How to Lose 14 Players in One Night

It took the guild 3 years, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I just lost over 14 players from my raiding roster.

It started out as a simple personnel disagreement. There was a quiet debate raging within me for some time. On the one hand, I understand the strains of progression raiding and the impact it can make to a roster especially on the drive to having flawless raid nights. We all want a mistake-free raid group with players who can ace every obstacle thrown at them.

But does that mean putting up with personalities you don’t agree with all the time? The game was getting to the point where it was no longer fun for me.

Actually, scratch that. The game itself was fine. The managing social dynamics and personalities aspect made the game not fun. All I ever wanted to do was kill internet dragons, with friends or otherwise. One of the policies I even had in place for players was that they weren’t required to be friends with everyone. They didn’t have to go to the bar with them or anything. Over time, however, I began to wonder if that was a standard I could hold to myself. I realized that I had a very difficult time doing that because of all the added responsibilities and inter-personal problems that I had to deal with as part of my rank. As a player, in contrast to being an officer or guild leader, the only person you really need to be cool with is the GM. If the GM isn’t cool with you, then there’s no point in being there. This goes hand in hand with the chemistry clause – The right for applicants to be rejected because they don’t “fit” with the guild.

Competence and likeability are not mutually exclusive. The players I’m looking for have both. But it seems that the higher the skill level you go, the more disrespectful people become. Why? I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they believe their skills can give them an excuse to act however they want and get away with it. I don’t want to deal with that. If a player is skilled but not likeable, I’ll end up showing them the door. If a player is likeable but not skilled, eventually a newer player will work their way in and take their spot. That’s just how it is going to be.

Respect the chain of command

For any budding officers out there, this is the most important rule. If you bring up an idea, any GM worth their salt will at least hear you out and weigh all the negatives and positives associated with it. It’s up to you to sell your perspective. But once the decision from the top is made, that’s that. There is no higher authority to appeal to. You’ll have a hard time finding a GM who says otherwise. Do not try to circumvent it even if you know every fibre of your being says it is the right or wrong thing to do. The only thing you can do is look inside yourself and decide if it’s worth leaving over. That choice is absolutely yours to exercise. There’s no contract obligations that force you to stay in a guild.

In this particular case, cliques were cliques. When it comes to social groups like this, nothing’s going to stop people from playing with who they want. Trying to would just cause a social group to leave and create their own guild. This was a scenario I actually had in my mind as a realistic possibility. I don’t take kindly to ultimatums or threats of leaving at all. Given the option between killing internet dragons with people I’ve shared beers and had a good time with versus players who are willing to throw other people under a bus at a whim, I’d rather shoot for the former. I absolutely love raiding but not at the cost of my own mental health. Leading a guild isn’t easy at all when it comes to executive level decision making.

I still maintain that is perfectly possible to raid in a progressive raiding environment with people who you enjoy playing with. I see it in other guilds all the time. It’s my ongoing goal to reach that state, current drama aside. The only thing I can do is look forward and exercise my recruiting skills. And what an opportunity!

The thing about hindsight is that it always occurs after the events. I wish I had gone on offense sooner and made earlier changes. I don’t know if that would have offset the events, but it means I would have been forced to start the rebuild earlier. You always think and second guess to yourself wondering if that was the right thing to do. Or if there was another alternative solution or another way. I can’t answer that because I don’t know. I felt I offered enough of a compromise by allowing a player to stick around in the guild and idle on our Mumble servers even if they weren’t in our raid team any no longer. But that’s not enough.

Regardless, I’m sure they’ll be fine. I know for a fact we’ll be fine. 9 out of 10 rebuild guilds don’t actually make it and I have zero intention of being a statistic.

I also may have made up said previous statistic.

My options

  • Do 10 mans
  • Look for another guild
  • Quit the game
  • Rebuild us back to even strength

10 mans are okay. I could go look for another guild. I could just retire from the game and step down from blogging and writing on WoW Insider.

Or I can pick my ass up off the floor, dust myself off and get back to work. I challenge you to find a GM more determined than myself. Am I saddened? Yeah, a little. Do I feel that I can recover? Oh, you bet I will. This is a great opportunity!

That being said, Conquest is open for business. Firelands 25 man raiding only and we’re presently 6/7. We’re looking for all players in any position. I think we’re stacked on Resto Shamans though. I have almost no melee DPS remaining so I’ll be entertaining Rogues, Warriors, DKs, Enhancement Shamans. Hunters, I have many of. But at this point I just need bodies. I’m interested in any caster classes. I’m also looking for hybrid specced tanks who can double as DPS (a main tank and an off tank position).

Join now

If you have any questions or want to discuss a few things beforehand, feel free to get in touch with me or Lodur anytime.

