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Pick-Up Group

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"Some poor bastard desperately needs/wants an item from a BCNM, an item he cannot afford to or is unable to purchase. Thus, the aforementioned poor bastard must organize a band of people he has never met before and trust them to not rip him off.
We call this a prick up group."
GM Dave, Bannable Offenses

You're playing a MMORPG, and you decide that you need a group of people to take on the next dungeon/mission/area/cake.... but all of your friends are either offline or clinically dead. What's a player to do? Never fear, you can find a Pick-Up Group to play with! After shouting things like "LVL 654 MUNCHKIN LFG!" for five minutes or so, you will be rewarded with an Adventuring Party to kill things with! note 

....or rather, you are rewarded with several people who were bored enough to game with the first thing that walks on two legs. If they're really picky, then they're bored enough to game with the first Level 654 Munchkin that walks on two legs. In either case, the bar for entry is low, and you get what you paid for: Sturgeon's Law.


Gaming with a Pick-Up Group works just fine for the earlier missions of a game, because it doesn't get difficult until later. But at some point, the missions will require carefully-built characters, everyone knowing what the rest of the group is good at, and maybe, just maybe, communication. Pick-Up Groups are not known for any of these things. Once you start entering challenging dungeons with a Pick-Up Group, expect a Total Party Kill, possibly helped along by a Leeroy Jenkins who rushes in and aggros everything.

Pick-up groups (or PUGs) vary widely in quality; while some will be filled with moderately-experienced players, the rest will be horrible, consisting of either new players or old players with no tolerance for new players. Unsurprisingly, such a group will usually fall apart after a few wipes, leaving you with the options of either giving up on whatever precious little progress you've made or looking for replacements.


Unfortunately enough, variations of this affect nearly every team-based online game the world has ever known, although it's usually in a Player Vs. Player setup. A clan or at least a somewhat organized group will almost always triumph over an enemy group consisting mostly of clueless players that don't pay attention to anything but themselves.


  • Team Fortress 2's Coop Mode is comprised primarily of pick-up groups, using the matchmaking engine to be placed into a game that other people just happened to want to play. As a matter of fact, any game with a matchmaking engine is subject to this trope.
    • The fan-made TF2 Lobby and TF2 Center services allow people to set up competitive-style matches, either with known teams or simply getting together groups and starting a game. The competitive gaming circles in TF2 are very cooperation-based and voice chat is effectively mandatory, so even pick-up teams of strangers tend to function at least modestly well (with variances for player aptitude, of course).
  • A necessary component of the MMORPG MapleStory. In game, there are many repeatable "Party Quests" that can only be tackled with a group of 4 or more. While its not rare for friends ingame to team up with one another to tackle said quests, it's far more common that the average player will simply head to the location of the Party Quest giver and ask to be let into a party/form a party and recruit others nearby. However, most of them will have performed said party quests a dozen times over, and the less patient ones will scorn newcomers because they cannot follow the "routine" of the quest.
    • Champions Online works the same way, where at peak times every quest objective will have a bunch of heroes waiting outside for enough players to take it down.
  • Sort of averted in Final Fantasy XI in which pickup parties are regularly used to level, and can even do reasonably well, even if the group is made up of four Japanese speakers, one French speaker and one English speaker (and that was before french was supported by the auto translator).
    • Much of this is because Final Fantasy XI is such a group intensive game, it is much harsher on people completely unable to play well in a group. There's is a sharp decline in completely incompetent players as you go from each "tier" of area to the next, since if someone is unable to even do basic actions, they will be incapable of pulling their weight. By the time you get to the 30s or so, you just simply won't encounter people that are unable to even bluff their way through partying. Sadly, the standards of skill that are required of a persistent player aren't quite that high, still often leading to bad players (it's now also possible to solo to 75 on some jobs now, with Fields of Valor and Campaign, but with the majority of the playerbase as veterans, nooblets can still be sniffed out in seconds flat because of other events, not to mention the length of time it would take to solo to the level cap). In comparison, most MMORPGs that offer solo options tend to have a very gradual decline in players that lack party skills, oftentimes having people get to the level cap and are unable to fulfill their assumed role in a party setting.
