Guild Rebuilding 101

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and support. The past week has been extremely hectic and straining as recruiting efforts kicked into over drive. I am pleased to announce that Conquest is on the way to finalizing a roster going into Firelands. We actually went back in last Tuesday. All in all, I think its a fair bet to say that we experienced the highest turnover in a raiding roster but managed to recover within a span of about 4-5 days. This included solidifying the main tank and off tank positions, numerous DPS in addition to a new raid leader.

Pulled that off over a weekend. We’re stable right now which is good. We’ve got a consistent group of veterans combined with newer players who are just stepping foot into Firelands. I consider myself extremely fortunate and lucky. I daresay most guild leaders would have definitely thrown in the towel and called it a career.

What were the steps?

Step 1: Reassure everyone

When a potential guild crushing event occurs, the first thing to do is say everything’s going to be alright. This involves damage control out the ying yang. 

The first thing I did was explain to every player what was going on and what our plans were going forward. Our plan was to rebuild and develop our player base back to a number which allowed us to comfortable go into Firelands. After that, we would then begin the process of gradually cutting or developing players as needed to get them at a skill level consistent with what was needed to get us through the bosses. I had no illusions that it was going to be easy. I wanted to be back in Ragnaros’ door step within 4 weeks. The Vanguard (Rated BG division) offered their services by signalling their willingness to alter their PvP teams so that some of them could participate. Their offer was touching but I didn’t want to handicap their schedule.

Step 2: Get the word out

Once I finished assessing the overall damage and losses to the roster (no tanks, a completely depleted melee roster, no casters but a relatively unscathed healing corps), the next step was to get our numbers up again. Thankfully I had the whole weekend to try to pull that off. It would take a completely herculean effort to get players onboard. I would be targeting players who were looking for a fresh start or who were just getting into Firelands. Messages were sent to every player who applied but were turned down because we didn’t have the room. In essence, we were reactivating the reserved list. We told them that there were numerous roster spots available and that they would have a crack at earning and securing them.

Then I received a rather interesting proposal and this where the luck factor came into play. Turns out one of the players who I declined earlier told their present guild what had happened. The two of them started talking and before I knew it, I was dragged in. It was a 10 man raiding guild that had made some progress into Firelands but they were experiencing a myriad of attendance problems. In other words, I was presented with the offer of a potential guild merger. I didn’t even have to stress over sharing officer status or anything. From what I was told, the leaders were tired and wanted a new experience where they could just focus on their game and didn’t want to worry about things like recruiting anymore.

Again, that’s the luck factor coming into play. On Monday, we held a trial raid. We didn’t have the numbers to pull off attempts on Ragnaros (and I wouldn’t dream of going back in there, at least not for a while). The next course of action was to get both groups acclimated and used to each other. I wanted to see if there were going to be any potential personality conflicts. We ended up stepping into Blackwing Descent on 25 and had some fun in there for the next few hours blowing up as many bosses as we could before time ran out (and wow I didn’t realize the extent of the nerf).

Step 3: Meet with every new player coming in

With every recruit who was interested in joining and every player who was coming in, I did my absolute best to sit down with them and answer their questions. You figure players who are getting pulled from their sense of familiarity into a completely brand new setting are going to want to know what they’re diving head first into. I set aside some time and hung out with them on their voice servers and addressed their concerns as much as possible. The biggest thing here is be honest. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. While GMs are often expected to know everything, that expectation is far from reality.

Even though the guild took a fatal blow, we’re going to be okay. The guild is evolving from a simple WoW guild into a truly multigaming community (League of Legends!). Although, I’m disappointed at losing several friends. These were players who I trusted and confided in. This experience only goes to show that you never truly know who your friends are going to be in this game. Some people change, some things don’t. That’s the way it goes.

Heck, we even picked up a weekend raiding 10 man guild in the process. If any players out there are looking for a solid 10 man group to run with on the weekends, look us up (4 PM – 730 PM Saturday and Sunday afternoon).

Bonus step: Reflection

This is a great time to reflect and think about your guild some more and what you want to do with it. I’ve had to make compromises and look the other way at times for the sake of guild cohesion in the past. After this though, I’ve developed a better understanding of what I wanted to do and what I expected from the team. As Mel said, it’s possible to have elite players without the berating elitism. Even though the process will take longer, it’ll be better for recruiting and for the atmosphere in the long run.

It’s a good thing Enjin allows us guild leaders to create multiple application forms.

We’re about to finish out our first week in Firelands. We’ll be back in front of Ragnaros in no time.

Has your guild experienced a rebuild? What steps did you take after the fact? Did it ultimately end up working? Was there anything you wish you could have done differently?

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.

GMs Talk: Things We Share, Things We Do Not

GMs Talk: Things We Share, Things We Do Not

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<Apotheosis> must be sick of me whenever I pop into their mumble late at night. That’s Kurn’s guild. Every so often I like to drop in there and have a chat with another GM (who doubles as a blogger herself). Not too many of us around, I’m afraid. She doesn’t know this, but she plays a big part in making sure I remain grounded. When it comes to guild matters, there are certain unspoken rules even among the company of those similar to us. There are topics that we’ll talk about and others that we do not ever, ever discuss. It’s the equivalent of talking shop with others in the trade.

