The Burden of Leadership, Lodur bares his thoughts

There are a lot of folks out there that think being in charge, or in a leadership role, of a guild is a big fun thing. You get to set permissions, invite, kick and all that other cool stuff! Truth is, at least for me, it’s another job. Being in charge means that, like at every other job, you are responsible for those beneath you and how they perform. On top of that you become involved in the day to day running of something larger than yourself. This is especially true if you are among the leadership of a raiding guild.

After leaving Unpossible after 5 long years, I had put the officer mantle in the laundry bin to be cleaned pressed and put under glass. Circumstances did not allow me to leave the mantle alone for long, and I find myself in a leadership role again. Over the last two tiers I’ve had a lot on my plate between being in game, my podcast For The Lore, still consistently writing for WoW Insider, and also writing a novel that I’m submitting for publication consideration in the following weeks. On top of various other personal things, it’s been a hell of a long year and I find myself with an over abundance of ideas on the topic of leadership in a raiding guild. So, bear with me here, because I’m about to dump my thoughts a little.

The burden
The wear and tear
The hard choices

Truthfully it wears on you over time. You have to make a lot of hard decisions that are not always easy, and certainly aren’t popular with everyone. Lets take on the topic of friendship in real life, and raiding in game. I’ve talked about it before, but it’s something that keeps rearing it’s ugly head over and over again. Being someone’s friend does not make you immune from being included in those hard choices a competitive raiding guild faces. This includes officers and the rank-and-file of the raid team. Sometimes,  you have to look at someone’s performance, and if found wanting must bench them or otherwise remove them from a fight or raid, until performance can be fixed. It’s for the good of the entire team, and the progression of the raid, and ultimately if that’s your goal that’s what matters most. Don’t take it personally, it’s not a slight against you as a person, it’s just that the numbers aren’t where they need to be. I’ll use myself as an example here.

Firelands was not very kind to restoration shaman. The fights were ones that didn’t let us take advantage of our strengths and as a result other healers tended to do better than us. In our raid team, there were many fights where I would sit myself for the other healers because they were that good and the numbers worked out better. I did the same thing with the second restoration shaman in our group. Do I think I’m a crappy healer? Do I think the other restoration shaman just sucks? No, I don’t, it was just better numbers to configure our raid healers a different way to optimize success.

When you have to bench someone who is a friend of yours, especially in real life, sometimes it’s hard for that person not to be upset by it. I understand that, I get that, but it’s not personal. It’s not that they aren’t your friend, or that you suck at the game, it’s just that things needed to be done a different way. It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometime’s it’s the necessary one You have to separate the leader from the friend when those decisions are handed down the same way you would if your friend was your boss at your 9-5 job. It’s not easy, but it is what it is.

A sellers market
Make your own choices
Evaluate your position

There’s a saying that “it’s my game time and I’ll play how I want to play.” That’s all good and true, I mean you are paying to play the game. Consider, however, that you might not be in the best place to play the game the way you want to. A progression raiding group is going to be looking for a pretty solid set of criteria.  These include, but are not limited to the following

  • Are you willing to change your spec, gearing, chants and reforging to a more optimal setup?
  • Are you willing to play a spec you don’t normally play?
  • Are you willing to be benched if it’s for the good of the team?
  • Are you open to criticism about your performance and information to help attempt to improve your output?

If you answer no to any of these, then you should probably not try to get into a progression raiding guild. If you don’t want to budge on how you play your game it’s just not the right environment for you. Blizzard has made a big deal out of “bring the player, not the class, or spec or cooldown” etc. For the most part that’s true, but when you’re edging into hard mode encounters, or sometimes just a normal encounter in itself, and you want to get through it quickly and efficiently, then it simply isn’t always the case. See above where I benched myself for the good of the raid on a fight. No matter what, there’s always going to be an optimal setup. Whether it’s a raid full of paladins, or nothing but druid healers in a group, there will always be a tweak. Can you do the fights without the optimal group? Sure, but it becomes harder and harder as you progress through content. Sounds counter intuitive, but I assure you it’s true.

Another truth here is that right now it’s a sellers market. What do I mean by that? Cataclysm has royally screwed recruitment over pretty badly. Finding new members to add to your guild  can be a pain and prove rather difficult, especially when you’ve something specific in mind. It’s not that “beggars can’t be choosers” or anything of that nature, but a progression raiding guild might not be keen on accepting that applicant in normal Cataclysm blues and can’t spell their own name when the group is trying to kill heroic Deathwing. There’s a guild for everyone out there, and you need just look if you want to play a particular way that you aren’t allowed to where you are.

LFR
Doing what it takes
Better for the guild as a whole

This is something of a recent development, and something that irked me a little bit. A lot of guilds out there do LFR weekly as a group in order to obtain set bonuses for raiders, gear up new recruits and sometimes just to get a feel for the fight. It makes sense really, it’s an easy way to gear up and see the fights, and still have a bit of a safety net. Hell, my guild even did it for a few weeks to get some set bonuses in action. As a group we were going to go in, and just pound out the 8 bosses on LFR and then go back and do normal raiding. With the raid as geared as it was, LFR should have been easy and would do nothing but help everyone.

What got me about it was that some folks just simply said no and refused to participate in the LFR runs, even if it would help them and the raid as a group. I understand having a preference, I myself am not a huge fan of LFR any longer, but even I showed up for those runs because it allowed people to gear up, see fights and did nothing but raise the entire guild higher and help with normal raiding. What got me was that those same people wanted priority on invites to the normal raid, and expected to get the normal equivalent gear. When neither happened, they complained.

