Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM

Tough Call: Roles – RL vs GM

superman-batman

Welcome back for another issue of Tough Call. This week I want to go over a topic that sets the baseline for a lot of what we do and how we can go about building the most efficient raid without imploding the guild.  Before we can get to that, however, I think I need to offer a fair bit of clarification on last week’s topic.

Stay with me, people

Classification is not “name calling”.  In my last post I discussed one set of archetypes (of which there are many) that could be used to sort out your raiders when determining who to take and what areas of your roster to shore up. The objective is never to belittle anyone, because honestly, putting people down takes too much time and energy that I would rather put towards being awesome myself.  As for the intended message, Calaban & Lument had some great points, and yes, X, you are Rudy.

For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, some topics need to be encapsulated.  This was the case last week.  I could certainly turn that 901 word post into 5,000+ words about how to evaluate, coach, refine, recruit, and even alter raid tactics/comps to support the players you have.  The fact that I omitted many of those elements does not mean that I am against them,or that I do not use them myself, just that they didn’t fit into the mold of that post.  Trust me, there’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to raid management, and I don’t plan to blow my whole load in these T11 pants. 
One thing I will continue to believe in throughout this series is that no leader should ever “leave well enough alone”, or settle for what they already have. Every team needs to get stronger, better, faster, sexier, etc.  Sometimes this happens with teamwork & growth, sometimes a pep-talk is enough, and oftentimes improvement happens by recruiting new blood. For example, we recently got a new priest who’s giving me a run for my money, and my output has increased because of it. Regardless, there would be no point to me writing this column if either of us was willing to accept the idea that you should learn to suffer through the drawbacks of today without making a better plan for tomorrow. 

Lastly, every raider deserves feedback, and that feedback should be honest and constructive.  Some people do benefit from mentoring, some from competition, and some from caliber of shame-filled guilt trip my mother used to lay on me… you pick which works best and run with it.  Regardless, as I mentioned in the comments, your guild should have some mechanism in place to give your raiders this feedback.  I know our guild has a couple different systems that work, and in the future I’ll elaborate on some of this. 

Now, onto today’s topic:

Lessons in Dichotomy // Who runs this joint?

The person/people managing your raid should not be your Guild Leader.

I don’t care how awesome you are as a GM, how amazing your coordination and multi-tasking is, or how long you’ve been doing both roles.  As we continue, I will illustrate how maximum efficiency and stability dictates that the GM not wear the black hat in raid.

Before we break into a list of what each person should be doing, the key assumption here is that the raid leader/officer is a specialist, hired to do one thing and do it well: motivate the team, execute digital dragons and carry back the rewards. 

The job of Raid Management

  • Make the raid as successful as possible
  • Needs to be Honest, Unbiased, and always performance-oriented
  • Make the tough decisions / wear the black hat
  • Assess players based on what they bring to the raid and how well they are executing
  • Manage the PERFORMANCE of the raid
  • Be a clear and present leader at all times during the raid
  • Get progression, achievements, titles, mounts, fame, fortune, super-model girlfriends

The job of the Guild Leader

  • Be the public face of the guild
  • Mediate any issues between guild members (within reason)
  • Take responsibility for the guild’s reputation
  • Oversee / Initiate recruiting
  • Manage the PERSONALITY of the guild
  • Wear the crown, take the heat, buy the drinks at Blizzcon

I know some guilds may be small/close enough that the GM thinks he/she can handle doing both.  I disagree with this because these are two jobs that require different tactics and it’s human nature to have a tough time separating these and/or staying true to the goals of each position. 
Even in a 10-man environment, it is never more efficient to have one person run everything than it is to have separate guild & raid management. This will also decrease/prevent burn-out among leadership.

How the Other Half Lives

Now, this separation also requires a high level of trust/confidence between the two halves.  The raid officer has to trust that there are the right recruitment/retention mechanisms in place to give them the right components for a successful group.  Similarly, since he/she will be handling the fall-out, the Guild Leader has to trust that the raid officer is making the right calls when it comes to who gets benched, who gets invited, who can/can’t main switch, etc. 

Think of it like the relationship between Head Coach and General Manager in pro sports.  These two don’t need to see eye-to-eye on tactics or day-to-day operations, but they do need to have the same objectives and a plan on how to reach them.

Show me an example

A founding member of the guild has lost his drive to raid, but still likes to come and go more-or-less as he pleases.  Further, he uses his relationship with the GM as leverage to get what he wants.  For the Raid Leader, this person represents a liability, as no matter how skilled they are, the risk that they will abruptly stop raiding is ever-present.  If they were given a starting spot, any loot given to this player over another player could be functionally lost at a moment’s notice, and time spent learning a fight with them would have to be adapted or re-learned with their inevitable replacement.  Not to mention the way this would look to other players who may be fighting to prove themselves and break into the starting lineup.

A wise Raid Leader can still utilize this person as a back-up / call-up, borrowing on his skill & experience in the good times, while still prioritizing those players who consistently show up.  Bring the people who have a commitment to making your team succeed, but keep a Rolodex of viable call-ups just in case.

A wise Guild Master will remind the long-term member that the raid team is an ongoing campaign, not something that is won or lost the few times a month this person wants to show up.  The GM will be clear that he expects progression from his Raid Leader, and that not everyone is entitled to raid if they cannot commit. 

Another example

Recruiting!  Without delving into when/how/who to recruit, it’s a very common situation for a Raid Leader to find themself needing to recruit.  Good collaboration between the RL & GM requires that the RL would keep the GM abreast of the development of players within the raid, or at least give them access to any relevant information needed. 

