The Substitute Raid Leader

The Substitute Raid Leader

Remember the days in school where your favourite teacher was away?

Maybe she was sick or needed a personal day.

Then the sub would roll in with a giant, CRT television that was Velcro strapped to a cart and you thought to yourself, “YES! It’s going to be one of those days!”

Getting a substitute teacher is like a day off. Subs were mainly there to supervise and hand out homework. Sometimes they weren’t able to teach the lesson plans your main teacher already had in place.

Once in a while, you dice rolled into a teacher who unexpectedly knew their stuff (I once had a Caucasian teacher who spoke fluent mandarin and taught the class pretty well. Not bad).

In your raid, what happens when your raid leader’s out cold? Maybe he stayed up too late watching Starcraft 2 tournaments while excessively drinking.*

* That has never happened. It’s completely hypothetical.

Chances are you have several fall back plans at your disposal:

  • Cancel raid – Worse case scenario. Wasted raid night. Players get to relax and have a night off.
  • Delay – Not a bad option. Instead of tossing the whole night, you end up tossing 30 minutes or an hour. Dismiss your players and have them regroup at a specified time. This allows them to engage in other activities.
  • Run a different raid – Could go knock out a specific raid achievement that doesn’t require a full roster or tackle another boss that has a specific drop that are still improvements for certain players.
  • Down size – Only applicable to 25 man raid groups. Viable option if a progression boss is later on in the instance. You can speed up the process by sending in a small team to knock out some of the earlier bosses that aren’t needed. Downside is that this isn’t applicable to hard mode raiding because you’ll end up being saved to that specific lockout (and it applies to raid size).
  • Run with someone else quarterbacking – Every raid leader needs a number 2. This is their chance to prove they can function as a number 1.

In most cases, the last option is the most viable. A 25 man guild is likelier to have other players capable of stepping in to lead compared to a 10 man

The problem.

Like the substitute teacher, the substitute raid leader suffers from 1 problem:

No one takes them seriously

The newly promoted raid leader is usually one of the boys who’s a raider or an officer not normally known to raid lead.

Guys!

There’s still a raid going on! There’s still internet dragons that need to be killed!

Just because there’s an absence doesn’t give you the license to mess around card. He might have a different style of running the show but you as a raid team need to give him that support! They may not have the months or years of experience that your primary raid leader has but give them a shot! It’s upsetting to see that when the cat’s away the mice will play. Most of you don’t raid 7 days a week and you have nights off where you can relax and do other stuff anyway. Of the nights where you do raid, your raid leader (whoever it happens to be) needs your undivided attention and focus.

Don’t just dismiss them.

Give them a chance to show what they can do.

Dragons don’t just spontaneously lie down. They still need you and your raid to work together.

Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM

Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM

superman-batman

Welcome back for another issue of Tough Call. This week I want to go over a topic that sets the baseline for a lot of what we do and how we can go about building the most efficient raid without imploding the guild.  Before we can get to that, however, I think I need to offer a fair bit of clarification on last week’s topic.

Stay with me, people

Classification is not “name calling”.  In my last post I discussed one set of archetypes (of which there are many) that could be used to sort out your raiders when determining who to take and what areas of your roster to shore up. The objective is never to belittle anyone, because honestly, putting people down takes too much time and energy that I would rather put towards being awesome myself.  As for the intended message, Calaban & Lument had some great points, and yes, X, you are Rudy.

For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, some topics need to be encapsulated.  This was the case last week.  I could certainly turn that 901 word post into 5,000+ words about how to evaluate, coach, refine, recruit, and even alter raid tactics/comps to support the players you have.  The fact that I omitted many of those elements does not mean that I am against them,or that I do not use them myself, just that they didn’t fit into the mold of that post.  Trust me, there’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to raid management, and I don’t plan to blow my whole load in these T11 pants. 
One thing I will continue to believe in throughout this series is that no leader should ever “leave well enough alone”, or settle for what they already have. Every team needs to get stronger, better, faster, sexier, etc.  Sometimes this happens with teamwork & growth, sometimes a pep-talk is enough, and oftentimes improvement happens by recruiting new blood. For example, we recently got a new priest who’s giving me a run for my money, and my output has increased because of it. Regardless, there would be no point to me writing this column if either of us was willing to accept the idea that you should learn to suffer through the drawbacks of today without making a better plan for tomorrow. 