Not going to say someone should be forced into doing something they don’t want to do, but the way it was handled was bad. Immaturely logging out, refusal to listen to reason, and claiming that there wasn’t anything in it for them so they wouldn’t do it. Even when it was needed most, refusing to help the guild by tagging along. Like above, you have to be willing to give a little, especially in a group who wants to accomplish progression raiding. Sometimes you’ll be asked to do something you don’t want to do to help the group. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, and if you can’t, then maybe you’re in the wrong place.

In the end

This is what’s been on my mind for two tiers now. Working out ways to do what needs to be done, and convey that the decisions aren’t personal, that the raid group as a whole is a larger organism thriving on everyone in the group working to the same means. It’s hard sometimes. It’s frustrating, and borderline infuriating some nights. But, it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s the officers who bear an incredible amount of burden. Now, I’m not quitting or burning out mind you, just needed to gather my thoughts and get them out “on paper” so to speak. I appreciate my raiders and the ones that not only give me their all but also do more than that. The ones that send me funny tells in raid to keep me laughing or just making sure we’re progressing, I appreciate their actions and what they do for us the officer corp, and for the raid group as a whole.  Sorry for the brain-dump folks, but hope you enjoyed a glimpse into the skull of ol’ Lodur here.

Interview with a GM: Mel of Edge

This is an interview in a (hopefully) ongoing Interview with a GM series. Today, we sit down with Mel of Edge and one of the bloggers at Sacred Duty.

At what point in your gaming life did you suddenly decide that you wanted to be a guild leader and what led to that decision?

I can only really answer the spirit of the question, and not the substance of it, because Edge doesn’t have a Guild Leader.  The GM is a level 1 alt, and you can’t prove that it’s me.  We run with a council of officers.  There are four of us – I’m the Raid Leader and tank officer, but it’s much more than a one-man show.  We all work very hard to keep the guild running effectively.

As far as being in a leadership position in a guild goes, though, it’s not something I’d ever thought about before it was inflicted on me.  I was a fairly new raider when I joined Edge – I was inexperienced, but they headhunted me out of a ZA pug (the original ZA).  About three months after I joined Edge, the RL and MT retired, and the other officers asked me to take the job.  I was young and naive and should have known better.
Raid leading can be very rewarding, but it’s a lot more extra work than I would have believed when I first took the job on, and a lot more added pressure.  I decided to take the job they offered me because I didn’t know how much work it was going to be, and I wanted to give back to this nice guild that was letting me see content with them.  I’m not sure I’d be able to make the same decision knowing what I know now – but I wouldn’t give up the experience, either.  I’m not sure I can explain that dichotomy any more clearly, as much as I might wish to.

Tell me about the loot system your guild uses and how it fits in with your guild’s culture.

We use loot council.  In my opinion a properly run loot council is the most progressive loot system.  It allows you to put loot where it will best assist the raid in downing bosses.  It prevents any worries about DKP hoarding with tier tokens.  So long as the loot council isn’t corrupt, there isn’t much of a problem with drama.  In the 3 years that I’ve been an officer in Edge, we haven’t had an issue with corruption.  Loot is handled fairly, but we’ve been able to deflect loot onto DPS or healers when we’re stuck at a particular gear check to help us over that hump.  It’s never going to be an enormous difference, but small advantages add up.

What is the typical application process like? How are players handled who pass and those who don’t pass your standards?

All apps get posted to a private members forum for our guild.  Good ones will get contacted for an interview.  Our interview process is typically fairly long and involved, and it focuses mainly on “getting to know you” types of questions.  WoL can tell us if a player is good, but it’s very important to us that people will fit in with guild culture.  We want to get a sense of people in an interview, and we want them to get a sense of us.  If people are going to spend up to $55 to raid with us, we want them to have a very high chance of success in the trial.

Following a successful interview, there’s a 4 week “initiate” period, where people get to prove that they’re worth a raid slot.  The biggest hurdle to clear is not standing in fire.  It’s an unofficial policy with us that nobody fails in their first raid – it’s hard to join a new guild, often a more progressed guild, with new strategies, and immediately be perfect.  But we do expect trials to be competitive with our established raid force in most performance criteria (gear is taken into account) very quickly.  We can’t afford to carry people.  Generally we have a fairly high success rate on trials, roughly 75%.  We like to believe it’s due to the thorough interview process, thorough vetting of the application and logs, and because we’re willing to give trials a real legitimate second chance, no matter how disastrous the first raid was.  Some of our best raiders had a horrible first week.

If someone fails their trial, they’re either offered friend rank in the guild, or they’re asked to gquit “at some point in the next couple of days, when it’s convenient”.  It basically depends on how much a part of the guild’s social atmosphere they’ve made themselves.  As a general rule, the ways to fail a trial in Edge are to tunnel vision or firewalk.  Meters aren’t our primary measurement of playskill.

Rumor has it that your raid group does not utilize ready checks. If it’s true, how come?

Ready checks are an opt-in system, and opt-in systems deflect responsibility.  Instead, we make the choice to assume that everyone is at keyboard and ready to play when we’re raiding – when they’re expected to be.  We’ll often be discussing strategy during runbacks, so it’s a bad time to just take off the headset and run AFK anyway.  If someone has to take an emergency break, the onus is on them to inform the raid, and then we wait.  But I don’t see a reason to waste 20 seconds on every pull just to ask if everyone is actually at their keyboard, when I could just be informed that someone isn’t there for the one pull that it’s an issue. 

Ready checks are just one convenient example of a culture of personal accountability, though.  We always try to encourage personal accountability – own your actions and own your mistakes, and respect the time and effort that thirty other people are putting into the game.  Randomly running away from the keyboard is a waste of everyone’s time, so we encourage it to be kept to a minimum as much as possible.  “Opt-in” systems are generally bad, because they discourage accountability.  You opted in by joining the guild in the first place.  The onus should be on individuals where possible, rather than on the raid leadership.