  • Notorious in World of Warcraft in both PvP and PvE aspects:
    • Extensive automated matchmaking systems exist that place you into available spots in dungeon runsnote , Alliance vs. Horde battlegrounds, and a "Raid Finder" difficulty version of raids with correspondingly-reduced loot quality. Rest assured, there WILL be someone in your group vocally expressing their displeasure at others' performance, justified or not.
    • Rating-based player versus player combat arenas and regular raid dungeons don't have such systems in place due to harder demands placed on each individual character. Still, those who don't participate in such activities with a guild often attempt to join up for raids and arenas with random people salvaged from general chat channels after stringent equipment and competence check. Results can vary regardless.
    • Part of the reason for the generally low quality of pick-up groups in WoW is that the good players tend to form guilds and run dungeons with their fellow guild members, leaving the players who are unable or unwilling to join quality guilds to haunt the LookingForGroup channel. This is not always the case, of course, but the whole point of a Pick-Up Group is that there's no guarantee that the players you meet in one will be even slightly competent. On the other hand, a very good way to find a quality guild in the first place is to fill in an empty party/raid slot and perform well.
    • Amusingly, the game itself parodies this in Mists of Pandaria. In a fighting tournament that occasionally pops in the August Celestials dailies, one of the players's possible opponents is "The PUG'', a group of three Saurok with the standard PVE group(Tank/Healer/DPS) configuration. However, the DPS is woefully undergeared and incompetent, and, while the healer and tank aren't much better in that regard, they're also rather ill-tempered and are guaranteed to blame each other when they're inevitably beaten. Some people note that the only way a decent player can really lose against them is if they're too busy laughing at the dialogue to pay attention to what they're doing.
    • In the Warlords of Draenor expansion however, queuing for heroic Draenor dungeons requires not only a certain average item levelnote  but also that the player go into the Proving Grounds scenario and achieve a Silver or Gold medal in the role that they would queue for with that character, and in turn a slightly higher average item level is required to queue for raids, though some garrison missions will grant gear of that level while heroic dungeons will grant gear of an even higher item level.
  • Guild Wars has two notable aspects regarding this. 1)It becomes damn-near impossible to solo play after a certain point (both for sheer difficulty, and the game actually telling you to put a group together). 2)The game provides certain archetype-filling NPCs, if you can't (or don't want to) team with other players.
    • If you get the Nightfall and/or Eye of the North expansions, you get heroes, which are NPC party-fillers that you can customize and equip yourself, basically letting you play the game as you would a single-player RPG. After years of player demand, you can now fill out the entire party with heroes. Certain high-end and PvP areas of the game disable partying with NPCs to require grouping with actual players.
  • While PUGs are just something you have to put up with sometimes in MMO games, they are by far the norm for smaller volume online games like shooters and flight simulators. Short of joining a clan, playing with a group of people you knew is virtually impossible, and the lack of character levels meant that you had no idea what grade of players you were going to play with beforehand. One of the first ones to seriously tackle this was the XBox system debuting in Halo 2, which allowed virtual pickup groups to stick together from one game to another, had integrated ranking, and mandatory support for voicechat that allowed meaningful strategizing in the heat of battle.
  • Solo queues are one of the leading causes of drama in Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games. The genre expects top-notch coordination, and things quickly go south if someone doesn't want to cooperate or plays the game badly. From the select screen, the whole team may pick characters that leave their team very uneven. Sometimes the matchmaking system will be uneven and you'll have five randoms face against a 5-man team. Someone might have done poorly in the laning phase, causing the opposing player to snowball and steamroll the game. Then there are griefers who will throw the game because they called a lane (usually mid) and refuse to change their mind or decide to throw the game early so the rest of their team is more willing to concede instead of playing out what they think is a losing game. And of course, whoever is the one is feeding or calling the rest of their team bad will always find anyone but themselves to blame. The struggle of hoping to find strangers competent or flexible enough on your team is why the genre has developed a reputation of having such a toxic playerbase.
