5 Phases in the Cycle of Drama

5 Phases in the Cycle of Drama


I am not happy.

To be frank, I’m really annoyed.

There’s a player I know who is distraught with another player. They’re both able to work together, but that’s not the issue at hand. The behavior of one player irritates the other.

There are two problems. Those of you who are or who have been in guilds will recognize it. I’ll give you a quick excerpt of the conversation in a second. For the first time, I face palmed.

“What were the problems?” I asked.

“I can’t tell you.” He responded.

“How am I supposed to fix the problems if I don’t know what they are?” I questioned.

“I don’t know, man.” He squawked.

“Can you at least tell me who they are so I can try to talk to them and get to the bottom of it?” I urged.

“No because I don’t want to rat them out or they’ll be mad at me.” He wailed.

“So let me get this straight. There’s people in our guild who are slightly disgruntled. You can’t tell me why or who because you don’t want to rat them out.” I observed.

“Yes.” He croaked.

Note: I was reading a PDF with over 300 ways to say “said” and decided to try some to break into the habit.

Can you see how toxic this type of behavior can be?

I don’t even know who the other dissatisfied players are because he doesn’t want to tattle. This isn’t grade school. We’re supposed to be civilized and mature people with the ability to talk to each other.

If they can’t trust their GM, then maybe they should shop around until they find a guild and a GM that can be trusted.

Now I know everyone has a tolerance meter. Some players are able to put up with and deal with a lot more crap than other people. It’s not something that can be taught. As a side note, GMs must have an amazingly high tolerance meter.

Here’s a look at what I deem the cycle of drama:


Join a new guild. This is the stage where low drama player has just entered a new guild after being promised an environment where they can flourish and share goals with their new found guild mates. Things are generally good as a new guild functions like a breath of fresh of air.

Experience discomfort. Now that the new player has grown familiar with the players and atmosphere, they start noticing some aspects of the guild that they don’t like. Perhaps they find a certain player coming on too strong. Perhaps the style of looting isn’t done how they prefer. Maybe the leadership isn’t all that great. Whatever it is, the problem is significant enough to disturb them.

Code of silence. The new player vows to not let themselves be the cause of any dramatic events. They will try their best to deal with it and move on. Meanwhile, the rest of the leadership proceeds onward with the belief that everything is okay. This is the really critical stage and it could span days, weeks or even months.

Climatic triggering event. Enough is enough. It has gone too far. The guild member has reached breaking point. After a long period of time trying to keep it in, the guild member discovers he has reached the limit of his tolerance. An even triggers and months of frustration pour out possibly causing serious damage to the integrity of the guild.

Guild quitting. Once step 4 happens, step 5 happens pretty soon thereafter. The player has made a mess of themselves and an embarrassment. They’re so unhappy that leaving and starting fresh somewhere is the only logical course of action remaining.

And then the cycle starts a new.

It’s time to break the cycle. Veer away from step 3 and talk to someone. Otherwise you know what will happen next.

Next, there are two statements here that irritate me to no end.

“I don’t want to rock the boat.”

Before I became a GM, I agreed with this sentiment. I didn’t want to cause any problems. I didn’t want to force anyone’s hand. Confrontation is something I didn’t want to deal with. I’ll just grit my teeth and deal with it as best as I can. The GM’s already got a ton of Talbuk dung to deal with. No sense in giving him any more.

And I’m sure most of you would agree. Your GM’s are harried as they struggle to go from raid to raid trying to make sure everything’s running as smooth as possible.

Until one day, you (the exasperated player) decided that you have had enough. You are done putting up with the kind of crap that you have had to endure. You set your alarm for 2 AM before going to bed. Hours later, you wake up to the sound of Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, log into WoW, and quietly leave the guild while everyone is asleep.

“I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

That just expands the problem even more. Now it’s a trust issue. Loyalties here are torn between the players who said something in confidence versus the GM trying to salvage and remedy the situation.

Everyone wants to be a rebel. No one seems to like or respect authority. At the end of the day, the GM’s just a regular player as well. It’s a shame. It really is. It’s a thankless job that’s hard enough already without having players that conspire by passively resisting. It’s making management difficult.

I wish people weren’t as shy. I wish they’d be willing to stand up and grow a spine. Normal and sane GM’s aren’t going to kick you out or feed you to the sharks if you rock the boat. The ones that do aren’t the ones you want to play with anyway.

Snap out of it!

I am begging you. If you have a problem with someone or something, talk to your GM. They are the last line of defense. If there’s nothing you can do, then you are free to go. But until you as a respectable person can take that step to explore every possible option to resolve your differences, then you’re going to continue to be handcuffed. The cycle will repeat itself. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have the capabilities of the NSA or the FBI. We can’t wire tap your computer. We’re not psychics.