In your opinion, is it possible to be an elite player without being elitist? (As in, extremely skilled without the negative, berating attitude).

A little bit of elitism isn’t always a bad thing.  It’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments in WoW.  It’s okay to know that you’re a skilled player.  You can be an elite player, and an elitist, without berating, or being negative.  In some ways, I think the two parts of the question are completely unrelated to each other.

I’ve seen a fair amount of negative attitude and berating from 5k DPS pugs in LFD, complaining about how bad group DPS is, and how everyone sucks.  I’m a fairly good tank, and I’ve never vote-kicked someone from a 5-man in the entire time the system has been around.

Attitude is separate from skill, I think.  Being good at Warcraft does not make you a bad person.

Every guild has its share of stories. Whether they’re humorous or inspiring, there’s usually a lesson associated with it. Do you have one you’re willing to share and something to take away?

On May 31, 2010, one of our raiders announced that his wife was pregnant with their first child.  At the time, we were working on Heroic Lich King (25).  We’d had some very good pulls on the fight, and were nearing a kill – but this raider didn’t know that, because he’d missed a few raid days due to vacation.  One of our resident smartasses suggested that Collider should name his child Arthas, if we killed the Lich King that night.

Collider agreed, and made a solemn promise  that he would do so. The ending of the story is fairly obvious at this point.  We spent the entire three minute RP phase at the tail end of our first H-LK kill tormenting Collider about what his wife was going to do to him when he told her he’d promised to name the baby Arthas – male or female.  We spent the next seven months inquiring solicitously about baby Arthas, guild mascot.
We were unable to convince him to promise to name his second-born Halion.  I guess he learned his lesson.

How do you evaluate underperforming players? Is there a window of opportunity for them to work themselves back in and if not, what eventually happens to them?

The short answer is that underperforming players get a talking to (several, actually) and a chance to shape up.  We’re very very tolerant of people who’ve made it to raider rank.  It takes a lot to get demoted for performance reasons.  It helps that we recruit for a certain self-motivated attitude, and a sense of personal responsibility, I think.  I have never had to demote a raider for performance reasons, in three years.  In a couple of cases, people have demoted themselves, after realizing that they just weren’t willing to make the commitment to keeping up that they used to be. 

I firmly believe that loyalty works both ways – that it HAS to work both ways.  Someone who has demonstrated loyalty to the guild deserves the opportunity to fix things.  That’s the commitment that we make to people in order to earn that loyalty.  The guild stands by it’s membership, and the membership stands by the guild.  

Evaluation is fairly easy, though – ask the healers.  They know who’s taking damage that they shouldn’t, they know who’s using healthstones, and they know who’s healable and who isn’t.  Healchat can always tell you who’s underperforming.  The meters are the last thing anyone should look at to evaluate performance, in my opinion.  You can teach anyone to run a rotation, it’s the easiest thing to fix.  But you can’t teach reaction time, or survival instincts.  Dead DPS does zero DPS – we try not to recruit firewalkers.

If you could say one thing to a player who aspires to start their own raiding guild, what would it be?

I don’t know, I never started a guild.  That’s a terrifying prospect.  A much better idea is to join a raiding guild and somehow have them thrust leadership upon you.  It’s much less work.

More seriously, I would suggest that you figure out your goals and policies in advance and write them down.  You can modify them later, as necessary, but you need to know what your guild exists for, and how you’re going to accomplish those goals.  Are you a hardcore raiding guild?  How many hours a week are you looking to raid?  What ranking are you aiming at, roughly?  What do you need to do to make all those goals happen?  Do some research, have an idea of what you’re getting into.  And above all, have clear goals, and clear policies designed to support that goal.  Everyone who joins the guild will have an idea of what it’s about, and when you make decisions based around the goals and policies everyone will know where they’re coming from.  And when you have to go “off book”, think it through, and be consistent.  Avoid making exceptions, because when you do it once, you’re stuck dealing with exceptions forever.

When raiding, what’s considered a good day? A bad day? When would you call raids early?

There’s a few obvious situations when we’ve called raid early: when all the content is dead.  Or when we’re obviously not going to finish all the content in one night, but would only need an hour or so on the second night, we might finish half an hour early on night one.  We call raids “early” by a minute or two if the next pull would take us overtime, or if a boss dies such that we don’t have time to get a pull on the next boss after clearing trash.  But we don’t ever call raids early for “bad performance” – especially in progression.  Sometimes, pounding your head against something is worth doing, just to know how much it hurts so that people avoid doing it again.

A good day and a bad day entirely depends on context, but for me it’s less about how much we get done than it is about how well we play.  We had nights in T11 where a lot of content got cleared, but it still felt like an awful night, where the raid wasn’t focused, and there was a lot of “phone it in” play.  We had nights where bosses just wouldn’t seem to die that were fairly good nights overall.  I’m a happy raid leader when my raid is awake and paying attention and engaged, and I’m an unhappy raid leader when the converse is true.

Thanks again Mel!

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

ComputerRepair

The other day it occurred to me that as a leader, we are judged twice: Once by how we handle success, and once by how we handle problems.

So by now you’ve determined that one of your officers needs to step up their game and contribute more to your rampantly successful organization.  Presuming you still feel they can be a valuable part of your leadership team, this leaves you with two standard options:

  1. Ignore it and hope the situation fixes itself
  2. Violently strike, shake or punch them
  3. Coach them to success

Method 1: Ignore it

Let me know how this works. 

