Apr 06 2011

Forming A Raid Alliance: The Why & How

In my last blog entry on the current situation of raid recruiting, I proposed that guilds who are struggling to build a full roster should make alliances with other guilds for the purpose of raiding. Instead of having three or four guilds all with empty spots that prevent them from raiding, these guilds could join together and build two or three raids to work together so that everyone can keep raiding while still maintaining their individual identities.  Raiding alliances may be the future of small guild survival.

Creating and maintaining a raiding alliance can be a daunting task — but ultimately very rewarding — so I thought I would offer my insight from my experience from MCA.  I use MCA as my example because not only have I raided with them for years and am a member of the leadership committee, but because as my server’s oldest and largest raiding alliance, I think MCA’s system and policies have been refined over the years to become a truly successful model.   [further reading: The MCA wowpedia entry]

Why You Should Form A Raid Alliance

The biggest advantage of a raiding alliance in the current climate is that it allows small guilds who might not otherwise be able to to raid to do so again.  If your guild is unable to build a full roster but you want to maintain your guild tag rather than disbanding or folding into another guild, an alliance may be the only solution for you to keep raiding.

On a deeper level, a raiding alliance can fulfill a lot of needs, even for guilds that are mostly self-sufficient for their roster. One obvious example is that a raiding alliance gives you a place to find subs when there are absences, and houses a pool of people that you know and have played with before, and are usually of higher quality than random people one might pluck from /trade. These people may be alts of skilled players, mains who didn’t raid that week or who raided a different instance than your objective, or players who want to raid but cannot commit to a regular schedule. Sometimes they are great players who prefer to be unguilded, or even raiders from “hardcore” guilds that can no longer make their guild’s schedule but doesn’t want to leave their guild. A raiding alliance also benefits from shared resources and knowledge and the insight of dozens of experienced raiders.

Equality and Fairness

Setting up a raiding alliance that has the potential for success can be a very big project. You will need to attract like-minded players to join, establish a solid leadership, set universal policies and create a shared chat channel and webforums. The foundation upon which you build all this is equality and fairness to your members.

Standardised rules and universal policies are extremely important to raiding alliances on two fronts:  First and most importantly, it allows members to always know what they are getting into regardless of whose raid they join. It allows the information readily available to everyone and known in advance when building new raids or pulling subs.

Fairness is a critical component for success and you cannot have a happy raiding alliance without it. Having all members operate under the same rules and held to the same policies, regardless of guild affiliation, friendship, or reputation ensures this. As a result, it greatly limits drama (because who needs that) by putting on players on equal footing, making everything transparent and pre-established by the leadership.

Finally, when the rules are accessible and reasonable, you will gain loyalty from your members and trust from your subs.   When we have a stable roster in a guild, we might not care about keeping the people who sub for us happy (since you may never see them again), but in a raiding alliance — especially one that is built for the purpose of allowing small guilds to raid — it is extremely important that you make sure the non-guildies that run with you are treated equally and are happy. Those loyal subs are what will keep your raid together; we all support each other.

Getting Started

Your first step for building a raiding alliance is to approach other guilds on your server that seem to be “on the same page.”  Don’t just advertise in /trade or the official realm forums when you are first starting up.  Raiding alliances rely on a degree of exclusivity to be successful, otherwise they are no different than a random PuG.  You may choose to open up later once you have an established core of good raiders, but don’t do this during formation.

You need to find guilds that are very similar to your own in terms of skill and progress. Approaching guilds that have good players means that anytime you pull from channel, you know you have a quality player who approaches raiding in a similar way, even if you have never played with that individual before. You want skilled members who want the same things out of the game and don’t expect too little or too much of each other.

It is also very critical that the alliance has a shared attitude about raiding, progression and atmosphere. You can’t have a successful alliance where half of members want to raid 20 hours a week and the other half wants to raid six. You can’t field successful raids if you mix people who like to take things slow with raiders who are fast-paced and aggressive. You need players who have a similar mentality with regard to their seriousness, pace, and expectations.

