Dragon Slaying 102: Unsung Heroes

Players contributed narratives on raids from a broad range of current MMOs. Several players submitted well-written stories about specific raid experiences that truly illustrate the complexity of what goes on during a raid and all the decisions that must be made. These stories show the variety of current raid designs across different MMOs as well as the intensity of these experiences. For an introduction to the complexity of raids, read the companion article - Dragon Slaying 101: Understanding the Complexity of Raids.

We begin with a story from an EverQuest player who routinely leads raids on the Plane of Hate. Her experience and skill as a raid leader shine through in her narrative.

EverQuest: Plane of Hate

When I played EQ (which I did for over 5 years - I have only recently left), my husband and I often led raids to the old Plane of Hate. Before raid groups were introduced into EQ and Hate was revamped to its present state, organizing a raid to Hate was no simple task. The zone itself was a challenge. Raids that contained people that did not follow instructions often spelled disaster in the form of many hours of frustrating character corpse retrieval.

After observing how other leaders went about running raids, I learned a good deal about what worked and what did not. First thing I learned was that it was a nearly impossible task to run alone. Between my husband or my best friend, both of whom played with me, I almost always had someone who was able to help me. As we began running the raids we quickly fell into a pattern. I would announce the raids on the boards, and lay out the rules that always stipulated that while we liked to have fun, we wouldn't put up with any crap. We made groups beforehand, as best we could, from people who had signed up for the raid. It gave us a framework to work with.

We demanded that people arrive early so that we could port into Hate on time. (Timing was an important factor. If you ported up far later than the posted time, you could screw up later raids. The static mobs would spawn roughly every 8 hours, so there were often raids scheduled about 10 hours apart. While some raid leaders didn't care, we did.) I was generally the more vocal one, always in view.

I was the organizer, and sometimes the enforcer. I would announce the preliminary groups, and appoint a leader for each group - often someone who was taken aside and chosen before the groups were formed. We picked people who we knew, who were trustworthy and who could command some amount of respect if things were to go badly. We took folks who didn't get as many opportunities to raid, or who were passed over for being lower level. We took folks who wanted to go but whose guilds often were far beyond the level of the older Plains and were into other things.

Once those groups were formed, we filled in the remaining spots with people who showed up on the fly, starting with guild mates, friends and alliance members. If there were still open spots, we would fill in with other interested people and necessary classes. We learned very quickly that it was detrimental to take more than 7 groups, and that 6 was optimal, due to lag issues and just for the ability to manage people. Once the groups were formed, the rules of the raid were laid out, the main tanks were announced, the chat lines were sorted out.

Once any questions and last minute problems were dealt with, we had the groups buff up, drop a person so that the wizard porting could get them up to the zone and took up two to three groups at a time - depending on how many teleporters were available to us. My husband always went up with the first wave of people, so that he could control what was going on. The first few minutes were crucial because roaming monster aggro could destroy a raid before it began. Once in place, we would continue bringing the rest of the groups up, and I was always in the last group, making sure everyone who was supposed to go had ported up safely.

Groups then reassembled and if the wizards were not staying to play, they left the zone. When all the groups were in place the fun began. The tactical side of the raid became my husband's domain. He would scout, or send folks to scout, figure out the targets and determine what we were doing in what order. He kept track of what loot dropped and who it was distributed to as the raid progressed. I dealt with questions, announcements, problems and the overall order of things. We were among the few raid leaders who would venture to the second floor of Hate, or otherwise leave the port in room, and our raids were almost always a lot of fun.

We never put up with any crap from people. There was at least two occasions where someone in the raid caused excessive problems and we removed them from the raid, with little hesitation. We always made sure that we kept the people who raided with us as safe as we could within our abilities. We gained a reputation for that, and people respected it. Some signs that we were successful raid leaders: People wanted to raid with us just to raid with -us-. These were people that had nothing to gain from the encounters. People who had long finished with the Plane and any possible items from it came back to help us with pullers, porters, ressers, tanks. They came with us because the raids were often filled with laughter and fun. They weren't always productive - sometimes we had been 'sniped' (another group/raid goes up before a scheduled raid to kill the static spawns for the good drops), but we often went up anyway, even at a monetary loss to ourselves (The item that would allow us to port into Hate was originally very expensive and we were always careful to have many extras onhand in case of emergencies).

