Artwork by Justin Currie
Checks and BalancesOn November 13th, 2008, nerds the world over were greeted to the sounds of Uilleann pipes as their zeppelins and ships brought them to the ice-touched continent of Northrend. Alliance and Horde rushed out of their respective transport crafts, weapons in-hand and guild-chat ablaze with new life, as they explored the frozen north. Howling Fjord, a forest playing home to the giant Vrykul, viking-themed humanoids that extended their occupation north into the Grizzly Hills. Borean Tundra, a barren and unexciting valley playing host to the Lich King's various minions, as well as the now-hostile blue dragonflight; many players would come to refer to this zone as boring tundra. Dragonblight, a glacier-thick icy boneyard that the dragonkind inhabit at the end of their lives. Zul'Drak, home to the drakkari ice trolls and which now bore the undead stench of the Lich King's grasp. Remnants of Night Elf history lay exposed in the sparse brush of Crystalsong Forest. Looking up from the forest revealed the floating city of Dalaran. The Storm Peaks, frigid mountains climbing higher than any peaks previous in WoW, were a mountain range hiding mysteries of the origins of life on Azeroth -- clues to the Titans influence on the creation of the world (further uncovered in the unusually temperate Sholazar Basin). The Storm Peaks were also home to a dark secret trapped deep below the dwarven city of Ulduar. And of course, Icecrown -- the final zone in which Arthas himself had amassed millions of undead scourge, now bent to his will, as he surveyed our arrival from atop Icecrown Citadel.
Northrend was nothing short of epic.
Descendants of Draenor once again became a flurry of activity. Day by day, we logged on, greeted each other, and continued to quest, explore, and level to 80. I was well behind most other players, since Death Knights began their life in WoW at 55; I was fine with playing catch-up. Besides, I wanted the extra time to learn my class, get comfortable with the new mechanics of runes and runic power, and hoped to eventually consider myself an expert in the class. Meanwhile, I harassed the officers on a daily basis. How are thing progressing? Are you pinging players to update the Raid Slot Template? Is there anything we need more or less of? The officers responded with equal enthusiasm. The Raid Slot Template continued to see activity as people decided what role was best for them. I kept tabs on what we needed, and tailored my recruitment accordingly. As per my new rules, all officers were directed to guide new recruitment to me. If people wanted to get a foot in the DoD door, I'd have them fill out an application. After receiving the application via email, if it passed an initial screen, I'd set up a time to meet in Ventrilo, to have a more personable interview. This process worked extremely well: 9 times out of 10, I was able to turn away people right at the app process from not paying attention to the application requirements; if they couldn't read a simple "how to apply" post, I reasoned, what chance would they have in paying attention during raids?
|The new DoD public / private tags in effect|
(phone numbers are blacked out),
The New Crew
The roster grew, both from old faces returning, and from new recruits passing the audit. Familiar names we welcomed back included Kragnl, one of my original earlocks from the 40-Man Vanilla days, who had taken time off during The Burning Crusade. He was back and ready to raid once again, this time on his druid, Beercow. The Shaman brothers Gunsmokeco and Deathonwing returned, ready to find their place in progression, as did Wematanye and Mcflurrie. Larada, one of our TBC progression Hunters, whom was now acting as hunter officer, was back for more, as well as the warriors Jungard and Abrinis. Even Ekasra returned, now as the warlock Nestonia, having taken my advice to switch out of healing. And, one of the longest running mages in the guild, the infamous Turtleman, also returned to our roster, his love of doing ridiculous amounts of damage was rivaled only by his love of pizza and tacos.
Joining these vets were new faces: Omaric, a warrior who snuck in at the tail end of TBC, yearning for a spot in progression, demonstrated spectacular expertise with his class, and had a knack for keeping the guild amused in Vent with his many vocal impressions. Also joining us near the end of TBC was Lix the resto druid, who came to us by way of my former officer Annihilation; they had PvP'd together extensively and Lix wished to contribute more to raiding. Lix's hubby, Vrykolakas the warlock, would join the guild three months later. I acquired Riskers the start of October, a friendly, well-played rogue who would soon earn the nickname "Seňor Riskers". Also new to the roster was Arterea the priest, who was welcomed into the DoD community and playfully referred to as "The Blind Healer", who managed to play exceptionally well, despite his tendency to run around in random directions. We also welcomed Robmelendez, a warlock who pushed out damage that rivaled even Eaca's, earning him the nickname "Aggromelendez". The list of new names grew and grew.
