Raiding for a New Raider, Part 2: Good Manners

When I first starting playing Lord of the Rings Online, I was struck by one really consistent element among the playerbase: there were a lot of people out there who (proudly) stated that they’d never played another MMO before LotRO.

And that’s awesome. Don’t think for a moment that I would have it any other way. However, that strong element within the player population also means that when you get into a fellowship (be it a three-man, six-man, or a full raid), you’re more likely to run into players who have never grouped before.

It also means that if you are someone who has never done much in a fellowship until now, you are not alone. That’s good!

But it doesn’t mean you get to be totally stupid about it, or fail to exercise good manners.

If you’re new to fellowships and raiding, it might be a surprise that there’s such a thing as good raid etiquette. Let me assure you, there is. Every kinship and even every fellowship is going to handle things differently — some more casually, some more hardcore — but I think I can say this fairly safely: if you observe these general guidelines, you’ll do okay regardless of which kind of group you’re playing with.

0. Be Prepared


I already talked about this, but before you do anything else, make sure you’re prepared to raid. Do you have enough Radiance? High enough Virtues? Completed Class Traits?

No?

Stop. You have other stuff to do before you take this ‘raiding’ thing any further.

Do you have all the necessary supplies purchased and ready (in your bags or in the bank)? Is your gear repaired? The time to get your gear fixed and your supply bag filled up is BEFORE the scheduled start time for a raid or instance run. Doing repairs, AH runs for Hope Tokens, or running to the bank… all that stuff takes time.

Multiply every minute you spend running round by the number of people in the group. That’s how much time you just wasted.

Optional tip: the Raid Chest

On another game I used to play, I could actually pull a bag out of the bank and swap it into one of my bag slots in place of a bag I already had equipped (usually my “crafting bag”). You can’t do that in LotRO, but I have messed around with keeping a ‘raid chest’ in the bank that has all my raid supplies; I just grab everything out of there before it’s time to start, then put anything I don’t use back in that chest at the end of the run — it’s not perfect, and it may not be for everyone, but it’s not bad.

1. Sign Up

Every group has different sign-up requirements for raids and six-man fellowship runs (in my experience three-man runs are rarely organized so formally). Most kinships have some way to sign up for scheduled events. It may be a kinship forum (fancy!), a my.lotro calendar of events, or maybe just announcements in the Kin’s Message of the Day telling people when to log on to participate. Find out what the standard practice is and follow it.

2. Do the Homework

I recommend always reading instance walkthroughs and boss strategies and watching videos before raids until you are reasonably familiar with the fights yourself. In this, Google (plus some smart search queries) is your friend, but you can almost always find some good advice at lorebook.lotro.com. Sure, someone in the raid will probably explain the fight, but having it explained is nothing like seeing a video of how the fight works out.

3. Start time is START Time

So the raid starts at 7pm. Don’t begin a “quick Sword Halls run” at 6:45. Hell, don’t start a quick Grand Stairs run at 6pm. Yeah, you can probably get done in time, if nothing goes wrong and there are no delays.

If.

Don’t plan based on any kind of ‘if’, except for this one: “IF you can’t get done with whatever other thing you’re considering at LEAST fifteen minutes before invites start going out, don’t start it.”

4. Get to the Choppa Summoning Horn

You know who my favorite person in the raid is? The person who’s down at the summoning horn, ready to bring people down to the instance as soon as they join the group.

Be that person.

It will impress people that you’re already ready, and YOU help get the party started even faster.

5. Can You Hear Me Now? Goooood.

I’ve heard people say that since they can play through the Grand Stairs in a pick-up group without using voice chat, they don’t need to use it for Raids.

That’s… adorable.

Here’s the deal: your raiding group is using some kind of voice chat. Period. If they aren’t, they won’t be getting a hell of a lot done in any given night. Find out what your group uses and set it up ahead of time. (In-game chat in LotRO is quite servicable, but Ventrillo also quite common — it’s a free download, easily customized, and dead simple to set up.)

Do you need a microphone? No. You don’t have to talk, but you do have to be able to listen.

