Since the world didn’t end last Friday (#MayanApocalypseFail),1 that means two things: 1) I’m stuck with a massive credit card bill and a week’s worth of penicillin left over from my trip to Vegas the Saturday before, and 2) you guys can to muddle through the final article in my series on raiding.
I hope you’ve found a little bit of insight and some helpful tips in this series. As I mentioned before, the focus of these articles is for casual players who would like to get into raiding, not experienced raiders. In this piece, I’m going to talk about some specific things that I find helpful in a group or raid, but couldn’t find a way to fit it into the other articles.
As always, the opinions expressed here are my own, and your comments are welcome.
The biggest obstacle to people raiding is the time you have to put in. Not just in preparing your character(s) for raiding, but to actually run raids. There is a certain art to raiding; it’s not only about you knowing your class, but everyone in the raid doing their job in pursuit of a common goal.2
When done on-level, many of the raids in the game take hours to complete. And not just a few hours. A couple of weeks ago, we ran the Rift with a full raid of level 85 toons and it took us over two hours.3 If nothing goes wrong, a group of level 50s will probably take about 8 hours to complete the whole thing. Same thing for Helegrod before they broke it up into the three wings. At level 75, I was in a group of experienced raiders that ran Lighting Wing of Orthanc on tier 2, and it took us four hours to kill the boss. Even on tier 1, to do the four wings of Orthanc plus Saruman on-level is a two or three day happening for many groups.4
There’s only so long that you can sit in a chair staring at a computer screen before your brain gets tired, arms go numb and the cushion starts to conform to your ass-crease. I’ve noticed that most people have the stamina to raid for about three hours a night, four if you include bio breaks, dropping out of the instance to vendor or repair and to distribute the phat loot.
Gaming considerations aside, people also have lives outside of LOTRO (believe it or not!). There are kids who have to be ferried to Little League practice, band concerts, gymnastics and youth group. The lawn needs to be mowed, football games to tailgate and trips to the store for groceries. You might also have lightsaber practice or spouse aggro to dump.
And, oh, yeah, there’s this little thing called work.5
The fact of the matter is that there is a very small population of people who can dedicate four hours a night to raiding with their online kinship. Most folks are lucky to get in a couple a nights per week; it helps if they can dupe their spouse and/or kid(s) into playing, too.
I think there are a lot of players who don’t raid and would like to, but finding the time is the problem.
My only advice is to find a group of people whom you like to hang out with and reserve a night or two to group up and play LOTRO, whether it’s crafting, playing in a band, role-playing or raiding. Goldenstar’s Dum group is one example of this.
I know a lot of people come to CSTM because they were promised there would be no math, but someone lied to you.
Real life > LOTRO
If raiding is something you want to do together, you’ll have to make time, with the understanding that some folks won’t always be able to make it.
I’ve seen people drop out of raids because the power went out, because their kid got sick and because the house up the street was on fire (true story). All are valid reasons not to show up for a raid or to have to drop out in the middle, or for you to skip a weekend when you would normally be leading a raid. No one will begrudge you having to take care of real-life responsibilities. However, you should also understand that the raid will go on.6
Because of the limited schedules that many players have, a lot of kinships maintain a calendar with upcoming events on it. These include signups for raids. TOG uses a calendar by phpRaider that lets the raid leader announce a raid, set the muster and launch time, post the desired class make-up and has a section for other requirements and comments. We then sign up on the calendar and preference is given to the people who meet the raid requirements and their sign-up time.
There is nothing I hate more than people who are late for an announced appointment. Yes, I know real life gets in the way, and sometimes you can’t help it. You may also have technical problems with your ISP. I get that. However, you probably know people in your real life and in your kin, who are chronically late. And not just a few minutes.
Mrs. Vraeden’s family has something called “Chambers time” because there are three sisters (whose maiden name was Chambers) who will be late to their own funerals. We have to tell them events start half an hour earlier than they actually do, just so they’ll “only” be 15 minutes late. Our kin calendar has a muster time and a start time for each raid. I also know that the rest of us have a finite amount of time to play each night, so when people are late (and don’t let anyone know in advance), they get left and replaced either by someone else who signed up later, from kinchat, through friends we know from other kins and lastly, from GLFF.
