Guild Chat: The fairest way to govern guilds
Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which I get together with the Massively Overpowered readership to help one reader in need solve his or her guild-related issue. In this edition, reader Paul wants to know the best way to govern his guild now that he has chosen to open up his once friends-only guild to the larger game community. Before the switch, Paul didn’t have any need for a solid guild structure and set way to run things because he was in a group of friends who worked well as a unit. Now, however, Paul is starting to recruit new members to fill the friendship group’s ranks to facilitate quicker and easier grouping without forcing friends to commit.
I’m changing up my guild and need some help with how to keep things fair going forward. My guild is just friends so far, and we have all the same permissions as each other and don’t really have someone in charge per se. We just have been running content when we are around and sort out things as we want to as a group; we don’t fall out and this has been really easy. We’ve reached the point that we want to add more people so we can do more as a guild and progress further, so now I need to think about how to do this. Do I make everyone an officer and then just throw everyone else in a new rank, and then who decides on the rules and what we do going forward? I want to be fair to my friends and not make this a situation that changes how they play, but I also want to be welcoming and fair when working out how to run things from here on out.
The position you’re finding yourself in is a very common one, Paul, and it can be very tricky to transition from an informally led friends-only guild to one that features a diverse roster of personalities that need to be brought together under a common set of plans and guidelines. My advice to you will vary depending on whether you plan on only adding members that you naturally run into in gameplay, PUGs that just fit the bill and gel well with your existing roster, or if you are running widescale open recruitment to become a medium or large guild. I’ll outline general advice for both below, but if you want more specific advice for your MMO of choice and guild type, reach out to me again and I’ll do a follow-up.
Advantages of taking this route
The most obvious upside of keeping things modest is that you only need to adapt your current setup very slightly to facilitate the additional members you’ll welcome in. Provided you recruit a few people with a similar goal and playstyle to you and your friendship group, the induction period should be rather brief and simple. You won’t have to adapt your usual flow much, provided that your guild invite is given alongside a solid explanation of what you the new player should expect from your guild.
The main focus of your integration strategy should place a heavy emphasis on fairness: It seems as though your friends currently direct content with you and there is no established hierarchy, which could be problematic. It is important to involve new members in these decisions in much the same way you do with your real-world friends, otherwise your guild will feel very intimidating and clique-ridden. Remember that if you run with this format, your new guild members will be the minority and as such run the risk of alienation by such a close-knit group of friends.
Best style of guild governance
I would suggest keeping things fairly casual if you go down this route, managing decisions in the same way you do now but ensuring you open those options up to the entirety of your roster. Make decisions on voice chat instead of real spaces to facilitate this: What might have been a quick chat in person will easily translate to a quick natter on Discord, for example. If low-key has worked for you so far, try to maintain this sort of governance by keeping the calendar flexible, using it as a point of reference rather than a strict schedule. Encourage your friends to get to know the newbies as people and see it more as forging new friendships to expand the roster rather than having a small pool of useful but ultimately disposable filler players that are picked up and put down as the main players see fit.
Advantages of taking this route
If you’re looking for a larger pool of players that can work within different groups to suit different gaming schedules and content preferences, the best route is to consider more extensive expansion of your guild. A larger, more diverse roster opens up your gaming experience and carries with it the potential to unlock more content than you’re currently able to facilitate, which is never a bad thing. Although many modern MMOs are now constructed to reduce the content gating that once made large guilds so necessary, reaching key milestones will always be easier with more company.
In larger guilds in which everyone does not know each other, anonymity can extend past the player induction phase without proper guild monitoring, leading to isolation, high drop-off rates, and progress stagnation that makes the effort put into growing the guild become meaningless. Depending on how large your guild becomes, you will find that the demands of guild leadership are a challenge that is best shared, so you’ll want to establish a hierarchy that maintains the quality of your gaming time. Get some willing friends to help and decide between yourselves in advance what sort of guild you wish to become. Really spell out what you want to get out of your play time and recruit with that vision in mind, otherwise, you could end up trying to pull together too many very different players with totally opposing motivations.
Best style of guild governance
This vision for the guild that I’ve discussed should inform the governance style that you carry forward into the new-and-improved guild. If you keep a casual guild that simply has open doors to more members, you may not want to change much about your current style except for taking those verbal decisions and placing them in writing for easy communication to the masses. You’ll want to recruit one or two friends to an officer role to help you fill up the calendar, look after new recruits, and answer any questions your roster will have. You may even decide to get your core unit to form a leadership council of equals, provided that the main roster outweighs the volume of this council so that it isn’t just a way to trump the newbies.
You might decide that if you’re doing any recruiting, you might as well specialise and create something more formal: I have written several Guild Chat entries on various guild types and common problems other people have brought up, so check those out for some early advice. If you choose this option, you’ll need to establish a fledgeling hierarchy or leadership panel that considers the particular emphasis of your expanded guild and places people in the best roles to facilitate that specialisation. Structure and communication are key, so keep two-way communication channels open and ensure you let members know what events they can get involved in by utilising scheduling tools, voice chat, and guild announcement tools.
No matter which option you decide to go with, I wish you luck in your guild expansion and hope it enhances your game time. Ensuring that you talk through the expansion plans with your friendship group will make things much easier: Not only will they know what to expect, but it will also give you an excellent opportunity to either ramp up the plans if they are enthusiastic or scale your efforts to make everyone comfortable with the change. Your intention is to make things easier on you all and to extend the amount or scope of content you can run, after all, so being clear about your friends’ desires is critical to the success of this mission.
Over to you!
Many guilds start with a small friendship unit and then become much more, and I’ve certainly enjoyed running guilds with real-world friends in the past. Have you ever taken an informal friends-only guild and transformed it into a more open guild? If so, what top tips would you offer to Paul and his friends? Did you notice any particular pitfalls you wish you had avoided, or have you ever felt pushed out by a guild that was a bit of a buddies’ club? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments below.
Thanks to Paul for this submission. Have something to share on Guild Chat? Email your submission for consideration.