Version 0.5 / updated on 2002NO28
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What are the differences between a hunt, a raid and an exploration? I talk about that in the first scroll of this series, the Basics of hunts scroll, but I thought I'd explain it here as well.
Some people think in terms of only two categories of endeavors, hunts and raids, and they put exploration into the raid category. I see exploration as a separate category, encompassing aspects of both hunts and raids. In an exploration, you have two modes of operation. In the first mode of operation, similar to a raid, you need to get to the area you want to explore. Generally, you want to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that you have most of your available time for the second phase. In this sense, this mode is very similar to a raid. People are focused on accomplishing the goal, which is getting to a specific area. People don't go out of their way to kill stuff, although they might secure a snell to regroup and make sure everyone is accounted for.
Once the group is in the area they want to explore, there is a change in the mode of operation. The first need is generally to secure the snell, so many of the hunting tactics are applied. After the snell is under control, people will look for paths, and map the areas, etc. The action loses some of its focus, since people don't know exactly what to expect, so people still need to be disciplined and stay on their toes, but things proceed at a slower pace than in the first phase. Once a snell has been explored and mapped, the group will move to a new snell, again with many of the same tactics as in a hunt.
There are differences with both raids and hunts though, and I list those in this scroll.
As with most endeavor, but perhaps more so, good leadership is essential to a successful exploration effort. It's important to select a leader, and to follow his/her directions without debating everything while in the middle of the exploration. Comments should wait for after the expedition if possible, or be sent via sunstone. Being a leader isn't easy, as there are many things going on, and much information to process, as well as a lot of communication going on. If a leader doesn't answer you immediately after you suggested something, it's probable s/he is too busy talking to 3 other people simultaneously, and of course thinking about how to get the group out of trouble, all that at the same time. So try to be supportive of the leader and to follow his/her lead.
Leaders should also consider the people in the group and try to inform them of what is going on as much as they can. It's preferable to take some time at the beginning of the expedition to summarize what the goals are, and how they shall be accomplished. Links to available maps should be given so that people can try to follow where they are going and understand the plan better. This time is a good investment considering that there won't be time to explain everything while being attacked by critters. Also, people enjoy themselves more when they don't feel they don't have a clue of what is going on.
A leader should issue clear directions, and have the foresight to inform the group of possible dangers and ways of escape in advance. Things like "Careful not to touch that flowerpot, you'll fall to the lower floor and trigger a spawn" or also "In case we need to fall back, the EP Tower if NW of here." People understanding what's going on and what to do and not to do are usually more efficient. Of course, a leader doesn't always have time to talk much, or s/he might be a slow talker (OOC slow typer), in which case it might be a good idea to designate someone as a communication officer, in charge of explaining things. It has to be someone familiar with both the role of leader and the style of the current leader.
Exploration expeditions vary a lot depending on the place explored. It's important to make sure the group has the necessary skills to cope with the challenges. Can we rod the lightning? Can anyone brick the Ember Drakes? Do we have enough Horus?
There are too many variables to list here, but evaluating the group is an important part of exploration. Various skills are required depending on the area. Fell bladers, illusion breakers, defense, kill rate, self healing, rodding, horus, boosting, etc.
Younger exiles explore areas near town, and that is as much exploration as any other trips, but generally speaking, when a group organizes an exploration, it's usually to a place some distance from town. Some places are hard to reach, and others are hard to come back from. One aspect of exploration that should not be forgotten is the time required to complete the expedition. The group needs time to reach the area to explore, time to look around, time to come back, and a little more in case of problems.
A major difference between an exploration and a hunt is the fact that critters should be killed as fast as possible. No waiting for people to tag. Fighters should know their strength and play their role. Someone bricks the critter, the back is left open for the fellblader, weaker fighters keep the junk off the mystics and healers, a good self-heal healer can "run" most of the critters, etc.
A lot depends on how well the group works together. It's important to know what each person's speciality is, what his/her strength and weaknesses are. Mystics should not try to tag dangerous critters, nor weaker fighters. Knowing who needs a boost for a particular critter, knowing who will make the chain run in case someone falls in an adjacent snell, etc. Building cohesion in a group is important, and experience in working together as a team is important.
Most skills are useful in exploration, as in any other situation, but some skills are especially important. It's a good idea to tell the leader of your particular skills or talents if they apply, possibly in advance.
|Pathfinding||Many areas need to be checked for paths. Full pathfinders can open difficult paths, but any level of pathfinding can be useful too. The more pathfinders in a group the better, as it increases the chances of being able to open a very difficult path. Having only one pathfinder able to open a path that the group needs to cross can be a problem because s/he can fall on the wrong side of the path and the rest of the group can be unable to reach him/her. With two pathfinders present, one opens the path and one enters the path last. The leader may ask to form a line in front of the path so that, once opened, everyone can enter quickly. Fighters should go first, with a couple of healers mixed in, then the rest of the healers and then mystics and the backup pathfinder.|
|Illusion Breaking||It's useful to have a good illusion breaker in an exploration group. This is a full mystic skill that is, sadly, somewhat hard to secure in most exploration groups. Breaking illusions is very taxing for the mystic doing it, so people should be ready to enter quickly when it's opened, and the opening mystic should be shared, since it helps him/her maintain the illusion open more easily.|
|Chaining||People experienced in chaining are a plus in any situation and exploration isn't an exception. When things go bad it's often a good idea to chain fallen and get back to a more easily defendable position. A leader will possibly call "Out! Chain fallen is possible." when that happens. That means to grab fallen if possible, but not to risk falling yourself just to get someone, and to get out. The leader may also ask to "fort up" which means to create a protected area with available walls/rocks/etc and fallen exiles. Corners and such are best for that, since they require less fallen exiles to secure. Mystics and less experienced fighters should replace healers and strong fighters. "Chain runs" are incursions into an adjacent area in the hopes of getting one or more fallen. These are made by high defense/histia fighters or strong healers generally.|
|Locating||A good locating mystic is a plus in exploration expedition. S/he can locate lost group members of course, but locating is also useful in mapping new areas, finding the name of places, and possibly the true distance these new areas and known places.|
|Boosting||Many 'frontier' areas that are explored are full of hard to hit creatures, so a good atkus-boosting mystic can be a plus. Balthus-boosting can also be useful for "fighter runs" in adjacent area to clear away creatures. To be most useful, boosting mystics must be able to boost either balthus or atkus enough to make a difference and be able to regain energy fast enough that they can boost again as needed.|
More to come...