In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I’ve talked mostly about you getting ready to embark on your journey into raiding. In this article, I’m going to talk about grouping up: finding a group, working in a raid and all sorts of fun stuff like that. After all, playing in a group is what raiding is all about. LOTRO’s solo content is generally well-done (although the epic story could learn a thing or two from SWTOR), but there is something supremely satisfying about taking down a boss alongside 11 other people.
When I first started playing, learning how to work in a group was extremely hard for me. I’ve mentioned before that I was lured into LOTRO by some friends with whom I used to work, but I’m mostly a solo player. Most of these friends were casual players, and they have pretty much abandoned LOTRO for other games.
One of my friends, however, was in a kin that mustered for raids on a weekly basis and when they needed to fill out a group, he’d occasionally drop me a line to see if I wanted to run Grand Stairs, Turtle/Filikul or some of the other easy instances.1
My first raid outing with them was a trip into Watcher, and it would be generous to call that raid disastrous. I will readily admit that it was mostly my fault. The core group my friend was running around with pretty much knew the fight from front to back; they just needed some folks to fill out the raid and stay out of the way. The leader didn’t walk through the raid and my friend’s direction consisted of, “Stay behind me and target through me.”
I had run a couple of instances with my friend and with PUGs, but this was my first foray into a 12 man raid. I didn’t know what to expect, what questions to ask, or even to speak up and ask for a walk-though on the fight. All of the advice I put down in the first two parts of this series are a direct result of this experience.
Needless to say, we wiped on the first, second and fifth tries. I was playing my hunter and I got a crash course in skill target forwarding, target assist, in-combat rezzes,2 moving with the group and everything else about which I was woefully ignorant. I didn’t have any food, was under-geared and I was a complete liability. I ended up leaving the group, but I have a feeling that the raid leader was about to disband and reform without me.3
The lesson I took away from this experience is that I needed to learn how to play well with others, so for my next toons, I rolled a healer and a captain, because it seemed that everyone in the LFF channels was looking for a healer, tank or captain. Through some fortuitous circumstances, I hooked up with a kinship that had a bunch of players who were new to LOTRO and a core group of us leveled up together.4 We ran a bunch of the six-man instances together and some of the 12 man raids, often having a lot of growing pains along the way.
There are some folks who level up in groups, and they get used to playing with others (often the same people). This helps when it comes to raiding, but not always.
Doing quests in a group usually involves everyone burning down mobs left and right. After all, many of the landscape quests are designed so that a single player can solo them. When you put two to six people together, often the mob is dead before the warden can get three deep into his gambit or the RK can get her attunement up past halfway. The six-mans and full raids require a different dynamic, and if you can find a group to run them, that is the best way to see if raiding is for you.
The Instance Finder
When the Instance Finder was introduced, a buddy of mine who plays WoW cautioned me about using it to find groups. Personally, I don’t use it a lot, and when I have used it, I’ve found that the group that it puts together is usually polite, efficient and generally knows what they’re doing.
The warning my friend gave me from WoW, and I’ve found it’s true in LOTRO, is that when you use the Instance Join panel to join a raid, everyone assumes that everyone else knows the fight, is properly equipped, and knows how to play their class. This, of course, is not always true.
For this reason, if you’re a beginning raider, I do not recommend that you use the Instance Finder to find a raid group.
I’m not saying it’s not a good tool or that you won’t like it, but my experience is that it was designed for people who are experienced raiders, don’t mind running around in PUGs and know all of the fights. If your opinion on this differs, please leave a comment below.
Another thing I’ve noticed about the instance finder is that it’s often hard to find a group for the older raids. It seems the people who use it are mostly looking for the current endgame raid, so if you’re wanting to run Helegrod or DN, you may have to resort to GLFF or kinchat.
Finding the Right Raid Group
So, if you’re not going to use the Instance Finder to join a raid, what’s the next best option?
After all, raiding is not something you can do solo.5
In my experience, there are two ways to go about this:
- Join a kin that raids a lot
- Cultivate a list of friends whom you like and see if they’ll take you along when they raid
I wrote an article about kinships some time ago, and one of the kinship types I identified is the raiding kin. Some kins don’t raid. For others, that’s all they do. Most are somewhere in between.
Just as you shouldn’t play LOTRO if you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t join a kin if it’s full of people you don’t like.