Lastly, every raider deserves feedback, and that feedback should be honest and constructive.  Some people do benefit from mentoring, some from competition, and some from caliber of shame-filled guilt trip my mother used to lay on me… you pick which works best and run with it.  Regardless, as I mentioned in the comments, your guild should have some mechanism in place to give your raiders this feedback.  I know our guild has a couple different systems that work, and in the future I’ll elaborate on some of this. 

Now, onto today’s topic:

Lessons in Dichotomy // Who runs this joint?

The person/people managing your raid should not be your Guild Leader.

I don’t care how awesome you are as a GM, how amazing your coordination and multi-tasking is, or how long you’ve been doing both roles.  As we continue, I will illustrate how maximum efficiency and stability dictates that the GM not wear the black hat in raid.

Before we break into a list of what each person should be doing, the key assumption here is that the raid leader/officer is a specialist, hired to do one thing and do it well: motivate the team, execute digital dragons and carry back the rewards. 

The job of Raid Management

  • Make the raid as successful as possible
  • Needs to be Honest, Unbiased, and always performance-oriented
  • Make the tough decisions / wear the black hat
  • Assess players based on what they bring to the raid and how well they are executing
  • Manage the PERFORMANCE of the raid
  • Be a clear and present leader at all times during the raid
  • Get progression, achievements, titles, mounts, fame, fortune, super-model girlfriends

The job of the Guild Leader

  • Be the public face of the guild
  • Mediate any issues between guild members (within reason)
  • Take responsibility for the guild’s reputation
  • Oversee / Initiate recruiting
  • Manage the PERSONALITY of the guild
  • Wear the crown, take the heat, buy the drinks at Blizzcon

I know some guilds may be small/close enough that the GM thinks he/she can handle doing both.  I disagree with this because these are two jobs that require different tactics and it’s human nature to have a tough time separating these and/or staying true to the goals of each position. 
Even in a 10-man environment, it is never more efficient to have one person run everything than it is to have separate guild & raid management. This will also decrease/prevent burn-out among leadership.

How the Other Half Lives

Now, this separation also requires a high level of trust/confidence between the two halves.  The raid officer has to trust that there are the right recruitment/retention mechanisms in place to give them the right components for a successful group.  Similarly, since he/she will be handling the fall-out, the Guild Leader has to trust that the raid officer is making the right calls when it comes to who gets benched, who gets invited, who can/can’t main switch, etc. 

Think of it like the relationship between Head Coach and General Manager in pro sports.  These two don’t need to see eye-to-eye on tactics or day-to-day operations, but they do need to have the same objectives and a plan on how to reach them.

Show me an example

A founding member of the guild has lost his drive to raid, but still likes to come and go more-or-less as he pleases.  Further, he uses his relationship with the GM as leverage to get what he wants.  For the Raid Leader, this person represents a liability, as no matter how skilled they are, the risk that they will abruptly stop raiding is ever-present.  If they were given a starting spot, any loot given to this player over another player could be functionally lost at a moment’s notice, and time spent learning a fight with them would have to be adapted or re-learned with their inevitable replacement.  Not to mention the way this would look to other players who may be fighting to prove themselves and break into the starting lineup.

A wise Raid Leader can still utilize this person as a back-up / call-up, borrowing on his skill & experience in the good times, while still prioritizing those players who consistently show up.  Bring the people who have a commitment to making your team succeed, but keep a Rolodex of viable call-ups just in case.

A wise Guild Master will remind the long-term member that the raid team is an ongoing campaign, not something that is won or lost the few times a month this person wants to show up.  The GM will be clear that he expects progression from his Raid Leader, and that not everyone is entitled to raid if they cannot commit. 