Stuff That’s Fair game

War stories

“And he’s slowly backing up pulling Arthas with him and then falls over the ledge! He just starts screaming over vent, Taunt! TAUNT! I fell off the ledge!”

Everyone loves a good war story. Hilarious events or tales of awesome heroics (that may or may not have been slightly embellished). It’s even funnier if it’s a player that both GMs are familiar with. Typically, whenever war stories are exchanged, there’s usually an important lesson that can be learned and applied. Both leaders walk away knowing more about how to avoid similar situations in the future. The exchange of knowledge means that only one of us would have to experience an event. We’ll then share it with our GM friends in the hopes that they can recognize the symptoms of a problem before it occurs.

In this case, like not tanking Lich King so close to an edge.

Policy

Anytime I’ve wanted to make sweeping policies that affected the guild or the raid, I’d try to consult with someone outside. I search for someone who’s familiar with a similar issue. Even better if the guild leader successfully implemented a policy in the first place. I also to try to get in touch with someone who wanted to put a policy in place but ultimately didn’t and listen to their point of view as well. An outside perspective can shed a spotlight on additional factors that weren’t taken under consideration. I listen to what worked well and what didn’t. Maybe some changes or adjustments were made after the fact to help smooth the transition over.

Speaking of which, I need a consult about whether or not I should implement a policy dictating that all raiders show up with pants worn at all times.

Strategy

This is another reason why I’ll consult with another GM. Sometimes we’ll run into a brick wall when we’re working on an encounter and I like to turn to other people outside who have done the boss. Oftentimes they can offer a little insight into a possible solution. Not everyone’s raid composition is exactly the same. But with strategy changes, you can usually account for that by getting a different class to try and do the same thing. Sometimes it’s a simple solution like moving the raid over slightly or altering the timing! Asking a “How did your guild handle this obstacle?” can sometimes lead to light bulb illuminating moments.

Evaluation techniques

Determining player performance is never going to go away in progression raiding guilds. We’re always looking for methods where we can excel and find tune the players under our raiding core. If a GM happens to be an expert at a class, it’s not a bad idea to pick their brain a bit and find out what they look for when gauging the effectiveness of players.

Stuff That’s Off limits

Current damaging drama

Any active, dramatic issues are kept off the table. I don’t like discussing things like ultimatums, problems or people just giving me a hard time without making certain things really vague. If the guild is going through a really rough time, a lid’s kept on it. However, if a problematic issue has been resolved and passed, I’ll classify it under the war stories category.

Exception: If it really does get to a breaking point, and every option had been considered, I’d probably shoot some ideas and get someone to play devil’s advocate and see if there’s a possible solution that was missed or we walkthrough scenarios of what would possibly happen. Sometimes it isn’t possible to do that within the guild.

Names

I tend to obscure names unless it’s someone well known to the community. If I’m describing a situation, I tend to go with the class or the role.

Example: I think Lodur’s moustache is compromising his ability to heal.  Or worst yet, he’s using the moustache to heal.

Applicants

I’ve had players who leave Conquest apply to guilds of other bloggers and vice versa. As a personal rule, I never bring them up at all. As far as I’m concerned, the business is always between the recruit and the guild they applied to. I don’t ever ask about their application nor would I ever meddle in any guild’s affairs. I have a hard enough time running my guild and it’s not my place nor interest to run someone else’s.

Exception: However, if the player who applied did something particularly heinous like break into the guild bank or exploited in game, I believe it’s the duty of the former GM to relay the necessary information and then let them deal with it how they see fit.

Code 21

We never, ever talk about code 21 unless it’s under extreme circumstances. Sorry guys, it’s a GM thing.

And there you have it folks! If you’ve ever wondered what goes in the GM’s lounge, I can assure you that there’s no plot to take over the world or to gkick everyone from the guild. It’s mostly business and nothing to be worried about!

Getting Rid of the Ready Check

The ready check is an easily understood command which has one question for players to answer.

Are you ready?

Traditionally, raid leaders use ready checks to ensure everyone has their buffs, cauldrons and consumables. It’s a last minute reminder for everyone to see if anyone has any questions before going into the pull. Anyone steal a ninja AFK to wash their hands or sneak a drink? The alarm would sound informing players to rush back to their desks or switch programs back into the game.

What if your guild stopped using it? What would change? How would the players and the atmosphere change?

In an upcoming interview with Mel, one of the powers behind the guild of <Edge> and a blogger at Sacred Duty, does not utilize ready checks at all. Here’s a brief excerpt where he explains his reasoning.

Rumor has it that your raid group does not utilize ready checks. If it’s true, how come?
Ready checks are an opt-in system, and opt-in systems deflect responsibility.  Instead, we make the choice to assume that everyone is at keyboard and ready to play when we’re raiding – when they’re expected to be.  We’ll often be discussing strategy during runbacks, so it’s a bad time to just take off the headset and run AFK anyway.  If someone has to take an emergency break, the onus is on them to inform the raid, and then we wait.  But I don’t see a reason to waste 20 seconds on every pull just to ask if everyone is actually at their keyboard, when I could just be informed that someone isn’t there for the one pull that it’s an issue.

