Confessions Of A Former Raid Leader

July 20, 2010

I haven’t been raiding in a long time, and it’s been even longer since I was a raid leader. Lonomonkey’s post and question about raid leading yesterday, however, made me reflect back to those (sometimes) good old days with my old guild.

The question was, in a nutshell, how would you handle a situation in which one of your “hardcore casual” guild’s most popular healers aren’t keeping up and is causing wipe after wipe after wipe? Here’s essentially my response, but now bigger and better in bullet point form (courtesy of Anjin, Inc)!

  • If someone isn’t keeping up with the raid, you have to tell them. As a raid leader, that’s definitely not something you should be keeping to yourself. Chances are, he/she is aware that they are the one dragging the raid down, or others in the raid might suspect, and in the long run this just leads to bad blood and more problems for you to handle.
  • Get in touch with the raider through a private channel like an in-game tell or through Vent, and let them know of your concerns. If possible, have some numbers or stats to back up your side of the story (I really hate damage meters and their ilk, but if you’re a raid leader you really should have them).
  • Offer to help improve their performance. If it’s a rotation or strategy-related problem, point the person to online resources. If it’s a gear issue, schedule some time in your guild calendar and gather ’round some friends to help that raider farm badges or try for a certain piece of loot to improve their stats. Concurrently, I would probably look at the person’s gear to see if they have the best enchants/gems/armor available; if not, I’d either craft it for them myself or ask another guild professional to do it using guild mats from the vault.

I was pretty confident of my response to Lono at the time, but then I also had the entire day to think about it afterward. In theory, I believe the approach works — it’s supportive, it’s diplomatic, it’s friendly. Oh, but I forgot! Things rarely turn out the way you want them to in theory. God, it really has been too long.

From experience, I know I’m a lot more lenient than a lot of raid leaders out there. In some of the other guilds I’ve worked with, if you don’t pull your weight, you’re automatically out of the raid, period. And only after a public shaming, of course. I’ve never subscribed to that type of leadership as I believe it’s unnecessary and degrading, and that’s not something I want to promote in a guild. But damn, do those guilds get results. Do their members give their raid leader lip when they get called out? Of course not. With them, they know damn well it’s shape up or ship out.

Have I had successes with the above methods of how I handled raid members who, for some reason or another, weren’t pulling their weight? Of course; I would say I improved the performances of the majority. But there have been some setbacks as well, like that Rogue who insisted on using the wrong weapons for his spec. Or that Hunter who wouldn’t fix her rotation. Oh, and that other Hunter who kept taking the wrong stats.

Perhaps I should take Lono’s question a little further and ask: What do you do with the handful of belligerent, egotistical, adamant, dense, pig-headed and immature individuals who refuse to listen to advice? Because that’s where I personally faltered. What made it harder was that all the guilds I’ve ever been in were casual and family-oriented. In other words, we were always a guild of friends first, raiders second. It made me feel like crap to have to tell a friend, “Hey, sorry, but there hasn’t been any improvement even after you were given all these resources, so I’m going to have to give your raid spot to someone more deserving” and so as such, I rarely did. And I’m fully aware that there were people in the raid who took advantage of that.

In the words of Machiavelli, it’s far safer to be feared than loved if you can’t be both. Perhaps all the issues could have been avoided if I had taken a hard line right from the beginning, and ran my raids like a boot camp. The problems with that though, are 1) It’s not in my nature to be cruel, especially to the people I call my friends and 2) it would have completely destroyed the spirit of our casual, happy-go-lucky little guild. And perhaps trying to perfect that little balancing act is exactly how and why I burnt out so badly, to the point I was convinced I wasn’t cut out to be a raid leader, or thought I’d never want to lead a raid again.

Anyway, as I led my raids to further successes, its members became more and more ambitious, and in some cases, over-confident. It was all sunshine and rainbows when things were going well, but it was a stormy deluge of drama as soon as things turned south. I didn’t appreciate being treated like a doormat, but as I’ve already alluded to in my ramblings above, it’s one thing to rip into a total stranger and boot them from a PuG, it’s another to do so to a buddy you’ve played with, talked with, laughed with on a daily basis. That was my personal challenge, one that I never really found a satisfying solution to.