If your GM doesn’t know what the problem is, he can’t solve it. By with holding it now, it’s going to be made even more catastrophic later. If you respect your GM that much, then you should go have a talk with them in private. If a resolution can’t be reached, at least you tried.

But the fact remains, it begins with the guild members. Once the guild member speaks up, the ball can get rolling. Someone has to open a dialog. Too often, silence is interpreted as nothing wrong. But it could also mean nothing is right.

Whatever happens, happens. It’s the actions and choices that people make which matter. Sometimes there really is nothing that can be done. I accept and I understand that. What kills me is when no one ever tries to cooperate.

It’s disappointing.

Error, no group ID set! Check your syntax!
About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.


  1. Matticus wrote, “I said observed.” I think you meant “I observed.” the other isn’t grammatically correct.

    As for the post itself, I’d suggest that step 3 may be optional. I’ve had plenty of drama in guild (thank goodness there’s nothing atm), and some of the people are just the opposite. It’s almost like the Jerry Springer mentality: the louder they are about the problem, the more it will piss off the other person, that will in turn upset them… It’s almost as if these people are looking for an excuse to leave from the get-go.

    Leiandras last blog post..Killing Ponies

  2. I think I’m between step 4 and 5 at the moment. But the difference is, I have been talking to the GM / officers for about 2 months and nothing has changed and they don’t even try. So I grit my teeth.

    But you are right about trying to break the cycle.

    pokayokes last blog post..Gotta see this

  3. Excellant post and a pretty accurate assessment of a lot of /gquit drama’s I’ve seen played out. There is only one thing I could see that maybe I’d expand upon — or add. And it’s the GM side of things. How to feel approachable. What to do once someone HAS brought something to your attention. Because from what I’ve seen — often times the very first time something goes wrong, someone DOES speak up. But it’s the actions of the GM/Officer at that point that becomes crucial. How they deal with the information that tells the guild member, whether it’s ok to bring other stuff up on later on, or if they will be ‘rocking the boat’ as you put it. People just dont become mimes for no reason. It starts somewhere.

  4. Okay, I’ve got a question as a guild member:

    There’s disgruntled people in the guild, and they er, um, WHINE TO ME ABOUT IT for some reason.

    Part of the reason is boredom with repetition of the current content, so I take that into consideration and agree with them before they say it that it’ll sure be nice when Ulduar comes out and we have something new to tackle.

    Also, these aren’t people who are short-term members, either – they’ve been in the guild since before WoTLK released, and some even longer.

    I encourage them to chat with the officers about their concerns, but just as you say, I never get a positive response to that one. They just sit there and feel sorry for themselves, saying things like: “they said it wouldn’t be a problem if XYZ happened, but apparently that’s not true” and “I’m not much of a tank, apparently” because they’re rarely offered MT position in 25man (but do just fine in 10 when they lead things).

    And then of course, their passive aggressive tendencies come out during the raid – they’re cranky and they’re sarcastic, and they can’t keep their mouths shut.

    What would you recommend a happy guildie do in regards to these people?

    My Player Blog

    Valdestas last blog post..How Children’s Week Can Help Get You A Stinker

    • @Valdesta: That IS a problem. If they’re not willing to go to anyone, it’s up to you to use your discretion. Are they unsatisfied enough to the point where they are thinking about leaving? Can you tell if it is a serious situation? It’s not a question easily answered. You have to use your gut here. If you think that it’s a problem that could escalate, then it might be best for you to talk to an officer. Turn their concerns into your concerns if you have to.

  5. You make some good points there and cause the old gears to start a’cranking…

    I’m not the GM, but the GM’s not always on so I often become the enforcer. Typically that happens after step 3 becomes step 4 and we end with a /gkick rather than a /gquit.

    I think getting some individual discussion going might do us a world of good.

    Psynisters last blog post..Various Updates

  6. You might want to add into your “normal GM’s won’t kick you out for having spoken up” that if a GM *does* kick you for speaking up, then it’s an easier exit, because then you don’t have to look like a deserter.

    I was kicked from my first raiding guild for expressing concern about the guild-line banter between 30+ yr old men and 14 year old girls. Of course, the GM was one of those 30+ yr old men who not only talked inappropriately to minors but also got exceedingly drunk during raids and talked all about how much alcohol he was consuming (with many 14 year olds in the raid)…

    Now I’m in a guild where everyone is 18+, or a younger sibling of a current 18+ player, and there is no discomfort in that area. 🙂

    My Player Blog

    Valdestas last blog post..How Children’s Week Can Help Get You A Stinker

  7. Kick them both out

  8. I wonder if a trial period helps at all. Just to give both the player and the guild time to see if its going to work out.

