No player is an island

The phrase “no man is an island” may be something you’ve heard before. It originates from a poem or meditation from John Donne, an English poet, priest and a major representative of the metaphysical poets of the time. Here’s the original poem;

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Now the saying is a little bit outdated and now should read no person is an island, but it was on point for the time that married two important ideas. The first is that people are not isolated from one another, but that mankind is interconnected. Essentially, there is something that connects us to each other that is inherent to being human. The second is the concept of mortality which was all the rage at the time. The two together tell us that the death of anyone person affects the entire world. Over time this has evolved from that original meaning to one that no person can really stand all on their own without support. And that is exactly the lesson we’re going to talk about today.

In order to make a guild and a raid run, it doesn’t all fall to one player. It takes multiple people to manage anything more than a small group of folks. I hear a lot of people say that they could run a raid or a guild single-handed.  After the events of the past two weeks I can tell you with certainty that it is a lot harder than you may think.

The last month and change has been pretty tough on Unpossible, not going to lie. It’s one of those period where real life hit everyone pretty hard right around the same time. Things like this happen. Two of the core officers had to step away from the game because of work related issues, and a third because of school. This left four of us still around, and things were going alright. Raids were still going and people were leveling and progressing. Then a couple weeks ago one of the leadership was gifted with the birth of their first child. For obvious reasons they had to step away from the game to handle RL as well. Another event took place that caused one of the remaining three officers to be absent for a week, unfortunately leaving just two of us to run the guild and raids for the time being.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t fun. Raid signups, restocking the guild bank, hunting down missing raiders, running the raids, handling new recruits waiting for guild invites basically everything. It was stressful, lead to a lot of confusion and to speak frankly, it sucked. I’d find myself logging in before work to double check the Gbank, remote accessing my computer at home on my lunch in an attempt to log into the game and check status’, pouring over forums between work assignments and then rushing home to get things started on time. All the while handling raider complaints, DKP and other various factors. It was exhausting. At the end of the day all I wanted was a cold glass of beer, a dark room and some earplugs.  Even with two people trying to handle it, it was just simply too much. As a result of our stress, the guild became slightly stressed as well. Things weren’t running with their customary smoothness and adjustments were made to handle things as best as they could be handled at the time.

This persisted for two weeks of basically trying to keep things together and smooth, and at the end of those two weeks I honestly didn’t even want to touch the game for a bit. It was that stressful. Then three of the officers returned, and now things are going back to normal. While I’ve always been a strong proponent of sharing responsibility and delegating responsibility, this did nothing but highlight how very true that is. There’s too much involved when running a guild, let alone one that raids, for one person to effectively keep track and handle all aspects of it.

This is why when you come into a guild there may be multiple officers. In our case we have a DKP officer, healing officer, Ranged DPS officer, Melee DPS officer, Tank Officer, and Recruitment officers / membership officers. Responsibility is divided so that whenever a question or concern is raised it can be dealt with with a certain specialty. Each aspect gets the time and care only a person not trying to do everything can do.

So when someone comments to you that they could run a raiding guild single handed, remind them that no player is an island.

How about you out there? Ever try to run a massive group by yourself without help? Were you ever a part of a raid or guild where one person tried to manage everything? How did that work out?


Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

683292_50743243Welcome to Tough Call with me, Viktory.  This column aims to answer some questions and start even more discussions about one of the trickier aspects of raiding, raid leadership.  Sometimes “raid leadership” will mean strictly talking about class composition, role management, benching policies and loot, and inevitably sometimes it will bleed over into overall guild leadership. 

Based on my own experiences and the conversations I have every week with current and past guild/raid leaders, I know that this is one area where there is almost no black and white, and everyone can use some help or constructive criticism at times. 

I can tell you now that my answers will not be the universally-applicable answer, nor will they be the happy/nice/”make everyone love me” solutions.  That simply is not effective; raid management isn’t a WordPress plug-in, it’s a graduate-level course in human relations and resource management and we’re all crazy for trying to do it. 

My aim is always to have the most efficient raid possible, so that we can get in, get the job done, then go have a beer and pat ourselves on the back afterwards. 
Bottom line, the intent of this column will be to discuss how to make the decisions that the 24 other people in your raid would hate to make.  After-all, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”; but hey, you get to wear a frickin’ crown!

Now let’s move on to this week’s topic.

Preparation is the bare minimum

This week, many of you will either be grouping together for your guild’s first serious raids this expansion, or will be seeing more of your guildies hitting the gear levels to be able to join your raiding ranks.  Either way, you should be in a position where you have to decide who you will take to raids and who will be coming in off the bench.

In order to field the best team possible as you roll into a brand new expansion, you cannot always rely on the players who were your all-stars in Wrath.  Some may have grown complacent.  Some may have life commitments that prevent them from gearing-up (or even leveling up) as the same pace as the rest of your guild.  Some may even be less interested in raiding than they were last go-round.  Regardless of the reason, you owe it to your group to take an honest look at every possible option and make the best decisions.

If your group is already 12/12, please accept this High-Five and check back with us next week.  If your group is exactly 10 people and you would never dream of raiding with anyone else regardless of how long you have to wait…  let’s agree to disagree

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re not in one of those first two groups, and you’re probably facing some of the same decisions I’ve had to make this week.

For the sake of argument, let’s presume you’re doing 25-man raiding and have a roster of 30-40 people to choose from.  Six months ago, you could have considered multiple factors: experience, achievements, badge-gear vs boss-drops, etc.

Today, preparation is king.

Preparation does not always mean gear.  Sometimes people can get lucky and every instance they run drops exactly what they need.  I’ve seen it.  That doesn’t mean that they are any more prepared to raid than they were the day before, it just means that they may have a larger margin for error.

  • Among your healers, who is most prepared to keep your team alive when you’re in those first raid encounters?  
  • Who has taken the time to watch the videos, read the boss breakdowns, and consider what parts of their class/spec are best suited for each fight mechanic?  
  • Which of your tanks knows what is expected of them on each fight and which one is just hoping you’ll point them towards a boss and let them button-mash?

It should be absolutely unacceptable for your raid members to expect you to give them boss breakdowns before each pull.  Efficient raids will already be slowed down by new class mechanics and everyone needing new loot, you absolutely cannot allow another 10-15 minutes per raid to explain the strat.  Certainly you may review how your implementation of the suggested strat may differ (where to group on Altramedes, which drake to focus first on Halfus, etc), but the concepts and fight mechanics should have been discussed on your guild forums well before raid day.  This includes making sure the vital roles (such as interrupts, counter-spells, DPS tranquilities, etc.) have been assigned, preferably including back-ups.  If someone cannot meet this minimum standard, then they are not prepared to meet the challenges of raiding in Cataclysm and have made your decision that much easier. 

Remember, your roster should be a living document, constantly changing to meet your needs, and hopefully constantly improving as time goes on.  If you bring in the player who is most prepared, the one who went through the beta, has cleared every heroic 20 times, did 10-man raids before your guild had 25 people ready and thinks they know exactly what to do on each fight; that player can still fail.  They might have learned all this to mask the fact that they suck as moving out of the fire.  Preparation doesn’t show skill, but it does show dedication to the ideal of efficient and knowledgeable raiding.

Preparation is king, but it is not a guarantee.  Pick the guys who know what is expected of them so that you stay alive longer and can get the best possible looks at the new content.  Then, after a few nights, go back and use this experience to help you pick out who your top performers are.

Raid Leading 101: What’s your motivation?

