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R M's Guide to Team Leadership

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I hardly even noticed when it started to happen. I just did the same thing I always did, and suddenly I started getting tells from prior teammates about how much they liked my leadership style, or how they always leveled on my teams, could I please invite them if I was forming one, and so on. This startled me, because I was doing just the same things I always had been—the sorts of things that would lead to gaining XP rather than debt. I was just doing them for the whole team, instead of myself alone. But somehow, this ended up being seen by the rest of the team as "good leadership."

I am not sure how much of this I can impart in this guide. A lot of it is just a question of good judgment, and that only comes with experience. But I can at least fill in the stuff that fits around that judgment to make teams go easier.

There are some people who just are not the leader type. There's nothing wrong with that, and just reading this guide will probably not magically transform them into leaders. So, if they have friends who are the leader type, they should make sure those friends read this guide instead.

As I was writing this guide, I noticed that I ended up speaking in two voices. When I am making general suggestions, I say things like "You should do this and that." But I realized as I was writing down specific things that I do, it just does not sound right for me to tell you to do them. So, instead, I will just lay them out, and you can follow my example, or find your own ways that work better.

Enjoy the guide.

Robotech Master 18:34, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

I have gone through and updated the guide to take into account changes made since it was originally posted—most notably super-sidekicking, color-coded /search, and inherent Fitness. As far as I know, it should now be considered fully up-to-date as of this posting—at least until the next time some major change breaks something again.

Robotech Master 03:13, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

Laying the Groundwork

This section will talk about things you should do or know before you ever hit that /search button. These tips lay the groundwork for a successful leading experience for you, and following experience for your teammates.

Know What The Hell You Are Doing

First and most important to any team leading experience: the leader should know what the hell he is doing. Know how the game is played, what strategies are effective in any given situation, and how to play your own archetype effectively. Leaders who do not know what the hell they are doing have probably been responsible for sinking more pick-up groups than any other single factor. If you do not know what the hell you are doing, you have no business leading a team. Show this guide to some friend who does, and let him do the leading.

How can you tell whether you know what the hell you are doing? You should already have a pretty good idea, if you are honest with yourself. One possible rule of thumb could be that if you are able to solo your characters (or at the least, "crunchy" characters like Tankers or Scrappers) at level +2 difficulty once you've gotten SOs and get more XP than debt, you probably know what the hell you are doing. In the end, the final judgment is up to you.

Know Everybody's Job

You should know what all the archetypes do, what they are good for—at least in general. You cannot play chess if you do not know how the pieces move, and you cannot run a team without knowing what all its members can do. You can get that knowledge by playing the characters yourself (I would personally suggest playing one or more of every AT into at least the late 20s or early 30s), or by teaming with lots of them and watching how they do what they do. Also, read a lot of guides. Knowing what you've got is critical to figuring out how to use it.

Of Leaders and Archetypes

If you are an experienced leader, it should not make much difference which archetype you are playing. If you clearly know what you are doing, and people will listen to you and follow your suggestions, you can run the team from whatever class you are playing at the moment.

That being said, some people feel that it is easiest to "lead from the front," as the team's meatshield. That would usually be a Tanker in City of Heroes, or a Brute or Mastermind (they seem to split the difference) in City of Villains. In my experience, it is easier to keep the rest of the team safe when you are the one responsible for initiating the encounters. Part of this is due to the importance of having a good Tanker, who knows how to grab and keep aggro away from the rest of the team. On a pick-up group, it is all too easy to end up with a misbuilt Tanker who skipped some of his class's core powers or does not know the first thing about drawing enemies' attention; if you are the Tanker yourself (and know what the hell you are doing), you will not have that problem.

Of course, it is not as if you are going to make another character expressly for the purpose of leading teams (unless you have altitis even worse than I do), but if you have one already and are new to team leading, you might try starting out with that one.

