The Secret World Grouping Mechanics Guide

The Secret World Grouping Mechanics Guide by Yokai

Because of the level-less system in TSW, the fact that many dungeon encounters are *designed* to require players in the group to switch their roles somewhat often, and the fact that the crafting system is not only fully usable but also necessary for every player, there are some significant impacts to grouping in TSW. All this means we have some interesting new things to learn about grouping in TSW.

Part 1 of this guide focuses on mechanics, and is purely descriptive.

Part 2 of this guide focuses on efficiency and ettiquette, and is largely prescriptive. IT IS JUST ONE PERSON’S OPINION AND DOES NOT REFLECT FUNCOM DESIGN VIEWS DESPITE BEING A STICKY AT THIS TIME. As a result, I know part 2 will rub some of you the wrong way. Please bear in mind that Part 2 is written *primarily* for PUGs, especially PUGS that are trying to do the 5-man dungeon content. Everyone knows that PUGs can sometimes be smooth and easy, and other times can be a nightmare of drama and wasted time and ninja looters and frustrating wipe after wipe. The prescriptive elements in part 2 are meant to help PUGs simply run smoother, easier, and with less hassle and drama. If you don’t like PUGGING, you probably won’t like part 2 of this guide.

The UI mechanics of grouping

To invite a player you are looking at, click them, then right-click the player stats window that appears at the left of the UI and choose Invite to Group.

To invite a player that is in another part of the map, a different phase of the same map, or even another zone entirely, use your chat window to enter the command /invite playerName.

To leave a group, right-click your own name in the group list and choose “Leave Group”.

To get all your group members into the same phase (aka instance) of the map that the team leader is currently on, the team leader should change the group’s looting option. This pops a dialog for all out-of-phase team members asking whether they want to join the same phase as the leader.

To change the loot options for the group, the group leader must right-click their own name and choose Looting Options. You can choose round-robin, free-for-all, master looter, or only-group-leader-loots options, and all four of these can be coupled with a Need/Greed roll (or not) for any level of gear. Note that the Rare option for need/greed applies to “green” gear drops, and Epic applies to “blue” gear drops.

Group member highlighting is currently lackluster. Your minimap and map icons are the only thing you can rely on. It can also help to simply select a specific group member with F2, F3, etc. to briefly highlight them with a “defensive target” highlight, making them easier to see and find.

The group leader is designated by a “crown” icon in the group list. They can assign a different leader or adjust loot options by right-clicking their own name in the group list.

If a group member disconnects, the game is really good about leaving them in the group list while they try to get back on, and they’ll always enter in the correct phase with you when they do.

Be aware in PUGS that people with 32-bit windows tend to crash a lot right now, so that group member will disco often. The perils of beta.

Auto-looting (the V key) can be done by any member of the group who sees a “light beam” coming from the ground to the “loot bag” floating above the ground. For example, if looting options are set to Free for All, then every member will see the light beam and can loot. But if looting is set to Round Robin, then only one player will see the light beam for any one loot bag. Anything set for need/greed rolls will be automatically popped in a roll window for everyone. You can clearly see the looting and roll outcomes in the General chat tab.

Money from drops is ALWAYS evenly split among all group members regardless of who actually loots the bag, and regardless of looting options. However, anything else in the bag that falls below the need/greed threshold goes ONLY to the player that loots the bag, and nobody else will see exactly what those items were.

Is this game social or solo?

First I want to address a complaint/misunderstanding I see on the forums a lot. For those of you who think TSW doesn’t encourage grouping and social interaction, I’d like you to try an experiment:

Assume you are in Kingsmouth wearing mostly QL2 gear at the moment, and so one of your goals is to find more QL3 gear so that you’ll be ready to move on to the next zone when your 18-tier Kingmouth storyline mission ends. Or you want to try the group dungeon in Kingsmouth (Polaris), and you’ve heard (or its reasonable to assume) that groups will probably need to be geared up in QL3 gear to do well in there.

So head north in your QL2 gear and *solo* farm some of the mobs that drop QL3 weapons, talismans, and weapon/talisman kits. (Many of them are “1-skull” elites.) Do this for a while and see how you do. Now go find one or two players who will join you in a duo/trio team for a while. Go back and farm those same QL3-dropping mobs for a while as a duo/trio.