It didn't matter. It was about having fun, not about loot. We led more than 20 raids - at one point running 2 a month for 4 or 5 months in a row - over the course of a year or so. Compared to a raid guild or raid club, that's not a lot. But I never wanted to be a part of a raid guild, nor did a lot of the people who chose to come with us when we led. We ran raids with almost no gain for ourselves, other than the fun of it all and the desire to help other people enjoy themselves. I learned a lot through all of this. It was an activity done in a virtual world that have had many real world implications for me. It led to a lot of insights about the type of leader I was and that I could be. You have to be firm, and you have to stand your ground over important things, but you have to remember to let the unimportant things slide or you stress uselessly. You have to really -listen- to the people that follow you, especially if someone has a voice of greater experience. It's important to lay out the rules beforehand, and not change things just to benefit yourself, else people become resentful. And most important of all - If you treat people with respect, remember to thank them for their contributions and encourage them, everyone wins. -Niki AKA Lyrissa Stormraven EverQuest - Tunare Server [EQ, F, 30]


The next story focuses on valuable artifacts known as "sigils" in Ultima Online. Ownership of these sigils grants important powers within the game.

Ultima Online: Sigils

I was the Commanding Lord (elected leader) of the True Britannians faction in UO. One of the objectives of factions is to capture various 'sigils', small gems that represent control of a given city. If you can keep a sigil on its pedestal for 24 hours straight (in theory), the sigil becomes 'corrupt', meaning you can take it to the corresponding city and place it on the pedestal there to take control of the city's finances and security. Other factions try to achieve the same goals, and when one faction has one or more sigils squirreled away in its stronghold, it's a good bet other factions are going to launch a raid to come and take the sigils. Or, they may try a sneakier approach, sending in stealthy thieves.

Only faction members can handle sigils, and only faction members can enter a faction HQ, so anyone inside an HQ is either your friend or your enemy. Through sneakiness and exploitation of enemy laziness, my faction had captured the sigils for all 8 contested cities. We'd held them all in our base for quite some time, constantly expecting an attack and trying to arrange a sufficient force to guard the base against enemy faction raids around the clock... 24 hours continuous is the requirement.

But it was difficult because people had distractions. Adults had real life responsibilities creep up and had to attend to them, kids got bored just sitting there, and were easily distracted by enemy feints in other locations. We had never taken the cities before, and the most powerful of the factions, Minax, had held the cities for literally months on end without interruption. As it became almost time for some of the sigils to start corrupting, we grew more and more nervous and started really working hard to keep our troops in place to defend.

Eventually, the expected attack came, and not one of the sigils had yet corrupted at that point. The sigil room inside the TB headquarters is a ways back from the main gate in the outer wall, and it was there that my troops had assembled their defense and dug in. When the attack came, everyone in the sigil room rushed out to the front lines to hold the fort, while I sat listening to the battle reports and waiting for the sigils to corrupt. Finally, even as our defenses were being breached and our last warrior fell dead, the sigil for the city of Trinsic became corrupted. I shouted via the party chat system for support and a distraction, and I siezed the sigil and sprinted out the front--I was going to have to run right through the front line to get out and into the countryside.

No magic can be used in transporting a sigil, so even if I made it through the line, I'd have a long ride ahead, with my enemies nipping at my heels. When a person grabs a sigil, he and his clothing are flushed with a brilliant purple color. As I rushed out the front door of our castle, two enemy raiders ran in past me. Because I was glowing purple, they mistook me for one of their comrades who'd gotten to the prize first, and kept right on going to grab sigils of their own.