Forming the Team

In order for you to lead a team, you first must either put the team together or come to the leadership of an existing one. This section covers the most productive ways to do that.

Schmoozing an Existing Team

Before I cover forming your own team, I want to mention that one way to get to be the leader of a team is to be made the leader of a pre-existing team. This most often happens through attrition: you accept an invitation to a group and hang around for a couple of hours, and gradually the more senior people drop off and the star passes to you.

But it can sometimes happen through your own actions. it is a funny quirk of human nature that if someone in a group starts acting like a leader, a lot of the time the other people in the group will start following him.

Now I am not suggesting that you infiltrate other leaders' groups and undermine their authority. If there is a leader and he is acting as a leader, then you should listen to him, even if he does not do things the way you normally do. Just because someone is doing something differently than you would does not mean he is wrong; there are multiple successful ways to do much of the content in this game. Sometimes other leaders will show you new ways of doing things that are even better than the ways you usually do them. Furthermore, if you really have the itch to lead, it is much easier and more satisfying to put your own team together from scratch.

But there are those pick-up groups out there, I am sure we have all been on at least one, where the other people on the team were all great people but leadership was totally not there, and people would run off in all directions and get repeatedly wiped. Those are the times when a good would-be leader should speak up and take charge—not by bossing people around, as they do not like that (more on that in a few sections), but by making reasonable suggestions. For instance,

"If everybody stands around this corner and waits for my 'ready,' I can bunch those mobs up here and get them good and mad at me so the rest of you can attack more safely."

If it works, then before long you will have the rest of the team listening to your suggestions. You may be given the star (especially if you ask for it after you have proven you are a decent leader), but it does not really matter. The person with the star only invites or kicks people and sets the mission; the person to whom the other team members listen is the true "leader."

If people are not inclined to listen to you, then just back off and keep your suggestions to yourself. It may be that the rest of the team has different ideas about about the way things should be done—and as I said above, different ideas are not necessarily wrong ones. The more you push, the worse you will look to the rest of the team.

But as I have said, it is much more satisfying to build your own team from scratch. So the rest of these instructions will tell you how to do exactly that.

The /Search is On

The first step in forming a team is to find other members for that team. This became a lot easier after later updates to the game added a global /LFG channel, and that should definitely be the first place you look. Be sure to indicate if your team is blueside or redside, what the preferred (or required, in the case of TFs) level is, and any other information that is relevant. You can frequently form a complete team with /LFG without any other method being required.

But if /LFG doesn't do it, your other main tool will be /search. Of course, you can also broadcast for invitees on /broadcast or /request, or in global channels related to what you are doing (server badge channels are good places to advertise Task Forces, for example), but /search will allow you to target your request more specifically.

Note that you will have to /search not only to form your team in the beginning, but also to replace team members who drop out later on. In this case, you should be sure to tell your remaining teammates, "Just a moment, I'm filling the team back up," so they will understand why you are waiting.

What to Look For

The first thing to think about when putting your team together is what classes and levels you want.

For what classes, generally you want anything and everything that is available. The "scissors, paper, stone" nature of City of Heroes' archetypes means that you cannot go wrong with just about any combination of characters, as long as there is a reasonable balance between damage-dealers and support types. Too few support types means the damage-dealers take too much damage. (Oddly enough, the converse is not necessarily true; I am given to understand that all-Defender or Controller teams can be remarkably effective.) As relatively few characters will be looking for a group in the right level range, you will generally be lucky just to get a full team.

However, it is still a good idea to try to make sure that your team is at least somewhat balanced. If you find yourself ending up with too many of a particular class or type, you may want to focus more specifically on the classes you do not have. It may even be necessary to ask some people who are not flagged as looking for group to see if they would be willing to join you.

Since the advent of "Super Sidekicking", you no longer have to worry about what level enemies will be relative to the members of the team you invite—they'll all fight at the level of the mission-holder. It's still a good idea to invite higher-level players if you can, and if you're doing something you think they might find interesting—higher-level characters get access to powers up to +5 levels over the level they're exemplared down to, which means they'll bring some additional effectiveness to your team if they join you.

