Dungeon Dynamics

A week after my big binge to 67, my hunter is still only level 69. As I've cut back on play time to preserve my sanity, I've watched more and more people overtake me in terms of character progression, and it's been oddly disheartening. As much as I've been trying to tell myself that it's not a race and that the FOMO is irrational, I've also come to realise that while Outland isn't suddenly going to go away, people's availability to run dungeons very much is a temporary thing. Initially I was just about managing to ride the crest of the wave of early dungeon levellers, but now I've fallen off and it feels like everybody's already done with the bits I need and wants to do something else instead. People are even running heroics and going to Karazhan already.

Dungeons are a big part of the Burning Crusade's progression and the expansion's appeal to me, and I'm not even talking about the current meta to level through dungeons to optimise reputation gains. (I'm very much against blindly following any perceived meta, but in this case it actually overlaps with something that I already enjoy for its own sake, so... yay me I guess?) Dungeons are required for a lot of BC's infamous web of attunements, and back in the day the introduction of heroic dungeons offered an alternative endgame gearing path to raiding for the first time.

It's been interesting to observe people's different approaches to dungeon running. There are those, like me, who've been focusing on forming and joining guild groups, but others have preferred to hit up the LFG channel instead. Even without an automated LFG tool, the current glut of people needing or wanting to run dungeons at the moment means that it can be faster to just dip your toes into the wider server pool, especially if you're a tank or healer. I don't think there's a right or wrong to this, but I can't deny that the more people jump into LFG the moment they log in, the harder it becomes to build groups within the guild.

Some people who play damage dealers have also come across as a bit lost. They're used to just showing up for raids, and not automatically getting an invite to something the moment they log in can feel daunting, especially with the high number of dps players competing for every dungeon spot. It takes me back to my original BC days, when I recall some of my guildies back then perpetually complaining that they just couldn't get groups for the dungeons they needed, especially heroics. I even wrote a post to "educate" them on the guild forums back then, and the other week I actually realised that I'd at some point had the sense to back up this and other forum posts of mine for future reference. Here's what past me had to say about getting dungeon groups in BC circa. 2007/2008, reproduced in full:

Shintar's guide to getting dungeon groups in four easy steps

1. Be active, not reactive.

"I never get invited to heroics!"
"This dungeon quest has been in my quest log for ages, I just can't get a group for it!"

Let me tell you a secret: Instance groups don't magically appear out of thin air, someone has to take the first step and start inviting others. The good news is: Anyone can be that person, even you! So stop moaning about how others don't do things for you and take matters into your own hands.

2. Knowledge is power. In more than one way.

First off, it helps a lot to know where exactly you want to go and why. "Anyone for a heroic?" is a very lackluster invitation and unlikely to draw the attention of anyone who isn't bored out of their skull. Try something like: "Anyone for heroic SL? It's the daily, badges all around!" People like leaders who know what they want.

Secondly, make sure that you know what kind of group composition you're looking for and what you're missing. A tank? A healer? Some crowd control? Once you know what you need you can seek out the right people directly.

This ties in with knowing your guildies: who plays a healer, who has a tanking alt and so on. For example there is no point in spamming guild chat with requests for a tank if none of the people online actually play one; you'll just end up making yourself look daft.

In fact, avoid using guild chat as your private LFG channel altogether and just whisper people once you've decided that they would be a good addition to your group and have checked that they aren't already in an instance. Personal requests make people feel special. "Gosh, she doesn't just want any mage, she wants me to come along!" (Never mind that you're the only mage online right now...) It's also harder to reject a personal invitation than to ignore a generic request for help in guild chat.

The final kind of knowledge that's useful in this regard is knowing about things like who said something embarrassing in guild chat yesterday or who sent you that epic mistell the other night... you can use the threat of screenshots as blackmail to make people do what you want!

3. Be nice. Play well. Have fun.

This one is equally important whether you started the group or whether you were invited by someone else. It's particularly important for dpsers, since there are so many of us... tanks and healers can get away with being a bit jerky since they are in demand.

You'd think that something like this would be a no-brainer, but for many people it clearly isn't. Spending the whole instance whining about how everything sucks is not going to make you popular. Don't expect to be invited again any time soon after ninja-afking for half an hour just before the second boss. Sorry, but if you're a rogue who does less dps than my left toe, I won't ask you to come along to a heroic again.

People will generally give guildies priority for runs, but not blindly. A good reputation and the perks that come with it have to be earned.

