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Playing in a Group

 

Introduction

As a cleric, I spend a lot of time in groups. Once Paeter hit about 20th level, soloing became more or less impractical. Developing behaviours to make me an attractive member of a party became very important to me. I try to be a good group member, and have had a number of skilled mentors provide me with guidance. What follows are some of my opinions regarding what behavior a “good” group member demonstrates,

Guidelines for being a Good Group Member

Being in a group is fun. But it can be very frustrating when a group is bad, and it seems that a lot of groups go that way. What went wrong?
Usually a whole bunch of things. It isn’t that the members of the group are bad or “stupid”, at least not usually. Most of the time it is a lack of focus, and a lack of trust amongst the group members, that leads to a unsatisfying end.

I have had the privilege of being in some extremely good groups. My guild, the Talon Guard, is full of people who practice good grouping skills. From these people and my own common sense, I have learned a number of things that form a set of “guidelines” that I try to follow. In my experience, if you read the following guidelines and compare a failed group against them, you will see behavior that breaks the guidelines. Combined, I believe these “rules of engagement” establish trust, improve the efficiency of the group, reduce down time, limit unnecessary deaths, and makes the group more fun. And that last one is the most important of all.

I should qualify everything here one more time. Everything within this essay is my opinion, based on my own experience and advice from friends. I am far from perfect, and have violated many of these guidelines at one time or another. Generally I have learned something from that personal
failure. I have not been on Plane or Dragon raids (such activities are many levels in the future for Paeter), so I know very little about multi-group
situations. I would assume that much of what I say here regarding being a good group member applies to the Big Leagues as well, but I stand to be corrected.

 

Know the role of your class:
How many times have you been in a group and had a cleric throwing smites all over the place, then losing a party member because they have no mana left for a heal? What about a tank who doesn’t taunt to get monsters off of casters? Or a mage who nukes to OOM on every monster, right from the start of the fight, and as a result causes tons of mana recovery time during which the tank can’t pull? Why didn’t that person know what they were
supposed to doing?

 

Certainly not because they are bad or stupid. Often ignorance (not a bad word, although it receives a lot of bad press) is the
problem, although all of us slip at times or get overly excited. However, being a good party member requires some work. You have to research your class, its strengths and weaknesses, its functions within a group, and know them intimately.

Where do you start? Nearly every class has resources on various web pages that introduce the class, covering off the
above points in summary form: start there.

Here are a couple of good web sites that links to various class descriptions and resources:

 

EQ’Lizer
classes section

Allakhazam’s
classes section

 

Plus, for Clerics there is my own Guide to Playing a Cleric. Once you have read your class guide(s), find and keep up with the similar discussion forums that exist pertaining to your class. Ask questions in that forum about things that are unclear or about which you are still forming opinions. Think about what your class does and how it interacts with others in the party. Practice what
you learn, and adjust your tactics and strategies to establish your own style, but remember what your class can contribute, and how best to manage that contribution.

 

Know the role of your group mates:
So you know your class inside and out. That’s great. But you don’t work in a vacuum unless you are soloing. How does what you do interact with, say, that druid over there? Which of your spells interrupt an enchanters mesmerize abilities? What should you expect from a tank?

Do a little bit of research into each class. The above resources help and, since you will probably eventually play one or two of those other classes, what you learn isn’t strictly for grouping. I am not suggesting that you know every spell another character can cast (although you should have a pretty good idea of your own spells), but you should understand the flavour of the other classes abilities.

As a start, here are summary descriptions of each class, and some do’s and don’ts from my experiences. Obviously I know more about some classes than others, but you’ll have to live with my failings. Please note that in some cases I have described a general role (E.G.: tank) under the model class for that role (E.G.: Warrior), then referenced that class for any “hybrids” or similar roles (E.G.: Paladin, Ranger). Here is a quick breakdown of the general roles:

 

Role Characteristics Classes
Tank – pure melee, no spell casting abilities
– Rogue and Monk usually are not primary puller due to lower taunt ability/HP/armour class
– may have some special abilities (E.G.: Rogue’s lockpick ability, Monk’s mend), but not “spells”
Warrior, Rogue, Monk
Hybrid – melee plus spells; often fulfills tank/primary puller role in the absence of a Warrior
– basically, a Tank class blended with some of the abilities of a caster or priest class
Ranger, Bard, Paladin, Shadowknight
Caster – Intelligence based spell caster Mage, Wizard, Necromancer, Enchanter
Priest – Wisdom based spell caster
– can cast heal spells
Shaman, Cleric, Druid

 

 