So now it is time to hit /search and see what we get.

The Finer Points of /Search

When I look for people to form a team, first I check my /friends lists, both global and character. (More on those in a few sections.) After that, it is time to dive into /search.

What I do first is set the search window to the level range I want. (This is less important now, with the advent of "super sidekicking"—any level will fight at my level's effectiveness, or that of the person who owns the mission. But there are some things high-level characters will be more interested in than others.)

Then I fill in the radio buttons for what kind of LFG I want. For general missioning, I pick Any, Missions, and Patrol. (I have no idea what the heck "Patrol" is supposed to mean in the LFG context. Looking specifically for missions where you fly around and click on pay phones? I don't think so. But that probably means anyone who picks it does not know either, so they are worth a shot anyway.) For Task Forces, I will add to that the Task Force and Trial settings (since most Trials are also Task Forces). Then I hit the search button and see who comes up.

But sometimes there just are not enough people looking for group, or else I need a specific archetype to balance the team. In that case, I will uncheck all the LFG options and instead look for everyone logged in of that specific archetype in that particular level range. (You need to search by one AT at a time when searching on everybody, even within a specified level range, or else you will get more than 50 names and truncated results.) Then I hit the /search button and see who is around and not on a team. Even if they are not set to looking for a group, they might be willing to join one if asked politely.

/Search is Color Coded

Speaking of which, here is an important fact about the /search panel that may not be obvious at first: /search will tell you whether or not the listed characters are in a team.

Type /search and look at the results. You'll likely notice, if you're in a zone that actually has a number of people in it, that the results are coded in different colors. Issue 18 brought this change, adding a lot more granularity to the search—for those who can actually remember what the colors mean, at least. Here is the explanation, shamelessly ganked from the Issue 18 page of this wiki:

  • Jade green: Same team as you
  • Red: They have 'not looking for group' set
  • Yellow: They can't be invited to team with you because they're on a mission map or in an arena match (although they can be asked if they'd like to emerge from the mission…)
  • Orange: They're the opposite faction to you and not on a mixed team, so you have to go to their map to team with them
  • Violet: They're the leader of a team with fewer than 8 people on it
  • Pale blue: They're not on a team and you can invite them
  • Green/grey: They're on a team but not the leader, so you can't invite them and they can't invite you

Needless to say, you should concentrate on inviting the pale blue people—though on the other hand, if you'd like to be on but not lead a team, /tells to those in purple might go amiss.

Trust me; confine your looking to the people who are not already on teams. That way you do not waste both your time and theirs.

What's in a Name (or a Search Message)

A number of people have made the case that it is best to examine the name and search message of a given character before inviting him. If the character has been "genericed," or his name or search are in l33tsp33k, or he is looking for or offering to powerlevel, or if things otherwise just seem dodgy in general, these may be signs that it is best to leave that person alone. Someone who makes poor decisions in those areas may have made poor decisions in others—such as choice of powers and slotting, or even in learning how to play his class at all. It may also bespeak a bad attitude in general.

There may be many l33tsp33kers out there who are perfectly decent, team-oriented players—but it seems more likely that these are the exception that proves the rule. Unless you are really hard up for teammates, it is probably better not to risk it.

That Sounds Inviting

Once you locate some likely prospects, it is time to see if they will be willing to join you. However, even if their LFG flag is set, it is not necessarily a good idea to just click "invite."

Millions of pixels have lost their lives in the argument over whether it is all right to click "invite" without asking, if the LFG flag is on. There are many people who consider an invitation without asking to be an unwelcome "blind invite" even if they are tagged as looking for group. Others claim that a "blind invite" can only be one that is sent to someone who is not flagged as looking for group, because someone with the LFG flag on is by definition expecting an invitation.

