This article is only a guide. Information expressed in a guide is usually more opinion than fact and should be taken as such. Guides are written by players, based upon their experiences, successes and mistakes and are meant to aid other players. However, there may be differing opinions than those expressed in a guide.
Strategies and information in a guide may not work for everyone.
In the Final Fantasy XI that we have all come to know and love, there is a very complex and intricate system of grouping with other players in order to gain Experience Points. As we all know, this system of partying occupies an extremely large portion of a character's advancement, and it becomes a very necessary activity early on in the game. In this guide we will attempt to deliver everything one should know about partying, from how to party, where to party, and who to party with. This guide is a work in progress, so please bear with us as we get going.
Partying refers to the activity of teaming up with two or more players to form a team and work together to gain Experience Points or Merit Points. The two-six people in the group work together to defeat enemies that would otherwise be impossible to take down alone. The formation of the party involves a party leader who invites other members into their party and is expected to make all of the important decisions of a party.
The party leader is the person who invites the other players to become members of the party, and has control of Loot Distribution and party makeup. The party leader can kick and replace members at his/her discretion, and is in charge of the welfare of the entire party. While technically all a party leader has to do is to click the invite button on five other players and let things move along, a good party leader is expected to have a certain amount of leadership qualities:
A good party leader...
A bad party leader...
As you can see, being a good party leader is not a simple task, but hopefully this guide will be able to provide you with everything you need to know in order to become a great party leader.
Strategy is one of the most flexible concepts of a party; but to begin with, we must define the goals of partying. The goals of partying are:
- To defeat enemies that provide a substantial amount of Experience Points quickly.
- To ensure that the members of the party do not get KO'd.
- To keep support characters' downtime to a minimum.
- To gain Experience Points at a satisfactory rate.
A bad party can be defined as a party that does not meet the goals of the party, which is to gain Experience Points at a satisfactory rate. Other than gaining Experience Points at an unsatisfactory rate, bad parties often result in death and premature disbanding. Causes of a bad party include a number of factors, most of which can be traced back to poor leadership. Poor choice of job combinations and camp location can quickly lead a party to the dark side. Other causes of a bad party can be the presence of leechers, or players who do not contribute anything of value to a party and simply join to leech the experience points gained through the hard work of others.
A good party can be easily defined as a party that gains Experience Points at a satisfactory rate. All members of the party are doing their jobs well, and enemies are dying quickly while downtime is minimized. To describe how a good party works, we find it easiest to say that a good party consists of six people who are honestly trying their best to work together and achieve all of the party's goals.
The most commonly used successful party setup is as follows:
The member responsible for taking the hits from the monster. By usage of various abilities that produce enmity, the tank must work hard to constantly direct the enemy's attention away from other players. A tank must also be able to survive all attacks directed against him/her and not place a heavy burden on the Healer at the same time. Being the tank in a party often entails placing the lives of your party members above your own, and while good parties usually do not run into extremely perilous situations, accidents can happen at anytime - in which the tank of the party should be able to quickly respond by allowing the rest of the party to retreat to safety even at the cost of his own Experience Points.
The member responsible for keeping the entire party alive through the use of curative magic and beneficial status effects. While most of the healer's attention should be directed toward the tank of the party, they must also tend to the needs of all of the members as well. Playing the healer almost entirely revolves around watching the party's HP bars and one's own MP bar. A good healer will actively seek to do his/her job while expending the least amount of MP possible in order to reduce downtime. The relationship between the healer and the tank is always very direct - they must work together closely in order to ensure that neither player's role is too difficult or impossible.
Members of the party responsible for dealing the lion's share of damage and defeating enemies. Members of this category must maintain high damage output and be able to consistently land blows on the enemy. The Damage Dealers are also responsible for setting up skillchains to lay the ground work for magic bursts for additional damage. While all other players in a party work with the sole intent of keeping the party from losing Experience Points, the damage dealers are given the important task of driving the party forward - a task that is often underestimated by other players. Damage dealers focus on directly overcoming the defenses of the enemy and finding the most efficient way of defeating them in chains. Part of this task is to also establish a good understanding of the abilities and limits of the party's tank - as a damage dealer that attacks without restraint may very well attract the enemy's attention away from the tank and towards themselves. The result of this is most often additional difficulty for the healer, and sometimes fatal for the damage dealer.
Member of the party that facilitates the functions of a party. Able to increase the effectiveness of all other members of the party by enhancing the ability to deal damage, tank, and/or directly reduce downtime through usage of abilities that restore MP. The role of a support character is quite simply to support the other members of the party. While not having a direct impact on the goals of the party, a support character is just as important as the rest of the party. Having a support character around makes everybody's job easier - as one can easily enfeeble an enemy to deal less or take more damage, directly enhance a damage dealer's damage potential, or provide a safety cushion for healing when the healer has exhausted his/her resources.