Actually, I’d bet that a fair amount of people are reading this because they’ve already tried this method and realized it never changes.

Method 2: Violence

“We have not yet developed the technology to punch someone over a standard TCP/IP connection.”

- Lodur

So unless you’re a Jedi and can Force Choke someone, this method is sort of a wash, too.

Method 3: Coaching/Wake-Up Call

Part of leadership is motivation, and that doesn’t start and stop with your members.  Your officers need back-up, direction, vision and support on a regular basis.  The only thing that changes is your tactics and means of implementation.

Of course, how this situation came to be and what path you choose from here is largely based on your leadership style.  What follows below likely fits best within an organized style of leadership.  If you run a more chaotic/organic guild, some of this could seem foreign. 

As with any relationship, the GM/Officer paradigm requires give and take.  You both need to know what is expected of each other, so there are no assumptions later on.  It really helps to lay these things out, and to write them down.  Do not presume you will remember all the details later, because you won’t. 

Re-Defining their Responsibilities

Their domain: Are they in charge of all melee, or just tanks?  Do they coach healers outside of the raid, or is that done by the Morale Officer?  In your head, who should be going to them before coming to you?

  • Expectations: What goals have you set for their area of responsibility?  Just “play well” isn’t really a goal.  Zero missed interrupts, DPS that ranks on WoL every night, better cooldown coordination between healers.  These are examples of things they can work on.  Remember, people derive comfort from achieving goals.  
  • Extra Duties: Are they expected to pitch-in on recruiting?  Are they expected to be the sole recruiter for their area?  Do they need to make sure they set aside time to assess your back-ups?  Do they need to contribute to strat development before raid?
  • Rules are there for a reason: Whether it’s your rule or a rule they made up, we are judged by how and when we implement our rules.  If an officer feels like a particular rule (such as talking to players before cutting them, or organising who sits out on which fight, or ensuring loot is distributed correctly) then the situation needs to be examined.
  • Assistance: Tell them what you can do to help them, and when you want/expect to be asked for help.
  • Clarity: Be clear about when and how often you want to update each other.  Some guilds can do this quickly each night, some prefer a weekly officer meeting.  Develop a routine.
  • Desire: Ask them if these are all things they want to do.  Perhaps they are good at some things and not yet ready for others.  If falls to you to decide what they should be handling and when you should be giving them more to do.

Hand-in-Hand with all that, comes your fair share of the culpability.  After-all, it’s your guild, and, even though a lot of GM tasks are intangible, everyone needs to know what you’re doing so they can follow with confidence.

Defining the GM’s Responsibility

  • Tell them what you do for them
  • Tell them what additional things you will do for them now
  • Be clear with what you expect to be a GM-level issue, and what you think is best handled by them
  • Be very clear that your job is to ask questions, and this is just something you will need to do. Nobody should be offended when you make your inquiries.  Afterall, “not checking is not managing”.

Hopefully these tips will give you some good ideas when you find yourself having to coach one of your officers.

Next week: How Cataclysm has changed Guild Structures

As always, please leave your questions/comments/feedback/marriage proposals below.  I love to read them on these rainy spring days while curl up in my official Matticus Snuggie*.

Note: No such product exists.

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?


Raid Leading 101: Starting your Roster

**Forgive the absence of last week’s post. I got “blessed” by a crazy work schedule that had me away from my desk a lot. Don’t forget that if there’s anything you’d like to discuss or see in a RL101 post, you can always email me**

So, you’ve made the choice between 10 and 25. You know which feels right for you and your friends. Now you need to look at your roster. Your roster is the list of players on your team that you can pull from to make your raid on any given night. Hopefully you’ve got a group of friends that you’ve started with, which will take some of the stress off of recruiting and assembling your team. We’ll start out with the basics of your raid (this is a 101 course, remember). You need tanks, healers, ranged DPS and melee DPS.

Tanks

Tanks are the classes that will take the brunt of the damage while protecting your raid. The classes that can fulfill this role are:

  • Protection Paladin (“Prot Pally”, “Tankadin”)
  • Feral Druid in Bear Form (“Bear”, “Meatshield”)
  • Protection Warrior (“Prot Warrior”)
  • Blood Death Knight (“Blood DK”, “BDK”)

It’s best in a 10-man raid to have ~3 Tanks on your roster (~4 for 25-man). Most raids encounters will require 2 tanks for encounters. Either your 2 tanks will have to alternate who is tanking the boss, one will tank the boss while the other tanks one or more mobs that join the fight, or you’re doing a Council-style fight.

Your Main Tank (or “MT”) should be your most talented tank and will seldom need a DPS off-spec. The other tanks on your roster (“Off-tanks” or “OTs”) should have a DPS off-spec so they don’t need to be totally swapped out mid-fight. Warriors can spec into Fury or Arms, Druids into Balance or Feral Cat, Paladins into Retribution, and Death Knights into Frost or Unholy.

Healers

Healers are the players that you pay to keep you alive long enough to see the boss take its last breath. Classes blessed with this ability:

  • Restoration Shaman (“Resto Shammy”)
  • Restoration Druid (“Resto Druid”, “Tree Druid”)
  • Holy Paladin (“Holy Pally”, “HPally”)
  • Holy Priest
  • Discipline Priest (“Disc”)

For your 10-man crew, count on having ~4 Healers on your roster (~9 for 25man). You’ll always need a minimum of 2 healers (5 in 25-man) for an encounter, depending on how healing intensive it is. It’s best to have the other healers in your roster work on a DPS offspec in case you need to convert to more DPS in an encounter. Priests can spec into Shadow, Druids into Balance or Feral Cat, Paladins into Retribution, and Shamans into Enhancement (Melee) or Elemental (Ranged).