Please don’t be that person who gets left behind because you didn’t log on until 8:30 for a 7:45 muster.8
Managing the UI
Everyone likes their screen set up in a certain way. I wrote an article on this subject before and shared some screenshots of my layout. I’ve found that it’s helpful for every one of my toons to have the same basic setup in terms of where I place my quickbars, the target assist and my plugins. I’ll talk more about these components later.
Where you place the elements on your screen is your business; just find something that works for you and go with it. I’ve found it to be helpful to put the same types of skills in the same spots for all my characters. My heals are on the quickbar on the left side of my screen. My DPS skills go on the main quickbar. And so on.
Each class should have at least one skill that will interrupt inductions and one that removes corruptions. You might want to put these in the same places or have them use the same key assignment on each character. Same thing for your “Oh, crap!” heal skill.9
Raid Assist and Skill Target Forwarding
The next thing I would set up are your combat options. When raiding there are two that are absolutely essential. You should ALWAYS have these on.
The first is the raid/target assist. The raid leader should always designate one or more people as target assists. This lets everyone know which targets need to die. If you a playing a DPS character, your sole job is to kill things as quickly as possible.10 The best way to accomplish this is for everyone to focus fire on the same target.
Most of the time the primary raid assist will not be the main tank. In my experience, the raid leader will designate a DPS player who has run the raid before and knows the fight to be the assist. Often the main tank, the CC and the healer(s) will be bouncing around targets and you don’t want them to be the main assist.11
If I am leading a group, even if it’s just Grand Stairs or Great Barrows, I will often ask if everyone has the raid assist up, and if people say, “What the heck is that?”, I’ll walk them through setting it up.12
After the target assist, the next thing you will need to do is enable Skill Target Forwarding. This allows you to shoot or heal through your target. For instance, if you are playing a hunter, DPS RK or champion, you can target the main assist and when you use your attack skills you’ll attack the target of your selection. This is invaluable in keeping on target. If everyone selects the main assist as their target, everyone doing DPS will focus fire on the same target.
When people wonder why there’s all this hate for hunters out there, it’s usually because they’re not staying on target.13 Many raids, especially the tier 2 runs, require coordination among the group to kill mobs in a certain order (ie-healers first, debuff mobs second, etc.). This cannot be accomplished if multiple mobs get pulled at once. Skill target forwarding prevents people from selecting the wrong target because everyone is on the same target.
This comes with a caveat: Your area-of-effect (AOE) attacks will still affect everything around the final target. If you are in a small room or area, and crowd control is an issue, you will want to restrict your skill target forwarding attacks to your single-target attacks so you don’t break the mez or pull a target off the guardian. One of our TOG raid leaders is very good about calling out “Single target attacks only” if we want people to stay on target, and when we’re not, letting everyone know, “DPS and AOEs are a go!”
The other thing skill target forwarding does is it can make the healer’s job easier. If the healer targets the boss, when they cast a heal, it will affect the target’s target, which is often the main tank. In a lot of cases, if there is a boss with no adds, the only person who should be taking any amount of damage is the main tank. So if the healer is targeting the boss’s target, they’ll heal the person who is taking the most damage.
Yes, I know that some bosses have AOEs and distributed damage, but when I’m playing my minstrel, skill target forwarding enables me to heal the person who needs healing the most, while bouncing around or casting AOE heals on other raid members when needed.
Two other things you need to disable are the target lock on and the automatic targeting. Automatic targeting also leads to people having a dim view of hunters. It usually results in the hunter (or other ranged DPS, like the RK or war-speech minstrel) pulling a target that is mezzed or otherwise not next on the list of targets which need to die).
All of the above three items are managed through Options>Combat Options on the in-game control panels.
The other is the Target Lock-On Mode which will automatically turn your camera to your selected target. At best, this feature is annoying, and at worst, it will make you motion-sick and it will cause you to move towards a target you don’t mean to approach. You can disable this with the X key on your keyboard. I currently have cleared the Target Lock-On Mode keystroke so it’s disabled, and have re-mapped my X key to be my push-to-talk key for Teamspeak/Mumble/Ventrilo.