Say you need more melee dps, so you go out and recruit for that spot.  The GM should know WHY the rogue on the bench isn’t being taken over new recruits, so that they can back-up the RL’s decision should the rogue come forward with complaints of favoritism/snubbing/etc.  Similarly, the RL should make reasonable effort to give the GM whatever information he needs to substantiate the roster moves.  Simply “he’s not good” won’t suffice, but “he missed 18 interrupts each of the last three raids” does.

Unfortunately, unlike pro sports, I’ve seen the GM fail the Coach more often than the other way around.  Sometimes this is just simple burn-out, sometimes it’s close-mindedness, sometimes it’s a loss of faith by one of the two people. 

The best advice I can give for longevity is for neither person to say “I can’t….”.  Whether it’s “I can’t recruit another healer” or “I can’t down progression bosses with what you’ve given me” or even “I can’t stand your face”, the only way to maintain success in an efficient raid environment is to always be looking for the next opportunity.  Once you’ve entered into an “I can’t” paradigm, you’re actually realizing that you should have taken action weeks ago, and are now suffering from that inaction/indecision (or worse yet, refusing to realize your responsibility in the matter).  It’s up to you two to always look beyond the current week and stick to your plan you started with.

You do have a plan right?

…please tell me you have a plan.

As always, please feel free to leave any questions or suggestions for future topics in the comments below.  Heck, feel free to leave your favorite bean dip recipes, too.  I need something to do after I’ve cleared the raid and logged off to go watch HIMYM.

Officers: Who Watches the Watchmen?

watchmen

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

I realize not many readers understand Latin. It basically translates to “Who guards the guards themselves?”.

During one of my earlier years in university, we studied up a bit on Plato’s The Republic (ethics and government stuff). Who protects the people against the protectors? Plato responds by saying they have to guard themselves against themselves. Ideally your officers are going to be just individuals who won’t become greedy or evil.

Your officers

In a majority of cases, your officers are simply normal people who have invested their time (and perhaps money) to handle guild tech or infrastructure. They’re busy tackling things that no one wants to deal with like personnel, scheduling, and what raid operations to carry out. Policy has to be continually updated. Loot has to be awarded and DKP systems have to be managed.

To be frank, the officers are the overseers of the guild and possess the power along with the responsibility.

The level headed ones have no desire to go all political. They’re leaders of a loose organization of gamers, not the mafia. There’s no backroom deals going on. With luck, there is no maneuvering or behind-the-scenes backstabbing.

Red alert!

Now something has happened. Maybe one of your leaders committed some kind of grievous offense. You, Joe raider, happen to take exception. You don’t agree with whatever they did. Maybe they completely screwed over a pug in loot. Or they might have completely dished it out to a raider one day who was undeserving. The reasons could number beyond infinity.

In any case, whatever the reason, you’re upset enough to the point where you want to do something about it.

Your options

Now here’s a list of things you can do and what might possibly happen if you go down these roads.

  • Do nothing. It’s the easiest choice. Keep it to yourself. Don’t say anything. You don’t want to rock the boat. This is something I’ve observed most players doing because they perceive there is too much at risk by doing anything else.
  • Speak to your GM. Have a chat with the boss and see what she says. Perhaps they don’t realize it’s an issue and maybe they can talk to the officer and try to resolve what happened.
  • Speak to the officer in question. Directly confront the officer in question and let them know what they did wasn’t cool. I don’t advise doing this publically. Do it privately in whispers. When I was just a grunt, I preferred taking the direct route and telling officers personally that I thought they did something wrong. It has a stronger effect then you might think.
  • Change your reaction. This option isn’t quite the same as the first. This involves a complete philosophy change on your end. Is their offense that serious? Does it really matter that much? What if you changed your reaction to the point where you could tolerate it and ignore it? The guild my alt is in has a raid leader who randomly calls people morons. I get called it myself once in a while because I can be a touch slow getting out of fires periodically. I don’t take it personally because I simply don’t care enough (It’s my alt’s guild for one).
  • Leave the guild. It’s fairly self explanatory. Be prepared to leave the guild. If you cannot accept what the guild is doing or if speaking to the GM and the officer prove to be futile, then the last option you have is to change your environment entirely. Not every guild is suited for every personality.
5 Phases in the Cycle of Drama

5 Phases in the Cycle of Drama

on-a-boat

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:

cycle2.001

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.

Raiding and the Bench

Raiding and the Bench

bench
Deciding who raids and who sits out on any given night is the second-most unpleasant task any raid leader or organizer has to face. (The most unpleasant, of course, will always be loot distribution). From a player’s perspective, it really sucks to ride the pine pony when you had been expecting to raid. However, maintaining a healthy bench is necessary for both raiders and guild masters alike–your bench players are the people you count on to get you through the bad times. As we all must know by now, in any human enterprise you cannot expect to succeed if your plans hinge on achieving a best case scenario every time. There will be ups and downs in any competitive activity, and the game plan has to account for that.

The Bench and Sports

I know I personally have bad memories of sitting bench from high school sports. During my sophomore year of high school, I was allowed to play on both the junior varsity and varsity volleyball squads. This meant that I got two sets of ill-fitting, 1970s-era uniforms, double the practice time, and, guess what? Almost no playing time on the varsity team. Whenever I hear the word “bench” now, I shudder, remembering that experience. However, high school athletes sit the bench faithfully, hoping that someday, somehow, next year, their turn will come. As for volleyball, mine never did–I didn’t even try out the next year. That’s always a risk with the bench. You may never move up.

