Herding Cats, AKA …Let’s go to Plan B, shall we?

June 9, 2009


So. This is what happens when guild drama explodes at a somewhat late hour on a Monday night. I think more than anything I’m probably confused by what happened, but generally I’m proud to be a card-carrying charter member and senior officer of the newly formed <Blades of Dawn>.

Being in the position at the moment, I’d like to take this white space and talk about guilds and guild management. There are a few things that I think are absolutely essential to having a healthy guild.

  • A mission statement, and defined direction for the guild.
  • A reliable officer core that is both larger than the one person leading the guild, smaller than 20% of the guild (or so), and shares a reasonable amount of power with the leader.
  • Defined rules about behavior within the guild, when running with PuGs and a general looting policy.
  • An application with recruiting policy.
  • A trial period with a defined end point.
  • Semi-regular guild meetings.
  • More than 4 events a month, less than 25.

Things that are nice to have but not essential include:

  • A forum, with “News” section or splash page.
  • Themed officer roles.

A mission statement is important because it’s your declaration to not just the server, but to yourselves what you stand for. PvP, PvE, Rp… they can be different enough to rip your guild apart if some people think you’re going off to raid Ulduar, some deride the first group for their lack of resilience gear, and the rest sit around wondering why everyone is too busy to have a good chat and storyline! Heck, you can even have a guild with lots of differently aimed players in it, so long as somewhere is a virtual document labeling you as a social guild. Without a focus, people will either loose interest or get into arguments, neither of which you want.

Reliable officers are important, and having the proper number of them is important as well. One person alone may have to take time away from the game, and loose members in the process with no one there to hold them together. On the other side of the Titanium Seal of Dalaran, if there are too many officers to players, the rank looses it’s credibility with the members, it’s simply not special anymore. Each officer should be there for a reason, and bring certain skills or abilities into play with which to lead. More on this later.

Likewise, the officers need to have power. If this needs to be accomplished by having ranks within the officers, so be it… but there should be one or two with power nearing the guild master’s that can step up in times of emergency, and help to make the guild more of a cooperative than a monarchy. On a somewhat related note, care must be taken to avoid all of the “inner circle” being the RL friends or another form of a clique with the leader. This would only lead to angst and accusations of favoritism.

Rules. Rules, rules, rules. At the risk of sounding square, you must set and implement rules to be followed. Followed by everyone. Without boundaries clearly marked, people inherently try to find them, and frequently cross them in the process. That way when that one guy you really weren’t sure about completely crosses The Line, you know exactly what action is appropriate. Even better, if the Line crossing impacted anyone outside the guild you can show them that you do, indeed, have a very nice Line right over there in the corner and it’s currently a sobbing, terrified mess because it was violated. Also, quite obviously, everyone following the rules means everyone following the rules with no special treatments or lenient sentences for friendship or rank.

Applications are extremely important. After that first point when you’re guild forms and you have your initial rush of membership from the charter and/or people who would have been on the charter but were offline at the time, a policy (Read: another rule) must be created and followed that defines how people are added in the future. If your goal is simply to create the largest guild in history and break a record, please ignore this warning, but if you care about the kind of people you pull out of the teeming masses, do this. Just think for a moment. If a person want to join your guild and doesn’t have the time to go and fill out their basic information on a website… then they don’t have time for you, but expect you to spend your time on them? How one-sided is that?

Similarly, trial periods are another must. Sometimes people just don’t work out. It happens, don’t feel bad. People may have different interests than those defined in your mission statement, they could just have a completely incompatible personality. Trial periods give everyone a chance to get to know each other and break up with less drama if neccesary. It’s like a built-in 30-day guarantee! Don’t leave them hanging, either. Decide if your trial period is 2 weeks, until the next guild meeting, or what have you, but they need to have an end… a point where you have to make a decision. It’s not fair keeping someone strung along forever because you keep waffling over whether they’re right for you or not.

Guild meetings are important. It makes everyone feel like they have a say in the guild and what direction it goes in. Communication is the most important element in any relationship and not only do your members deserve to know what is being planned, they might have idea that the officers didn’t think of! Rights and responsibilities are a two way street.

Regular events are extremely important for morale. An inactive guild is a stagnant guild that nobody cares about being in. Conversely, hyperactive guilds require too much time and stress to be worth staying in. Strike a balance, ask for feedback, adjust as necessary, and regualrly ask for feedback again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

The less necessary:

Forums are important for communication. Not everyone will be able to be online at the same time, and this allows even remote players to still have a say in their guild. It’s an extension of the guild meeting and a networking device.

News threads or splash pages are important for morale. Have a guild meeting, have an event… and then post about it. Boss kill? Post it. Guild first? Post it. New batch of members? Post it. This allows everyone to relive the experience and have their accomplishments acknowledged, in addition to letting those who weren’t at the raid/meeting/event/etc. feel like they’re still part of something big that’s improving all the time and taking them with it. The best guild I’ve been in was in was way back at level 60… I remember even people who hadn’t reached max level would hang in guild chat with bated breath to see if we made the progression kill. A win for the people in the raid was a win for everyone as a whole, not just the “elite core”.

Finally, “themed” officer roles help with infrastructure. Be they a class leader system, or a “Raid leader, PvP leader, Cheerleader” system, if your officers have a sort of job title they can associate with themselves it makes the idea of being a leader easier to manage and gives your members an idea who they should turn to with specific problems instead of calling out to the heavens hoping the person that can help them is listening.

In conclusion:

Be proffessional, stick to your guns, and never leave a man behind.

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