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The Guild Counsel: How to break into raiding

Karen Bryan

One question every guild needs to answer at some point is, "Will we be a raiding guild?" Many guilds answer that question with a loud "yes" even before they set foot in game, but for other guilds, it's something that bubbles up as members reach the level cap and raid content is within reach. Raiding tends to get a bad rap, but that's not surprising when you remember that raid videos are usually filled with yelling, swearing, finger pointing, and heavy metal music. It looks about as relaxing as boot camp in the winter.

But it is possible to go from casual to raiding and still maintain a casual, low-key tone. In fact, it's even easier now to do that in many MMOs. In this week's Guild Counsel, we'll look at why we've entered a golden age of raiding, and we'll cover a few handy tips for guilds looking to make the leap.

It's so easy, and that's good!

We've come a long way from the early days of raiding, and despite some pangs of nostalgia for the "good old days," most of the changes have been good ones for the gaming population. Instancing has given players the ability to raid on their own schedule, rather than be at the mercy of spawn timers and other guilds. Also, raid content is much more accessible. In many newer MMOs, there is still bleeding edge, head-banging content, but there is also raid content designed with a lower barrier to entry. In short, there's more raid content, and there's something for everyone.

Two other big changes over the years are smaller raid sizes and shorter raid zones. You don't need to build an army of hundreds -- or even dozens -- in order to raid. Even though I count myself as one who loved those 100+ man juggernaut raids of EverQuest, I don't think I could still manage that on a regular basis, and I'm happy I can now round up 8 to 12 of my friends and go raid something. Even better is the fact that raids are designed with shorter time sessions in mind, so guilds can work through a raid zone in a couple of hours, rather than tackle the multi-hour endurance tests that often forced guilds to leave content on the table.

We're ready to raid, now what?

I think the one thing that worries non-raiding guilds is that they have to change what they are in order to raid. They're concerned that raiding will take their calm, friendly atmosphere and turn it into one of militarism and brimstone. While you certainly can raid that way, you really don't have to. In fact, it's better to not change who you are because raiding is as much about knowing and trusting each other as it is about gear and levels. In the past, we've talked about how a guild's tone tends to resemble that of the guild leader, so if you change who you are, not only does it come across as insincere, but it has the potential to upset the demeanor of the guild overall.

Be prepared

Even though it's easier to break into raiding, there still is some prep-work involved. First, you'll need to work with your guild to carve out a schedule that works for the bulk of the members. Don't be afraid to start slow, with just one or two nights of raiding a week. It's much easier to ramp things up than it is to fill the week and then be forced to dial it down if it's too much for your members. If those one or two guildmates can't be patient enough to start off with a light schedule, they probably were meant to be in a more hardcore raiding guild in the first place.

It's also important to have a raid leader, and while that tends to also be the guild leader, it doesn't necessarily have to be. The raid leader needs a general understanding of the raid progression content, so he can choose attainable targets and set a timetable and a clear path to getting there. In addition, he's the one who organizes the raid and keeps the pace. Again, whoever that person is, it should be someone who matches the tone of the guild. In addition, that person should know his guildmates well enough to know when to step in and lead and when to step back and let the raid force do its thing.

Get a tank. A real tank.

As you start out raiding, you'll find yourself constantly shaping and molding the raid force. Some will choose to start playing other roles on the raid, and you'll never have the ideal raid force. But if there's one role that's crucial for a successful raid, it's the role of the tank. You can usually raid with sub-par DPSers and healers, but if you have a bad tank, you're in for a long night. By "bad," I don't mean gear, although at some point that will come into play. Bad tanks are the ones who lack the intangibles, like communication, properly pacing the pulls, and placing the mob in a good spot for the raid. Find yourself a tank who is visible, talkative, and sharp, and you're well on your way to some fun raiding.

Remember the non-raiders

If you're in a guild that's making the jump into raiding, keep in mind that you will have members who might not want to join along in addition to some who might enjoy raiding but not if it becomes a 24/7 occupation. This is why starting slow is important; off-nights help maintain that same atmosphere you had in the past. It's very difficult to make the transition from a non-raiding to a raiding guild, and it's something that you need to work out with the members before you do anything else. If they're not on board with it, you can't force it on them, but at the same time, you can raid without changing the guild's atmosphere or identity. Long before loot, DKP, AE timers, and parsers, raiding was just about one thing: killing big stuff with your friends. No matter what your guild is like, if you're able to stick to that idea, you'll be in for some very memorable raiding.

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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