The above setup is what most experienced party leaders have in mind when forming a party. As you can see from the quantity ranges of each role, the setup of a party is never set in stone and can be manipulated within reason as long as the goals of partying are met. The roles are spread so that both damage and downtime can be balanced and met.
In addition to the roles detailed above, there are a few more roles that are commonly encountered during partying. Although important, these tasks can be considered minor, as they are secondary and must be performed without causing a player to come short in his/her primary role(s).
The member responsible for seeking out and luring enemies to camp to defeat. The puller must always use discretion when performing this task, as they are constantly in almost direct control of the rate at which experience points are attained. A player assigned to this task must keep a watchful eye on the party's resources, and pull only when the party is ready to engage the next enemy. A skilled puller will be able to judge their party's preparedness accurately and push each player to their respective limits. This task is commonly assigned to a damage dealer with a ranged attack, although pretty much anyone can do it. Because of this, no character should ever be played to be a puller exclusively, as they will always best be replaced by someone who can pull as well as contribute to the party in another role. A puller must also know when enough is enough. If a puller pulls too fast for a certain party type, the party's performance can fall into that of a Bad Party. Pullers may also disengage from the current battle slightly before it finishes in order to ready themselves to pull the next target.
A task that is made objective to someone besides the tank with the ability Trick Attack. This strategy simply involves a damage dealer with the Trick Attack ability calling upon the Tank and sometimes another party member to cooperate in order to give the Tank some additional enmity. THF is often invited into parties for this sole purpose. See SATA for more details.
A backup healer is a good thing to have, but not always necessary in a party. This role usually falls on a job that has another main role, but has the capacity to heal (aka RDMs, mages that sub WHM, other jobs that sub WHM, and to a lesser extent PLDs). Summoners are usually also called upon to main heal or backup heal while they throw in some avatar bloodpacts, and past lvl 70 they are called upon to be intense damage dealing. It is this person's role to help the healer in dire situations, either when an unexpected attack drops a party member's HPs drastically, multiple party members need status effects removed simultaneously, or the main healer has run low on MP (or has otherwise become unable to heal) and needs assistance keeping the tank cured. These are most useful in parties that involve fighting monsters with AOE damaging attacks (when the use of Curaga isn't prudent), or fighting monsters with a variety of AOE status effects (ex. Coeurls).
When recruiting members for a party, its a good idea to keep the levels of the members close. This suggestion made by Square-Enix is in fact quite vague in describing how "close" the members' levels should be. Suffice it to say that in a basic everyday party the member with the highest level should be at most two to three levels higher than the member with the lowest level. Ideally though, everyone in a party would be of the same level. Unfortunately, its usually a very difficult task to assemble a full party of six with the same level. The primary reason for keeping party members' levels close is simply to ensure that each member receives nearly the same amount of Experience Points per fight.
A very important point for party leaders to recognize is the fact that the levels of the party's melee characters matter a great deal more than the party's mages. That is to say, Tanks' and Damage Dealers' ability to do their job is much more dependent on their character's level than Healers and Support characters. For tanks, character level has a very profound impact on his/her ability to mitigate damage and maintain hate. For melee damage dealers, character level has an extremely direct effect on their primary combat skill(s), and thus largely governs their ability to land blows and deal damage to enemies.
Mages' performance, on the other hand, is not very related to their character's level at all. There is no difference between a Refresh spell cast by a level 41 Red Mage and one cast by a level 75. However, this does not mean mages' performance is completely unaffected by their level. Spells such as Elemental Magic or Enfeebling Magic resistance by an enemy is primarily determined by the skill level associated with the magic. A severely lower level mage will be attempting to land enfeebling spells or elemental magic with little accuracy. This will cause a noticable decrease in efficiency, since a Black Mage will have to cast more spells in order to inflict a full amount of damage. A Red Mage will have to cast an enfeebling spell multiple times to get its effect to "stick" to an enemy, or the effect of the enfeeble will wear off in half the time as it normally would. Both these circumstances mean that unweakened monster will exist longer, and add to the difficulty of the battle.
Even so, it becomes important when creating a party to devote some attention into making sure that the party's melee members are at the higher end of the party's level range, while it is acceptable to invite mages that are at a considerably lower level than the melee characters. While some players will outright refuse to party with a level difference of four or greater, knowledgeable players will accept the fact that the experience difference is based on the consensus reached by the party or party leader. As partying reaches the highest levels of experience, it is not uncommon to see mages in their high 60's partying with characters who are already level 75.
- Try to keep the levels of your party members as close as possible.
- It is important to make sure that the melee/tank members of the party are at the higher end of the party's level range.
- It is considered acceptable to invite mages who are of a lower level than the rest of the party.