I think if you perform this experiment for yourself, you’ll see that soloing is certainly *possible*, but slow. Instead, having even just a duo partner to run around with most of the time is not only much faster/efficient/safer, but also more fun. Based on how I’ve seen *every* Funcom game balance monster health, monster density, monster patrol patterns, etc. I can confidently state that Funcom games, in general, encourage and reward at least duo/trio grouping for most of the game content. Many other MMOs are truly solo-centric (except for dungeon/raid content), but Funcom games typically aren’t solo-centric. For example, in AoC, the *only* effective way to level grind, even in all the outdoor areas, was with a full 5-man group powerfarming spawn points that were clearly designed specifically for 5-man groups. I see no reason to expect that TSW is any different, and the evidence I see in Kingsmouth’s northern areas makes me confident of this assertion.

Some terminology conventions

Even though TSW it technically “level-less” and we don’t have the in-game mechanics of a “gear score”, etc., it is still broadly useful to rank relative player strength, and there is a defacto way of doing so. For deeper detail, please read my guide on player strength (link in my sig block below), but for now I want to introduce the term “rank N” (shortform: rN) as a shorthand way of comparing the relative strength of players in a group.

The simple explanation is that your rank for any given deck is a number that most closely matches the overall quality level of your equipped gear for that deck. For example, if you’re wearing mostly QL3 gear with a few QL2 pieces, then you are “rank 3” or “r3”, and you would call that an “r3 deck” when talking about your deck.

The more detailed explanation is as follows:

rank = round(sum(all gear QL numbers)/9)

For example, assume a player is wearing two QL3 weapons, five QL3 talismans, and two QL2 talismans:

rank = round(sum(3,3,3,3,3,3,3,2,2)/9)
rank = round(25/9)
rank = round(2.78)
rank = 3

BTW, I’m willing to bet this is essentially the same algorithm that Funcom uses to determine player strength for monster and quest conning. Occam’s razor and all that. And this explains why your conning results are weighed more by your talismans than by your weapons (because weapons are only two data points out of 9 total data points).

How colored gear affects this rank system

Obviously, a player in 9 pieces of blue QL6 gear will be stronger than a player in 9 pieces of green QL6 gear. You can easily distinguish the relative strength of two such players by calling one of them “blue r6” and the other just “r6”.

Do you need to go to this trouble? Well, it’s just a few more letters to type in chat, so IMO it’s easy but not everyone will feel the same. Honestly, I think omitting the predominant color of your gear pieces is still informative and close enough for rock and roll.

Does Funcom’s conning code (for monster/mission difficulty) take into account the overall color strength of your currently-equipped gear pieces? That will be hard to test and reverse-engineer until I have a lot of blue gear, lol, so I can’t answer that right now.

How you define your role through build mechanics

Despite some grumbling to the contrary, TSW most definitely has the concept of roles. While you’re not locked into any one role, ever, you are still always playing a role at any given moment. The beauty of TSW, however, is that you can switch your role by simply switching to a different deck, and there are a LOT of very viable hybrid roles compared to other games. The available roles are more clearly described in the next section below. This section focuses only on how you actually define a role for a given build (deck).

You define your role in three ways:

1. By investing SP into the second row for each weapon in the Skills page, which is its “role” attribute.

2. By equipping talismans and weapon glyphs that provide stats that are useful for a given role. For example, if you want to play a tank role, you would focus on stats that give you high health, +block and/or +evade, etc. Or if you want to play a healer role, you would focus on the +Heal Rating stat. Starting with QL3 and QL4 drops, you’ll see lots of other stat combinations that are clearly designed for tanking, healing, or DPS. You can also craft gear with nearly any specific stats you want, so you could, for example, make talismans that split evenly between DPS and Heals.

3. By choosing a set of 7/7 abilities that synergize with the role you want to play. For example, tanks should pack a lot of abilities that generate high amounts of hate.

A final note that isn’t obvious at first: In general, if you want to play a very focused role, you generally want to pick two weapons whose role type ARE THE SAME. For example, if you are the primary meatshield for a dungeon run and you want the best chance to hold onto aggro, you should choose BOTH weapons from the “Survival” role (aka the tanking role). This would mean Hammer/Chaos or Blade/Chaos or Hammer/Blade. Same deal if you want to be a primary healer and do nothing but heal the meatshield like crazy: choose BOTH weapons from the “Healer” role. This would mean Fist/Blood or Fist/AR or AR/Blood.

Where TSW really shines is in the sheer variety of HYBRID role types you can create. You can mix and match quite a variety of different roles and have any one of these hybrid decks ready to use at any time. Want to be “tank-y with some CC”? Try Hammer/Shotgun. Want to be “DPS-y with some self heals and off-healing ability?” Try pretty much any weapon with one of the three healing weapons.