    And the thing I hate most of all is ‘If I leave, loads of my friends will leave too’ (at which point I say ‘Fine, bring it.’ /boot)

    • Spinks: I’m not so sure about that. A trial period is good to see if a player is a good fit in the guild. But the mentality of a player who is a trial is different than the mentality of a player who is accepted in the guild.

  9. go read your own guild forums matt

  10. I have had to deal with this many times as a gm and it is very taxing on the leadership. You are working on keeping things going good and trying to keep people happy when all of a sudden bam out of no where someone pops up

    says they left the guild because they felt their problem wasn’t getting fixed.

    I then ask them what the problem was,

    they say it was xyz,

    I say I never heard anything about it did you talk to an officer?,

    they reply no I didn’t,

    /facepalm, how do I fix the problem without knowing it?

    well you should just know but anyways I am leaving to join up with a different guild.

    Try to communicate with guild about the problem, end up having 5 of their friends leave to join their guild and then have to deal with the drama that follows.

    It would just be so much easier sometimes to not have to deal with the leading but then I think about the pleasurable time that others have and it seems to be worth it.

    skarrdes last blog post..Key fob idea is wrong.

  11. Fixed.

  12. I’ve been in this situation before. There’s nothing more upsetting to hear as a guild officer than:

    Certain people are upset at certain people. No, I can’t tell you who or why. There’s drama. YOU may be at fault, but no, I can’t tell you what it’s about.

    In a professional situation, the best way to resolve any conflict is openly, respectfully, directly. I urge all guild members to use the same courtesy and exactness when reporting problems to the GM that they would with their boss or office manager.

    As GM, a person may choose to respond or not respond, but at least give your GM the CHANCE to work on the problem. Some people are better mediators than others–but no one can mediate without the facts.

    It will always be true that people love to complain and make drama–how else could we explain American pop culture? However, the good GM will know that when complaints are justified, changes should be made. And, I’ll add, there are measures that can be taken without disrespecting either party involved.

    And, contrary to popular internet theories, most people aren’t assholes. When people give offense in game, they usually don’t mean to. In that situation, mediation will probably work. One party learns how their actions bothered the other, and both parties try to come to some understanding. Usually, cases of offense are more cases of misunderstanding. It’s the rare person who actually means for his behavior to hurt others.

  13. We operate with an open door policy in my guild, Officers are always available to help out. Thankfully I haven’t had a situation like that where the person just wont tell us who is having issue with what.

  14. @ Kimboslice: The GM too? 😛

    Every guild has a person that everyone vents their frustrations to. If that person is at all competent either promote them to officer or at least make sure they talk to you in turn. Easiest way to help this problem.

    I like how “quitting” is class colored as death knight. 😀

  15. Totally off subject.
    World of Matticus… the home of the list!

    Good work as always!

    @Tarqon: You think the DK Quitting color is bad… what about the Mage Discomfort color…

    Gnomeaggedons last blog post..Any comment is a good comment?

  16. Hey Matt! I understand how the PDF on many ways to say ‘said’ can be tempting … but any fiction writer will tell you that those substitutions are to be used very sparingly. Said works for the most part. Anything else pretty much calls attention to the language and not the story. Just an FYI.

  17. It it’s any consolation Matt, these things are cyclical and drama will become less of a problem once they toy cupboard is stocked with new Ulduar-flavoured toys.

    I think you’re correct in your analysis that silence leads to explosions but I think that the inference that communication is the answer is less sure.

    There are a lot of people on the internet in general and playing WoW in particular who don’t bother to be polite. Historically, politeness evolved in violent cultures where if you annoyed someone you could be killed. In medieval Japan the practice of “cutting and going away” whereby an offended member of the samurai class had the legal right to kill an offensive commoner has left a legacy of extraordinary civility amongst Japanese people to this day. In medieval Europe chivalry evolved as a series of polite forms to stop strangers from killing each other.

    In WoW if you want a smoother ride encourage politeness. If people feel free to trash-talk guildies your guild will probably suffer unless there is a specific reason why it thrives on edginess (perhaps a pvp guild or an aggressively competitive server first type guild).

    To some extent politeness means that the officers need to reign in those who feel entitled to be rude to whoever disagrees with them.

    It’s a fact of life that you can’t build a team of 30+ players without some of them disliking at least one other person. Politeness is a way of keeping the conflict from escalating.

    This is why people in offices are generally polite. They don’t necessarily like their co-workers, they may even detest someone, but because everyone is expected to be polite they co-exist without exploding into drama that might damage the organisation.

    In other words it’s healthy to have a general expectation that adult players should be responsible for managing their own frictions rather than expecting them to require paternalistic management of their relationships with other players.

    If players in a guild don’t get on it’s usually one of the following:
    1) pecking order (ie “don’t give me advice on how to play and be right damn you – you’ve only been here a month and I’m one of the main healers since Kara”).

    2) misunderstanding

    3) cultural differences (“what’s wrong with calling people slags? we all called each other slags in my old guild?”)