Finally, you need to make sure you recruit guilds whose schedules can actually merge with yours. If your guild primarily raids weekends, you need to look for other weekend guilds. If you raid late evenings, seek out others that do the same. In the future, a successful raiding alliance may be able to field a variety of raids scheduled at all different times, but when you’re starting off, it’s more important to get your raids off the ground by finding people that can raid with you.

Leadership

Once you have some guilds on board, the next step is establishing your leadership. These will be the people that set the policies, quell any drama, and manage the alliance. Unlike a guild, a raiding alliance functions far better with an egalitarian committee of leadership rather than a hierarchy. It may be tempting to make your guild the “boss” since you started the alliance, but this approach will spell your demise in time. Instead, you should pick a handful of people (depending on the size of the alliance) that you think are capable of being reasonable and will look out for the interests of the group. The people who intend to lead raids are probably the best place to start, while guild leaders (unless they are one and the same) can sometimes be the worst since they are not only overwhelmed with other responsibilities but may not always be able to see past their own guild loyalties.

Each member may have a unique role (forum management, recruitment, etc), or they may split all jobs between them, but the important part is to value each person’s opinion as much as the next.

The leadership should establish a private area where they can set policies and discuss issues, and should set up a ratification plan for making suggestions become official rules. Allow the leadership to round table discussions, put them to vote, and gain a consensus with what works best for members.

In MCA, the leadership team is made up of the raid leaders, but also has included active players that put in a lot of time helping the alliance. We have found that a “set the policies, then hands off” approach has worked best for keeping our members happy and the atmosphere relaxed.

Chat Channel

Set up an in-game channel for members to join. This channel will be used to recruit for raids and fill spots due to absences. It can also be used to create heroic groups, legacy runs, trash farming groups, find crafters, and make Baradin Hold PuGs so players can get familiar with playing together. It also is a good avenue for social interaction to build friendships. Encourage members to join on their alts and also to invite raiding friends and good players they may encounter in PuGs. This has the advantage of not only being accessible even outside cities (unlike /trade), but is much more inclusive than a guild channel that can’t communicate with alts or allied guilds, but still exclusive enough to weed out the morons. This channel will be the foundation of your success.

It is very important to establish some ground rules for the channel regarding raid recruitment. You do not want people creating spur-of-the-moment PuGs for current content raids in your channel, as this will mean players who might have otherwise made viable subs will get locked out, hurting your legitimate raids later. In MCA, our channel rules permit only recruitment for established MCA raids (or new ones that are being built) for all current tier instances. Regularly scheduled PuGs are allowed and function like normal raids except with a fluid roster. Making legacy raids, five man groups, raids for prior tiers, or PuGs for things like Baradin Hold are permitted, and many members enjoy grouping together for these things. The one caveat is that when an established raid is doing invites for their regular run, no recruitment for anything may occur in channel until they either fill the raid or until it is 15 minutes past their usual start time.

You may also wish to set rules regarding language, spam and channel content, and even age restrictions, to prevent your raiding alliance channel from degenerating into /trade or making your members uncomfortable. Your guild may be used to bawdy jokes, but your new friends may not and you don’t want to scare them away.

Shared Forums

A shared webforum is also a necessity for a raiding alliance. It gives every member a place to meet, have access to rules and policies, and to socialise. Every member who wishes to raid with the alliance should be required to register with the forum, and individual raid leaders may request that their members check the forums on a regular basis for updates and details about their particular group.

The alliance leadership should give each raid its own subforum, and give the raid leader moderation privileges so they can create stickies, make polls and control the flow of discussion. Each subforum should include that information on its raid including roster, schedule, rules, leadership contact information and can be used to communicate absences, strategy ideals, or current goals.

MCA requires that all raids utilise the MCA forums for raid-related communication instead of their guild forums. This makes sure that all members of the alliance — including potential subs and new members — have equal access to rules, information, and communication without having to register at a guild’s personal website. It keeps all the data consolidated and available for all members.