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

ComputerRepair

The other day it occurred to me that as a leader, we are judged twice: Once by how we handle success, and once by how we handle problems.

So by now you’ve determined that one of your officers needs to step up their game and contribute more to your rampantly successful organization.  Presuming you still feel they can be a valuable part of your leadership team, this leaves you with two standard options:

  1. Ignore it and hope the situation fixes itself
  2. Violently strike, shake or punch them
  3. Coach them to success

Method 1: Ignore it

Let me know how this works. 

Actually, I’d bet that a fair amount of people are reading this because they’ve already tried this method and realized it never changes.

Method 2: Violence

“We have not yet developed the technology to punch someone over a standard TCP/IP connection.”

Lodur

So unless you’re a Jedi and can Force Choke someone, this method is sort of a wash, too.

Method 3: Coaching/Wake-Up Call

Part of leadership is motivation, and that doesn’t start and stop with your members.  Your officers need back-up, direction, vision and support on a regular basis.  The only thing that changes is your tactics and means of implementation.

Of course, how this situation came to be and what path you choose from here is largely based on your leadership style.  What follows below likely fits best within an organized style of leadership.  If you run a more chaotic/organic guild, some of this could seem foreign. 

As with any relationship, the GM/Officer paradigm requires give and take.  You both need to know what is expected of each other, so there are no assumptions later on.  It really helps to lay these things out, and to write them down.  Do not presume you will remember all the details later, because you won’t. 

Re-Defining their Responsibilities

Their domain: Are they in charge of all melee, or just tanks?  Do they coach healers outside of the raid, or is that done by the Morale Officer?  In your head, who should be going to them before coming to you?

  • Expectations: What goals have you set for their area of responsibility?  Just “play well” isn’t really a goal.  Zero missed interrupts, DPS that ranks on WoL every night, better cooldown coordination between healers.  These are examples of things they can work on.  Remember, people derive comfort from achieving goals.  
  • Extra Duties: Are they expected to pitch-in on recruiting?  Are they expected to be the sole recruiter for their area?  Do they need to make sure they set aside time to assess your back-ups?  Do they need to contribute to strat development before raid?
  • Rules are there for a reason: Whether it’s your rule or a rule they made up, we are judged by how and when we implement our rules.  If an officer feels like a particular rule (such as talking to players before cutting them, or organising who sits out on which fight, or ensuring loot is distributed correctly) then the situation needs to be examined.
  • Assistance: Tell them what you can do to help them, and when you want/expect to be asked for help.
  • Clarity: Be clear about when and how often you want to update each other.  Some guilds can do this quickly each night, some prefer a weekly officer meeting.  Develop a routine.
  • Desire: Ask them if these are all things they want to do.  Perhaps they are good at some things and not yet ready for others.  If falls to you to decide what they should be handling and when you should be giving them more to do.

Hand-in-Hand with all that, comes your fair share of the culpability.  After-all, it’s your guild, and, even though a lot of GM tasks are intangible, everyone needs to know what you’re doing so they can follow with confidence.

Defining the GM’s Responsibility

  • Tell them what you do for them
  • Tell them what additional things you will do for them now
  • Be clear with what you expect to be a GM-level issue, and what you think is best handled by them
  • Be very clear that your job is to ask questions, and this is just something you will need to do. Nobody should be offended when you make your inquiries.  Afterall, “not checking is not managing”.

Hopefully these tips will give you some good ideas when you find yourself having to coach one of your officers.

Next week: How Cataclysm has changed Guild Structures

As always, please leave your questions/comments/feedback/marriage proposals below.  I love to read them on these rainy spring days while curl up in my official Matticus Snuggie*.

Note: No such product exists.

Recovering From a Bad First Guild Date

I issued a Valentine’s day blogging challenge earlier on Twitter. It wouldn’t be fair of me to not participate. Any bloggers are welcome to join in. It’s a fun way for bloggers to throw a Valentine’s spin on their posts. If you do accept the challenge, feel free to e-mail or DM me a link to it and I’ll round them all up at the end of the week. I’m sure you can come up with some ideas if you think hard enough.

1327762_rosesPerformance anxiety.

Nervousness.

Fear.

Intimidation.

Those are just some of the few things any prospective raider will experience on their first “date” with the guild. As much as we love to hear a happy ending to a story, the reality is that it isn’t always the case. Here you are, a  player trying to court your new guild. You want them to love you. You want them to be attracted to you. Why? Because you want to be with them too.

But then you screw up.

You stand in the fire. You eat one too many Shadow Crashes. You accidentally dropped a totem in the wrong place.