I used to belong to the latter camp, feeling that if people did not want to be invited to a team, they should not have their LFG flag set. However, in the end I realized that attitude was probably costing me more teammates than it was getting me, so I changed my ways. It really does not take much time or effort to send a query, especially if you use the method I outline below. There is no way of telling who does and who does not take kindly to blind invitations (not everybody puts his preference in his search message), so you might as well err on the side of caution.

And there are other reasons than just politeness to ask before inviting. If you ask, you can let them know what kind, level, difficulty, and location of missions you are doing, so they have a better basis for deciding if they want to join you. They will appreciate that, and that little bit of extra courtesy might make all the difference if they are on the fence about joining your team. And you should certainly never blindly invite someone who does not have the looking for group flag set.

It is easy to ask multiple people to join. What you do is click on the name of the first person you want to ask, then hit the comma on your keyboard. This brings up a /tell $target prompt so you can type your message. After you have typed it and hit enter, click on the next person you want to invite, hit Control-P to bring the message up again, and hit enter again to send the message to this new target. (You will not even have to change the name—it will still be $target, which City of Heroes automatically translates to the character whose name you have selected.) Repeat as often as necessary. Best search colors to ask are pale blue (not on a team) and gold (inside a mission and possibly willing to come out and join you).

Here are some good examples of the kind of message you could send:

"We are doing L33/+2 diff missions in Croatoa. Would you care to join us?"
"Would you be interested in a Katie Hannon Task Force? (L30+, 1 hour or less for completion)"

You can even target them to specific archetypes:

"I am putting together a Sky Raiders respec, Level 33/+2 diff. We could really use a Defender on our team, can you help?"

You may also find it helpful to make your message more personal, though your mileage may vary:

"Heya! We're going to thresh the heck out of the Katie Hannon Task Force and we really need another Defender. Wanna come help us maim?"

Sometimes the people you ask will be AFK, or otherwise choose not to answer. It can be a bit hard to know whether to wait for a reply, or to ask someone else in the interim—it is possible they might answer after you've already filled the team. I usually give them a minute or so to respond, unless I am in a hurry; you may have other preferences.

It is a good idea in general to respond to declinations (and decline unwanted invitations yourself) gracefully:

/reply Okay, thanks for answering and good hunting to you!

as it will at least help your reputation with that player and certainly cannot hurt.

Running the Team

Once the team is assembled, it is time to go into combat. This is where leadership (the skill set, not the toggle powers) is most important. A good combat leader can make all the difference between a unified team mowing down the mobs like a threshing machine and a scattered bunch of individuals falling to superior enemy numbers.

This section will run down a number of the things you need to know to be a good combat leader.

Tricks of the Trade

You need to be intimately familiar with what I like to call "the tricks of the trade." Part of this falls under the earlier sections, "Know What the Hell You Are Doing" and "Know Everybody's Job." But to drill down to some more specifics, here are some techniques you should be sure to learn and master.

