Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer

January 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Posted in General | 5 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Prompted by Spinks’ claims that she Can’t Heal Stupidity and Syp’s further breaking of the Healer Mafia Code of Silence, *M*M*O*S*H* is proud to present:

Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer

There’s a lot of talk about healing in MMOs on the intarnet, but most of it deals with the crunchy stuff.  What class to take, what talents to spec, what gear to get, and what numbers you need to aim for in order to get to where you want to be.

The best thing about that information is that because it’s out there, I don’t have to learn scary maths to figure out what it all means.  Besides, crunchy stuff isn’t what Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer is about.  This is about the social aspect of being a healer, the arcane art of which can take a lifetime to master.

These are the collected insights of a jaded, bitter and slightly effete old man, who really should find another hobby…

You are the drummer.

Apparently, the drummer is the butt of all band-related jokes.  One day soon there will be MMO-related gags, at which point we’ll get “How many healers does it take to change a lightbulb?” and sundry other commentaries which we shall file under “Humour”.  Whilst wearing a fixed smile.

Yes, *YOU* are the drummer.  The Tank is the front-man, shouting for everyone to follow his lead.  DPS are the guitarists, twanging away with as much noise as they can.  You’re the guy at the back that no-one really notices, but without you to provide the the beat, they’re just making a raucous cacophony.

You may feel that this is an unfair analogy, but, in the words of the Great Philosopher; “Sucks to be you, don’t it?”  Get used to it, because you’ll never get recognition for what you do, you’ll just get shouted at for getting it wrong.  And most likely called a “Thicky”, or something similar.

Drummers, we Healers salute you as brothers.  And sisters.

It’s not a lifestyle choice.
You are not Doctor Kildare.  (Younger readers may wish to substitute; “You are not George Clooney’s character in that ER programme” for “You are not Doctor Kildare”).  Your leet healing skillz are not going to help you alleviate world suffering, they will not bring succour to the needy, and they are most certainly not going to find the cure for cancer.

Feel free to remind the rest of the group of this fact, if they seem to forget it because they want to go instancing, and they “just  need a healer”.  Just like they’re not psychotic axe murderers, you are not a living saint.  This means you can choose to do other things than be at their beck and call whenever their oh-so-special armour isn’t enough to keep them alive.  Playing hard to get will make them appreciate you for whom you are.

After all, be easy, and no-one will respect you.  They won’t even call in the morning.  “Just need a healer” indeed!

Managing aggro.
Sometimes, you’ll be healing, sometimes you’ll be watching as a monsty that’s three times your size attempts to turn you into so much jam.

Yes, you shall have drawn aggro.  Usually this comes from two situations.

Firstly, you’ve managed to pour so much healing into the tank that you’ve managed to gain more aggro than he has.  Take a moment to reflect on how cool your skill at healing is, and hopefully in that time the tank will have regained the attention of afore-mentioned beastie.  Before someone has to scoop you into a Jar marked “Raspberry”.

Second is a poorly-timed Add.  Always be aware that *all* Adds hide in the shadows (usually stood next to a ninja), and only decide to join in the fight as you’re firing off that lovely group heal.  Yes, the one that makes you look really cool, and heals everyone for a bajillion hit points.

You might be wondering how best to deal with this.  You might find that your command of language might well diminish to the point where only one word is still in your vocabulary.  Do not follow the advice of Mr Amygdala.  “Flee” is a bad word in this situation (anyone who thought that one word was not “Flee”, but was a rude and bad word is naughty, and should probably not play a healer).

Think about how you got into your current situation (face full of monsty), and think about why it’s just not your fault (tank/add).  Now, you need to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate.  And it will, if you are not careful.  If it does, it *is* your fault, dear reader.

Point the First: Do not move.  If you move, the tank cannot do his job, and get the monsty back into its rightful place; hitting them, not you.  Forming a conga-line of pain does not impress anyone.  So don’t do it.  Stand still, take your lumps, emerge a stronger individual.  If you *must* move, move slowly towards the tank, taking the monsty with you.

