’s the one I wrote for my guild and I’ll do a breakdown of what I was thinking.

Raiding progression plans

There were a large number of players who have entered the guild. Raiders will come and go. Life happens, right? But I wanted to acknowledge their contributions.

Conquest started during Wrath. The first two years were spent seeing consolidating and seeing what we were capable of. I want to thank the over 100 players who have played alongside Conquest over the years. Without your efforts, we would not be where we are today.

I want to elevate this guild. Right now, we’re a little over 20th on Ner’zhul. I’m not going to be satisfied until we break and maintain at least top 10. Ner’zhul is extremely competitive. There’s over 20 guilds that have downed heroic Sindragosa 25 (pre-patch 4.0.1). I think we can reach that next level.

Our raiding interests will remain in 25 man.

What did I want to do differently? We’re already raiding. There were points during Wrath where I felt the guild “lagged” a bit compared to other raiding guilds on the server. Yes, this is a Wrath guild but now that the guild had been around for an expansion, I wanted to “get there”. I know that over time, we’ll eventually see bosses but I want to clear out the entire expansion. The ambition and the drive wasn’t completely there for me in Wrath and consequently there are a few encounters we did not take down.

A shift in recruiting

After discussion with officers, it was decided to open recruiting up further. With the expansion weeks away, there isn’t much of a point to recruit for current content. We’re just in farm mode and finishing up drakes for players who still need them. The time is best used to recruit anyone who wants to raid in the expansion regardless of their level.

Getting into Conquest is easy. Raiding with Conquest will require a little extra effort. For the time being, we have shifted our recruiting policy. In light of the new guild leveling system and guild perks, we have opened our doors to any player who believes they can contribute. Friends of current guild members are welcome to apply as is anyone else looking to hang out.

Rerolls and non-maxed characters

If you are not max level or wish to reroll, simply go ahead and apply anyway. List any existing 80s you have and fill out the application as normal. Add a note at the end saying that you have no desire to raid current content and you’re here to have a shot for our Cataclysm raiding team.

Why?

We’re planning for the future. We’re not simply looking for appropriate class or spec make up. We’re looking specifically for players with the right character and personality for the guild. Evaluation is always an ongoing process. Players that pass their trial period sometimes leave weeks after citing difference of opinion or other problems. I encourage players to experience the guild environment first before committing themselves to raiding after.

Trust me when I say I made some mistakes regarding personnel. I have no intention of seeing it happen again.

I have always maintained that different players will favour different guilds. I would not last very long in a casual raiding guild or a PvP guild. Can you see me in an RP guild? It would be amusing to watch me, but I would simply drown.

Scheduling

It’s not enough to say that you want to get there. In my case, I had to back it up. I didn’t want to another day or more hours. But I knew there were times when if we had just one or two more attempts, we would have gotten that boss. The decision was made to add 90 minutes overall to the raid schedule. I’m banking that it might be enough to put us over the top.

In light of the renewed commitment from the leadership, we’re looking at a minor extension of the raiding schedule. A fourth day will not be added. Instead, the intent is to run 2 raiding schedules: One for progression and one for farm.

During progression, an extra 30 minutes will be added per raid night.

Tuesday: 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Thursday: 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Monday: 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM
On farm, we will continue at our current pace and adjust accordingly.

Tuesday: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Thursday: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
* Monday: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

* We’re going to reach a point where all content can be cleared within that time. As we do not know the scope nor difficulty of the new raids, it is hard to say. Raid times may still be adjusted depending on our progress.

Naturally, this will depend on what raid instances are like. How many bosses are in them? How much trash do we need to blow up? All that stuff adds up.

Timeline

I leveled to 85 once on beta, so I had a rough idea of what to expect. I number of my guild mates have already scheduled time off of work for that opening week (on a side note, have you cashed in on your sick days?)

Here is the expected course for the first opening weeks of Cataclysm.

December 7th: Cataclysm released

Week 1 (December 14th): Guild members at 85 and geared to run dungeon heroics.
Week 2 (December 21st): After farming and acquiring mats for craftable gear coupled with heroic items, we should be ready to begin raiding.
Week 3 (December 28th): Multiple raid boss kills by now.
Stock up on the red bull and the pizza pops.

Please note: 10 man raiding operations will begin immediately the moment we have enough players and the appropriate raid composition. The goal is to get in there and start familiarizing boss mechanics. Any extra loot is a bonus. An item earned then is an item we don’t have to craft or waste time on getting from heroics. We will transition to 25 as quickly as possible from there.

