Understanding LotRO Raiding Kinships with Aesir of Arkenstone
On Arkenstone server, Aesir is one of the largest, most active raiding kinships. Their members run the full range from casual, PvE part-timers to hardcore endgame raiders to spirited Ettenmoors enthusiasts. Their former leader, Evintine, is a particular friend of mine - he often finds a spot for my toons in his raids, despite the fact that I am in a different kinship. Their current leader, Haxx, does the day-to-day executive work and makes the immediate decisions, but the big-impact stuff is decided by the entire kinship (for example, instituting the DKP system) or among the officers (for example, promotions). The other thing Haxx does - which really has no bearing on his effectiveness as a leader, but does give you an idea of what Aesir is all about - is torture players after a wipe by trying to sneak them the Lore-master "Rez of Shame."
Most of their raids are kin-only, since they use the DKP system for boss loot, and they often run two raid groups at a time; Khaurin, the officer in charge of DKP, leads the "challenge" group on Tier 2 content, and Evintine leads the "completion" through Tier 1 runs.
Khaurin's "challenge" group consists of seasoned veterans, and the lineup is usually very consistent - each member of the team knows all of the other members' strengths and weaknesses, and they are all well-geared and well-versed in the mechanics of the various classes, making it somewhat easier to tackle the more difficult challenges of Tier 2 raids.
Evintine's "completion" groups are generally not quite as well-seasoned - some of them have never raided before, or have very little experience with larger groups and the more difficult endgame content, but the goal with them is twofold: firstly, to complete the raids, and secondly as a kind of "boot camp" for newer players. These groups may not stay consistent even all the way through one raid - members have to drop and new people are brought in to fill the spot. Some of them may have weak gear, or need to work on their traits and virtues, but what they need more than anything else is the hands-on learning experience of what it takes to go raiding. And despite the group's lack of experience, occasionally questionable builds and weaker gear, Evintine and his kinsmen make these raids work.
As an example, Evintine drafted me on my Guardian to fill the tank spot for Ost Dunhoth's Fear wing. I've done it loads of times on my Hunter, but never on a tank, and I am less familiar with that role in general. The raid make-up was decidedly less than optimal (no Lore-masters, only one Captain). It was a close fight - my Guardian fell three times during the boss fight, and a Champion died and went link-dead about a minute in - but we beat it on our very first attempt.
In an effort to gain a better understanding of how raiding kins work and what makes them successful, I asked Evintine a few questions.
A raid leader
does basically the same thing as a circus ringleader: keeping
the show moving by telling everyone what the clowns (i.e. the mobs) are going
to do next.
Q: What are the long-term goals for Aesir?
A: The long-term goals for Aesir are to keep the kin going strong, and keep the members happy for as long as the kin exists. Being the top raiding kin on the server is somthing I'd like to have us accomplish someday, but as long as the kin's having fun things are great as they are.
Q: How is Aesir's leadership organized?
A: Aesir's leadership is organized with a group of officers that contribute to decision making in any decisions with some complexity or depth to them that may impact the kin, such as if a member of the kin is problematic and needs to leave, or if a new officer deserves a promotion. The leader is someone who makes quick decisions that are comparatively low-impact, such as if we should overlook an applicants age if they aren't 18. And the entire kin gets involved in decisions that have a lasting impact, such as when we implemented our DKP system. This was a kin-wide decision
Q: What do you look for in a potential recruit, and how do you go about recruiting?
A: In a recruit we look for someone committed to forwarding the kin as a whole as opposed to as just an individual. From a raiding standpoint, we look for people who are skilled at more than one max level toon which they have properly geared and traited, possess a microphone and are able to use a Ventrillo client, and able to run the endgame raids without having computer issues. We expect a fun environment and don't enjoy people who take the game seriously enough to make it less fun for the other players. As far as HOW we recruit people: accepting applications on the website, meeting people on pugs and then extending an invite to the kin or talking friends into joining up.
Q: Arkenstone is one of the smallest-population servers. Do you consider this a drawback or a bonus?
A: Both. In a way it makes us stand out being what is presently the largest kin on the server. But at times it's been hard in the past to fill our ranks. Unfortunately, the server is at the population level where smaller kinships cant exist and run their own content, so, as some of them have dissolved, we've recieved new members over time.
Q: How do you, as raid leader, handle drama from malcontents?
A: People are always free to disagree with me, and I actually prefer people to tell me if they have a problem with something im doing than to have them brood silently. Then I will try and help them if I can. In an event where our interests completely conflict and there's no way to resolve the issue for the discontent member I may ask them to leave the raid if they do not find it suitable, or if it's an even larger problem they are removed from the kin. I don't like having to dismiss people but you can't make everyone happy all the time.
Q: How does Haxx, as kin leader, deal with drama from the kinship as a whole?