Another example

Recruiting!  Without delving into when/how/who to recruit, it’s a very common situation for a Raid Leader to find themself needing to recruit.  Good collaboration between the RL & GM requires that the RL would keep the GM abreast of the development of players within the raid, or at least give them access to any relevant information needed. 

Say you need more melee dps, so you go out and recruit for that spot.  The GM should know WHY the rogue on the bench isn’t being taken over new recruits, so that they can back-up the RL’s decision should the rogue come forward with complaints of favoritism/snubbing/etc.  Similarly, the RL should make reasonable effort to give the GM whatever information he needs to substantiate the roster moves.  Simply “he’s not good” won’t suffice, but “he missed 18 interrupts each of the last three raids” does.

Unfortunately, unlike pro sports, I’ve seen the GM fail the Coach more often than the other way around.  Sometimes this is just simple burn-out, sometimes it’s close-mindedness, sometimes it’s a loss of faith by one of the two people. 

The best advice I can give for longevity is for neither person to say “I can’t….”.  Whether it’s “I can’t recruit another healer” or “I can’t down progression bosses with what you’ve given me” or even “I can’t stand your face”, the only way to maintain success in an efficient raid environment is to always be looking for the next opportunity.  Once you’ve entered into an “I can’t” paradigm, you’re actually realizing that you should have taken action weeks ago, and are now suffering from that inaction/indecision (or worse yet, refusing to realize your responsibility in the matter).  It’s up to you two to always look beyond the current week and stick to your plan you started with.

You do have a plan right?

…please tell me you have a plan.

As always, please feel free to leave any questions or suggestions for future topics in the comments below.  Heck, feel free to leave your favorite bean dip recipes, too.  I need something to do after I’ve cleared the raid and logged off to go watch HIMYM.

Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

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

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

Choosing Your Style

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

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

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

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

Your Intentions

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

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

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

Honesty is the Best Policy

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

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

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

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

Raid Leading 101: 10 vs 25

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

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

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

25-man

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

10-man

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

The Choice is Yours

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

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

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

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

 

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?

Pros and Cons of Recruiting the Raid Leader

Pros and Cons of Recruiting the Raid Leader

recruiting-raid-leader

This is the most important position you’ll ever fill throughout the entirety of your guild’s existence. In fact, it is so important, guilds will often disband if there isn’t a competent nor capable one. If working on farm content, raids can typically get by with zero to minimal guidance. Everyone runs by the same playbook and routine strategies are done without any problems (usually).

But once you hit progression content, you’re going to be stuck. If your raid is leaderless, it’s going to be painful and you need a plan.

So, do people really recruit raid leaders? In many cases, the guild leader and raid leader are one and the same. There are some exceptions (such as in Conquest where the positions are separated). But back to the original question: Do people recruit raid leaders?

Typically, most raiding guilds do not. Raid leaders are usually promoted from within. There are two basic things I look for when deciding on a raid leader. Without these two qualities, I skip and move on entirely.

  • Competency: Now this encompasses a wide range of leadership skills. I just lump them all together in here for the sake of simplicity. These are things including but not necessarily limited to skills, charisma, vision, tactics, and so forth. Basically, does this player have what it takes to lead and deliver the necessary results?
  • Desire: Do they actually want to do it?

And that second point is a super important question. That raid leading wannabe you want to quarterback your raids might be the perfect person to do it. But if she has no interest or desire, it’s not going to work.

Where do I go to get raid leaders from?

In a nutshell, either you have a sleeper raid leader within the guild who emerges to take the flag when things look grim or you look outward and see if you can fish up one.

Option 1: Promoting from within the guild

These are usually the players that have stood by you for a long time. The existing raid leader left a void to fill. There could be people from inside who are looking for a chance to step up and take a larger role within the guild. Or it could be that they sense the guild is on the road to failure unless someone takes over and that person wants to be the one to do it.

Again, your group may run into the problem of not having the right person who can do the job. A skilled player who is familiar with the game and their class might not have the appropriate leadership qualities. Or maybe they work in a management type job and doesn’t want to deal with that level of responsibility on their off time. If your search for a raid leader comes up short, you’ll need to come up with options. Try to figure out why that person isn’t a good candidate. You can’t change their desire. However, you might be able to help improve their competency.