When i came to our fortifications, witnessing the aftermath of a massive battle with many TB casualties and only a few dead Minax troops, I realized I hadn't participated in the construction of a barrier which had been erected specifically to make it hard to see how to get to the other side, to slow or stop the enemy advance. Unfortunately, it also slowed and stopped me, and I was trapped there unable to go forward. I wasn't about to go backwards, and it wasn't long before the Minax streaming through some other hole in the fortifications realized I wasn't one of them. I was slain, and the sigil fell into enemy hands.

But once a sigil is corrupted, it stays corrupted until it is used to seize its city, or until another faction corrupts it for their own use.... meaning they'd have to secure it for 24 hours in THEIR base. And that is just what Minax tried to do. Hours after our defeat, weary from the long night but energized by adrenaline because of coming so close to our goal which was not yet out of reach, I led three other warriors--only four of us, total-- into the Minax base. Two sentries were posted there, and no fortifications had been erected. They apparently believed they'd broken our will to fight. They were wrong. The guards were not experts at player versus player combat, and they were outnumbered 2 to 1. One of them died, and the other ran for his life.

We made off with four of the coveted sigils, most importantly the corrupted Trinsic sigil. Long before Minax reinforcements arrived on the scene, my comrades and I were gone with our prizes. I made a beeline to Trinsic with two allies in tow. When I arrived, I discovered that four of Minax's fiercest fighters (any of whom was more than a match for me) were waiting, and they had hired at least 20 NPC faction guards. They were all patrolling the area surrounding the pedestal on which I had to place the corrupted sigil to seize the city. I realized that they had not been leaving their base undefended so much due to underestimating my people, as it was due to the fact that they were making preparations to defend the Trinsic pedestal in case the sigil WERE stolen.

We made a valiant effort at distraction and a mad rush to the pedestal, but the players weren't biting on our bait and the NPCs were literally unable to do anything but guard where they had been ordered to guard. So we three died. But we were not finished yet. Remember, we had 24 hours again until Minax could corrupt the sigil for themselves. Taking it from them at any point in that window would start the timer over, giving us another 24 hours. And as long as it was corrupted in our favor, all we had to do was get it to Trinsic.

The next morning, I organized a massive assault on the Minax fortifications I rallied all available troops (about 10 or 15 of us), made sure everyone had every scrap of gear they could possibly need, gave the pep talks, and led them to the wall of the Minax stronghold. This time, Minax was literally ready and waiting. Once we got there, a tremendous battle ensued. The largest, most involved, and longest lasting PvP battle I've ever seen, participated in, or even heard of. We laid siege to their castle. Archers and mages stood atop their parapets, flinging death and destruction down at us as we huddled for cover behind earthworks and ridges near the front of their base. My people returned fire, hurling exploding potions and arrows and spells of our own. Tamed dragons were brought in, and daemons and elementals were summoned. The coordination of the Minax defenses was somewhat shaky, but there were at least as many of them holed up in there as there were of us outside.

For a long time, we slaughtered any Minax reinforcements who tried to make it in their front gate, but we weren't making any more progress at that same task ourselves. Traps had been laid and barriers placed, overlapping fields of fire and the chokepoint of the fortress gateway were murder on any of my people who attempted a breach. Gradually, we worked our way forward, destroying or removing various barriers, but we paid a terrible price in casualties. We had set up an aid station about a screen away from the front line, where our ghosts would run for resurrection and healing, but we couldn't res as fast as Minax would kill us whenever we go too close to the gateway.

Eventually our supplies began to run low, and it was hard to get anyone with a surplus to part with it for others of our team in need, unless they volunteered it themselves. Despite Minax's fortified positions, we had killed more than half the defenders, and their ability to resurrect was limited by their own supplies trapped inside with them. Attrition was beginning to work for us, but for every time we killed a Minax defender, three or four of us would go down.