Welcome to Raid Leading 101! I’m Thespius, and I’ll be writing weekly about the in’s and out’s of what we see (or what you can expect to see) stepping into this coveted leadership role. I plan on covering a variety of individual topics: Tips, Lessons, Conflict, Loot Systems, Recruitment Systems, Scheduling, Add-ons, and whatever you feel needs to be covered. I am a new Raid Leader myself, so I look at this entire experience as a discovery. I’m certainly not perfect, but then again, no one really is.  If you have a topic you’d like covered on “Raid Leading 101″, email it to elder.thespius@gmail.com.

On your mark, get set, GO!

I don’t believe any of us woke up one morning thinking, “Wow, I think I’m gonna be in charge of 9/24+ people!” For the most part, our desire to lead has come from experience. You may have started raiding for the first time, and saw the command that the raid leader had. He/She knew the encounters inside and out and what everyone’s job needed to be. People listened to that “General” and obeyed orders.

OR, you had a horrible Raid Leader. Maybe you felt he/she didn’t have a good hold on the situation, using out-dated or unrealistic strategies. You just felt that the job wasn’t being done correctly, and you started to see all the things NOT to do. Therefore, you take it upon yourself to be a better and wiser Raid Leader.

In either scenario, you most likely learned from what you saw. Something in your past experience guided you to this position. You’re taking the lessons you learned and the stories you lived through, and you’re putting it towards your own system. You have a great trust in what you think is helpful and what is not. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Why?”

Meaning of Life My Leadership

I got my raiding feet wet in Karazhan, and I wanted more. My original guild <Sword Through the Horde> didn’t have the roster to do Serpentshrine Cavern or beyond. I joined <Rise of the Phoenix>. Drama on a low-population server tore it apart. I joined up with the newly-minted <Team Sport>, but the raiding was just too casual. I got cozy with <Concedo Nulli>, but drama crumbled that fun to the ground. I aligned myself with Lodur’s <Unpossible> and found a great home, but it was missing something.

I was missing the friends that I “grew up with” in the game. You’ll probably hear about them throughout this “column”. They’re near and dear to me, which is why I decided to go back to <Team Sport>. However, I knew (as they did) that we needed to implement a more solid structure. They all loved hearing the stories of our boss downings in <Unpossible>, and I would even invite my friend Jayme over to watch our Lich King kills. They were slightly jealous and wanted similar. It was at this point I started to tip-toe into the leadership position.

I’ve discovered that the most important thing to me is to progress through raid content with my friends that share the same mindset. There are 6-7 of us that share the similar belief of a light schedule but with solid progression. Hence, I’ve tasked myself with creating a Raid Team based around that. My closest in-game friends and I taking on 10-mans with force.

Your turn, Grasshopper

So you have to take an inward glance. If you’ve ever thought about taking the “Reins of the Raid”, you have to ask yourself, “Why?” It’s not an easy job, so you need to be passionate. Know what it is you want to accomplish, and stay true to what got you here in the first place. Maybe it’s friendship, maybe it’s hunger, maybe it’s adrenaline. Whatever it is, take some time to identify it. It’s going to be the backbone of your leadership.

What drives you to be the Raid Leader? What is it that convinced you to take on the role?

Matticast Episode 2

Welcome to Episode 2 of The Matticast. This week Matt, Borsk, Kat, and Brian discuss:

  • How to spend those first Valor Points
  • How to deal with a guildie who is not enjoying their class (or what to do if that guildie is you!)
  • Are Druids and Shaman really not useful in High End Raiding
  • Community Responsibility to the Average Player

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic, and be sure to checkout and participate in the listener topic every Wednesday.

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

Play

Interview: Blacksen

I conducted this interview about two weeks ago with Blacksen of Blacksen’s End. He is both a GM and a blogger. I picked up several neat ideas as we discussed the raiding environment and guild management tips.

Hey Blacksen, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions. I understand you’re a guild leader yourself. Could you tell me more about you, your guild and how that organization came about?

Back in early December 2009, a few of my RL friends (Faux, Rissara, Krisys, and Dez) and I transferred to Zul’jin with the intent of PvP’ing together. After reading more about rated battlegrounds, we decided to start a guild doing battlegrounds on Sunday/Monday and raiding on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday.

We knew from the beginning that our primary guild value would be performance. All of us were excellent gamers who wanted to excel in the content given. Recruitment was kicked into overdrive over the Holidays and our first 25man raid was January 4th.

It’s funny to look back on it all since we specifically told people in our February, March, and April interviews that “we are not a server first guild. We can’t get server firsts raiding 3 nights per week on a very competitive PvE realm.” Now, we’re recruiting and driving for national competition while staying on our limited schedule. We’re the #3 3 night/wk guild in the United States, behind Surprise Mutiny and Arathian Knights. We’re hoping to become #1 with Cataclysm.

Over the past few months, we’ve actually split the guild into two separate “teams” under the same guild tag. I’m the main coordinator of Critical, our PvE progression team. One of my officers, Faux, is the main coordinator of Vital, our Rated Battlegrounds team. We want both teams to be able to compete at a national level while still accruing the same guild achievement, experience, and reputation benefits. This system allows the two teams to achieve that while operating completely independently.

As a guild leader myself, I’m always interested in learning about the management techniques of other guilds. Have any trade secrets?

There are a few things we learned pretty early on that helped us out, the first of which was making value-based recruitment decisions. We told people that we valued performance above everything else, and we accepted anyone who came to us saying “I also value performance.” We accepted several undergeared and underqualified applicants simply because they said “I know I’m a good player” – Toragon, Annaleise, and Anosh, to name a few.

Another thing we learned was how to specialize the trade chat macro. I still have a few examples:

  • A horse walked into a bar and the bartender asked “Why the long face” and the horse said “Because I’m not in Imperative.” Imperative is recruiting! Join now!
  • You can pwn if you wanna. You can leave your guild behind. Cus your guild don’t pwn and if it don’t pwn then it ain’t no guild of mine. Imperative is recruiting!
  • Just a city dwarf, born n’ raised in south IF! He took the midnight train going to Imperative, with a light raid schedule and 8/12 in ICC-25! Spots open, join now!
  • Apolo Ohno? More like Apollo Fail-o! Why? Because he’s not in Imperative.

These macros were essentially designed to grab attention. Most people just completely zone-out when it comes to advertisements in real life, and trade-chat advertisements are no different. These macros were designed purely to get people talking about our guild and what we were about.

Another successful idea that we implemented were guild meetings. We hold an officer meeting at the end of every raid week to discuss recruitment, member concerns, and anything else that we want. In addition, we also hold a guild meeting on the last Monday of each month. Our guild meetings serve as a reminder to individual players that we’re focused on both short-term and long-term goals. It’s easy for a lot of guilds to get so wrapped up in each progression cycle, so we created our guild meetings to reinforce long-term guild goals.

One final policy is officer chat. Anyone in the guild can talk in officer chat at any time, but only officers can read officer chat. At first, this might seem a bit strange – members type something in /o but they can’t even see their own message. Overall, it has provided an excellent flow of information. It allows members to talk to all officers simultaneously without pulling us aside. If a member has a problem with another member, an emergency afk, a strategy suggestion, or anything else that officers should be aware of, they can simply say something in officer chat. This policy ensures that some officer will see it and that all officers are aware of it, rather than just the “favorite officer.”

With regards to Cataclysm, how is your guild preparing for the expansion in the opening weeks?

We’re going to take it easy. We’ve set out first “official” 25man raid for January 4th. Between Cataclysm’s release and that date, we’ve set out some expectations for our members such as 40 heroics minimum completed, all of the good gems/enchants (including reputation ones), tradeskills high enough to incur personal raiding benefits, and strong familiarity with your class mechanics and all introductory fights. However, I’m sure we’ll end up doing some 10man raiding to start getting familiar with the fights. We might end up raiding on December 21st.