  • The Corner Pull — Beloved of Tankers and Brutes everywhere. The way the enemies' AI works means that if you aggro a crowd of enemies and run around a corner (or, better yet, run around two corners), the enemies will bunch up—allowing for most efficient use of Area of Effect attacks (especially for Tankers who have Point Blank Area of Effect "taunt auras"). Learn this. Even if you are not playing the Tanker or Brute, you can still walk them through the process if they are unfamiliar with it.
  • The Single Pull — Sometimes, you may want to pull just one or two enemies—for instance, if a couple of spawns are very close together and you deem it safest to whittle them down a bit at a time until it is safe to charge in. Many players think that the best way to do this is with a snipe attack, just because it has such a long range. However, this is actually the worst way to pull if you only want a couple of enemies to come after you—because the higher the damage from an attack, the larger the "aggro splash" will be around the enemy you hit with it. In other words, the more damage, the more enemies notice you attacked and come running. To pull the fewest enemies from a spawn, use the lowest damage attack possible. Attacks that do zero damage, such as Twilight Grasp, are ideal. (Some players use the snowball power from the winter event as a low-risk single-pull, since it's also zero-damage.)
  • Know Your Enemies — One thing that is often overlooked is that certain enemy factions have different "need to neutralize" targets. For instance Tsoo Sorcerers, Circle of Thorns Death Mages, Rularuu Overseers, Malta Sappers, Carnival of Shadows Master Illusionists, and Nictus Shadow Cysts are just a few of the enemies that can result in team deaths/team wipes if not taken out of the picture early. Especially when fighting some of the less commonly fought enemies (e.g. Rularuu), a few words of warning or discussion of tactics before engaging is helpful. This holds double for Archvillain/Hero fights, especially some that have dangerous abilities such as Tier 9 attacks, AOE holds, summons, and so on.
  • Have You Ever Been Experienced? — Part of knowing what the hell you are doing is knowing your way around the more complicated or unusual missions or Task/Strike Forces, so that you can then shepherd less experienced players through them. To that end, it may be a good idea to do the more complicated Strike Forces first as a follower of a more experienced leader, paying attention to the way the missions work—and especially making note of surprises such as traps, ambushes, and so on—so that you can lead other players through them in the future.
  • Up Front vs. In Back — There are two basic ways to handle an encounter in game. "Up front," where the team fights the enemies more or less where they are, and "in back" where the team brings the enemies to them (using such techniques as the corner pull or single pull, mentioned above). There is no "wrong" way to handle encounters, and a lot depends on what classes and power sets you have in the team. Some sets—such as Devices, Traps, and Dark Miasma—are very suited to a pull strategy, since their nastiness can be pre-placed to create a chokepoint or killzone. Teams with a large number of area-of-effect-heavy Blasters or Kheldians often prefer to have their spawns pulled around a corner and bunched up, so their AoEs are more effective (although doing too much of this can use up more time than just attacking where they stand). Conversely, a Scrapper/Tanker/Brute-heavy squad is more suited to wade in and start breaking heads than to bring them to the team.
  • The Importance of Good Timing — One key to successful team tactics is proper timing. Waiting for a tank to draw aggro, holds/debuffs to be applied, buffs to be applied (either before battle such as shields or Accelerate Metabolism, or at the start of battle such as Fulcrum Shift) and so on, is key for squishy characters to maximize their survivability and also make a tough encounter easier. Conversely, aggroing enemies before the team is ready (or aggroing multiple spawns of enemies at once) is a good way to lead to team wipe.
  • Hey You, Get Over Here — One of the most useful powers for any team leader to have is Recall Friend. If you can fit this into your build, you should do so as early as possible—level 6 or 8 if you can. (Since Fitness has become inherent, a lot of builds will suddenly find room for this—especially since it doesn't need slotting and thus will help existing slots stretch to cover three more powers.) This will save a lot of waiting time when you are at the mission but a teammate is halfway across the zone—especially if they do not have travel powers yet.
Likewise, the Assemble the Team veteran reward and Mayhem/Safeguard Mission Summon Teammates temp power will be extremely useful, especially if you have a stealth power that will let you sneak through missions. And if you're over level 50, you might want to get the Incandescence Destiny power, which functions like a version of Assemble the Team that recharges every 3 minutes or so, and also applies a Stealth or Intangible buff, knocks surrounding enemies back, and provides other benefits as well.
You should generally not use this power on other people without asking, however. Even though players can set the use of teleport to require their approval, many of them forget to do so, and thus can be pulled away from enhancement-buying or training by a careless teleport. With that in mind, I suggest using the following binds:
bind Y "team $target, may I teleport you?"
bind U "team Now teleporting $target to my location.$$powexec_name Recall Friend"
(You may substitute your own keys for the ones I use, of course.)
Then just click on the player's name, hit Y, and then, if they accept, hit U and click on the floor nearby.
  • I Don't Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation — All right, so the mission difficulty adjustment system is no longer called "Reputation" anymore, but I see no reason to change the title of this section. I like my puns, dammit! Anyway, as a team leader you should be aware of the level and type of characters you have on your team, and try to adjust your mission difficulty level to fit. For the most XP gain and the most fun, you want to fight enemies as tough as you can possibly handle—but for the lowest debt, you want to fight enemies no tougher than you can possibly handle. A rule of thumb I use is enemies should be +0 to my level when still using Training Enhancements, +1 when I graduate to Dual Origin, and +2 only once I have Single Origin Enhancements. (However, if you have multiple Soldiers of Arachnos on your team, with their Defense and possibly Accuracy and Damage buff toggles, you may be inclined to slide the scale upward based on that.) You may also want to vary your number-of-heroes equivalency, based on how good your team is at AoE damage. But if you have many sidekicked or lower-level characters on your team, you may want to be conservative with your difficulty setting just because they may not be able to hit the toughest enemies you can handle.