My experience with LOTRO is that while you’re out running around Middle-Earth, you’ll encounter all sorts of people. On occasion, you might group up with some of them and you might find yourselves together on a regular basis. These contacts are important, both for social reasons and as potential raid partners.
They may be in a kinship already, and you may find yourself joining their kinship, or you may invite them to join yours. It takes kinships of a certain size to support a raid group. In the cases of the hardcore raiding kins, they may require you to be available for a certain percentage of the raids every month. Otherwise, you may find yourself demoted or expelled. Others will take any live body that comes along.
If you are intent on raiding, you probably don’t want to be in a kinship that only has 3-5 members on at any given time. I’m not saying you should abandon a kin over their raid schedule (or lack of one), but if your goals in the game differ from theirs, you might want to explore some other options.
One thing to consider is joining a raiding kin. If you want to become a really good raider, these are the folks with whom you want to buddy up. Once you find a raiding kinship that is recruiting (not all are), their response may vary, but in my (admittedly limited) experience, they will probably take you along for a test drive as you all get together.
The only thing I would caution you about (and this applies to all kinships, not just raiding kinships), is to find out what is expected of you as a member and what you should expect from the others before you join. What is their raid schedule? Do they have a gear requirement? How will they help you level up your toons and virtues and traits? Is there a mandatory attendance policy? Is there a DKP system for loot?
I’ve found that most folks are very upfront about these expectations when you inquire about joining, so just try to be aware of expectations before you join up so there is no disappointment/anger/drama later.
Another option is to find a causal kinship that also runs raids. Some of these advertise in the regional or OOC channels, or even in GLFF. Others will ask un-kinned people to join at random. Or you may see people from the same kin running around a lot and you may ask if they are recruiting.
Many kinships have a webpage through Guildlaunch or some other service, and you might get a feel for them prior to joining in-game.
As I’ve mentioned before, the main kinship that I belong to is The Osgiliath Guard on the Elendilmir server. It’s a casual kinship that has had some members leave because we don’t raid as much as they’d like. The reason I’ve stuck around with them is that they are an easy-going group of folks who are fun and helpful.6 We raid on reasonably regular basis, but no one is excluded from the kin based on their raid availability or their proficiency as a player. Plus, since you have to be at least 25 years old to join, we generally avoid a lot of the teenage/horomone-driven drama that comes with having children around kinchat.7
If you are starting out as a raider, this kind of kinship may be right for you. As with joining any kinship, good leadership will lead to a good time. You may find yourself moving on to a more hardcore raiding group, or you may not.
When I joined TOG, I was not interested in raiding, but from my previous kinship experience, I enjoyed the social interaction of being in kin, and I found that I liked many of the officers and members.
Prior to my hiatus into SWTOR, TOG had recruited a couple of officers specifically to lead raids. They were experienced MMO players who had come to LOTRO from EQ and WoW, and they make raiding fun. For the most part, TOG will take anyone along on a raid who meets the minimum level requirements, regardless of their ability to play, and preference is given to those who signed up on the kinship calendar first.8
Our kin wants to raid, but we don’t have enough members!
I know a lot of people who are happy to be in a small kin. Maybe they don’t like the drama and hassle of being in a big kin. Maybe they’re friends from other games or from real life. Maybe they’re a “specialty” kin (ie-all elves, all hobbit wardens, etc.).
I don’t know the communities on other servers, but on Elendilmir, several kinships have formed alliances with one or more other kinships with the express purpose of raiding. They share a chat channel, but retain membership in their own kins. If you are the leader of a small kinship or if you are a member of a small kinship and don’t want to leave them, but you want to raid, this may be the way to go for you.
This way, small kins can raid without being absorbed by a larger kin, but at the same time they don’t have to rely on GLFF to put together enough people to form a raid group. How such an alliance works will be up to the kin leaders or officers of the people who put these groups together, but this is a viable option for groups of three or five players who want to raid with a regular group.
Regardless of how you’ve found your raid group, now it’s time for the fun to begin.
Follow the shield. Stay on target.
Once your raid starts forming, it is the raid leader’s responsibility to construct a group that best fits the raid. They should know the raid, which class(es) are necessary, the mechanics of each fight and if possible, the strengths and weaknesses of the players in the raid so that the raid has the best chance of success.