Right now, Cataclysm is looking like you cannot “skip over” heroic dungeons. WotLK had players walking into Naxxaramas with essentially quest greens, and the raid instance itself was extremely easy. Blizzard seems to be overcorrecting for that mistake, making most of the introductory encounters complete gear checks.

Our rated Battlegrounds team, Vital, is likely starting December 18th or 19th. We now know that it will be a 15v15 weekend, and we’re all very excited to dive headfirst into the competition. It’ll be interesting to see what teams show up that early and how the season scales with resilience.

How do you utilize your guild bank? How are the resources being used?

Right now, the guild bank pays for all repairs during raiding hours and provides fish feasts for all raiders. We’ve accumulated a static 225k to “sit on” going into Cataclysm. Anything over 225k is split among all active raiders at the end of the month. We sell Light of Dawn for 40k each week to two players, in addition to selling heroic run-throughs and gear.

We’re hoping to be able to provide Flask Cauldrons, but, with the changes to 10 and 25man raiding, that may not be sustainable. With the merger of 10man and 25man lockouts, it’s become difficult to sell both gear and raid spots. However, the guild leveling “perks” that deposit gold into the guild bank in addition to BoE items might transfer things over.

About raiding

Let’s talk about your raid environment for a moment. I’ve heard from a variety of raiders at upper levels that a top 100 guild is different from a top 50 guild which is different from a top 20 guild (and a top 10 guild). Do you know what I mean? Do you think you can explain that a bit? What kind of mindset or mental state is the raid in when on a progression run?

I think the main thing that varies is the collective view of the most brutal progression fights. For the most part, we were nowhere close to competing for US until we seriously pushed heroic Lich King. In fact, we spent the entire month of January competing to get on the front page of WoWProgress on Zul’jin. When we got out first heroic Sindragosa and Putricide kills, we were just under the “top 250” cutoff. We were a guild that was 4/12 heroic until the next zone-wide buff, and we’d jump 4 more bosses.

We raid three nights per week and strictly adhere to our schedule. We’ve never raided past 12:20am and never raided on a non-raid night. Most of us felt that, with 10 hours of raiding each week, things like server firsts were beyond us. We told people in interviews up front that we likely wouldn’t be getting server firsts just due to time constraints.

Our mindset changed drastically at heroic Lich King. When we learned that other guilds on the server were making limited progress, we saw an opportunity to actually seize a server first. Our raid environment went from joking-fun raiding to semi-serious and professional attitudes. Whenever the officers elected not to attempt heroic Lich King, people became extremely agitated.

There are a lot of different “modes” that raids can enter when pushing progression. There’s an “unfocused” mode where people crack up at Shadow Trap wipes. There’s a “bad luck” mode where people start feeling that elements are out of the raid’s control (disconnects, for example). There’s “rapid fire” mode where you’re literally just throwing bodies at the boss and trying to get as many attempts as you can (Quedar hates this mode. I love it). These modes are all fairly detrimental, but all difficult to control. It’s hard to make sure that people are both focused and having a good time. The worst thing that I can ever hear as a raid leader is one of my officers saying “this is miserable” – you’ve gotta keep morale up.
The one thing that all top-level guilds have in common is the high emphasis placed on performance. I’ve been playing WoW for over 4 years, and I know how challenging it can be to be an awesome player surrounded by bad ones in a terrible guild. So, in case there is any doubt, there are guilds out there where everyone is an excellent player and no one is getting carried. You just need to find them.

Can you summarize the recruiting process after the initial application? You probably have a trial portion of some sort. What does that involve? What happens when a raider passes it? What happens when they fail?

Once you submit an application, you’ll get assigned a unique application ID number that gives you and only you access to your application. The application also gets posted on our private forums so that members can post questions and comments for the applicant to see. I firmly believe that all applications should be private for both the applicant and guild, but I also wanted applicants to be able to engage in a dialogue about their application – this system allows them to do that.

After you submit an application, we usually get comments posted about it within 18-24 hours. If we like your application, you’ll get flagged for an “interview” by one of our officers. Interviews, for us, usually consist of no questions. Instead, we just lay out how we operate and what our expectations are. It’s then the burden of the applicant to evaluate themselves and critically analyze if they can meet our expectations. Nearly every applicant who gets to the interview stage is accepted.

We don’t have any “initiate” or “trial” status. Once you’re in, you’re in. You’re held to the same expectations as every other member. We do not allow “I’m new” as an excuse for poor performance. We expect everyone to get things correct on their first try, even if they’ve never seen it before.

What type of players are you looking for when you’re recruiting? Are there any specific or shared traits among the players in your raid group?
Simply put, we recruit “skilled players.” If anything, the past year has proven to us that skill drives progression – not time input. We want players who are world-class record setters and don’t need to make mistakes in order to learn the lessons.

However, there are several other elements that go into our ideal applicant. Applicants for either team are expected to be team players. We frequently call upon individuals to set aside their personal goals for a larger team goal. We had three rogues and three hunters when pushing heroic Lich King, but we only brought one rogue and one hunter due to their weak classes. In the 10-weeks prior to heroic Lich King, we received 40 heroic tier tokens in which every single one went to a DPS. We asked our healers to set aside their personal healing goals so that we could gear for the fight (heroic Lich King being a pure DPS race).

To screen for team players, we usually look at guild history. Players who are essentially “guild hoppers” usually hop whenever asked to set aside some personal goal, while players who’ve been in a single guild for 6 months or more have inevitably been asked to do something they didn’t want to do, but did it anyway for the team.

Another strong element is cultural “fit.” Imperative’s culture largely emanates a feeling of “professional college gamers.” 90% of the guild is between ages 20 and 25, and 96% of the guild either already has or is currently pursuing a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. Culturally, the majority of our members are extremely professional – no one would greet their friends like “gangstaz”. We want players who fit well with our raid environment. To do that, you need to be a generally nice person who doesn’t screw around in raids and enjoys being around other people. In the past, we removed two main tanks for extreme personality clashes (and generally being assholes).

What immediately happens after a wipe? What is the leadership approach to players who aren’t “getting it”?

Immediately after any wipe, every officer writes down what they interpreted as the cause of the wipe in addition to any mistakes that were made in the previous attempt. This data is then compiled later in our officer forums for analysis. We then explain what we interpreted as the cause of the wipe and what we need to do to improve.

If individual players just “aren’t getting it,” their raid spot will immediately be called into question in both the short-term and long-term. If someone is simply having an off-night, they’ll get replaced for the remainder of the evening. However, if someone is sincerely struggling at learning an individual boss mechanic, their long-term raid spot will also be questioned (sometimes publicly).

We are a guild of rising standards, and, to us, WoW is an easy game. At one point in time, we recruited based on the ability to run out of normal-mode Sindragosa’s Icy Grip. We later (much later) recruited off the ability to down heroic Lich King and heroic Halion. For the past two months, we’ve been recruiting off the ability to farm heroic Lich King. When Cataclysm hits, we expect all of our members to rapidly learn and perfect fight execution. With each fight, there’s a new performance standard set. If they fall significantly behind, we’ll open recruitment for someone who can meet the new standards.

Rumor has it you instituted a “bottom 3” policy at some point in time. What was that about?

The “bottom 3” policy was in effect until September earlier this year. Essentially, the policy states that we’re always seeking to replace the “bottom 3” players in the guild. At the end of each week, officers meet to discuss who were the three least skilled players in the guild. We then inform those three that they were in the bottom 3, and, if they do not significantly improve, we recruit over them. Being in the bottom 3 also removes all loot privileges until we see an improvement. When it comes time to critically analyze an individual raid spot, we look at how often that player appears in the bottom 3 and if we believe their performance level can change. Once we receive an application from someone that we are convinced is better than someone in our bottom 3, we replace them. Once that recruit proves to be actually better than the player in the bottom 3, we remove the player.