I have other combat options set as seen in the screenshot enclosed in this section, but the Target Assist and Skill Target Forwarding are necessary to raiding.
Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Some classes can trigger conjunctions, as can some skills and critical hits. When a conjunction comes up, the Fellowship Manoeuvre Wheel will come up on your screen. In the wheel are four colours: red, green, yellow and blue. Another screen element will also display: the Fellowship Manoeuvre attempt display. It will have the same number of slots on as people in your fellowship (2-6). If you are not targeting the same target as the person who triggered the CJ, a red/white spiral will appear on your screen in the place of the CJ Wheel. Clicking on the spiral will change your target to the object of the CJ. In the case where multiple CJs are triggered on different targets, the spiral will appear within the Fellowship Manoeuvre Wheel.
Each member of the fellowship will then be given the opportunity to contribute to the CJ, and their contribution will be dependent on their proximity to the target. Some classes (hunters, minstrels, RKs, etc.) can contribute from ranged distance, but may have to move closer to the target. If you’re too far away, the Fellowship Manoeuvre Wheel will appear but with Xs in the windows instead of the colour options.
In a CJ, red will do an instant AOE damage to the target, yellow will do a damage over time (DoT) to the target, green will regenerate some morale to the player and blue will regenerate power to the player. What you as a group want to do is trigger a specific sequence of colours to cause a specific effect.
Without turning this into a CJ guide, just know that when your group—whether you’re a duo or a full six-person fellowship—hits a CJ, not only do you benefit from a very specific effect, but if you hit a pre-set pattern, the sum of your contributions triggers an effect that is greater than the individual contributions; some CJs will summon an Oathbreaker ghost or two, some will do a massive amount of damage, some will nearly bring your fellowship back to full morale or power. There are no CJs that involve more than 6 players.
Once you have participated in a specific CJ, you will find it in your Character>Skills>Fellowship panel so that you can set that CJ if you are leading a group later.
Your group leader should set a CJ when the raid forms. In the case of the Draigoch raid, you will have to trigger a series of 12 CJs in a specific order in order to get Challenge Mode and the better loot table.14 Other times you will hear a the raid leader call out for a specific CJ, often either Pure of Heart (3 greens/2 or 3 blues) or Noble Blood (3 blues/2 or 3 greens) as the raid’s “Oh! Crap” default CJ. Both of these will regenerate power and morale.
To give the raid the greatest chance of successfully completing CJs, the raid leader will often assign a CJ number (1-6) to each player so when a CJ comes up, they will know their place in the order to hit their colour. Make note of your spot in the order so that even if the leader changes the CJ in the middle of the raid, you’ll know what button to press.
You can map each colour on the CJ Wheel to a specific keystroke by going to Options>Key Mapping and scrolling down to near the bottom. I have each of the CJ buttons mapped to my Shift + Forward/Right/Back/Left movement keys to correspond with red/green/yellow/blue. That way, when a CJ comes up, I press the key on my G13 gamepad that toggles the shift key and then press the corresponding movement key to mark my CJ pick. That way, I don’t have to hunt around my screen with my cursor to contribute to the CJ; it’s done by keystroke and I don’t have to move my hands or look at my keyboard.
How you set up for CJs is your business, but you do not want to be the guy who screws up Wings of the Windlord or one of the Draigoch CJs.15
One of the nice things I’ve found about LOTRO compared to other games is that it has a built-in voice chat. Sure, it’s not very good but it’s better than nothing. When I went to play SWOTR, I mentioned to some guildmates that I missed the in-game voice chat of LOTRO and almost all of them said, “Why? It’s just a burden on system resources and we don’t need it.”16
I believe the in-game voice chat directly contributes to the success and openness of the LOTRO community. By not having to go through the steps of setting up a third-party voice chat system, you are able to talk to everyone in your fellowship who has voice chat enabled. To me, the ability to speak to and hear the voices of your groupmates makes them more than just an avatar on the screen whom you will get to heal/tank/kill for your group. They become a “real” person with whom you are having a direct personal interaction instead of typing back and forth through a chat line.