In [I25], Notoriety can now be adjusted from your speech options menu without having to visit a contact, so it can be easily changed on the fly. If the enemy in a mission is kicking your butt (Praetorian Resistance, I'm looking at you), everyone back out, select a different mission to reset, and lower your difficulty by several notches. You can kick it back up again after you finish. Likewise, you can adjust it to your team's capabilities. I'd suggest starting out low, at +1 or +2, until you see how well the team works together. You can always bump it up later.
  • Keep it Moving — Teams work best when they're doing something. If you slow down, or even stop, you might shed members, because any moment they're not thrashing bad guys is a moment they're not earning XP. So, keep things moving, even if you're down a few members. If you've got a good team, you can pump up your Notoriety so you still get 8-man-sized spawns, and keep working on them while you're doing the /search thing described above to add more members. But don't get too distracted from the mission, especially if you're an AT the others really depend on like a Tanker.
  • Keep it Light — Not everyone has the knack for this, but if you can crack a few jokes along the way it'll lighten the mood and help people enjoy what you're doing. (I'm known for a constant stream of bad puns I've devised over the years I've been playing, which I trot out like a Disney boat ride tour guide.) But judge your audience. If your jokes fall flat, probably best to stop. You don't want to drive them away, after all!
  • Safety in Numbers — Because aura powers have a limited range, teams that stick together do the best damage, and are the safest. Closely-grouped teams get the benefit from buff toggles such as the Leadership pool and Soldiers of Arachnos's secondary power toggles. They reap the benefits of spammed aura heals, and are always within range for a single-target heal to work. They are also able to bring the attack power of the entire group to bear on a single spawn. If the team gets split up and starts fighting on multiple fronts, it is easy for this to lead to team wipes as the groups of mobs are more powerful than half a team can handle on their own. This is called "defeat in detail" and should be avoided whenever possible.
  • The Map is Not the Territory — When charging through an instanced map, it is really easy for teams to get split up. It is never anybody's "fault," just that people who are in front decide what direction to go and just assume everyone else will be behind them. Or else some people know the way through a complicated room and others get lost in it. (The big four-lobed, two-leveled room in the laboratory tileset is a major culprit in this respect, as is the big spiral cave room that looks kind of like an owl's face on the map. You should learn your way around these rooms so you will be able to guide lost teammates through them and not get lost yourself.) As leader, you should keep a close eye on the map and be prepared to call wayward teammates back toward you—or else to go and join them yourself. If you have Recall Friend, or better yet the Assemble the Team temp or veteran reward powers, you can remedy this more easily. You may also be able to avoid the "all leaders, no followers" split-ups by designating one person to take point (usually a Tanker or Brute, who is most able to survive running headlong into unexpected enemies) and telling everyone else to follow him.
  • Make Sure You Are on the Same Page — Sometimes different players in a mission are going to have considerably different goals. The most common clash is that some will want to complete the missions by stealth and teleporting wherever possible; others want to fight everything and will get annoyed when they are "yanked around" and not allowed to fight. Be sensitive to the desires of your players, and be willing to compromise if you are in the minority.
  • Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It — Likewise, you should try not to hog the mission spotlight, doing your missions to the exclusion of everybody else's. On most pick-up groups, everyone will have some missions, and they may want to complete their arcs before they outlevel them. Be willing to take turns on whose missions you do—and wherever possible, try to have multiple people work on the same arc with simultaneous completion.
  • No One Gets Left Behind — It is tempting to dive right into a mission as soon as you get to the door. You should try to avoid doing this, unless the door is in an unsafe area. If you enter the mission as soon as you arrive, it is likely that someone on the team will take that as a signal to start the mission early. And if the mission is started long enough before the missing teammates get there, those missing teammates will miss out on the end of mission XP bonus. If the mission is the last mission of a Task or Strike Force, they will miss out on the reward for that as well. Try not to do this; it is a bad habit to form.
But conversely, sometimes the whole team save one or two people may be at a mission and the other person is off buying enhancements, training, dumping salvage on the market, or doing other character-maintenance tasks that can take some time. It is not fair to the rest of the team that they should have to wait on that person. Part of being a leader is knowing when to say, "The rest of us will go ahead; that person can catch up when he's done."
  • Don't Drive Angry — Sometimes you are going to be in a bad mood—angry, or sad, or depressed over something that is happening to you in your everyday life. You may try to dive into the game as an escape from those pressures, and that is fine. But be very careful. It is all too easy for your leadership style to suffer, for your play to become haphazard, when you are under the influence of negative emotions. I speak from experience: I was once accused by a teammate of buying my account on eBay because nobody with so many Veteran Reward badges should play so badly—and this was on the same character where I had been lavishly praised for my leadership the day before! When playing in a bad mood, it may be best for all concerned for you to solo.