  • Raids in Pokémon GO are among one of the worst offenders of this trope in various countries, since level 4 or legendary raid battles are usually outright impossible with 1 player. When there is a bumbling raid population in the area and you are in the right places and the right time (Such as downtown Manhattan during 7pm) this should not be a problem as groups overflowing with hundreds will ensure any raid boss to be defeated easily. However pick the wrong raid at the wrong place and wrong time such as a Victreebel with 15 minutes left in the despawn timer during the morning of Osaka....Good luck. There will most likely have only 2 to 3 people around there and most of them carry questionable or outright horrible auto pick Pokémon to make sure that you CAN time out even with perfect counters even if you are supposed to beat a raid boss with the same number of people with decent counters.
  • Positron's Task Force...the bane of City of Heroes players everywhere before it was redesigned and split into two separate Task Forces.
    • Task Forces got much better after the old version of Positron's. It had the bad combination of being early in the game where the players' characters are rather weak, being overly long, and sending them up against three of the most annoying villain groups available at that level range. The developers have long since learned from their mistakes and the newer task forces (including the current version of Positron's) are much better.
    • There isn't really anything that a Pick-Up Group cannot beat in City of Heroes, even the Lord Recluse and Statesman Task Forces, as long as the members are willing to communicate, and are willing to at least give cursory attention to making sure the team has decent support, damage, and durability. (Leeroying didn't have -near- the stigma in Cities as it does elsewhere, mainly because it actually worked)
      • Leeroying was so much of a not-problem that a common phrase bandied about was "WoW has Leeroy Jenkins as a player. We have it as an Archetype."note 
    • Probably the biggest reason the Pick-Up Group tended to work well, was because of the shear amount of customization possible. A team could end up with mostly offense, mostly defense, mostly support, or mostly control, and the Devs had to make sure any given mission could be beaten by any given team. The game was designed from the ground up with group play in mind.
      • Also, missions were almost always instanced, and they scaled in difficulty with the size of the team. This meant that the Devs didn't have to physically design every mission. They just needed a few programs to adjust the difficulty according to team size, team make-up, etc.
  • Semi-averted with EverQuest. Although not as group-intensive as FFXI, it becomes increasingly difficult to solo at the higher levels (depending, of course, on character class). More averted back in the days when Verant Interactive ran the game, XP was twice as hard to gain, dying was much more of a punishment (your gear stayed on your dead body, and if you happened to bite it in a dangerous area or deep in a dungeon, you were SOL), and anti-twink measurements were taken. You learned how to work as part of a group or you quit playing.
    • Totally true, however, for EverQuest II. In EQ2, dying only loses you a modicum of exp that will regenerate anyway if you just take a break, and while grouping nets you better rewards it's by no means necessary to reach the End Game. Ironically, on the off-chance you end up in a good pickup group, you'll have friends for life.
  • These used to be all over the place in Phantasy Star Online. Groups not pre-organized were usually composed of either moderately-leveled but unspecialized characters that liked to work outside class, or of sharked Level 200s who didn't know what they were doing at all. This situation is now entirely inverted, as there is only one server left, it's private, the level 200 players there are all legitimate and have been playing for almost a decade.
  • With the coming of modern cooperative-like FPS like Borderlands and the Left 4 Dead games, the composition of a Pick-Up Group is starting to become a more serious issue among FPS gamers. When there's only four guys on your team, you can't really afford to have someone with a broken mic.
    • The issues with Borderlands, specifically, hearken back to the Diablo days, since the multiplayer modes are so similar: you can play with friends, or just with three guys who come in hoping desperately they don't start looting everything in sight and charging through the map without a word.
    • As for Left 4 Dead, unless you have a massive circle of friends willing to play the game at a moment's notice (chances are you don't), you'll have to play with some randoms. The players you get range from "competent" to "houseplant," where even bots are preferable to the oblivious Millstone(s) on your team. This is especially true when playing Versus against a somewhat-organized team.
