August 15, 2000
Following in Formation - by Amaziah
The Very Basics:
I suppose I should start by giving the very basics of forming. A formation
consists of two or more people who all follow the form leader. To follow
someone you simply type follow, then his or her name. For example, to follow me
you would have to be in the same room as me, and type "follow Amaziah". I'd then
be asked whether I want to allow you to follow me to which I respond yes or no.
Whenever the leader moves in a direction, the entire form will follow. Why would
you want to form? The first noticeable effect is that the experience gained by
killing something is split throughout the entire form, and the experience gained
also increases. When fighting in a formation the people in the front row will
get hit a lot while the people in the back row won't get hit much at all ("form"
and "formtest" are useful command to check the layout of the formation). A
formation is also more balanced than lots of people walking around solo as the
differing abilities of each class complement each other. Warriors and thieves
can concentrate on hitting things and mages can concentrate on casting without
having to worry about their hitpoints much because the clerics in the form can
heal them (A flag at the start of your prompt will tell you who in the formation
is the most damaged so the cleric will know whom to heal).
Forming up is also more interesting than walking around by yourself the entire
time. It allows you to go to new places that you would have died in very
quickly if you tried to go there by yourself. In addition, if you are formed
with high-level clerics, they will be able to resurrect you and bring you back
to life if you die.
The key to a successful form is in the members of it. If the members all know
exactly what to do then the form should do quite well. If nobody is quite sure
what is expected of them and the other members, the results will be rather
chaotic and the form will either get killed off, or will run intolerably
slowly. Most of the guidelines I've outlined here are already done in most high-
level forms with most of it being worked out informally as the form progresses.
The outlines I've given place a large responsibility on the form leader to know
what's going on, and mostly involve asking the form leader before you do
something that in some cases could be fatal to the form.
- The first rule of forming: ALWAYS follow what the leader says. If you are told
to go up: go up. If you are told to remove your light: remove your light. If
you are told to flee: flee. If you are told to cast transport, then cast it.
This cannot be stressed enough. If those formed will not follow orders then the
form will fail.
Don't solo. The object of the form is not for you to learn exactly how the zone
is laid out (you should get some idea if you have autoexit on) so don't run off
by yourself to do stuff. If you're not sure of something then ask the form. The
leader will probably know and it will prevent instances in which half the form
attacks targets that require the entire form working together in order to kill.
I really hate it when I backstab fireshielded mobs and the cleric who is
supposed to be healing me isn't even there.
Don't spam. The reasons for this are obvious, especially for the healers.
Accidentally engaging the next mob in the room, room attacking a big mob that
just walked into the room, attacking non-existent targets and healing fully
healed (or dead) players are among the possible scenarios encountered when you
Autoassist has made keeping track of combat much easier. As soon as anyone
engages, you will know about it. This is especially useful if you're not in the
front row as sometimes you won't get attacked and drawn into combat until the
fight is almost over, or your formies are almost dead. Unless there is some
special reason, in which case your form leader should inform you of it, always autoassist.
Don't specify the target for skills/spells if you don't have to. For example,
if you're casting harm on "monster" ("cast harm monster" or "c ha m" if you
like abbreviating) to engage the monster you have to specify who/what you want
to harm but once you have started fighting all you have to do is "c ha" and you
will cast harm on whatever you're fighting. This is preferable to "c ha m" as
once the target is no longer there (fled, died, sandstormed, feared, etc) you
won't waste time and mana casting on nonexistent targets. Also, if another mob
also called monster walks in (or anything starting with m if you abbreviate it
fully) you won't accidentally attack that target instead.
Don't room attack unless the form leader says that it's allowed. Many times
there are multiple mobs in a room, and the form can more easily kill them one at
a time. Room attacking will engage every mob in the room, which often can have
fatal results. Even trapped or blind mobs will engage in combat with the form.
It's very frustrating for the form leader, after having put in much time and
effort into trapping and blinding mobs, for someone to tremor or acid blast or
charge when they're not supposed to, causing the other mobs to enter combat. If
in doubt, ask first.
Don't use sanctuary orbs unless told to do so. The leader should have control
over what happens in the form. Ideally, the leader should be the one with the
orbs but if you have been assigned to orbing, do so only when told. Usually the
time when an orb is required is very consistent so after a while you get to know
when the leader you to use wants one. Always inform the leader of any orbs in
corpses or orbs that you have in your possession for use. If you have lots of
orbs or confetti then you don't need to worry about conserving orb charges, and
you're pretty safe in using orbs any time you want, except for when you are
engaged in combat with an unsanced target or there are unsanced mobs in the
Set your wimpy to 0 unless you are told to do otherwise. If you're a
spellcaster in the back row, having a non-zero wimpy is usually ok because
getting to hp that low would require the rest of the form to have fled or died
already. Having people fleeing away just as you're about to heal them is very
annoying and quite often leads to the death of the entire form.
Rest when you are told to do so. If you're low on mana (or hp) tell the form.