Raiding with a Bench

In theory, high-end raiding guilds are run by grownups, and sitting bench doesn’t have to be the humiliating experience that many of us remember from high school. We can all share and share alike, right? Wrong. Perhaps because of our high school traumas, many raiders feel territorial about their raid spots, and people may not always volunteer to sit when too many players log on to raid. What you have to do, in the WoW context, is overcome the idea that only inferior players sit bench. That’s not true. Players sit bench for many reasons–class balance, space, attendance, etc. It’s usually not just a question of who’s better, as it almost always is in high school. How can a GM or raid leader manage this situation? The following tips should help a guild master or raid leader keep the bench under control without bruising too many feelings.

1. Have Thoughtful Recruiting Goals

The first line of defense against bench trouble is a thoughtful recruiting plan. You do have to recruit more than 25 players for a 25-person raiding team. A good goal is approximately 15% more, or 4 extra raiders. These 29 players should all have equal ranking and equal access to raid spots. In a guild with typical attendance (75%), most raids will be exclusively composed of these 29 people, and only rarely will any of them have to sit bench. Make sure that sitting bench is part of your guild culture. Your raiders should expect that their number will come up once in a while. If you have far too many raiders at present, I have a piece of advice that doesn’t seem particularly proactive–just wait. Don’t gkick a bunch of your players or tell them there isn’t room. In the virtual world, balance changes in the blink of an eye, and there are always people leaving raiding, or the game as a whole. Any time you’re not recruiting, your guild is shrinking, and you can can just wait until the numbers come into balance.

2. Institute a Substitute Rank

Typical raider attendance, which I ballparked at 75%, can drop much lower in hard times. We’re in a difficult spot right now in WoW, with the Wrath content feeling stale to many high-end raiders and Ulduar still many weeks away. If your guild hasn’t had any roster shakeups in the last few weeks, you’re highly atypical. In order to get through the bad times, you may want to institute a substitute rank in your guild. In Conquest, Subs are players who are well-qualified to raid all content but typically joined at a time when we weren’t recruiting their class for permanent spots. Some Subs simply have more time constraints than our raiding policy allows for–often one or two raids per week is just fine for them, and they remain very happy at this rank. Many Subs joined Conquest for social reasons, but some became members of the guild hoping for an opportunity to move into the Raider rank. This has happened for very many of our Subs over the last few weeks as people’s interests have taken them in different directions. I am always happy to see a dedicated Sub get promoted. Of course, sometimes a Sub will move on to a different guild that has a permanent spot for them–to me, that’s great too, because it means that the player is closer to meeting their in-game goals.
If your guild uses a Substitute rank, it offers you a sort of pre-recruiting option. You will be able to promote from within when vacancies occur. After all, you never know when one of your players will disappear without a word. In the anonymous virtual world, this happens all too often. Thus, it’s in your best interest as GM to keep a list of subs and keep them happy. How to do this? Invite them on farm raids, 10-mans, Vault of Archavon, etc–whatever your guild’s more laid-back events happen to be, and give them a prize for their efforts. Most Subs will get loot naturally as many drops from farm content will go uncontested.

3. Have an Attendance Policy

My experience with attendance policies, both as a professor and as a raider, is that people tend to ignore them. They’re only usually enforced in the limit cases. I may have a policy on my books that says I lower a student’s grade after 3 absences, but I’m not likely to actually do it until they have 7 or 8. Despite this tendency, you need to put some kind of attendance policy on your books. It is true that it is not practical to demote someone who has 72% attendance when your policy says they need 75%. Yet, attendance figures should factor into some of the tough decisions that you might make as a leader. For example, if you need to bench one of your 29 raiders for an Obsidian Sanctum 3 drakes raid, and your choice comes down to two dps players, one with 70% attendance and one with 90%, let 90% guy have the spot. If your guild uses loot council, let attendance factor into the decision-making process. If you do enforce your attendance policy in any way, you ought to track it via your guild’s website so that people can see how they stand relative to each other. Matticus recently found a great way to do this for Conquest through EQDKP plus. As a raider, it’s a good reality check. I can see that I have 83% attendance, which is actually lower than I thought I had. I had forgotten that I took time off at Christmas. These sorts of selective blindness can have raiders thinking that decisions are unfair or arbitrary. It’s always good to see the actual numbers.

4. Keep Your Members Educated

The degree of success your guild has with the bench problem will depend almost entirely on how you communicate the matter to your raiders. Make sure that players know how attendance will be assessed and what will be expected of them. If you have a raider rank, get those players used to the idea of sitting out once in a while. In Conquest, those decisions are made based on the advantages/disadvantages of certain classes and specs in specific encounters. However, we try not to bench the same person too often. Sitting the bench is a responsibility everyone–even officers–should share. Another good policy is to ask for volunteers, especially if it’s a farm raid and class balance isn’t so crucial. Sometimes there’s a player who really just wants to go to bed. If so, be sure to thank them when you move a player into their spot. To me, a thanks from the raid leader or guild leader means a lot.

Conclusions

As the GM or raid leader, you can never entirely eliminate the bench problem. You can never recruit the exact perfect number for all situations, and you can never enforce any attendance policy so strictly that you will never fall short of filling a raid. I think it’s far better to have too many than too few show up to raid. If you’d like to keep your raiders healthy and happy, on bench and off, make sure to have clear policies that you enforce fairly. Make sure that many different players share the bench burden. When people see this happening, for the most part they will accept an occasional sideline, knowing that it won’t happen to them every raid, every time.

11 Reasons Guildmasters Fail

11 Reasons Guildmasters Fail

master

Guy Kawasaki tweeted a link to an article that caught my eye. It was a psychology blog called PsyBlog. Long time readers know that after WoW and tech blogs, I frequently read psychology, blogging and personal development blogs.

So what exactly did I read? 7 Reasons Leaders Fail is the original post.

