Dulling the Axe
Most of my pulling discussions tend to be oriented toward /RDM -- not because /NIN is the devil, but because that's what I use and that's what I have fun doing. I'm not out to convert the world to /RDM. In this post, I'd rather stress the importance of the strategies that come into play when you're out to have fun while you're meriting, and the easiest ways I've found to make the transition between looking for parties and having parties look for you.
A short set of social rules that seem to apply to every party and pulling situation:
If you take the initiative to make the party:
1. You can pull however and wherever you like.
2. You can take only people you know, and -- if you want -- only people you like.
3. You can party as long (or as short) as you like.
If you seek party:
1. You might have to advocate for your pulling strategy, or for a particular camp.
2. You'll take who you get.
3. You can still party as long as you like, but whether or not it's fun is mostly up to chance.
You can pretty much guess which situation I favor for this one.
The easiest way to have fun while you merit is to get a group together from your linkshell or to build an extensive flist of people you like to exp with. You can also ask for recommendations from your friends and try to merit in parties that are at least half composed of people you already know and like.
There's nothing breakthrough about this strategy, but I'm always surprised by how many people complain about meriting when all they do is look for parties ... instead of building their own.
Constructing a Group
Caveat: Situational. There are plenty of guides out there to exp camps. I deal mostly with merit-burn style parties.
1. A good healer. I don't like inviting healers I don't know, because a bad one will be the death of you.
2. A corsair. Not absolutely necessary, but it's good to build up a list of corsairs that you like and that like you back -- if you see one you like out in thickets, strike up a conversation, flist them, and invite them to your next group if they're amenable.
3. DD. Almost anyone will do, and I'll invite anyone if I like their company enough. Flist the ones who impress you in your best parties. If you have three strong DD, it's possible to have a good merit party with only five people (healer, bard, ddx3). If you have weak DD, it's usually better to have more/four of them and skip the corsair.
4. You. Bring pulling food of choice and your preferred subjob. Being consistent in choice of camp, pulling methods, and party setup will make actually pulling less of a hassle for you.
You'll find that the people you like will tend to make parties you like -- and that by having an extensive flist, you'll never lack for good invites. That can be both good and bad.
Good: you'll always have nice people to merit with.
Bad: they'll never stop inviting you. Ever.
There are pulling manners.
1. Make sure you (the pulling bard) or your leader have your camp in your seacom. All but the most rude people will check seacoms before they go to a camp. If someone doesn't have their camp commented, I consider it open -- though sometimes I'll make an effort to ask the leaders where their parties are, individually.
2. If you need to pull extra mobs from an area normally patrolled by another party, talk to their puller before you do. You might be able to come to a compromise without breaking either group's exp chain.
3. Wait for all party members to arrive before beginning a chain.
4. This is optional. Break the exp chain and restart when someone new arrives. This is a particularly odd bit of courtesy that some of my long-time friends appreciate. I prefer to ask new arrivals if they'd like me to break chain and restart for them, rather than breaking chain without explanation.
5. At bird camp -- middle or bottom -- do not pull birds from the other level, respectively, without express permission from the other puller. If you do it accidentally, tender an immediate apology to avoid the other puller embarking on a revenge-pulling contest. Most people won't care, but it's the rare few who do that will end up driving you up a wall.
6. Handle any special requests at the beginning of the party. This is why it pays to merit with people you know -- they already know what to expect from you and how you like to pull. I like my melee to kill whatever I pull first, links second. They know that and it's easier for them to make up their minds about a target in a link situation. If all else fails, designate an /assist.
Moral Gray Areas
That would be taking occupied camps or fighting off someone else who is trying to occupy your camp. I've arrived at a camp at the same time as another party, before -- but that's very rare. The usual rule is that the place belongs to whoever is there first and whoever is pulling mobs first. Whether or not you adhere to those unwritten rules is up to you.
The best way to take a camp and keep your reputation intact is to arrive and just begin pulling. Taking a camp is not and never should be a personal matter -- just business, getting yourself and your group some exp. Some people will never camp on other people no matter the situation.
Camping on another group tends to be less of an issue these days, with smnburn, chigoeburn, and increasing camp options. It used to be a much bigger problem, and part of my reason for pulling /RDM was an increased ability to both outpull another party and to defend my camp from people who tried to move in (while it was commented, no less).
I'd like to stress that this is only sometimes an issue at merit camps, but it's something that's bound to happen to everyone at least once in their career. What you do about it is up to you. FYI: there's nothing in the ToS that will give you footing with a GM, so it's up to the players to work/fight it out. XD
These are just suggestions for forming and maintaining healthy merit parties. I leave pulling style and camp up to individual choice. It's my hope that the etiquette list will be particularly useful for new bards who may not yet know the implicit code of conduct. Adhering to a personal code will make it easier to compromise with other pullers in your area and will also make you a known quantity to other bards and other people who are frequently meriting near you in the same camp. Unless you like annoying other people and being annoyed in return, following the suggestions in the etiquette list will tend to keep your camps clear and your groups productive.
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