At first glance, it sounds brutally harsh, but it has proved extremely effective for us in the past. First, it’s worth noting that no one who was meeting raid standards has ever appeared in the bottom 3. Second, it’s generally hard to “convince us that you’re better.” We need to see long-term attendance levels and performance levels that are better than our current players. One single raid-night parse doesn’t cut it here.
Finally, the policy doesn’t really do anything different than most other raiding guilds. Most guilds look to replace their weaker players with stronger players, and the weakest players tend to get more urgency attached onto them. It’s nothing new to say that we “remove our bad players.” The bottom-3 policy forced us to focus on only 3 bad players rather than a potential 10 that were on our roster early on.
What type of loot distribution system do you run and what was the thought process that led you to it?

Ironically, I was a DKP-addict throughout all of Burning Crusade. I spent countless hours trying to create the perfect system that would give the correct incentives for showing up and performing. It wasn’t until I joined Aftermath on Lightning’s Blade that I was enlightened to the brilliance of loot council. Aftermath had a perfect loot council that made decisions purely based on progression and performance. To them, gear was a means to an end. When starting Imperative, I attempted to copy several of their policies.

Early on, loot council made sense for us. We wanted to ensure that our best players got all the gear they wanted, while our weakest players got absolutely no gear at all. Point-based systems tend to over-emphasize attendance and downplay performance, so they weren’t an option.
Loot council is the optimal form of loot distribution at high-end progression raiding. For us, “fairness” is completely irrelevant. Gear is allocated purely for whatever is going to get us the most progression the fastest. As mentioned earlier, the 40 tier tokens that dropped prior to downing heroic Lich King went to DPS’ers. Stronger AoE classes were given preference on the tokens over weaker AoE classes. We were gearing to down heroic Lich King, not to be “fair.”

Now, I consider myself an expert in loot councils. I’m the author of the #1 Loot Council mod, LootCouncil_Lite. The mod gives loot councils a solid voting interface with the ability to quickly compare upgrade sizes. It has become a critical part of our loot council procedures.

*Edit: I personally use Loot Council Lite and I love it.

What you did for the red shirt guy was touching. What made you decide to offer that gesture? How did the rest of your guild take it?

After BlizzCon and reading the horrific comments on the forums and YouTube, I went to track down the red shirt guy. After learning his identity, we extended him the offer to come to a 12/12 heroic clear, getting all gear that he could use including heroic tier tokens and Lich King weapons.
We felt that, out of everyone in the United States, he would get the most enjoyment being a part of the most epic battle that has ever been made within any MMO. He genuinely appreciated the meaning and lore behind Invincible – it wasn’t just a “cool mount” to ride around. A lot of people have tried to make him feel bad or feel like a nerd, so we thought he should get the gear to feel totally badass.

We did not reveal the identity of the red shirt guy until after the raid, so most had no idea what was going on. We didn’t want him being harassed by individuals in the guild or on the server. We instead told the guild that I had a “personal friend” transferring over, and that he would get any and all gear that he wanted during our 12/12 heroic Icecrown clear. He walked out with two heroic Tier Tokens, the heroic Deathwhisperer dagger, the heroic Lich King axe, and a few other pieces.

Most notably, we gave the red shirt guy Invincible. One of my officers (Faux) won the roll and elected to give it to him, sacrificing his vanity item eligibility for a few months. After revealing his identity, a few members outright didn’t believe us and were a little disgruntled that we gave Invincible to “some friend of Blacksen.” After the red shirt guy made the YouTube video, however, everyone was happy and warm inside.

About the blogs

What’s Blacksen.com about? Are there any projects you’re apart of?

Blacksen.com is about a wide range of topics, from guild and raid leadership to zone critiques to game design suggestions. I originally started it as a feeble attempt to improve my chances of getting into the gaming industry. Once I really got going and Imperative started making significant long-term progress, blogging became more of an hobby.

The majority of the blog focuses on guild and raid leadership within World of Warcraft, but there are a few other things I’ve tossed in. A lot of my guildmates have recently become enthralled with League of Legends, so I’ve written a couple of entries on that. A significant number of us also participated in the Cataclysm beta.

I’ve also been a part of the MMOLeader.com launch. The title pretty much explains what it is – a place for leaders within MMO’s to congregate to discuss various strategies and issues that they’ve experienced.

Thanks again to Blacksen for taking the time to participate in this interview!

Casual 101: Knowing Is Half The Battle

Casual 101: Knowing Is Half The Battle

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the “Hardcore Casual” mentality.  In my 3 years of playing World of Warcraft, I’ve cut my teeth against some of the best in the game (well, my server or battlegroup).  I’ve seen some of the strongest players, and I’ve seen some of the weakest players.  The first thing I’ve noticed is a fundemental difference between the two extremes.  The strongest possess it.  The weakest lack it.  By “IT”, I’m talking about knowledge.  Yes, there are casuals that are some of the strongest players I know.  What separates them from a smattering of hardcores is their level of knowledge.

The Usual Scenario

A small guild consists of a tight-knit circle of friends.  All of them have made the necessary adjustments or rolled toons to fill all the roles that a 10man raid needs.  2-3 tanks, 2-3 Healers, and a slew of DPS, both ranged and melee.  When this guild gets together, there’s rarely a duplicate class, let alone spec.  Each player wants to benefit the raid as much as possible.  However, scheduling is always the issue.

Everyone’s got their own lives.  Everyone’s constantly juggling families, kids, jobs, school, friends, and of course, this game.  Each person constantly tries to get a raid together when they see that 8th or 9th person on.  Phone calls fly, text messages flow, and everyone is scouring their friends list to fill the final spots.  On the lucky nights, they can get together ten of their own.  A certain sense of pride swells.  “We got a guild run going,” they all contently utter.

The time is ticking.  One of the healers works the overnight shift on the weekends.  He/she has to be out the door in just over two hours.  The raid gets together surprisingly fast.  Even though ICC is the hot topic, they decide to do ToC since one of the paladins is saved to ICC.  It doesn’t matter, because they derive more joy from the simple act that those ten raiders share the same guild tag.

Buffs ensue, and right before the pull, the off-tank druid confesses his ignorance.  He doesn’t know the fight.  During Acidscale and Dreadmaw, the rogue gets the Burning Bile and runs away, but doesn’t come back to free the tanks with Paralytic Toxin.  This counts for two wipes.  On Lord Jaraxxus, the hunter gets inflicted with Incinerate Flesh and runs to kite it, as though it was Legion Flame.  He runs out of range of the healers, it ticks to zero, and wipes the raid.

We took the time to explain the fights.  The differences in the Wyrms and Jaraxxus’s two flames.  It seemed as though it was in one ear and out the other.  Although they’re all friends, tension is rising, and time is running out.  The healer with the upcoming overnight shift starts to get impatient.  Before they all realize what has happened, he has to leave.  They’ve barely downed Jaraxxus, and he/she is out the door to go to work. 

A reasonably short raid has turned into a long, frustrating endeavour. 

Things to learn as a casual player:

Take a little time to research – Even with my busy schedule, I have the time to watch a video, read a strat, or email a friend that knows.  I download a text-only strategy, copy it into an email, then read it on my phone on the train to work.  Before taking my lunch break, I take 10 minutes to watch a Tankspot video.  I’ve even, yes, downloaded a video to my iPod and watch it while I’m on the can.  (That’s right, I went there).

Listen to what’s being explained – Too often do I see people goofing off in guild chat, making random comments in /say, or participating in /general banter.  I never mind if it’s someone that I’ve done the fight with before, but if a casual player is consistently not listening because they’re engaged in other activities, I have no problem calling them out on it.

