Dungeon runs in MMOs can be a socially terrifying situation, especially for those of us who are quite comfortable in our solo-centric playstyle or who struggle with stranger anxiety. I’ve played many games where I’ve never set foot in dungeons as well as others where I ran them as a bulk of my play experience, and I can say that while dungeons have potential to be frustrating and demoralizing at times, some of my favorite memories in MMOs have come from grouping up to tackle foreboding lairs and their dark masters.
But if you’re making the jump into dungeons, you have to be aware that there is a set of unwritten rules that have formed over the years of such activities. Not knowing the ins and outs of dungeon diving social mores could land you in a world of hurt and confusion as your teammates start yelling at you for doing (or not doing) something.
Every MMORPG has its own exceptions and special rules that apply for that game only, but generally there are some guidelines that apply pretty much universally across the genre. Today we’re going to navigate the etiquette of dungeon running in the hopes that it will help you — or someone playing in your group — avoid an unfortunate situation.
Know your role
In most MMOs, you’ll be assigned a particular role going into a dungeon. If you’re a tank, then you’ll be expected to lead and use every taunting ability you have at your disposal to keep the mobs on you and off the squishies. If you’re a healer or DPS, well, you can probably guess what you should be doing. Support and crowd control types need to use a wide range of abilities to bolster their team and shut down the opposing factions. This might seem straightforward, but nothing can sink a dungeon run faster than a tank who thinks she’s a DPS machine or a healer who hasn’t set up a good rotation.
Follow the leader
Figure out who the leader is — this is usually the tank — and make it your mission to make his or her life less stressful. That means no wandering off from the tour; you follow the leader, don’t get in front of the tank, and definitely don’t pull before he or she does. If you’re stepping into a leadership role, then be bold but not reckless in striding forth. Sometimes it’s best to learn while doing!
Have group-friendly skills slotted
It’s all too easy to ignore the fact that some of the skills that an MMO hands to you along the way are much more appropriate in a group setting, especially if you’ve only been soloing to date. Does your game give all players a rez skill? Make sure you have that equipped, along with any group-friendly buffs and other utility abilities that shine in a dungeon environment. Get your hotbar in order before you queue up for a run, not while you’re in the middle of your first fight.
Also? Make sure that your gear is repaired and that you have all of the consumables you require. Nothing is more annoying than a party member putting a dungeon run on hold to dash back to town to fix that broken set of armor.
Roll need if you need (but only if you need)
Everyone wants the shiny loot, and there’s a lot of fretting over how to do this the wrong and right way. These days most games have an interface that allows you to roll need, greed, pass, or perhaps disenchant on premium gear when it drops. The rule of thumb here is that if you need it for your current character, then by all means roll need without seeking overt permission from the group. The faux pas to avoid is to roll need on everything, especially gear not for your class or items that you won’t be using. It’s good form that if you win a nice piece of gear in a run to perhaps pass on other class gear for the rest of the run if there’s another player who also shares your class.
You’re probably not going to have a lot of time to chit-chat during a run (and the shame of that is a topic for another column entirely), but you really do need to speak up if you need your team to understand what you’re doing in a fight. Maybe you’re crowd controlling a mob and don’t want anyone to hit it before its time, or perhaps you’ve gotten slammed with some nasty debuffs that require a cleanse from your healer. Short, succinct messages can communicate these facts to your team and help ensure a smoother run for all involved.
Pipe up if you don’t know a boss fight
Nobody wants to come across as a noob, and the temptation to remain silent for a maiden run through a dungeon in the hopes that nobody will peg you as such is a strong one indeed. But even worse than the momentary (and often imagined) embarrassment of admitting that this is your first time is to be the cause of a group wipe on a boss fight because you don’t know what you’re doing. Be up front with your teammates: Tell them at the start of a dungeon run that this is your first visit here, and don’t be afraid to prompt the team for helpful tips and strategies before you tackle a boss.
Alternatively, if you’re experienced in a dungeon and you have someone in the group who’s not, be patient with him or her and take the time to share need-to-know facts about that dungeon.
Be a cheerleader
Team morale is a very real factor in determining a successful — and enjoyable! — dungeon run, and if everyone’s sniping at each other or if there’s a know-it-all haranguing others for their failures, then it’s going to be a miserable time for all involved. Make it a priority to cheer your team on, express congratulations over levels and gear earned, and to put a quick stop to a teammate putting another down.
Also? Use people’s names in chat, not their role (“Keep up with us, healer.”). That little touch of talking to someone as a person and not a tool can make all of the difference in how that person reacts to what you’re saying or asking.
Have to leave? Do it the right way.
Sometimes life intrudes and you have to leave a dungeon run before its conclusion. Just dropping group (perhaps in the middle of a fight) is disheartening for everyone else and contributes to your negative reputation. The best way is to wait for a break in the fighting and to give your team a heads-up that you have to leave and perhaps why. Thank your teammates for the run and take off, knowing that you didn’t leave a stench of jerk-gas behind you.
Don’t get tunnel vision
Regardless of your role, you need to pay attention to what’s going on across the entire battlefield. DPS can’t get so fixated on slashing down a boss that you ignore those incoming adds that are about to eviscerate the healer. Watch out for the danger spots and telegraphs on the floor that indicate incoming death, and perhaps meander out of those areas before the Grim Reaper pays you an express visit.
Be a team player
This is kind of a catch-all that requires you to get past yourself and see the success of the team as more important than personal glory and achievement. Telling others how to play, ninja looting, not paying attention, and spouting offensive dribble into chat are all ways to chip away at a team’s resolve. Instead, support the team, encourage the team, and be a positive component in the team’s makeup. Trust me, you’ll end up having a much better time and usually come out ahead anyway if you do so.