Some Thoughts on Ganking

March 13, 2006

Wikipedia defines ganking thusly: Gank is also used in relation to Player vs. Player games where a group of 2 or more people gang up and kill another player, especially if they have an unfair advantage over the person being killed, and is an abbreviation for Gang Kill. Popularized by the MMORPG Ultima Online, it is now often used in any situation where the person being killed is at a significant disadvantage to the person killing, as in "That jerk just ganked me!” It is looked upon and seen as a dishonorable tactic. Please do notice however, that one person with a significant advantage is not a ganker when he attacks one or more enemies alone, he is a slaughterer. Ganking solidifies the fact "Gang vs. one".As with many words, the usage has broaden considerably over time. In my experience, the ganking refers to one or all of the following behaviors.

1. Ganking in its purest form is a band of players prowling for single players or less powerful groups of players in order to kill them. The victims typically are engaged in travel or activities related to a quest, and in the latter case often engaged in combat with a mob and unable to adequately defend themselves. Sometimes the term is used to describe ambushes or hit and run tactics, but these activities are not necessarily ganking in my view.

2. Ganking also refers to a more common practice of a player, often times of a higher level, attacking an enemy player while they are engaged in combat with a mob. This also includes players who are away from their keyboard or seated and restoring health after a fight. In all these cases the victim has a diminished ability to defend themselves, if they can do so at all. A seated player is going to take an auto-crit when attacked, and if they are at half health they are already a corpse, but don't know it yet.

3. A less accurate usage, but one that seems to be growing, is to describe behavior where a player is attacked and they feel they should not be. "That bastard ganked me when I got off the zep."

My own thoughts on ganking have evolved over time and with increased game experience. It is also true that my thoughts on ganking are different now that I play several higher level characters than they where when I was leveling my first character through the low twenties. The universality of the experience is interesting enough, but when I consider how my own reactions and choices regarding ganking have shifted and morphed, and how the practice of ganking seems to change depending on the region and situation you are in, it seemed an obvious choice for my first post.

After several months of playing, I have become comfortable with the ideas that ganking is part of the game. On PVP servers it is a stone cold fact. My own working definition of a gank is an attack upon an opposing player where the attacker enjoys a considerable advantage that predetermines the outcome. In other words, a gank is an assault upon a player who cannot defend against it.

The only form of ganking I actively discourage and avoid personally is attacking players far below my own level. There are no hard and fast rules on how to define "far below," so I have adapted Blizzard's experience model as my rule of thumb for attacking or not attacking
Alliance players. If a mob of the same level won't earn me any experience points, then I won't attack that level player. That makes it easy. I go one step further though, and cut off attacks on players where I would earn less that 200 experience points from and equivalent mob. I don't kill mobs at that level unless they attack me first, and I try to give Allies the same courtesy I extend to other beasts.

At the level I start earning at least 200 xp from a mob, an equivalent level player becomes fair game. A low level of guerilla warfare is at the heart of the game and I personally have embraced this theme. Beyond that, experience dictates that if I am fighting a mob, most enemy players will not hesitate to exploit the situation and attack me. With that in mind, the only factor that is relevant is my own mood; do I want to bother with it. Because the truth is, there is no real challenge or skill involved in attacking a player who has a mob on them and their health is diminished. A secondary consideration is the likely possibility that I will anger this player and they will then be determined to seek revenge. If I am intending to quest nearby, it is very possible they will set upon me at the first opportunity, and perhaps every opportunity. The class and level of the player become major factors. I may well set upon a player one to three levels below me, confident in my ability to handle future attacks. However, having encountered a rogue who is three levels above me, I will sometimes join the attack in hopes of gaining forbearance from a superior enemy. I have died many times from this choice. Less frequently, it works and I quest in peace. When it comes to players equal to me in level, mood becomes the predominant factor again.

Obviously, I avoid giving players of far superior advantage any reason to pay attention to me. This includes getting within the players line of sight and waving. Whenever I see this I always think it means "Hi. Come kill me." My own rule of thumb is to keep moving to where I am going and hope for the best. It is always helpful for me to remember that the Allies are enemies, and I can't blame them for treating me like one. It is sometimes hard to remember that when I log on for thirty minutes to finish up a quest "real quick." That seems to be and Invocation of Doom.

Now, there are always exceptions to rules. What I have outlined above would not meet the requirements for even being guidelines. But no mater, there are still exceptions to my own rather sketchy code of conduct.