My main issue with all of this is the “talk, no walk” scenario.  All of these people will constantly ask, “Hey Thes, do you think we’re raiding tonight?” My constant response is: “I certainly hope so.  Start reading up on the fights.”  They never do.  Oh, they want to raid.  They salivate when the letters ‘I-C-C’ are called out.  Yet, when it comes down to doing a little bit of legwork, they falter.  I dont’ mind explaining the fights, but if after the explanation I hear “I’m sorry, so what am I supposed to do?” from our warlock, I wanna /logout.

Sidenote: Since drafting this blog, we’ve downed new bosses in ICC for us, so I *am* proud of my friends.  I just get agitated sometimes the lack of initiative. 

ANYWAYS….

If you want to make yourself valuable as as casual raider, just take an extra step or two to be prepared.  If not, you’re wasting your own time.  The less a raid has to “nuture” you, the more appealing you’ll be to bring along.  Personally, I love that our guild, though small, is comprised mostly of people that can fill in for any guild’s raid that may need us.  Kind of like hired mercenaries.  Need a healer?  See if Thespean or Discotheque are on.  Need a tank?  See if Dralo or Naryamas are around.  How about a good DPS?  Ask Arcas or Wolfin.  That means, however, that we do our little bit of homework to make that possible.  You don’t have to be hardcore, but if you know your stuff, you are just as skilled (if not more), than someone who devotes most of their time to raiding.

Are you a player that can’t be on as much as they’d like?  How do you make yourself appealing to be pulled into a raid?

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

Leading The Lodur Way

Leading The Lodur Way

5051conductor

This comes as a request on twitter from @Furiey. They asked me to write a post about my particular style of leadership and thus today’s post is born!

There are many different ways to lead I’ll discuss some of the more common ones and then talk about my own style. The most common styles of leadership you’ll find in MMO’s are as follows:

  • Democratic leadership
  • Bureaucratic leadership
  • Charismatic leadership
  • People-Oriented leadership
  • Laissez-faire leadership

Democratic Leadership

The democratic leadership style is also called the participative style as it encourages Guildies to be a part of the decision making. The democratic Leader keeps his or her Guildies informed about everything that affects their Guild and shares decision making and problem solving responsibilities. This style requires the leader to be a coach who has the final say, but gathers information from Guild members before making a decision.  Democratic leadership can produce high quality and high quantity work for long periods of time. Many Guildies and Raiders like the trust they receive and respond with cooperation, team spirit, and high morale.

Like the other styles, the democratic style is not always appropriate. It is most successful when used with highly skilled or experienced Raiders or when implementing operational changes or resolving individual or group problems.

This is an everyone contributes to the process thing with the Raid Leader or Guild Leader being the final say. This is VERY VERY good for morale and helps make people feel a stronger emotional investment to the guild as a whole. It does have a downside in which sometimes Alpha class personalities can clash when two conflicting ideas are presented. A strong and decisive Leader can head this off at the pass however. This is also very time consuming process sometimes to get things accomplished.

Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is where the Leader manages “by the book¨. Everything must be done according to procedure or policy. If it isn’t covered by the book, the Leader refers to the next level above him or her, or converses with officers as to make new policy to handle the situation.

Basically you set rules and policies to handle as much as you can and then follow those guidelines to the letter, be it loot policy, raiding policy or even guild structure.

Charismatic leadership

A Charismatic leader is one who provides an environment full of energy and positive (well OK, sometimes Negative) reinforcement. If you are naturally charismatic, you are very fortunate! This is a trait that is not so easily learned. Charismatic leaders inspire others and encourage them to be their best. Guildies and group members want to impress a charismatic leader, so they work hard and strive to succeed. Charismatic leaders are great for projects that require energy and talent.

This type of leadership is a double edged sword. You’re often perceived as approachable and a friend to the guild. It’s like Cheers and everyone knows your name. People are excited to group with you and this type of leadership is great for morale. It does however require a lot from the Leader and your mood will greatly affect the mood of those around you.

People-Oriented leadership

The leader is totally focused on organizing, supporting and developing the people in the leader’s team in order to accomplish a specific goal. A participative style, it tends to lead to good teamwork and creative collaboration. However, taken to extremes, it can lead to failure to achieve the team’s goals. In practice, most leaders use both task-oriented and people-oriented styles of leadership. This lends itself well to an autocratic approach and the leader will actively define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, plan, organize and monitor.

This can be highly effective form of leadership, but has an increased chance to cause burn out and atrophy among Guildies and Raiders.

Laissez-faire leadership

The laissez-faire leadership style is also known as the “hands-off¨ style. It is one in which the Leader provides little or no direction and gives Guildies and Raiders as much freedom as possible. All authority or power is given to the masses and they must determine goals, make decisions, and resolve problems on their own.

While this may sound silly you’d be surprised at the number of people that do take this approach, trusting in the structure of the guild and the maturity and camaraderie of the Guildies and Raiders to keep things flowing.

Choosing the Right Style

A good leader will find him or herself switching instinctively between styles according to the people and work they are dealing with. This is often referred to as “situational leadership”.

For example, the manager of a small factory trains new machine operatives using a bureaucratic style to ensure operatives know the procedures that achieve the right standards of product quality and workplace safety. The same manager may adopt a more participative style of leadership when working on production line improvement with his or her team of supervisors.

How Lodur Leads

I am a Situational Leader, but I tend to hover between Democratic, Bureaucratic and Charismatic leadership styles. My default mode is Charismatic though. I’ve been told I’m very Charismatic by the people that meet me, whether this is true or not I’ll just go with it ;) . I tend to try to inject a lot of energy into my team when I’m leading. I joke I jibe people and I try to keep spirits high. When it comes time to make a decision like if people want to keep going on a raid boss, or if it comes time to re evaluate tactics I slip into Democratic mode. When there is a problem or potential problem I want everyone in my raid contributing. Even the zaniest of ideas sometimes is the one you need to work. Between being very energetic and asking for everyone to participate, morale is kept high and my raiders always feel a strong involvement and attachment to the raid and to the guild as a whole.

When it comes time for something with policy and procedure I become very Bureaucratic. I follow the policy to the letter, it’s there for a reason. This includes reviewing applications for raider positions and most recently denying someone a raider rank. I deal with it with professionalism and courtesy, and I follow the guild guidelines to the letter. Let me give you an example of each.

A few weeks ago my guild split into three 10 man groups. The idea was to do ToC 10, Ony 10 and then ToGC 10 and see how far we could get our groups in ToGC. When I started the raid invites I had a few new people and the first thing they heard was me “yelling” at another one of the officers on vent. Zabos and I have a very long history of friendship and we can often be heard over vent with me telling Zabos to die in a fire and Zabos waving some epic or mount in my face to taunt me. We goof around and the guild loves picking on Zabos. The new guy was a bit confused but then everyone joined in throwing some jibes around. I then chimed in over vent

“OK guys here’s the plan, ToC and Ony like normal then we’re coming back here to do some heroic ToGC 10 good stuff. My goal is to make it farther then Woe’s team. This is where you come in. I need you guys to give it your all when we come back here. Get your silly wipes and deaths out of the way early and lets show our Guild Leader what team Lodur is made of!”

This was met by the sounds of eager raiders getting ready to sink their teeth into content they had not tried before and led to a two shot of heroic Beasts before the raid was called on account of time. The first wipe I asked on vent if anyone had any ideas how we could make it better. A few people chimed in and we implemented some of the ideas and it lead to victory! They were so excited and everyone had a good time, and I was quite proud of them.