Melee/Ranged DPS

DPS are the players that put the hurtin’ on the boss. They’re primarily responsible for dealing damage to the boss and any adds that may pop up, as well as crowd control, interrupt, off-heal, or help mitigate damage. Here’s the laundry list of DPS you’ll find:

Melee

  • Enhancement Shaman (“Enh Shammy”)
  • Rogue (Subtlety, Assassination, Combat)
  • Arms or Fury Warrior (“Arms War”, “Fury War”)
  • Retribution Paladin (“Ret Pally”, “lolret”)
  • Feral Druid in Cat Form (“Cat”, “Kitty DPS”)
  • Death Knight (Unholy, Frost)

Ranged

  • Elemental Shaman (“Ele Shammy”)
  • Hunter (Marksmanship, Beast Mastery, Survival)
  • Warlock (Affliction, Demonology, Destruction)
  • Mage (Arcane, Fire, Frost)
  • Balance Druid (“Moonkin”, “Boomkin”, “Boom Chicken”, “Lazer Turkey”)
  • Shadow Priest

In 10-man, you’ll want ~8 DPS’ers (~22 for 25-man) on your roster, with a mix of melee and ranged. There will be some fights that will be better for melee DPS or ranged DPS, so a mix will give you a good chance of success. Having any of your DPS players with a tank or heal off-spec is great, but more often than not, you’ll be better off if your tanks and healers are all main-spec.

Summing It Up

A standard 10-man raid will consist of: 2 Tanks, 3 Healers, 5 DPS.

A standard 25-man raid will consist of: 2-3 Tanks, 6-7 Healers, and the rest DPS.

Of course different raids will deviate from this basic model, but in my raiding experience, this is usually what you’ll find. To start out, aim for those numbers. Once you have your 10 or 25, add 1-2 more for each role to solidify your team. Your raiders will need nights off or have real-life commitments from time to time, and those extra people will help keep your raid going consistently.

Coming up, we’ll look at more advanced roster planning, as well as a couple recruitment tips!

Raid Leading Backbone

**Image from “Patton” courtesy of 20th Century Fox Films**

I have a fault. Well, I have lots, but the one I’m going to talk about is my propensity to be “too nice”. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated confrontation. I wanted everyone to be happy. People in Team Sport (my guild) have called me “The Politician” (without all of the negative stigma from current American politics). I try to make sure everyone is listened to and catered to as much as possible.

However, with regard to leading Team Sport’s Raid Team, I’ve hit the biggest snag. I can’t be “The Politician”. I have to be a leader. Previous incarnations of Team Sport raiding were very casual. If people happened to be online that night, we raided. If not, no big deal. As time went on, I noticed a few of us were very passionate about getting a raid going, while others were very lackluster about the whole ordeal. I always tried to get us raiding while not being inconsiderate to those that weren’t interested that particular night. Everytime we came close to getting something solid going, it would fall apart. Someone would have a real life issue (totally understandable) or just randomly disappear on a WoW break. Each time it would fall apart, I would most likely take my raiding desires elsewhere but found myself always back in Team Sport once it looked like raiding was possible again.

With about 2 months left to the expansion, I worked with a buddy of mine to throw some much-needed structure into the system. It started out great. We did a merge with another small guild that had the same issues, and we killed 10-man Arthas within one month. This proved to me that our team has what it takes to be a good progression crew. We just need some structure and drive.

The Present

We’ve had a good amount of guildies return to the game from “retirement”. A lot of them seem incredibly excited to raid the current content. However, when I mention this new structure (scheduling, accountability, responsibility), a few have balked at it. The main goal of the team is to actually progress through content while it’s still current, not eventually bash through it when it’s old news and nerfed to the ground. To do that, I’ve been working diligently to implement some guidelines:

  • Consistency – I justly understand and sympathize with real-life issues. Sometimes I have to work late, or I have something important that needs to be taken care of on a raid night. However, the core of us have done what we can to work our schedules around being able to raid together. We raid 3 hours each night, 2 nights each week. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for core raiders to be consistently available (within reason…don’t miss the birth of your child or risk getting fired).
  • Responsibility – A cardinal rule of raiding is being prepared. Make sure your gear is enchanted and you have flask and food available. Take the time to look up the fights. Don’t take unannounced AFK breaks or breaks that are longer than what the Raid Leader has set forth. Pay attention and look for ways that you can contribute.

If a Team Sport raider can’t consistently be available, or just lacks responsibility and preparedness, they’ll be placed in a standby slot (at best) or just not on the team (at worst). I’ve made it clear that we’ll do more casual raiding nights any other evening of the week (akin to the “if we have people on, we raid” mentality), but the Raid Team core wants Tues/Thurs night to be focused and dedicated.

The Challenge

There are some that have thought that it is too much to ask. I’ve been told that I’m making raiding “feel too much like a job” and that I’m “taking the fun out of it”. Frankly, I expected this out of some. These are people that have always enjoyed the “casual” mentality of our old raid style. I don’t blame them. It was fun when we all had the time and were just kind of strolling around Azeroth, hittin’ up a raid when we could. However, many of us don’t have that kind of time or mentality any longer. That is the precise reason these changes were made.

I’ve been recruiting to fill those spots that were once occupied by the more casual players or ones with unpredictable schedules. It does pain me to be looking for other people instead of the long-standing Team Sport members that I’ve been playing with for 3+ years, but it’s just not fun for the Raid Team core to log on, and find out we’re not raiding because of people that we can’t rely on.

So the challenge I face: How do I institute this structure and work toward the raid’s success, while still maintaining in-game friendships with those that simply don’t want to be a part of a Raid Team like that?