  1. And these are the problems with a raid-centric game that is all about competing against one’s allies instead of one’s enemies. It is EXclusive gaming instead of INclusive. If one person does something wrong, take no prisoners.

    By necessity it turns people into assholes.

    Which is why I will never go back to WoW.

    I find it funny how the PvP in Warhammer is so much more friendly and group-oriented by comparison. One person screws up? Oh well. There’s always a strategy that can be used to create a win-win situation for everyone to have fun.

    • Yes, it’s a never-ending cycle, isn’t it? The community is poor so raid leaders become assholes by necessity, which in turn creates jaded players who are harsh to others…I don’t like the exclusive, take-no-prisoners, turn-friends-into-enemies approach myself because of the downward spiral it creates.

      Speaking of creating win-win situations for everyone to have fun…one thing my guild used to do when someone screwed up during a raid, was a thing called “roll for blame”

      Someone might do something accidentally to make us wipe, everyone knows it, but instead of singling out the person for committing an honest mistake and making them feel even more stupid, I would shout out in vent “Roll for blame!” And the entire raid would do a /roll with the person with the highest roll being “at fault”. It was like a huge joke for everyone and we’d all share in one big laugh at the results…it eased tensions and frustrations and the person who made the accident didn’t feel like a pariah for his/her mistake. So I guess there were definitely some good times there as well πŸ™‚

      • Roll-for-blame, must remember that the next time I forget to load the dishwasher…

        *scribbles a note*

  2. Interesting thoughts there. I haven’t lead anything bigger than a PuG run of Wailing Caverns (they expect the tank to know everything). The closest approximation I can think of is DMing an RPG. Everyone is counting on you to make sure that they have fun. It’s a thankless job.

    And thanks for the shout out, by the way.

    • Heh heh, Bullet Points are your thing πŸ˜‰

      I think very often, the tank is expected to know everything out of necessity, since he/she pretty much sets the pacing for the entire run. For instance, when I led raids most of the time it just made sense for me to take on the main tank role. The view sucked (I usually had my face up against the boss’s knees or crotch) but thankfully I had help from the ranged peeps giving me updates as to what’s happening with the rest of the raid.

  3. perhaps one of your most well written posts yet.

    I was in a raiding guild in Runes of Magic, all raiding all the time, and everything went smoothly at first mostly due to the guild leader. he was critical, strict, a jerk at times (I even had to speak up at times to defend people from his constant belittling) but when it came down to it, because of his methods, there was never drama, never arguments, never any bullshit. people knew where they stood and what they had to do.

    he quit, and was replaced with a group of people who were too timid to openly criticize, too slow to kick, and at least one person who tried to be far too friendly with people who broke our rules.

    what resulted was drama, arguments, poor performance, and nothing but dickery.

    so yeah. i’m for a more strict guild leadership personally, as long as your guild is large.

    • In the end, I believed our problem rested with the guild dynamics. On the one hand, the GM wanted us to remain a casual, family-oriented guild. On the other, our raids were becoming progressively more hardcore. Despite this fact, the GM and officers thought we could still keep our casual, relaxed atmosphere by applying our lax rules to the raids. As one of the raid leaders who has had to try to implement this, I can tell you that it doesn’t work.

      I strongly believe that expectations and guidelines for raiding have to be firmly established beforehand. Otherwise you get confusion and people thinking they can get away with behaviors in a raid because they got away with it on some other occasion with the guild. Raiding with friends also causes drama, I find, especially when some of your are more hardcore than others. This is why I’ve come to prefer raiding with co-ops where interactions between the raiders are more professional. It’s a bit more impersonal compared to when I raid with my own guild, but at least we get things done.

      I still think it’s possible to be strict without being a jerk, though. I’d never be able to justify belittling someone or humiliating them in front of everyone.

  4. I was just getting onto a few guild members last night about giving bad advice for gemming and enchanting items. When they told me I was wrong I asked them if they had researched what they were doing or just guessing. “Why should I look up what I know is right?!’.. was the reply.

    I pretty much railed them on that, not to give advice if they are going to be ignorant and that this is raiding not soloing, your choices effect us all.