This isn’t a completely foreign concept to me since my guild utilizes a sign out system for attendance. We’re not the only ones as other progression oriented guilds do the same thing. Making the assumption that you are ready instead of asking if you’re ready is presents an interesting shift in dynamics. It places a bigger emphasis on players to really speak up if they’re not sure about something or if they need to step out momentarily. In the long run, if you multiply the time spent on ready checks before every pull on a per week and per month basis, the time really does add up. It’s definitely one way of shaving off precious seconds on a raid night.

I’m considering implementing this in Conquest. I might just try it out for a week and see how we respond collectively as a group. It might end up being a positive change for us.

On a side note, a warm welcome to Morynne who has joined the guild!

Does Your Guild Need Social Media Guidelines?

Does Your Guild Need Social Media Guidelines?

In a word, probably not.

More and more players are finding themselves on Twitter and Facebook. Guild members are adding each other as friends to all these other social networks and their thoughts are then broadcast which expose themselves to even moreplayers. There is always an inherent risk though. Much like the way companies operate, the wrong tweet or message could lead to getting fired or facing a penalty. I’ve witnessed cases where WoW guilds did very much the same thing.

One disgruntled player said something damning and they were pretty much run out of the guild.

With something like 10+ members of Conquest on Twitter, I keep an eye on it as much as I can. I prefer to address problems privately and directly. I don’t want to find out about issues via someone’s blog or their stream. At the same time, I recognize the need to vent frustration. It’s a fairly fine line to walk between presenting the best image for the guild and allowing people to just be people. I’ve written out a set of guidelines just to remind players who do blog and use social media to keep this stuff in mind before they start blasting stuff openly.

Recruiting is hard

Again, it’s partially about image control. Smart and tech savvy players might uncover blogs or tweets from individuals talking about a guild that they want to join. I’ve spoken with players before in the past who stated that while they expressed interest in joining Conquest, scouring the twitter list of players gave them pause because some of their thoughts about the guild was upsetting. The truth of that is going to vary. My point is that social media stuff has direct impact on the recruiting efforts of guilds. So if you’re sitting there complaining about how raiding has sucked because no one’s applied and people are getting restless and no one’s showing up or applying to the guild, how do you think that’s going to look to potential applicants? No one’s going to put in an application to a guild that looks like its on the verge of collapse. Granted, that guild might have a motivated GM trying to rebuild and put things back together. But tweets and blog posts that reflect negatively could hamper their efforts.

The Public Drama

Things like loot drama or so forth should be kept internal.

Now, I toe an extremely fine line when I write about players past and present. Years ago when Syd was still with me she and I had a philosophical disagreement. She felt that publically recognizing players was a good thing. I disagreed because there was a potential chance it could lead to elements of dissatisfaction from other players who felt snubbed at not being given the same treatment. From the GM perspective, I wanted to avoid the potential headaches that it would cause. I have no qualms when it comes to writing about certain situations, but I’ll go out of way to obscure select details. When it comes to blogging, I do it to help educate not to vindicate. I’m not one to hold grudges. But not every blogger out there shares that sentiment. Some use it to write about their thoughts without regards to the ramifications of what they’re saying.

At the end of the day, if any player gets to the point where they’re extremely unhappy about their situation within the guild, that’s something the GM need to address. Every solution needs to be considered even if it means dismissal. Sometimes a change of scenery is needed. If it were me, if I was tweeting and blogging about how upsetting my guild was to me, I’d take a step back and wonder what the heck I’m doing in here in the first place.

Another reason? Can you imagine getting into a public mudslinging fight? I would much rather have a conversation in private detailing a player’s shortcomings. If a player decides to take things public, then I can either walk away and take the hits or come back and publically rebuke them. For example, if I had a player who was particularly venemous and wrote a blog post about why they felt they should have gotten this item instead of that other player, that loot council sucked and that it wasn’t fair and so forth and I noticed that the post generated some number of comments, I feel obliged to reply to explain our stance.

So I might have to come back with reasons like this:

  • No actually your DPS wasn’t that high. You got out DPS’d by players who were under geared and who were doing specific things (like dispelling or doing gongs).
  • You’ve been missing the past 4 raids or have left early.
  • I’ve blown 10 battle res’s on you in the past 15 bosses. That’s 10 too many.

I don’t like embarrassing players in public and I’m thankful it’s never gotten to that situation. But I knew I wanted to create a reference for players who used social media.

I think there are many GMs out there who aren’t quite adept when it comes to things like public relations or damage control. They often want to take the easiest solution and run with that. Sometimes the easiest and fastest solution is to kick out the troublemaker without even trying to establish a conversation.

Note that I didn’t say it was the best. I just said it was the easiest and fastest.

smedia-2

Drafting the guidelines

It’d be stupid and fruitless of me to try to discourage players from using Twitter or from blogging. I can’t control that. At the same time, when I came up with the guidelines I wanted to ensure that the team had an idea of what was cool and what would give me headaches. I don’t like getting headaches. I get headaches from healing raids and figuring out how to tackle certain bosses. Those are good, acceptable headaches. I don’t want unnecessary headaches. They’re a waste of time.

When harnessed correctly, social media can be a strong asset for any guild. I’ve managed to recruit players, drive up interest and gain some raiding insight from players who use it. Its a neat way to meet new players and get a handle on different personalities.