For whatever reason, your “date” just wasn’t impressed with you at all. Here you are trying to establish a solid foundation with them but you blew your chances because of some silly mistakes. The question they’re asking themselves: Can you be trusted to not screw up again in the future?

Meanwhile, the question you have running through your head is: Will they give me a second chance?

Probably not. At least, not right away. If you epicly messed up, you won’t have a shot. But you know, maybe that guild likes you just enough for another look. But you have to prove yourself.

Communicate

“Hey, I know I screwed up here, here and here. I’m just a little jittery because it’s my first time here. I’ve watched the movies and I know the abilities, but I guess I was just overwhelmed with anxiety. I know I’ll do a better job next time.”

Sometimes a little reassurance to the guild is all that’s needed. Everyone loves a person who recognizes and owns up to their own mistakes. It’s a sign of a truly mature individual who understands they’re not perfect. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but someone who can see where they screw up without having to be told about it is perfect in my eyes.

Listen

Hear out what the guild has to say. If you’re not sure, ask them what you did wrong so you can try to make amends for it. If you know your DPS rotation is messed up, why are you still following the same bad habits? This is especially true if someone is playing the same class as you. Listen to what they have to say, consider it, and see if its right for you. When they drop little hints about what you can do to be better, listen to it.

If that player isn’t you, then you might just need to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and make the choice between walking away or dealing with it.

Don’t screw up

You were given a second chance. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll be given a third. Don’t mess it up again by choking. They’ve said yes to you again so you better show up and show them who the real you is. Polish up the armor and maybe shotgun a flask.

When they ask you where the nearest raid is, you can curl your muscular Dwarven arm and go “that way”.

Even though you didn’t make the best of first impressions, you might still have a chance to get into the guild of your dreams.

They want to like you

Last thing I want to impart is this:

No one is out to get you.

The guild that you’re going for, you have to remember that they want you to be the one. They don’t want to go back to the recruitment boards again searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. They’re looking for someone who will stick around for a long time.  You’re here because they think they found a potential match and they’re rooting for you to be with them! They want you to ace it so they can go back to drinks! It’s up to you to either validate or prove wrong that claim.

Speaking of which, we’re looking to shore up our roster with a Holy Paladin, an Elemental/Resto Shaman, Rogue and a Mage. But we’ll look at any other classes though. Come check us out.

No player is an island

The phrase “no man is an island” may be something you’ve heard before. It originates from a poem or meditation from John Donne, an English poet, priest and a major representative of the metaphysical poets of the time. Here’s the original poem;

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Now the saying is a little bit outdated and now should read no person is an island, but it was on point for the time that married two important ideas. The first is that people are not isolated from one another, but that mankind is interconnected. Essentially, there is something that connects us to each other that is inherent to being human. The second is the concept of mortality which was all the rage at the time. The two together tell us that the death of anyone person affects the entire world. Over time this has evolved from that original meaning to one that no person can really stand all on their own without support. And that is exactly the lesson we’re going to talk about today.

In order to make a guild and a raid run, it doesn’t all fall to one player. It takes multiple people to manage anything more than a small group of folks. I hear a lot of people say that they could run a raid or a guild single-handed.  After the events of the past two weeks I can tell you with certainty that it is a lot harder than you may think.

The last month and change has been pretty tough on Unpossible, not going to lie. It’s one of those period where real life hit everyone pretty hard right around the same time. Things like this happen. Two of the core officers had to step away from the game because of work related issues, and a third because of school. This left four of us still around, and things were going alright. Raids were still going and people were leveling and progressing. Then a couple weeks ago one of the leadership was gifted with the birth of their first child. For obvious reasons they had to step away from the game to handle RL as well. Another event took place that caused one of the remaining three officers to be absent for a week, unfortunately leaving just two of us to run the guild and raids for the time being.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t fun. Raid signups, restocking the guild bank, hunting down missing raiders, running the raids, handling new recruits waiting for guild invites basically everything. It was stressful, lead to a lot of confusion and to speak frankly, it sucked. I’d find myself logging in before work to double check the Gbank, remote accessing my computer at home on my lunch in an attempt to log into the game and check status’, pouring over forums between work assignments and then rushing home to get things started on time. All the while handling raider complaints, DKP and other various factors. It was exhausting. At the end of the day all I wanted was a cold glass of beer, a dark room and some earplugs.  Even with two people trying to handle it, it was just simply too much. As a result of our stress, the guild became slightly stressed as well. Things weren’t running with their customary smoothness and adjustments were made to handle things as best as they could be handled at the time.