After the raid that night I had to send a denial letter to one of my Shaman who had applied to raider. I switched into my Bureaucratic mode and cited the reasons why they were being denied the rank, as well as citing guild policy. They understood and there was no hard feelings.

So that’s how I lead. I slip between the three styles as the situation dictates, but I tend to default to Charismatic style of leadership. People tend to like me and so I don’t have to brow beat them or yell too often to get them to do something. 95% of the time I just have to ask nicely and it gets done. People feel comfortable when I’m in charge and I’m told I do a good job and everyone has a good time so apparently I’m doing something right.

There are many ways to lead and in the end you have to find the one that fits your goals as a group as well as you as a person. and leader.

So how about you? How do you lead? What style best suits your personality and raid?

Tune in next time where I’ll talk about the tools I’ve come across that I’ve found useful when leading a raid.

Until next time, Happy Healing!

Sig

image courtesy of faqs.org

Build Your Own Guild Part 9: Ambition

Build Your Own Guild Part 9: Ambition

Once you have your own little Raid Machine up and running, it’s very easy to get a particular kind of tunnel vision. In the context of Burning Crusade, many new raiding guilds or casual raiding guilds worked and struggled to become the kind of organization that could reliably clear Karazhan. However, once Prince started going down every week, these guilds stalled out or stagnated. Believe me, I’ve seen it–I used to be in one of those guilds! One week, the end boss of the entry-level raid is dead and every one is happy. The very next week, the best players are leaving the guild for more progressed organizations on other servers.

So, What Happened?

Many Karazhan-capable guilds encountered problems after they cleared the place for one simple reason. The guild’s wildest dream had come true, and it’s hard for a guild to outlive its founding vision. When you are at the helm of the raiding guild, it is your responsibility to adapt your goals and plans to a changing environment. Always plan weeks or months ahead, and make sure your guild is aware that you have a vision for their future.

Making Plans

Your thoughts and planning should extend to at least one instance beyond where you are. Collateral Damage practiced an extreme version of this. Because we started late, hitting Serpentshrine Cavern only in January, we had a very small window of time to clear two full tiers of content. We are less casual now than we were when we started, and we spent a full five months in T5. However, we started thinking about the next step about the time Leotheras went down. At the time, attunements were still in place for T6, and the officers started planning and strategizing about how we were going to kill Vashj and Kael. We shared part of our plans with the guild, in the first of what became a series of goal-setting posts from our raid leader.

In T6, we knew time was running short. Attunements were lifted just as we were ready to start, and we knew that Sunwell was on the horizon. Our goal, however, was to get through Illidan and Archimonde–we didn’t think about anything beyond that. We made posts promising a dead Illidan by the end of the summer, and all of my recruitment ads promised full clears of T6 by that time. And you know what? We did it. I think that the planning, goal-setting, and above all, the stubborn refusal to accept the possibility of failure allowed us to do it. Mind you, we’re not a hardcore guild, and we were even less so the first time we took a peep at Naj’entus.

On Progress

In order to survive, a raiding guild must always have progression in mind. Some weeks no new bosses will die–that is only right and good, as it is the sign of challenging content. We don’t want it to be easy, right? However, a guild must never be content to rest on its laurels and only raid farm bosses. As your group masters more and more bosses, the farm list will grow longer, potentially leaving less and less time every week to work on new content. There are two ways to manage the dichotomy of progression and farming: the fast method and the slow method. Each way has its own benefits and drawbacks.

The Fast Method

Following this method, a raid leaves farm content behind as soon as it is feasible. The raid may set some essential gear goals, like a certain amount of tank health or survivability, but no attention is paid to the completion of gear sets or the acquisition of best-in-slot items. End bosses in particular, because of their relative inaccessibility and high level of time investment, are more or less neglected. The raid may kill the end boss of an instance three or four times at maximum, and all fights in the dungeon will not be on farm status before the raid moves on to the next boss. Inevitably, gear gaps arise, as people do not have the opportunity to collect all the gear from the instance. In Burning Crusade, players looked to badge gear, craftables, and Zul’Aman gear to fill the gap. Similar opportunities for gear outside of raids may also be available in Wrath. This method allowed Collateral Damage to get through T6 in short order, but if you ask some of our members, the progress was too fast at times. The pressure was consistently high, especially for a casual raiding guild, and members spent a great deal of time outside of raiding optimizing their gear.

However, the great benefit of this method is that players never get bored. The challenge is consistent, and the raid doesn’t stagnate. Even if they farm on Tuesday, they know they get to wipe to fun new content all night on Sunday. If you are a guild behind the curve of progression, which many guilds that start up at the dawn of Wrath might be, this is probably the best progress model to adopt. Before you do, however, make sure your players are up to the pace.

The Slow Method

According to this tactic, the raid farms instances until the majority of its players complete their gear sets. These guilds do spend time on new content, but they happily farm the old until they reach a comfortable overall gear level. If the guild follows this method, the members have little need to acquire gear outside of raid instances. They can spend their non-raid time in less stressful ways. The risk, however, is that members will get bored. Over time, a good raid can master so much content that it is impossible to go through it all in a week. There will always be people who want one last thing out of an old dungeon. Take, for example, all those raiders, casual and hardcore alike, who farmed Karazhan into the ground.

The slow method, however, can backfire as easily as the fast method. Raiders may become complacent and sloppy if they’re not motivated to reach new content. It feels terrible to wipe repeatedly to farm content–this is what happens when players do not pay attention or, worse, stop attending farm days.

The Happy Medium

Is there a way to combine the approaches? I would tend to say yes, but from my experience, certain types of guild structures manage the struggle between farming and progression better than others. Naturally, hardcore guilds are the best at farming–they have structures that ensure their members’ attendance, and those members tend to be really interested in raiding anyway. Smaller guilds will always have an easier time leaving instances behind than guilds with deep benches because they have less members to outfit. However, small guilds run the risk of not filling farm raids if members lose interest. However any raiding guild, regardless of size or structure, can both farm and progress, as long as its leadership is actively managing the relationship between the two. The key idea here is responsibility: farm responsibly, and progress responsibly. Here are some tips on maintaining the equilibrium between these two opposing terms.

1. Farm it like you mean it.
When you do farm old content, or clear the front half of an instance in order to get to new bosses on the back, play as if every fight were a progression fight. Many raid leaders will be tempted to be more inclusive on farm rosters, letting more casual members of the guild see the content. Do this with caution. Make sure that whoever you bring along will not slow the group down. Your highest commitment should be to your regular raiders–make them happy, and you will have a stable guild. I also advise against allowing raiders to bring alts in farm content. In the long run, they will be sorry they spread their DKP over more than one character, and their play may even suffer because they have not concentrated adequately on one class and role.

2. Always have progression time.
In a 12-hour raid week, which seems to be a typical raid schedule, try to dedicate at least 4 hours to new content. That is enough time to take down a new boss if it’s fairly easy or to make significant progress on a difficult one. I have seen bad weeks and good weeks of raid progress, but the only thing that guarantees a stagnant week is dedicating insufficient time to the fun new stuff. Make sure your people have a reason to farm quickly–they should know that, at the end of their raid week, they get to challenge themselves with something new.

The key idea here is reasonable progress. Don’t force your raid through content at lightning speed, but don’t let your group stagnate either. Remember that a guild that makes steady progress will be happier and more stable than the server-first guild that rushes through thanks to sleep deprivation and a Raid Leader who knows how to crack the bullwhip.

After all, what are you going to do when you run out of content? At that point, it’s all farming until the next patch comes out. Make sure that when your guild gets to that happy point, the members all like each other enough to stick around through some slow farming weeks. That’s the kind of organization with real staying power.

