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Miri’s Thoughts on Guilds

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

It was a simple enough question, posed on Twitter Thursday morning while I made my morning commute. Rewt, of HearthCast, asked “What does being a Guild Leader mean to you?” I told Rewt that I could write a novel on the topic, and thus this blog post was born. Once again, this post will be a running steam of my consciousness that I hope to be able to tie into a tidy package when I’m done.

While I am not a GM currently, I have worn the hat in previous years. I ran a fairly successful raiding guild in my BC days and incorporated much of my business background into how I ran my guild. So let’s start there.

Miri’s Past as a GM

As I’ve mentioned, I was the GM of a raiding guild in BC. I set up a medium sized officer core (There were 7 in guild leadership, yes, I just had to pause and count): 1 GM, 2 Raid Leaders, and 4 Officers who each wore a different hat. 2 were in charge of recruitment. 1 was responsible for strat planning and illustrating positioning for fights, and 1 was responsible for dealing with guild drama. The raid leaders were responsible for setting the raid team each week and I, the GM, was responsible for our loot system (EPGP), forums access, guild website updating, and paying the bills each month. My expectation was that my officers would represent the guild well and that we would meet weekly as an officer team to review issues, applicants, the roster, and any other topics of discussion.

The guild as a whole was responsible for reviewing applicants, commenting on their performance by reviewing their logs (I totally forget what WoL’s precursor was at this point), and helping supply the raid team.

We were raiding before guild banks even existed (gbanks went in with 2.3.0), but I remember the patch where guild banks were added into the game. And I hesitated at first, wondering how people would feel about a central repository for supplies. Would they feel like it was taking away from their own collections of mats, or would they embrace it completely and load it with stuff? And who would fund the creation of the bank and it’s tabs?

Amazingly, I didn’t have to worry about it. People threw gold at me to buy tabs. Which was incredible. Gold was hard to come by for raiders. We could  do a couple dailies (there was a low cap at this time), but people were trying to afford flying (and epic flying!), and pay repair bills and everything else. Gold wasn’t easy to come by back then, especially when there was no dual spec!

Within weeks we had 6 tabs and I was amazed! So then I had to wonder how we were going to keep them stocked…

And I sat with the officers and pondered it in one of our weekly meetings. How could we put the guild bank to good use? And the response was what was expected: “to supply the raid team!” And then I asked, “how do we do that?” And the response was as you could expect: “Enchanting mats (this was pre-scroll days)! Gems! Food! Herbs! Flasks!”

My next question was simple as well: “What could we do to make people want to gather supplies and possibly even give up their personal stocks to benefit the team?”

That night we devised an addition to our weekly EPGP calculations. Every item donated to the bank was assigned a value. Even money. We agreed on a set amount of EP that could be earned by guild bank donations and published it on the guild website under our guild FAQ.

But how did we get our social members to participate? They didn’t need to earn EP if they weren’t raiding. We agreed that anyone who donated would have the ability to be the recipient of items in the bank. BoEs, patterns that the raid team didn’t need, crafting supplies, etc. But they couldn’t receive if they didn’t donate.

All guild bank withdrawal requests were published to a special forum. Each requester had to make a case for the item. Flasks for raid that night. Primals for crafting resist gear. Whatever it may be, it was published for all to see with an approval or a reason for rejection published by the officers. And since we didn’t want to wait for our weekly meeting to get supplies to our team, a “majority” vote between 3 random officers could be performed at any time and the supplies granted.

All major guild decisions were socialized to the guild. I was very big on driving open lines of communication with my members. We held a guild “State of the Union” every month. Every member of the guild was invited into Ventrilo and we discussed our successes and our failures over the past month. We asked for membership feedback on what our strengths were and where we could improve.

One of the things outsiders thought was odd was how we handled our raiding decisions when Patch 2.4.0 hit (dropped all the attunement requirements for the raids). While all the raid team was attuned to the content we were progressing in, we hadn’ t downed Kael yet. We could create an artificial wall and not let ourselves move into Tier 6 content until we downed him, or we could begin to progress in the Tier 6 content while still working on downing Kael. Instead of the Raid Leaders or the officers making the call, we put our progression decision into the hands of the raid team. The final vote was surprising. The team was willing to make a push into Tier 6, but their priority was Kael dying. And then they became even more specific in that they were willing to step into Mount Hyjal. But Black Temple would have to wait until Tempest Keep was completely cleared. The decision surprised the officer team, but it was a majority decision. That night, after the meeting, we stepped into Mount Hyjal.