Already you can see where I’m going with this. I noticed characteristics highlighted in the article that were exhibited by leaders I had in the past. So in this post, I want to apply some of the reasons listed on PsyBlog to WoW leaders and add a few more of my own.

Strict Hierarchies

This is the first reason listed in the PsyBlog post. Here’s a typical hierarchy of a raiding guild:

  1. Executive (GM)
  2. Advisors (Officers)
  3. Raiders
  4. Everyone else (Socials)

Some of my former GMs in the past were stubborn and not open to using methods that would make life easier for them and the raid. Often times, the raid would “play dumb” and did what the boss said (which includes me). We assumed he knew best when it wasn’t always the case. He set up the pulls, assigned the healers, organized positioning and did everything else himself.

A present Warlock in my guild alerted me today that he could tack on Detect Invisibility on several players to help spot for those pesky black shades that seemingly appear out of nowhere in Naxxramas.

Poor Decision-Making

This is number 2 on the PsyBlog. Let the experienced veterans make some calls. Some people aren’t cut out to make certain decisions. I should never be allowed to setup pulls or mark targets (as Hassai so kindly reminds me). I should leave that to the tanks. I should not be setting up crowd control targets. I Should not be the one calling out Battle Res targets. There are other players in better positions who can make effective calls quicker than I.

Let your best people do the jobs they are suited for. Focus on your individual strength. My strength relies on healer organization and assignments.

Something I pride myself in is the ability to ask questions. If I’m unsure about a mob pull or an item, I’ll ask the experts. I expect them to give me precise information so that I can make the right call.

Impossible Standards for Leaders

Here’s a good one. The reason says it all. Leaders are expected to know every little thing.

We don’t.

We’re only human. It is so true it is scary how accurate this statement is. I’m expected to know optimal Mage DPS rotations, tanking orders, MD targets, gear choices and so forth. I’m not exactly a walking WoW Wiki. A few of the qualities leaders are expected to posses, according to PsyBlog, are integrity, persistence, humility, competence, decisiveness, and ability to inspire.

So where do I stack up?

Here’s my self evaluation out of 5 (with 5 being the most and 1 being the least).

  • Integrity: 5
  • Persistence: 3
  • Humility: 5
  • Competence: 3
  • Decisiveness: 4
  • Ability to inspire: 2

(Note: Guildies may comment without fear of reprisal)

Treating People Like Crap

It’s a simple concept. If you treat people like crap, you can expect crap performance. I don’t like to yell but I can and will speak firmly at times in order to crack the whip. In this case, my guild is also my boss. If they don’t like me or my performance, nothing is going to stop them from departing. I don’t want them to leave. I want to foster a friendly yet professional environment. But I can’t afford to be too friendly as you’ll find out later on.

Psychology of Followship

This is another intriguing point from the PsyBlog. What makes people follow someone else? I think it’s important for GMs to ask themselves why these people are following them and why they trust them. GMs are obviously doing something right. If they weren’t, then members would be sporting a different tag. This is especially true in WoW where leaving and joining guilds can be done in mere seconds.

Like people who think alike will generally do similar things. I want to kill Arthas. I want to do it on these days. I want to take this approach. I have over 20 members who have a similar stance. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be here.

Lack of a Presence

Leaders need to show themselves. They need to be visible. When BC came out, my GM was hardly ever around. I thought he didn’t care about the game. He didn’t have any plans for Karazhan. In my next guild, on the day we were working on Gruul, my GM wasn’t in the raid. He was out farming on Elemental Plateau instead of being with us killing Gruul. We had to pug a player for his spot.

What am I doing following someone who doesn’t seem to care about this game as much as I do? Is this someone I really want to follow?

No Confrontation

If you have a player who is performing poorly or is behaving poorly, they need to be spoken to and the situation needs to be resolved. I’ve had leaders in the past who did not have the spine to call their bluff. I think a GM needs to be prepared to remove anyone from their organization if the situation ever demands it. Be prepared to sit a player out. There will be times when the success of a raid rides on a single player’s performance. If they can’t hack it, they need to be told to sit for the night in favor of someone else.

If the guild I’m in ends up wiping to a single boss for 15 straight tries and the rest of the guild feel that it’s the result of one person, then something’s got to change. Maybe they’re disconnecting like crazy or having computer issues. Whatever the reason, it has to be fixed. The raid must go on. As much it sucks for me having to make the call, I have to be prepared to do it. Even if its me.

Alienation

In a recent post I wrote about Deciding Between Normal Raids and Heroic Raids, AltoholicsAreUs wrote:

The only thing you MIGHT have to watch out for now, is “cliques”, meaning groups of people who plow through the ten mans to farm or obtain gear, but do not allow newer or outside members of your guild to participate.

I’m not the best baby sitter in the world. I got kicked in the groin once by my little “buddy” in grade school. Cliques are going to crop up no matter what and there’s very little that can be done to put a stop to it. You could try, but the clique could react in a bad way. The GM and officers need to be intimately aware of the guildies around them and attempt to include them in guild wide activities such as Lake Wintergrasp. Check in with players from time to time to see how they’re doing.

No Enthusiasm

A GM needs to have a level of energy and passion for something like this. No matter what you do in life, be passionate about your interests. If you’re not, then you’re not doing what you like. Seth Godin’s a great speaker because he’s passionate about what he does. Garr Reynolds is a greater presenter because he excels at speaking and presentation delivery. A great Starbucks barista separates herself from the rest by adding the little swirly thing to my venti sized iced double chocolate chip mocha frappucino!

They all love what they’re doing. I love what I’m doing. I don’t have to be skilled at hockey to be passionate about the game. Are your GMs passionate about what they’re doing? Are you?

