Vidyala made a post in which she talked about how now that she's running heroics at eighty she misses the friendly chatter she got used to in her levelling pugs, as everyone's so quiet. This got me thinking: A few days after the introduction of the dungeon finder I, too, complained about the lack of communication in many pugs, but since then I've actually become a pretty silent pugger myself.
I still like chatting to my fellow party members and creating a sense of cameraderie and adventure, but the dungeon finder has robbed me of a lot of opportunities to get talking. I mean, what do you usually talk about with other WoW players?
"Okay, there's nobody in LFG, could everyone ask in their guild if anyone from there wants to join us?" "I'm on my way to the summoning stone, is anybody else going?" Oh wait, all of that has become redundant. Not to say that I miss having to organise all this stuff myself, but it used to give people a reason to start talking if nothing else. Nowadays the most exciting thing that might happen is that some newbie needs to repair and hasn't quite grasped the dungeon finder's teleportation function yet, which will then give you an excuse to explain how it works.
"So, what does this boss do?" might be a question people still ask in levelling dungeons, but if you're doing heroic modes everyone will pretty much expect you to already know the fights. (Or if you don't, maybe you're scared of admitting it and being branded as "noob", so you stay quiet anyway.) Not to mention that with how badly people overgear level eighty heroics these days, what little tactics there might be can often be ignored anyway.
A useful drop is almost always worth mentioning. "Yay, finally! I've been trying to get that for months." "Grats on the boots, I see they are a great upgrade for you!" Unfortunately the availability of superior emblem gear for almost every gear slot has made this kind of thing quite rare these days as well. And in those instances where the gear is so good that you can't get anything better with emblems, conversation about the drops is just as likely to get hostile if you've got several people competing for the same item. After all, they can buy a full set of tier nine after a few days, how dare people suggest they should run an instance for weeks just to wait for one item to drop again? It must be mine now!
4. Impressions of the instance
I love running with people who have never done an instance before because seeing them express their amazement always makes me smile. I still remember the first time I did Azjol-Nerub, at the time with a full guild group. We were all a bit wary of the hole in the ground after Hadronox, but when we finally dared to jump we were all in awe at the countless layers of nerubian architecture zooming by. Problem is, this isn't really something you can recreate once you know the place inside out.
One thing you can do and which works reasonably well as a conversation starter is to express a general opinion on the instance or a boss (and one of the commenters on Vid's post mentioned this as well). "Oh god, not Halls of Stone again, third day in a row that it's my daily and I'm so tired of it!" "Yay, I love the Oculus, easy emblems and a bunch of extra goodies!" But frankly, after a dozen times you'll likely feel a bit silly repeating that every time. You may be meeting new people on each run, but you're still talking about the same subject repeatedly. I may not like Halls of Stone much, but on the other hand I also don't dislike it enough to actually want to complain about it to every group I run with.
5. Impressions of the other players
"Nice tanking!" This is the kind of thing I'm still most likely to bring up in a pug, whether it's about a player's performance, a rare piece of gear they are wearing or an unusual title. However, this too is becoming more and more difficult as of late as everyone is decked out in the same damn emblem gear, and the instances have become so easy that it's hard for anyone's performance to stand out.
6. General WoW stuff
"Have you seen the new Cataclysm screenshots yet?" "Finally, I've been waiting for that instance popup for hours, questing in Borean Tundra was getting boring." This kind of thing works great if it comes naturally... but it only really works if you actually do have some great piece of news to talk about or have been doing something interesting just before the group formed.
7. Real life
I'm sure all of us have at some point or another been grouped with someone who just loved talking about their real life non-stop, whether they were going on about what they were eating at the time or telling you all about their girlfriend. This isn't everyone's cup of tea though. I find it too personal to start talking about real life matters with a bunch of people I only just met myself, so I simply don't do it out of principle.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the rest being silence.
I'm looking forward to using the dungeon finder in early Cataclysm though. The new content and other expansion-related changes should give people enough to talk about for quite a while.