Aside from difference in levels between party members, it is also important to pay attention to the difference in levels between the members of the party and the enemies the party is facing. This information can be ascertained by each member using the check command, and is very useful in discovering the limits of each party. In general, a basic successful party should be aiming to fight enemies that are 7 to 9 levels above its melee members. Its usually not a good idea to fight enemies that are higher than that, as each fight may take too many resources to be efficient and cause too much downtime. In some advanced strategies, however, the difference between party and enemy can be manipulated to meet the party's objectives, listed below.
Once the basics of partying are completely mastered, a player can begin to start using out of the box strategies that completely bend the rules of convention. Again, the basics of partying and cooperation must be very familiar to any player before attempting to try any of the below listed strategies.
This is a technique often used by a pair of players with the ability to use both Provoke and Utsusemi: Ichi, more specifically WAR/NINs and NIN/WARs who have not yet acquired Utsusemi: Ni. The general idea is as follows:
- One player attracts the attention of the enemy for as long as his Utsusemi can last.
- The second player then uses Provoke and tanks for as long as his shadows last.
- While the enemy is attacking the second player, the first player then has the opportunity to recast his Utsusemi.
- Once recast, the first player will then pay close attention to the status of the second player's shadows, and as soon as the shadows are gone, they will then use Provoke to regain the attention of the enemy.
- This cycle repeats itself until the enemy is defeated.
While Ninjas quickly outgrow this technique at the early age of level 37, WAR/NINs may continue to utilize it throughout most of their career. This is an extremely effective technique in the sense that it allows both Warriors to fully exercise their potential as damage dealers, and eliminates the party's need for an exclusive tank who does not contribute as much damage to the enemy. However, in addition to the skill necessary to master the timing of Provokes and the casting of Utsusemi, this technique also requires that both players maintain very close enmity levels via damage. If one player is doing a lot more damage than the second, it will be very difficult for the second player to attract the enemy's attention while the first player is out of shadows. Therefore, this strategy is not recommended to players who have not yet obtained a good grasp of the basic mechanics of the game, and can really only be utilized by two players who have a good amount of experience, skill, and equipment.
Just as Dual Tanking removes the party's need for an exclusive tank, the Combo Support tactic eliminates the party's need for a designated healer. The basic concept is simple: include both a Red Mage and a Bard in a level 41+ party. Refresh and Ballad songs together provide up to 6 MP every 3 seconds of constant MP recovery, and nearly eliminate all downtime caused by healing for MP. The Red Mage handles the main healer role, while the party gains all the regular Bard party buffs and Red Mage enemy debuffs for easier battles.
Another, similar tactic is the use of two SMNs, who trade off casting Defensive Blood Pacts, usually Aerial Armor, Ecliptic Growl, Ecliptic Howl, and Earthen Ward while simultaneously curing the party and debuffing the target. This strategy requires careful management of MP and a talented tank, however.
The downside compared to a White Mage plus support job is the lack of Raise II/Raise III, the wide range of status ailment removal spells, and the MP efficient curatives like Cure V, and Regen II/Regen III.
Speedkill (aka "Burns")
This tactic is an extremely popular method to gain Experience Points for players at lv75, but it most certainly is not limited to level 75 players. The simple idea behind Speedkill is to target enemies that are only four to seven levels above the party's members, and to kill the extremely fast, hence the name. This method is known for its ability to produce seemingly impossible numbers of Experience Chains, as well as its almost complete disregard for enmity control.
Speedkill starts with a team of highly skilled and powerful damage dealers who can not only deal damage, but can also survive a decent amount of hits. This usually means melee jobs such as Monk, Warrior, and Samurai, although other jobs can certainly participate and perform well. Dual Tanking is a tactic very commonly used in conjunction with speedkill. Put them together with a small amount of mage support - usually two mages for Combo Support, although other combinations work as well depending on player skill, and you've got yourself a speedkill party.
In this kind of situation, there need not be a single designated tank, puller, nor camp. Enmity is bounced around between the damage dealers of the party constantly, and enemies always die before they are given the opportunity to inflict severe damage on anyone. After each fight, each member of the group spreads out to an extent in order to locate the next target instead of having one person pull, and the party itself will move as a whole. A classic example of Speedkill are the Monk-based parties in King Ranperre's Tomb, where skeletons are quickly turned into Bone Chips one after another at an alarming rate.
When performed skillfully, the rate of Experience Points in a Speedkill party can far outdo that of a traditional party. However, in addition to the heavy skill requirement necessary for success, finding good areas to use this method is also not an easy task. Due to the extremely fast enemy after enemy nature of this method, it is very important that enough enemies are available to kill. Running out of enemies to defeat is a very large problem that will hamper such a party's success.
See Partying: "Burn" Parties for examples of commonly used speedkill or "burn" parties.