Welcome to Guild Chat, my comfortable little corner of Massively Overpowered in which I dissect the inner workings and tricky politics associated with MMO guilds. If you were a ravenous reader of Massively-of-old, you may fondly remember Karen Bryan‘s fantastically crafted column The Guild Counsel, which expertly covered all things related to guilds. I couldn’t hope to replace Karen’s deep insight into guild politics and wouldn’t want to intrude on her substantial body of work, so I’ll be going in a more interactive direction with Guild Chat that brings my own unique style and perspective to the conversation.
I want to lend a personal style to Guild Chat that starts and ends with the words of the MOP community. I’ll tackle issues that actual readers are facing (feel free to submit your own by email) or topics you would like to see covered, and I hope that the comments will be filled with even more helpful advice and new perspectives on the topic too. For my first article in the series, I’m going to look at what makes a great guild and which particular aspects or components comprise them. This question comes at the request of Kajatta, my World of Warcraft player fiancé who has found himself without a guild recently. Read on for Kajatta’s full question and my thoughts on the issue.
I’d like to know your recipe for a great successful guild. By that, I mean what you think makes a guild good and what you’d look out for if you were looking for a new guild. I’m currently guildless in World of Warcraft and am on the lookout for a great new haunt myself after being disappointed by other guilds I’ve joined.
This is a tricky situation that we’ve all found ourselves in at one time or another. Without knowing what specifically made you unhappy about your past guilds, it’s hard to know what particular aspect to focus on, but I’m happy to give you a general recipe for what I find makes a guild great.
Find a guild with one large helping of players who have been combined with an added swirl of regular activity. A guild doesn’t have to be large to have an active community, so don’t let a huge roster fool you into thinking that your new guild is active. Alarm bells should ring in your head if you aren’t immediately welcomed into the guild by any online players, or even worse, if the guild chat is totally dead. If nobody is chatting, it’s a strong indicator that you won’t form an attachment to your guildmates and that the guild community may not be very supportive. Without active social participation, you lose many of the inherent benefits of guild membership, such as on-the-spot help or support, a willing pool of people to make groups with, and uniquely close bonds with fellow players.
Check out the guild calendar or website when you join: An active guild with particularly organised leaders should have regular in-game events such as raids, dungeon runs, PvP, and socials jotted down. Consider EVE Online as an example: There, you might see group mining ops or mission-running nights in the calendar, which players use to not only gather funds but also to socialise with their corpmates. Be sure to sign up for those that interest you too: It’s an excellent way to bond with the gang and will soon make you feel right at home in your new guild. If the calendar is bare, it could be the case that events are organised in a more casual manner upon request, so talk with the guild leader about any ideas you have to see if they’re willing to host events like that yourself.
Add one sprinkling of guild management to the mix in the form of a guild leader and a few officers or other helpers; stir well to ensure that they’re thoroughly mixed through. If your new guilds lacks strong leadership that interacts well with the guild community, you’ll quickly find yourself hunting for a new place to call home as discord and disorganisation spread throughout the ranks. Different guild leaders will vary wildly in terms of their approach to management, much in the same way that real-world management styles differ, but certain skills should be seen as critical. The leader (or leaders in larger guilds) should be assertive, organised, supportive, motivated, and fair. Players who are new to a guild can often see these skills in action in the method by which they were inducted and how they are settled into their guild’s ranks.
Warning signs to look out for include overly bossy or obnoxious messages from guild figureheads, a low amount of public communication from online managers, or a lack of induction into the new guild. Guilds that send out cold requests for you to join with no preamble or a “what to expect” message are best avoided. You should feel as though the guild management is approachable, fair, and transparent in how it operates in order to get the best out of the guild experience. This is particularly true if you’re looking for a more “hardcore” raiding or PvP guild versus a casual or social one; you need to be able to trust the guild leader and the wider management if your progress, gear, or chances for team spots lie in their hands.
Gel your guild leaders and community together with a heavy dash of commonality. You should know the purpose and main interests of the guilds you apply for or that approach you about joining, even if the overarching reason is simply to get social and have fun together as a small bunch of players. There’s very little to keep you occupied in a guild (even one with a great community and fantastic leaders) if you don’t engage in the same types of in-game events. Some guilds have very large player bases and branch into every aspect of play, which might be suitable if you haven’t quite found your niche. If you’re heavily into PvE and can’t stand PvP, though, you might want to find a smaller or more specialist raiding guild that gives you the best chance of making a raid spot or at the very least having access to a more reliable pool of PUGs.
There are some good early signs to help you spot a guild with a clear common purpose: Look out for clearly defined guild ranks for certain sets of players that make it easier to approach those who share your particular passion. Some of the top performing guilds will have a guild website with a written application process and a public mission statement, so you might want to do a little research online before approaching an officer or leader of your server’s top guilds. If the guild is being publicly advertised, be sure to read the full text and whisper the advertiser with as much information about your characters and interests as possible to ensure that you’re a good fit.
Once your mixture is looking solid and well-bonded, dust thoroughly with some well-defined rules that apply fairly to guild members of every rank. Nobody likes to feel mistreated or second-best within a social group, and the best guilds have policies in place to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to engage with and enjoy the guild experience. You won’t feel at home in a guild in which cliques are allowed special privileges over other guild members without good cause or where the guild leaders can’t explain or justify the guild’s policies. To be clear, I’m not saying that you need to agree with every decision made or policy that’s put in place; you do, however, need to feel heard by the guild leadership and that each decision is made for the good of the guild. Consensus rule tends to work better in developing guilds than dictatorship, so if your new guild is still a fledgling venture, expect some decisions to be opened up to all guild members for voting in order to find out what the group as a whole would prefer.
Steer clear of guilds that don’t have a written set of rules that its members must follow: Should there be an issue down the line, you could end up being very disappointed if you presumed things would work one way and then something else is the case. This is particularly important for governing loot distribution, access to communal resources, and division of any guild workload. Transparent rules visible to all members can prevent people feeling either entitled to more than is fair or pressured into putting in more time, effort, or resources than is justifiable.
Top your dusted, well-kneaded guild dough with plenty of benefits for all guild members. You might feel dissatisfied with your previous guilds because they simply didn’t reward you well enough for being a member. In WoW specifically, being in a guild comes with plenty of benefits if your guild has a high enough level, and as everything you do contributes to your guild’s level, you’re a more valuable resource than you’d perhaps think. Most guilds will use the guild bank to their members’ advantage; guild leaders can allow the free withdrawal of selected raw materials, crafted gear, or other useful items that are gathered or created by the guild members for the benefit of others.
Charity really should start at home! Be wary of guilds that don’t use the guild bank facility as anything other than a private storage vault or that go on mass-invite sprees in newbie character zones. Both indicate a guild that is being farmed for items or guild level perks or is one that doesn’t actually provide many benefits for its members. You should feel valued for any contributions you make to your guild; equally, the best guilds will pay you back in fantastic experiences and guild-specific perks.
If you follow the steps above, you should find yourself in a fantastic new guild sometime very soon or at least better equipped to recognise some of the red flags to avoid when an invite comes your way! Oh, and don’t forget to put your guildcake into a soundproof oven (nobody wants to hear the screams) at 350 degrees for three hours. If anyone survives, he or she wins a prize! What do you think, readers? What makes your guild so great, or what is the recipe you use for finding guilds in MMOs? Don’t forget to send me your guild questions or topics: They might make the next instalment of Guild Chat!