When I came up with the guidelines, I approached it from the angle of encouraging players to think about their experience and how they wanted it presented to their followers. Keep things light yet professional. It was also a reminder to them that the leaders and I would always be available if there was something truly troubling them. Unless they seal and privatize their accounts, they would always represent the guild in everything they say or do.

In the end, like it or not, everything said online has an impact on the relationships around you whether you intend to or not.

I went through several drafts and revisions before I settled on this iteration of it.

Conquest Social Media Guidelines

These are the suggested guidelines for the use of social media at Conquest. Conquest members are encouraged to create, contribute, or comment on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, online games, or any other kind of social media both on and off Conquest. If you do, you are kindly asked to understand and follow these guidelines.

We’re not here to censor you.

Principles

If you participate in social media, follow these guiding principles:

  • Understand and follow the Conquest Code of Conduct
  • Try to keep remarks meaningful and respectful—do not post spam, offensive or derogatory comments
  • Take a moment and think before posting
  • Respect confidentiality whether it’s guild related or otherwise
  • When you’re disagreeing with the opinions of other players, keep it appropriate and polite

Guidelines to Keep in Mind

Openness – If you are blogging or tweeting about your adventures and efforts in Conquest, don’t be afraid to disclose it. You are free to write and launch creative projects at your discretion. Projects like Redhawks’ Gaze and the LeetSauced podcastare maintained by the very same players who are a part of the guild and I have no intention of trying to restrict their creativity. Feel free to approach Matt for advice or assistance.

CommunicateProblems First – Conquest is a transparent guild. I don’t have a problem allowing players to vent. However, if you experience any severe problems with the guild or its leadership, you’re asked to approach the leaders first to see if a resolution to the problem can be found before taking it public.

Try to Stick to Your Expertise– I write about healing and raiding. I wouldn’t dream of advising a Mage on things like their rotation or stat weights. Don’t intentionally mislead players who may approach you for advice. If you’re not sure, do refer them to other players in the guild or other resources on the internet.

Your Words Have Effects– By saying you are a member of Conquest, every tweet, post and comment you make indirectly reflects upon the guild as a whole. This can have a severe effect when it comes to things like recruiting new members to when securing guild partnerships/sponsorships in the future.

Be Conversational– Have some fun interacting with your readers and followers. You don’t have to be mechanical and personality-less all the time. There are many interesting players out there. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them.

Accountability- What you write is ultimately up to you. I can’t restrict your speech. Being a part of social media as a member of Conquest reflects upon the guild, so treat it well. Follow the terms and conditions for other communities you are a part of.

The Grandma Rule- If you’re about to publish something that doesn’t feel right, think about whether or not you should post it. If your grandma or parents saw this, would you be embarrassed or worried? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider modifying or refraining from publishing altogether.

The Internet is Forever– Stuff that you put out there can be saved. When you publish information, any efforts to destroy it or render it anonymous might work. It also might not. If you’re not prepared to have something published for all eternity, re-work it or reconsider it.

This is your guild – If being a part of the guild gets to the point where the direction is severely upsetting to you causing you to start publically blasting players and its leaders, you may wish to reconsider your status within the guild. I have no intention of trying to keep players who have absolutely lost their desire to remain in the guild. I want players to be happy, irrespective of what guild they belong to.

A Lesson in Guild Ultimatums

It’s been 2 and a half years since Conquest has been formed. We’ve had our shares of victories and defeat. I figured a situation like this would come one day. I never imagined it would come from a main tank. Least of all from a main tank. I knew he wasn’t having much enjoyment out of the raiding scene.

Let me be clear for a moment. The story I am about to tell is not one of vindication or shame. It is one of education so that my guild leading colleagues would be better prepared should a scenario like this arise. It would come in many forms, but the most common would be if I don’t get <this>, I’m leaving.

Threats never work. Even if the leadership allows the request to go through, you can be damned sure it’ll be done so reluctantly and not out of loyalty. If anything, such gains are only for the short term.

Right, let me resume my story. Our main tank had opted for retirement. Not having fun’s a perfectly valid excuse and one that appears to be echoed throughout the community by several players. I have absolutely zero desire to force someone to play a class or role that they don’t want to play. It’s just bad for business. So I accepted it and moved on. Every player that had a tank position in my raid group was bumped up 1 rank. The secondary tank became the primary tank. Tanks 2-4 frequently rotated depending on the encounter. I am blessed with having 6 players w ho are capable of tanking should that need arise.

I come back the next day and visit my forums. I discover that our retiree posted a message:

“If you don’t make me an officer, I’m going to quit the guild.”

Was that what this was all about? Power and recognition? My gut instinct was to flat out say no. Officers are selected based on certain qualifications. There are certain traits that make them special and dependable. However, what you may not know is that there are qualities which automatically discount a player from ever being an officer.

I’ll list some of them here.

Attendance

When a player takes a break from a game without mentioning anything, I might give them a bye for it if their reason is justified. When a player pulls that stunt multiple times without saying a word, that’s the line for me. I cannot have leaders who decide to come and go at their own whims without notice. It would do more harm than good. A leader needs to be available when they can and to say so when they cannot. If a raider does this, I cannot trust they won’t abandon their position when issued additional responsibility.