How to Talk to Your Teammates

Part of the essence of leadership is communication, and therein lies the rub: textual communication over the Internet lacks the emotional subtexts that vocal speech does, because you cannot hear the other person's tone of voice. It is all too easy for comments that would go over all right in verbal conversation to be taken offensively through text chat.

For instance, if I tell my Tanker, "Pull those mobs to this corner," it could come off as sounding bossy. Perhaps doing this once or twice will be all right, but if I give nothing but orders, irritation could build up over time until they start wondering just what right I have to boss them around.

One way of getting around this is to add "the magic word." If I say "Please pull those mobs to this corner," it is taken as a request, softening the imperative tone somewhat.

Another, even better way is to phrase the order as a question: "Would you please pull those mobs to this corner?" Since it comes from you, they will still take it as an order, but it sounds more respectful of them.

If someone is doing something well—for instance, the tank holding aggro, or the Defender keeping everyone buffed or healed—be sure to say so! People like to hear when they are doing well, but it is a common tendency to take those things for granted and only say anything when someone messes up. Do not be like that. Giving praise where deserved is another way to show you respect the abilities of your teammates.

Mutual respect is a major key to successful leadership. If you obviously respect your teammates, they will respect you right back. This leads to better teamwork, and to teammates willing to go the extra mile for each other.

Explain Yourself, Sir

Another communication-related issue is the need to keep the rest of your team aware of what you are going to be doing. You cannot simply act unilaterally and trust the rest of the team to figure it out.

For example, if you decide you want to stealth the mission, getting to the end and then teleporting the rest of the team to you or grabbing the glowie, you should let them know this is what you will be doing, and that they should stay at the entrance where it is safe, before you go haring off.

Sometimes it is very tempting to just run off to grab the glowie quickly without saying a word, to present it as a fait accompli, especially when you suspect that other people on your team would rather you did not finish it so fast. Restrain this urge—it could lead to other people from the team unknowingly charging after you, getting themselves faceplanted, and then getting angry at you for "causing" their death and debt.

