Guild Issue Resolution

Let’s spend today talking a bit about managing your guild. Specifically, identifying problems – and maybe doing some things to neutralize them – before they shatter your guild.

I’ve said before that you are basically running a pure volunteer organization. Sure, everyone expects to get loot (pay), but there is no guarantee of when or what (well, mostly). But mostly, everyone is in to increase their fun. You, oh Guild Leader (GL from here on out), are in charge of maximizing everyone’s fun – even if it means keeping some people from having as much fun as possible.

Does that sound a bit peculiar? Probably – and yet it’s the essence of any 5-man assault on an instance. Consider – in really successful 5-man teams everyone sacrifices DPS so the whole goes smoothly. Tanks often have to sacrifice damage potential to increase aggro potential — and usually a chunk of gold for repairs as well. Killteam members pull back on their DPS so they don’t pull aggro. Healers have sacrificed their ability to dps at all so as to keep the team wholly operational — and that usually shows up in how long it takes a healer to level outside the instance. Everyone pulls back some so the whole team gains.

But in the guild – out of instances or battlegrounds or arenas or whatever – it’s harder to see this. And this is where your job – your pain, and in the end your glory – are focused. What I’m going to do is help you see ways to do this by assuming you are the GL of a particular type of guild, and hope that if you’re different you’ll see the applications. (Yes, I’ll probably end up doing some related articles for other types of guilds, but in the meantime I’m assuming you’ve smarts and imagination to do some on your own.)

Once more, I advocate guilds be single-purpose guilds – exceptions being uncommon and the province of very large or extremely experienced guilds. And since it’s the majority of interest, I’m going to assume an end-game guild. That is, one for which all the participants are aiming for Kara and upward. I’ll occasionally digress (you know that’s coming), but most of the time will use this as the guide. This particular guild is going to be, hmmm, let’s say there is a significant proportion not yet exalted with everyone (if anyone). While mostly blues, they’re still running Kara to gear their players, and while technically it’s “farming” it’s still a little bit tricky in some parts. And most of your guild has a Real Life – spouses, family, full-time job, and other things that prevent playing anything close to 24/7 — or even 8 hours a day for six days a week. For most, it’s a long day (8-12 hours) on one weekend day, maybe a half day (5-6 hours) on the the other weekend day, and a couple of three or four-hour evenings. Now that I’ve given you this background, ignore it unless I say something that “doesn’t apply to you”. Then pull it back out and see if it’s for THIS guild, and if so apply your salt and situation to see if it can be shifted to be useful for you. So much for background.

The single best tool for resolving issues is to anticipate the issues and have a resolution plan in place – preferably one that is proactive and so prevents the issue from surfacing at all. And believe it or not, every experienced guild member can do this. Basically, list the peeves that had you disliking your “last” guilds.

For what it’s worth, an amazing number boil down to a very short list. I’ve mentioned personality conflicts before, but will do so again. The other Big Deals seem to be: Loot wasn’t distributed fairly; Never got guild help (doing necessary instance runs, or getting necessary profession things like enchants and gems and potions); Wasted Time. There are a few specials, but I’m going to ingore them for now. Instead I’m going to take these four in reverse order, expand them a bit, and tell you some tools with which to cope.

Wasted Time. This takes two flavors, actually. First and most obviously, the guild calls for a run at 6:30, and you don’t enter the instance till… 7:15? 7:45? Some amount of time in which you could have done something – not another instance, but certainly a quest or some more profession work or… The second and less obvious is when every free moment seems to be scheduled. If every night has something scheduled, and the Big Deals fill the weekends… when are you supposed to find time for all the necessary grinding? You know, for money for repairs and supplies? Not to mention getting Exalted with CE so you can use the repair vendor in the caverns?

So… what can you do? Again, prevention is better than people leaving in Guild Drama. Let’s take each in turn.

For the first version of Wasted Time, the answer is painfully simple. Enforce the start time. Now, let’s be a bit realistic. Unless you’re a dedicated team, you’ll usually have to spend some time sending invites and grouping and doing all the initial buffs and distribution of guild supplies. And waiting for people to get to where they need to be. But this can be dealt with. My recommendations – not the only way, just the way I use – follow:

Announce three times. Time one is when you’re going to start taking requests to “play” – I’ll call it “Calls”. Now given our guild’s design this should be almost everyone, but sometimes someone is just not going to be able to stay for the whole thing and would rather let someone who CAN get first shot. Time two is the Cut-Off – 5 to 15 minutes after Calls. Anyone sending a request to play after this gets NO guarantee of a slot. They get to be on standby, and will be called only if there is an opening – whether at start, or because someone has to leave (or gets DCd – disconnected) before the instance is complete. Summons should immediately follow the Calls.