I had difficulty coordinating any strategy more complex than the impromptu aid station, because when the chips are down and a person's life (and loot) are at stake, folks have a tendency to run for cover and heal up before they do ANYTHING else. A very understandable tendency, and it would take a much more experienced team of folks used to working with each other in order to overcome that natural panic reaction. On top of that, many of my peole got discouraged after a few deaths and not much progress, and several of these left and went to do other things, or logged off UO altogether. The base was too well-defended, and eventually our battle was lost after many hours (I myself had had time to go and have dinner with my family and come back home and rejoin the fight, it lasted that long). All this happened at least three years ago, but as you can tell, it was a very memorable experience for me, and I'm sure for many others. [UO, M, 29]


Sieges are an everyday occurrence in ShadowBane. The follower gamer narrates through a typical siege strategy that his guild uses, and his role in the overall strategy.

ShadowBane: The Seige

In the world of ShadowBane sieges were a part of daily life. The Siege can put all your time and effort put forth into building a city to waste. Upsetting for most people i imagine and for this reason, emotional. Through emotion we lose focus and our troops lose focus. Never a good thing when your leader is complaining or crying about mistakes, the peons just end up losing respect for you.

The Guild i was in was at War with someone new everyday, it never mattered who, it just mattered that we were enjoying a good fight. Team 3 was my squad. 8 mages , 1 scout and myself, the Barbarian. Our objective was simple, Support support support. Follow team 1 and 2 and make sure no one made it near them. We traveled in box formation with myself in the center so that my run and damage modifiers would affect all my men/women. As we approached our destination I dispatched the scout to get me a head count and check their organization. Stealthers can cause a nice bit of chaos.

Our summoners from team 4 were doing their job swiftly by calling out names in order of the people who are to be summoned to war, their secondary job was to summon the dead back to the fight, so they had their hands full and were not to be asked any favors at this time. Our Warlord is reminding people to not scatter and hold the lines 'never go off without your group' he would say. Your group without and you without your group is weaker, don't stray.

Once everyone was summoned in we moved forward with a slow pace chatting about this and that, nothing about the war, making sure people don't take it to seriously cause if they do they may not return after they die. Keep the spirits high, don't talk people down, that's the enemies job. Needless to say our arrival wasn't a surprise to the enemy, my scout had arrived a little late with a head count but that's fine, I got the info elsewhere.

Now he has to make sure no stealthers Back Stab my mages he may let one or to slip by but i wasn't worried, very few rogues escape my axe. As we approached to combat range the enemy and our allies quickly began dancing to the tune of chaos, just made our lives easier. The battle was won and the Tree was destroyed. But the Threat isn't over, now we have become targets for appearing at that war like any other, expect This war, we turned on an ally. The Panther Moderns, my guild at the time used ventrillo to communicate targets and other details for sieges and for smaller scale combat. Since the use of this type of communication at game play i cant imagine going into a group fight without it. the group not using such a tool would be the one to fall for sure. [SB, M, 26]


Dark Age of Camelot is another game where fort sieges occur on a daily basis. The following story emphasizes the overall strategy that must be used when invading another realm.

Dark Age of Camelot: Realm Warfare

We were attempting to get a relic back from the Mids (this is in DAoC) and the raid was going to be very, very complex. There were about 100 people involved. The mechanics of DAoC are such that if you take down smaller keeps, it reduces the power of the main keep you are assaulting. However, if you take down the smaller keeps slowly, the other side will have more time to get wind of something being amiss and mount a defense. So, the plan was for about 30 people to branch out to 3 different keeps and take them down in a matter of minutes. Then make sail for the main keep before the baddies could get there. Well, if anything can go wrong....