  • Warhammer Online gets special note for having an open party system. That's right, no need to spam LFG channels, just form an open party and literally take whoever comes your way. This is generally done only for open field PvP, where there is no limit on how many players each side may have, so simply zerging is a valid strategy, if an inefficient one. Interestingly class composition is rarely a major issue since law of big numbers dictates that if you form up a 24 man warband you're likely to get a reasonable sample of the game's population distribution among classes anyway, probably giving you enough healers to be ok. Nevertheless pick-up groups are massively inefficient compared to organized guild groups, and at absolute best it will take about twice as many members in a PUG group to accomplish what a guild group on vent would do - i.e. a 6 man of competent players who know each other can easily overcome a 12 man PUG, and often times a full 24 man warband. Still, it's a good feature for casual play.
  • Can be played straight or averted in Metal Gear Online. As a shooter it deserves a mention because most of the game types are team based with a set team objective (Base Capture, Race, or Bomb Mission for example). Most of the time if you don't have a clan you join a game with whoever is online playing the game type you want. You lose hard if you don't work as a team, which tends to lead to a lot of 'lag switching n00b' comments. Heck, you get those comments from your opponents if you actually DO play as a team and win! Seems a lot of players don't get that MGO is more tactical than Call of Duty.
  • Puzzle Pirates is based almost exclusively on this. If you want people who aren't in your crew to help pillage, you need to assemble a pick-up group. Pillages quickly become luck of the draw, whether you get skilled players and are set to make a fortune on a pillage, or bad players, where the pillage costs you thousands of coins with no return. And the only real way to make the money back is more pick-up groups!
  • RuneScape introduced dungeoneering, and with it, the party system. For the lower levels of the skill, you pretty much solo, but once you get to 50-90, you're forced to do 5:5 larges. Since most dungeon clans (full of experienced players) are like level 90+ dungeon to join, you're pretty much stuck with whoever you find at the dungeoneering worlds (117 and 77). Depending on total level and average combat level, your team may end up missing a lot of rooms, thus losing exp. If a member of the PUG dies, they'll most likely ragequit, and if you run into a "follow the leader" room shortly after, the team auto-wipes.
    • Levels 90-120 however (which are pretty much 97% of the total exp need to get from 1-120), are a complete breeze with those elite team members. As a comparison, most of those clan teams will usually take 30-45 minutes on any floor, while PUG usually take 50-110 minutes on the lower level floors. Really bad PUG may take over two hours on a large.
  • Seeing as most of the time, it's nearly impossible to keep track of a regular party in AdventureQuest Worlds, you will probably encounter these every day. No exceptions.
    • However, most lower-leveled monsters and bosses can be defeated alone, with the result that pick-up groups tend to be limited to boss monsters with much higher HP and damage.
  • The biggest problem in Dungeons & Dragons Online is assembling a party that has different ideas regarding the speed at which a quest ought to be attempted. Slightly less common are those who ignore strategic advice from those who have done the quest before.
    • Or when you have an LFM (looking for members) with people that demand that the uber lootz you pick on the raid be handed to them.
    • Some of this comes from the game being very soloable with care, and (very unusually for an MMORPG) not directly rewarding killing monsters (killing every monster around being the only practical way to play in a pickup group). Thus players need almost entirely different sets of skills, which directly feeds into preferring different speeds.
  • You will be playing like this for the most part in Grand Chase. Not an issue actually, unless you get "leechers"note  or just feel greedy and don't want to share item drops, as item distribution is random in a group. Though once you get around to Forest of Life, you wished those nooblets would had become at least half competent with their characters.
  • Its successor, Elsword, also operates on this basis unless you don't mind soloing dungeons or have buddies to form a consistent party with. It does have the advantage that if a party member isn't pulling their weight, the rest of the party can opt to boot them out mid-dungeon.
  • In the Lucky Star OVA, Ms. Kuroi forms a party with Konata and the Hiiragi twins, and one conversation is about PUGs, including the quality of group you can get, and how sometimes you can't get into a group and have to play solo, possibly because all the LFGers are the same class.
  • This is relatively easy to do in the game Iris Online, thanks to a feature that allows you to search for and join other parties.
