Every once in a while, I’ll see someone pose the question on Twitter:
I’m going to start a guild. Any advice?
My knee-jerk reaction, being lame as I am, and going for the easy joke as I do, is to say, “Don’t do it!”
And that can be good advice, if the person in question is starting a guild on a spur-of-the-moment notion that it would be a fun thing to do, just to see what it’s like. Absolutely anyone can collect signatures and come up with a clever name (well, maybe not that second part. Otherwise how do we explain guilds with pretentious Latin names or [my personal head-scratcher] shenanigans like TAYLOR GANG?), but the actual work that goes into leading a successful guild is often more than one might expect.
I’m not going to pretend I know all there is to know about leading a guild (let alone a successful one), but having been GM of two wildly different guilds and having inherited the one and started the other, here are some things I have learned that are applicable.
1. You gotta know what exactly you want your guild to be
This is possibly the most important thing and I personally consider it to be non-negotiable. Do you envision a guild that is driving for server firsts and hardmodes? Will you be doing that as a 10- or 25-man raid team? Or do you want to be a purely social guild? Or is it something in between those two things? Or is it something else altogether, like a group of people who want to get drunk and pretend to be pirates? You gotta know exactly what it is you want out of the game and the theoretical guild.
Take some time to think about this one and for heaven’s sake, don’t think that you personally are locked into being a drunk fake pirate forever just because you started a guild based on that desire. People change. Desires change. And it’s a lot easier to lead a guild when you care about the vision and goals of that guild. If you don’t, it’s just work without reward and I guarantee you will get bitter over it.
2. Now write it all down. All of it.
This exercise will come in handy in a lot of ways, so take the time to articulate on paper (or in a Word document), what your ideal guild would be. Try to avoid words like “hardcore” or “casual” or even “social.” Those words are all so deeply ambiguous within the collective psyche of the WoW-playing community that they really don’t have a meaning. Instead, everyone assigns their own meaning to the words and assumes that everyone else is thinking of the same values when those words are tossed out.
It’s tempting to say my own guild, Eff the Ineffable, is a casual raiding guild, but my idea of “casual” and yours might be two wildly different things. My definition of casual extends to not having a lot of time in which to raid and to not expecting everyone to be 100% perfect all the time, as long as they are trying to improve. Your definition of casual might include not needing to sign up, have enchants/gems or work at getting exalted with various factions to buy their upgrades. Some people see casual and think that even signing up for a raid doesn’t mean they are required to show up on time, if at all.
So if, like me, you will get stabby if people aren’t on time and ready to go, you need to make a note that you have the expectation that all raiders will keep their commitments. Or whatever it is that your expectations are.
You’re the GM here. You get to dictate this stuff. And you have to do so clearly.
3. KEEP WRITING! I SAID KEEP WRITING!
I’m pretty sure that 95% of being successful in leading a guild is to have a solid structure. So now you’ve spelled out what, exactly, you want to see in a guild. Great. That is only half of it. The next thing you need to think about is what are the consequences for people who don’t meet those expectations.
To do this, I think the best way is to really think about all the various ways in which people could step outside your limitations. This does not just go for raiding guilds. Perhaps you are running a more social guild and it doesn’t matter much if people are on at a certain time or what they do while they are on. What is there to monitor?
Are you going to allow racist talk, for instance? Dirty jokes? Do you want a family friendly environment? Or, even more to the gaming point, do you want guild chat full of people asking to be boosted through this, that or the other instance by people who might have better things to do?
Hell, I’ll shut people down if they talk religion or politics in my guild even if I happen to agree with them.
You need to know where all your lines are and what you intend to do with people who cross those lines. And you need to determine (in advance) what is important enough for you to come down with the gkick of doom and what just needs a soft touch or a reminder that, hey, that joke was a bit tasteless, please don’t do that again.
And then you need to communicate those lines as clearly as possibly along with the consequences (IE: I boot racist/sexist people) and then enforce it fairly and impartially.
This means not letting Guy A (who is a good friend of yours) getting away with blatantly Not Okay talk in guild while gkicking Guy B (who irritates the crap out of you), for saying something far more mild.
And, you know, when you have to hold Guy A accountable, it sucks. But it sucks worse having to deal with fallout from taking it all out on Guy B and making an enormous mistake. After all, Guy B has friends…
I’ll say it again: you have to be willing to enforce the rules, no matter if it is something unpleasant. You have to be willing to step between two fighting guildies. You have to be willing to gkick your real life best friend if his behavior calls for it. If you are not willing to see that everyone plays by the same rules, then you have already failed as a GM.
This won’t fit in one post
The above is just a beginning to starting out as a GM, but I seem to have lots more in mind to say on the subject. So stay tuned for more in this series of the Do’s and Don’t's of starting a guild and I’ll attempt to sound even more profound and knowledgeable in future posts.
If you’ve taken nothing else away from this post, please understand that being a GM is a big commitment of your time and resources and shouldn’t be entered into without any thought for what lies ahead. So if you are thinking of being a GM, great, more power to you! But make sure it’s not a frivolous decision before you get started.