Ultimately though, hope for the best. Be prepared for the worst.

Pros

Familiarity with guild culture

Players used to the leader’s personality

Intimately familiar with players and capabilities

Cons

Might not be anyone qualified from within to take the job

Potential prejudice or favoritism to specific players

Option 2: Recruiting outward

This isn’t exactly the most common approach. You don’t see many guilds advertising for a powerful position like this one either. I suspect the main reason would be on trust. Everyone in the guild has had time to get familiar with each other. Not only would you be introducing an outside player, your guild is being asked to follow their commands. That bond between raid and raid leader just isn’t there yet.

It’s like a new manager being brought in. No one really knows who she is. Is she lenient? A hard ass? Accommodating? By the book? No idea!

Don’t forget that having a new player calling the shots from outside the guild means they’re largely unaffected by any guild politics and will have a fresh perspective on raids. Of course, you never know what you’re getting. If you truly plan on going this route, raid leading applicants need to be screened a lot more carefully.

Pros

Fresh perspective and new ideas

Unaffected by any guild influences

Cons

Players have no idea how to react

Lack of initial guild chemistry

When my raid leader hung up his claymore months ago, I was in a tight spot. The short list in my mind for replacement raid leaders had no desire to do so simply due to other responsibilities. There were other players I had considered asking, but I didn’t know if they had the skills to pull it off. The only way to know for certain is to assemble a raid, pass them lead and say “Here ya go!” and one of the senior raiding guys who had been with us for a long time wanted to give it a shot.

It was a leap of faith. Either he would sink or swim. To my delight, he did a pretty darn good job after he shook off a few raid leading jitters during the first few days at the helm. But it was to be expected.

Had he not spoken to me beforehand, I would have had no choice but to turn outwards and look off guild for someone to help coach the raid. I can’t honestly think of any moment in my experience in the game where I’ve read about guilds specifically recruiting raid leaders that were outside their organization. What commonly happens is a player either gets the nod up from management to take over or the guild implodes due to lack of interest and focus. The latter is not an option for me. I’ll admit, it would have been a remarkably interesting process (and experiment) to start off raid leaderless and end up with a fully situated quarterback acquired outside the guild.

It’s like hiring a new coach for a team. Players are so used to certain plays and systems. The new coach comes in and throws things out the window.

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

There is a book for everything it seems. Some will tell you how to hack an iPhone, others will tell you how to cook rare and exotic treats. In the gaming world there has been everything from strategy and content guides to art books and everything in between.

A few weeks ago a new book hit the stands, The Guild Leader’s Handbook by Scott F. Andrews. Scott is not only an accomplished and long time  guild leader in World of Warcraft, but also the author of “Officers’ Quarters” on wow.com. His book takes a look at what it is to run a guild in today’s modern MMOs and offers readers both looking to start a guild and those who have been at it a while, a cornucopia of information from his collected experiences. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the book with you.

Before we begin I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, Yes I do write for wow.com as one of the class columnists. This does not mean however that I will be unfairly biased towards the book. I have had little to no interaction with Scott and anyone who knows me or has listened to my podcast knows that I do not temper my criticism and critiques based on acquaintances or tangential relations. In short, friend or foe I try to tell it exactly as it is and as unbiased as possible. In mathematical terms we would call this “Correlation does not imply causation”. Secondly, while I myself am not currently a Guild Leader in WoW, I have lead numerous successful guilds, super-groups, and various other groupings in many other games. I am however still the Healing Lead and one of the raid officers for the guild I call home, and thus in a leadership position within the structure.

The first thing I noticed when opening this book, is the level of accessibility. It was very well written and very easy not only to read but digest. The concepts and ideas in the book are thoughtfully laid out and the way the topics are grouped not only make sense logically, but allow the material to be more easily digested. Potentially confusing concepts are quickly explained, often times with a real life scenario that the author has experienced himself. The second thing I noticed while reading this book is the confirmation of the author’s depth of experience. The familiarity he writes about the topics is comforting and also conveys a sense of certainty that is easily lost when writing something of this nature.