What about pure DPS roles? Another nice thing about TSW is that literally EVERY weapon can be a pure DPS weapon if you want it to be. All you need to do is spend your SP primarily on the DPS row for a weapon, and to equip talismans and weapon glyphs that are heavy on DPS-centric stats like +Attack Rating, +Pen, +Crit, etc., and finally, to choose your 7/7 abilities to be DPS-centric.

How group role mechanics are different in TSW

Roles are not as clearly defined and focused in TSW. You don’t really have tank builds. Instead you have “tank-y” builds. You don’t really have healer builds; you have “heal-y” builds. And so on: tank-y, heal-y, dps-y, support-y, and control-y. Don’t want to take my word for it? This is straight from Martin Bruusgaard.

The reason for this is the sheer flexibility of the skill system. A person might *think* they’re a tank because they have one “survival” weapon like Hammer, Chaos, or Blades and because they have one or two abilities in their build that say “generates hate”. But can they *really* tank well? Are all those other skills synergizing to *keep* the monster hate? Do they have enough different hate-generators (and therefore low DPS), or is their “tank” build full of big DPS finishers because they also use it for soloing and general purpose play? Are their talismans filled with tank-friendly stats or DPS stats or an unfocused mish-mash of stats?*

And finally, is the “tank” for the group a lower “rank” than one of the “DPS” people in the group? A lower rank than the “healer” for the group? If so, even a strong tank build is going to have trouble holding aggro unless the healers and DPS throttle their ability usage.

I could come up with similar examples for all the other typical roles, but you get the point.

Another strong difference in TSW is the fact that certain roles are VERY heavily influenced by the specific stats on your talismans. Tanks will want high +health stats and stats that ensure they land hits (no glancing), but don’t need to focus on +crit or +pen, etc. Healers will want *lots* of talismans with +heal rating, otherwise their heals will be too weak to support the tank. DPS will want high +pen or +crit gear, etc. And so on.

And the last very very VERY big difference in TSW is that all group members should have different decks they can call upon as needed for flexibility. Especially in dungeon encounters, you might need all group members able to fight from long range for one boss, then all group members able to focus on impairment effects for another boss, then all the DPS/Support members switching to Frenzy- and Chain-centric decks they can call upon for another boss that summons lots of weenie swarms, etc. If you have only one deck and play only one deck, you’re going to be far less useful to a team in a dungeon environment.

How the level-less and “role-y” nature of TSW makes PUG organization difficult

In other MMOs, you can clearly see that someone is a tank or healer or DPS or control class, etc., and you can clearly see their level. You can assume that they are running one of a few well-known builds for their role. And when setting up a PUG or looking for a 4th or 5th, you can easily advertise in chat: “LF2M: healer and dps for skybridge” and be pretty certain that you’ll get responses from players of the appropriate level and gearing for the dungeon. And when they show up, you can charge right into the dungeon without preamble because everyone will know their roles.

In TSW, there is potentially a LOT more discussion to figure out who’s who and what’s what before you even step into a dungeon, and then before each new section/boss there is potentially yet more discussion to figure out who is going to switch roles and do what.

There are ways to *minimize* this discussion if you come prepared to talk about your decks and your rank in an intelligent, shorthand way. More on that the section below.

THIS PART IS PRESCRIPTIVE OPINION OF MY OWN AND DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT FUNCOM DESIGN INTENT, EVEN THOUGH THIS GUIDE IS CURRENTLY A STICKY. You might well disagree with some of my advice. Please don’t waste time flaming me for it, although constructive debate is always welcome and useful to other readers, who can form their own opinion based on constructive debate.

Here are the specific “Rules of Thumb” that every group member should know

We can’t solve *all* of the problems with grouping mechanics with some simple rules of thumb, but we can solve *many* of them. There is no easy answer for the tank who doesn’t have a synergistic tanking deck with lots of hate-generating abilities, or for the healer who isn’t wearing *talismans with a ton of +heal rating stats. But there *are* easy answers for nearly every other potential problem.

Note: All the following “rules of thumb” boil down to two simple principles. Don’t let the fact that I am listing 10 specific rules of thumb irk you too much. I do that only to be able to elaborate on some fine points. The two basic principles are:

1. Know your effective rank for every deck that you like to play, and *communicate* that rank clearly in a shorthand manner every time your group talks about who’s doing what.

2. Be willing to do what it takes to ensure that the group’s designated tank can actually hold aggro successfully. You’ll all be a lot happier for it.

Guideline #1 – The group’s “tank” should be the highest rank in the group. If you prefer being the tank, but it turns out someone else in the group is higher rank than you, you should either bow out of the group or be willing to switch to an “off tank” deck or play some other role entirely. If the designated main tank isn’t the highest rank in the group, they just won’t be able to hold aggro effectively. This is easy to test with a single duo partner if you don’t believe me. Gear QL makes a *huge* difference in who the monsters will build hate for.