Shirking responsibility

Conquest has an unspoken leadership ladder. As leaders are appointed by myself with the consent of the other leaders, there needs to be a way to evaluate their mettle and skills. Our loot system involves the use of loot council. The only way to ascend is to go through the process and sit on the council at some point. If a player refuses to handle loot council, then they may not be fit for command at all. If they’re not willing to handle important decisions like who they believe loot should go to, then I don’t know if the harder decisions can be handled (such as roster, player evaluations, and so forth).

Saying no the first time

When the boss asks a player if they want additional responsibility, the player shouldn’t just say no and then issue an ultimatum months later. If I asked someone and they said no the first time, that’s that. I wouldn’t approach them again because I figure there’s no interest in it. Onus is on the other player if they reconsider. I can’t chase people down and hound them repeatedly. I do that enough during raids calling stacks, spreads outs and debuffs. I generally don’t make offers more than once. But that’s a personal style.

Stability

This one actually just occurred to me. Leadership players need to be a rock (or at least, pretend to be one in front of everyone else). It’s okay to be pissed off and upset once in a while. But constant brooding does no good to anyone. A long time ago, I had a player who would crumble and fold when they were chastised for blowing an assignment. Officers have to be made of tougher stuff to withstand the criticism that’s bound to happen. Someone who sheds tears or anger every time something negative is said in their direction isn’t a player fit for command and I doubt such an individual would be able to garner the respect and loyalty of the players.

That being said, I learned a few things from this experience. Strong player depth is what allows guilds to keep going and to survive. The very day that ultimatum was issued, the player was flatly denied and practically laughed out of the guild. We went and took down Theralion and Valiona on heroic mode that same night. While tanks are a critical component for raiding guilds, an awesome tank does not a successful guild make. You still need the DPS and the healers to play at their best. One of my faults is not keeping a tighter finger on the pulse of the guild. It’s difficult to split time between work, raid and just general socializing. It’s also nigh impossible to know what goes on in the heads of others. But I have to make a better attempt somehow even if that means sacrificing my peace and quiet time.

The burden of command is not a light weight to carry at all. Anyone that tries to make such demands for it is just out of their mind.

Next time you’re annoyed about something, I’d suggest talking about it first and requesting it rather than trying to make a threat. Odds are good it won’t end well.

Guest Post: How to Choose Your Officers

Guest Post: How to Choose Your Officers

Today we have a guest post by Sam from Top Rosters about Officer selection.

Starting a new guild is always tough. One of the major headaches is normally selecting your officers and so in this article I will try and discuss the various options that you have.

Viktory has already written about the various setups found in most guilds, i.e. guild master – class leaders – bank officer etc, but I want to cover the “who” part of the equation.

“Who” do you choose to be an officer and what role do you put them in?

In most cases if you are starting a guild you will have a couple of friends who are joining it with you. In a lot of cases they will be given officer positions immediately simply because they are there are the creation. Sometimes this works out well, but in my experience it is best to let the guild settle down for a couple of weeks while everyone gets to know each other before handing out responsibilities.

So you have a new guild with a new roster and you are looking to start raiding within a week. You need some officers. First off decide what structure of guild hierarchy you are going to use. I will not cover that here but check out Viktory’s post on it. In most guilds there is the guild master, a raid leader, class/role leaders, a recruitment officer and a bank/website officer.

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The raid leader position is definitely the most crucial and the one that can have the most dramatic impact on the guild’s progression. We have all experienced good and bad raid leaders and so here is my opinion on what makes a good’un:

  • They need to be vocal. Fairly self explanatory – you don’t want a timid raid leader.
  • They need to be keen on researching the latest strategies – they will normally be the ones deciding which tactics you use for each boss.
  • They need be a great organiser – they will be forming the raids and need to get class composition correct (less important these days with the changes to buffs.)
  • They need to have good “people skills” – players that get sidelined for raids will come to them for answers.
  • They need to be authoritative during raids – if they tell someone to do it they need to do it.

Some guilds run with more than one person leading the raid but personally I have always found one to work better.

Class/role leaders are usually easier to find. The best starting point is recount (or whatever meter you use.) The top rogue will usually be the best rogue. Now of course there is a lot more to being a class leader than topping the meters. They also need to be able to:

  • Ascertain when a class member is performing sub-par and then have the gumption (odd word) to go and talk to them about it.
  • They need to be up to speed on their class – (perhaps ask potential class leaders which class relevant blogs they read)
  • They need to be inspecting their class members and advising them on necessary changes – be that gems, enchants, reforging etc. This should be the individual players responsibility, even in a casual guild, but you would be amazed how many players in raiding guilds are not optimised correctly and need a gentle nudge form their class leader.
  • Just like the raid leader, they need to have “people skills.” They need to be able to sideline a class member for a raid and let them know why. They need to be able to confer with the raid leader if he/she needs to know class specific details for a fight.
  • They need to be the most active members in the guild (attendance-wise.)
  • They will normally need to have the time to read through any class applications that get past the recruitment officer.

So you have picked your core team of class leaders and raid leader. Most guilds now opt for a recruitment officer. This is the poor sod who has to sift through the mountains of unreadable applications every week. Look for someone who is:

  • Patient – you do not want someone who will ragequit two weeks in after reading the 9th application from someone who does not have any professions.
  • Has good attention to detail – they will need to scan each application with a fine tooth comb and be able to ask the right questions.
  • Literate – you need someone who has great written English skills to reply to the applicants.