Alliance player on Horde land is dead. Now, occasionally I will come across some knuckleheaded 22 pally running across the Barrens intent on doing who knows what. Mostly like I will follow him and broadcast on general chant and give other guys the chance to kill him. If no one responds or it looks like he will get away, I kill him. This is probably the most fixed of my views in this regard.

I will not attack an
Alliance player who aids me or has helped me in the past. There aren't many of those, but I remember most of them. Even if they don't recall our previous encounter, I will not fight them. Beyond that, if attacked I most often will kneel down. It's my only nod to chivalry, but beyond that I just feel weird about fighting someone who previously saved or spared me. Occasionally, this has kept me alive too. More than once, the
Alliance player gives up the attack when he realizes I will not fight him. What they don't know, however, is that I would not extend them the same kindness. If choose I to attack, one of us is going to die unless the other guy runs away.

There has only been one time where I attacked a player who aided me, and that was a situational decision. I was fighting an add and was losing health quickly. An
Alliance rogue approached me and I mentally wrote myself off as dead. But she joined the fight, helped me kill the mob and then saluted me. She was five levels below me, so immediately chalked it up as an attempt at self-preservation. I have done the same thing. Regardless of her motives though, she saved me and put her life at risk in doing so. She made the no-kill list.

We both worked our quests in Desolace within eyesight of each other for the next five minutes. A second
Alliance player entered the area and he was my level. I set upon him immediately and he was about dead when the first ally decided that faction mattered more. She attacked me. I was happy to kill them both. For good measure, I killed them both again when they resurrected themselves to seal my claim on the quest area for the moment.

I find it interesting when people get bent out of shape over behavior that is not true ganking, but wherein they feel they have died unjustifiably. I have sympathy for how they feel. Sometimes I just want to log in and work couple of quests and maybe hit the next level. I don't want to deal with fighting allies. Well, then I should log on to a PVE server, because the two sides are at war, and ultimately rules mean little in war.

Ambushing is a common and legitimate warfare tactic. While superior numbers, gear and tactical surprise create a sometimes insurmountable advantage, bushwhacking the enemy is not ganking. Now if four level 50's are hiding behind the tree and have decided that they are killing every lowbie that runs past them, this falls into the category of gang killing. Now if that same group of players has decided they want to create a fight, and kill passing players in order to fight higher level players who get called in to help, this clearly becomes an ambush and no longer is a gank in my mind. But tell that to the level 22 laying in the road.

Similarly, a party that has positioned themselves at a strategic point and is attacking all approaching parties are engaging in legitimate combat and are not ganking. Most commonly I have seen this at the entrance to

Bay and at the first intersection after entering Duskwood. I have been in several parties where we have either placed ourselves in the middle of the road, blocking passage and inviting a fight, or we have found suitable spots to ambush from. The key difference here is that the goal is not to engage in a cheap kill, but rather to create a real fight with the enemy. Some of my most exhilarating moments playing have been when actively engaged in an all out battle where there is no clear advantage to anyone and the outcome is completely unknown. Dead or victorious, a well fought skirmish is a real opportunity to gain skills, learn about your character and have fun just fighting your ass off.

Which I think is what the developers had in mind when they made it impossible for the two sides to communicate.


2 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Ganking”

  1. ZugZugZane Says:

    Well put and thought out. I honestly have taken part in my fair share of ganking and ambushing. Comming to the thought (through gradual years of playing MMOs) that ganking is dishonerable when not justified, I agree with a very large portion of this blog insert. Playing EVE-Online, I found ganking an unprepared and under qualified enemy of my alliance was more than justified in the natural course of war. Being a member of the WoW community, I find that I will often help those (regardless of side) simply because of class and level. When passing a paladin who is losing the fight, sometimes I just sit and watch, but for most other classes, I may jump in. Call it role-play prefference, but I seldom help gnomes and often will help a Night Elf or Dwarf. Humans depend largely on the class. Admittedly, this is personal prefference and nothing more. My off topic problem, but related, is when a player of the same side feels you are obligated to help them because they think they deserve the right. I will gladly assist if I am able, but you die and I am not in your guild/group, you are on your own. Can’t handle the mob? Good luck.
    Just my thoughts, and keep the good blog going!
    Zug – Sen’jin
    Orc Hunter (57)
    Outcast Guild

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