Matticus already told me: “Don’t be friends with your raiders.” I get that. It makes sense. It’s why there are corporate rules of management not fraternizing with employees. It muddies the water. However, I feel it’s possible that I can be strict and firm with regard to the raid, and then just be myself whenever it’s not about the raid. The trick is to let them all know that’s what’s going on.

I need to continue to be firm on what the goal of the raid team is, and how we plan on achieving that. I also need to be diligent about communicating what’s going on with the raid and its raiders. If I make sure everyone’s aware of what’s expected, then they can’t legitimately get angry when something is not up to snuff.  I have to hold the raid accountable, as well as hold myself accountable.

Have you ever dealt with being a Raid Leader of your friends? What tricks have you used to keep things moving forward without sacrificing friendship?

On that note, Team Sport is looking for a melee DPS or two for core slots. Other roles are full. However, if you’re interested in being a part of the team in a standby role, those applicants are always welcome. Outside of raiding, we’re very active in PvP and regular casual gameplay. We’re an Alliance guild on the Ner’zhul server (PvP-PST). Further info and an application @ http://teamsport.guildlaunch.com.

Accountability Starts at the Top

This is a guest post by Arkom.

If you’re a guild or raid leader, you have certain expectations for your guild or team members. You establish rules and policies, you set up strategies, and you assign people to handle certain jobs. These aren’t hollow gestures and you want people to follow what they’re told to do. I mean, you do all of these things for very specific reasons. And when someone doesn’t follow along in the spirit of things? You hold them accountable for their actions, right? But what does that mean for you? How do you figure into the grand scheme of things, since you are at the top of whichever chain of command? What should you do when you make a mistake? Have you ever really thought about it?

The View from the Top

When you are in a position of leadership, it’s easy to miss things. You end up being responsible for so many things in your guild or your raid team that some of them will naturally slip by. This is unfortunate, but it happens because we are human and we’re dealing with other humans. We are not infallible. But in this sense, we get a broader view of what’s going on. To paint a mental picture, you can imagine you’re on a balcony, looking down at a crowd on the street. You see the group as a whole, moving to and fro, busily doing the things that they do in their day. Things may appear to be normal and perfect on the surface. However, there may be someone in that crowd who just stole someone’s wallet and no one is the wiser because there are too many people and all of them have their own things going on.

The View Looking Up

The people on your raid team or in your guild, however, have precisely the opposite vantage. In their picture, they may all be standing in that crowd on the street, looking up at you on the balcony. That is to say, as a leader, you are under constant scrutiny. Where you may not see the mistakes of an individual in the whole group every single time, you can bet your dear Aunt Mavis that more than one person in that crowd will see the mistakes you make. That’s sometimes an uncomfortable position to be in, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks. It may also be the reason you pop Extra Strength Tylenol like they were candy.

R. E. S. P. E. C. T. Find Out What it Means to Me

Now that I have you feeling like you’re you’re trying to use the bathroom in a house with glass walls, what DO you do when your human side (not the one referenced in the bathroom bit) shows and you make a mistake? Well, that really depends entirely on what you’re comfortable with. What should be obvious, I think, is that the best course to take in this situation is to fess up to falling short. Admit your error, apologize if that’s necessary, and do your best to not have a repeat performance. The tricky part of this scenario is that not everyone is comfortable with these things. To those people I say, “You’re in the wrong position.” One of the greatest tools a leader has at his or her disposal is the ability to honestly account for their failings. If you just glaze over the issue, ignore it completely, or offer up an empty apology to your team or guild, you’ve severely injured your reputation, your credibility, and the respect that those people have for you.

There’s a common notion that leadership is a position of servitude. Perhaps it isn’t correct in its every facet, but it certainly is true that we are, to some degree, beholden to those that we lead. We have a responsibility for them, which we have taken on of our own free (and sometimes I think, insane) will. After all, those who lead but have no followers have often been referred to by such colorful terms as, “crazy,” “eccentric,” and things that Matticus probably wouldn’t like me to put in his blog. So let’s just say that without people to lead, you aren’t a leader at all. When you damage their respect for
you, when you hurt your credibility, when you tarnish your reputation, you give those people a reason to leave. The more reasons you give them – and believe me, these reasons compound faster than you would think – the harder it will be to get others to join and stay in their place. So if you do have problems with saying things like, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake there and I will do my best not to let it happen again,” you should probably work on that or consider a future in playing games like Solitaire.

Over-stating the Obvious

Am I? I wish I was. Oh, by Ghostcrawler’s chitinous shell, I wish that I was. I sometimes find it hard to believe the number of times I’ve found myself in situations where the leadership’s reply never came at all, or if it did it was completely empty (and that’s much, much worse than not saying anything at all) or something about how their mistake wasn’t a mistake at all, because they’re the leadership and what they say goes. It happens. Perhaps you’ve been in a situation like that, from either the side where the leaders were saying it to you, or being part of the leader group that was saying it. If you have ever been subjected to those things, I’m guessing they didn’t endear you to those who were supposed to be leading you. World of Warcraft is a game and it’s something we play to have fun and unwind. That doesn’t seem to add up with the part where you have this whole crazy responsibility thing to worry about, but it’s true regardless. So when you find yourself at one of those points in your life as a leader when you’ve just boned it in front of a group, my advice is to take a moment to consider what you would expect of one of the other people in that situation. Would you want an explanation? Would you want an apology? Would you want to make them cry by bawling them out loudly and publicly and then yell at them more for crying like the More DoTs!!! guy? Well, for all of those but the last option, I suggest you do the same yourself. Apologize. Explain the mistake. But stand up and admit you were wrong. For that last one? Anger management. Seriously.