If you need to tick, inform the form that you need to rest for a bit. Sometimes
the form leader wants to be in a specific room before resting as some rooms are
dangerous to rest in. If the leader rests, then rest if you need to. If the
leader stands and you haven't been told to tick or rest then stand as well.
Usually the leader will rouse the form just before the form moves but if you
have ticked up, you should stand to signify that you're ready. Not really
required, but it's just one of those little things that help.
If you need to leave the computer for some reason or another, turn your afk flag
on. This way the entire form can tell exactly who is there and what people can
do. You should also inform the form when you are going to go afk, then flag it,
and turn the flag off and inform them when you return. Afk people are of no
immediate use to a form (unless they're tanking) but worse still, if the form
doesn't know a member is afk they may start a fight expecting for the absent
member to do things (such as heal or blind/plague/fear mobs).
Tanks (the people in the front row who take all the damage)
- Target the first mob when room attacking. This makes sure all the melee damage
hits a single target. Fighting two half-damaged mobs is much harder than
fighting a dead one and a fully healed one, especially if they're spellcasters.
It's best to target the spellcasters first. They usually do the most damage and
have fewer hitpoints; thus their quick removal saves a lot of potential damage
that would have otherwise been inflicted on the form.
Since the tanks are going to be hit the most, they should strive to get -100ac
so as to reduce the number of hits they take and thus the total damage. This
may be at the expense of damroll or hitroll but it is definitely worth it.
Make sure you have enough hitpoints to survive. Yes, it's tempting to get a
really good hitroll and damroll and to Horribly Maim every hit, but even if
you managed this, it would not do you much good if you died in 2 rounds because
the cleric was a bit lagged or failed a heal. Donating for hitpoint talismans
makes it much easier to get good hp and damroll, and if you can spare the money
(med money or real money), I'd suggest getting some (get 2 hp talismans instead
of mana talismans because good hp eq is MUCH more expensive than good mana eq).
"Help donation" for more information as to what talismans are and how to obtain them.
- Non-tanks have it slightly easier. They don't need much hitroll, damroll or
armor class. Non-tanks should concentrate on getting lots of mana, and a few
hitpoints. Having all your equipment as mana equipment results in you not
having enough hitpoints to work effectively (another reason for those
hitpoint talismans), but getting lots of hitpoint eq results in the form having
to tick often. The key is to strike a balance. The exact balance depends on the
form, personal taste and (most commonly) the amount you're willing to spend on
If the target you are fighting is sanced and it can be dispelled, do so.
Unsanced mobs are much easier to kill. Plague/blind/faerie fire are also
useful when fighting largish mobs. To blind, mages should cast color spray.
That way if they fail the blind, they will still do some damage.
Bash spellcasters. If a mob is casting spells at you, bash it. This will
prevent it from casting and thus it will do almost no damage because
spellcasters don't hit very hard. If there are two warriors in the form the
they should alternate bash. One should bash in the first round, the other in
the second round, the first in the third round, and so on. This way the target
will get bashed every round and will never be able to cast at all (given that
none of the bashes are failed).
Don't charge unless you know that it's allowed. Having rogue chargers is
extremely annoying and difficult to manage for the form leader. Charging from
the middle or back row of a formation will immediately move you into the front
row (even if there isn't room, you'll switch positions), which means you'll get
a lot of melee attacks against you and if the leader or healers aren't prepared
for that to happen (which they shouldn't be expected to anyway) it's quite
likely that you'll die. Another problem with charging is that it engages the
entire room in combat. Basically charging is a dangerous room attack and if you
don't know exactly what's going to result from it, don't do it. Make sure you
Carry a long weapon with you. You never know when you'll get into a large form
where there are three tanks that are bigger than you and you get stuck in the
middle row of the form, not hitting anything and just generally being dead
weight. Most warrior abilities require you to be in the front so carrying a
long weapon is a must if you don't have really good stats.
Trip spellcasters. Same reasoning as for warriors' bashing spellcasters.
Spellcasters that can't cast don't do much damage. If you're a multiclass,
trip instead of bash. Trip has many advantages over bash. First, trip has only
one combat round wait if you miss compared to two for bash. Second, if
someone has been tripped and hasn't gotten up yet then they can't be tripped
again. This means that trip doesn't have the problem in which two people bash
at the same time and nobody bashes the next round (thus it is safer to spam
trip a little then it is to spam bash). Third, trip takes then to the ground
whereas bash only takes them to their knees. The tripee (the target being
tripped) has to go from the ground to their knees and then from their knees
to their feet to be able to do anything again. Whilst this is usually happens
in one round, targets with low level and/or low dex may take quite some time
to get back up again.
Don't trip non-spellcasters. Not much point unless you really don't want someone
kicking you. If you are getting bashed then there is no point to tripping them.
If you really feel as though you need to be doing something other than sitting
there and killing them with melee, get some throwing weapons.
Ask about backstabbing. You don't know exactly when the leader wants you to
backstab so you should ask first. Usually the bsing guidelines will be pretty
simple, such as stab anything you see, stab after sanc is cast, stab the first
mob, stab when the centipede splits in two, or something like that. You don't
usually have to ask before every backstab because that gets tedious and slow
but make sure you know what you're allowed to bs and what you're not. If you're
not sure then ask.