Sometimes you will want to pick a banking officer. Many guilds do not even bother with one and the guild leader simply does it. However if you do decide that you need one then they need to be:

  • Trustworthy – pretty obvious but ideally you do not want a ninja as your banker.
  • Organised – they need to keep track of what is going where and who is using it.
  • They need to be able to advise the guild master on cash flow and whether it could use a boost via BOE epic sales, boosting randoms through BWD etc.

Sometimes you will have a website officer but in general it is not necessary. Basically whoever creates the website deals with any problems that crop up with it!

So in essence choose your team based on those qualities and ‘you’ll be laughing.’ If you take my advice, try one week of raiding with yourself as raid leader and then decide on who should fill each role at the end of that week. You will have a better idea of who is suited to which role.

Thanks for reading and if you liked it feel free to visit us over at Top Rosters or follow on twitter @toprosters if that is your ‘thang. We are currently looking for a few class columnists so if interested please send us an email: mail@toprosters.com. Thanks for the opportunity Matt and keep up the great work here at WOM!

Tough Call: Handling the Churn

Tough Call: Handling the Churn

Note: Read the following italicized text in this voice.

In a world where bosses just don’t down themselves…

Cataclysm is crushing the souls of poor performers and now everyone is recruiting…

Top 100 US Guilds are looking for more players for this tier still….

Middle-of-the-Road Guilds are doing hard modes and need stronger players to progress…

Guilds that a year ago would have disbanded and now downshifting to 10-mans and are still recruiting to have a reliable 10…

All of this amounts to lots of homes and very few buyers with available credit. You may have never gotten that Guild House that you asked for at every Developer Q&A, but we sure are getting an equivalent to the housing-crunch. 

This month I’ve had conversations with multiple GM’s, recruiters and available raiders. Everyone agrees that the market for available raiders is shrinking as guilds stall out, disband, or stop fielding successful raid teams. On my server there used to be about 40+ functional 25-man raid teams during ICC. Last night I checked WoWProgress and there are only five 25-mans left (Edit: Many of the ones listed have become inactive or switched to 10s). Lots of teams shifted to 10-mans in January & February, largely because of less-dedicated raiders leaving the pool. It was easier for them to shift to 10-mans and keep their identity & guild perks. Even so, several guilds folded entirely as their best players gave up the ghost and left for Top 100 squads, and the remainders are scrambling.

This is called the Churn and it is an unavoidable fact of life in Cataclysm. 

churn

So where does this leave you and your team?

Between now and the next tier of raiding, a lot of your performance as a leader will be judged upon how well you handle the churn.

To be certain, even if you’ve decided to go the route of 10-man raiding instead of 25, attendance and turnover issues are still part of the territory. I’ve yet to speak to a “close-knit 10-man” that doesn’t have some issue with either cancelling raids due to sign-outs, or trouble balancing bench players who may be brought in only occasionally.

Of course, no matter what size your raid is, the best way to handle the Churn is to stay one step ahead of it.  The steps below, in no particular order, should help you stay well informed and ready to act appropriately.

Things you can do for the team

  1. Know your team.  Know when they are approaching burn-out and make adjustments to help them de-stress before they give up the raiding game.
  2. Know your weaknesses.  Cata raids are harder; that’s a fact.  Eventually you will have to make either a personnel decision or a social one. Are you willing to replace the weak-link, even if it means bringing in an “outsider”, or are you willing to get the rest of your team to be satisfied with stalled progression for the sake of not changing your roster?  Are you willing to make concessions to keep that irreplaceable clutch player satisfied?  Are parts of your team not on the same page?
  3. Know your strengths.  You’ll be under pressure to pull off a raid team that not only survives the churn, but gets better and downs more bosses each week.  Don’t let the pressure make you try to act outside your leadership style.  If you’ve built a successful team, your leadership style must be working thus far (unless it’s the Sheerluck Holmes style, of course) but make sure that acting on your terms doesn’t mean ignoring future problems, because that’s how you get pushed into a corner.  
  4. Act fast!  Machiavelli teaches us that to delay war only serves to aide your enemy.  In less aggressive terms, one could say “a stitch in time saves nine”. Handle problems quickly and definitively.  When operating in a world of scares resources, you cannot afford to let problems fester and spread. 

Things you can do for the team you want

  1. Promote, promote, promote.  Make everyone on your realm aware of your guild, because you never know when another team will call it quits and their good players will be looking for a new home.  There is no benefit to being an unknown or understated guild.  Be proud of your team’s accomplishments; success breeds success.  Guilds that look stable, welcoming, efficient and knowledgeable will all appear attractive to raiders who want to get on a new team and not stop raiding.  In business we learn that every interaction is a step towards your next sale, the same holds true here.
  2. Recruit early and often.  Be honest about how soon and how often new recruits will have a shot at raid time, but don’t think that just because you don’t need them today, that you won’t be glad you have them tomorrow. I can speak from experience that if you stop recruiting for even a fortnight, you will regret it. Once the apps dry up, you start losing flexibility and start losing ground on the war of attrition.
  3. Be in touch with other leaders on your realm.  While you may consider them your competition, they can also be a good source of info, and potentially a future teammate. With the number of guilds imploding, merging, or breaking up and reforming as “super-guilds”, it’s better to be aware of the goings on than to be the guy who’s wondering why he just missed out on potential recruits and/or lost a few of his own guys.  
  4. Have a plan, even if it’s one you never want to use.  During Wrath, the rule was that you’d lose about 30% of your members (and the gear you’ve given them) from the start of one tier to the start of the next.  Due to the spike in difficulty for entry-level raiding, we’ve yet to get a good idea what this loss-percentage will be in Cata, but I’m certain it will be well higher than 30%.  Therefore, while we all may prefer to raid with the same team for the next year, as a leader you must have a plan of action for the day you find yourself with a dwindling roster.