Build Your Own Guild Part 2: Rules of the Game

Build Your Own Guild Part 2: Rules of the Game

In this second installment of the Build your Own Guild series, I am going to teach you how to establish the rules and policies that will help your new raiding guild run itself. Well, that’s an exaggeration. However, without a clear set of rules, your guild will always be rudderless. Before one person signs that charter, you need to lay down the law in black and white. The post outlines the three types of policy that you should establish before your guild even zones into its first instance. The following tips assume that you will have a guild website (after all, we play an internet-based game, right?). These documents and policies need to be the core content of that website when it first goes up.

1. Guild Charter

In Part One, I encouraged you to meditate on your goals and desires for your new guild. Now you must put pencil to paper and share your vision with your members. In my opinion, the more the guild expects to accomplish in terms of raiding, the more important your mission statement is.

Your charter should answer the following questions:

a. What is the guild’s goal?
b. What is the guild’s attitude?
c. What is most important to us?

I’ll quote for you one of my favorite passages from my guild’s charter. It really shows who we are as an organization:

“We value kindness, fair play, and respect for others over loot or in-game success. Our policies work toward ensuring a positive environment in which everyone can enjoy the fruits of our labor.”

I welcome you all to read the entire charter and even use it as a model, but I will warn you that it’s out of date. Since the original charter creation, we’ve decided that we’re a real raiding guild after all. The long road between Gruul and Illidan changed us as an organization. I should take my own advice and adjust the language to our current practices!

You don’t have to create your charter from scratch. Many guilds make their websites accessible to all, and if a guild is recruiting, sometimes you can even create a user account and view their policies. I recommend doing a bit of snooping around–find guilds you admire and know are successful, and copy what they do. The tone of your charter should suit the mood of your guild. My own guild operates in a rather serious mode. If you prefer a raucous, no holds-barred environment, use irony and humor when you write that charter. For an excellent example in this mode, I’ll direct you towards the hilarious charter of a guild named Dread Lobster, as quoted by fellow druish blogger Runyarusco. I laughed so hard, I (almost) wanted to join.

2. Code of Conduct

Even the most laid-back guilds have certain expectations for their members’ behavior, and you ought to explain them either in the charter itself or in an appendix. Collateral Damage sets a very high standard, and unlike many guilds, we restrict profanity (well, in guild chat anyway) and chastise members severely if they disrespect one another. If you want your members to act in a certain way, let them know from the very beginning. That way, if you need to g-kick someone for a behavioral issue, you cannot be accused of unfairness. On the flip side, if you want to foster an open environment where insults and un-PC jokes fly thick and fast, let prospective members know that.

3. Conditions for Membership / Raider Status

If your guild intends to raid seriously, you need to have some means by which you determine who gets to raid and who does not. This type of policy will not seem important to a start-up guild that can barely scrape together enough tanks and healers for an introductory instance, but as you start to have success, you will have to deal with over-crowding. My guild chose not to put in a Raider Status from the beginning, and I have always regretted it. We have always walked the razor’s edge between being inclusive and optimizing rosters, and I know it’s cost our raid leader hours of frustration and worry.

Raiding guilds typically fill their scheduled weekly raids according to one of two successful models.

Model A

Everyone who is a regular member of the guild is a raider, and a Raider Rank would be redundant. The guild is small and does not recruit beyond the minimum number it needs to do the raid content.

Model B

The guild has members who raid and members who do not. These “casual” members may be friends and family of raiders, or they may be longtime members who have had a change in status. When you have two such different constituencies, it is only natural that at some point, one or more of your “casual” members will want to raid. At that point, the concept of Raider Status comes into play. Raider Status can typically be earned through attendance and performance, and it comes with the privilege of being on more raid rosters. It should also be possible to lose Raider Status through consistent poor attendance, bad behavior, or sloppy play.

Given a choice, I would go with Model B. From a management standpoint, it is more difficult to handle a larger, more complex guild roster, but you have a better chance of running all your raids. With Model A, if two of your players go on vacation, your raid is toast. Collateral Damage has a large number of members, and we have been able to run all of our scheduled raids this summer except for the one the Sunday before Labor Day. That’s a pretty awesome ratio considering the rash of expansionitis that’s been going around.

If you DO set strict conditions for membership or Raider Status, you need to define these specifically. Your attendance policy should require not only a percentage, but also tell how often that percentage will be re-calculated. For example, you might require 75% attendance over any two-month period. That allows your players to go out of town every once in a while. Moreover, never be vague about your raid preparation requirements. Instead of just saying “come prepared,” do as Catal, our raid leader does and spell it out in no uncertain terms:

What you should bring:

- A good attitude – We’re going to wipe… a lot.
- PvP trinket and PvP/Stam gear – The focus will be on survivability.
- 2 flasks of your choice.
- Lots of health/mana pots.
- Lots of reagents for buffing.
- Have decursive loaded if you will be responsible for dispelling Grip of the Legion (curse).

This set of requirements applies to our attempts on Archimonde this week. Every raid sign up comes with one of these, and you may find it useful to have a general set that would apply to every raid.

Conclusions

Phew! Now you have three basic documents that your members will be able to refer to when they have questions about how the guild is run. Believe me, they will hold you to what you say, so always keep your policies up-to-date. For Collateral Damage, things didn’t turn out according to our first design, but they worked out all right nonetheless. However, I should /pinch myself for not updating the charter. These documents are a contract between you and your members and it is in your best interest as guild leader to hold up your end.

For next time, we’ll be looking at the fourth and arguably most important policy that a new guild needs to have in place: the Loot System. You must choose a system early, because the first thing most recruits will ask is how your guild handles loot. Next Wednesday’s post will outline all the sordid details of loot distribution, and I’ll tell you some choice horror stories of loot QQ, I promise.

If you still haven’t satisfied your appetite for information on guild managment, I’ll refer you to Auzara at Chick GM, who is the guru of guild-mastery and all related issues. I always find it beneficial to take into account multiple perspectives on important topics.

Now Hiring: How to Recruit Players to Your Guild

There’s quite a few Guilds out there who are always on the lookout for new players to help augment their ranks but are not quite sure how to pull it off. I’m going to assume you have been assigned by your GM to look for more players and that you have no clue how to do it apart from spamming trade. If so, then this column is for you. By the end of this, you should be able to pick up players with no problems at all. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, this is one of my longer pieces.

There are many places a Human Resources officer in a Guild can go to start looking. The first thing is to set up a “Help Wanted ad”. But like any newspaper or wanted ad, you want to specify exactly what spots your Guild needs filled. So before you start looking and posting in trade chat or the WoW recruiting forums, ask yourself the following questions:

What kind of Guild are we? Do we tackle progression raids only? Do I need a position filled on our PvP teams? Figure out the purpose of your Guild before doing anything else.

Next, figure out the role that you need filled. Are we short on healers? Do we need competent spellcasting DPS? Are our Druid tanks stupid with no ideas on how to tank? Once you have that sorted out, narrow it down even further. Of those three categories, which class do you need the most? What class can you use but already have enough of? You may already have 3 Priests and no Paladins but need another healer. You would really like a Holy Paladin or a Restoration Druid, but chances are you will not turn away another Holy Priest if they apply because it fills the need of another healer.

Where is your Guild on progression? Now you need to begin specifying gear requirements. If Conquest was looking for a tank, our needs would be vastly different from a Guild just starting to go into Karazhan. For example, the Canucks would have a different need than the Penguins. For us, the ideal tank should have about X HP or Stamina, Y Defense, with Z Frost or Nature resistance. But a tank looking for a Karazhan group can get away with having less than that.