6. Now that we can talk to each other, Zip It.

Nothing bugs a raid leader more than someone who isn’t paying attention when they’re organizing groups or explaining the fight. Maybe you’ve done this fight fifty times — that’s fine: you don’t need to hear my explanation (except to make sure we’re doing it the way you expect), but don’t run around in circles, /fishslapping the people who DO need to hear what’s going on.

When the raid leader talks, listen (or at least shut up so everyone else can hear). Ears open. Mouth shut. Don’t be the person that has to have everything explained twice — once beforehand, and once after the group wipes.

Now, if you didn’t understand the explanation then by all means ASK QUESTIONS — that’s totally fine. That’s GOOD.

However, outside of that, understand that there is a time and a place for screwing around and/or socializing, and this probably isn’t it. Some kins are very lax about who’s talking during the raid, some aren’t — the easiest way to find out how your group works is to shut the heck up and observe them in action.

Understand that this isn’t some kind of ego thing with the raid leaders — most of them (myself included) get sick to death of explaining the same fight for the fiftieth time and calling out every transition while still trying to actually perform our class role — but we know people need to hear those instructions, and having other people chatting away while we’re trying to keep the group from wiping is an exercise in frustration and futility, and if you think the raid leader isn’t going to share that frustration with the rest of the group, think again.

7. Limit AFKs

AFK. The raid killer. There are many good times to have extended AFKs — in my opinion, none of those times fall during raid time.

Sure, if a raid is scheduled for a long stretch of time, the raid leaders will plan for breaks (the smart ones will communicate when they’re coming well in advance). Don’t go AFK for normal things (another drink, snacks, checking email) unless a group AFK has been called.

Sure, there are absolutely times when you will have to go AFK. Absolutely. However, even in those cases, be respectful.

  • Announce yourself – don’t just vanish.
  • Give a reason. We don’t need to hear your life story, but say something. If you’re going to be a long while (“my kid just set the dog on fire”) say so.
  • Say when you’ll be back. “One sec” is inaccurate and unlikely. Be realistic and estimate high.
  • Don’t you DARE get upset if you go afk for ten minutes and come back to find that you’ve been replaced. 10 minutes multiplied by the eleven other people in the raid is almost 2 wasted hours of collective time — of COURSE they found someone else and kept going. It’s not personal, so don’t make it personal.

Do Unto Others As Though They Were You

Stop for two seconds and consider your actions within the group — if someone else in the fellowship was doing what you’re doing right now (long AFKs, lack of prep, showing up late), would it annoy you?

Yes?

Then knock it off.

Be a good teammate. Everything after that is bonus.

(LotRO) Salves are Evil and Worthy Only of Disdain

Heh. Got your attention?

I actually have a two a few other posts I plan to write today, but I wanted to quickly address a theme I saw in the (fantastic and insightful) replies to the last post. The suggestion was to bring along Disease, Wound, Poison, and Fear salves as well as the potions for same.

I’m afraid I’ll have to respectfully disagree.

I will do you the courtesy of telling you why I hate salves, though:

  • Crappy to nonexistent range. This is not a huge deal, and it makes sense, but it still sucks to have to run up to whoever you’re trying to sa(l)ve and crawl into their pocketses while you should probably be doing something else.
  • They share a cool-down with your wound pots.[1] This is the main reason that salves fall so far down into the Vendor Trash category that I delete them while soloing to make room for more perfect bat wings in my bag.

So, yeah: it’s nice in theory to say “bring salves to help your buddy”, but if you use a salve to remove a killer wound/fear/disease/poison from someone else, and then CAN’T remove that same killer effect off yourself ten seconds later because all those pots are on cooldown, you’re just trading one dead fellowship member (them) for a different one (you).

And to be honest? I’d RATHER keep you alive, because you’re the person who remembered to bring all the supplies to the raid.


[1] — I know the salves used to have their own cooldown, back in hoary old pre-historic times — seriously, I think it changed during the same book the Rift came out — and if they were ever changed back to that, I’d be ALL OVER bringing salves to raids. As it is? No. Vendor Trash. Moria goat food. Junk em.

A new raider’s raid-readiness Checklist (LotRO)

(Disclaimer: I’m not an uberleet raider in LotRO by any means, but I do run raids and I do know what you need to do to ensure some fun and success while raiding… even if I don’t have time to raid every other night right now.)

