My previous post about why tanks are in such short supply got me thinking about the organization of PvE activities in World of Warcraft. I see a lot of parallels between the way people approach WoW, and my army company. The Army uses a document called a Table of Organization and Equipment to show how many men, trained in what skills, and with what equipment, are needed for a unit of any given tasking. I've used a similar document in my time as a raid leader to map out what the guild needed to field a functioning raid group. X main spec tanks, Y main spec healers, Z melee DPS, so on, and so forth. But looking at the parallels between the TO&E for PvE content, and the TO&E for an infantry company yield's some interesting results.
DPS> The Private: They are the rank and file which make up the bulk of every unit, think of them like pawns in chess, every one in a while they do something spectacular, but most of the time they're just there.
Healers> The Support Element: These are the medics, FiSTers, the Truck Drivers, and the other support elements that make it possible for the combat arms (Read DPS and Tanks) to do their jobs correctly. Their goals are defined by the combat arms' execution of the mission, rather than the mission itself. While tanks and DPS have scripted goals and tasks that need to be completed during an encounter, healers are constantly reacting to the human factor. Healing the same encounter between two different groups can be an entirely different experience. I've run BHs where the tank took less damage than anyone else in the raid, and it threw the healers for a loop.
Tanks> the NCOs: Tanks, as I mentioned earlier, are the leaders in the PvE community. They set the tactical pace of a group, and determine how to attack each pull.
The Raid Leader> The Company Commander: The raid leader is ultimately responsible for the tactical elements of the largest scale PvE to be found in the game. Far more complex than those found in 5 mans, raid content requires careful planning and execution, just as company missions require more planning than squad level operations.
The Guild Leader> The Flag Officer: The Guild Leader is responsible for the strategic goals of the guild, of which the raid team is a subset. He might be directing the goals of multiple raid leaders while wearing the GM hat.
Guild Officers> The S shops: Every unit has support officers who handle things ranging from supply issues to intelligence assets. Just as they have needs beyond the purview of their mission, each guild has needs it needs to fulfill outside the confines of the raid instance. Recruitment, flasks, repairs, financials, and loot policies are all among the issues that guilds will often designate officers to handle.
The tanks are NCOs at every level. They are the backbone of the game. In five man content, the tank fills the role of the junior NCO, the team leader or squad leader, who is responsible for both tactical planning and leadership for their unit. Likewise, the five man tank is expected to know how to best handle each pull in the instance, where's the best place to tank each boss, and how to optimize things for the DPS and healers in his group.
On the other hand, raid tanks act more like senior staff NCOs. A raid tank is the First Sergeant of WoW. They are responsible for tactical leadership; but not planning, that's the purview of the Raid leader. While it is the Raid Leader's decision where Shannox should be tanked, it's up to the tank to make sure that reality lines up with the raid leader's plan. The tank is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.
The gulf between a good NCO and a bad one is enormous. A good NCO will be someone you remember for the rest of your life, but a bad NCO will get you killed. While the stakes aren't nearly so high for tanks, we should always strive for excellence. Always try to be that tanks that people remember for being the best they could ask for. Never be the tank they had to carry, or worse, the tank that caused the group to fail. When you choose to tank, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard than other roles do. Be perfect. You owe it to your group, and you owe it to yourself.