One of my new recruits appeared to be delighted when he found out I wrote a WoW blog and contribute to WoW Insider because it demonstrates that I like what I’m doing.

Empathy and the Lackthereof

Some GM’s I’ve had were self centered and self absorbed. They weren’t capable of putting themselves in the shoes of others or just plain didn’t care. Now I may never be able to wear the shoes of Brio or Hassai when it comes to tanking business. I do try to make a concerted effort to listen to them and see where they’re coming from if they feel the need to say anything. Don’t ignore your guys and don’t brush them aside.

General Ineptitude

Some people just should not be trusted with leadership. It’s sad to say, I know. Not everyone is capable of being a Michael Jordan or a Tiger Woods. Not everyone is meant to lead. Whatever the reason is, bad leaders will eventually lead to a fractured organization that will have no future as a worst case scenario. Maybe they don’t have the social skills or the time. Perhaps they can’t take the disciplinary actions required to do something. If a guild loses faith in its leader and no longer has confidence, something needs to change before it deteriorates further.

Where does this leave us?

I can’t just talk the talk. I have to walk the walk. If I can’t back up my words or beliefs, then I am no better than some of the GM’s I’ve had in the past. But by being aware of what makes bad leadership, I can consciously make an effort to steer myself away from the behavior that made them that way.

I’m in a unique position since I have several bloggers in my guild who aren’t afraid to call me out and keep my honest. It’s in my best interest to not suck and to do the right thing. I can’t just hold myself accountable to my guild. I also need to hold myself accountable to my readers.

Here’s a challenge for the WoW bloggers and readers out there.

What makes your GM great?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Whether it’s stories about bad experiences or good experiences, others including myself would surely benefit.

Guild Goals: Deciding Between Normal Raids and Heroic Raids

Guild Goals: Deciding Between Normal Raids and Heroic Raids

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A number of guilds are beginning to have their members approach level 80. Now they’re stuck at a cross roads. Do I raid 10s or 25s? Setting a raid to Normal difficulty allows only 10 players to enter. Toggling it to Heroic allows 25.

First question GMs need to answer is what kind of raiding guild are you? I’m not referring to casual or hardcore or anything like that. I’m not interested in your style. I’m referring to your end game goals and intentions. When I formed Conquest a few weeks ago, this was the first question that popped into my head. I felt that it was important for a GM to define what their end game is so that steps can be taken towards achieving it.

I basically had 3 options when it came to guild endgame objectives:

  • Strictly 10 mans
  • Strictly 25 mans
  • Both 10s and 25 mans

Not only that, I had to make a choice for myself as a player. If you think about it in terms of BC, this would’ve been tantamount to running SSC, TK, Karazhan, and 2 or 3 resets of Zul’Aman per week. I wanted to commit to no more than 12 hours of raiding per week because a lot of players have other things to do.

Looking at that list, I crossed 10 mans off the list. I am far too ambitious for that.

This left me with the option of either 25s or guild sanctioned 10s and 25s. I had to deliberate this a bit more. Having to organize both 10s and 25s meant extra organizational and logistical work on my part. Since most drops from 10s will be replaced anyway, it made much more sense to me as the GM to stick the guild into the 25s.

Factors

Organizational and logistical: I’d have to plan out raid days for 25s and I’d have to plan out raid days for 10s. I would have to run 2 separate raid groups which would involves its own unique set of challenges. I have to pick out the days for the right group. I have to ensure there’s enough tanks and healers. What happens if someone can’t make it? I’d have to scramble to find replacements. That’s too overwhelming for me to do.

Time: 12 hours of mandatory raiding per week is all I ask for. My experience in beta taught me that 12 is the right amount of time to spend in order to clear out all of the raid instances. To ask them to do more would tax their stamina and increase burnout which is something I want to avoid. Throw in 10s and I could be looking at 20 hours a week of raiding. I won’t even consider that.

Increased freedom and autonomy: By not making mandatory 10 mans, I give them the option of participating in it on their own. From a personal standpoint, I have almost no innate desire to run Naxx 10’s. I suppose that was a side effect of the beta. The 10 man instances are nice, but they’re just not my cup of tea. Between blogging and school, it’s difficult for me to find the time to run 10s on top of the 25s. If players have friends in different guilds, they don’t have to feel obligated to turn down runs with their friends for the sake of guild runs. I make it known that they are on their own. There’s always a few people in guild that feel otherwise and I’m sure they’re capable enough of organizing runs on their own.

Besides, I prefer Earl Grey.

At the end of the day, I decided to give my guys the choice. They can run whatever 10 man they like on their own time with whoever they want, however they want. Loot Council won’t be responsible for how the drops are done.

And it becomes one less burden. This belief plays into the concept of the path of least resistance assuming 25s are the primary objective.

The Difference Between Recruiting On Server and Off Server

The Difference Between Recruiting On Server and Off Server

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Mages. They used to be a dime a dozen. Our second highest level Mage is Stop (clocking in at a health level 4!)

There’s generally two places to recruit players from:

  • On server: This is the typical route most guilds will go through.
  • Off server: A little tougher and a little rarer. Players that transfer are generally a good breed.

I’ve delegated Sydera to the role of recruiting off server. So far, she’s done an excellent job scouting out players and prospects. She’s a lot more familiar with the process and the effort required with offserver players. When guilds recruit off server, it’s a big decision on the part of both the guild and the prospect. Server transfers aren’t free (usually) and it involves a big commitment. The process of speaking to a prospect and then transferring to join a guild could take days or even weeks at a time. But Syd has a good idea of knowing what I want and how to convey it. She represents the guild well in this regard. As a GM, I have to make sure that prospects know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. Things like my expectations, the way loot’s handled, raid times and so forth have to be said and sometimes repeated.