On the beta, when I took down those raid bosses, my average ilevel score was approximately 350. I believe a minimum of approximately 340 ilevel could be sufficient enough.

This is a really optimistic time line. It took me about 50 hours combined just to go from 80 to 85. But I had the advantage of being on a PvE beta server and rested experience. Ner’zhul is a PvP server and I seriously doubt I’ll have that much rested experience lying around. Clearing out the entire normal mode bosses by New Years is something I secretly wish for but that might be too wishful. We entered Wrath as a 25 man guild and we’re going to go into Cataclysm the same way.

Those were just some of the major points. If you’re interested in seeing the rest, feel free to check it out. There really isn’t a wrong way to writing one. You could deliver it verbally over Ventrilo or Mumble but you’ll want to avoid cases of “he said, she said” type situations. Having it laid out in text keeps everyone on the same page.

Now I’m trying to remember what’s next on my to do list. Transitioning expansions is never easy.

Can Your Raid do More With Less?

Its a dark and stormy Monday night. Rain drops are slowly streaming down my face as I wearily walk through the door. I kick off my shoes and my feet are practically screaming in glee after escaping the cold, damp prisons of my New Balance sneakers. I hustle straight to my computer and flip the switch on. As the machine slowly spins to life, I change into something drier and comfortable.

“Gentlemen.” I spoke after joining our guild voice server, “How are we looking tonight?”

I received a chorus of acknowledgements ranging from “Good, what are we doing?” to “Your mom”. Just another day in Matt’s guild.

Once I logged into a game, I noticed of activity in officer chat. During the minutes that lead up to the first pull, we’re constantly assessing our roster and determining what bosses to aim for. One of the initial steps is to see what our attendance is like. There are times where there are some last minute player signouts or late notices. I got my raid invite and took a mental stock of our roster.

23 raiders with no other players in sight. It was about time for first pull. Some were starting to wonder if we would go since we didn’t have a full raid. The only boss remaining was Lich King. We wanted more weapons.

“We have the tanks to do this.” My tanking officer reported.

“More than enough stuns and slows for valks. Good to go.” Confirmed the raid leader. “Matt, healing?”

I quickly assessed my healers. There were five of us. We normally took six. I felt we could operate with less but I’ve always preferred the extra safety net when we were short bodies. It was time to get out of the comfort zone and see what the healing unit was capable of.

“It might be choppy. Being down two isn’t going to help. I think we can pull it off.” I responded with confidence.

Pushing the limit

I’ve always wondered what the minimum number of players for taking down Lich King would be. Could he be taken down with 24? With 22? How about at 80% capacity with 20? There was only one way to find out. You’re not going to know what your raid capacity is going to be unless you actually try it. Its good to stress test the raiders in shorthanded situations because you never know when it’ll happen during future raids. Someone might disconnect early on an attempt or die halfway through it.

Can your raid adjust to that sort of temporary setback?

Raid potential

raid-potential

While it is somewhat simple to quantify exactly how much DPS or healing is needed to successfully get through an encounter, there are other factors which you can’t really put a number on. Things like raid intelligence, awareness, and skills are all variables that determine whether your raid has the that mentality to gut through an encounter.

I’ve been surprised before in the past. When I think the raid group is lacking in certain roles or DPS and we go out and take down a boss, a little part of me inside cheers. The inverse also holds true. On moments where we wipe when I felt certain that we had the kill in the bag, I experience that sinking feeling in my stomach wondering what went wrong.

You’re never going to know what your raid can do unless you go out and try it. Obviously if raid potential is far below whatever the raid requirements might be, then the unpopular decision of calling it an early night might be the better course of action. When raiding short handed, the performance of everyone else needs to go up in order to compensate for the lack of players.

Unfortunately, we found out after a while what our limit was. Turns out if a player is lagging out, they’ll always get targeted with a Defile. On a side note, it seems that healers seem to respond to the instinctive need to keep healing. What else is a healer supposed to do with player who has lagged out in the middle of a Defile?

(Hint: The answer isn’t to keep healing him)

Alas, with multiple disconnected players the executive decision was made to call it an early night. Better luck next week.

Have you ever been in a raid where you were astonished at what the group could do because of class composition or lack of numbers? Was there any creative strategy used to get around the problems?