4. Keep an open mind.

If you really want to get that dungeon quest done, don't give up just because your favourite tank isn't online right now. Okay, so you don't know this other guy that well, but you'll never know unless you give him a chance, will you? Even pugging people can turn out to be a pleasant surprise - there are a lot of great players out there who aren't in Onslaught.


Alternatively, you could always just make friends with someone who's good at organising dungeon runs and then bully them into setting up groups for you whenever you need one. :P

I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been making my own dungeon groups with mixed success. I've been trying to follow my own advice, but the issue I'm having is that everything is going so much faster in Classic Burning Crusade than it did in the original, which makes some things feel kind of bad and exhausting (to me anyway). I have no problem whispering every tank and healer in the guild to ask them whether they are interested in coming to the dungeon I need... but to keep up with the speed at which people are advancing, I'd need to do so at least three times a day, at which point I'm starting to feel like a nuisance.

Same with the whole "knowledge" thing... it would be nice to be able to team up with other people who need the same things as me, and there's even an addon that keeps track of everyone's progress across the whole guild, but a person who's on the same step of an attunement as me one day is suddenly three steps ahead the next and totally done with the dungeons that I still need.

As for knowing people... I thought I had pretty good knowledge of everyone on the raid team, but the past few weeks have played complete mayhem with the roster, with lots of old-timers returning, new recruits that haven't been documented anywhere that I'm aware of, and former raiders disappearing seemingly without a trace. I guess that's not unusual for a new expansion launch, but again, it does make things harder. I don't mind getting to know new people, but it's all happening a bit too fast for me to keep up.

As a result I've spent the last level or so just grinding clefthooves in Nagrand. I promised our bear tank that I'd make him the heavy clefthoof set, and it requires ridiculous amounts of leather, but I kind of like my leatherworking actually being able to make useful things, and at least it's a goal that I can pursue by myself and at my own pace. It also feels oddly appropriate from an RP point of view and like a return to the character's roots to just go out and do my own thing - just me and my pet.

I still yearn to do all those dungeons, get attuned for Karazhan and so on and so forth... and I'm sure I will, in good time. But at the moment I just have to accept that I can't keep up with those whom I consider my friends, and eventually, I too may have to simply brave the LFG channel and start pugging things. I'm sure it'll be fine; I've never had any issues with pugs in Classic. I just thought that with all of us going into this expansion together it would be more of an opportunity to play with friends, but as it turns out I'm too much of a slowpoke nowadays to keep up with the Joneses Forks, which I can't help but feel a bit sad about.


  1. Pulling just one point out of that long and detailed post, I have always had some serious problems with whispers or tells or whatever the game in question calls its one-to-one communication channel. Part of the problem is purely practical. For some reason every time anyone sends me a tell I get digitally confused. I press the wrong keys, answer in the wrong channels and maybe end up on auto run or attacking something I shouldn't. That almost literally never happens with communications in any other channel. I don't know what causes it but it's been that way for twenty years.

    For that reason alone I never want to receive whispers. The other reason isn't practical, it's emotional. I find them inherently creepy. I think partly it's the naming convention: "tells" in some games, "whispers" in others, Neither feels right. "Tell" reminds me of "telling" on people, something I was brought up not to do and I have never found it comfortable to have someone whisper something to me in real life. It's no more comfortable in a game, and of course people do use whisper all the time to talk about other people behind their back. The implication of the name bleeds over even when the useage is wholly innoccuous. I do think if the channels were called "chat" or "talk" I would have a lot fewer issues with them.

    The upshot, though, is that sending me whispers or tells is probably the very worst way to get a timely, meaningful or positive response. When I was very social in EQ and I had people sending me tells frequently, if they wanted an actual conversation I would sometimes make a custom channel so we could talk in that and not have to use /tell. I really like custom channels. It's a shame not many games have them.

    These days I get so few private communications it doesn't make much difference if they come in purple but I remember it being quite troubling back in the day.

    1. That's a funny story! For many people (including me), whispers seem to be the only guaranteed way to get a person's attention. I've given them their own chat window, and by default the game plays a sound and pings you when someone whispers you. It automatically draws the eye, and depending how busy things are, conversations in other channels can be too easy to miss if they scroll by quickly.

  2. You know, I'm so used to doing things via pugging that when I arrived in Outland, pugging was my first response to wanting to get into dungeon groups. And considering that very few people in guild have mains still in level appropriate range for the Hellfire Citadel and Zangarmarsh level dungeons, it makes perfect sense. I mean, if there's no advantage in gear acquisition via pugging versus guild runs (with alts, at this point), why not?