The worst feeling in the world is for a player to come over here only to find out this isn’t what they were looking for. That’s why I prefer vent interviews instead of in game. You can learn a lot about a person from the way they speak and their tone of voice. All our key indicators.

Coincidentally, most of the off server players who have applied read the blog. Go figure.

With regards to the on server recruits, my process isn’t as detailed or thorough. A simple trade chat macro with your guild, what your guild wants to do, raid days and times, along with classes preferred is generally a solid way to go. This way, players get all the basic information. The ones that are interested will message you for more details. The ones that aren’t interested won’t and you’ll end up not wasting time. I like to give players the option to come on vent if they want to discuss the guild more if they have any questions. I think it’s a good way to establish a dialog with them.

After that, I let them know that they’re a trial and they’ll be evaluated in the weeks ahead when we start raiding. Everyone’s performance will be analyzed and compared to see if anything can be tweaked or adjusted. It’ll continue to be an ongoing process. As much as I hate doing it, I’m going to have to make cuts in the future. I’m not sure if there’s a single GM out there that actually enjoys making cuts from their guild. It’s a dirty job but it has to be done at times.

But first thing’s first, I need to recruit.

The difference? One takes a lot more time and energy to invest in and has the possibility of not working out.

There’s enough of us at 80 now to step into Naxx and OS 10. We’ll be making a run on Saturday. The Monday following, I’m going to try and run a Naxx or OS 25 pickup group. There’s a smattering of guilds out there who have 80s but not enough in their own guild to run a 25 in house just yet. My goal is to work with a few of their players and my players and just get our feet wet so that everyone can benefit from the experience. I’m not sure if this is what Lume had in mind when he mentioned that a “GM should establish themselves and become a visual figure”.

Either way, it is a start. And it’s either going to work or fail horribly. We’ll find out!

Now, if I were a guildless Mage, where would I be…?

Twitterati’s Advice to GM-to-be Matticus

Twitterati’s Advice to GM-to-be Matticus

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Let it be known that to me, GM does not stand for Guild Master. I prefer to think of it as General Manager. Sports terms work a lot better for me and it’s something I can handle (though I suppose it is more of a business term). Yesterday afternoon, I lit up a simple tweet:

What advice would you have for up and coming GMs?

The response was absolutely long and enormous (as you can see on the left).

I don’t know if there’s much more to be said after such a myriad of replies.

If you have anything you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

Bonus points if you can match the Twitterati and keep your advice under 140 characters.

Note: Tweetdeck is the official Twitter client of Matticus.

Build Your Own Guild Part 10: Making Changes

Build Your Own Guild Part 10: Making Changes

New guilds tend to start out in an idealistic mode. Guild masters and officers alike make ambitious plans–possibly including world and server domination–and they put in the kind of policies that they believe will get them to their goal.

However, sometimes plans go awry. In my experience, guild rules fail for two primary reasons.

1. Rules Have Unforeseen Consequences.

Despite the officers’ and guild master’s good intentions, new policies sometimes have unintended effects. A clause that was meant to help and support potential members may end up alienating them. Collateral Damage has make several mistakes in policy over the past few months, and it was always with the best intentions. To offer one very recent example, at the outset of our planning sessions for Wrath, CD’s officers talked about putting in a Raider Status. At the current moment, we don’t have a guild rank that corresponds to raid eligibility. While we thought it might be a good thing for organizing purposes, as it would let both infrequent and regular players know clearly how often they might expect to raid, our members did not. Most players were vehemently against having any kind of rank associated with raiding, and so this policy never made it to live, if you will. The reason? The mere suggestion of a special designation for raiders felt divisive to our members. Ironically, the very players who would exceed the standard we put forth were the ones who argued most passionately against it. The label “raider” was unwelcome, and as such, we’ve jettisoned it entirely.

2. The Guild Identity Evolves.

Guilds are organic entities, and they do not remain static for long. Part of the reason for this has to do with personnel. In the virtual environment, turnover is high, and the identity of a virtual organization depends heavily on the personality of its members. In addition, the guild’s successes or failures can determine its direction. In Collateral Damage’s case, we progressed farther and more quickly than we thought we would, and as a result, we became a more hardcore guild than our original design envisioned. Gradual change can also alter power structures. Guilds that start with lofty goals and a strict hierarchy may find that, over time, they can loosen up. What starts out as a totalitarian state led by a benevolent philosopher-king may end as an association of friends and equals. It is my belief that healthy guilds shift towards this model over time as they develop trust among members. In the case of gradual institutional change, you may find that the initial policies you wrote may have very little correspondence to guild reality.

How Can I Change Things?

When something isn’t working, it tends to be pretty clear. You will hear little grumbles here and there. This is normal for a guild, as QQ is eternal, but pay attention when you start to hear the same thing from many different parties. When that happens, make a new item on your officer meeting agenda and do something about it. If a policy is bad, get rid of it as soon as you can. Sure, you’ll look inconsistent to your members, but in the end, no one wins a prize for persisting with a bad strategy. However, in order to set your organization up to be able to change with the times, or with your better judgment, certain structures have to be in place.

1. Give yourself an out.
Sometimes a guild’s charter seems graven in stone, when in fact it’s a functional document that should always be changing. Let your members observe a tradition of keeping the charter up to date. That way, if a big change needs to be made, they won’t say: “You can’t do that because it’s not in the charter.” Believe me, CD made the mistake of having a static charter and rule set. Members will read the charter like a Blue Post, and we all know what happens whenever Ghostcrawler appears to change his mind.

