This thing turned out to be a lot longer than I wanted! Read at your own risk!
TLDR: Have fun, don't be a tool, play to fight, not to win!
The following can basically be thought of as my SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for FC'ing RvB fleets. This has less to do with specific doctrines as they relate to fleets (IE Nano-Canes or Talwar/RLML Caracal Fleets) and more to do with how, in my mind, an RvB FC should operate. I DO NOT presume to speak on behalf of RvB's command, nor do I intend to tell people "how to play". This is strictly a take-it or leave-it thesis that you can use (in-part or entirely) as a guideline, or ignore and laugh at.
People who find themselves in a Jiny (or Jiramai Karlov for Blue) fleet can read this to understand WTF is about to happen to them and why I just did (insert super n00b mistake here).
I understand that I am not an expert, and do not presume to be. I will never FC a 200-man DREAD fleet in Null, probably not even a 3rd Party War Fleet in RvB, I know many others more qualified who can "do it right" and I leave it to them to make the "serious calls".
If you don't care about this and only want to know the mechanics of forming a fleet, you can click here to skip to section 2!
I'll only touch briefly on this, as in my mind RvB really only needs the basics. People are obviously free to do what they want within the rules, but getting serious leads to drama in my experience.
1. Brawl Fleets - Like the name suggests, this is the in-your-face, warp to 0 and smash all the things, basic fleet. Vexor, Maller, Moa, Rifters, Merlin, Prophecy, etc. Any ship that performs well at a close range fits here. Once upon a time almost EVERY fight was a brawl fight. Perhaps that is why I suck at kiting, because I was "raised" in the brawling-heyday. These are, to me, the easiest fleets to FC because all that matters is what is close (which is theoretically everything), and targets are easy to select and call without worrying about range.
2. Kite Fleets - These are the new "norm" of RvB, at least in my experience. I enjoy flying in them, I HATE FC'ing them. Managed effectively, they can be devastating, even against another kiting fleet, and especially against a less-skilled FC (such as me!). The name of the game here is Caracal, Rail-Thorax, Cormorant, Talwar, Corax, etc. If it hits at range and goes fast, it'll probably work!
3. Kitchen-Sink - To an extent, this is every fleet. There is always someone who can only fly specific ships, and even in a full Caracal fleet will show up in a Stabber or Vexor or Maller. I don't discriminate in my fleets. If you can't fly what I am flying, I will give you alternatives. Still can't make it work? Bring whatever! I'll figure out a role for you based on what you can field or set you up with a special-snowflake job (I name-thee "Caracal hunter!" or go kill all the frigs or be my bait maller, etc.) This doesn't mean I'm going to OK a Dominix in my destroyer-down fleet, so please be reasonable!
Again, these are just basic concepts. Find your own "style", add logistics/ewar/etc. People, myself included, will often specify ship-types to fit a certain role, but it is important to not exclude anyone! Whatever you do, just don't turn your fleet into an unkillable death machine that cannot be beaten by anything except 2005 veteran FC with endless numbers of pilots and isk at their disposal. RvB is for all, not just the rich and super-skilled! Which leads us into...
BALANCE AND THE "FAIR FIGHT":
Balance in RvB is a constant job, filled with pot-holes and unexpected turns and endless headaches. HOWEVER, it can be so much easier if you just follow a few simple steps:
1. Communication! Talk to the opposing FC. This is the biggest problem I see in fleets. I understand that many people do not like the concept of "arranged" fights, and frankly I'm not a fan myself. They take FOREVER to organize, they are over way too fast and someone is usually upset/embarrassed at the end, sounds like that first time you...never mind, moving on! The key here is not to arrange every detail into a grand orchestra, but rather simply
a - identify that there is or is not an opposing fleet,
b - ID both sides' FC's so that they can be REASONABLY spared during fights to allow for longer duration engagements,
c - state intent/rough numbers on both sides allow for planning of comps, and
d - keep both sides informed with regards to unexpected developments (such as 3rd party WTs, soloists who might cause an unnecessary imbalance, etc.).
2. Numbers! I hate math...I can add, I can subtract...beyond that, I need a calculator. If you have 12 and I have 9...I'm going to engage. In fact, if you have 10 and I have 4...I'll probably still go for it. I know several Blue FCs and a number of disheartened Reds who will confirm this fact. In my mind, a fight is a fight is a fight. I would rather be overshipped/outnumbered every time than be the one who brought too much, and I would rather leeroy a Vexor alone into a 20-man fleet and get 1 kill than sit and do nothing for 2 hours. I sat in Null, I came to RvB to fight.
3. Winning? One thing to say here...I DO NOT CARE. If you are in my fleet, be prepared to lose your ship. Any ship...EVERY SHIP. Does that mean I am going to run your State Issue Raven into a 100-man Tengu gang? Not intentionally (I'll probably tell you to dock it for a Navy-Raven instead), but basically, FLY WHAT YOU CAN LOSE. This goes for the FC, the fleet members, EVERYONE.
