One of my alliance-mates, commenter, and fellow Harry Potter enthusiast shot me a good writing prompt yesterday. Here's what she wrote:
Here is an interesting question you might want to address (Wow, look at me giving you prompts!). Should casual guilds/alliances have absolute gear requirements for raids? Such as Ulduar, or even Eye of Eternity? For example, should we require anyone who wants to raid Ulduar to have the "Superior" achievement, or all items item level 200+ (and make exceptions for things like trinkets maybe? hmm.) This is something I've been thinking about lately, as we get closer to Ulduar. Plus, a few of us tried to do EoE over the weekend, and it went very badly.
This is an interesting question, indeed. When is it okay or even expected to have "gear requirements"? I think traditionally this is seen as a "hardcore" approach to raiding, but with the increased accessibility of the WotLK raids, it is likely a question some "casual" guilds are asking themselves. I think the answer to this question is really two-fold.
The first question we'd need to answer is:
What does requiring a certain gear level really do for you?
If we're going to entertain the idea of introducing a gear requirement for our raids, it's only logical that you first identify the benefit of doing so. On the surface, this is simple: you need to have certain gear to be successful at a certain level of raiding. That is to say, you certainly can't walk into EoE with quest blues and greens and expect to do anything other than fall flat on your face. However, where would you draw the line?
You see, it's been my experience that there are players who "outperform" their gear. I think we've all been in a group with some guy who we inspect and see... ew, this guy's a noob. Then they proceed to beat the guy decked out in purples of the same class. Or you are getting your butt kicked on the charts by another guy and think, well he's obviously over geared. Then you inspect them and fell bad about yourself for a week before vowing to change your spec/class/playstyle. Whatever the case may be, these folks just surprise you with their ability to perform in low quality gear.
On the flip side, you have folks who are epic'ed out and can't beat the tanks on the DPS charts. We've all seen that guy too and just shake our heads in frustration. Especially when you point them to several very good resources and they appear to have the temperament of an angry mule (yes, that is a veiled way of calling them an 'asshat').
The problem here arises that if you were to draw a "line" based on success, you'd have to draw two different lines. How does one take skill into account here? For me, this is the first thing that sort of breaks gear requirements. You're going to really have to make a judgement call based on player skill anyways. So, what are you really gaining? I suppose in the case of our casual guild, it gives us a non-offensive way of denying people who don't belong in the raid. If someone tells you that you're not "good enough", well that sucks and can make for some drama. However, if you just say "your gear isn't good enough", well then, that seems to be a lot easier to accept and correct than "your skill isn't good enough". So basically, you're really just gaining an "out" as a raid leader or making the decision easier.
The second question we need to ask ourselves is:
Is such a rule helpful or even appropriate for a "casual" guild/alliance?
The reason that this is the second question is because you really have to be aware of what the rule means for you before you can decide if its helpful or not.
For our alliance, and I would imagine many other casual raiders, the roster is developed on a "first come, first served" basis. That is to say, we don't have a core team, it's just who's available. This isn't to say you can't have a core team and still be "casual", because I know several people who pull this off (Abi over at kungaloosh is a great example of this. I think he'd definitely tell you his folks are casual, but they had basically the same people every week and tried to keep a consistent "team". This worked really well for them, but certainly would not for my neck of the woods. We just can't get people to commit like he can). Long parenthetical remark aside, the FCFS-basis means that you can't really pick and choose who you want. Therefore, it may well mean that having an "out" is a very good thing for you. As long as your membership is okay with being told "no", it's certainly not going to hurt you a lot. After all, the better gear you have in general, the better your chances of success in any instance.
In my particular situation, however, I don't think we need to go so far as to define a specific limit. It's not that we can't or shouldn't tell people they need better gear to join a certain run, but more that we should avoid painting ourselves into that corner. You see, as soon as you define that line, then it is defined. I know, defined line is defined. Duh, right? But think about that for a moment and I think you'll get what I'm saying.
As long as you're semi-nebulous about the gear limits, you can gracefully reject those that may need more gear than others. There's even a good way to go about doing this by saying things like "you may struggle with your gear in here and it would probably be a good idea to gear up before trying this run." Our people would hear that and say: "Okay, cool, I'll work on that." The only way you may get in trouble is if you let one person in and then deny another who happens to inspect or go out of their way to examine the gear of the other person and try to "call you on it". I say, in that situation, you're well within your right to say: "Look, this person just puts out better numbers than you." Or something along those lines. After all, they asked for it by not just taking the hint.
The point here is that we have wiggle room, and that's generally a good thing in a casual guild as long as you don't abuse it. I think most of our members realize that as a raid leader, my goal is to give us the best chance of success. This isn't some ninja-looting PuG team where you gotta watch your back. They're pretty confident that I'm not trying to play favorites about something when it's not in the best interests of success. It's sort of how we roll as a group.
In general and outside of my situation, I think that unless you're willing to go full "hardcore", it will serve your group better to have more wiggle room. This allows raid leaders to make decisions based on numerous inputs. Instead of setting a limit for each individual player, it's much better to look at the capability of the the group over all. Thus you have to take into account the gear and skill of your players, and make a decision for success. It also helps if you can explain and stick by your decision. Sometimes it may be very difficult to do, but if you're a respected leader, most folks will respect your decision and not get too bent out of shape, especially if you can explain to them what they can do to make themselves better.
For tanks, you really need a certain amount of gear to live. It's up to a RL to have a general idea of what this is. For DPS and healers, it's probably more indicative to look at the numbers they put out than the gear they wear. However, you have to take care to remember all the other factors as well. Like how mana-efficient a healer is or how good your DPS is at CC or whatever other skills might be needed for success. A decision based on all of the information will beat an arbitrary line any day of the week.
The Short Version
The wiggle room you gain by not setting hard limit can definitely work in your favor when you use it correctly, and will probably end up resulting in more long-term success. Setting a gear requirement is an easy way to help ensure a certain amount of success and selectivity. However, it is my opinion that it is most definitely not the best way to go about it. For my groups, I'd just prefer that we are honest with our members when we're putting together a raid and deal with it case-by-case based on what that night's needs are. I think in the long term, we'll see more content and have more fun, which are the goals our alliance was founded on.