    In the end I tell them it’s not that I am an ass I am offering advice and don’t want to hear some whiny excuse why they can’t take critique.

    You have to be a hard-nose sometimes. I miss it from my old EQ days. We did things and we did them right. It was such a hard transition from that to WoW, years ago.

    • Haha, it was for that reason alone that I personally managed the resource links on my old guild’s site. Then there’s no excuse for not knowing πŸ˜€

      It was such a godsend when WoW added those training dummies. People are more willing to take your advice when they can test for your suggestions for themselves and see the difference.

      • The training dummies are great, but where are the healing dummies? I was going to read everything before commenting, but I saw this and had to pipe up. πŸ˜›

  5. Your post and the comments bring up a lot of the reasons that I don’t raid, or at least not seriously. The social dynamics needed for successful raiding guild are not enjoyable to me. I also don’t like having to min-max my gear for one specific activity, particularly on a class where my solo ability will be hurt by it. Finally, I have neither the time nor inclination to take something I do to relax that seriously. The job I get paid for is challenging enough, thanks.

    • Ditto to all of that, Yeebo.

      If I had to pick one reason why I lost interest in WoW it was realizing that end-game raids had become the design focus, and it killed any interest in experiencing the below-cap content.

    • @Yeebo – absolutely, when raiding became more stressful than a full time job, that was when I knew it was time to called it quits.

      @Blue Kae – Interesting, when I came to the same realization, it actually made me appreciate the below-cap content all the more. These days, leveling alts is still so much more enjoyable for me than doing endgame raids.

      • Yeah, it could’ve gone either way but for some reason that realization just sucked all the fun out of playing. Tried resubbing a couple of times since then and never recpatured it.

    • This.

      I have essentially stopped raiding on WoW, though I am looking forward to Cataclysm. I realized I want play for the current story and the world lore; and the raiding, min/maxing, worrying about enchants and gems, just isn’t fun for me. It irritates me to no end to hear the obviously raid-knowledgeable leader screw up simple things like the gender of the boss.

      Anyway, playing STO (and more AoC, lately) is just fine until the next WoW patch, and then SWTOR when it comes out.

      Great post, GeeCee.

      • I’m looking forward to Cataclysm as well, if anything just for the new content so people won’t be so focused just on raiding anymore. Starting over as a goblin or worgen going through the revamped old world should be fun — new quests to do, new lore to enjoy πŸ™‚

        Speaking of STO, I’m going to be resubbing very soon methinks. As soon as Season 2 goes live on holodeck, I’m there!

  6. Wow, exact story of my gaming career. Literally almost every single word and situation I’ve experienced myself and ended in the same way, not knowing what to do and eventually stopping. =/

    • Yep, thinking back, I think I could have dealt with the wipes, but it was the drama that eventually did me in πŸ˜›

  7. Although I’ve played MMOs for over a decade, I’ve never been a big fan of raiding. It stems from the fact that it used to take forever to happen and often involved a lot of waiting around but also because I just find the whole thing quite stressful. Dealing with people and listening to them complain and bicker is not very much fun. I always preferred the laid back, relaxing style of small groups (or even, at maximum, two group raids).

    I admire good raid leaders and recognise that it’s not a position I want πŸ™‚ I don’t want to organise or discipline whilst I’m trying to escape and enjoy my hobby πŸ™‚

    • I’ll tell ya, raiding gets so much better when you don’t have to lead πŸ˜› Especially since after being a raid leader, you know exactly what is expected of you, and so it’s just a matter of coming prepared and listening to instructions, no more stressing about what everyone is doing and whether or not they’re pulling it off at the right time.

      I’m so sick of raiding these days, but I have to admit, if you do it in small doses it can actually be fun sometimes.

      • My biggest problem with raiding is the repetitive nature of it. So much effort for relatively little reward. And then, the reward only prepares you for more grinding at a previously impossible raid challenge. Some may say it’s worth it. I say meh.

        It can be fun the first few times through.

  8. I’ve been in a few “casual raiding” guilds and, by-and-large, I think they were successful at the first few instances. But they all ran into the same issue and, to me, the solution was clear. They didn’t want to get hardcore on people. They didn’t want to exclude anyone for any reason. Performance often wasn’t a problem (we’ll all get better eventually) but what often was the problem was that people were goofing off during the raid.

