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

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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?

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.

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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.