Warrior: the Ultimate tank. These guys have tons of hitpoints, armour, and do major damage with their weapons. The Warrior is the primary puller and taunter in most conditions, and ideally works to make themselves the primary object of every monsters anger during melee. A Warrior should have a good understanding of monster aggressiveness (aggro) range so that they can pull one or two without bringing an overwhelming pack. During melee, everyone should /assist the Warrior to target the primary monster. The Warrior will then switch to other monsters as necessary to pull them off of various casters. In such a situation, the Warrior may designate a second fighter-type to act as a target for subsequent assists. Usually the Warrior (or primary tank) will be the primary person who tells the party to run for the zone or evacuate: they need a constant stream of status updates to make this decision. A Warrior wants strength for hitting power, dexterity for dodging and increased likelihood of hitting, and haste/alacrity to deal out more damage. They also want SoW so they can pull monsters without getting hit too often during the pull

Paladin: A weaker warrior with some of the abilities of a cleric. They can lay on hands to heal major damage, but only occasionally. In a group with a Warrior, they act as a backup tank. They lack the same degree of taunting ability as a Warrior. In a pinch (E.G.: when the cleric is out of mana), they can perform some healing duties.

Ranger: See the Paladin, except instead of having some clerical abilities they have some druidic abilities. Rangers are the master of the bow, which is not a good melee weapon but can work well for pulling monsters. They have tracking abilities, making it possible for them to find unique monsters or guide the party away from dangerous creatures. Unfairly, rangers often are looked to as “locational guides” as well, as if they have any special abilities that make them more able than other classes to find a spot on a map (they don’t). Since rangers have druidical abilities, they can also do some healing: however, since a druid is a secondary healer, and a ranger is a secondary druid, their healing abilities are so watered down that they are of limited use except as a time saver after a battle. This can be invaluable, and in some cases even the Rangers “small heal” can save a life in combat. The snare ability they inherit from druids is much more valuable. In addition to slowing a monster that may be about to run, it can be used both for pulling a monster and for taunting it off of another victim. At high levels, a ranger can cast SoW (39th), and extremely high levels (49th) they can cast wolf form on themselves

Shadow Knight: See the Paladin, except instead of having some clerical abilities they have some necromantic abilities. Shadowknights have a “harm touch”, much like a Paladin’s laying on of hands only in reverse (I.E.: it drains monsters of hitpoints). Shadowknights can summon various “pets”, similar to a necromancer, but at much later levels

Monk: Monks are masters of unarmed combat. Their attacks individually don’t do as much damage as, say, a Warrior, but they attack so fast that they can quickly out-damage even the toughest tank. However, they are very weak in terms of armour (they can’t wear any to speak of), and lack the Warrior’s huge hitpoint reserve. The monk’s flurry of attacks are very effective at disrupting monsters that cast spells. Monks have the ability to feign death as a skill, and can use this ability to break a monster’s aggressiveness. They also have a strange ability to “heal” themselves somewhat like a Paladin, but with the occasional feedback of causing themselves damage instead. Monks are severely restricted in terms of what they can carry. They are totally dependent on dexterity/agility to perform their combat maneuvers, and anything over about 14 pounds of gear will cripple them (most characters can carry 50-100 lbs of gear without detriment)

Rogue: Rogues sneak. They can pick locks. They can backstab. Backstabs can do huge amounts of damage, but a rogue must have fast reflexes to keep themselves behind a given monster so that they can perform this feat. Rogues can also put poison on weapons and do even more damage.

Cleric: Clerics are the master healers, with a touch of fighter thrown in. They get healing spells earlier, and heal more with a given spell, than any other class. Clerics are also pretty good at “buffing” armour class, hitpoints, and resistances. Clerics are also pretty good at dealing spell-damage when fighting undead, and possess spells that can make undead or summoned creatures run away. They can wear the armour of a warrior (plate) and have respectable hitpoints, but don’t melee much better than a pure spell caster. When a cleric heals, they move themselves higher in the “hate” list of monsters the party is fighting, increasing the likelihood of one or more of those monsters attacking the cleric. When enough monsters start hitting a cleric they can no longer heal due to spell disruptions. Since the party depends on clerics to bring them back from the precipice of death, this is not a good thing. For this reason, Clerics love crowd control casters (especially enchanters) and tanks. Clerics can cast several spells that stun monsters briefly, which can be quite effective against spell casters. Clerics can also cast divine aura upon themselves, which renders them invulnerable to attack for a few seconds at the cost of making them unable to cast or have spells cast upon them. At higher levels, a cleric can bring a character back from the dead, perhaps even restoring some experience (39th level clerics and above). Like all pure casters, they can bind and gate.