“All right, I’ve my radiance gear!. Where’s the raid?” /roar /charge

Whoa! Are you prepared?

“Yeah! I’m at the level cap? I have a radiance piece!”

Hmmmhow about a checklist, cowboy?

Radiance

Do you have enough? Every raid has a different Radiance minimum (check the raid guides or walk-throughs to find out how much you need (it’s nice if you can come with more than the minimum). If you don’t make the radiance minimum, you’re making things harder for everyone else, and wasting your time.

Repairs

Always join the raid with all your gear fully repaired. Fully. Repaired. I would suggest getting in the (simple) habit of always hitting “repair all” every single time you sell the stuff to a vendor.

Every. Time.

“But that’s expensive…”

Raiding is expensive. There are ways to make repair cash. It doesn’t take long. Suck it up – everyone else does.

Virtues and Traits

How good are your stats? If you don’t know if they’re good enough for the roles you’ll be asked to fill in the raid, TALK TO SOMEONE. Find experienced players in your Kin who are all too willing to talk you to death about raiding requirements, to ask them what you need — more morale? more power? better regen?

Ask about your class trait builds as well — sometimes the best-ever soloing build is the worst-ever raiding build — don’t be resistant to trying something new for a new activity.

Food

There are two main types of food you should always carry: buff food and regular food.

“But that other guy’s a cook; he brings enough for everyone.”

/fishslap

I suggest always carrying a full stack of “regular food” (meaning the kinds of food that dramatically increase your in- and out-of-combat power and morale regeneration) and Trail Food (which gives you big bonuses to one of your stat) for soloing, but double check before the raid to make sure you’ve got enough just in case you show up late or I get pulled in unexpectedly to help out after someone leaves.

“My wonderful kinmates will take care of me.”

Yeah, most will, sure. But what makes you so special that you rely on others to do the small things for you? It isn’t a question of whether it’s easy enough for them to do – the question is consideration for others and being prepared. Maybe you won’t need to use the food, but at least you’ll have it.

This goes double for buffing food. I usually bring two or three different types for different fights; it’s up to you to know what you need.

Resistance food (soups)
Soups are (fairly) new additions to the game, so some folks aren’t in the habit of bringing them. Do your research on the raid and find out if they’re recommended – some raids use such varied damage types that soups are seen as worthwhile use of bag space – other’s are very uniform and a specific soup type is highly recommended. Research. Find out.

Potions

Everyone should have a full stack of Morale, Power, Wound, Fear, Poison, and Disease Potions, regardless of what class you are. Period. Full stop.

The current highest potency potions are freely and cheaply available from the “Friend” Malledhrim rep vendor in Mirkwood. Keep in stock.

Scrolls

This is one often gets forgotten. Warding and Battle scrolls of the appropriate tier can tip the balance of a fight in your group’s favor. Yes, only one person NEEDS to have scrolls for their group, but what kind of person puts all that responsibility on one person? Find a scholar in your kin and pay for some scrolls (if they’ll take the money) or buy them on AH, but get a stack of both kinds.

Hope Tokens

Like Radiance Gear (grumble), Hope Tokens are absolutely mandatory for Raiding, and their cooldowns mean that when we’re hitting the same boss multiple times to learn the fight, the same person can’t always use a token to protect their group. That means everyone should have at least two hope tokens with them – I’d suggest keeping a stack of five +5 tokens on you all the time. (I have four stacks, but I’m a Tinker.) Make friends with a Tinker in your kin, or get thee to the Auction House.

Legendary Item Relics

The LI Relic system is a fickle mistress – you can’t always get the best relics for your items, but that doesn’t mean you ignore them – work with what you have. If you’re not sure about the best thing to slot, ask someone in your kin.

Other class-specific items

Loremaster pipeweed, a threat-down instrument for minstrels (and probably a power-cost reduction harp for long fights), runekeeper etchings, champs horns, warden and guardian shield spikes ((hey, I forget spikes ALLLLL the time)) – don’t forget the stuff you need to get your job done.

So Why All This Stuff?

Raid Leaders may not compliment you on always being ready, but we notice. And we talk about it. We especially notice it when someone else isn’t prepared. You’ll get no visible credit, but if you want to be remembered as a good player to have on a raid, being prepared is the first step.