Point the Second: Alert your team to the fact that you are taking the pain.  This is not the time for rudeness, as a little forethought can pay dividends: A macro wherein your character states, for example; “Ouch!  Ow!  Oooh!  The pain stops me from healing you all!” is only a click away in the heat of the moment.  If you are using some form of voice communication, always use a calm tone, and express yourself clearly; Mr Mumbly will not get his message across.  Do not forget to state the name of your character.  “Hawley getting ouchy” is such an example, and has been used to good effect a number of times.  Pro tip: You might want to exchange the name “Hawley” for one that pertains to your character.

Point the Third: Do not heal yourself.  Every self-heal adds to the trouble the tank will have in peeling that monsty off you.  Just like a plaster, it hurts less if they can rip it off you quickly.  Remember, self-healing is what Healing Potions are for.  If you feel the need to do something, try using one of the aggro-reducing abilities you have been provided with.  Or whistle.  One should only self heal if the alternative is taking an early dirt-nap.

If there is a second healer in the group, they should be looking to heal you in your moment of need.  Just as you should heal them in their moment of need.  In these situations, being clever is better than panicking, and running around.  That works for chickens.  It will not work for you.

Remember, panic instills panic.  A true healer sails through the carnage as a stately ship does the ocean calm.  Or the nearest thing to it.

Aversion Therapy.
Sometimes, a member of the group may not be fully au fait with the aggro mechanic of their chosen game.  This is usually a lack of knowledge, and one that is easily remedied with a few short instructions.

Some players, however, are wilfully ignorant, and will have decided that their quest for ever higher damage numbers is more important than any “mere” method for determining whom should take lots of pain.

Do not think of these people as “Fellow Players”.  Think of them as “Assassin!” because all they wish to do is kill you.

It is simple.  They draw aggro from the tank, because they care only about their positioning in some pedestrian thing called a DPS Meter.  As they have drawn aggro, they are taking damage, and you must heal them.  As you heal them, you are drawing aggro, until the point when you are, inevitably, drawing aggro.

Then the monster comes and turns you into jam.

Do not become the jam.

Denial of healing is one popularly ascribed method for dealing with such assassins, but this will make you out to be “an jerk”.  The idea here is not to survive the encounter, but to ensure that the assassin is changed in his ways.  And no-one ever takes the advice of “an jerk”.

Aversion Therapy is the answer.  I should recommend starting at 25%.  This means that when the assassin has lost 25% health, you should heal him.  And not before.  25% is enough for them to know that they have taken some pain, and that they should do something (that is not take more pain) about it.  If they do not do something about it, raise the level to 50%.

Usually, a comment will be made by the assassin at that point.  Remind them of the machinations of the Aggro Mechanic, and that you would rather devote your energies to keeping the tank alive.  At this point the assassin should realise that you shall not fall for their wily attempts to turn you into jam.  If they continue in their nefarious ways, raise the level to 75%.

After that, let them burn.  You did your best, and not all souls are for saving.  Some must be examples for the rest.

Talking in class.
Sometimes, instruction will be required.  Usually the raid or group leader shall tell everyone what they should do in the forthcoming set-piece battle, and they shall do so in their best stentorian tones.

It is not particularly required that you be aware of the smallest minutae of each boss fight of each instance and raid in your chosen MMO.  No.  Only a madman would wish to know such a vast and bewildering amount of knowledge.

It is merely enough to know where you should stand, and who and what you should be healing.  For this, your fellow healers will have a better idea than the group or raid leader.  Talk to them; that is what private channels are for.

Make friends with your fellow healers.  They are not your competition, they are brothers and sisters in your struggle against the lemming-like nature of the rest of the group.  Chat to them, swap favoured recipes, and inform them of your favourite chocolate.  These are the things that will see you through the bad times, and these are the people who will keep you standing in the bad aggro times.

Love your Pillar.
At many times in your healing career, you will ask where you need to stand in order to fulfil your healing obligations.  “Over there”, someone will tell you, handily forgetting that the ability to point is of particular use in such a situation.

“Where?” may well be your request for clarification.

“There, by the pillar”, will be the clarifying statement.