The forums are also a necessary tool for building rosters and hammering out schedules among members who may not share a guild. It will also allow you to advertise new raids and raids that are seeking new members, drawing the attention not only of players who are seeking a raid, but those with alts who may wish to help out.

Finally, shared forums bring the benefit of inter-raid communications. It gives you a place to share strategies, resources and help one another. Your alliance may choose to let other members know when they got a rare in-demand crafting pattern, post a useful macro or to ask advice on that final end boss.

Loot Policy

The next critical policy your leadership must set is the loot rules. The loot policy for a raiding alliance should either be a standardised system used by every raid in the alliance, or there should be a requirement that each raid to publicly post its rules in advance so that everyone may have access to them and to prevent spur of the moment changes. If you use a points-based system like DKP, the points should be unique to each raid (not universal across the alliance) and they should be posted for fairness.

A very important factor to consider when setting up your raiding alliance’s loot policy is sub raiders. Although it seems counter intuitive, it is necessary for your raid’s success to institute a policy that is at least somewhat favourable to subs. If subs do not have a chance at loot, they will not raid with you, and a raiding alliance — more than anything else — relies on these players to keep raids running in times of player shortages. Your policy does not need to shower these players in loot, but they need at least a chance to benefit. Remember, they are helping you out by being there. Consider implementing a policy that allows them to win loot, but limits them to one item a night, or something that allows them to roll but permits reserved raiders to lock them out on critical pieces.

The simplest system, and the one most of MCA uses today, is a simple need/greed with minor limitations or custom tweaks. In my raid, for example, every reserved player is allowed to win one item by ‘need’ a night, but greed rolls are unlimited. Subs are allowed to roll ‘greed’ on anything they will use but can always be locked out by a reserved player’s ‘need roll.’  Special loot items may be established ahead of time to be separate from these rules (fun items, tier tokens, etc).

Your alliance will also need to set up a universal system for handling BoE drops. Unlike a guild, which may use these to fund their guild bank, these items are earned by a multi-guild roster with no clear way to share the bounty. You may choose to open roll these among members to do as they desire, or you may choose to distribute them like regular loot to the characters that will use them. You might even offer to share them with other raids in the alliance, or to sell them and distribute the profit equally among all members who were present at the time of the drop.

In MCA, we allow people to request BoEs for personal use (raiding characters only) provided they equip them to prevent selling. If no one present in the raid wants to use the BoEs, we allow other MCA raids to request them for their members (sometimes we trade if they have a BoE we want and vice versa). If they are unneeded within the alliance, the BoE is sold and the profit goes to the raid members.

Consider also how you will distribute legendary weapons, crafting patterns and materials, and raid gold.  You may choose to provide maelstrom crystals from sharded gear for your raiders free-of-charge. This is not only a nice perk for your members, but also encourages people to use the best enchants (which in turn helps your raid). If your raid is financially successful, you may also choose to distribute gold to your members or give people a repair “allowance.”  You may handle these things on a per-raid basis, or you might require all your raids to pool their crystals and other resources so that all raiding members may request them.

My final word of advice in this area is that I highly recommend against using loot council in a raiding alliance. Loot council can be a great system when used among a tight team, but it is a nightmare and a drama magnet when used with PuGs and players outside your guild. In the MCA, the only time loot council is ever utilised is for legendaries, to ensure they stay within the alliance, and this policy is established in advance and made clear to all members.

Roster & Attendance Policy

In a guild, it is always clear who has priority on a raid spot when inviting players from outside of the guild: your guildmates, of course. However, things are not this simple in a raiding alliance, both due to a multi-guild roster and the fairness requirements. Because of this, it is necessary to establish an attendance policy to allow people to “earn” their spot in the raid.