Now, way too often people don’t come to the instance till Cut-off. And even then they ignore a summons, or ask for a delay so they can finish a quest. This tends to be a major time-waster, of course. Sadly, it happens because time has been wasted in the past so they want to get the best return and so they make it worse, and… There is a fix, but it requires being a bit draconian. If a summons is declined, the summoned party gets moved to the standby list.

The goal of the assembly officer – the guild officer responsible for Calls and Sorting (arranging which players are on which teams for best balance) is to have all teams ready to roll by Go Time. At worst, that should be 30 minutes after calls — 15 minutes after Cut-Off. With practice — and everyone aware that if they don’t get their tails moving they lose out — you can see teams entering 5 minutes after Cutoff because everyone gets to the instance BEFORE Cut-Off.

The trick, sadly, is being hard-nosed. “At such and so time teams are made from everyone present. If you’re not present, you only get a team if there is room and need. I do not care if the only people present are woefully under-geared backups, presence matters.”

What will happen is, well, you’ll suddenly not have half an evening wasted. And that particular issue becomes a non-issue. But there were two time-wasters, and the second is just as much your “fault” as the first. That’s the issue of filling the schedule.

Now let’s face it – there are a LOT of fun things to do that take several bodies. And it’s very easy to just grab some fellow guildies and have at it. And with best of intentions you say, “everybody, we’re going slumming to ZG (or Battlegrounds, or…)” on this day. And gradually, you put something on the calendar every. single. day. Which means the players who beg off to get runs to build rep or get that gear that’s not-Kara+ but better than what they’ve got are… getting pugs to run the instances. Again, I’ve a hard recommendation. Don’t do it. Just… don’t “schedule” something every day of the week. Or if you do… let’s jump to the second Big Deal for this. Hold on, ok?

The second Big Deal is “nobody helps.” Oh, sure, “If I’m free” happens. But take a look around at your guild – especially everyone who isn’t “top tier”. How many are having to run pugs? How often do you hear of (or see) one or two or even at different times a dozen of your second and third tier players spend literally HOURS asking for someone to run an instance? Or asking for an enchant and getting “when we get together”? Or gems, or… you get the picture. Every one of those players is Guild Drama waiting to happen. You can’t stop it – there WILL be times it’s inevitable. You can, however, work to minimize it.

The first step is where we left off on Big Deal One. Don’t fill the guild’s time with Guild Activities. Leave everyone time to do other stuff – intentionally block it as “individual development time”.  If some folk want to do arenas and BGs or take a 6-man at ZG or…, well, you get the idea — let them.  But unofficially, on their own, letting them have (remember rule one) FUN.

There is another possible save you can use in addition. Though it sounds contrary to the “don’t flood the schedule” advice given already, consider scheduling a “Guild buildup and prep” period (or periods). Times (and days) when the guild officers, class leaders, and others are available specifically to run those 5-mans over and over with various guild members with the intent of bringing everyone up to Ready for Kara (or onward).  Same deal for enchants and gems and all that sort of thing.  Telling everyone to grab it at the gather of the instance run means, well, it means some people are sitting around twiddling thumbs while enchants and gemcutting (and installing) is done – along with cries of “forgot [this mat], I can hearth and get it real fast if someone will summon me…”  Gah.

That’s two of the Big Three Causes (well, four, but you’ll see why I say three in a bit).  I strongly suspect, based on what I’ve heard in both WoW and other games, that the third is as big if not a bigger cause than the other two put together.  That’s loot distribution.  Now, several folk have written about various techniques – heck, I heartily recommend Matticus’s Recent Series on Systems as a good starting point.  But as I said before, any system can work – even the leader “just picking who gets based on the leader’s opinion” – so long as everyone believes it’s “fair”.  Ah, that word “fair” – I hate it.  Everyone tends to shade “fair” toward themselves.  Still, the basic concept is understood.  What’s going to break you with this particular rock is when the lower tiers – knowing they won’t get as much as the full-timers on the A-team – still believe their being shafted.  There are a couple of things you can do to anticipate and reduce this – not perfectly as there will always be those who believe anything less than everything for them is “unfair”, but it’ll help a lot.

The first I’ve already mentioned.  Ensure you have some mechanism for helping the lower tiers of your guild get “theirs”.  Whether it’s scheduled runs or “hey, you wanna run Heroic Mech with me?” from the guild officers or something else, making a clear effort will go a long way to killing the feeling that the lower tier members are doing well when they’re afterthoughts.  There is, however, another tool.

Simply stated, you’re going to look at your gear inequality.  That is, you’ll look at your lower tiers and ask how far they are (in gear) from your top tiers.  And while you’re at it you’ll look to see how many of your top tier players are still grabbing gear from what should be the goal of your lower tiers.

If you’ve got 20% of your members getting all the Kara, Gruul, SSC, and every other raid gear, while the other 80% get Kara castoffs (stuff the top 20% can’t use), you may be imbalanced.  But maybe not – the top tier may be going, but not getting anything to speak of.  We can – provide you take the time – get a bit of a handle on this if you’re willing to do some math work.  We’ll have to take a quick look at the real world to understand, though.

