Bridging the 10 to 25 Gap

In the post on guild mergers, I talked a little about what to do when you’re trying to expand from a 10 person to 25 person guild.  Today, I’d like to expand on that a bit outside of the context of mergers or alliances (the latter of which will be covered in a future post).  Hopefully this one won’t turn into an opus (I honestly didn’t expect the last few to run so long, that was just how they looked when I finished writing).

So, you’ve got a 10 person guild.  Perhaps you started it with a few friends, perhaps it was a group of former guild members who left your old guild at the same time, or perhaps you just stuck it out in the trade channel until you had enough people to run a regular 10 person raid.  You may be happy with the situation, but a few of your guild members are making noise about the better loot that they want out of the 25 person raids.  You’re not certain, but you suspect that the sentiment is a common one – people want to run what they perceive to be the “best” content, and for many people that means 25 man raids.

Some practical ideas on how to proceed then:

Is This a Good Idea?

First, make sure the sentiment is commonly held.  It may just be one person rabble-rousing, and you may be better encouraging them to seek a guild that is running 25 person content rather than try to push the guild into what can be a tumultuous period in its life.

There are two points to remember here: Blizzard has decided, at least in WotLK, that 25 person content gives one tier better loot than 10 person content.  They have not, however committed to continuing to do so in Cataclysm.  Remember than the 10/25 versions of every raid were a bit of an experiment for Blizzard.  I think everyone will agree that the experiment has been been successful on the whole, but the item level spread could do with some improvement.  We might see changes to the way the 10/25 split is handled in Cataclysm.

The second point is to remind people that a boss with more HP and damage numbers doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a harder encounter.  Does it feel more epic?  Sure.  But in terms of raw difficulty, many 10 person encounters are harder.  You can’t recover from the loss of a healer (especially if you’re only using two).  You may not have the full complement of buffs and debuffs to boost your DPS.  For a good while after WotLK released, Sartharion-3D was considered to be significantly harder on 10 than on 25.  I know a former guildie who is more proud of his “of the Nightfall” title than “Twilight Vanquisher”.

What’s driving your members to raid?  Are they in it for the loot, or for the challenge of the fights and the feeling that comes from defeating an encounter after several weeks of refining strategy and execution?  I am more proud of what my guild accomplished in Blackwing Lair (Razorgore to Nefarian in six weeks) back in patch 1.9 than I am of my experience clearing WotLK Naxxramas in three weeks.  The raid size isn’t the point here – it was learning to master things like taunt rotations on the drakes, healing teams on Chromaggus and the periodic loss of a role on Nefarian.  These were new concepts to people used to steamrolling through Molten Core, and to get together with a group of people and overcome them was very rewarding.

I haven’t really felt that same level of accomplishment since (though I am proud of what my guilds have done in WotLK).  Then again, I’ve never been in a guild that pushed hard mode content.

You may find that what people are really craving is that feeling of accomplishment rather than the high item level loot.  When I inspect someone and see item level 239 items (which can only be found in Ulduar-25 hard mode), I’m impressed moreso than people wearing item level 245 (easily obtained from Trial of the Crusader on normal).  If so, perhaps now is the time to revisit the hard modes you didn’t complete.  The extreme hard modes from older content tiers are still something to be proud of beating (though obviously less so the further you get into ICC).

Ways To Get There

For now though, let’s assume that you’ve settled on moving from 10 to 25 content and you want to make the transition as smooth as possible.  I’ll assume you’re starting out with about 12 regular raiders, and that you haven’t cleared many 10 person hard modes.   Your options are:

Outsider Loot

With all but the first of these options, at some point you are going to reach a magic number (probably 18 or 20) where you feel comfortable doing a 25 person guild run, filling in a small number of spaces with PUGs.  Before you do that (or if you choose the first option), you should review how fairly your loot system treats outsiders.

If you revert to a non-stateful loot system (i.e. /roll) while building your roster, then your runs aren’t really serving the needs of the guild – to build a team that learns to play together and to gear those people up.  You need to continue to meet this goal while making the run attractive to outsiders.

To make my runs attractive to PUGs, I’ve found that using a system where priority is given to guild mainspec followed by outsider mainspec followed by any offspec works fairly well, but only on farm content.  Your members use the guild loot system, and the outsiders use /roll (if more than one declare interest).  The outsiders are likely to get an upgrade or two, assuming that your members will be passing on much of the loot.

