It’s not business, it’s just personal: Casual Raiding


Hello everyone! I have not made a post in a quite awhile as I have been busy with various things. I have, of course, had time to play my favorite social pass-time: WoW. Today, I am going to be covering a topic that I am constantly researching and learning new things about- – successful casual raiding. You might wanna heat up some dinner and grab a drink, this will not be a short post.

Considering the fact that most people didn’t log on to watch an 8 minute classic cartoon, I’ll quickly break down the main points of the video linked above.

Casey rules at batting in the game baseball. He knows it. Everyone knows it. He’s so sure of himself that he casually allows two strikes to accumulate. When he goes to actually try he strikes out. His casual approach failed.

It’s tough to raid casually. All of the top raiding guilds in the world have a pretty strictly enforced code of conduct, accountability, and contribution. A casual raiding guild does not always strictly enforce anything. They are also likely not to be very successful. Sure, some casual guilds have extremely good players and can accomplish things without much effort, but they are very few and very very far between.

Over the past year my own guild changed from being just an association of IRL friends to an association of IRL friends that attempt 10 man raiding content. We’re climbing the ladder closer and closer to being the most accomplished 10 man guild on our server.

We’ve struggled with the typical aspects of a casual guild transitioning into raiding content. At first we didn’t even have 10 members in our guild, and had to always PuG a few to complete a 10 man team for the raid. We lost a few members for awhile, and decided the time was right to start recruiting outside of our friends IRL. We put together a team that almost never had to PuG any players. Soon we had more than 10 in guild members and thus there were not enough spots for all the players that wanted in. We tried creating a secondary raid for alts and people that could not make the primary raid. This never really got off the ground. Luckily we have not had more than 10 sign ups on any given night the last few weeks, but it’s a problem that I still keep myself aware of.

Presently we are doing well in the most current raid content, and have started to back track to older content in order to get a few more achievements and claim the #1 10 man spot. It is in this back tracking that I’ve recently run into a conflict: differences in opinion on what our goal is and how we will go about achieving said goal. It’s frustrating working so hard to organize the one night a week that we raid and then having people change the plan on the night of. We have a website where I attempt to post information about what our goals are and what we’re thinking of doing, and it’s very under used.

As I often do in times of uncertainty, I have consulted my favorite source for guild leadership related queries: Scott Andrews. In my opinion, he’s the best writer at WoW.com. He’s created an excellent series about “Casual Raiding That Works”. Let’s see how well I’m taking his advice.

1. Find a Committed Raid Leader

Much like the house where you grew up, a raid is not a democracy. Everyone should feel free to express their opinion, but somebody has to make the tough final decisions and somebody has to be hard on people so the group will improve. A good raid leader knows the mechanics of every class, the personalities of the raiders, and the nuances of every pull and every boss. That doesn’t sound very casual, does it? It’s not. This is an important point that most casual guilds don’t understand as they embark on their first raid: There has to be at least one person who falls into the “hardcore” category, and that is your raid leader.

Leading raids might actually be more difficult than leading a guild. That person can’t afford to slack. They have to look at everything with a critical eye, from a person’s spec to their casting rotation to the buffs they use. They constantly have to make judgment calls about who is good enough for what. Sometimes a raid leader has to hurt a person’s feelings. It’s not fun telling that guy who’s incredibly likable and generous but can’t DPS his way out of a wet 6-slot bag that he has to step it up if he wants to come to Night 2 of that week’s Karazhan. And that’s just a small glimpse at why very few people want to lead raids.

It’s not a job that can be forced on someone. He or she will burn out very quickly when things start to go wrong. You have to find a member — not necessarily an officer (although that does help) — who is perverse enough to enjoy this role. You might be lucky enough to have more than one person who’s good at this, but consider yourself fortunate if you have just one, because one is enough for a casual guild. You have to schedule your raids around his or her real-life commitments, but in exchange for that you’ll have consistent, effective leadership. And that is the primary ingredient for successful raiding.

He says “a raid is not a democracy…somebody has to make the tough final decisions and somebody has to be hard on people so the group will improve.” I think this is happening in my guild to a certain extent. We’re really very democratic. Perhaps this is a failing in the system of my guild? When it finally comes down to it, either myself or the other raid leader tend to make a call, but we often feel like people don’t appreciate the difficulty in making these tough calls. The effort that goes in to organizing all of these runs. The fact that we play healers nearly 100% of the time because otherwise there would be no raid. Andrews also reminds us that “It’s not a job that can be forced on someone. He or she will burn out very quickly when things start to go wrong.” I’m definitely feeling this at times. I look forward to the one raid we do so much though, that I press on because I know it’s worth it.

I’ll skip ahead to #3

3. Communicate Your Plan

Once you’ve found a raid leader and decided on a loot system, unveil your plan to the guild. This is the part where a lot of officers go wrong. They either fail to communicate their exact intentions or they just assume that their members will go along with whatever they want to do. Don’t make this mistake.