In the end, the roster you will have the night 4.2 drops is almost certainly not the roster you had on December 7th.  The same thing will happen again between 4.2 and 4.3, only this time you can be ready for it, and hopefully be the one controlling the changes.  

A Letter from a Level 25 Guild Leader

First, I just want to say to my Chicago readers that you should be extremely proud of your team. They’re going to be an awesome hockey franchise for years to come. And oh my god did they give me the biggest scare of my life.

Anyway…

I found this letter linked on Reddit the other day. It’s one of the side effects of the new guild leveling and perks system in WoW.

Dear Plebs,

If you’re here, and raging, it’s probably because you just realized you were gkicked. I’ve already deleted all your forum accounts, and removed all your boards. There’s nowhere you can post or vent so please, just read this.

For the most part this was an awkward experiment we never intended to go as far as it did. I jokingly recruited a few people out of trade chat, gave them ginvite power, and this thing for the most part grew itself. With it was the nice realization that our 10m raid crew could push levels faster and not have to farm heroics every day, so we let it ride. We figured it was a nice give and take, you guys got the best perks available and we got our XP cap every day. To be honest we mostly let it go because we thought cash flow was going to be awesome, but it turns out you guys were collectively pretty sh*tty at farming gold. (Over the last 5 months we’ve made about 14k off of a roster of 900+ people). But the XP was flowing, life was easy, and this was a nicely self-sustaining little eco-system that we just sat back and watched grow.

Unfortunately what accompanied this was an alarming number of less desirable members. Guild chat was basically useless, there were too many idiots to even try to manage, and for the most part nobody wanted to do anything. We gave you forums. We gave you vent. We gave you calendar events. We left GMOTD’s saying “come sign up on the forums for X event!” and 2-3 people would do it. We tried to coax some of the more promising members into leadership roles, we gave them an entire section of the forums with spelled out raid strats, pvp discussion, and more.

We tried. We really did try.

What we got was a whole lot of nothing but people bitching that we wouldn’t buy their epic flying, or pay their repair bills, or let them have potions out of the bank. People whining that we never carried them in our main raids, or that we didn’t run them through heroics or lower level dungeons. We got a million stupid questions a day about how to spec or what stats are good for X class. We got the few people we thought were worth keeping making a mess out of the little power we gave them. Promotions / Demotions were fucked around enormously, guild MOTD and notes were all ruined, and gchat just eventually became a giant sea from which all the idiots could troll.

When we hit 25 I kicked everyone that was inactive. I gave you all a few weeks after I cleaned out the roster to see if you would actually do anything other than occupy space in the guild pane and badger the bejesus out of us with stupid f*cking tells. I gave you your time to finish reps, buy heirlooms, get what you needed, and get out. The time has come, and now, the ride has come to an end.

That’s not to say you’re all bad, or useless, but let’s be honest; any of you worth a sh*t shouldn’t be in this guild anyway because the reality of it is that we’re never going to do anything but 10m raiding. We have no spots for you. We have no spots in an alt raid for you. We have nothing to offer you but a backup spot on a roster of people that don’t ever miss raids. It probably seems like a dick move to kick you, but in the long run we’re doing you a favor.

So, to all of you, thanks for what you did, we hope you enjoyed the perks while they lasted, but we’re ready to have our nice quiet, mellow guild chat back. Enjoy the heirlooms, enjoy the mounts, enjoy the recipes, and I hope you enjoyed the ride. I can definitely say it was at least, interesting, for me.

I sympathize with what the GM went through. The guy tried to help create a cohesive ecosystem  out of chaos but ultimately wasn’t able to pull it off. It virtually polluted the guild and he got frustrated with everything before dropping the reset button. It sucks putting time and effort in, just to get stomped on or disregarded.

At the same time, I can’t help but imagine if there were a few productive members in that pool. If the GM had been open from the start stating that they were going to be utilized in power leveling the guild to 25 and in exchange those members could purchase whatever rewards they wanted heirloom  wise, would that disclosure have made a difference? I can’t help but wonder if the situation could have been salvaged. What if incoming players were more thoroughly filtered? 

I still think the design of the guild leveling and perks system was a good decision for WoW.

There are always going to be guilds that will abuse the system and the players. That isn’t the fault of the system though. There is much more “power” to the GM’s position and that of the leadership. When there were no guild levels or perks, guilds were nothing more than organized geeks. But now, not only can a GM wipe away membership they can also remove a member’s access to powerful bonuses and items.

On a side note, we discussed player satisfaction and guild leaving in  Episode 16 of the Matticast. If you’re torn between leaving your guild for personal progressions, listen to our thoughts on the matter.