Do not feel that being sent to the pillar is an obscure punishment, or that you are not cool enough to stand with everyone else in their rabble at the front.  The pillar is *yours*.  No-one else gets a pillar.

Get used to your pillar.  Learn to love it.  It is, after all, yours.  When that archer Add decides to turn you into a coat-rack or similar receptacle for their arrows, you can use your pillar as cover.  If someone must come to you and they are unsure of where you are due to a confused melee, “By the pillar” is a highly useful set of directions.

The pillar is your friend.  Love your pillar.

Lag is your co-pilot.
You may well notice, if you have attended sporting events as a spectator, that in a team sport, the “Last Man” will usually end up on the floor when the other team has scored a point.  The goalkeeper in Football (or “Soccer”, as colonials usually refer to it), the last tackler in a game of Rugby or American Football, all end up prone upon the floor whilst their comrades look dejected, and their opponents celebrate.

This is because they have just failed.  However, rather than look as if they are slackers, they have elected to fall upon the ground, in the hope that someone will think they are injured, and give them sympathy.  “You did your best”, and other appropriate platitudes.

MMO players will want someone to blame when their character dies.  Their first port of call will be you.  Yes, you.  They will not care that you have carried them through the last 3 encounters, that you have kept all of the group bar them alive through that fight.  No, they will want their pound of *your* flesh.  And then an abject apology, and then to send you the bill for their repair costs.

Stop them, and with ultimate force.

/say Lag.

That is all.  Preempt their unfair moaning, if possible.  In an inhospitable group, you might want to prime them with the question:

/say Is anyone else getting random, weird lag today?

It’s all in the timing.
It’s not enough to know what to cast when healing, but also when to cast.  If it’s a big heal, it will usually have a long induction time.  Start casting it early, especially if the tank is about to take a lot of pain for an extended amount of time.  A long induction can always be cancelled, even at the last minute, so you have nothing to lose by starting to cast early.

Be aware that sometimes you’ll need to spam the same heal again and again.  Get used to the rhythm required to cast it as fast as possible; you’ll need it.

Similarly, if your MMO of choice allows it, have the next healing target ready to go as soon as your last heal has cast.  Shaving off seconds, and parts of seconds, can be the difference between success and failure.

Triage.  It’s not just a place in Bermuda where ships disappear.

At times it will all go wrong.  This is a good thing, as this will remind everyone else in the group of how useful you are, and how they would all be jam were it not for your skilful play, and delightful presence.

When it goes wrong, someone will need to decide who lives, and who gets scooped up into the jar marked “Raspberry”.

That someone is you.

First of all, protect yourself.  Without you, everyone else dies.  Unless you have figured out a way to continue healing whilst smeared all over the floor.

Secondly, protect your tank.  Yes, your tank.  He keeps you alive, you keep him alive.  By extension, the two of you will keep everyone else alive.

Thirdly, keep any other healers alive.  Their backup healing will help you in your moment of glory.

Fourthly, keep the fellow players who are your friends alive.  They are your friends, after all.

Anyone else, and that usually means that annoying bloke who plays the ranged dps, may die.  Tanks and healers can finish a fight really slowly, so dps get to be the bottom of the triage pile.  Sucks to be them, don’t it?

Be.  Ruthless.

Do not let the gnashing and wailing of dps players distract you from your mission.  The group is about more than them.  In these moments, it’s your ruthlessness that will save everyone.  So save them now, rez the dps later.

You are the hammer that knocks the nail in.
Never forget that you are the one that keeps everyone else standing.  Never be afraid to let your group know that.  It is by your actions that victory is won, and by theirs that it is lost.

Take that attitude with you; that attitude is what separates us from the monsties, after all is said and done.




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  1. I forgot about that lag trick, great tip there!

    • Wotcha Spinks,
      It’s not a trick. It’s the truth. 😉

  2. Brilliant. I wrote a similar but not nearly as witty article at The Grouchy Gamer, and we made a few of the same points. Yours was much more fun to read.


    • Wotcha Genda,
      Ta muchly.

  3. […] Bad Hawley’s How to Hael Primer […]

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