 

If your Guild is working on Magtheridon with Gruul down and on farm, then be sure to mention your progression. Going back to our tanking example, you will want to pick up a tank that has done similar encounters with similar experience. Ideally, you don’t want to have to train a tank on an encounter but sometimes it must be done. I understand it is hard to find a perfect player which matches your needs, but it does not hurt to say where you are on progression.

List your raiding times and other requirements. Conquest only raids on Tuesday, Thursday, and Mondays in the evenings. Therefore, it would not make sense to pick up a Warlock who lives in Australia with a 9-5 job. If a person cannot make th time, then they will not bother applying. They don’t waste your time and you don’t waste their time. There might be some software or UI requirements that you should mention. Conquest makes heavy use of Mumble. If you don’t have those two, then you don’t raid with us period.

My old personal policy when I was in charge with recruiting was this: If a player is not willing to follow the simple instructions of downloading and installing an addon or program, how do I know they will obey and follow instructions when it really matters in the raid? I will automatically assume they won’t and immediately write them off. I don’t care if they’re decked out in all T5 or however geared they are because I value a person’s ability to willingly follow instructions over gear they have. Gear can be acquired by any button mashing monkey. But attitude and personality are learned attributes.

Finally, be sure to mention any other quirks or rules that need to be said. Mention any age restrictions or beliefs that you want. I don’t want to go through the effort of having to censor myself or others. I won’t get started on attitudes either.

Creating the Post

Now you create your Guild ad from all the above questions that you have answered. Keep a copy of this at all times somewhere in your computer in Word format or on your Guild recruiting forums for easy access. I’ll write a hypothetical ad about Conquest (Note that we’re not actually hiring).

Server: Ner’Zuhl (West Coast, PvP, PST Server)
Guild Name: Conquest
Website: http://www.nerzhulconquest.com
Raiding Schedule: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 6:00PM – 9:30 PM [Note that times are subject to change]
Faction: Alliance
Progress: 5/12 Tier 11 on 25 normal

What our Guild can offer:

  • A relaxed and fun raiding environment
  • A competitive rated BG team
  • A diverse group of players to engage in activities with
  • Mumble

Ideal Candidates:

  • Are mature, over 16 years
  • Possess a working microphone and are not afraid to use it
  • Possess a stable internet connection and a raid capable computer that will not explode
  • Skilled Player: Skilled in the class that you play
  • Excellent Attitude: No negativity. A positive personality that synchronizes with the rest of the guild is an asset

UI Requirements:
Omen
Some boss timers: DXE, DBM or Bigwigs

Once again, contacts: Send in game messages to Matticus on Ner’Zuhl. Alternatively, you can create an account on the website, and use our recruiting form

Now that you have your template post made, the time has come to focus on the real work of actively looking for players. There’s three different ways to go about finding the players you want:

WoW Forums

Yes, the WoW forums are a mess but it still does not mean a lot of players don’t use it. There are two boards interest: Guild Recruitment Forums and your Realm Forums.

Check your Realm forum first. It would be great to find a player that matches your need wo is already on your server. If not, it’s time to check the Guild Recruitment Forums.

Now the Guild Recruitment Forums are one of the top places I go to in order to pick up players. Still have that ad handy? Good, keep it in your clipboard (Ctrl + C). If players are smart, their topic will contain their faction, name, class, realm, and server type. When I started doing this, I sifted through the first ten pages. Everything after page 10, I safely assumed that player had already found a guild otherwise it would have been bumped up to page 1 or 2 by now. Take the time to click on posters of interest and read their own application. Compare it to your shopping list and see if there are any similarities. Scroll down the reply list and see if the original poster has responded to any of the Guild requests or he’s withdrawn his WoW Resume.

If he has, press the back button and continue sifting through the pages and repeat the process.

If he’s still a free agent or has made no signs showing that he’s signed with a Guild, then post your ad, press back and continue sifting anyway.

Here’s how you can bring your Guild to the top of his list:

If that player has posted additional contact information, use it. Send that person an email or add him on to your MSN list. Want to take it a step further? Make a new character on that player’s server and try to send him a tell. If he’s not online, make sure you rolled a mage or warlock, kill a few boars, and send him an in game mail saying Hi and leaving him your contact information saying that you are very much interested in speaking with him.

If you’re an Alliance Guild, I recommend rolling a Human because Stormwind is so close. Im unsure about the Horde side. Undead perhaps?

Why would you do this? Why go through all this trouble for a player?

Chances are, there are a lot of Guilds vying for that player. Make every effort you can to get noticed. The key is to attract his attention. Player’s are not likely to apply unless they know you exist. But on the other hand, if you show initiative, I think most players would be flattered. At the very least, you will be noticed first. Think abut it for a second. If you’re jobless and you get a call from a company asking you for an interview, wouldn’t you be excited? I know I would be. A Guild isn’t so different from a business after all.

Recruiting within the game

The next method is ingame recruiting. Post a message in trade chat outlining your needs but be sure to cut out the stuff you don’t need. You want to include the class you’re looking for, your progression, and your website. I personally believe raiding Guilds need to have websites so they can maintain a presence of some sort and remain competitive if they need to recruit. I don’t know how else to explain it. There’s just a sense of professionalism between Guilds with a site and a Guild without. Anyways, the reason I said post in trade chat is because th Guild Recruiting Channel isn’t automatically joined by players who are already in Guilds. If a player is interested, they should theoretically message you asking for details.

Here’s an example of an in game ad that I use:

[Level 9] LF to join! Raids are Mon, Tue, Th,6 – 930 PM. Rated BGs Wed, Fri and weekends. Visit our new site – nerzhulconquest.com 1/12 25 man, 2/12 10 man PST for details/questions. All classes may apply.

Running instances

The last method is the most tiring but allows you to evaluate the individual skill of a player. At the end of the run, let the other players know that your huild is recruiting. If they have any friends who are interested, tell them to send them your way. With any luck, they will pass the information on to their friends and you will have skirted the unethical practice of poaching players from other guilds. You’ve indirectly said to tem that you are recruiting. If they’re impressed with you and your guild, they’ll check you out. You cannot get accused of stealing players because thy did it voluntarily, right? After all, it is not like you directly said to them “Hey, our guild’s doing this and we need players. Interested?” But alas, that is a discussion for another time. The point is to generate player interest via word of mouth.

Now that you have a solid set of applicants, the time has come for the interview process. This can either be done in game or on a voice server. I generally prefer ventrilo. I like to hear a person and listen to how they answer my questions. If you’re speaking to a player off server, it is absolutely doubly important since transferring characters is not cheap. Ask them a question even if it’s already been answered by tem in their application or such. If there is a discrepancy between answers, alarm bells should be going off in your head and you need to make sure it’s clarified. If he posts one thing and says another, be sure to follow up on it. Here’s a few sample questions that you can ask:

What’s your raiding experience?
When are you able to raid?
What kind of gear do you have? (With Armory open)
Do you know anyone in the Guild?
Why did you pick our Guild?
What are your professions?
Do you have any questions?

The last question is important because you want to give that player an opening to help dispel his or her concerns. Such topics may include loot distribution, raiding frequency (backup or starting raider), etc. It would suck for a player to transfer and then immediately regret it. It’s just common courtesy. The point here is to ensure that the Guild is a good fit for the player and vice versa. If he aces your interview and you think he is a good fit, then tell him to transfer and sign him immediately.

If not, and here is were I find things interesting, then just let him know. For some reason, there are people who exist who do not seem able to or are unwilling to say no. Jut tell them that “Sorry, you don’t match what we’re looking for in a player. Good luck to you!”

There you have it. A start to finish guide on how to pick up and recruit players. I hope my experience as a recruiting officer helps and hopefully you’ll pick up the players you need to succeed in higher end content. Now get back to raiding!