This past week, I helped Tycoelf, a friend and contributor to the RSBANDB community get his completionist cape back by killing Solak. Tyco has done a fair bit of PvM, but for many players with even a relatively good amount of PvM experience, being able to kill a boss like Solak is an incredibly daunting challenge. Players are essentially left with two options: forgo the quest for the completionist cape, or purchase a leech, which can cost a substantial amount of money. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying leeches in my opinion, and I help run a friends chat that has sold hundreds of reaper titles, for some it doesn't come with the same feeling of accomplishment. Furthermore, if you're one of the many people out there like Tyco, learning the new boss for yourself is part of the fun of RuneScape. This experience of teaching someone arguably the most challenging boss in the entire game, at least in terms of the skill floor required when first learning the fight, made me interested in writing this article which attempts to theorize the best ways to teach your friends bossing.
"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin
Teaching is one of the most important skills to hone in life, and also one of the most difficult. Striking a balance between patience for the learning process but also ensuring progress continues can be very difficult. For bossing in particular, most players will become immediately turned off when you get upset with them for not doing something correctly the first time or for having unreasonable expectations. Often times, people forget what they were like when they were first learning a new boss. When I'm teaching someone to fight Vorago, the boss where I'm best at and have done almost every challenge possible, I sometimes forget that I once used to base tank with a Yak full of food, camping a shield, in tank gear and would somehow still be near empty after a two kill trip. Expecting players to maintain high levels of DPS in their first few attempts can cause people to get frustrated and feel like they're simply not good enough. Maintaining some level of hubris is a pre-requisite to being a good teacher - remember that you were once in the same position as the person you are teaching and always remember there is more for you to learn - as Qui-Gon Jinn says in everyone's most special favorite spectacular Star Wars movie "there is always a bigger fish."
Most people have heard a cliché similar to "a teacher can learn as much from their student as the student learns from the teacher." While this sometimes pans out in the obvious sense - students will sometimes point out seemingly obvious things that you've been overlooking, or a particularly precocious student might discover a more efficient method - in my experience teaching PvM and teaching High School students in real life, this is almost always true in a different sense: the process of teaching will reveal ways you can become a better teacher. When somebody messes up a rotation or deals with a mechanic correctly, the response shouldn't be to get annoyed, but instead you should ask yourself how you can either explain said mechanic better, or make up for it. At Solak with Tyco, for instance, he initially had some trouble with the DPS on the arms/legs during phase 1. This had nothing to do with a failure to DPS quickly enough, but instead was due to the click radius for switching targets from Solak's body to his arms being small, and so I accounted for this by reminding him to switch and slightly adjusting my rotation so I would always have time to assist him in killing it in case it wasn't done quickly enough. After failing this DPS check once, we never failed it again because of the adjustments I made and the fact that it's the sort of thing you get naturally used to.
"A mind when stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions."
Ask any high level PvMer and they will tell you that a vast majority of mechanics become dealt with by muscle memory. Once you've done a boss hundreds or thousands of times, mechanics that seem incredibly difficult to handle when you're watching a guide become second nature to the point you barely notice what you're doing - response becomes automatic. Adjusting for this when teaching is extremely important - many of these small details that you might do without thinking are not immediately obvious, and reminding yourself to point those out is very important. At Solak for instance, saying "barricade" right as the tornado spec begins is useless because the person learning is unlikely to remember the timing a may not have enough adrenaline. Instead, say "prepare to cade" when you start building adrenaline. When it's time to use reflect and debilitate or drop the yellow shield, say well in advance "get ready for x." Small things like that can make a huge difference in the speed of the fight - most mechanics aren't hard to deal with if you're prepared for them ahead of time, but having to react instantaneously makes mistakes far more likely.
The last main piece of advice is to work within your friends comfort zones. Obviously the meta at Solak is to bring magic and 4TAA with a melee switch for killing Erethdor and the core. Making someone who is used to range, hasn't done 4TAA, or hasn't ever hybrid do so for the first time at a new boss is asking the absurd. It makes them feel like learning all of these brand new techniques is a requirement for doing the boss even when they're not. Tyco said the style he was most comfortable with was ranged, which isn't *as good* as 4TAA, but is totally sufficient to get kills. The first few attempts I didn't say much about his gear/rotation etc. while he was familiarizing himself with mechanics. Slowly as we started to come very close to getting kills, I started adding a few ideas to improve DPS: Cinderbanes over Nightmare Gauntlets since accuracy is 100% and movement isn't needed during the DPS check portions of the fight, Hydrix over Ruby bolts for phase 4 due to the synergy of the special while inside deaths swiftness and trying to build adrenaline to onslaught, disruption shield to make things slightly easier. Adding very small changes and working within the learners comfort zone is crucial to getting experience with mechanics. Maybe at some point you can try to switch them to magic or whatever style is best, but adding too many things at once can be a disaster.
Finally, I asked Tyco to write something about his experience at Solak, I asked him to be honest about it but the words were so kind it feels embellished - I know I always have a lot to learn: "The best thing from my learning experience of Solak was the teacher's patience. Never stepping over the line of "this is what you are doing wrong", but instead asking "how are you doing it" and make the apprentice reflect over their own actions is something not all teachers can do. Providing tips and even asking other player's for advice really made my learning feel meaningful... What impressed me the most was the tips and tricks I was given, but barely told "this is the best" or "this is the only way". Being open to improve but also improve my own style of combat instead of replacing it was something I hadn't expected, as there is always a meta."
Whether you're teaching duo Vorago or Vindicta, I hope some of these tips help you involve more people in the PvM community and strengthen friendships, because to me those bonds are what this game has always been about.