Make sure you explain the loot rules up front, and be prepared for people who don’t like the rules to leave.  Better that they do before you get started than get into an argument when loot does drop.

While your members are in the raid as part of a larger plan (learning the ins and outs of 25 person raiding), PUGs will be there just for the loot, so you can’t expect them to join the run without any expectation of reward.  If you’re lucky, you may find a few friends of your members whose guilds are no longer running the content and are happy to help out, but this will be the exception rather than the rule.

The gear your 10 person raids have reasonable access to will determine the best raid to do on 25 person mode.  If you raiders have access to item level 251 gear (ICC-10), then you can run ToC-25 normal, which rewards item level 245.  This should result in a fair number of passes on gear by your members, making them available to outsiders.  If you hadn’t yet started ICC-10, but had done ToC-10, then the PUGs might never see a drop because anything that dropped on 25 person would be better than what your raiders have access to.

Keeping People Happy Along the Way

While you’re building up to the magic number, your primary concern is going to be to keep your members happy, which gets harder and harder as the number of people you have to sit grows.  You may be tempted to create a second 10 person team once you have 16 people, filling two spots on each with PUGs.  This variant shares all the problems I’ve outlined above, but adds the complexity of balancing the composition of multiple teams.  In order to get the balance right, you may need to have people swap to alts, which may limit the content you can do.  Rather than do this at 16 members, I’d suggest just continuing to push to the 18 or 20 mark where you can start doing guild runs supplemented by PUGs.

So what do you do with the people who you can’t offer a raid spot to?  You can build a schedule where everyone is asked to sit out one raid a week.  This gives people a night when they don’t have to log on if they don’t want to, but makes you more dependant on the scheduled people showing up consistently.  If you only have a few extra people, you may not sit everyone once a week.  Make sure that you organize your sitting schedule over a longer period, so that the same person isn’t being left out two weeks in a row.

Depending on your raid composition, some players may never be asked to sit out (typically tanks and healers).  Even though it would be impossible for anyone to raid without a tank, this still may create some hard feelings from people who are asked to sit.  Address this early.  It should be clear that this is a restriction driven by the nature of the game rather than preferential treatment of one member, but some people need to be reminded.

A variant of the sitting schedule is to try to craft runs that maximize people’s chances at getting the loot they want.  Have everyone list three to five items that they still need from 10 person content.  Then try to build raid groups that maximize the chances that a person will be present for a boss who drops something on their list.  This is a huge amount of work for a raid leader, but can make members happy as it keeps them out of content that they have no interest in running.

Standby Rewards

If you go with a schedule that swaps people in on a fight-by-fight basis (either for hard modes or the loot wish list), you should look at your standby loot rules.  Many loot systems give less reward for people on standby because they are free to do other things while waiting to get into the raid, and it would be unfair for them to get both personal rewards and full raid standby rewards at the same time.

This makes sense when your standby members are there just in case someone has to leave early, or doesn’t show up, or has network problems.  But if you are asking people to be ready to jump into a raid at a moment’s notice, you need to restrict what they can do on standby.  Daily quests are fine, but running heroics probably isn’t.  Even the fastest heroic takes 15 minutes to complete, and if you have someone drop group at the start of the run, the entire thing can take upwards of 30 minutes.

While you can try to give advance notice (“we just downed Jaraxxus, we’ll be at the Twins in 15 minutes so be ready to come in”), eventually you’re going to need someone who is busy in a heroic.  Now you have to decide whether to wait for them to finish their run, or have them drop group, affecting four other people and possibly impacting your reputation.

One solution is to ask people to only do full guild run heroics, where someone dropping out for the good of the guild is acceptable to the other group members.  But this supposes that you have five people on standby (and that those form a viable heroic group), which won’t always be the case.

I prefer to boost standby rewards and ask people not to do anything that they can’t stop doing with 5 minutes notice.  Decide who is on “designated standby” for the night and give the same DKP / EP / Karma points to them as to the rest of the raid. Yes, they’re getting a double reward in some respects, but if you do your schedule correctly then most everyone will be in the same position in the future, so it all balances out.

Guild Leaders, have you had to bridge this gap?  What methods did you use, and how effective were they?  How quickly did you get from 10 to 25 person content, and did you lose anyone who was impatient along the way?  Or did you find some other way to keep everyone interested?

Until Next Time