4. Losing? Through poor planning, opposing FC/fleet skill or just plain old bad-luck (be it mine or yours), expect to lose AT LEAST 50% of the time. If you're not...then you're doing it wrong. People love to win, and don't like to lose. Losing is unavoidable, so the best we can do in RvB is try to make it "even". This to me means:
a - Disregard your fear of internet-death. Insurance is a lovely tool that will pay you back for your lost hull. If you can't afford expensive mods, don't use them.
b - Really an extension of point a...don't be afraid to engage! Basically, if I look at an opposing fleet and think "hmm, we could probably kill a couple", then I will engage. Reforming a fleet takes so long, it's almost faster to run in and lose a fight, get a couple kills and then regroup, than it would be to reverse course, go back to HQ, replan, reship, move out, find the enemy again...I don't like waiting!
c - If your fleet has stomped the other side the last couple fights, gimp yourself. Are they cruiser heavy but lacking in numbers? Ship to destroyers/frigs and execute Operation Leeroy. Even if they totally stomp you, you just lost a bunch of cheap frigs/dessies. WHO CARES! The simple fact that they won will likely draw in more people for their side, allowing your next fight to be a bit more even.
5. Sharing is caring! If you simply CANNOT get enough people to function...talk to the other side (hey, remember #1?!). I know of 0 FCs in RvB currently who will not lend pilots if it means keeping the fights going. I know there are changes in-bound that will make purple-fleets as they are now impossible, HOWEVER, there are many people with characters on both sides and it never hurts to ask for volunteers.
6. Targeting the FC. My basic rule here is, give full quarter, expect none. This is to say, I will do my best to leave the enemy FC on the field, but at the same time, I expect at any moment to be primaried. It's not a lack of trust in the opposing FC...it is more a realization that things happen, mistakes are made, and some people in fleets just plain don't listen. So...
a - Clearly ID who the opposing FC is to your fleet members. I'll usually link the name and tell them on voice, with a specific direction to not fire on them, AND to remind me that they are the FC if I call them as a target. You've got a lot to do, so feel free to let your fleet help you!
b - If during a fight you see that the opposing FC is being targeted without your expressed command, I find it best to immediately request that all damage be removed from them. You don't have to scream and curse...remain calm. "All damage off Finbud please, we're shooting Jiny" is much better than "Get your shit together you fucks, primary is the god-damned Prophecy!" Repeat, repeat, repeat until they stop. Sometimes people's drones get away from them, sometimes they joined after the first started and did not get the memo. Sometimes you'll catch them in time to stop them, sometimes you won't. If the other FC goes down, be quick to apologize. Few people get that upset about it, but if you speak up first, all the easier to avoid drama.
c - If YOU are primaried during a fight...DON'T FREAK OUT. There are a million reasons why you might be shot, and only 1% of them have to do with the opposing FC trying to screw you over. This ties a little bit into my next section here...LEARN what people can do. Sooner or later you'll notice that some of the same names are in your fleets all the time, and some of those people may be other regular FCs. If you are going down in a fight, you can either call for everyone to bail OR call for a back-up caller to take over. I will usually call on one of those I know in fleet to call...Yngvarr, Delucian, Lady Ayeipsia, myself...anyone you see in fleet who you've seen FC recently would be a good candidate. If there's none, I usually call for anyone at all. If no one steps up after 15 seconds, call the retreat. Head home, reship, do it again! Almost every time this has happened to me, the other FC will have already contacted me to apologize or explain why I was shot before I was even docked in my pod, so no need to rant/rage/scream in local, etc. If people in your fleet start complaining, don't be afraid to shut them down. I like the argument "both sides do X, let's reship and go again!" for pretty much any Red/Blue specific complaint. I've had a few people argue beyond that, but most simply fall back in line...
I'm talking about communication again! You may be the boss, but that does not mean you are the king, and certainly not the only one who knows what they are doing. A couple notes here:
1. Accept constructive criticism, be it from the opposing FC, a member of your fleet, whoever! Even if what they tell you isn't something you agree with, or doesn't fit into the RvB "style", they are trying to help. If nothing else, at least hear them out and explain why you don't agree.
2. Listen to ideas. If someone pipes up with "hey, I think if we bring a couple X to counter the enemy's Y, that might help us out" and it does not totally what you have going (remember that balance thing we talked about?), let them run with it! If it's a bit unreasonable for a given fight due to numbers/whatever, explain to them why you must respectfully decline (don't just say LOL NOPE, unless of course their idea is to smash a frig fleet with 10 RML Caracals or some other such nonsense that would totally ruin the opposing sides' fun).
3. Learn who is good at what. I touched on this in the last section...certain people stand out in RvB for certain skill-sets. Frank Bean is a Logistics Guru, Delucian will hunt down snipers to no end, as will Shen and Zao and countless others. Most of them are also competent FCs that can serve as scouts/back-up callers or give you advice (I ask all the time, "hey, they seem to have X, what do you think of Y to counter?"). If you have a specific job in your fleet that needs doing and you see a guy who really shines, give him the task! Most likely, you'll be happy with the results! If you see none of the "regulars", you can still offer the opportunities. Maybe someone would love to try out logistics for the first time, or has never really done scouting before. You just might help discover the next Yngvarr or Yank (these dudes are good if you don't know them)!