So What can Two People do in a Moria six-man?

… pretty much anything they want.


(Click for bigger.)

A few notes:

  1. No, this wasn’t challenge mode. We certainly didn’t have the DPS for that. There’s a way to snag the devoted without doing the challenge if you’re super careful and moderately crazy.
  2. No one can tell me Overpower-mode guardian’s can’t tank six-mans. I mean… come on.
  3. Statement number 2 is all thanks to Tira.
  4. The trash pulls were MUCH tougher than the boss fights. They would have been easier (but taken a lot longer) in sword and board.
  5. We didn’t kill Igash. We didn’t start the instance until pretty late, and it was midnight before we got to his area — the three healer, two melee pull right before him was crazy, and we decided not to figure it out, as we got what we came for already anyway.

All that, and I realized Geiri didn’t need to kill the Devoted anymore, anyway. Tira did, though — she finished four quests. (And I finished a couple slayer deeds. 🙂

Anyway: for 65s, I think it’s fair to say that most of the Moria six-mans are more like 3-mans. Anyone still need to get spiny flesh in Skumfil?

What not-game am I not-playing, here?

Yesterday I was pondering a couple of recent gaming purchases I’ve made. Annalise. Diaspora. 3:16. Trail of Cthulu. Like that, you know: table top roleplaying games.

And somewhere in my ruminations of same (thinking about what game I’d like to play and/or run next), my mind wandered, as it does, to other topics, one of which was my ‘to do’ list on Lord of the Rings Online, my current MMO and pretty much my default game of choice.

And while pondering that, my thoughts wandered further afield, coming (eventually) full circle to the Day Job and various duties therein: specifically, stuff I needed to get done before I would have anything that looked like free time for a little side project I’m thinking off for the online training area.

And then all these thoughts that had been wandering around walked back to me and said

“You know… the thoughts you have about LotRO are a lot more like the thoughts you have about Work than the ones you have about Games. It’s all to-do lists and stuff you want to get done, and only very rarely is it about, say, a new tactic you want to try (though it is sometimes about that) or the larger story that’s unfolding (rarely about that) or the story of your character (never). Is playing an MMO really a game? Hell, is it even play?”

And I had to admit, those thoughts had a point. That’s not to say that LotRO isn’t enjoyable (it is), and that I don’t have a good time (I do), but does it scratch the same itch as tabletop gaming or board games or tactical war games? Is it even the same as other kinds of video games?

  • Tactical reward. The joy of a risky but sound plan executed successfully? MMMmmmmaybe. Sometimes. Most of the time, the game is ‘tuned’ so that you can kinda coast a bit and play at a medium level of skill and do just fine. Yes, sometimes you really have to use your shoulder-mounted thinking bone to accomplish a goal, but… hmm. Okay, I’ll say “yes”.
  • Cool story. Well, there’s two kinds of stories you’ll get out of an MMO: the Big Picture Story (which will pretty much happen whether you do anything or not) and your guy’s personal story that the game probably doesn’t help you realize at all, which you’re pretty much making up in your head and whatever forum you’re writing your own character’s fanfic on. MMOs are fine on Big Story, but that’s a pretty passive experience in most cases… one’s personal story, on the other hand, is very proactive on your part in that it doesn’t happen at all if you don’t make it happen.  I used to do that, but I don’t any more for a couple different reasons, so I’m going to call this half-yes, half-no.
  • Roleplaying. I’m not just talking about tabletop roleplaying, but the childlike play-pretend that exemplified the core of ‘play’. Again, there is very little in an MMO that encourages this, though there is some to be had as you stomp through the virtual world in the body of your cool-ass avatar. As for ‘gamer-style’ roleplay, maybe nothing discourages it, but it’s pretty much all on you to introduce and perpetuate. (I used to do this a lot, but I don’t now, and without my continued effort, it’s essentially an element that doesn’t exist in MMO play for me.)  I’m going to call it a Yes on child-play and a maybe-yes on gamer-play.
  • Puzzle solving. This is, for most mainline MMOs, pretty rare. I can think of three or four examples in LotRO and none in WoW or CoH or anything else I’ve tried. There aren’t even any puzzle ‘mini-games’, which could be worked into some games’ crafting systems if they wanted to do it — I’m thinking here of stuff like the lockpick/hacking mini-game in Bioshock. Hell, even the ‘how do I get to point x?’ puzzles as are found in games like Tomb Raider or Mirror’s Edge are active discouraged in many MMOs.
  • Planning and management. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s a viable kind of game has never played Civilization or Zoo Tycoon. MMOs have this, sometimes to their detriment, as many don’t seem to know how to express it as anything but a boring grind.
  • World Creation. Please. Tell me an MMO (Second Life is not an MMO for this exercise) where you can create your own chunks of the world. No.