  • This causes massive issues in Warface, where the best way to deal with the Co-op system is to pray that you get one or two decent players- and in the harder modes, like Tower Raid, anything less than 5 high ranked, experienced players with a full kit with result in a Total Party Kill.
  • By virtue of denying dedicated realtime communication, both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls use PUG every time. While co-oping is strictly optional, a large playerbase dedicated solely as support can and has sprung up in both games, and the Dark Souls games have Covenants that encourage this. Also due to the Nintendo Hard nature of the game, experienced players that know what to do in any situation makes for a valuable ally. Of course, you do sometimes get stuck with a Leeroy Jenkins or two along the way.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has tried to take some of the pain of PUG out of the early parts of the game. Many quests that were originally designed as Fellowship-only (i.e. requiring a group) have been retrofitted with solo versions in past updates.
  • In Gunz The Duel the vast majority of quests are done through these, fortunately you can only have four people in a quest room so getting a halfway competent group isn't that hard. Also most of the quests can be done solo so as long as your group isn't that inexperienced you can still finish the whole thing.
  • In Toontown Online, near anything above street battles will need one of these. It's relatively easy to defeat a building with a few incompetent players, but Mints, Factories, DA's Offices, Country Clubs, and any of the Boss Battles are incredibly difficult if players don't know what they're doing.
  • In World of Tanks both teams are random Pick-Up Groups (unless clans get involved) of approximately the same strength. Works just as fine as you would expect. Rarely one team gets a tactical genius, who shines so brightly that his team starts following his orders; then the other team is screwed. Or one team gets a platoon of good players who work together, this results in a massive slaughter. Or entirely too often the matchmaking software builds two teams that are wildly unbalanced (like a Tier 10 match where one side has mostly Tier 10 tanks and the other side has mostly Tier 8 tanks.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has spades of this due to the game catering specifically to pick-up groups. All it takes is one person not doing their job or not paying attention during the battle, especially the tank or the healer, to wipe. Thankfully, the playerbase is notably friendlier than that of other MMOs for the most part; as long as a newbie is up-front about their status and is willing to learn, the more experienced players are willing to teach. This is incentivized by a small bonus reward for taking a player on their first run through a piece of content. Most content in the game is simple enough for a PUG to get through with some effort, but harder content requires more finesse and communication. For a while, The Coil of Bahamut (the original raid content) wasn't even open to PUGs at all due to said content catering towards pre formed parties who knew their roles.
  • Splatoon's online multiplayer defaults to this, plunking you on a four-person team with three other random people. While this isn't a big deal in Turf War, where each person can act independently and losses don't really hurt you, it can be a pain in Ranked Battles, which can sometimes require more coordination and support between teammates to complete the objectives than basic signals like "This Way!" can give. Fortunately, this is also true of the teams that you're facing. The Squad Battles mode in Splatoon and League Battle mode in Splatoon 2 exist for those who want to play ranked with friends against other squads without creating a private battle, and in Splatoon 3, every online mode sans X Battle and the series variant of Anarchy Battle allows you to play with friends (while filling out any remaining slots with randoms).
  • Thanks to Warframe's peer-to-peer mission hosting, this trope is pretty much inevitable. Recruiting chat can help you assemble a team that at least looks decent on paper, but it's hard to tell how good the team will be until the mission's already underway. For an even riskier approach, you can just set matchmaking to public and hop into any mission that doesn't require a key, letting the dice fall where they may. Of course, very few missions are difficult enough to necessitate an optimized team in the first place, so a bad random or two usually won't completely ruin your chance of success (unless it's a Spy mission). Moreover, most of the missions that do require a high degree of coordination and planning also need a key to access, so you'll have to organize a party beforehand anyways.
  • A given for MechWarrior Online. Matches are 12 versus 12, and at most, a unified group can drop as a lance (squad of four) in casual games. This means that even under ideal conditions, two-thirds of your team will be strangers, often acting independently of you, with no guarantee of having builds that work in tandem with yours. The good news is that the same is true of enemy teams, so a coordinated lance can work together to pick off solo pilots who charge out on their own.