The policy should be clear how many raids need to be attended in order to be considered a regular, and should set rules regarding finding subs for players who will be late or absent. For fairness, it should be accepted that once a spot in the raid has been filed for the night (either because a player was late, missing, or failed to accept their invite), their sub cannot be removed from the raid should the original raider show up later or should a more “desirable” option log in (like a guildmate), unless you establish that plan with their replacement ahead of time. Sub raiders should only be removed from the raid for behavioural (or connection-related) reasons.

In MCA, attendance of four out of every six raids is required to earn and maintain reserved status. However, just meeting this requirement does not automatically grant a person reserved status; the final say is always with the individual raid leader. A raider leader may choose to keep a spot open because they need a particular class for balance, or because a regular raider is expected to return after an extended absence or for a number of other reasons. However, raid leaders must publish their reserved roster on their subforum so raiders players know where they stand in the raid. This is to prevent a raider from subbing for a number of months without knowing they are not considered reserved, and then being replaced unexpectantly by someone’s guildmate or friend. However, raid leaders should be aware that if they hold a spot for too long without offering the player a reserved spot, that that member may lose interest in the raid and they may lose the player they have been gearing and training for weeks.

Lastly, it is important to consider that an 80% guild roster can earn guilds achievements and experience and because of this, lot of guilds will try to maintain this ratio even in a raiding alliance. It is important that these raids be allowed to do so, however it is paramount that these raids still understand the premise of equality among members. Your leadership must establish policies to make sure that the other 20% of the raid is treated equally, with equal access to loot, funds and other advantages you offer to your raid membership.

Raider Responsibility Policy

Another universal policy you may wish to establish is regarding what things each raider is individually responsible for. In a raiding alliance, this usually extends far beyond what might be provided by a guild raid with a shared bank.

If each raider is expected to bring their own food, flasks, reagents, and gold for repairs, this should be clarified in the form of official policy. The rules should also be explicit if raiders are expected to keep their gear enchanted and gemmed proactively and on their own dime. Consider unique situations like resistance gear, too.  If a raider is expected to maintain the spec, talents and glyphs that he or she signed up with (you might never think that your main tank would show up one day spec’d Retribution and demand to DPS, but it can happen!) or if a raider is expected to change talents or roles at the demand of the raid leader, this should also be set as official policy.

These rules can be set alliance-wide or by each individual raid. If each raid takes its own approach, you should require the raid leader to post their policy on their sub forums.

Summary

The basic message your small guild should take from all of this is:

• Approach guilds with similar skills, attitude and schedule to raid together.
• Use a shared chat channel and web forums for recruiting and communication.
• Treat all members equally, regardless of guild affiliation.
• Reward subs and encourage them to keep raiding with you.
• Establish standardised rules and policies for all raids to follow.

If you think your guild or server can benefit from a raiding alliance, don’t wait for someone else to start one.  Get out there and work with friendly guilds to make it happen!  Good luck!

2 Comments

  • By Matticus, April 8 2011 @ 09:16

    Ahhhh raiding alliances. One of the things I’ve never experienced nor had the pleasure of setting up. I’ve done the occassional joint raid with 1 or 2 other guilds before, but not on a consistent scale.

    Guild rep and guild XP pretty much killed it since there will be little contributions if the raid contains less than the 80% required. But hey, if you don’t care as much about it, I think raiding alliances are the way to go at least to progress and see content.

  • By Tziva, April 8 2011 @ 09:29

    With the new guild system, alliances are certainly a lot less desirable than ever before because you won’t benefit from any of the new guild group features. Paradoxically, though, I also think they’ve become a lot more necessary.

    Totally anecdotal, but my experience has been that many small guilds on average-progression servers are not raiding at all because they can’t recruit enough to fill a roster, in which case they are not benefiting from the new system either. The ideal solution would be to disband or merge into other guilds to consolidate members so instead of fifty guilds with partial rosters, there would be twenty with full ones… but obviously, a lot of players are not interested in losing their guild tag or surrendering their guild entity or they would have already done so.

    In that context, the idea of making alliances is a last chance to save your guild. Sure, you miss out on a ton of guild perks but I think a lot of players out there might still find it advantageous if it means they actually get to raid again.

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