Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.
Welcome to part 2 of my ongoing, in-depth, casual raiding how-to! For part 1, click here. Last time I talked about filling the all-important raid leader position and choosing the right loot system. Based on the responses I got last week, most of you seem to think I'm on the right track, so I'll keep going with this topic. In this column, I'm going to talk about two crucial intangibles that you need to address before you even set foot past a swirly green wall instance portal.
3. Communicate Your Plan
Once you've found a raid leader and decided on a loot system, unveil your plan to the guild. This is the part where a lot of officers go wrong. They either fail to communicate their exact intentions or they just assume that their members will go along with whatever they want to do. Don't make this mistake.
You need to lay it all out there:
--How will runs be scheduled?
--When will raids occur and for how long?
--Who will go?
--Who will decide who goes?
--What will they base those decisions on?
--What is the immediate goal? (for example, clearing Karazhan or downing Gruul)
--What is the long-term goal ("killing" Kael'thas in The Eye)
--Will we recruit more aggressively?
--What will we look for in recruits?
--Will we have CLs (class leaders)?
--What does it take to become a CL?
--What voice chat software will we use?
--If we need a server for voice chat, who will moderate and pay for it?
--What addons will we use?
--How will loot be handled?
--Who will be the main tank?
--Will we focus on gearing up one tank exclusively at first?
All these issues can quickly become points of contention that divide your membership and cause undue friction. At this point, you've worked really hard to come up with a solid gameplan, but that doesn't mean it's perfect and that doesn't mean it's what the majority of your members want. So after you communicate it to the masses, request feedback and make adjustments where it seems reasonable and necessary.
The most important question to address is probably this:
--How will the guild change as a result of all this?
Most members have anxiety at this stage that the guild will crumble apart due to infighting over raid slots or loot, or that they will be judged unfit to raid and quickly fall by the wayside. Remember your guild's core values, and reassure people that these values won't be discarded for shiny purple tooltips. That's the easy part. The hard part is actually sticking to them in the face of adversity.
Even so, unless you've founded the guild to do exactly this, making the transition to casual raiding will almost certainly mean the guild is changing. It's difficult to anticipate exactly how it will change. Sometimes it means certain policies have to shift, such as always passing on loot that's a bigger upgrade for someone else. (It's a noble idea, but one that isn't always practical.) Sometimes it means a shift in the overall attitude of your members. For example, some people will inevitably take raiding more seriously than others, and they may start to feel like the others are holding the guild back. Changes can occur overnight. They can also creep along in the background, until one day you realize you're haranguing one of your hunters about running out of arrows during a boss fight even though she's just racked up a 50 gold repair bill, gone through 20 stacks of expensive ammo, and stayed up way past her bedtime.
What's critical is that you maintain self-awareness during this period and try to react to the changes in the guild before they turn into major problems. The best way to react is very often through frequent and effective communication with members at all levels.
4. Hammer Home the Need for Preparation
It never ceases to amaze me, but some people actually believe that, once they hit level 70 and zone into a raid instance, the raid leader will just tell them what to do and they'll somehow eventually get epics without actually trying. I'm not sure if they underestimate the difficulty or if they just want someone else to do the work, but people like this are raid-slot poison. As an officer, it's your duty to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them ahead of time. If you've told them what they need to do and they don't do it, then they really have no one to blame but themselves when they're fishing for Mr. Pinchy while the rest of the guild is fishing for Lurker.
Of course, with a casual raiding guild, you can't always afford to leave people behind. It's easy to enforce preparation when you've got 35 people to fill five groups. But what if you've got 23 people and 2 friends of the guild tagging along? If you send somebody packing, the raid might not even happen (assuming you even have the right class balance to begin with).
For casual raiding guilds, preparation is doubly tricky: You're more likely to have members who don't show up prepared, but you're also less likely to be able to bench someone for showing up without a clue. Repeatedly -- perhaps even excessively -- emphasizing good pre-raid prep will reduce the amount of downtime you face as a result of the unprepared. I have to say, though, being able to summon people directly into an instance has been a lifesaver in this regard (Zul'Aman excluded).
Some people weren't keen on my comparison of a raid to a sports team, but I stand by it. The medium may be different, but the principles are the same. You can't play a football game if you don't know the playbook and your helmet is broken.
It seems this column was destined for lists. Here are some of the things that your raid members should be doing prior to a raid:
--Read the strategies! Only the locked bosses in the Sunwell haven't been analyzed and theorycrafted and reduced to a sterile sum of their inherent stats and abilities. The information is out there and easily accessible. Likewise, study up on the trash, which is seldom as deadly but can certainly slow a raid down and hamper progression.
--Bring more consumables than you could ever possibly need! Buff potions/flasks, buff food, temporary item buffs (wizard oils, poisons, and such), health potions, mana potions, bandages, ammo, reagents (including soul shards), and repair bots are just some of the items you want to stock up on. Some encounters -- Lurker is actually a good example -- can require more specialized consumables like bait.
--Repair your gear! Duh.
--Enchant and socket your gear! Every little advantage helps. Research which enchants and gems are most effective for your raid role.
--Spec like you mean it! Don't come to PVE encounters with a PVP spec. Even worse, don't come to heal with a DPS spec, tank with a healing spec, and so on. Talents are way more powerful than gear. If you can't afford to respec, borrow the cash or do some dailies.
--Install and update the required addons! Five minutes prior to zone in is not the time to configure Ventrilo or download BigWigs. Give yourself some room for error if something goes wrong.
--Go bio! You laugh, but there's always that guy who has to bio after the second pull. Seriously, pretend it's a long car ride -- go before you sit down at the PC even if you aren't necessarily squeezing your knees together.
My apologies for all the exclamation points. Can you tell I feel strongly about this topic? Yes, all of these things take time. But just like a sport or a test or whatever analogy you want to apply, you can't excel unless you put in the effort up front. Officers need to set the example for everyone else, so make sure your officers in particular do what they must to be ready.
There's still quite a bit to cover on this topic, so expect at least one more column about it next Monday, if not another the week after that. To those of you who have written me about unrelated topics, I ask for your patience.