2. Have a Decision-Making Structure
Make sure that your guild rules set up a procedure for proposing and ratifying changes to policies. For some guilds, it may work best for the GM to have final decision-making power in all cases, but in others, a vote among the officers will guarantee better support for the decision. The worst thing you can do is poll your members and let them vote on guild policies. People tend to vote their fears. You’ve selected your officers (hopefully) because they’re capable of thinking through problems logically. Polls are useful for information-gathering, but leave the decision-making power in the hands of a few well-informed individuals.

3. Have a System for Reporting to the Members
Transparency is a good thing. I believe that the GMs and officers should be making the decisions, but I also believe that they should explain any major policy change to the members. Document the reasons for the change carefully. It’s very common for disgruntled guild members to accuse the GM of making arbitrary decisions. Don’t give them ammunition.

Sweeping Changes

The advice in this article should enable a new guild to make the small adjustments that are necessary to keep an active organization healthy. These kinds of changes are usually acceptable to all members with a little explanation. However, what happens if you want to radically change your guild’s identity? Is it possible, for example, to mold a casual guild into a hardcore raiding team?

Yes and no. In order to explain how a gradual shift might work, I am going to borrow the rather disgusting metaphor that my fellow CD officer, Bruug, used in our last officer meeting. Imagine that your guild is a cute little froggy, and you’d like to boil him up for dinner so you can snack on some delicious frog legs. If you drop Mr. Croaky into a pot full of boiling water, he’ll jump right back out. However, if you stick him in room-temperature water and turn up the heat a few degrees per minute, he’ll be perfectly happy to sit in his nice warm bath and cook.

Gross, huh? I’m not suggesting that you eat your guildmates. However, if you think that your guild has the potential to grow in a certain direction, take gradual steps to get there. Members tend to resist change. They like what’s comfortable and what works. Many people would say that you can’t take a casual guild and turn it into a hardcore one, and they’d be right in principle. Yet, CD has done that in practice, and without consciously trying (apparently we figured out how to poach a frog all on our own). If the will to be more competitive is already out there among your membership, you can help that along. Change will occur organically, but it will do so more surely and effectively if the hand of leadership gives it a nudge or two. Like a careful gardener, you can influence your guild to grow in certain directions. However subtle the changes, I do urge Guild Masters to be as transparent as possible about their vision for the guild. This is only fair to your members who, after all, did not sign their guild contracts in blood. Well, all except the warlocks anyway, and that was because their other pen ran out of ink.

Build Your Own Guild Part 8: Dealing With Feedback

Build Your Own Guild Part 8: Dealing With Feedback

Successful guild masters and officers are always attentive to the concerns of their membership. It is your job to understand your guild’s psychological makeup and status. If your raiders are happy and enthusiastic, you’re probably aware of it, as people tend to be demonstrative about positive emotions. However, little worries and concerns can bubble below the surface of an otherwise stable guild, and, without the leadership ever being aware, a small problem can turn into a guild-breaking one overnight. How can you address these explosive problems before they grow to dangerous levels? Read on for some tips on eliticing–and dealing with–feedback from your members.

How Do I Get Them To Talk to Me?

Face it, Guild Master, you are one scary dude or dudette. You are The Man (or The Woman), and that means most people will tiptoe around subjects that might be controversial when you’re around. Rest assured, however, that your guild members have opinions, and they want the leadership to listen and to react to them. Here are four things you can do to get your guildies to tell you their little secrets.

1. Have Guild Meetings on Vent
Collateral Damage does this every couple of months, and it’s quite helpful. The officers start out with a little “state of the guild” address and then turn over the floor for member questions and concerns. Now, when it’s time for members to talk, don’t expect the discussion to start immediately. I learned through teaching my college classes that a little silence is ok at the outset of a discussion. People are getting their thoughts together and mustering the courage to speak. You can ask little questions to prompt them, but make sure you let people have time to get the ball rolling. From what I’ve observed, the first person to speak will say something really positive. Others will comment on it, but the feedback will start to roll in. Eventually, you may get people’s most passionate objections to your guild policies. The important thing in such meetings is to listen. Let people know that you will hear their concerns and take them to the table at the next officer meeting.

I can tell you, sometimes CD officers have felt frustrated and under-appreciated at our open meetings. Try to think beyond yourself and your immediate reactions. Is there something helpful you can learn from a person’s complaints? We’ve found that even the most ardent whiners aren’t able to sidetrack the guild from its most cherished goals. However, we’ve also discovered some useful information in open meetings. In at least two cases, at the next officer meeting, we changed policies based on public opinion.

2. Post Officer Meeting Notes
Officers spend a lot of time discussing policy in meetings–earn credit for that time with your members by posting notes. You don’t have to expose every controversy, and naturally, anything pertaining to specific players should be kept quiet. However, when you’re writing new policies, a little item in your notes that says something like “Discussed Revisions to Attendance Policy” will let your members know that the officers are actually responding to the changing conditions in the guild. CD allows members to comment on officer meeting notes–we get many good ideas this way.

3. Have a Feedback Forum
CD has a forum in which only officers can post and everyone can reply. The purpose is to elicit member opinion on major policies. Recently we have decided to implement a Raider Status and attendance requirement for Wrath of the Lich King. Our policy drafts went up in this forum, and there was a lively exchange between officers and members. We were able to clarify our intentions, and the final document is, as a result, very clean and easy to read. Of course, some members disagreed with the officers’ decision and thought that we should continue without Raider Status. We tried to assuage their (mostly unfounded) fears, but we did hold firm to what we had decided. However, some of those objections led to clearer policy, and as such, they were a very fortunate thing.