Shaman: The master of buffing/debuffing, with a touch of fighter thrown in. A shaman can increase your party’s strength, speed, hitpoints, and dexterity, while doing the opposite to your opponents. They can also cast some nasty damage over time (DoT) spells. They have hitpoints and armour class similar to a cleric. They can cast SoW. Like all pure casters, they can bind and gate.

Druid: Druids can play the role of secondary healer, fighter, and blasty-type spell slinger (see wizard). They can cast SoW. They have some DoT spells. They can snare monsters, making them move much more slowly. They can turn other group members into wolves, increasing their attack ratio and movement speed. They have spells that can charm wild animals like wolves and fish as pets. They can perform group teleports. They have damage shield spells (spells that inflict damage to an aggressor each time theyhit the spell recipient), and hit point regeneration spells. They have decent armour class and combat abilities for a pure caster (comparable to clerics and shamen).

 

Bard: Bards sing songs that act like party AoE spells. They can simulate the effect of a SoW for the whole party, regenerate for the whole party, clarity for the hole party, strength for the whole party…you get the idea. Of all the classes, I would say that Bards are the most group-friendly, and the least likely to solo. They can also fight reasonably well, but lack the armour and damage/taunt abilities of a true fighter

Magician: they create things, like summoned food, water or weapons. They have good pets. They have direct damage spells.

Necromancer: Necromancers master spells that deal with the dead. They summon skeletons as pets. They have several spells that stun, weaken, or confuse opponents, and therefore are a great crowd controller. They also have a good selection of DoT spells.

Wizard: Wizards are masters of the direct damage nuke. Their “blast” spells can be recast quickly, allowing the Wizard to inflict the most damage over a given period of time than other casters. Like Magicians, necromancers, and Enchanters, they are also quite frail, with poor armour class and hitpoints. Wizards typically blast at the end of a fight, performing a “take down” function. Wizards also have an arsenal of spells that can stun an opponent, disrupting spell casting. I think Wizards also have a group evacuate spell, but I’ve never been in a group that used one so I don’t really know

Enchanter: Enchanters are the masters of crowd control. They can make monsters forget why they are attacking, confuse them, and stun them. These abilities can effect individual monsters or groups. They can charm monsters and turn them against their fellows. And they can cast the greatly-sought-after clarity spell that increases the rate of mana recovery

 

Guide gently but firmly:
Sometimes you really have to give a party member some guidance. Maybe they have gotten over-excited and forgotten their role (E.G.: a Wizard dumping mana and causing down time, a cleric blasting too much instead of healing). Possibly they are ignorant of that role. A kind word, pointing them in the right direction, is much better than steaming about the problem, which could very well result in party deaths. Here are a good and bad example of this type of guidance:

 

Bad: Geez, you moron! Don’t you know anything? Plant your butt back down and heal, and leave the blasting to the wizzies!

Good: That last fight was great! But may I make a suggestion? Slow down the blasts, and keep your mana for healing. The wizzies are more efficient at blasting, and no one here can heal like a cleric!

 

Speak up if you have a concern or opinion: Why oh why is it so hard to politely let people know you have a preference? I fall into this trap myself all the time. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or seem selfish, so I don’t say anything. Then I get all steamed up because my concerns aren’t taken into account. Don’t be like me. When you want something (to go to a particular locale, avoid a particular monster, or have a chance on a particular piece of treasure), by all means speak up! By all means, do it politely, and be generous: maybe someone else has wanted something longer than you, or deserves it more. But let your opinion be heard, or else don’t blame anyone else for not knowing what you want

 

 

Stay for corpse retrieval:
Characters can die in EverQuest, and often do so with distressing regularity. When this happens to several people in the group at once, or when the rest of the group has to run away or evac, a corpse retrieval follows. This is very important: your group mates who have died need to get their corpses back to retrieve their gear. Gear takes many, many real life hours to accumulate, and their corpse will disappear if it remains unrecovered for too long. Furthermore, without the gear on their corpse, a character may be totally unable to assist the group, and the player may be unable to play the character in any meaningful way. In many cases, your comrades died so that you could successfully escape. It is a fundamental expectation that all group members will stay around to assist in the corpse recovery process. Shirking this responsibility by running off in a huff after dying is very bad. Real life can intervene to make it difficult for you to help in the process, but if this happens make certain you explain, and do your best to insure that your fallen comrades are helped.

