Guild Chat: Choosing your MMO guild officers wisely

Welcome along to another edition of Guild Chat, the column through which we join forces to solve a particular guild-related issue for one Massively Overpowered reader in need. This time, we have a submission from reader Dan, who has recently decided that his small casual guild needs some officers after some of his real-life friends volunteered to take up the role. Dan’s question lies in the best way to select those officers and he wonders whether selecting his friends will make the guild seem quite cliquish and impenetrable for the new members, or whether having real-world people he can trust in the role makes things any easier. I’m sure many guild leaders can look back on the early days and sympathise with this dilemma, so I’m happy to provide an answer to this common problem here within Guild Chat.

Read below for Dan’s full submission and to see my reasoning on the matter at hand, and don’t forget to keep scrolling and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

I’m kinda new to guildleading and I run a casual guild that we just does basic stuff for fun, nothing too serious. I never felt the need for officers in a casual guild but IRL friends I game with are asked about being promoted and I think they really want me to. Maybe I do need officers but more likely they just want the status because I’m not sure what an officer would do really. I guess we are growing and there’s plenty of people so maybe it is useful from that standpoint of keeping recruitment going and talking to people. If I do it I don’t know if I just pick my friends or should I go with people I think are going to take it more serious so I am looking advice first.

If you’ve been reading Guild Chat for a while, Dan, you’ll have seen that rank management and the promotion of officers can be tricky business indeed if it’s not managed carefully, so I’m really glad you’ve reached out before taking the plunge! It might seem as though it’s a fairly simple question on the surface, but taking the time to really consider your options when it comes to sharing ownership of your guild can save you undue stress and effort down the line. Planning how your officer ranks will operate and defining the scope of the role — and making this clear to all of your members so no one can run away with perceived notions of what the ranks mean — will temper the expectations of your friends and will keep the peace if there is a dispute down the line.

I’ll give you some pointers as to what type of people you should promote and how best to go about it, but remember that ultimately the guild is yours and you’ve been managing fine without interference thus far. If the idea of officers, expansion, or defined roles don’t fit with your personal vision, then don’t let the guild morph into something more than you wish it to be. Good luck, Dan, and happy guild leading!

Guns and ships.

Real-life friends come with pros and cons

Playing games with your real-world friends enhances the MMO experience for many players, myself included. It’s wonderful to be able to discuss and share the experience with the people we’re close to and many MMOs are designed to reward players who bring along company, so it’s entirely understandable why you value your real-life buddies and are taking on board what they’re saying. There are plenty of benefits of making these people officers in your guild: You have people who you already have a solid rapport right there who can fill in for you when you’re offline and can support you in any disputes. These people know you personally and you communicate with them in more formats and more intensely than you will the majority of your guildmates, so any miscommunication will be kept to a minimum. Lastly, you can plan guild activities or come up with ideas in person when you’re socialising offline, which offers a degree more flexibility than doing so when it suits someone’s online schedule.

Having said that, choosing your friends could have some fairly significant downsides too: The remainder of your guild might feel as though your choice shows that your real-life friends will always be more important than they are and it might look as though you aren’t genuinely concerned about who would do the role best. Real-life friends who you suspect want the role for status reasons are never a top pick for a legitimate officer role, though you could define the scope of the role as a prestige-only rank that doesn’t grant them any privileges above that of normal members if they just want the name only. Also, bear in mind that arguments between people who have a relationship beyond the game can be very intense and fallouts can have significant repercussions on your guild’s health: Don’t promote anyone who you tend to have a fractious relationship with.

Then again, so do non-IRL guildies!

I’ve discussed the pros and cons of promoting your friends in fairly broad strokes, but promoting people you don’t know personally also comes with its own factors to consider. If you do branch out and promote outside of that friendship circle, you are showing your guild that anyone who is deserving and willing can make an impact on your guild, and you make it seem all the more inclusive and welcoming to those outside your circle in the process. You have a larger pool to select from too if you cast your net wider, so you could end up with much better quality officers who are genuinely interesting in being helpful.

Having said that, not knowing the people you are promoting can be fairly risky, depending on how they conduct themselves when representing your guild and how you set up the officer rank permissions. You can expose yourself to wider criticism from the game community if you promote people who demonstrate negative behaviours, for instance, or a disloyal or angry officer with the right access can quickly wipe out your guild supplies or kick innocent people out of your guild as part of an argument. Most guilds won’t experience this sort of dramatic fallout, but if you don’t consider carefully the people you promote and the permissions you’re giving them, you make it more likely that you’ll run into these problems.