4. Allow Members to send PMs to Officers
Your guild website should have the capacity to send Personal Messages. These are like emails, only less formal. When CD members have personal complaints–either something they want to keep private or something that only affects them–the best way to communicate that is a PM to one of the officers. If they do not request that the note be kept private, often we share these with other officers so we get a balanced solution. A good example of this kind of issue is the perennial loot quandary. It has happened several times that a CD member has felt that loot was distributed incorrectly. Sometimes the members are right. Inevitably, things go a little bit awry with any loot system. These member issues have actually helped CD officers revise the loot system for Wrath so that it is more fair to all raiders.

The Two Types of Feedback

As a guild leader you can expect to get two types of feedback: legitimate concerns and QQ. Here is how I suggest that you address each type.

Legitimate Concerns:
Sometimes members are able to see around officers’ blind spots. Often the members are first to know when someone has been treated unfairly. Even in the best guilds, this can happen by accident! Make sure your policies are flexible enough to change if they are really not working.

Here are some common examples of legitimate concerns.
1. One of your guild members is behaving in an offensive manner or specifically antagonizing someone.
2. One of the guild policies has had unintended consequences. For example, there might be a loophole in your loot system, or you might be distributing BoE items like Hearts of Darkness in an unequal manner.
3. A specific member or subset of the guild is feeling overworked or burned out.
4. Something in your raid strategy is not getting desired results.

Sometimes you’ll get a PM and just know that the person has a valid point. When that happens, don’t panic. Reply to the person and let him or her know that the issue is going on the next officer meeting agenda. Make sure you talk about it, and make appropriate policy, rostering, or strategy changes.

QQ

The letters QQ are meant to resemble crying eyes, and QQ is synonymous with whiny complaints. QQ is constant and unavoidable. I am going to make a radical suggestion here for how to deal with this. As you read or listen to the complaint, try and imagine that it is legitimate. Even if you end up disagreeing with the person or even reprimanding her, hear her out before you do that. QQ is called QQ because it’s communicated in a less-than-constructive way. However, separate the content from the means of delivery to find out if, behind the tears and snivels, there is actually a valid issue to be addressed. If the person has a point, put their issue on the meeting agenda just like any other member concern.

The following is a list of issues people tend to feel passionately about in the game. As such, they are likely topics for QQ.

1. Loot Issues.
This will always be the number one cause of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the World of Warcraft. Most of these complaints are unfounded. If you have a loot council, you will be dealing with this often. Try to make the person reasonable, or at least resigned.

However, sometimes loot issues are very much legitimate. If someone is concerned that he consistently gets passed over for loot or that others of his class and spec with similar attendance have significantly better gear, he is probably right. Loot systems of whatever type tend to have loopholes through which many purples flow. These complaints are a way to discover if your system is really working the way you intended it to. It may be that “unlucky” players, or players in certain roles, truly are not getting their fair share. If this is the case, do something about it! Whenever you find injustice in your guild, stamp it out!

2. Personality Conflicts.
In a raiding guild of 35+ members, not everyone is going to get along. Members who are at the high end or the low end of the competence scale may attract a lot of complaints due to jealousy on the one end and resentment on the other. Evaluate each of these complaints for validity. As an officer, you need to know the difference between one of your raiders having a bad day, or a bad week, and just plain out being a bad egg who either does not play up to the standard of your raid or makes everyone miserable. You should also ask pointed questions to decide if harassment is involved. For example, if one of your female members is having to field consistent come-ons from a male raider, this is a legitimate complaint and you should probably kick him. Many guilds let rampant sexism, racism, and all-out prejudice go on in g-chat or vent. In my opinion, this kind of thing isn’t very funny–or very conducive to successful raiding. I would rather play in an organization that’s open to different types of members. Sure, Collateral Damage cuts loose a bit late night on vent, but on the whole we’re an organization that 10-year-old girls could happily and safely belong to. “Cutting loose,” by the way, is different from encouraging prejudice. No one minds a little innuendo or even well-meaning jokes at someone’s expense–the problem comes when members harass each other. As a guild leader, you should be able to tell the difference.

3. Bench Issues
The #1 topic of PMs sent to officers in Collateral Damage has to do with raid scheduling. Long story short, people want to be in when it’s convenient for them and out when its not. A lot of people feel frustrated that they’re not in full control of when they get picked to raid. For the most part, people just have to deal with it. Officers can lend a sympathetic ear, but we know that we have to balance the needs of many different people. Bench happens, more often than some people would like. However, if a person complains that they are consistently being passed over for a raid spot, you need to investigate that issue. Look at that person’s attendance and performance. Does he have a legitimate complaint? Has he been forgotten, or is there a deeper issue? Is someone getting preferential treatment and not sitting their fair share of time? If so, rectify that immediately. No one–especially not officers–should get out of sitting the bench. Sometimes, however, the raid leader is perfectly justified in sitting a player frequently, especially if he’s not performing up to the standard of the group. This can be a good opportunity for the class or raid leader to work with this person on improving his play. After all, raiders are supposed to want to play up to their potential. If that interest isn’t there, it could be time for a frank talk about that player’s status in the guild.

Conclusions:

Don’t fear feedback from your members. Embrace it, and deal with it in a timely manner. After all, you are in service to your guild members. They’re really not trying to ruin your day. When members complain, they do so because they care about the quality of their in-game experience. Never fall back on the “it’s just a game” excuse for unequitable behavior. Sure, it’s a game, but games have rules. They’re only fun if you follow them. One of the rules of being a GM is to create an environment your members feel comfortable in. Otherwise, you’re no better than the three year old who kicks over the Monopoly board and then sticks the house from Park Place up his nose.