The book itself covers many topics such as;

  • Forming a guild and making it successful
  • Choosing a guild size and focus
  • Dealing with guild drama
  • Differences between leading a guild and leading a raid
  • Loot distribution
  • Alternate styles of guilds (PvP, RP)
  • Choosing officers
  • Guild Morale
  • Planning for the long term
  • Dealing with Real Life

Seems like a lot to cover in such a small book doesn’t it? It is, but the author cuts out most of the unnecessary and leaves in the most relevant information to the topic. Each topic is subdivided and dives into specifics and does so with the perfect amount of detail.

There were a few pieces that really stood out to me while reading this. First was the section on forming a guild. Beyond setting a size and focus for your guild, the author talked about a topic that I think deserves some attention. Forming a guild identity and presence. For any established guild or group, their name and longevity carry a certain weight to them. If you think about any guilds, corps or fellowships you may have come across, I’m certain you can find at least one where their name is well known. For a new guild starting out it can be hard to forge an identity and establish a presence. The author offers some solid advice for creating a server presence. This ranges from specializing and becoming rock solid at a particular goal, having a history of cooperation with other people and guilds to having fun contests and events. One example that I found particularly enjoyable was the idea of taking a completely meaningless piece of land in the game and claiming it as your own, while challenging anyone to take it from you and doing anything you can to hold on to it. That would certain generate some notice, and could be a particularly fun event.

Next was explaining the differences between leading a guild, and leading a raid. The distinction is one that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of players seem to feel the two are always synonymous. The author explains the characteristics of a guild leader very well and talks about the shift in personae needed to lead a raid. The two can often times be polar opposites of each other. A guild leader is at the end of the night the ultimate authority of a guild. They can control who becomes officers, who is kicked or invited and tend to be looked upon as the arbiters for any guild disputes. Compassion, openness, friendliness and approachability all play very well to a guild leaders station. A raid leader has to evaluate performances constantly while keeping the group focused. They have to play the role of team captain, coach and player all at the same time. Leading by example, but also calling out problems and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This can sometimes involve not being very nice and squishy in your assessments. I was quite pleased to read this section here and it would be something I encourage not only people in leadership roles to read, but also those in a raider position. It is very much like being friends with your boss outside of work. When you’re at work you still need to work, and it’s your bosses job to keep you focused.

Another part that particularly stuck out to me was the section detailing real life interactions and issues. Even though this is a game, it is a social network. You are interacting with other players regularly, and you are devoting time out of real life to play this game with other people. As a result real life will always impact a gamers life and a game may affect the life of those that play it. This section of the book covers topics like dealing with addictions (both substance and potential video game addiction), Depression and mental illness, sexual predators, relationship problems, family problems, burnout and criminal confessions. These are real life topics that can and do affect people who play MMOs. This section offers advice to deal with these situations as they arise. Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that a criminal was tracked down through WoW by law enforcement.

This section also talks about planning real life meet-ups. Investing as much time as you do in a guild there may come a time where you want to meet the people behind the avatars face to face. It sometimes requires a lot of planning, but can indeed be exceptionally rewarding.

So in the end what does this book really have to offer?

For the new guild leader or leadership role

A plethora of information that is neatly gathered in one place for you. There is a lot that goes into forming and running a guild. This book takes the information and neatly bundles it for you for easy consumption. The information contained in the book is very accurate, and is very universal in it’s approach. The advice offered is solid, well thought out and has been tried and tested by the author himself. The book may have items you never thought to consider, or just did not occur to you. It offers a new officer or guild leader a chance to be prepared and also educates you on exactly what you can expect. Everything from personalities in the guild and group dynamics to planning for the future and longevity of your guild. All the basics you could possibly need to know are detailed here for you.