The raid began very smoothly (as they are wont to do) and then a zone crashed, tossing about half of the players out of game. Small keeps one and two were down, three was having issues and not many people were left. As we were regrouping to take three and the main keep, we were ambushed by the defenders well away from their main keep. So, dejected, we went home. However, our failed assault was apparently a diversionary tactic cause about 20 minutes after our defeat, we got the message that we had in fact taken the main keep! I still don't know what happened with that. I think we were sent to slaughter to draw the main defenders away from the keep while a second group took the big keep. Hard to imagine that many players working like that though. [DAOC, M, 27]


The following story from Final Fantasy XI describes a mission type that plays as a series of smaller goals. In the story, the player gives an example of how domain expertise is crucial in raids.

Final Fantasy XI: Expeditionary Force

The one thing that needs to be taken care of first and foremost is making sure that everybody involved understands the goals and rules. If you all need to have a specific item in your inventory, you'd better make damn sure that EVERY LAST PERSON checks to see if they have it. Otherwise, someone will inevitably have not been paying attention and will set the entire event back by not having the item. This was doubly demonstrated during a Conquest attempt I participated in recently.

You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult to go and talk to a guard, then talk to him again once everybody else has talked to him the first time. Heck, we even had a system set up so that everybody would confirm when they'd talked to him. Somehow, three people STILL got left behind because they didn't talk to him the first time, yet reported that they were ready. Thank god for those complementary warp tabs. Okay, so after warping back and retrieving our errants, we were ready to begin. The 'leader' of this rather half-assed expedition had been on ONE Conquest mission before this (and not even a successful one), and apparently hadn't understood the rules even then.

The way he explained it was that there would be six fights, and we had to locate the triggers for each in turn. Great, in theory. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with the ACTUAL way the system works. Here, let's give a quick rundown of the process of Conquest: 1. Find the beastman flag. There are dozens of possible locations all across the zone. So split up in teams and find it. This is easy and we had it down pat. 2. Assemble everybody at the flag, and rest/buff up for the fight. We had a few coordination issues here, but it wasn't bad. 3. Somebody tag the flag and trigger the fight. Okay, these fights are a pain in the butt. We had some problems with these, but I'll go into more detail later. 4. After the fight, somebody tag the flag AGAIN to remove the curse. Yeah, this would have been a good thing to know early on. Unfortunately, as stated before, our leader was somewhat uninformed and didn't know about this. 5. Go to #1 and start hunting again. Okay, that's the process of Conquest in a nutshell.

Supposedly, there were only to be six fights. Unfortunately, the number of fights isn't static. You fight until your conquest rating for that zone is #1. Apparently this took 6 fights for our leader's previous group. I'm going to skip describing every fight just to skip to immediately after the 6th. Supposedly after this point, something was supposed to happen. Some grand fanfare, crowds cheering our glory, masses worshiping us as gods... that sort of thing. And that's exactly the sort of thing that didn't happen. I tag the flag after the fight (we'd figured out that we had to do that by this time), and exactly nothing happens.

Well at this point people are starting to wonder, and a few (including the 'leader') bug out. Apparently somewhere along the line, I'd distinguished myself (I still haven't a clue how. I'm a red-mage, which isn't a class suited to heroics) enough to have the departing leader stick me with alliance leadership. So now I'm stuck coordinating the remaining 2/3 of our force in continuing this fight. Okay, so now flag #7 is located and we assemble and buff/rest for the fight. *tag* and we're off, and getting royally beat down.

The fight started off bad as one of our groups targets the beastman paladin en-masse and all fail to notice that he's tossed 'Invincible' and they're not doing jack squat to him. Meanwhile, the beast-Blackmage is tossing area-effect spells like they're going out of style. I manage to rally enough force to take him down while I'm Chainspell-nuking the hell out of the still-invincible Paladin. It's about this time that whitemage #1 bit the dust because of the paladin. I still have a bit of time left on chainspell so I spamcure that group up to full. Not like I'm surviving a suicidal act like that, so I'm facedown in the dirt shortly thereafter.