This persisted for two weeks of basically trying to keep things together and smooth, and at the end of those two weeks I honestly didn’t even want to touch the game for a bit. It was that stressful. Then three of the officers returned, and now things are going back to normal. While I’ve always been a strong proponent of sharing responsibility and delegating responsibility, this did nothing but highlight how very true that is. There’s too much involved when running a guild, let alone one that raids, for one person to effectively keep track and handle all aspects of it.

This is why when you come into a guild there may be multiple officers. In our case we have a DKP officer, healing officer, Ranged DPS officer, Melee DPS officer, Tank Officer, and Recruitment officers / membership officers. Responsibility is divided so that whenever a question or concern is raised it can be dealt with with a certain specialty. Each aspect gets the time and care only a person not trying to do everything can do.

So when someone comments to you that they could run a raiding guild single handed, remind them that no player is an island.

How about you out there? Ever try to run a massive group by yourself without help? Were you ever a part of a raid or guild where one person tried to manage everything? How did that work out?


Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

Last week, we covered some of the basic pro’s and con’s to both 10- and 25-man raid styles. Thanks everyone to their input and comments. I’ll be updating the post soon to get those new items in there! This week, we cover the art of communication.

Now that you’ve donned the crown of Raid Leader, you have to pontificate with your subjects… meaning you have to talk to your raiders. This sometimes can be the hardest aspect of the job. You definitely have to be more “on the ball” than the other people on the team. In my time as a raider, and also as a Raid Leader, I’ve always found the best Raid Leaders have been great communicators.

Choosing Your Style

When I raid, I like a positive and friendly environment. In raid environments, I usually do best when people are laughing, smiling, and overall having a good time. This is a game for me, and although I take it seriously, I work hard to make sure people are having fun. As a Raid Leader, I try to impress that upon my raiders.

It’s on you, as Raid Leader, to decide how you’re going to motivate your team. Positive reinforcement? Brow-beating? Drill Sergeant? I’m particularly biased towards the positive reinforcement, but I also see the benefits of other styles as well. Think of it this way:

  • You can take each good thing from a wipe and build on it. Encourage that kind of behavior or style of playing. Praise the healers for an excellent job handling that attempt, even if they ended up wiping.
  • You can point out the faults in each attempt, in an effort to discourage that from happening again. Even take it farther and threaten substitution if it happens again. Point out that if the mage doesn’t move the split second he needs to, he’s getting replaced.
  • You can be the strong, silent type. No news is good news. Set your assignments, and let the raiders discover what went wrong.

Either way you go, you must be aware of what kind of style you possess. This will easily decide what kind of raiders you’re going to have. There are plenty of raiders out there that enjoy different styles of raiding. Some like tough competition, some like the team environment. Be conscious of the tone you’re setting, whatever that may be.

Your Intentions

Just like in the olden days when a gentleman would court a lady, they would state their intentions. You must do the same. This goes back to our discussion on motivation. Have you been honest with yourself about your motivation? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to go about it (all things we’ll eventually cover)? You need to be up front with your raiders on what the goal of this adventure is:

  • What size are you going with? 10 or 25?
  • Are you going to work towards heroics? or just normal?
  • Are you bringing close friends? or are you valuing performance over history?
  • What sort of attendance policy do you intend to have?

By setting out the groundwork to your raiders, there’s very little room for guessing on your part. When you talk things out, it solidifies it in your own mind. Also, all of your raiders and potential recruits will know what they’re getting into, and what to expect.

Honesty is the Best Policy

An awesome line from my favorite movie, Swingers: “Respect my ass. What they respect is honesty.” The same holds true for being a Raid Leader. You need to be a straight shooter. If you want someone on your team, you need to be up front about it. If something’s not working out, you gotta speak up.

I’ve learned this first hand as a Raid Leader. **STORY TIME** When I was running the original Team Sport raids, we had a warlock that was never up to snuff. We tried to be up front from the beginning about what we expected of the raid team, and we knew that this warlock wasn’t up to it. Nice person, and fun player but just didn’t have the extra “oomph” to raid at the level we wanted to. Constantly long AFKs, not paying attention in fights, etc. Since we let it go on for so long, it had become acceptable to this player to act like that. When it came down to saying that we wanted to move forward but without the warlock, we were met with some unnecessary drama.

Essentially, if we had been honest up front regarding what we expected and that the warlock’s behavior wasn’t what we were looking for, we would’ve saved a lot of trouble. Now, within the Raid Team, I have little to no problem telling people that not signing up is unacceptable, or that not having food/flask is not gonna cut it. I’m not a jerk about it, but I’m honest with my raiders about what I expect of them on the team, and when they’re not getting invites or raid spots, they should know why.

How have you stepped up to the task of communicating to your raid? Are there any alternate methods/tips you’ve used that have been particularly efficient?