When you lead a raid or you lead a guild, the people who run with you or who are members of your guild are putting a trust in you to be an example of what you expect in them. You are in a position that allows you to directly influence the experience they have in this game, for better or for worse. That’s a huge responsibility and it should be taken seriously. If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, you aren’t just making things bad for yourself, you’re making things bad for them, too. Remember, it all starts with you and it all ends with you. And let’s face it, when you do have to take the heat, it kinda sucks, but when you know that you’ve played an important part in making other people’s time in World of Warcraft better, more fun, more exciting, and more entertaining? That’s a pretty great feeling. That’s the feeling that makes it all worthwhile.

Post-Cataclysm Survival Roundup For Healers, Leaders and Guilds

So, Cataclysm hit this week. We all know what that means: most of us got less sleep than we should have and consumed our body weight in caffeine. And around now you might be starting to look at the actual playstyle of the game rather than all the pretty shiny quests and graphics and going “so wait, what? How do I do…. ahhhh!”

Well, the blogosphere has some answers. The blogosphere itself has been a bit quiet this week – not a huge surprise, given that everyone’s been playing their hearts out. But over at MMO Melting Pot I’ve been doing special Cataclysm posts rounding up all the interesting post-Cataclysm articles from the blogosphere, and am rounding the week off doing just the same sort of post for you guys. Holy priests are really well spoken for this week, and the rest of us don’t have it too bad either. So, get a chunk of caek and a brandy (it’s the time of year dontchaknow) and have a gander while your WoW loads up in the background.

  • 10 Tips For Cata Healing on a Pally – an absolutely fantastic post for holy paladins in 5 mans by Aunna over at Bandage Spec. She’s got ten top tips on how to heal as a holy paladin in Heroics – and each of them sounds like a lifesaver. Whether you’re having trouble in dungeons or not, her post might well give you an extra edge. It’s certainly prodding me towards my holy pally.
  • Getting ready for… – if you’re heading into raids this may well be useful for you whether or not you use Grid. Beruthiel’s guides on getting Grid ready for the Throne of the Four Winds, Twilight Bastion and Blackwing Descent are all detailed posts on what debuffs go around during boss fights in each raid instance. These posts may have a slight lean towards those using Grid but they’re useful for any healer preparing themselves for the raid challenges ahead! As an added bonus if you’re a resto druid you might also check out her pre-raid gear post.
  • New Tools In The Priestly Arsenal – Harpy’s taking a look at the new spells you’re likely to pick up as a healing priestie in Cataclysm. She’s looking at it mostly from a holy perspective but I’m betting disc can get some thoughts from it too. A useful post, and I was impressed with her thoughts on the usefulness of your latest DPS spell.
  • Constructive Criticism – are you in a guild getting ready for raiding? Well, it’s new content. Harder. Faster. More fun. Well, maybe – anyway, it’s common for some players to get to grips with the new stuff more slowly. So if you see that happen in your guild and figure that someone needs to help or talk to those players, have a read of Malevica’s post: it’s a great resource for knowing how best to approach someone constructively, and aim for a solution that everyone’s happy with. She also has some musings on how a guild’s leadership setup can subconsciously affect the rest of the guild for better – or worse.
  • Choices in the Holy Tree or Lack Thereof – Zelmaru’s taking a look at the holy tree and deflating a little. She says holy’s excellent to play now, but the talents are a bit lacklustre. Which ones? Well, she says what she’s not taken and what went right out the window on day one. She also has a look ahead to 85 and her possible spec then. Holy priests have it really good this week, as Zinn over at Jinxed Thoughts has also gone through the holy priest talent tree and looked at the main talents each in turn.
  • Guild Leveling – Numbers – a really useful introduction to the whole guilds-can-now-level shenanigans for anyone. If you’re not new to the concept it’s worth a read anyway, as Psynister has done the maths and worked out roughly how long it’ll take a fairly active guild to hit the maximum guild level. He also explains what activities count towards getting your guild experience.

And with that there’s not much more to be said by this owl other than “squaaaaaawk!” Which roughly translates to HAPPY HOLIDAYS! I know it’s a little early but due to complicated Christmas plans this will be my last post here at WoM until the New Year. So have a good one, folks – see you when we’ve all recovered from eating too much turkey and mince pies.

But for the meantime, the whole crew at WoM would really like to know one thing. What do you want for Yuletide? That is – what would you like to read from us during the holidays?

When a Raid Member is Not a Team Member

When a Raid Member is Not a Team Member

Quick summary: When the announcement was made that 10mans and 25mans would be on the same loot system, I cheered. All things considered, I just enjoy the feeling of 10mans more. More responsibility on each member, the boss fights can be less forgiving.  Because of work reasons, I had to take a break from Unpossible, Lodur’s guild.  As much as it pained me to lower myself to the bench, it needed to be done.

In that time, I’ve been pieceing together a 10man team that will be Cataclysm ready. Starting with a core group of players that I’ve been gaming with since Pre-BC, it’s starting to flourish. And now, the tale begins…

First Incident

We’re keeping it simple. As our guild name implies, this is a Team Sport. Everyone plays a role. Those of us that are “raid leading” are putting forward the effort to bring these people together. We’re not the “you need #### gear score” or the “link acheivement” type. As I’ve posted before, it’s more about the people than the gear/class/loot. I’ve downed Arthas on 10man normal with Unpossible, but killing Putricide with my friends gave me an even bigger rush.  It may sound crazy, but it’s true.