For the old-hand

Even if you have been playing MMOs for a long time and are quite experienced at leading groups, running guilds and leading raids, this book will offer something that can often times be lost over time. Perspective. We fill these rolls for so long that things become second nature to us. Like everything sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher. No one is perfect 100% of the time, we all make mistakes or forget things. The way I view it is like this. Next to my computer I have a series of books for programming, APA style and formatting guides, marketing and business books and a variety of other reference material. No matter how long I’ve been doing something, there will be things that I will forget. Having these books handy gives me a reference. somewhere I can go to clarify questions and vague points or remind myself of things I may have forgotten. This book now has a permanent place on that shelf. For us old hands this book is a perfect reference to when we need to get back down to basics.

For the non leader

Even if you are not in a leadership role this book can offer you a great insight you might not have otherwise. Ever wonder why your guild leader made a particular decision but don’t really want to ask them? How about when a raid leader does something that you’re not quite sure of? This book will give you a basic understanding of what it is your guild’s leadership has to go through and constantly juggle to make sure the group remains stable and that you have a place you can unwind and have fun.

I applaud the author for this book. I found it easily accessible, accurate and a fantastic read. I was able to identify with the examples he presented right away and could have compared them to any number of stories from my own past in gaming. This book is a great starting point for anyone looking for form a guild, new to an officer position or for those who just want to understand what happens behind the scenes of their groups. On a personal level, reading this book allowed me to catch something happening in my very own guild that I almost missed simply by reading about it and being reminded of it.

The only criticism of it I have is that I feel it could have been longer.  Some of the sections could have been more fully explored and may have benefited from having a little more room to breathe. The book ends at a surprisingly short186 pages.

I feel it is well written, logically put together and is a must read for anyone seriously involved in MMOs and guild structure. Even with consideration of the length I feel that is well worth the money, and even more worth the time you would invest reading it.

The book retails for $24.95 us ($31.95 CDN) and can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts on it we’d love to hear your opinion on it.

 

Leading The Lodur Way

Leading The Lodur Way

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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

Seven Ways to Your Raid Leader’s Heart

Seven Ways to Your Raid Leader’s Heart

I was having a discussion with a fellow officer last night after our raid. We had just completed ToC 25, Ony 25 and VoA 25, with relatively few speed bumps. My friend and I were talking about what makes me happy from a leadership perspective in a raid. I decided to type out the list I came up with as what I look for from my raiders.

Sign up! – One of the biggest problems any raid leader or anyone who organizes a raid is knowing peoples availability. My guild is very raid oriented and we do have raid sign-up sheets as well as a section for people to post when they are out of town ahead of time so we know who is available and when. We also ask our raiders if they can’t show to sign up on the list as not available. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to track down people to make a raid happen. There has been many a time my guild leader has sent me a text asking where certain people are. The end result is both of us (more him than me due to my work schedule) scrambling to find people to fill gaps so that everyone else who signed up isn’t left in the cold without a raid.

Bring Consumables! – My guild supplies flasks, food and elixirs to raiders. We have officers and raiders that are potion and elixir specced so even if you don’t have access to the raider tab of the guild bank, you can get your consumables made. Often times us crafty types won’t even need all the mats, usually I just need the Frost Lotus and I can whip up a ton of flasks. We also have raiders who bring a ton of fish feasts so there’s always food buffs available as well. There’s very few things as frustrating durring a raid as waiting for people to buff up with flask and food or to hear someone didn’t bring any. If you need flasks, ask before the raid!

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Have Your Gear Ready! – Before showing up to a raid make sure you’re gear is properly enchanted and gemmed. If you have that shiny new piece of gear you want to wear to the raid that is fine and dandy, but make sure it’s ready to use! It’s incredibly frustrating to see a raider show up with empty sockets or no enchants. I know in my guild, we supply Abyss Crystal’s for guildies to use on enchants, and enchanters will supply the rest of the mats 9/10 times. JC’s are always available and we stagger patterns for the most part so there is always someone who can cut a gem that you will need.

Make sure your gear is repaired before starting the raid. One boss in it’s not fun to hear some one’s gear is in the red. Also make sure you’re using the right gear. Some people will fish or cook before the raid and sometimes forget to take off their fishing pole before heading off to the run (*cough*fishingpoleZabos*cough*) and then do part of the instance in the wrong gear.