Have long weapon. Same reason as warriors should carry long weapons: when you
get put in the middle row you're pretty useless unless you have a long weapon.
Always sneak. If only a few members of the form can sneak then it's not as
important, but for forms where all are sneakers, then you must always sneak.
This reduces the chance of getting attacked by both mobs that you don't want
to fight and by people wishing to pk you (as when they type "where" all
they'll see is "lurking about" unless you're fighting). Sneak is one of the
most important thief skills so make sure you make full use of it if you a
thief or thief multi.
Don't save up mana. The main use for mage mana is for casting spells to kill
things. Having mages with lots of mana left after every fight is quite useless
(as opposed to clerics with lots of mana at the end of the fight, which is
usually a good thing). This does not mean spam 50 mana shockwaves until you're
out of mana. It means use your mana wisely, but do use it. Cast things like
faerie fire, plague, curse and color spray close to the start of the fight and
then switch to either frost shards, acid blast (if you know that you're
allowed to room attack), shockwave (if it doesn't cost too much mana) or
whatever spell does the most damage (and is mana efficient) for your level.
Keep in line with the clerics. If the clerics are almost out of mana (check
this using form report "fr") then it's pretty safe for you to use up your high
mana usage spells quickly, but if the clerics still have lots of mana left,
be a tad more conservative with your mana usage, as you might go on to a few
more fights before the form has to tick again. For those who are evil mages,
energy drain is very useful when you start getting low on mana.
Try for kickback. When you get near the end of a fight try to time your attack
spells so you get the hit that kills the enemy. Mages have the very useful
ability, called mana kickback, that whenever they kill something they will get
some mana back. The amount that they get back depends on the difference in
alignment: the greater the difference the more mana the mage gets back. Mages
with 100 or 50 mana left can, if they get the last hit in, go straight back up
to almost full immediately (another reason that mages should use their mana
Use invisibility after a fight. After the form has finished a fight the mage
should cast mass invisibility on the formation. Most mobs that you will
encounter are aggressive and will attack you when they notice you're there, but
most can't detect invisible people. Thus, you can go around safely when
invisible. Shadmire is a very good example of an xp zone with aggressive mobs
that can't detect invis. Even if you're in a zone in which the mobs aren't
aggressive you should still cast invisibility on the form because it's a really
good habit to get into (as is sneaking after the end of each fight).
Make sure your front rankers (or Tanks in general terminology) have the
sanctuary spell cast on them all the time. Sanctuary is, in my opinion, the
most important cleric spell. It effectively doubles the hp of the person that
it is being cast on and as such, they are much more likely to survive. As a
cleric, it is your duty to make sure that the tanks are kept sanced. In order
to save mana, you should only sanc those who are actually going to get hit a
lot. "formtest" is a good command to check who needs a sanc and who you are
likely to be going to heal the most. Sanc lasts 3 ticks, so it's best that you
keep track of approximately how many ticks are left on it, so you can manage
your mana accordingly.
When you're low or out of mana, tell the form leader. Sometimes they're busy
doing other things, or just forget to check how much mana you, as a cleric,
have at that point, and keep fighting things even though you don't have enough
mana to heal people. Telling the form that you'll need to tick soon should be
sufficient, but don't go telling them this if you're not really out of mana
because they'll start ignoring you if you keep it up. If you don't think you
have enough mana to make it though the next fight without ticking first then
tell them that you should be ticking soon. Clerics are probably the most
important members of a form because of their ability to heal and sanc, so if
the cleric has to stop and tick then the form usually has to stop and tick.
Heal in columns. If there is more than one cleric in the group, then healing
should be organized. Having two people heal the same person all the time wastes
mana, and if this happens consistently then the form will have to tick twice as
much as it should. Healing columns is the usual was of distributing healing
responsibilities. Columns are defined as per "form". If someone is in front of
you then it's your job to keep them alive. This sharing of duties only applies,
surprisingly enough, when there is more than one healer. If a person is in a
column without a healer then a healer should be allocated to them as well.
Crossheal. If there is more than one cleric in the form then they should
crossheal. Since heal works better on people other than the caster, clerics
should refrain from healing themselves and leave that to the other clerics.
Cleric A should heal cleric B and cleric B should heal cleric A. This also
save on unnecessary wastage of mana.
Save mana for heals/sancs. If you're in a reasonably sized form, the clerics
should usually refrain from casting attack spells unless either there are a
lot of clerics in the form or the form leader has allowed them to attack.
Having a cleric use up all their mana early on is really annoying, because
then the form has to tick much more often than they have to. A form should
not have to tick after every fight unless the whole form (or at least most
of the spellcaster part of the form) needs to tick. Ideally, everyone should
run out of mana at the same time, but be wary when watching the mana of a
mage because it can suddenly go up significantly if the mage happens to
get nice kickback.
Most of the advice is for xp, trading and equipment forms. If pking, the role
of each member of the form is different (and if CPKing you usually aren't
formed and will probably know what do to anyway).
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