Anyway, half our force was eating sand at the end of that fight, but we were victorious! ... And still no fanfare. Two members more bug out while we're raising our fallen. We're now down to two parties. Again we take up the search and again the flag is located. Now we sit and rest/buff up again. You'd think this would be understood since this is our 8th time doing it, right? Apparently not. We're still prepping with most of our mages below 1/2 mp, when our idiotic thief tags the flag. We don't stand a chance and eat dirt rather rapidly. All that is to illustrate one simple point. Before you leave, make sure EVERYBODY has a complete understanding of ALL the rules and knows every step of the plan along the way. This includes, very importantly, the leader of the expedition. It can't be stressed enough that an unformed leader WILL bring about failure. So please please PLEASE make sure you know what you're about before planning a huge event like any sort of raid. Your alliance and nation will thank you for it. [FFXI, M, 21]


The Corellian Corvette is a high-level dungeon in Star Wars Galaxies that is notoriously difficult (although not difficult in a strategic sense). The following story details one player's frustrations in planning and executing the raid.

Star Wars Galaxies: The Corellian Corvette

The hardest part about a raid is getting a good leader and preparing for it. My guild was going to take on the 'Corellian Corvette' in SWG. This 'dungeon' restricts you to a max of 10 players, but is un-godly tough, and most groups of even 10 fully prepared combat characters fail it. It's fairly foolish to attempt without a full group of 10 though, and this was the first difficulty: we had eight. I was going to be the leader and go-to guy for the raid because I was the only one who had done it before.

We met in the guild hall and prepared, passing out food items, drink items, spice (combat drugs), weapon powerups (100 use each weapon boosters), healing kits to those who used them, etc... This took about an hour. Then, as I started to explain the raid to my guildmates and frantically searched for 2 more participants, they grew very impatient.

We don't use a Voice program like Teamspeak, but it would have been invaluable here. Communications, having to type everything is TERRIBLY ineffective, especially in a battle situation. Likewise, the interfaces to trade things is terribly slow. What should have been a 'Ok everyone, take one of these' became a 'trade with person 1.... slide item1 over, finish trade.... repeat for 6 other players, repeat for 5 other items that other players need to trade off' Needless to say, as I tried to find two more needed players to prevent this from becomming a complete waste of buffs, items, time and effort, my guild took off to go to the 'zone'. In transit, as I chased after their impatient selves, I did find two more people to go with us.

I've been on this raid now about 6 times, and have never completed it. It has an hour time limit and simply fighting everything in the dungeon takes far longer. Your objective is not to 'kill all' though, but is in the style of: 'throw all the switches'. Of course, it's nearly impossible to even reach some of the switches without taking on some very, nasty mobs. You cannot run by them because they will chase you down and never let up until either you or they are dead. If you die in the Corellian Corvette dungeon, you start over at beginning (which isn't so bad if you've cleared out most of the passageways to get back to your group) but you have wounds which can't be healed in the dungeon, and have lost your buffs, which makes you worthless as a fighter, since an unbuffed player won't last 5 hits there.

Like healing wounds, it's impossible to re-apply buffs in the dungeon as well (they prevent medical droids from operating, and thus, re-buffing and healing). That time my guild went, we actually did a fair amount of damage. What killed us were these totally ugly mobs that SOE felt were needed called Super Battle Droids, which for some reason can kill and deathblow a fully buffed, fully powered character in one or two hits. Only a few combat 'templates' can take more than a couple hits, and if you don't have constant healing. they die as well. Our guild is slightly less combat oriented than some of these 'uber-combat' guilds, with many members having skill points divided into crafting and adventuring skill professions.

Granted, just about all of us had at least ONE 'Master' combat profession, but this means nothing in the Corellian Corvette, since in order to have the defenses to survive, only the top armor must be worn, and you must have multiple, 'stacked' combat professions. What have I learned? I learned I *HATE* large group raids. I don't want anything to do with them anymore. Most of my guild have also expressed their hatred for them, and are displeased SOE constantly thinks all higher level content must be taken on by groups of 10 to 30. [SWG, M, 30]