We never saw Black Temple as a guild. Kael was eventually our  guild killer, but we had progressed to 3/5 in Hyjal when we shut our doors. To this day I wonder if we should have broken our rule of skipping BT, but honestly? I’m glad we stuck to our decision. It was a raider decision, and we respected that until our dying breath as a casual progression guild.

A Guild is a Business

Think about it. Not from a money-making perspective, but a good guild will operate like a business. Let me explain.

Totally using the Apple store as an example for this–no, I am not an Apple employee and know nothing about their business practices, but having sold electronics, alcohol, firearms, and a good amount of other stuff in my life, it’s a fair basis for this discussion. –Miri

A store will have a Store Manager who oversees all the business that is performed there. They may be in charge of the raises, the bonuses, and they report back to a chain of command that in this case really doesn’t matter. They are probably largely responsible for the appearance of their store and make sure that signage is current, the product on display is in good working order, and that the employees are a good representation of their customer base.

That store manager probably has shift managers; people who are responsible for overseeing how the team operates and performs when the store manager is off or unavailable. They may handle assignments and tasking of the other employees, provide evaluations to the store manager, and be around to address any customer or team concerns.

You’ve got the Genius Bar employees. These employees are going to be much more skilled than the other floor workers as they have a particular focus. They spend time after work doing training, possibly responding to issues on a forum or traveling to train other teams. These employees are a small subset of all the employees in the store; a customer must book an appointment to get time with them.

Then you’ve got the regular store employees. These are the people who greet you at the door, ask if you have questions when you look at a product, ring up your purchases, refresh stock, and thank you for stopping by.

So why do I use Apple for this example? I’m not going to lie–my  best shopping experiences have been in an Apple store. They work as a team, represent their product well, and are efficient and effective in service and support. From a business perspective, they do it all right.

You know you’re walking by an Apple storefront because it’s uncluttered and welcoming. The products are sitting right out for anyone to touch. They supply the basics of information with each product in unobtrusive packaging. And if you have a question? Someone is quick to address your needs and concerns.

Pause and think about it.

Your Guild is a Business

That store manager? That’s your GM. They hold the power of guild repairs, promotions to officer status, the keys to the guild bank, and in all reality, the success of the guild rests on the shoulders of the Guild Master. If a GM doesn’t give their guild members (or a store manager their employees) the tools to succeed, then a guild will not succeed.

The shift managers are your officers. Your officers may wear different hats or may be aligned to specific causes. Some officers may be responsible for recruiting. Some may be the Raid Leaders, some may be tasked with the technical needs of the guild. But like the GM, the officers are responsible for making sure that the guild is a healthy place for growth and development of it’s members (just like a manager needs to help an employee grow professionally).

The Genius Bar? That’s probably your raid team. These are players who play a very specific role for the guild. They are your tanks, your healers, your DPS. They probably spend a lot of time outside of the game researching their classes, looking to improve themselves. They are reviewing data from previous raids, looking for weak points, studying boss fights, strategizing with fellow teammates. They probably devote more time outside of game to the game than they do in the game (or at least I hope they do. We’ve already established that I have a much higher level of expectation set for my raid teams than others do, but we won’t venture down that rabbit hole right now).

And the general employees? That’s probably your social core. They are the non-raiders, the friends and family. They may be trying to work their way up to the Genius Bar level, or maybe they are just content with signing on and playing for a couple hours. Maybe they have high aspirations. Maybe they don’t. But at their level, it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t, because there’s not a lot of responsibility foisted on this role.

And your storefront? That’s your guild webpage, that’s your guild tag in game. Most guilds have a web front that potential applicants can be directed to. It may host forums, a tally of boss kills, miscellaneous information about the guild, the application process, anything your mind can think of. A website that isn’t current or a forum that’s pretty inactive can lead an applicant to wonder if the guild is really as active as they claim to be.

Why You Should Run Your Guild Like a Business

A guild is only as strong as it’s officer team is. A weak (or largely inactive) leadership team will create a lot of tension in a guild environment. Ineffectual leadership will also have a toll on the member base. Guild leadership must prove that they can wear the hat(s) that they need to in order to help the guild succeed.

It sounds crazy, but think back to past employers, or even your current job. If you have a weak manager, you’re probably frustrated. They probably aren’t championing you for a promotion or a pay increase. You may feel that they are doing nothing for you but just enough for themselves to get a moment in the spotlight. Maybe you won that big deal or delivered ahead of schedule to a very demanding client. Was your success acknowledged? Did you benefit from the effort you put forth?