Having said that, the in-game voice chat functionality stinks. It’s hard to control the volume, it’s often difficult to hear and there is a lot of quality variance depending on the sound cards of each user. But it’s better than nothing.17
Most kinships who raid frequently will have a third-party voice chat service, which has a cost associated with it and is paid for either by the kin leader and/or officers. Some individuals have a voice chat service of their own, and the monthly cost is usually based on the number of users the server supports.
In my experience, the most commonly used services are Mumble, Teamspeak and Ventrilo. All three offer free downloads of the client and are easy to install and set up. Which one is used is often a matter of personal preference; I like all three and if I had my own voice-chat server, it I would pick from the three based on the lowest cost. I recommend installing all of the above-mentioned clients, so if you join a PUG and they’re using one of them, you just put in the appropriate server information and you’re in business.
Note that you do not have to have a microphone to use these service, but it helps. In TOG, for kin raids, we require participants to have Mumble installed and set up prior to going on the raid. Not being in Mumble is grounds for dismissal from the raid.
Being able to hear the instructions of the raid leader is often the difference between success and a wipe, and I also recommend getting a good set of headphones with a microphone before you embark on your raiding career.18
Not everyone uses plugins, but some of them are very useful. They’re available from LOTRO Interface and can be downloaded for free. You’ll have to decide which ones you find most useful, but I use the Plugins Manager, Palantir, Buffbars, Mouse Cursor Highlighter Advanced and PopUps.
Some kins will require you to have certain plugins installed, others will recommend some. As with your UI, the use of plugins is mostly dependent on personal preference, so if you’re looking for the ones that you might be interested in installing, I recommend having a chat with your kinmates and friends to see what they’re using.
Some people find them cluttering (which the are) but once you get used to them, you may find them to be indespensible.
If you look at the screenshots of my characters raiding, you’ll see my three primary raid toons: Vraeden (minstrel), Vraeomir (captain) and Voontak (rune-keeper). You’ll also notice that the elves are both wearing the ridiculous-looking rabbit ears (aka-The Winged Circlet) and all three are wearing the Flames of the Deep cloak.
This is no accident.
There are people who play LOTRO who absolutely lurve the cosmetic system. In other games, you’ll see a group of people wearing the same gear set and they all look the same, and not because they want to look like they went to the same boarding school.
In LOTRO, you can customise your character’s appearance regardless of what they’re wearing for stat purposes.
When I go on a raid, all of my toons wear the Flames of the Deep, not because it looks cool (which it does) but because that’s how I tell where I am if the group is tightly bunched up. I also go with a red dye scheme for whatever outfit I’m wearing, just so I can find myself. Yes, I know my toon will always bee in the center of the screen, but in some cases, when there is a lot going on, I may need to locate my toon very quickly, such as when one of the Saruman’s drops the red aura on someone and they need to be healed up to full morale very quickly, or if I’m stuck on something and have to move it out of the way.
I also find it helpful to have as many of my quickslots at my fingertips as possible. To this end, I have a Mad Catz Cyborg MMO7 gaming mouse and a Logitech G13 gameboard mapped to the most common quickslots that I use. This way, I can trigger skills without having to move my mouse all over the screen or hunt around on my keyboard, which incidentally is the Mad Catz STRIKE7 MMO keyboard.
Whether you find extra hardware like this helpful is a matter of personal preference, but I’ve found that I cannot play—much less raid—without them. The only caveat is that none of the peripherals I’ve mentioned above are inexpensive. I have also had a good experience with the Razer Naga, and I’ve heard lots of good things about the Logitech G600.
Depending on your computer hardware, specifically your graphics card, your system RAM and your CPU clock speed, you may find yourself having extra lag when in raids. This is due to the extra effects from the bad guys, the higher density of players and mobs in your immediate area and the way the raid environments are constructed.
If this is a problem for you, I recommend dialing down your graphic settings under Options>Graphics and Options>Advanced Graphics. Other raids may require you to disable/reduce specific graphic settings, such as turning the post-processing effects while in Watcher.
For players who haven’t gone on a lot of raids, you may not realise you have a graphics problem until you get to the second boss in Barad Guldur. If that happens to you, it’s entirely appropriate to ask the raid to pause while you reset your graphics.
Other steps you can take are to ask everyone else in the raid to turn off their cloaks on the cosmetic tab and to turn off floaty names.