You need to lay it all out there:
–How will runs be scheduled?
–When will raids occur and for how long?
–Who will go?
–Who will decide who goes?
–What will they base those decisions on?
–What is the immediate goal? (for example, clearing Karazhan or downing Gruul)
–What is the long-term goal (“killing” Kael’thas in The Eye)
–Will we recruit more aggressively?
–What will we look for in recruits?
–Will we have CLs (class leaders)?
–What does it take to become a CL?
–What voice chat software will we use?
–If we need a server for voice chat, who will moderate and pay for it?
–What addons will we use?
–How will loot be handled?
–Who will be the main tank?
–Will we focus on gearing up one tank exclusively at first?

All these issues can quickly become points of contention that divide your membership and cause undue friction. At this point, you’ve worked really hard to come up with a solid gameplan, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect and that doesn’t mean it’s what the majority of your members want. So after you communicate it to the masses, request feedback and make adjustments where it seems reasonable and necessary.

The most important question to address is probably this:

–How will the guild change as a result of all this?

Most members have anxiety at this stage that the guild will crumble apart due to infighting over raid slots or loot, or that they will be judged unfit to raid and quickly fall by the wayside. Remember your guild’s core values, and reassure people that these values won’t be discarded for shiny purple tooltips. That’s the easy part. The hard part is actually sticking to them in the face of adversity.

Even so, unless you’ve founded the guild to do exactly this, making the transition to casual raiding will almost certainly mean the guild is changing. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly how it will change. Sometimes it means certain policies have to shift, such as always passing on loot that’s a bigger upgrade for someone else. (It’s a noble idea, but one that isn’t always practical.) Sometimes it means a shift in the overall attitude of your members. For example, some people will inevitably take raiding more seriously than others, and they may start to feel like the others are holding the guild back. Changes can occur overnight. They can also creep along in the background, until one day you realize you’re haranguing one of your hunters about running out of arrows during a boss fight even though she’s just racked up a 50 gold repair bill, gone through 20 stacks of expensive ammo, and stayed up way past her bedtime.

What’s critical is that you maintain self-awareness during this period and try to react to the changes in the guild before they turn into major problems. The best way to react is very often through frequent and effective communication with members at all levels.

I’d say that we have a pretty fair loot system. It took us a long time to develop a loot system that was both fair to in guild frequent raiders, and also fair to any PuG players we might need.

As for communication, I’m pretty sure we cover this but let’s take a look.

–How will runs be scheduled? Via the website based on the day that works best for the most
–When will raids occur and for how long? Every Tuesday at 7:00PST 10:00Server for 3 hours
–Who will go? Whoever signs up with priority given to tanks and healers
–Who will decide who goes? The two raid leaders
–What will they base those decisions on? Filling tank/healer obligations,sign up order, # of runs done already
–What is the immediate goal? Gearing up from first 5 bosses in ICC 10, clearing Guildox.com based achievements in ToTGC 10 and Ulduar 10
–What is the long-term goal?  To be #1 on Guildox.com 10 man strict Drenden server, clear ICC 10
–Will we recruit more aggressively? As needed
–What will we look for in recruits? Personality, abilities, class/spec
–Will we have CLs (class leaders)? No
–What does it take to become a CL? A Hard-core guild
–What voice chat software will we use? Ventrilo
–If we need a server for voice chat, who will moderate and pay for it? It’s taken care of
–What addons will we use? Whichever you’d like, but we do have some suggestions
–How will loot be handled? Via our loot system with the assistance of an addon called Drunkard Suicide Kings
–Who will be the main tank? Moorg/Bellatoris
–Will we focus on gearing up one tank exclusively at first? No

All of this information can be found on the website, but is also communicated whenever necessary. As for requesting feedback, again, that’s what the website is for. We have forums and everyone can comment on the any news post to question the idea or add more information.

Andrews talks about the guild “changing” as a result. We’re not really becoming a raiding guild, we just do it once a week. For that night, the people that organize it, hope to pretend to be a casual raiding guild for a few hours. The changes only exist during that time. There are only rules and guidelines during that time. Every other second in the game it’s a free for all, and that’s fun. At least, I assume it should be.

On to point #4

4. Hammer Home the Need for Preparation

It never ceases to amaze me, but some people actually believe that, once they hit level 70 and zone into a raid instance, the raid leader will just tell them what to do and they’ll somehow eventually get epics without actually trying. I’m not sure if they underestimate the difficulty or if they just want someone else to do the work, but people like this are raid-slot poison. As an officer, it’s your duty to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them ahead of time. If you’ve told them what they need to do and they don’t do it, then they really have no one to blame but themselves when they’re fishing for Mr. Pinchy while the rest of the guild is fishing for Lurker.

Of course, with a casual raiding guild, you can’t always afford to leave people behind. It’s easy to enforce preparation when you’ve got 35 people to fill five groups. But what if you’ve got 23 people and 2 friends of the guild tagging along? If you send somebody packing, the raid might not even happen (assuming you even have the right class balance to begin with).

For casual raiding guilds, preparation is doubly tricky: You’re more likely to have members who don’t show up prepared, but you’re also less likely to be able to bench someone for showing up without a clue. Repeatedly — perhaps even excessively — emphasizing good pre-raid prep will reduce the amount of downtime you face as a result of the unprepared. I have to say, though, being able to summon people directly into an instance has been a lifesaver in this regard (Zul’Aman excluded).