Oh, awesome, camping!

Choose balance where possible

My advice to you is to go for a blend of both if at all possible: Not all of your friends will make for fantastic officers, and likewise there will be one or two people who you don’t know in real life but would be brilliant at engaging your members and otherwise filling the role. The barrier for officer status will be fairly low in a general-purpose, casual guild unless you’re planning on using the hiring of officers to fuel some guild specialisation: Anyone who has a solid understanding of your chosen MMO and is also active, personable, and organised should be a good fit if they wish to be considered.

If officers are entirely new to you, I wouldn’t promote too many, to begin with at least: Perhaps select one or two real-life friends who would best fill the role and one other trustworthy member to establish the role. You can always collect a list of interested parties and promote more people as an when the need arises, for instance over the holiday season when people are busy or after a big recruitment drive. If you have too many officers to manage when establishing the new role then you might find it too difficult and will sabotage the experiment before it begins: If any friends object, show them this article and point them to my explanation of why you need to keep it simple.

Firefall

Defining the rank and role

Once you’ve dealt with the who, you need to then consider what you need those officers to do. In your position, I would only grant the permissions you know they’ll need to use frequently: If a job can wait for you to be online, it’s best to hold off on granting that permission until the officers aren’t so new. Start off with giving them the power to add members to the guild (provided you re actively recruiting right now), set up events in the guild calendar (if this applies to your MMO and is a restricted feature, of course), and demote those of ranks below their own (so, for instance, they could demote a Member to the Inactive rank but could not demote a fellow Officer to Member or you to Officer). This will allow for general guild maintenance to happen without you being online, without giving powers that can go too badly in the wrong hands.

Once you’re comfortable with your officers and they are happy in the role, you can get creative with your guild’s ranks and those permissions to further enhance your guild’s administration. You might decide to give officers their own guild bank tab where you can throw thank-you goodies, for example, or you could decide that officers need permission to draw a certain amount of resources or money from the coffers to set up certain content. Use the customisation tools in your game to create the most robust officer rank you can that balances what you need to accomplish with what you wish to protect against and you won’t go too far wrong.

The fun doesn’t have to end with the officer rank either: I’m guessing your lack of officers means that you haven’t branched out much from the Member and Leader ranks, so perhaps now is the time to think about other ranks you might find useful. I like to keep an Inactive rank where I can pop characters who are collecting dust: The rank has no permissions and is mainly there so that when people do come back online they are prompted to let me know and I can help to reintegrate them. I have also tended to have tiers of officers: I have deputy leaders who have the same permissions as I do (keep this for the one officer who you can totally trust), general officers as described to you, and content leaders for my given MMOs who do not have permission to adjust ranks or recruit but who have all needed capacity to draw materials needed for their content and create the relevant events. Think about how your guild operates and then use the ranks to make things easier: There are no hard and fast rules here, so be creative!

Over to you!

I really enjoy setting up guilds to best suit their intended purpose, and I absolutely love helping new leaders think about how best to manage their guilds as they grow and progress in whatever direction they’ve chosen. If you were selecting officers for a casual guild, what criteria would you use? Would you select only real-life friends, or would you branch out? Let Dan know in the comments.

Thanks to Dan for this thought-provoking submission. Want to see your submission here? Email me 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: Choosing your MMO guild officers wisely"

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NeoWolf

I don’t do guild officers in my guilds, there is one boss me, I conceptualise the guild, decide what its about and how things will be, I then find through playing a game people who are looking for and wanting the same things and make them guild members.

Large convoluted command structures just like real life reduce everything to endless debate, disagreements and nothing ever happening. Nto to mention they also frequently become very clique’ish with a small group essentially becoming what the guild is about while the majority are largely ignored and forgotton background noise I don’t like guilds like that.

I welcome opinions and feedback and frequently take them onboard before making decisions but when all is said and done I make the decisions and things GET done in a timely and organised fashion.

In all fairness though my guilds are largely social, for those who like to play their own way in their own time without it putting demands on peoples times or enjyoment. We don’t do organised raids etc..other than very occasionally for sh**s and giggles or because someone wants help as thats just not what we are about and for us it has worked as our guild members have been together and friends for a decade and a half or so.

For more proactive, activity based guilds with far more members I can see how delegating some of the work load to officers “could” (but not always) help.