    I never understood why the general leadership could not understand that it was ok to be a tad stricter when it came to raids. I was not (nor never will be) kosher with forced attendance or spec. However I feel that if you show up you should be focused on the raid. We can all goof off the other 164 hours of the week.

    Gear is harder to handle but, yes, I think that giving advice and helping people get the gear is a great way to do it. I know I’ve been on the butt-end of “your gear sucks” without enough “lets run some instances” to go with it.

    In the end, however, I think that there does need to be a clear delineation of acceptable guide behavior vs. acceptable raid behavior. Make it clear that membership in the guild is not automatic membership in the raiding structure. In the last guild in which I was trying to raid I suggested they boil it down to this:

    – Create a raider rank.
    – People got the raider rank by agreeing ahead of time that they during raid times they would focus on the raid.
    – They would strive to improve their gear in their spec for the raid and take advice gracefully.
    – Raiders were given preference to slots in raids. Non-raiders could fill in if needed (lacking numbers or a scheduled raider needs to bow out for whatever reason).

    It wasn’t exclusionary. Non-raiders could come along. But by the same token it was meant to make everyone (even the non-raiders) aware that it was expected that during those times the group was expected to be more focused than the guild normally operates. I think that could work, just haven’t been in a guild where that has been put into practice.

    • What did our guild in wasn’t the goofiness…in some ways, I wish it had πŸ˜› That would have been easier to fix I think, since everyone knew I did not tolerate horseplay and time wasting in my raids. My problems arose when I had one group of raiders become more hardcore than another group. Trying to get these two groups to work together was a huge pain in the ass.

      It was clear the casuals were the ones “holding us back”, but perhaps that was the pace we should have gone, seeing as we were a casual raiding guild. There were some who wouldn’t listen to advice, but most of them were decent players who just didn’t have the time to pour over all the theorycrafting out there or play 40 hours a week to get the gear. You want to keep those people on because they’re dedicated and committed, but you also had to appease the hardcore group that wanted to progress (and I admit, I wanted to get through the content as much as they did). I never believed that meant you had to punish the casuals by removing them from the raid though.

      • I’ve never been part of a guild so large that we could afford to leave the “casuals” out of the raid.

      • It’s definitely not a problem now, but when BC came out, I felt Blizzard’s biggest mistake was making Karazhan, the starting raid dungeon a 10-man, when everything in vanilla was up to 40, and everything after was up to 25. There was a definite bottleneck there, and guilds either had to make people sit out, or split the raid group up. People ended up disgruntled in either case, and a good reason Kara was called the guild-breaker πŸ˜›

      • I do remember being in a guild where they would sub people in and out depending on the boss fight, because they needed gear or just as often because the raid couldn’t make it past a boss without some particular class and spec. Luckily fo rme I wasn’t anywhere near rading at the time. All the same, it irritated me. IMHO, the raid composition should be interchangeable within designated roles. Even then, I think it would be awesome to have a class system full of true hybrids.

  9. In my WoW history, my first guild was comprised of mostly my ex-guildies and some elite guys from the Hellscream Server. We used to be top 5 once upon a time when BWL was still young.

    I think the biggest thing back in the day was our class leaders. Everyone who was a CL pretty much was the best dps, healer, or tank in the guild and they knew how to get the best of the people in their class. We had our own channels, our own repoir, and knew each other well. So much so, me and my hunter friends would talk noise about everyone in our own channel and play poker via an add on.

    Back then i did NOT envy any Raid leader who had to manage 39 other people, make sure he or she didn’t step on too many toes and well…yeah micromanaged 40 people ina bad ass huge dungeon.

    Now a days, or as far back as my Burning Crusade days go, those were the best times to be a Raid Leader.

    This is my Hardcore Raiding Philosophy. I’m going to this 10-25 man dungeon, and i’m coming with consumables, the best enchants, and i’ve put in so many hours of the day to lead to this point, if you’re not going to take this as serious as me, you don’t need to be here.

    If you’re not gonna have the best, but you want this as much as i do? I’ll help you, i’ll run heroics with you, get your cake up, put you on the map because i want to be part of the best.

