Guild Chat: How do you deal with chronically inactive MMO guildies?


Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which I band together with the Massively Overpowered readership to solve the guild-related issues of readers in need. This submission comes in from reader Question, who has recently been having trouble with prospective guild members hogging attention and spots for extended periods of time without actually desiring to become a productive member of the guild. The problem for Question doesn’t lie in the fact that these people delay membership or never join at all, but is more to do with the guild resources that are wasted in training these members for spots they never take up, so he wishes to find a solution to more quickly identify these cases to prevent this waste.

Read on for Question’s full submission and my take on the matter, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the eternal-promise types in the comments.

My issue is this : I’ve been running a guild for several years. It’s had it’s fair share of ups and downs, but lately, we have been running into a problem where we accepted some new players who seemed pretty enthusiastic about the game and wanting to join a guild to do raids and stuff, only to discover later on that they were faking everything and had no intention of playing the game at all, or with the rest of the guild.

To give an example, I just removed someone from the guild who had been swearing up and down for over a month that he would start playing regularly on our server “soon” and that he was simply busy with “events on another server”. When he first joined, he seemed pretty normal, talked with everyone, did a few raids with the rest of the guild, etc. After a while, he stopped logging in, but told me on steam that he was busy with some event on another server, and he would be back after it was over.

The impression that I got was that he would be back in about two weeks, but after a month he was still nowhere to be seen, and was no longer replying to any of my messages in game or on steam. Today, he finally admitted that he never had any intention of playing on our serve at all, but refused to explain why he had spent so long crafting an elaborate lie and pretending that he would be playing with the guild. He then cut off all contact with us.

Another guy spent more than three months lying to me that he overdosed on medication, that he was suffering from depression, etc. but he loved the game and would login as soon as he was better. When I pointed out some inconsistencies in the stories he was telling me (like how he was playing Garry’s mod all the time when he was supposedly incredibly ill), he suddenly cut off all contact with me and hasn’t even logged into the game for three months.

Every guild has issues with people going inactive with no explanation, that’s to be expected. But people who waste the guild’s time by crafting elaborate lies to pretend they want to play the game, when they actually have no intention of doing so, is another thing entirely. A guild can easily remove inactives who have not logged in for months…it’s another thing if they are playing the sympathy card to waste your time or to entertain themselves.

Sure, you could remove them from the guild the moment it looks like someone is going to be inactive, but that makes you look like a heartless dictator and there are people who genuinely need to take a break from the game due to real life or other reasons. If you kick them instantly, they likely won’t come back when they are free to play again, they will join another guild instead.

How should a guild identify these time wasters and filter them out as quickly as possible? Nobody wants to waste time explaining class strategies and raid mechanics to someone who is never going to play the game, despite all their protestations to the contrary. At the same time, we don’t want to go overboard and kick people who are simply taking a break due to exams or other genuine issues. It can be difficult to tell if the stories are genuine or not, since we do not know them in real life and cannot actually confirm if they are really ill, busy with work, or something else.

The problem is that genuine cases look a lot like the fake ones

The immediate thing that stands out to me in your submission is your frustration at wasted months over people who you have had to put significant effort into that then turn out to be flaky, and I cannot tell you how many times I have been in the same position and have had this affect guild progression. Having said that, I have to point out that many of the symptoms you describe as markers of the faker — not able to tell the full story without alterations, making promises about commitment that are then never kept, and fixating on low-pressure scenarios outside of the guild instead of approaching the issue — are also signals of a person employing coping mechanisms to manage genuine mental health concerns.

Herein lies the problem: As you rightly point out, it is exceedingly difficult to then filter off those with genuine cause to break away for a period of time from those who are trying to gain access to your training and resources without ever committing to your guild. Many of the behaviours will be the mirrored between the genuine and not-so-genuine camps and treating all members as suspicious is obviously not an option, so what we must do as Guild Leaders is ensure our induction and ranking infrastructure is robust enough to protect from the worst of the drain the few fakers place on our guilds without punishing the majority of those who are genuinely in need of special consideration due to their personal circumstances.