Likewise, there are some missions and situations that are sufficiently unusual or complicated that they require explaining to people who have not done them before. The last mission of the villain respec, for instance, or the first mission of the Katie Hannon Task Force. In these situations, you should go over the plan for the mission before you begin, to make sure that everybody knows what their role will be.

"Before We Begin…"

A related issue is that, in the heat of combat, players often are not able to follow complicated instructions. Sometimes they may stop reading the chat altogether because they're too busy staring at what's happening around their characters and trying not to die. Plus, if there is a lot of conversation going on, such instructions could scroll right off the top of the chat window between times any given player happens to glance at it.

So, if there's something that needs to happen in the middle of combat, you should do your best to make sure everyone is clear on it beforehand. You can't always rely on being able to have spur-of-the-moment instructions obeyed by everyone, because quite frequently they may not even notice them. This is less of a problem when using voice-chat systems like Discord, since it's easier to pay attention to a spoken voice while you're in the middle of things, but you may not be able (or want) to invite random pick-up group strangers to your Discord. So, if there's anything complicated that needs to be done in the middle of the mission, be sure everyone is clear on it before you actually enter the mission.

Conflict Management

Sooner or later, every pick-up team leader will have to deal with the ugly spectre of interpersonal conflicts. Someone may not be playing his character in a way that contributes to the success of the group, or two players may have problems with each other. As the leader, it will fall to you to work this out.

As a first step, decide who the offending player is, if there is one.

Politely (and privately) ask the offending player or players to change their behavior. Explain to them why what they are doing is harming the effectiveness of the group (or irritating another player).

In some disputes, there may not be a question of who is "right" or "wrong," in which case you will have to speak to both of them.

One thing to keep in mind at all times is to scold privately but praise publicly. Nobody likes being called on the carpet in front of his teammates, but everybody likes to be praised in front of them.

If they do not change their ways, and if the team's performance (or the emotional well-being of its members) is suffering from it, you will have to decide whether or not to kick them. Do not be hesitant to drop a problem player from your team; you can find a replacement easily enough. If you do not get rid of the offender, then you will risk alienating the members of your team who are not problems, as they can and will go elsewhere to seek a team without that irritation.

Friends Will Be /Friended

With the advent of the Global Friends list, the ordinary Friends list has tended to be neglected. Global does have some advantages, such as the fact that you can see where your global friend is and what he is doing even when he is logged into an entirely different server, and you will be able to contact him even if he is logged onto a character that you have never heard of. If you try to keep track of all your friends using the ordinary friends list, you end up having to duplicate all of everyone else's characters across all of your characters, and that is simply inefficient. The one thing that the ordinary Friends list will allow you to do that global does not—send a message to all your friends who are logged in at once—often leads to friends seeing one-sided conversations if you are using /friends to talk to friends who are not mutual friends of theirs. It is much easier just to have a global or supergroup/coalition channel where your friends can hang out.

But with that being said, team leaders can find a very beneficial use for the Friends function—a ready-made teambuilding aid. Here is what you do.

When you are on a good team, with players who really seem to know what they're doing, add those other players to your friends list. Over time, you will build up a list of characters who have had experience working with you and are (or at least were) about the same level as you. That is a great resource to have when you are putting a mission team or task force together. All you have to do is type "I am forming a team to do [such-and-such], would anyone be interested?" into your friends chat channel. This can give you a head start on team searching, and may add to your team people who appreciate that you thought of them when putting the group together.


I hope you have found this guide useful, and that it helps improve your team experiences from now on. If there is anything I have left out or gotten wrong, please leave a comment in the Discussion area about how the guide could be improved.


The following people have contributed ideas or text for this guide, and I am very grateful:

  • Sister Jeanne
  • Foomf
  • Narnian
  • kwsapphire