    When i was shamaning it up and being a bad ass in BC, i was surrounded by cocky, egotistical, bad asses who thought the same way i did. Our only problem was nailing down good healers, and mages/dps that would stick around long after they were geared out.

    I think personally, nowadays it’s too easy for inexperienced people to get geared, too little sacrifice and it’s very streamlined. So people are alot more sensitive about their skills and their gear scores, and their playing experience to really lock themselves in and share the glory of battle with a Genuine Guild. A group of people with a purpose! I miss the good ole days when Gear meant something, when titles, when The RED QIRAJI BATTLE TANK Meant your guild was running AQ like crazy.

    When Raid Leaders would say the word and everyone played beyond their skills, beyond their gear, beyond themselves for several hours just to accomplish something as small as 3 pieces falling for some lucky people… 😦

    • Congratulations on being at the top of your game, Riley. I mean that sincerely.

      Now let’s look at how Blizzard saw it, pre-BC. Developers spending well over half their time (80%-90%, who knows?) developing content that maybe 5% percent of the *paying* player base was seeing. Trying to balance two wildly different faction-exclusive classes so that neither side would feel that they were being shorted. Constantly nerfing and buffing different abilities for all classes for PvP balancing (again for a smaller fraction of players), causing those abilities to be warped relative to PvE content.

      Meanwhile, for the players, raids were taking upwards of 20 hours a week for a pittance of rewards. Most players were paying full monthly subscriptions for content they would never see because they didn’t have the time to commit to what amounted became second job, much of which was spent waiting for others to get organized, anyway.

      Even well into BC and WotLK, I have sat arounf accomplishing little or nothing, because I am stuck in a raid group waiting for people to join/get organized and can’t finish that extra daily or whatever. And don’t say I should already be at the instance location, because that would be just as big a waste of time, waiting around for people. Not my idea of a relaxing evening playing a game after I’ve been working all day.

      So if you have been part of a 1337 raiding team that knocked out BWL, AQ-40, and Naxx, great. I know you spent a lot of time and worked hard to achieve those things. But most of the 9-12 million people who have played this game have not had time to do so, and yet they paid the same $12-$15 dollars a month you did. And they seem to think, and Blizzard apparently agrees, that might just be an innappropriate allocation of resources. Honestly, that’s why the raiding content has been “dumbed down.” So more people can see it. Dont worry, you can still run ICC in heroic 25-man mode. Or maybe, as Amuntoth from Manifest Pixel suggests, you could try running it without all your addons, just like the good old days.

      • I don’t and never did feel too bad about paying $15 a month and not getting to see the the stuff the hardcore raiders get to. That’s just not how I evaluated my money’s worth, I guess πŸ˜› I always thought my fifteen bucks was well spent as long as I put in the time and I’m having fun, I didn’t care that I wasn’t seeing AQ or Naxx, etc.

        On the other hand, I can agree it doesn’t make sense to the devs to put in all that money and time to craft endgame content, only to have such a small percentage of the player base get to experience it. From Blizzard’s point of view, that’s not resources well spent.

        I do like how the majority of players are able to get far in the end game now, with powerful gear so easily obtained these days. Really, I do. However, I just wish they could have come up with a better way that didn’t involve so much grinding and such stale repetition. Getting gear does feel more meaningless now than it did before.

    • Heh heh, I was the druid CL πŸ˜› And this was back in the day when ferals were still second-rate tanks and balance druids weren’t considered raid-worthy. It felt good to show people what the class was capable of.

      And I can’t imagine how crazy it was leading a 40 man raid back in the day. 25 people was already getting a little tough to handle and I had one or two raid-assistants. 40 people would have been a gong-show for my guild, not that the majority of the raiders weren’t competent or disciplined, but I think we were just too casual.

      These days I agree the achievements don’t mean as much anymore, but if it means more people are getting to see the endgame content, then that has to be a good thing. There are times that I miss the “good old days” as well, but here in my new guild, I look around and see people enjoying themselves, and I think Blizzard’s gotta be at least doing something right. Personally, I’m a bit tired of it though πŸ˜› I’ve quit the raiding scene and the end-game content entirely at the moment, but within my guild it seems I’m in the minority.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s