So you want to be a GM? (part 2)

You can see Part One of this series here.

Once you know exactly what type of guild you want to run and have established your charter and set of rules, the next thing you’ll need to consider as a potential GM is who you actually want to have in your guild.

This is a lesson I feel that I took much too long to learn. First I learned that not everyone out there looking for a guild really cares what sort of guild they get into. By this I mean that your potential peons might only have expectations for one aspect of your guild and will see that you want to raid, maybe, and completely skim over the fact that you intend to raid the Vanilla content as God intended, capped at 60 and wearing pre-Outlands gear. Or, more likely, that you intend to have maybe three hours of raiding in a given week and they are expecting three hours every night.

Even worse, perhaps your idea of raiding schedules line up, but the mindset behind that schedule doesn’t. Where your six hours a week of raiding meets their desired play schedule, perhaps their drive for progression falls far short of what you intend for the pace to be.

Putting raiding aside, maybe they are expecting expecting a certain type of environment or guild culture based entirely off of a stray word here or there in your charter.

So before you type /ginvite, here’s some things to consider:

Do you need a formal application process?

Chances are if you are raiding, you will want to have some idea of what the potential raider coming into your guild might be like. This goes not only for the nuts and bolts of spec and skill and experience, but many guilds have a certain culture and it is important that all their members can fit into that culture to at least some degree.

While a more social guild might not need their members to be approved pending an application, interview, discussion behind closed forum doors about the applicant and an FBI-level background check, it’s still a good idea to take the time to get to know a bit about the person wanting to join. Why do they want to join? what do they prefer to do in game? Do they like cake or pie?

I’ve made mistakes in this area as recently as within the past few months. In the heyday of Eff the Ineffable forming up, invitations were being issued every day, often several times a day. Once, I made the mistake of inviting first and asking after the fact where the person had heard about us. After all, we were getting readers of several bloggers rolling up alts and wanting to come hang out with some regularity.

It turned out that the druid in question just liked the guild name, had no idea about any of us being bloggers and, in a fit of awkwardness because I had no idea what to do about it, I ignored the situation and the player until they gquit in the night a few days later.

So much for my leadership brilliance. The point is, don’t be a goon like I’ve been, and really think about the depth of the knowledge you would need to have about a person before inviting them and then set in place whatever mechanisms or people you’ll need to make that happen.

(For the record, being a rather democratic guild, Eff now will allow casuals and raiders in as trial members until such a time as we have three people willing to vouch for them and, in the case of raiders, have seen them perform in two raid settings. Our vouchers may not be married to each other, nor be the person who provided the connection to the guild. Because even if I like Zel, I might hate her friends, so it could potentially suck if she and Gnoble could both vote someone in that everyone else more or less hated.)

Who do you trust to be able to invite people in?

Maybe you’re a control freak. Maybe you’re a suspicious and reserved person. Maybe you want yourself to be the final say on who is or is not allowed in your guild. To a certain extent, that is true, but if you ever want to take a night off to go to the movies or, even worse, take a vacation, you’re going to have to spread that invite ability around.

Having a trial period certainly comes in handy here, but it’s still always a good idea to be able to share out responsibility and power with people you can trust. Is there a guy in your guild who can predict with uncanny accuracy how long a new member might be staying or whether or not everyone else in the guild will accept them? Or do you have someone who is really good at communicating the intricacies of the guild culture and who likes to be chatting with new people all the time? If you have either, use it if you can.

If you don’t, it’s time to start thinking about the trial period and what to do if it doesn’t work out.

It’s not us, it’s you

A trial period will terminate in one of two ways: the person is a great fit and becomes such a solid member of the guild that you can scarcely recall a time when they weren’t around OR it becomes apparent to some degree that the person is somehow wrong for what your guild is looking for and needs to be cut loose.

Have you ever thought about how delightfully awkward it can be to try to tell someone that they’re really not a good fit for the guild and the guild doesn’t want them? It’s not very delightful, but it can be freakishly awkward. Particularly when you don’t have a clear statement anywhere about how your trial period termination process goes.

In Eff now, if I can’t get three people to vouch for Mr Retpants, it’s easy (relatively) to say, “Well, look, you didn’t pass the trial period. Thanks so much for your time and I do hope you find a guild that will better suit you.”

Contrast that to the time when, as an officer way back in the day, I was the only one willing to try to explain to the guy who had been gkicked (while he was offline!) that everyone pretty much thought he was an ass, and tell me which way sounds better.

Other Pitfalls

The biggest pitfall I can think of is taking my half-baked and very specific examples and deciding that if you think about the points I mentioned here, you’ll be golden. I’m being rather vague deliberately because what works for me probably won’t work for you. Taking on leadership of a guild is not a small thing, and I want to encourage anyone thinking of doing so, to really take the time to think about all the angles for themselves.