Rule #2 – Any non-tank roles in the group should be willing to swap roughly half or all of their gear pieces to lower-QL pieces if they are the same rank as the tank. This rule goes hand-in-hand with Rule #1. If three members are rank 4 and two are rank 3, then the two non-tank r4 members should downlevel their equipped talismans by at least half a rank to help the tank hold aggro bettter. You may be thinking: “that’s too much hassle to keep old gear around.” No, it’s not. Just keep like 6 older pieces you’ve outgrown in a separate minibag. When you need to downlevel, just right-click all 6 of them and YOU’RE DONE. When the run is over, just use your gear manager to reload your normal deck and all those 6 pieces will be swapped right back into that same minibag. It’s easy peasy. Again, the idea here is to *temporarily* downgrade your strength relative to the designated tank, so that the tank can do a better job of holding aggro and you’re not constantly peeling mobs off the tank because your gearing is as strong as the tanks. Extrapolating to later zones where the vertical progression is maxed out for everyone (everyone is in QL10 gear), this rule of thumb might still be useful: let the tank stay at rank 10 in all QL 10 gear, but everyone else drops into all QL 9 gear.

Rule #3 – If you want to play the tank role, load your deck with as many “generates hate” abilities as possible, and load up on +health gear. Your job is not DPS. Your job is keeping the mobs from peeling off to your healer or DPS guys. Just because you’re using a hammer/shotgun build (with lots of +attack rating talismans) does not mean you can actually hold aggro.

Rule #4 – If you want to play the healer role, load your deck with as many healing/shielding abilities as possible and load up on +heal rating gear. This also means you should be rocking TWO healing weapons (not just one). This probably doesn’t need to be a rule because most healer-centric players will intuitively understand this, but it’s worth emphasizing that +heal rating gear is very important to making your heals worth a damn. And an AR/Shotgun build or a Blades/Blood build, for example, simply won’t rock *enough* different healing abilities to heal effectively as the group’s primary healer.

Rule #5 – Know your *exact* rank for every single deck in your gear manager window, and make that rank number part of the name of the deck. When answering a call for a PUG or coordinating the group both inside and outside the dungeon, *always* state the rank number for any deck (role) you can switch into. It is not difficult to figure out your rank. You don’t have to do the full mathematical formula I outlined above. You can easily guesstimate your rank by looking at your character sheet. More QL3 than QL2 gear? Then you’re rank 3. More QL2 gear than QL3 gear? Then you’re rank 2. It’s that easy. Remember, nobody else can *see* a rank number for you in game, so it’s just helpful ettiqutte to state your rank clearly. For example: “I can r3 tank, r2 heal, and r4 dps”. Easy, short, concise, and clear to everyone else in the group.

Rule #6 – When looking for group members in chat (setting up a PUG), specify the exact ranks you need. For example: “LF r3+ for Polaris” or “LF1M – r4 tank for Polaris”

Rule #7 – When *answering* a call for PUG groups, clearly specify all the roles you can play AND the rank for each. For example, reply to a group leader with the short, sweet “r3 heal, r3 dps” if the only decks you have are a rank 3 healing deck and a rank 3 dps deck. Hopefully Funcom will give us the ability to fire off text macros in chat, so you can set up a canned response listing all your roles/ranks that doesn’t require much typing.

Rule #8 – When deciding your tactics for a given encounter within a dungeon (or in some overland camp for a special elite type), if you *know* what a given encounter requires, communicate that clearly in shorthand to the rest of the group. For example: “no melee builds, no hinder for this one. Need everyone ranged with aoe and weaken”.

Rule #9 – When responding to tactical discussion like in Rule #8, don’t just say “ready”. Instead, say “ready with r4 ranged aoe” or “ready with r3 ranged aoe/weaken”. These types of responses will greatly help your group leader (and everyone else) clearly understand what type of build you switched to and either lead the charge or else stop and restrategize because you don’t have enough AOE or because one of the group doesn’t have a ranged build or whatnot.

Rule #10 – If you generally prefer the DPS role, make sure you have a hybrid DPS/Heal deck ready to use at all times Since it’s easy to create a deck that focuses primarily on DPS but also can do some spot healing, you should always have a deck like this ready to switch to for encounters where a single primary healer can’t handle the load all on their own. It would be nice to assume that anyone playing a DPS role on the team could *also* be an “off-healer” for certain encounters where needed.

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