Know The Fights! – Most raid leaders will have the information readily available and posted for you to view well before the raid begins. I make it a point to sticky all the boss strategies and videos at the top of the thread aptly named “Raider Forums”. With the Internet around and sites like bosskillers, tankspot and our own little space here at WoM there is a plethora of information available on most if not all fights in the game. At least have a general idea of what is going to happen, it makes our job a little easier when we’re explaining what we need you to do and it helps keep the pace of the raid up.

Don’t Ninja AFK! – Having players afk or ninja off of ventrillo without saying a peep to anyone is very annoying. Calling out for someone to do something over vent and get no response is not fun, nor is waiting for someone to get back from the afk before a pull. While I used ventrillo as an example, this holds true to raid chat, party chat. Basically just pay attention to communications. If you need an afk break just send a tell to the raid leader and say “afk 2 min” just let us know!

Mind Your Attitude! – This is a very social game. In a group or raid you are interacting with 4, 9 or 24 other people all with the goal of having fun in mind. We all understand that real life happens and things outside of your control will affect your mood, but when you’re in such a dour mood that you’re bringing everyone around you down or you’re spending more time kvetching rather than raiding, it might be time to take a break for the night. Getting snippy, pitching fits or the like is non conducive and counterproductive to a raid. You need to be able to check the baggage at the door and unwind and have fun for a little while with a group of people.

To quote Matt “Either leave it at the door or just leave”.

Don’t Stand in the Fire!!! – Since the dawn of raiding, players have been drawn to standing in the fire. It’s warm cozy effect lulls them into a sense of security and happiness. As a raid leader there is nothing more frustrating than watching someone stand in the fire / void zone / thunderstorm / aoe damage and just die instead of moving. It is the bane of all raid leaders! Yes sometimes things happen like lag or graphics bugs. But as I told one raider last night, if you don’t see a spell effect and your health is going down maybe move a couple feet to the left or right and see if it stops! Help us help you stay alive! Remember you can’t DPS if you’re dead!

Leading a raid is often times thankless and almost always a very frustrating job. We see to the happiness and well being of a multitude of people and try to make sure the raids happen in such a way that people are still having fun rather than feeling more worn down at the end of the night. We appreciate any help we can get in making things go smoothly. When your raiders come prepared and happy it makes things so much easier not only on the leaders, but the raid as a whole. My raiders do the things above and I can honestly say I love raiding with my guild because of it. It lets us goof off and have a good time enjoying the game together and less time worrying about making sure everyone is ready. Yes hiccups happen but for the most part they are all on the ball, and that makes me very happy.

What about you? What do you do to help make raids and groups easier?

P.S.

A total non sequitur here but like matt I too have my own projects I work on when I’m not writing for WoM. If I could I’d like to take a second to plug my latest project (Thanks matt for the go ahead to plug =D).

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know this but for those who don’t I’ve recently started co-hosting a podcast about gaming with two other “gentlemen”. Rodger / @wowdawgs from www.wowdawgs.com and Enrique / @spoonwolf from www.spooncraft.com. Our podcast is For The Lore and is available free for download from iTunes. Direct links can be found at Forthelore.com. Join us for all things surrounding story driven gaming. We stream live on mondays through ustream with pre show starting at 6:45pm est. We cover all games with a story there as well as our own works of fiction writing and game design. We do cover WoW but not exclusively!

That’s all I have for today. Until next time, Happy Healing!

Sig

Image from druidheal.com

Friends and Raiders: How Far is Too Far?

Friends and Raiders: How Far is Too Far?

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I’m back after my vacation and feeling very recharged, with that said I bring you today’s post!

This is a question every raid leader has to ask themselves at one point or another. How far can you push your raid before it’s too far? If you push your raiders too far, they drop like flies. Burn out increases at exponential rates and you find yourself actually losing ground. The problem is how does one gauge it? How does a raid leader find the line before they cross it? It’s not easy I can tell you that much. Most people I’ve talked to about this on twitter as well as just passing conversation all have different ideas on how you can find the line.