So… the stuff I (or my daughter) would readily recognize as ‘play’ is not strongly prevalent. There’s no real-time strategy. There’s really not even dice rolling going on to give you that little gambling frisson. There’s socialization, sure, and it’s one of the things I enjoy but… a game? Is it? Really?

Maybe.

And yet I enjoy the hell out of it. For all that it’s a lot of me finishing off one task and starting another — “working” on this guy and then “working” on this other guy — it’s still play for me.

Somehow.

I just… don’t exactly know how.

Maybe it’s scratching that itch so well that I don’t even feel it anymore.

This weekend…

We painted our house, introduced Kaylee to classic musicals…

And killed a friggin’ BALROG.

If that picture doesn’t adequately convey the power of the Ancient Maiar compared to humble mortals… then I can’t help you.

Rawr.  There was much shouting amongst our merry band of heroes.

Next up: a giant turtle, nesting within the waterworks of Moria.

Then, facing down the Watcher in the Water within the deepest levels of Moria (where it’s retreated after facing a major offensive at the Hollin gate).

LotRO – a set on Flickr

Kate and I have taken all the screenshots from the last two years of playing LotRO and put them up on the Flickr.

With comments.

It’s probably about as interesting as a slideshow of someone else’s vacation, but it makes us happy, so there.

LotRO – a set on Flickr.

Still making a hobbit of it.

Kate and I started playing Lord of the Rings Online about two years ago.  I’m only aware of this because, last night, Kate dinged her second character to level 60 (the current maximum level), I was there to take the screenshots, and then I went in and started browsing the screenshot directory from the very beginning, and we had a lovely pictoral walk down memory lane.

I was poking through the blog archives this morning, looking for something else entirely when I stumbled across the post “Making a hobbit of it” from September of 2007, in which I talked about our decision to play LotRO together, and my initial ‘briefing’ on the game.  I’m pleased to see that most of the tips and observations on gameplay are still true (and pretty good), with the awesome stuff just getting better.  Not all the characters I mention in that post survived to 2009, but “the most potent pair we have” are still inarguably our main characters — despite his being level 60, I spent most of my play time yesterday on Geiri, and I still have a laundry list of stuff I want to do on him.  That’s good, fun game design, as far as I’m concerned.

So what’s the current tally of toons?  Let’s see:

Doyce

  • Geiri Kinshield, dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, level 60 Guardian, miner, jewelcrafter, and a damn fine cook.
  • Finnras Delain, man of Gondor, level 60 Captain, combat-librarian.
  • Emyl the Undying, dwarf of the White Mountains, level 35 rune keeper, wandering drunk.
  • Tyelaf, man of Dale, level 28 hunter, explorer.
  • Finir, dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, level 24 minstrel, scholar.
  • Kaetlyn Delain, woman of Gondor, level 24 Warden.

Kate

  • Tiranor, elf of Mirkwood, level 60 Hunter, woodcrafter.
  • Tirathien Aerlinn, elf of Lothlorien, level 60 Minstrel, tailor.
  • Tirawyn, woman of Rohan, level 29 Captain, weapon smith.
  • Tiradis, elf of Mirkwood(?), level 24 Champion, explorer.
  • Tirra, hobbitses, level 22 burglar.

It’s easy to figure out which characters are Kate’s, regardless of who she’s got logged in.

As I said, we’re still having a pretty darn good time with this game.  In hindsight, we probably should have just bought the lifetime subscription and saved some money. 🙂

LotRO: They can rebuild it. Better, stronger, faster, and dude… way f@*#ing cooler.