We’ve been doing what we can to accomodate schedules. We’ve found that Tuesdays and Thursdays yield the most guildies. So, I put up the signups on the calendar. People click Accepted/Declined/Tentative. If they click Tentative, all I ask is that they contact me when they know ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. They all have my email, as well as my cell phone number. This leads me to “Kevin” (not his real name).

The first time Kevin signs up for raid, he lists himself as Tentative. After being a random no-show, the next time I see him, I simply say, “Hey Kevin, sorry we missed ya Tuesday. If you sign up as Tentative, would you mind shootin’ me a text when you know if you can or can’t make it?”  He replied, “Dude, that’s why I signed up Tentative.”  “I know,” I respond, “but I just need to know if we’re waiting for you or moving on.”  “Oh yeah, sure.  Sorry man,” was his final quote.

Second Incident

Kevin signs up for the next night as Tentative. Totally cool. Obviously, real life takes precedence over WoW, and it should. Time ticks down to the first pull of the raid night. No text from Kevin. No email. No in-game mail. His status still listed as Tentative.  So, I text him. His girlfriend has been sick, and he’s taking care of her. “Oh, sorry to hear that. Awesome you’re taking care of her. If you could just shoot me a text if you know you’re not gonna make it, that would help out a lot.”

His reply: “Yeah of course, no problem.”

Third Incident

This time, Kevin signs up as Declined. He sends me a whisper, “Hey, I’m signing up as Declined because I’m not sure I can make it or not.” I say, “Cool, we’ll count you out for the night. If that changes and you can come, just text me and we’ll see what we can work out.” “Yeah cool!” is all he says.

Raid starts a little late because our MT got bogged down with work and needed time to do it. We grab a couple new Applicants to the guild, a few of our usual non-guild friends we raid with, and we set off into ICC to at least get through the first wing.

Approximately 3 hours after the raid was scheduled to start, Kevin signs on.  “Hey guys, how goes ICC?” “Pretty awesome, actually. We just started,” I answer.  Raid continues, we only get through Saurfang with the 45 minutes we had before we started losing people to family, work, sleep, etc.

Face-off

After the raid is over, I get a whisper from Kevin. Here’s essentially the conversation:

Kevin: “Hey man, whatever happened to Team Sport?”

Me: “Not sure what you’re getting at.”

Kevin: “You had 3 Applicants and 2 PuGs in there. What happened to full members getting priority?”

Me: “Well, you signed up as Declined, and didn’t let us know you were coming.”

Kevin: “The Team Sport I know would boot one of the Applicants or PuGs to get a full member in there.”

Me: “Actually, that’s not the way it’s been. If you would’ve given advance notice you were coming, maybe we could’ve work ed something out. I’ve made myself available for you numerous times to get in touch with, and you haven’t taken advantage of it once. Just because you wear the tag is no guarantee, Kevin.”

Kevin: “Whatever dude, I’m out”

**Kevin leaves the guild.

You get the point. I was also called selfish, and accused of not caring about the Team. In actuality, it’s because of this team that we’re trying to make it work. The core of us could go anywhere to raid. We could join random guilds just so we could see and conquer the endgame content, but it’s not how we want to do it. Building and filling out this group is vastly more important to us. If other guild members are up to the task, awesome. If not, no big deal, there are other options to explore.

There’s only so much reaching out we can do.  We can’t do much for people that don’t reach back.

TL;DR – Raid Leading is hard.

**If you’re interested in possibly becoming a part of this team, email me at the link provided below. We’re building a small 10man group of talented and friendly team players. Particularly looking for dps with off-specs in healing/tanking. Even if you don’t fit that bill but are still interested, email me all the same**

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

Guild Survival Guide: How to Apologize

Guild Survival Guide: How to Apologize

apologize

You screwed up big time. You’ve infuriated a good number of people. Whatever it is, you made a mistake and you need to own up to it.

The problem?

You’ve never really apologized to anyone in a game before. Something I’ve noticed when playing online video games is that egos can get in the way of someone apologizing. GMs and officers screw up. We’re not perfect and we do make mistakes. The least we can do is own up to it.

Step 1: Figure out what they want to hear

Do you know how you offended them? Are your listeners justified in how they feel if you were in their position? Keep in mind what would be going on through their head when deciding your respond.

Step 2: Has it been a long time?

The intensity of the resentment will scale depending on the length of time they’ve waited for you. That means your apology will need to scale accordingly.

Step 3: Can it be made up?

It sounds cheesy, but see if there’s some way you can make it up to them. Try offering up some gold or buying them a gift. Offer to run them through an activity like an instance or a quest. If all else fails, you can’t go wrong when asking “Is there anything I can do to help you feel better about this?”

Step 4: Go full audio

A lot of communication and meaning is lost when typing messages to other people. At the very least, if you’re apologizing over a voice program, your sincerity and tone can help add to the strength of your message.

Step 5: Be sincere and straight to the point

“Look, I screwed up. I’m sorry. What I did was wrong. I know I can’t really make up for what happened but I will take full responsibility for it. This might not make up for it, but it would mean a lot if you’d accept this item/gold/activity from me. It’s a minor gesture, true. You’re pissed and I get it. I will do my best to make sure it won’t happen again. If there’s anything else I can do to make things cool between up, please let me know.”

Step 6: Give them the opportunity to speak

Don’t say anything and give them their chance to say something. Listen and don’t offer up any excuses or explanations for why you did the things you did unless you’re asked to. Once they’re done saying their peace, apologize again.

It might not fix everything. The apology might even get rejected but at least you’ve shown the willingness to take responsibility for your screw ups. It is up to them whether or not to accept and you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. If that player was a big asset to you and your guild, they might just leave over such a grievous offense. You can’t win every battle.