For instance, among the group of regular TOG raiders, we have some people who don’t like being in the CJ group for the Draigoch raid. Our raid leaders know who these people are, and put them in the other group. They also know to check and make sure the burg is traited down the red-line, that there is a healer in each fellowship, and the order in which the CJs need to be completed.
As a raid participant, it is your responsibility to communicate to the leader(s) of the raid your strengths and liabilities.9 If you have never been in the Tower of Orthanc before, you need to say so before the first pull in the acid wing.
A good raid leader will ask at the beginning if it’s anyone’s first time, but if they don’t, speak up!
There is nothing wrong with repeating instructions back to the leader to make sure you got them right, or asking them to go over a complex fight a second time. As a participant, I would rather the target assist run through the targeting order (shield, arrow, sun, crossed swords) twice than mess up the pull and wipe. If it’s your first time in Orthanc, you might want to tell the raid leader that you’d rather not be the main tank. Instead, you might run in Overpower as DPS and glue yourself to the main tank and see how they run the raid.
One of our raid leaders is constantly talking throughout all of the fights, which I find to be a good thing. Even though we’ve run Draigoch a gazillion times, she’s always in everyone’s ear about which way he’s going, which CJ’s are coming up, when there’s a break when we can replenish food, etc. At the same time, that’s not everyone’s style. I’ve been in raids where the leader speaks very sparingly, yet they have an equal amount of success.
Once your group is formed, even if you know all the fights in the raid, it’s your responsibility to follow the instructions and directions of the raid leader, even though that may not be the way you would do it. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) it’s not your raid, and 2) there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
It is the prerogative of the raid leader to run the raid the way he or she sees fit. That said, a good raid leader will be open to suggestions after a wipe or two, but the bottom line is this: if you’re unhappy with the way someone else is running the raid, either leave and form your own or shut up.
If the raid leader is not competent, then leave the group. It irks me when someone else tries to take over a raid after a couple of wipes. At the same time, if the raid is dying a lot, leadership is often to blame, especially on the older raids that a lot of people know. I am always wary of PUGging with people I don’t know (hence my reluctance to use the Instance Finder), so I just try to go with the flow.10 But if you’re group is not working out, and the leader can’t/won’t turn the raid over to another person, you might want to leave the group and try again later.
In my experience with TOG, the raid leaders and our field officers do a wonderful job of explaining each fight, letting people know what they need to be doing and getting everyone on the same page. The one and only time I’ve ever seen our raid leader lose his cool was when someone we picked up from GLFF didn’t do what he was supposed to do (stay with the person marked with the shield) and kept dying because the distributed damage got him.11
There are also some raid leaders who will ask you to retrait or slot certain virtues. Sometimes this is their personal preference. If you don’t see how that would be productive, have a friendly conversation as to the whys of what they want you to do. However, I would also say that you might try doing it there way. This is another reason why my preference is to raid mostly with people I know and trust. Our regular raid leaders know most of the classes front to back, so if they suggest a certain trait build, I’m going to go with it until I see that it doesn’t work.12
The first couple of times you go on a raid, you may be mesmerized by the scenery, or you may actually pay attention to the boss running his yap. It’s a lot of fun to see the time and effort the developers have put into the game, but after the tenth time, you’ll probably spend a couple of minutes /fishslapping Draigoch.
During the raid, my advice is pretty simple:
- Play your class and do your job
- Follow instructions
- Trust your teammates
Not to sound too simplistic, but that’s really all there is to it.
If someone tells you that you’re standing in poo, move. If someone tells you to take a disease pot, do it. If the tank calls out, “Oh, god, oh, god; we’re all going to die!”, hit Fellowship’s Heart.
After you run a raid a time or four, you’ll get the hang of what you need to do in each situation, but when you start out, concentrate on doing your job (heal/tank/kill/CC/cappy stuff) and try not to die.
Familiarity leads to trust. Trust leads to success.