If you answered no, you’re probably unhappy in your current job. If you could transpose words about raiding (gonna be honest, singling out raiding here because being a non-raider in a guild is pretty much a foreign concept to me) into that sentence, you could possibly make it relate to your guild or your progression (YMMV).

So how do you supply benefits to your raid team to make them keep showing up week after week and wiping as the team learns content? Well, Blizzard created guild repairs, funding that comes from the guild bank. The basis of guild perks also allows for additional gold to be skimmed off bosses and even mobs killed while questing (aka, basically free money)! Guildies can also help add additional funds by helping cap the guild’s weekly heroics requirement.

Repairs can be funded by the guild. Feasts can be cooked and dropped before a boss fight (fish either purchased or gathered by the raid team members or even by others who want to help the raid team out). Cauldrons can be dropped for flasks (and once again the mats can be gathered or purchased). Some guilds go so far as to pay for gemming or enchanting supplies as well.

As odd as it may sound, those sort of things being supplied to a raid team are a lot like “spot awards” or bonuses to employees. They get some benefit for their efforts.

A funny side story. A few years ago, my employer decided to remove all the soda machines from our break rooms. We had full access to every Coke and Pepsi product on the planet, and kept nice and cool in chillers. We had bottles of water, we had fruit juices, we had everything. And it was all free. It was a perk that made people not mind working 10-15 hour days–they could wander right down the hall and grab a drink before heading back to their desk. They never had to leave the building. And then they vanished. And honestly? It was the beginning of the morale dip that has had a major impact on our output and in my mind, our quality. Some can sit there and scoff and say “it’s a fucking soda, Miri” and they would  be right. But it was a part of the culture. It was something that made you feel like you were a valued employee. It wasn’t a bonus, it wasn’t extra cash you had to pay taxes on, but it was a small thing that made you feel wanted. Food for thought…

If your raiders are supplying a large majority of their supplies, then assist them with tips for crafting fees, access to the bank for repairs, etc. It may seem like a tiny and meaningless gesture, but it’s probably appreciated and shows that you value the contribution that they make to the guild or the raid team.

Side note, a guild that I have an alt in turns on guild repairs for even the lowest ranks. I will admit that I was amazed when I went to repair on a lowbie and could use the guild funds for that! It wasn’t a large amount (probably no more than 3g a day), but the gesture was incredible.

In Conclusion…

Being a guild leader isn’t easy work. Well, it can be. It truly depends on the team that supports you. A good guild leader is easily accessible, whether it be in game, or on the forums, or some chat program (people are big on Skype and AIM and even texting nowadays–we didn’t do that stuff when I was a GM!), your members can always drop you a note. It’s about being able to make the hard decisions, and knowing which decisions you need to propose for vote. It’s about making sure your guild management reflects what the guild is about and that it represents players from all avenues. It’s not for the faint of heart!

A good business has a passionate leader and management team. A good guild will be built on the same premise.

And like a good business, a good guild will continue to grow and expand.

  1. January 28, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I ran my guild very similarly in the past and like any business it works as long as your guildies are invested. Eventually goals change and you have to change focus to meet market and reality or you meet your killer boss (which in most cases is drama.)

  2. January 30, 2012 at 12:13 am

    It’s interesting to see different people’s views on how they lead their guilds, and how their backgrounds change their approach and their lexicon. You come from a background in business, so you modeled your business as such, I came from a military background, and I organized my guild akin to an Infantry Company. I have my Healing Platoon, my Tanking Platoon, and my DPS platoon. My guild officers who manage getting the raid consumables, or recruiting, or simply maintaining order are my Staff NCOs, the rank and file raiders are my Joes. We all have our missions, and we all strive to accomplish our parts.

    I think that almost any real world position of leadership has lessons that can be applied to help facilitate the smooth operation of a guild.

  3. Lamasu
    January 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    This post came around the time I started deciding whether or not to start a guild of my own; and, frankly, it kind of makes me feel empowered.

    See, my current raiding (and general guild) situation is annoying me, because there’s a small group of raiders (they raid 10-man content, usually normal) who don’t want to let many others into the fold. I’m new to raiding in general, and I’m looking for some avenue to getting into it.

    I realize that finding a new guild would work, but honestly, how many guilds want newbies to raiding, this late in the expansion? Probably not many. And who knows how long until Mists comes out? Probably a long time. Hence why, after this post, I’m going to be on the lookout for officer material for a “casual” raiding guild.

    I put “casual” in quotes because I hope to progress to more hardcore content, along with the guild. I don’t want to get carried: I just want to help others like myself achieve their goals of getting into raiding in late-Cata/early-Mists.

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