    4) rivalry for raid spots or loot

    Pecking order disputes are hard to identify since the participants won’t see them as pecking order disputes. Generally once we’ve identified that this is the problem the best approach seems to be to tell them to leave each other alone. (“I was only being helpful!” “Yes I know but just stop, ok?”). You won’t solve this type of problem by getting them to talk to each other.

    Misunderstandings are usually exposed and put to bed by openness about what was said and what the intentions were.

    Cultural differences are best nipped in the bud early. These can be identified during trials when the individuals are at their most receptive, change them then if possible.

    Rivalry issues are best defused by having clearly stated sign-ups and loot systems that allow people to know where they stand. Sometimes they arise because guild leadership has been pretty thoughtless. My last guild believed in having 5 mages and 2 mage spots, one of which was given to the 99% active assistant raid leader. They should have simply let the numbers go down or taken more mages to raids but they did neither. Playing a mage in that guild meant being benched more than raiding but that only applied to mages not to other classes.

  18. Few things to think about:
    1) The things that annoy you on others are usually the same things that you are expressing yourself. If that someone seems obnoxiously irresponsible, check your own action first. It’s easy to put the denial gear on on this one.
    2) If the guild as whole is great and the problem is with one person only, be mature and deal the issue with that person first.
    3) In guild commitment -as well as in real life relationships- you carry your own crap to the next commitment/relationship. Better check you own reasons and find the recurring reason on changing the relationship.
    4) If you don’t state your mind, no one will ever know what you’re thinking.

    That’s all folks

    C out

    Copras last blog post..Another weekend, another level

  19. Xxirtnam says:

    This is so true, Matt,

    You can even apply it to RL when it comes to divorced people. Most of the time, it is just the matter of communicating to solve the problem. Effort has to be maid on both sides. Always.

  20. Xxirtnam says:

    This is so true, Matt,

    You can even apply it to RL when it comes to divorced people for example. Most of the time, it is just the matter of communicating to solve the problem. Effort has to be maid on both sides. Always.

  21. I’ve been on both sides of the issue, I have been the GM dealing with drama queens of all varieties. the unsuspecting person pulled into a dramatic event resulting in a /gquit. luckily i never started any of the drama (to the best of my knowledge)

    Pre BC I was a member of a small guild (about 100 toons/30-40 accounts) and would often host instance runs for the level progression we were at, eventually becoming an occifer. Then one day the current GM calls us all together and says he’s leaving, because of work/family/the usual stuff. He asked that anyone who wanted the job to whisper him.. i was the only one dumb enough to do it apparently.

    Later on, a pally I had taken under my wing and help out a lot decided to break ranks and go his own way taking about 1/4 of our people with him (people meaning accounts, about 1/2 the toons)

    As a guild member (different guild, after leaving the one i led for a year), i’ve also been involved in some drama tho unintentionally, Apparently I annoyed a rogue to no end when my hunter won a roll on the dragonspine trophy.. months after, I saw the rogue in shatt and said hi, he spit at me, then /ignored me after I asked what the problem was.

    I talked to the GM, but at that point didn’t want to deal with the attitudes present in members of the guild, so I had a decision made really easy for me. Another guild had been trying to recruit me, (rather some friends of mine had moved to that guild and were trying to get me to come along) so after talking to the GM and letting him know my decision i told everyone bye, good luck, holler if you need help, and then /gquit

    Kattrinsaas last blog post..Two down, 48 to go

  22. I agree with you 100%, the basis to any good relationship is good communication. If grievances cannot be aired, they will boil over.

    logtars last blog post..Tanking only what I like.

  23. Elder Nyoka says:


    “If people feel free to trash-talk guildies your guild will probably suffer unless there is a specific reason why it thrives on edginess (perhaps a pvp guild or an aggressively competitive server first type guild).”

    .. or the fact that leadership says “Yeah, it’s totally cool to call officers names and treat them however you want.” .. with actions of course, not with words.

    I recently had an issue in my guild where somebody called another player (a raid leader) a very rude name that I won’t repeat here (would be reportable if it was in trade), an officer demoted that player (as he’s had similar issues in the past), then that player quit the guild. Two hours later, the guild leader comes online, reprimands the officer that demoted the player, then re-invites the offending player.

    Direct from my guild’s Code of Conduct:

    “Officers of the guild have been promoted for a reason. While it may not be readily obvious to you at times, this does not mean that you can disrespect them upon the public forums or guild chat channel. There are proper avenues for making complaints or voicing your opinions without coming across as trying to create discontent or chaos.”

    .. in short.. sometimes people trash-talk each other because they realize the rules don’t apply to them. Sadly, this “rules only apply to some people” thing exists in every guild and workplace in the world, so it’s just something the “little people” just need to learn to live with.

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