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.

Adding some new faces to the guild

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.

Maintaining fairness

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.

Becoming a larger guild

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.

Maintaining fairness

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.

Where you at, ArenaNet?Final thoughts

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.

MOP’s Tina Lauro is on-hand to deal with all of your guild-related questions, queries, and drama in Guild Chat. Whatever your guild issue, she’s sure to have a witty yet sympathetic response. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see dissected, drop Tina a comment or send an email to tina@massivelyop.com.
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5 Comments on "Guild Chat: The fairest way to govern guilds"

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Alex Malone

As a former guild leader, my suggestion is thus: Dictatorship!

You need one single voice at the top, someone truly dedicated to the guild and the running of it. Being games, nobody is obligated to put in effort, so typically they wont. This means there will always be jobs that need doing within a guild – like organising events, recruiting new members, settling disputes etc – and without a dictator at the top, invariably stuff will get missed or the buck passed. Also, as the dictator at the top is going to be working hardest for the good of the guild, the guild needs to be heading in a direction that the dictator wants, otherwise their motivation plumits. So, when I was guild leading, my focus was endgame, so I worked my ass off organising raids and dungeons, training fresh raiders, recruiting new raiders, sorting loot issues etc. That worked because the guilds goal and my goal were the same. However, I was occasionally asked to put more effort into roleplay events – something i have no interest in – so as a result I didn’t work hard on that aspect and roleplaying never took off in my guild.

As to fairness – there is no such thing. Don’t aim for fairness, you’ll never achieve it.

What you want instead is transparency and process. For example, when I first started raid leading and guild leading, we had nothing in place to govern loot from raids. We tried being “fair” and deciding on the spot, but as the guild got bigger this became impossible. So, first, we implemented DKP and made the rules open. Everyone could see how it worked (transparency) and the officers/leaders stuck to it (process). This worked much better, but had its drawbacks. We later switched to Suicide Kings based on guild feedback, again keeping the transparency and sticking to the process. Following further feedback, we developed our own hybrid of DKP and SK, finally achieving something near loot perfection.

By being transparent and sticking to your processes, everybody is on the same page. New recruits know the score coming in, old recruits had a say in the development of the processes. It is “fair” in that the process applies to everyone equally.

My final point would be regularly evaluations. As with my loot example, we tried out 4 different methods of loot assignment. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong, or to change course. Too many leaders are afraid to admit mistakes, yet we all make them. Regularly collect feedback from the guild, then act on it.

If you end up as the leader, but all the feedback is asking you to take the guild in a different direction, you must act. If you feel you can lead the new direction, awesome, lead them. If they want to go a different way, don’t be afraid to let someone else lead. This happened to me in SW:TOR – when my motivation for the game plumited, all I could be bothered to do was raid once a week and then PvP. The guild wanted more alt sessions and more casual dungeon runs, but that didn’t interest me. So, I stepped down and leadership passed to someone who could take the guild in the right direction, whilst I just stuck with raid leading.

Reader
Sally Bowls

Let’s examine the meta-question: is “THE FAIREST WAY” the best way?

Unless the design is megaguilds just for the perks, then guilds are about discriminating to find a compatible group. There is nothing per se wrong with a guild of fbombing and NSW-linking 16-year-olds. Or a guild for 10 YO fundamentalist children. IMO, it is wrong to mix the two. Carebear vs PvP, hard vs easy core vs no raiding, RP is lame vs MMOs are RP vs ERP …

Is it fair to exclude/discourage players different than your norm? No! Does it make for a better guild? IMO, probably.

P.S.: fairest way is to have all decisions be determined by a secret ballot vote.

Reader
John Kiser

I always take an approach of governance in a sense where if people put in they can take out too. I always took the approach where if someone asked me very quickly what can your guild do for me that i backed the hell away from the. I find if an individual isn’t willing to actually put into the guild at all they are not being fair and I tend to put into the guilds I have run or been a member/officer of.

I find the whole mentality of forcing people to do stuff a little “off”, but at the same time I also find that if they are just looking for hand outs left and right or expect something from the guild without ever helping with anything that they aren’t really a “guild member”.

This is why I found the whole method of how black desert handled their guilds to be interesting with the contract system in place because if you didn’t put in you likely weren’t going to be contracted at all. I find my way of governing guilds to be fair to everyone as it makes sure no one can just take without at least putting some kind of effort into the guild itself.

The question ultimately comes down to. Are you a guild member or are you simply a player who has a guild title after your name? Also I think you need to take growth into consideration, but do it at a comfortable rate. If you build up numbers like a zerg guild rather quickly you get a lot of impersonal stuff going on where like my question poses they are just sort of players that have your guild tag instead of having a vested interest in the guild or its members or even really being a guild member themselves other than in numbers.

I will always govern guilds this way and if I am simply an officer or member try and steer guilds I am a member of into this way of governance because it makes sure people aren’t overlooked and that many are putting in work and effort in some form. I also find putting things to polls and the like is a fair way if you want to steer the guild a certain direction or not. This avoids people feeling like they are not involved in any decision making at all.

Reader
Justin Bania

What game is the cover image from? That armor looks dope…

Reader
Krzysztof Czajka

Man, I miss Rift.

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