After you’ve raided with the same group(s) of people, raiding gets easier. Part of it is that you are getting used to playing your character in a large group as opposed to solo. When I started out playing my hunter, I used to drop Rain of Arrows in my regular rotation because when you’re the only one who will have aggro, it doesn’t matter how many orcs you hit; in fact, you want to hit as many as you can all the time. However, if you do that in a raid that messes up the pull and the group wipes, you’re going to get yelled at (been there).13
I also like to run around with the same people because I know who the good players are and who may need a little bit of help. As I mentioned before, in TOG, we don’t exclude someone solely based on their ability to play. But among the people who regularly go on raids, I know who the over-healers are, I know who needs to be reminded to remove corruptions (that would be me), I know who needs just a little bit extra time to build up aggro before I start using my big heals and I know who is going to jinx us by saying, “I’ve got a good feeling about this” when going into the final boss.14
At the same time, I also know who the good healers are so when I’m playing my captain or RK, I don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on the green bars in case I have to off-heal. I know who can off-tank, who can lock down a loose mob when the hunter “accidentally” breaks the mez and who can be assigned some of the extra duties that come about in specific raids.
When you start out raiding with a group, I don’t recommend that you start with tier 2 Tower of Orthanc or Ost Dunholth. I would run some of the easier or more common instances, such as Great Barrows or Grand Stairs, just so you can get a feel for how the group dynamics works. Each raid group has its own quirks and vernacular, so it’s a good idea to find out in advance when one person calls out, “Hey, babe, you’re on fire!”, whether she’s saying something nice about her husband or if she’s telling the burg that if he doesn’t move, he’s going to die.
The more you raid with a person or group of people, the more success you will have because you get to know how everyone else works. Your raid is a team, and if you’ve ever played football, paintball or humans vs. zombies, you know that your collective success is dependent on everyone doing their job.
I’d rather go on a raid with 11 people who may not be the fastest to pot that disease or who may take a little longer to build up some warden aggro, but who work well with others, than 11 people with the best gear and are experts on their class but are more interested in telling other people how to play their characters than just playing their own.
A word of warning
Even in groups with the best raiders, the group will sometimes wipe. That’s okay and to be expected. If it were easy, everyone would do it.15
If your group(s) die in your first few raids, don’t be discouraged. Sometimes, you’ll wipe because the tank can’t hold aggro. Sometimes, you’ll wipe because the healer got overwhelmed. Sometimes, you’ll wipe because the hunters can’t stay on target. Sometimes, you’ll wipe because you raid doesn’t have enough DPS. Sometimes, you’ll wipe due to simple bad luck. Just pay the repair bill and go back for more.16
In the last part of this series, I’m going to talk about specifics of setting up your UI, your combat options, voice chat, plugins and some other aspects of running the raid, so please hold your questions and comments on these for another week or so.
- This was right after Mirkwood opened, so the level cap was 65 and Barad Guldur was the main endgame raid they ran a lot. Also, yes, I know Turtle is technically a raid since it was designed to be run by 12 people when on-level, but I think of it more as a straight DPS race than an actual raid. ↩
- I didn’t know such a thing existed. Really! ↩
- Despite my ineptitude, the raid leader and others in this group were very helpful without being overbearing, impatient or calling me names I probably deserved. I think they sensed I was clearly overwhelmed by the fight choreography and intricacies of the raid that they had run a gazillion times. ↩
- I have mentioned this group before, but this kinship has since dissolved. Many of the members are still active in the game, and we get together on occasion. ↩
- It is possible to go into some instances well over-level and complete them. The friend that I mentioned above likes to go into Carn Dum with his minstrel solo. ↩
- Jedi mind trick: This is not the shameless recruiting ploy you’re looking for. ↩
- That’s not to say there isn’t drama, but when the chat channel isn’t populated by 13 year olds, it’s usually much more pleasant. ↩
- I will add that in TOG, the raid leader has the ultimate say over who goes and who doesn’t. That was one of their conditions on joining the kin to lead raids. However, I have only seen one member ever deliberately excluded from a raid, and that was not related to his ability as a player. Without going into specific details, I’ll just say that he rubbed a lot of kin members the wrong way and was the source of drama in raids/instances, kin chat and our voice chat. He has since left our kinship and last I heard, moved on to another game. ↩
- As in all relationships, good communication is the key to a successful raid group. ↩
- It helps that in most raids, I’m on my healer and all I really have to do is watch green bars. ↩
- We rezzed him twice, and after that he was told, “Either stay with the shield, or you’ll be dismissed.” After that, we didn’t have any problems. ↩
- Like the time one of them talked me out of HoH on my captain. I didn’t even know there were other trait options. Kidding. Kind of. ↩
- This is why people hate hunters. ↩
- Not to name names, but you know who you are. ↩
- Just like Debi Maxwell from 10th grade biology. ↩
- When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.” ↩