As I mentioned on my other blog, Kate and I decided a week or so ago to try out some new characters in Lord of the Rings Online (our MMO of choice) so that we could explore the changes/improvements to the ’starter’ areas in the game. Kate likes playing elves (*shudder*) and I like me some Dwarf action (yay!), and they had revamped the whole Dwarf/Elf starting region of Ered Luin fairly recently, so that was kind of a no-brainer.

(Also, I made up a kind-of solo character to check out the starting Man region of Archet/Combe/Staddle, because I’ve always liked that area most of all, and they updated it, so I was basically checking out two areas. No revamp changes had occurred in the Shire at all, because (a) the designers were really happy with that area and (b) so were the players — therefore, we made up no new hobbitses. )

We were VERY favorably impressed with the new regions, both with the changes and the characters we made up, and played them during most of that weekend. Good stuff.

I think it’s safe to say that each starting region still has its own definable flavor (the dwarf/elf area feels older, more ‘epic’ in the sense that these are old enemies you are fighting, while the Men are facing new threats of their own devising, and the Shire bounders move slowly from the bucolic and quaint to growing awareness of the threats from without), while all the starting regions have been brought up to the level of quality seen in the Shire (up until this point, considered the best place to level new characters up, once you knew all the various areas well-enough).

And then came Bree: the great melting pot of all character activity from level 15 to 25, where everyone’s time line finally merged for the first time. It’s always been a decent area, but there were still a few notoriously annoying, deadly, or just plain aggravating elements of the region.

But that’s normal, right? There’s always going to be some annoying stuff, right? That’s a given.

I don’t think that anymore.

Kate and I had already played through the starting regions a week or so ago; the conclusion of which sent us off to Bree to speak with a ranger by the name of Strider. Having just explored the improved Ered Luin, we decided to let the characters sit for a week in Bree without taking any quests until Book 8 dropped, because we heard they were doing a full-bore revamp of the Bree area.

It was SO WORTH IT.

Without a hint of irony or sarcasm, I can say that the revamp of the Bree area represents the finest revision and improvement I’ve ever seen in any MMO. Period. Full stop. The way they have streamlined the storylines and quests in the area should quite simply become the new gold standard for zone design in MMOs.

If you haven’t played LotRO, you should try it out, just to play through as far as the end of the Bree story arcs, which take you into the Barrow Downs and some truly epic quests.

If you played LotRO in the past, but don’t at the moment, do yourself a favor and try it out again for a month. Start over with a new character. Play whatever you want, it is all good.

If you’re just starting LotRO, like our friend Rob, I envy you – you never had to deal with with that crappy quest down at the South Greenway Barricade… you never got ripped to pieces by the deathtrap meat grinder of the original Old Forest (or bored by the more-recent, dumbed-down version).

If you’re currently playing LotRO, make a new character and experience the new content in the old areas you think you know so well. You. Will. Love it.

So… back to what I was saying… Book 8 came out yesterday, and (after logging in all our other character to reap the benefits of the great quality-of-life tweaks to gameplay), we logged in our “littles” to resume play in Bree. By the end of the night, we’d made it through the new “Grimbriar” quest hub, Adso’s camp, dipped our toes in the (new) Old Forest and wrapped up with the middle Chapters 6, 7, and 8 of Book 1, which took us into Buckland at the edge of the Shire – and what a change Buckland has seen. Wow.

They revised the Old Forest (which I didn’t think they’d bother messing with, as it’s already seen one revision) and somehow – magically – found the perfect sweet spot between the original Old Forest (horrible death trap, but cool) and the more recent version (sadly, laughably harmless).

The Southern Barricade along the Green Way with that one miserable mission that no one wants to do? They fixed it. It’s so much fun now.

It’s all just… so much fun.

Right at the end of the night, we noticed we both had a message in the mail. I won’t say what the message was, except that it was from an NPC we (as players) were very familiar with, and who our characters had not yet met. The letter made the both of us stop and just stare at each other and say “That… is so. Fucking. Cool.”

And it was. It really was.

I cannot WAIT to really delve into the Old Forest now. I am practically VIBRATING in anticipation of the Barrow Downs. These are two areas of the game that, while cool, I have always tried to minimize contact with as much as possible.

No more. Bring it on. I may not be ready, but I am excited.

Kudos, LotRO Dev Team: you knocked it out. of. the. park.