But it was the curious application from an ex-hardcore raider that got most of my attention. His experience surpassed our own: He'd had previous experience leading raids in other guilds, and was himself a part of a guild that had achieved the pièce de résistance of TBC raiding: Kil'jaeden the Deceiver, final boss of The Sunwell Plateau. Sunwell's extreme difficulty curve was comparable to that of Naxxramas 40; an instance we only carved a fraction out of. Anyone who had cleared that content had my instant respect. But I often wondered, why us? Wouldn't that be a step backwards? As it would turn out, he didn't care about our progression at all; it was the respectful professionalism demonstrated to him by a guildy during a random 5-man dungeon that impressed him enough to apply. We hit it off immediately in the interview process. He was Canadian, so was I. He had a passion for getting raid content cleared; I was of the same mindset. He bore the casualties and war stories from raids past, I had my own bruises and scars to brag about. It was clear in my mind I wanted him on-board. His only request was to bring along his RL friend; I obliged. Thusly, Descendants of Draenor became home to two additional players: Cheeseus the rogue and Sixfold the druid.
|The raid signup sheet for Dec. 7, 2008.|
DoD begins WotLK PvE
No More Excuses
With the roster exploding from both returning players and brand new faces, I worked to streamline the process of getting the guild to know one another. Our roots grew out of a family-based mindset, and I wanted that to continue. To encourage and facilitate communication between these old and new guildies, I instituted a simple change to the in-game guild listing. Previously, public and private tags maintained no consistency or held any function; officers would sometimes put random jokes in people's tags, and sometimes even make underhanded "inside" jokes for only the officers to see in the private tags. Effective at the start of WotLK, I wiped all the public and private tags clean, and filled them out using the following system:
- A player's main character would read "Main"
- A player's alternate character or would read "Alt of XX", where XX had to map to an existing character in the guild list.
- If a player was invited as a social app, a friend of a friend, this would read "Social of XX", where XX was another Main in the guild listing. This tied responsibility back to the inviter; if the person you ended up bringing into DoD was a douchebag -- you would have to answer for it.
- If a player was a Raider (or intending to be one), their phone number would be entered here. This allowed the officers to be able to contact a player in an emergency, thus preventing a raid from stalling. Additionally, it gave them direction on whom they should start with: players with verified working contact numbers in their private note had obviously given a shit about raiding in the past, and therefore, should be the most appropriate to go to when fires needed to be put out.
Once these updated guild notes were in place, I was able to point players to the roster in order to figure out the answers to questions like "Hey, is XX on?" Now, the guild was empowered to check on their own. Strike one thing off the administration list. When it came time to start raiding, what if we had a no-show? What if someone was stuck in traffic, or perhaps we lost connectivity with them mid-raid? Who would we call to replace them in a pinch? The officers had the tools they needed to pop open the roster, scan the list, find appropriate replacements, and phone or text them immediately. The admin load continued to lighten.
When the day finally arrived that we had a large enough roster to move forward with, I circled back with the officers, and started plugging a schedule into our signup sheet. Meanwhile, the officers assisted me in vetting these players. We would check their gear, run 5-Man heroics with them, get a feel for their eligibility into progression. Once comfortable, the Guildy was promoted to Raider, and directed to the signup sheet. I also began posting initial information regarding the new raids: Obsidian Sanctum, Eye of Eternity, and our old favorite, Naxxramas...now re-designed to favor a 25-Man sized raid. I kept the Raiders honest by invoking a new feature I plugged into our forums: raid strategy posts were flagged as required reading; the forums would physically prevent you from doing anything else until you read the topic. No longer would I have to listen to the excuse of "Oh, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to stand in the fire!" -- a Guildy wouldn't be able to sign up for raids unless their account had been promoted to Raider...and once they were a Raider, the forums would ensure they saw required reading posts.
In short, you wouldn't even be considered for a raid rotation unless you were a Raider, and by being a Raider, I knew definitively that you had seen our raid strategy posts. Excuses were no longer an option. It was time for the progression team to be accountable for themselves.
I surveyed the roster, full of excited (and vetted!) Raiders, and felt the adrenaline pumping. It was official: We had a start date etched in stone, had a verified, qualified team to field the raid, and the excitement of new PvE content awaiting us.
There was just one problem: we had no raid leader.