Try reversing your induction order to front-load player effort instead of guild effort

The main thing we can do is allocate a set induction period for new players during which they are expected to log in regularly and engage in general guild activities and trials where relevant before ever being considered for raid training or other high-effort guild time sinks. I have implemented ranking systems to explain this to new players in larger guilds I have ran: All new players, regardless of why I recruited them, enter into an Initiate rank and an officer must sign them out of there and into the relevant successive rank whenever a basic induction period is completed. Should the player not successfully complete the induction, he or she remains at that rank and no further grouping and training options will be made available to them.

Combining this with successive training ranks for specific content types allows for both the justification for not training those who do not show the effort required to make it into those ranks and also provides a visible incentive for members to engage with that induction week and work their way up into training or raiding ranks. You might well recruit members who require no training; in these cases, modify your setup to keep members in the induction rank until they have successfully completed a set amount of raids with you to prove that ability before moving them into the raider rank.

Move players to an inactive rank and apply special rules to them

You might well have already implemented and explained a similar structure to the one above without much success: If this is so, it could be the case that you’re not as clear on how to handle inactive players in your guild, perhaps due to leaving this as a case by case decision you make, and so the system doesn’t have any resolution states that take you as the guild leader out of waiting limbo. Adding and correctly employing an inactive rank with special rules could help save your time and resources in dealing with these cases of people wasting guild time.

I would suggest removing any and all privileges from the active rank, including guild withdrawals, access to training and events, and the ability to hold raiding or other team spots. The goal of the inactive rank is not to have players remain there whenever they come back: You’ll want to decide whether that player can still hold his or her original rank or whether enough time has passed that the player in question would need to sit in the training rank again. Set a benchmark for that and stick to it: Should you set a cutoff for retraining that is, for example, anything more than two months of inactivity, the player who misses the cutoff needs to enter a training rank upon return.

The benefit of such a system means that players who initially impress but then wane off will eat up much less of your time since they will naturally oscillate between the inactive and training ranks unless effort to get back into the game comes from them. Treating everyone in the same way removes the emotive side of these decisions too: Members shouldn’t have to share such personal details with you if they don’t wish to, and likewise you don’t need to ask these things and open up the potential for tall tales to be added by the minority of fakers if the inactive system is applied evenly to all members regardless of absence reasons.

Have an action plan in place for seamlessly replacing inactives to reduce pressure

The last thing to mention in dealing with chronically inactive players and the strain it adds to your guild is that replacements should be added for anyone who is inactive for a set period of time so as not to halt guild progress. What that period of time should be is up to you since you’ll know what impact absences of certain lengths have on progression in your MMO of choice and guild type, but making this public knowledge means that no one expects a slot to be held open for them indefinitely if they provide a convincing enough reason. Such systems encourage those who are so predisposed to tell lies to gain the benefit of that falsehood, which is where you will run into problems with excuses you cannot (and largely should not since players are entitled to a private life away from the game) confirm.

This is most definitely a tough nut to crack, but removing your knowledge of the personal nature of guild absences as a factor in the decision of how to handle inactivity should be the answer you need. It discourages tall tales from the few who choose to exploit people in such a way while also making the members feel safe in taking genuine absences and receiving equal treatment without having to go into personal details or justify themselves. Good luck, and don’t be afraid to write back if this has sparked any implementation questions.

Over to you!

Have you ran into the same issue as Question has? Has anyone ever admitted telling tall tales to get special consideration in your guild, and if so how did you fix your systems to minimise the chance of it happening again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks to Question for this interesting submission. If you have a guild-related issue you’d like to see discussed, email me 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

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I’ve only been in casual guilds across many MMOs and I can only assume this kind of issue only applies to “hardcore” guilds. People should know better before applying to a guild with high maintenance sort of rules, and not abide to those rules.