And if that still doesn’t work, that is Allah/Brahma/Ching Dai/Crom/Cthulu/Eru/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Jehovah/Lords of Kobol/Odin/Ray Charles/Yondalla’s way of saying you that you need a new water-cooled computer with a dual graphics card setup, a solid-state hard drive and 24 gigabytes of RAM.
If you have a case of altohism, you’ve got a gazillion toons. With a VIP account, after you buy all of the available character slots, you can have up to 17 characters per server. Not everyone has the full slate, but most people I know who go on raids have anywhere from two to six toons they play regularly.
After you’ve been raiding for a while, you’ll get to know a group of people with whom you regularly group up. You may like running around with that group, but with the raid locks the way they are, you can only run Draigoch once a week per character.19 So it’s always a nice idea to have a second, third or sixth toon you can take along on a raid.
This way, when your raid leader is putting the group together, you may be asked to alt to another toon so that the raid’s requirement for healz/tank/DPS/CC/captains are met. I’ve also found that running the same raid in different roles makes the raid more fun since you get to see different perspectives on the same fights.
So there you have it: Vraeden’s Introductory Guide to Raiding.
I’ve talked about the reasons casual players get into raiding, what you should do to make your character(s) read to go on raids, finding a group and some other things you will want to set up prior to setting foot in the Rift or Dar Narbugud. I hope you’ve found these suggestions helpful, although they are far from the be-all, end-all of raiding, and I’m sure there are things I’ve left out.
If you have any other advice for new raiders, please leave a comment below.
May your arrows fly true, your sword strike deep and your spirit never falter.
- On Thursday night, I posted a message to the OOC channel that said something like, “Are any Aussies or Kiwis on? I was wondering if the end of the world started at the International Date Line and was rolling towards the rest of us.” A minute or so past, and then someone replied, “Even if they are on, you realise that they’re going to keep quiet just to mess with you, right? ↩
- There’s also a bit of science to raiding, too. Natural ability will only get you so far, it also takes a lot of perseverance, patience and the self-discipline to be able to look at what you and your group are doing and then working to fix where you’re not so good. ↩
- It didn’t help that the elf at the end bugged out twice, so we had to fight the Balrog three times. ↩
- Unless everyone in the raid is so familiar with the group and the fights that you’re basically just farming the raid. ↩
- Yes, CSTM is a family-friendly blog, but every now and then I have to use a four-letter word like that. Sorry. ↩
- Just like Celine Dion’s heart. ↩
- It will be interesting to see how the new individual loot tables will affect raiding groups. ↩
- And if you are, don’t get ticked off when you got replaced with alternate #1 and the raid starts without you. ↩
- “Oh, crap!” is not the phrase I usually use, but as I mentioned in the note above this is a family-friendly blog. The words I actually use go something like, “Holy (bleeping) (bleep)! What the (bleep) was that? That mother(bleeper) just (bleeped) us up!” ↩
- That’s not to say that you won’t also be asked to use Bard’s Arrow or Clobber on a target, but for the most part, they brought you along to burn down mobs as quickly as you can. ↩
- I have seen this change mid-raid before, too; I was in an Orthanc group on my DPS rune-keeper as the main target assist. When both of our healers bought it and we were out of in-combat rezzes, I announced that I was switching attunement and the raid leader put up another assist. ↩
- And if they say, “Oh, I don’t use that,” I dismiss them and find someone else to fill their spot. ↩
- Apparently, since some people read too much into footnotes, I am compelled to clearly state that when I say, “People hate hunters”, I don’t mean that hunters should be rounded up and forced to wear a big scarlet H on their cloaks and warsteeds. It’s more like, “People hate hunters” like my granddaughter hates broccoli. ↩
- You’ll also get a deed, title and Worn Symbol of Celebrimbabbillybobbor. ↩
- Been there, bought the t-shirt. ↩
- Most of these people were ex-pats from WoW. ↩
- SWTOR, I’m talking to you. ↩
- Note that “good” does not necessarily mean “expensive”. There are a lot of good headphone/microphone sets out there in the $30 range, although you can pay a whole lot more, too. ↩
- To check whether your character is locked out of a raid, type “/raid locks” into the chat bar and you’ll see when the lock for a specific raid expires. ↩