Tough Call: Fighting Progression Frustration

Image courtesy of leonardobc

This week the crew has been hitting our heads against a progression boss, and the talk around the campfire has a decided air of frustration to it. As a leader, you need to be aware of your team’s motivation levels when tackling new challenges. Encounters surpassing your raid team’s ability level can often turn frustration into futility.

But how do does a raid leader handle this precisely?

The same way we handle any problem – with planning and execution.  Sun Tzu, who probably would have been a Vodka/Paragon level raid leader, teaches us:

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

It sounds simple, and when you’re doing it well, it really is simple.  Knowing what needs to be done ahead of time and adjusting as you go along are the two key ingredients to successful raid progression no matter the size of the raid or the strategy being used.

Below are a few points I recommend keeping in mind when your raid team is approaching difficult content:

Planning For Raid Progression

  • Read, understand and analyze the intended boss strategies as dictated by your raid leaders well in advance of attempting the fight. This allows you to see mistakes as well as make changes easily.
  • Be honest with yourself about the capabilities of your team. Have an idea where your weaknesses and strengths lie. This could be include aspects ranging from movement, DPS, healer skill or people with high raid awareness.
  • Know when to call a wipe and when to extend an attempt to see the next phase. Part of your team being dead might still allow the rest of the raid to practice key mechanics of the fight.
  • Experimentation is good. Figure out what works and what doesn’t when you deviate from a typical boss strategy. It might just be easier for your team.
  • Ensure your team is on the same page. Present a united and focused front for your troops to follow.

Sometimes, though, even our best-laid plans… well, you know what happens.  So the question becomes, what next?  What do I do when my team is getting weary, my strategies are in question, and I need a win quickly?

First of all, do not ditch your plan just because it isn’t working.  A strategy can fall apart in a lot of places. It may be execution, it may be a certain raid composition due to attendance; it could be any number of factors.  Find out where the strategy is failing and decide which elements you can change.  Can you swap personnel?  Slight positioning adjustment?  Time your cooldowns better (this is often a fix in Cataclysm raiding)?
Whether your plan needs a complete overhaul or just some minor adjustments, it is still crucial to address the frustration of your raiders and regroup.

  • Do not avoid the tough conversations. When your members bring up their gripes, listen to them. Answer appropriately.
  • Know the difference between toxic negativity and someone just blowing off steam. Sometimes people just need to vent. However, there is line between getting out some frustration and poisoning the morale of your squad.
  • Give responses that are logical and concise. You need to lay out for your team exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it that way,  and why you don’t think it can be done in an alternative way.  The more details, the better.
  • Accept suggestions and give them their due consideration. After all, if the 9 or 24 other people in your raid aren’t intelligent enough to help you with their observations, then you probably shouldn’t be raiding. Applaud valuable and constructive criticism from your raid.
  • Kill the boss and go out for beer!

Remember, the future is brighter.  Your raid will down this boss and will continue downing bosses. Success breeds further success.  Get out there and prove you’re all winners.


Reader Question

Last week, regarding my post on Real Officer Set-Ups, Kalette asked:

“Do you have any comments on how to incorporate this into a 10 man guild with two separate 10 man teams?”

Recently I had a conversation with Matticus about different ways guilds could operate more than one progression-oriented raid team within the same guild. (See Matt’s post here for his thoughts.) My feeling on the idea is that when you’re setting up policies for your guild, (attendance, loot, recruiting, critique, etc) they should apply to everyone playing that portion of the game, not just your raid team.

Clearly each raid needs their own raid leader, both of whom will need to be equally trusted by the GM, and trusted to work alone, because at least one of them will likely be raiding in without you overseeing them.

Beyond that, I think you could pull off a two 10-man raid guild with the same positions mentioned before.  You may have to get creative about which officer raids with which team, but in theory your role officers could oversee recruiting, critique and mentoring for every raider under their domain.  Since we’re talking about smaller numbers, they would each be responsible for roughly the same amount of players as they would in a healthy 25-man team, they would probably just need to be better at analyzing WoL logs parses since they can’t see everyone first hand.

Another approach is to combine a few roles, and have those role leaders cooperate with each other.  Tanks and melee DPS can easily be combined, and you could put ranged DPS and healing in a group together.  Then each 10-man raid would have one officer over each of those pairs.  Outside of raid, you may naturally specialize and have one ranged/healing role leader who is more attuned to healing and another who is better at the pew-pew, but so long as they can learning from each other, you can benefit from both being specialized.

By the numbers:
1x GM
2x RL
1x each Role Leader

Alternative:
1x GM
2x RL
2x Tanks/Melee Leader
2x Ranged/Healing Leader

I think the key caveat I’d make is that recruiting should still be done on a scale of “does this person meet our guild’s standards”, not just will they meet the needs of Raid A or Raid B.  When you’re fielding two squads who are both responsible for pushing progression and increasing your guild’s standing, it’s important to make sure that every raider meets the criteria to deserve that guild’s name above their heads.
Kalette, great question; I hope this helps.  If not, call me dumb and I’ll give it another look.

As always, leave your questions/comments/paternity suits in the comments.  I’ll lovingly read them all.  Also, if you have a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future episode of Tough Call, just let me know.