Some people weren’t keen on my comparison of a raid to a sports team, but I stand by it. The medium may be different, but the principles are the same. You can’t play a football game if you don’t know the playbook and your helmet is broken.

It seems this column was destined for lists. Here are some of the things that your raid members should be doing prior to a raid:

–Read the strategies! Only the locked bosses in the Sunwell haven’t been analyzed and theorycrafted and reduced to a sterile sum of their inherent stats and abilities. The information is out there and easily accessible. Likewise, study up on the trash, which is seldom as deadly but can certainly slow a raid down and hamper progression.
–Bring more consumables than you could ever possibly need! Buff potions/flasks, buff food, temporary item buffs (wizard oils, poisons, and such), health potions, mana potions, bandages, ammo, reagents (including soul shards), and repair bots are just some of the items you want to stock up on. Some encounters — Lurker is actually a good example — can require more specialized consumables like bait.
–Repair your gear! Duh.
–Enchant and socket your gear! Every little advantage helps. Research which enchants and gems are most effective for your raid role.
–Spec like you mean it! Don’t come to PVE encounters with a PVP spec. Even worse, don’t come to heal with a DPS spec, tank with a healing spec, and so on. Talents are way more powerful than gear. If you can’t afford to respec, borrow the cash or do some dailies.
–Install and update the required addons! Five minutes prior to zone in is not the time to configure Ventrilo or download BigWigs. Give yourself some room for error if something goes wrong.
–Go bio! You laugh, but there’s always that guy who has to bio after the second pull. Seriously, pretend it’s a long car ride — go before you sit down at the PC even if you aren’t necessarily squeezing your knees together.

My apologies for all the exclamation points. Can you tell I feel strongly about this topic? Yes, all of these things take time. But just like a sport or a test or whatever analogy you want to apply, you can’t excel unless you put in the effort up front. Officers need to set the example for everyone else, so make sure your officers in particular do what they must to be ready.

There’s still quite a bit to cover on this topic, so expect at least one more column about it next Monday, if not another the week after that. To those of you who have written me about unrelated topics, I ask for your patience.

I’ve never really felt like anyone was taking advantage of anyone else. Some people began raiding with us without knowing a whole lot about the game. We didn’t care too much, we’re all having a good time with people we enjoy spending time with. This meant the occasional short-coming, and frustration of not being able to accomplish things, but we never let it get personal.

Preparation is definitely an area where we fall behind. A few of us read/watch about fights. Some people have done them before in different ways. Some people do nothing but show up. It’s disappointing, but this is a guild for fun and not for homework. The raid leaders know this and we try to stay up to date on info and pass it along as best as possible. I particularly like his point about “You can’t play a football game if you don’t know the playbook and your helmet is broken.” Very true. The one part that doesn’t fit the analogy is that our guild didn’t start out as a competitive football team (raiding guild) and now we’re suddenly asking people to stop playing 2 hand touch and get to tackling.

He has a great list of things to expect to do for successful raiding. Amazingly, we’ve been able to get by without the majority of folks participating doing any of the things on the list. I’m not even very concerned with our guild fulfilling this list, though it would be nice if everyone read about the fights ahead of time :  )

And now for the most important point: #9

9. Never stop having fun.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that hardcore guilds don’t have fun at all. They do. It’s just that, well, casual raiding guilds are better at it. The vast majority of casual raiders are not going to be on the bleeding edge of content. We’re not going to be the best-geared on the server. We’re not getting any first kills, other than our own firsts. So having fun is the only way we can compete with those hardcore guilds. Fun is a casual raiding guild’s #1 commodity.

I judge the success or failure of our raids largely by how much fun people had, not whether we actually made progress or not. Sure, it’s nice to down a new boss or farm an entire instance without a wipe, but not if the raid leader is making everyone’s night miserable.

Like most casual raiding guilds, we’ve lost a number of members over the years to more progressed guilds. And some of those people have gone on to be very successful as members of the top raiding guilds on the server. Others have come back. They aren’t coming back for the loot, that’s for sure. They come back because, as they say, “The game just wasn’t fun anymore.”

“Fun is a casual raiding guild’s #1 commodity.” I am as guilty of forgetting about this as our raid members are of not visiting the website. It’s hard sometimes to be aware of how people view the same events that you do, and to be aware of their perspective and sensitive to their feelings. I know I’ve hurt people’s feelings before. It’s not intentional, it just happens. It’s not personal, it’s just businesss. For them I know it’s not business, it’s just personal. “I thought we were friends and all about having fun.” It’s true it’s true!

Here is what I am hoping to accomplish. It’s twice as much work, but maybe it will fly. We keep our semi-hardcore approach for Tuesday nights. Bring the characters we need to in order to get the job done. I will set up an alternate evening for raiding to accomplish two goals: 1.) Getting anyone that could not make Tuesday night into some raiding content. 2.) Getting any alts that we may want to gear into some raids that can help them accomplish that.

Sound like a plan?

/whiteflag

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About nofuneral

I say things. You say things.

Posted on March 10, 2010, in How to Guild, IRL, raiding and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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