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Alex Malone

I ran a guild for years and choosing officers is definitely a difficult job, but if you want to grow it is necessary. Here are my general steps:

1) Define the officer roles – there is no point having officers if there is no reason. So, take some time out to try and understand their purpose. In my guild, there was me (leader), a second in command (in case I wasn’t there and a decision needed to be made), a recruiter, a social events organiser, then 2 or 3 group/raid leaders. We may have had a crafting officer at some point too.

2) Assess who is best suited to what role. You are going to be walking into a minefield of over-active ego’s here, so tread carefully. I used to have loads of people who wanted to be officers, but most of them only wanted the title and not the responsibility. So, look at your guild mates, see who is already putting in the effort, see who is already respected, then if you can trust them, make them an officer.

3) Ensure that the whole guild is aware of the leadership structure. If you just promote a load of people but don’t announce it properly, the rest of the guild may become resentful, or may just ignore the officers and keep coming to you with their issues.

4) Perform regular reviews. Ultimately, we’re playing a game so you and your officers are basically volunteering to do work. Once the “glamour” of being an officer wears off, a lot of people stop bothering with their duties. So, do regular reviews of your officers and if they aren’t living up to their responsibilities, demote them and find someone else.

Good luck though, when you do finally get the right mixture of officers and regular guildies then everything can come together in an amazing fashion. I’ve had this happen a few times over the years where for like a 6 month period the guild would just enter a sweet spot. We’d be completing content, having fun on alts, doing well in PvP, recruitment would go well and the responsibility would be shared to it was easy to achieve. We also used to do annual real life meetups as well which helped guild cohension, think first year we did it there were only 6 of us, but each successive year got bigger and more enjoyable.

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Tandor

I left a guild once because it was being run by a clique of real-life friends. I just never felt at home there and every guild decision was taken privately behind the scenes rather than out in the open among all the members.

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OverdriveActive

I haven’t figured this stuff out yet, more than a decade in and it seems like solutions to questions like these are still very specific to the guild at hand. I feel like there’s a lot of advocating the Valve way – you know, the “we’re all friends here” kind of thing. That can lead to cliques and backroom talk becoming more important than the frontroom stuff in spite of best intentions. The more traditional model that sees officers make decisions on who gets to participate how requires quite a bit of effort and time beyond the game to make work as you run into the same issues any office environment does.

I’ve had my best times being an officer in a guild that maintained an inner circle and my best times playing as a raid team member with the same along with loot council (manual handing out of loot). My measure of a good time tends to be expressed in productivity. As a raid member I don’t want to concern myself with where the gear goes and as an officer I don’t want to argue with people over minor decisions. I don’t think those sentiments are shared too often so my outlook’s probably not a very good yardstick.

In any case, the one element that separated my good guilds from the bad ones was always the same; effort. In guilds where the officers took the game seriously but were also respectful of people’s time and lives, things usually went well. Bad guilds usually just expected you to walk to the beat of their drum and seemingly arbitrarily decided how you could or couldn’t play the game. In WoW with raid locks and scarcity of gear drops this meant death for me as a player.

So perhaps that’s where I’ll leave it:

As an officer; make decisions by keeping in mind that the 10 or 20 something other people in your guild are just that – people. They could be doing anything but they’re here and you are a guiding hand that shapes what their free time looks like. Though you might not always be able to be awesome to everyone all at once you can be consistent and respectful of that. It’s not all pixels and chatpals, it’s Rob and Marcy and Dave and Emma playing games together first and foremost.

As a member; act in guild the way you would like others to and always start with discussion first when dealing with officers rather than outrage or argument. In many cases, discussion and decisions happen hours after the raid has finished and you have logged off. They’ll have Discord, Facebook or a simple officer chat channel where all this happens. Officers may not realize that this creates a lack of continuity for players sometimes. Ask first and work from there. You may find that the answers make you feel better about your guild ‘management’ without the need for anger or accusations.

kjempff
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kjempff

One important thing is to make sure officers lead and not command. As flat a power structure as possible, so no members feel like footsoldiers or having lesser value. Some people just can’t handle getting power over others, and that can quickly develop..also in very subtle ways you won’t even notice. Therefore it is important to have clearly defined systems in place. Fair loot with dkp/random (never distribute loot youself, it creates distrust and prevents feeling equal), if initiation period all members should have vote, all guild decisions should be discussed openly.
Listen to peoples wishes and take the time to find compromises they understand. And of course be aware that you need to be extra social with others when you play with close friends.