 

 

Be generous but fair with loot:
Loot is great. Money is usually fairly easy for everyone to agree on (split it evenly). But equipment is another matter. Everyone wants their character to have good gear. It is in the best interests of the party if everyone has the best possible equipment for their role. Furthermore, even if you can’t use a weapon or other item, you can sell it. Usually such gear is far more valuable than any money a monster may be carrying. Often, more than one person in the party can use an item, and there may be a few who would dearly love to have it so that they can sell it and have some extra cash. Decide in advance, when the party forms or when you join it, how this situation will be resolved. You can random for the item, or maybe do a rotation, or perhaps designate someone in the party whose opinion everyone trusts as impartial to distribute the gear fairly. Generally, if someone can use the item and wants it, they should have first dibs on it. People who want to sell it for money come far, far after this in the order. Why? Because the quality of the equipment the people you group with possess can make a big difference in how effective that group is. If you don’t care about this, maybe you should be off soloing somewhere.

 

 

Announce any RL distractions: If something takes you away from the keyboard, even briefly, you should tell you party this. Your character won’t speak for you: no one can tell whether you are there to operate him or not. This is particularly of importance for casters: we spend a lot of our time immobile, and thus continuing to be immobile isn’t any kind of a useful form of communication. If at all possible, schedule your away time for “downtime”: when the rest of the party is resting between fights. Although the risk is never zero, it is lowest when the tank isn’t pulling additional monsters. Disrupting the party by leaving regularly for extended periods reduces everyone’s ability to make any progress: this isn’t a happy situation. You can give a lengthy explanation at these times “AKF: going to get a cup of coffee, back in three minutes” because the circumstance is relatively leisurely. Leaving in the middle of a fight is hard on everyone. Unfortunately, real life often does not allow you to schedule down time: your spouse may need you immediately, a child may be crying, or a cat may be breaking your pottery. This is reality, and any decent party should be forgiving. However, a quick “Ack, AFK for a sec” is the minimum here. Get back as quickly as possible so you can pick up the pieces. Your party may curse you briefly for abandoning them in the middle of combat, but at least they will be able to take some measures to reduce the impact.

 

 

Keep the group tactically informed:
In simple terms, don’t play guessing games and don’t surprise your party. If you are a tank, and have found a monster or two for the group to fight and are bringing them back, say “incoming”. If you are a caster, and are low or out of mana, say “OOM”. If you are a cleric, and are being hit and can no longer get a spell off, say “Monster on caster”. If the buffs someone cast on you are wearing down, say “Please buff me, oh gracious and generous spell caster”. The problem here isn’t that you are doing something wrong or are bad. The problem is that the game and the heat of combat can be incredibly distracting. Even under ideal circumstances, much information about what is happening to you isn’t visible to anyone else in the party. Anything your party should know and can’t tell immediately can and should be communicated. As a caster, I spend a lot of my time with my vision blocked by my spell book: I have no idea whether the tank has just brought a heap of trouble our way, or even if they are standing right in front of me. In the time it takes me to stand up and cast my (sloooow) heal spell, a party member can die. The tank has no way of reading my mana bar, and I can’t see it when the buff I cast earlier wears out. In a major fight with several monsters, everyone should be focused on one monster (the one the tank has designated), and may be aware of the caster being pummeled by one of the secondary monsters. This doesn’t divorce everyone from keeping an eye open, but it sure prevents things from being missed.

 

 

Let them know your limits:
Everyone has some limits. When these impact the rest of the party, try to let your group know in advance. I am referring here to things like how long you have to play, how many RL distractions you have, and any physical/emotional situations that may reduce your efficiency. I am by no means implying you should divulge your personal secrets. But if you have to go to sleep by 11:00pm, your dog needs to be let out later, your spouse is on the warpath, laundry is in the washer, or you have the flu and are feeling nauseous, give your party a heads up. If they know you from previous good times together, this will become less of an issue because they are aware that you have kids/dogs/spouses/work, what have you. They know your real life situation sufficiently well, and forgive you for it 🙂 On that note, all you folks who have no lives, please be generous. Some of us who have a real life that intercedes on our gaming time are pretty good gamers: if you don’t accommodate us a little, you may end up being deprived of our company.

 

 

Keep people smiling:
The best thing about EverQuest for me is all of my friends. To me, all the skills in the book, all the painstaking adherence to guidelines and rules, means nothing if you can’t laugh or share a story. I can overlook a number of tactical flaws or bad decisions, laugh at them, pick up the pieces, and joyfully group again with the instigator if they have a good sense of humour and are fun to be around. Naturally, not everyone is as outgoing as the next person. Personally, I take a while to open up. But if all we do is level and get loot, I believe the game is diminished to simply a video game. I wouldn’t still be playing if that were so.

 

And that’s it. My thoughts regarding being a good contributor to a great party. Now, go forth and bash the fauna of Norrath!

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