A: I'm happy to say that Aesir seems to have less drama than I expected a kinship of its size to have. Conflicts between members are often resolved quickly, either by officers or the members themselves. If two people have a real problem with each other, we keep them civil until cooler heads prevail. A few times an argument has lead to one party or the other from moving on from the kin, but this is a rare occurrence. Haxx and the rest of us work to minimize drama as a whole, often placating people until we get a clear enough picture to resolve whatever is wrong.
Q: With such a wide range of player types, how do you accommodate the needs of the many without alienating the few?
A: We strive to accommodate as many people in as many ways as possible but, as I said, it's often impossible to make everyone happy at the same time. My largest example is from when we decided to implement DKP, the officers themselves weren't entirely unified about how (or even if) we should put in a DKP system, but enough of the kin was for it (the votes yielded over 80% for and less than 20% opposed) that we decided to implement the system, despite some people being unhappy with it. This caused a few people to stop raiding, but even more raiders, who had previously stopped because they felt random rolls were unfair, decided to step up and get back into the raiding. And there were more of these than those we lost.
This is what
Evintine typically does when he's not playing the theme to
Night Court on his horn.
Q: How do you balance the political aspect of leading a kinship with actually having fun with the game?
A: See, to me it sounds like you're saying politics are bad. I actually like trying to make people happy. Two of the three times I was leader of Aesir, I was voted to be so - once by the entire kin and a second time by the officers when we lost our present leader. I've stepped down on three separate occasions due to inactivity or stress from real life making me feel like I couldn't be there enough to do the job well. The position of leader is certainly stressful, but I have always been surrounded by many smart, level-headed people to make it easier on me.
Q: Did you find that being a kin leader made you a target for certain things? (For example, rivalries with competing kins)
A: Hah, yes I've had a few problems with competing kins - one officer from a rival kin went so far as to tell me my kin is where they shop for new raiders, which i found amusing, since to my knowledge we only had one ex-Aesir member in their kin, and they were made to leave. You'd be surprised that some people take this game seriously enough to attack other kinships in order to steal their members, approaching members and officers and offering false information from outside the kin in order to paint the leader or other officers in a bad light. This game is not a game where only one kinship can survive or even thrive, there is no real point in making enemies of other kins or groups. As far as I see it, the more friends you have the better off you are, and many aggressive kinships have suffered while we have thrived with that philosophy.
Q: Lately, you've been mentoring a lot of new and inexperienced people in very difficult raids. Do you find that frustrating, rewarding or both?
A: Simply put, both. But since you expect a more complex answer than that, I would say that I enjoy it while it frustrates me, because the thing is a lot of inexperienced people are inexperienced because they haven't had the opportunity to gain any, not because they are bad players. Many players have the potential to raid with the best of them, but never will because no-one has ever given them a real opportunity to do so. Unfortunately some people regardless of what you do for them will never improve. We have to tell these guys they can no longer raid until they improve themselves somehow. We don't kick people for being bad raiders, we just don't like to fail because someone's dragging us down.
Q: How do you maintain your patience when new players continually mess up during raids?
A: When someone's new on a raid there is a lot to take in all at once, and they should be expected to mess up. Oftentimes, on more complicated boss fights, we wipe over and over until the strategies are understood by the entire raid. The good thing about new people who are putting in an effort to learn is they WILL eventually understand what to do, and hopefully they will even do it! But until they figure it out you can't get angry at them or you risk alienating them from raids.
Q: If you can remember that far back, what was the first moment that made you love playing a Minstrel?
A: I have been playing a healer since I first picked up WoW. In the 7 years since I have never lost the love I feel for being in the center of the group in an effort to keep everyone alive. It makes me feel more in control of the situation than any other class, and I built my minnie so I have as much control over as many things as possible, even adding an item into my build that allows me to wipe out status ailments from my fellowship. From neither a tanking nor a DPS perspective do i feel more... central to the group than when I'm healing it.
Q: Tell me about your first Igash kill.
A: Grand Stair was the first, what at the time was "endgame" content to us that we cleared as a kin. The first time we found Igash, I was level 54, our kin name was "Stone Alliance," and my group consisted of members of Aesir that are no longer playing or in one case no longer in the kin. We fought him several times before we got an idea of what we were doing, but once we did it was still a tough fight for an inexperienced group of underleveled toons from a fledgling kin. Igash tore us up pretty bad before he went down and by the end of it we were screaming excitedly into the voice chat. The sense of accomplishment I felt then has only been duplicated twice: Aesir's first Watcher kill and Aesirs First Lieutenant of Dol Guldur kill.
Q: What's with the circus ringleader outfit?
A: It's unique, its flamboyant, and it stands out. I think it embodies me nicely.
Aesir is recruiting on the Arkenstone server. If you would like to learn more about them or join the kinship, sign up on their website at Aesir-Arkenstone.Guildlaunch.com
If you want to have your kinship profiled on Ten Ton Hammer,
let Gunky know in our forums.