Jeremy Barnes

I’ve got to say I’ve never encountered a guild who has such a problem with random people lying about playing on the server. It’s a pretty simple problem, remove people after your set time period and they’re welcome to come back when they start playing again.

Sally Bowls

I think a year is a reasonable time to demote inactives.

All this quite reasonable discussion just strikes me as something from another era. More MMOs, more non-MMOs (FO,overwatch,ME2,Des2,CODwwII) … Regardless of where you sit on the “no longer want an unpaid job” to “filthy casuals who aren’t true MMO players”, I just don’t see these as being as common.

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Brilliant discussion. This is always an issue for every guild I’ve been a part of. It’s such a bummer when that happens. When I ran a guild we also faced this issue. Our solution was to make an extended trial rank in the guild. We found that most people that made it past stayed and became active members. The trial rank could be shortened by an officer if the applicant showed a lot of participation, etc. In essence the trial rank had to participate in the guild, but got no serious resources from the guild. So if they knew the raid, of course they could come, but if they were not geared for it, no one donated hours of their time getting them geared until they became a full member.

Gaius Cavadus

This is easy. I founded my guild ten years ago and run it to this day. I’d say I’ve had somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 members come through the guild over the years.

I’ve just automated a few behind the scenes with our website accounts. Anyone who doesn’t visit the website for thirty days gets moved to an inactive user group. From there officers are notified and they reach out to the inactives. If they respond we work something with keeping them on the roster or putting them in our “reserve”, so to speak. If they don’t respond they get moved to another user group for guild veterans and will be greeted by a forum announcement should they ever return with all of the deets they’ll need to reactivate their accounts if they so choose.

I played the game of keeping my oldest members in the highest leadership positions for a long time but it just didn’t work. Ya gotta promote those who are active and taking initiative and hope some of the old timers that get bumped won’t be too grouchy about it.

Other than that, I don’t really account for weird BS like what was mentioned in the quoted post in the article.


I find a game I like, play it fairly intensively for a few months, and then honestly just get bored.

So I move on. When I occasionally reignite my interest in that game, I’ll come back and usually find myself gkicked. (Shrug.) A couple of times I’ve found myself the last guild member, now the guild leader, often with an ample guild bank.

Haywood Phillips

There should be clear rules for both entry into the guild and exit. Agree on them with your guild, and stick with it. Then issues like the ones mentioned in the article will never be a huge deal.

Unless you establish yourself as a high participation guild I wouldn’t stress out over inactives. Remove the longest inactive people to make room for the new. Easy for everyone to understand, even if they log back in and find themselves guildless.

If you don’t need room for the new then just let the inactives coast. Its always better for the guild long term if people feel like it’s a home instead of a loot/activity engine. If all your guild offers is activities and content, then why would active people stick with you if they can join a guild that offers more of both?
Also, people get bored and stop, then come back all the time. Complex rules, differing ranks, extended tryout cycles… Tried them all out before over the years, and all they do is confuse the rank and file that just want to play, create more work for officer team (and yourself mainly), and do little to solve the actual problem. And believe me, the only thing that solves participation woes is you recruiting+training more and the devs putting in more fun stuff.

Jeremiah Wagner


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Tina’s approach is thoughtful. My last cabal in TSW had up front responsibilities before you could rise in rank and have full privileges. They also had raid loot rules based on frequency of participation. I didn’t like the loot rules, but I could see why they had them, and since I wasn’t raiding any more, it was immaterial to me. I also like the idea of an inactive rank, where you don’t boot but the person can’t log in and raid your bank after being awol for 9 months.

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As I tend to run guilds for Casuals, people not being on all the time is pretty much par for the course and not something I worry about… but the general rule of thumb I have is that if someone has not logged in in a year and there has been no message to say somethings up then they are removed.

Its important to make any and all expectations clear form the get go in order to ensure everyone is on the same page.