The topic came up a little over three weeks ago. Our main tank and guild leader (Death Knight) was in the middle of a horrible storm and was making sure his roof was still in tact, needless to say he wasn’t there for Vezax (and understandably so). This left us with our Second highest tank (Prot Paladin). In addition to this we were down a couple raiders due to vacations or family events. If you’ve read up on Vezax you’ll know he has an ability called Surge of Darkness. A Death Knight is able to blow cooldowns every time it’s being cast (part of the reason it’s DK tanking is getting a slight nerf) and makes the ability moot. The other tanks don’t have the luxury of having a cooldown available for every surge. One strategy is to kite him around for the 10 seconds the ability is active, but we like to reduce movement on boss fights as much as we possibly can. After a couple wipes we developed an idea for a cooldown rotation involving the Pally’s CDs, two Guardian Spirits and Pain Supression. The night was filled with all sorts of Murphy’s law. Everything that could go wrong did. After every attempt though I kept trying to push the raid forward. This is an easy fight all things considered, we’ve killed him before multiple times and 90% of what was going wrong was outside of control. No reason to quit right? After 12 attempts we finally kill him again.

After the raid I was talking to one of our warlocks, he commented that the number of attempts we made almost broke him. So I asked him if he though I was pushing the raid too far. He replied with “one more and probably”. The week after we had a similar issue with Thorim. Murphy came out and smacked us around just a little bit with random DC’s and bugged mobs, and after several attempts we were all feeling worn down and called it a night after we toppled him.

As a raid leader there is nothing more frustrating then wiping on farm content, be it through player error or laws of the universe conspiring against you. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably remember many of my in between wipe comments like “I think I need to kick a puppy”. Being in charge, even just in part of a raid can be very frustrating. When the event fails it’s hard not to take it upon yourself and feel like you failed, or let the guild down. The burden of responsibility comes with a certain amount of guilt and most raid leaders will tell you as much. Sometimes we walk away in defeat and try again later, other times we push harder to meet the goal. Raid leaders have to know though, when it’s time to lick your wounds and come back later.

If they don’t learn when it’s time to call it they run the risk of increasing raider burn out and doing more harm then good to the raid overall. So what do we look for?

Performance

Watching your raids performance is one of the ways a raid leader can tell if they are pushing the raid too far. Are your top DPS getting lower on the charts? Is the raid missing easy interrupts? Are people who normally don’t fail at void zones failing at void zones? Is there an overall increase in the frequency of easily prevented deaths?

When you see your raid’s performance start to dip you have to stop and ask yourself, why. Is it because of bugs or lag? Bad luck with connections and addons? Is it just too late in the evening? If you find raid performance dipping with no good reason or outside cause, it might be time to call it a last attempt and then sleep it off.

Morale and Attitude

Another good indicator is the general mood of the raid. Is everyone still having a good time? Is everyone talkative on vent? Is everyone moping about or seemingly disinterested in the raid? People seem like they are ready to go to bed? If your morale in the raid is slipping, you bet performance is going down hill. Also when morale slips, tension between raiders can rise as well. Sometimes this can lead to confrontation if you’re not careful.

I have a raider who I adore, she’s one of my favorite people in the world. Every now and then I’ll get a tell from her with a statement something like “this isn’t going well is it?” , “grrrrrrr what are we doing different tonight?!?”, “I think I need to lay down =(“. It’s usually at this point I know it’s time to call it a night, or getting there very quickly. She’s usually very chipper and gives it her all. But when I get one of those tells I know we’re going to be winding down soon as morale is starting to take a turn south.

Raider input

This is a big one for me at least. I listen to my raiders. If a raider comes to me and says that it’s just too much, I listen. I expect my raiders to be vocal.  If there is a problem or concern I expect that they will tell me. I know my guild leader expects the same as well. As a raider you should be able to go to the raid officers and let them know when you feel yourself slipping for whatever reason. Your raid leaders aren’t psychic (even if we are using Big Brother) and sometimes the only way we know what’s going on is when you tell us. We are after all only human so help us out when you can.

That’s it for today.

Until next time, Happy Healing.

Sig

Image courtesy of  http://images.paraorkut.com