Couples. I can’t say how many times we have a had a couple join either of my guilds and while one half seemed like a great fit, the other half was very much not. Most people are going to insist on playing with their significant others who also play, but the degree seems to be somewhat flexible. Nail down in advance what their interests are and, in the case of raiders, make it clear if you won’t always be able to roster them together or won’t roster the clearly non-raider half at all.

I’ve also seen more than one couple think that because they are two people, their wishes carry more weight or they have something to hold over leadership’s head. If you don’t do x for my spouse then we’re leaving. When the person doing the threatening is a very talented raider, it can be tempting to give in, but don’t do it. The more you can make it clear that you will consider each person as an individual when making decisions, the less likely they are to try to pull that sort of crap with you.

A couple attempting to throw their weight around in such a fashion is the small version of a clique of a friends. I cannot tell you how often, in the old guild, we allowed whole groups of people to join at once. I’m not saying groups like this can’t integrate, but they are very unlikely to do so. Chances are much better you will actually see them find some portion of your own guild to bring into their circle. It can get very messy from there. I’ve never seen one of these groups actually stick around for very long, and they have always left in the wake of having stirred up some behind the scenes drama by complaining only within their group about something they didn’t like.

In closing

Be very choosy about who you let into your guild. It’s easier to say no when they’re still outside than it is to forcibly remove a bad fit.

Next time I gain even partial coherency, I’ll be talking about guild requirements, such as attendance, addons and authenticators.

I didn’t mention this in the last installment, but for any smarter or more good looking GM’s out there (so, all of you), please feel free to jump in and correct anywhere you think I’m wrong or amplify where you think I was too vague. I’ll never pretend to have all the answers, so I honestly won’t be offended.

And special thanks to Rades for pre-reading these and giving me even more ideas for future installments!


So you want to be a GM? (part 2) — 5 Comments

  1. It seems to me like some separation between guild leader and raid leaders might actually be a good idea in most cases. The raid leaders shouldn’t demand a guildmaster keeps some spoiled prince happy just because he’s the best tank on the server; what he’s doing to the guild might be more important than what he’s doing for the raid.

    Conversely, people should know going in whether failing out of the raid means they have to gquit too. Maybe in most cases they want to, but sometimes a guild may be a good fit even if the raid part didn’t work.

    Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with gm’ing!

  2. We’re blessed with… 3.5 couples (one player’s S.O. mostly raids with his horde guild) out of our ~16 active players. As far as raid signups are concerned, while it’s nice if couples get to raid together (and they often do), if one person from a couple doesn’t get to raid tonight, that’s not a big deal. If you have a couple who make a big deal out of wanting to play together, then it’s up to you as GL to deal with it. I’d say your response options are
    * Sorry, we pick the team by *however*. That may or may not include both of you on a given evening. If you can’t cope with that, this isn’t the guild for you.
    * Well we’ll do our best, but chances are that won’t be possible from time to time. If you can’t cope with that, this isn’t the guild for you.
    * Ok. So we’ll include both of you when we have two slots available of your classes, and neither of you when we don’t. Obviously we’ll need to have cover for both roles as one of you being unavailable counts as two people being unavailable, which might mean you don’t always get to raid even when you’re both available. If you can’t cope with that, this isn’t the guild for you.

    As far as couples attempting to use the power-of-two to force an issue, it’s really down to the focus of your guild and your tolerance level for asshole-but-she’s-a-really-excellent-rogue. For me and mine, we have exceedingly low tolerance of that, so on to the dealing-with-it stage of a private conversation and, depending on the outcome, a parting of ways.

    Cake or pie
    A very, very important question. And the answer is cake.

    • I think my guilds have been couple magnets for some reason. I’ve seen a lot, from the Zel and Gnoble teams of the world who are equally skilled and competent – to the guy who raids and his wife is totally fine dinking around with questing on multiple alts – and from the pair where one person is obviously skilled and the other is not, but their own SO won’t bother to tell them so or help them improve. Fortunately, most of the drama I’ve encountered in coupledom has been from situations where one person is just a really good fit for the guild and their spouse is consistently spouting off something completely cringe-worthy in guild chat. In the one case where my gentle “hey, stfu with crap like that” was ignored, I just got his wife to tell him what for.

      With couples though, a huge pet peeve of mine is the one that QQs if they have to raid apart. Maybe I’m a jerk (you know I am), but I rather like the occasional break from being plugged in with At, so I don’t know or care what everyone else is so upset about. :P

      Good to see you around. Stop falling off the face of the world, eh?

    • Thanks! I feel I should mention that while I have a few more installments in mind, even I’m not really sure when I’ll stop tossing out cautionary tales from my own derpy mistakes. Considering I keep making mistakes, it could be never. But there’s at least three more topics I have in mind.