CONDUCT BECOMING OF AN OFFICER:
You may not be a Director, or a Team Leader...but remember that the C in FC stands for Commander. Act like one! I'm not talking about demanding total obedience or assigning ranks, I'm talking about being civil and decent. Basically 3 rules for this one:
1. Don't be a turd! Stuff goes wrong, people make mistakes, randoms join fights. Probably 0.1% of the time this actually is a maniacal master plan orchestrated by the opposing FC to completely ruin your day, and 99.9% of the time it's just bad luck or your own fault. Even if you have the smoking gun from the grassy knoll, raging in comms/local, or getting into a pissing match in a private chat will not do anyone any good, least of all you. The best thing you can do is message a command member, or post in the moderation section on these forums, and explain what went down (use your words, not just a bunch of exclamation points and expletives). To be clear, you should never, and I mean NEVER EVER EVER trash talk the opposing side in a public channel/fleet/comms while FC'ing. As far as the fleet is concerned, your word is scripture (you know what I mean). You are literally POISONING RvB by spewing negative comments/rants. If you really are that upset, take 5. Put the fleet on a bio-break, get up, walk away...collect yourself, then come back.
2. FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN! Yes, Rebecca Black said it best! Seriously though, why are we here? RvB is about fun right? So have fun! Don't worry about winning, or losing, or whether your fleet lost a bunch of ships or you let that Officer-Fit Nightmare get away because your tacklers are all 10-day old players who just barely know how to fit a Rifter. It's not that serious! There's enough alliances and corps in Eve that would love to have you if you want that type of thing, but RvB really isn't one of them. Do we appreciate a skilled pilot or FC? Of course! But, we do not REQUIRE it, and I doubt we will change ourselves to cater to their "by the numbers, strict doctrine" stance on PvP. If you FC, bring fights and maybe occasionally win, people WILL follow you. Winning is always fun, but fun is not always winning!
3. Don't be the only X in a crowd of Ys. What I'm talking about here is shiptypes. If you are flying a Caracal fleet with tackle support, and YOU are the only tackle support, don't expect to live long. Same goes for Logi...don't fly Logi AND FC...although if you can seriously multitask effectively, props to you, but still, maybe save it for "real" Eve? Some FC's will blap you first...I'll probably ignore you and lose my whole fleet, but either way, it's poor sportsmanship in my opinion. I won't rage at you, I probably won't say anything at all, but just know what I and the rest of my fleet are thinking. Sooner or later, I'll lose my fleet members due to frustration because I refuse to kill you, and then there will be no more fights for anyone.
SOMEONE IN YOUR FLEET SHOULD BE YOUR REPLACEMENT:
One final thing about FC'ing...sooner or later, you need a break. The more FCs we have, the more we can share the responsibility and keep fleets up for more hours in the day. I do not ever see the day when we will have too many FCs and need to regulate who can and cannot FC. To that end, always be on the look out for people who want to step in and try. Even if it's just one fight...let them.
1. Ask for volunteers to take over...make up a rousing speech to give on comms about how easy and fun it is to FC, and how no matter how bad you think you are, you're still going to earn the respect of your fellow fleet members just for stepping up. Tell them about the LP program...do WHATEVER you can to encourage new FCs (maybe write a super long post that almost no-one will read and post it in this forum! ).
2. If you find yourself in a fleet being run by a new guy and he's sounding really unsure...offer him advice. Don't belittle them, just nudge. Maybe even in a private chat, coach them along and help them improve. Even if all you do is say "Hey man, great job! We'll get them next time!". Any and all help will almost always be greatly appreciated. No matter who the FC is, if you have an idea you think is better, don't be afraid to speak up! Just be polite about it, and of course be warned that if you're trying to teach me how to do something, you'll need to draw it in crayon!
3. And finally, if you want a surefire way to piss me off (which is actually really hard to do), try humiliating a new FC that is just starting out and made a bad call. Seriously, DO NOT DO IT. I don't care how bad they are...how terrible their ideas are. If I see this kind of behavior, you can bet you're about to be pulled into a private chat and set straight. We're all here to have fun...you want to trash talk people for no good reason? Jita is a mere 2 jumps away, enjoy!
If you've read (or maybe skimmed) this far, then props to you! I hope this helps some of our newer FCs (be they new to the game, new to FC'ing, or just new to the RvB life) to get a feel for what I see as the ideal RvB "style" of FC'ing. Again, others may or may not agree with me, and I'm perfectly fine with that. I expect there is a low risk that I will be run out by an angry mob with pitchforks, but I'll be surprised if I don't have at least some who disagree with parts of what I've gone over. This is meant to be just another point of view for consideration among those who either are or intend to FC in RvB. Copy my style, modify it to fit your methods, call me a n00b, makes no difference to me. If you ever have a question, feel free to shoot me or any other FC you come across a mail, PM, smoke-signal, whatever. If I don't have the answer, I probably have a good idea of who might!