There’s a tool used by economists called the Gini Coefficient.  Put simply, it is measuring the inequality of wealth distribution, where the more the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, the higher the number.  (zero is perfectly equitable distribution.)  I’m not going to have you do the math.  I am, however, going to help you envision the issue.  You’re going to make a scatterplot of each player’s ‘gear value’.

Now, if you have a tool to get a numeric value (one of the numerous valuations around) for everybody’s gear, great.  But I’m going to assume you don’t have such.  Instead, all you can tell with any comfort (and without dragging every player’s gear loadout through wowhead or allakhazam or thottbot or…) is whether it’s green, blue, or purple – and if it’s purple is it a Kara, post-Kara, or other source item.  Remember that everybody has 17 “value” slots (excluding tabard and shirt), with those using two-handed weapons taking up two of the slots with one item.  So use a spreadsheet.  Along one side list the slot, along the top list everybody’s names, and start filling the spots.

Give Greens a value of 1, Blues 2, and Purples 4.  If it’s a Kara BoP drop it gets 8, and post-Kara gets 16.  If they’re using a two-handed weapon, both slots get the appropriate value (so a blue staff is going to wind up with a value of 4.)

Now the sum of these will be one of the two numbers you need for a scatterplot.  For the second, you need something to show tier.  Rank, time in the guild, a combination of the two – anything will do so long as it enables you to know “these” are top tier and “those” are bottom tier.

And now, do your scatterplot.  Most spreadsheet programs will do this for you, I’m not going to tell you the details.  What I AM going to do is tell you what to look for – and to know you just might have a problem pending.

Look at the distribution.  If your spreadsheet will draw a “best-fit” curve through the points, let it.  Bad is a curve that starts at zero, stays low through most of the groups, then surges toward infinity near the end.  Good is a flat curve.  Peculiar but good is a curve that’s flat.  Peculiar and perhaps a different problem is one which is “humped” in the middle – where your mid- and/or lower- tiered players are “better geared” than your top tiers.

If we were looking for a “perfect” Lorenze Curve of a Gini Coefficient, we’d see a straight line from zero to the top running at a 45 degree angle.  We’re not doing economics, we’re not doing the Gini, and we don’t want to get sidetracked down that road, but since it’s our starting point the knowledge does let us get some idea of “good”.

Does a “bad” curve guarantee you will have problems?  No.  Your guild may be fine with the current loot distribution scheme which brought this about.  It’s just a warning that the potential for perception of inequality exists – so you can start thinking about how to fix it.

I started this saying there were four Big Deals, then suddenly talked of the Big Three.  There’s a good reason for this, going beyond the fact I discussed personality conflicts briefly in Guild Drama.  Quite simply, the root of almost all the personality differences can be found to lie in the Big Three.  Oh, there are the occasional issues where two people just cannot stand one another, but the vast majority of time the REASON is that one perceives the other as getting, well, More Than His Share.  Of attention, of runs, of loot, in any and all combinations.   If you’ve taken the time to recognize and prepare you’ll have minimized these issues.  Sadly, you will never eliminate them.

Let me close by saying these are not the only issues, nor are what I suggest the only (or even Best) solutions.  They are what I’ve come to recognize as the most frequent causes of problems, and they are solutions I’ve seen work.  But in the end, they are all second to what IS the BEST solution – one I’ve mentioned before.

Communicate.  Talk to your guild members, and listen to them.  As long as they know they can air their grievances – and that you’ll try to fix them – you’ll overcome failing to prepare for any of these issues.  And by the same token, perfect preparation while remaining forever out of touch will result in a dead guild as everybody gives up and goes somewhere else.  Remember, all your members are volunteers.  They’re with you because they want to be with you, want what you’re offering, and are willing to do things a little differently from “all for me” to get the most fun out of it.  Kill their fun, and they’ll say goodbye.

I still can think of few things more difficult in this game – and in real life – than being a successful guild leader.  I hope I’ve give you a few thoughts to help you do that.  But whatever you do, remember rule one.

This is a GAME, it’s supposed to be Fun.  If it’s not fun, don’t do it.

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~ by Kirk on October 2, 2007.

12 Responses to “Guild Issue Resolution”

  1. I’m currently an officer in a very large guild (casual raiding guild pre BC) that is really struggling to progress through endgame content. We have Gruuls, Lurker, and VR on farm, and downed Mags once.

    We use the guild website to signup/preapprove people for raids, and start invites 30 minutes before the raid start time. We schedule things 5-6 days per week, and do not have mandatory attendence. All raiders are expected to come prepared, and buffs go out at start time, and the first pull is 3-5 minutes later, no exceptions.

    Loot is distributed using the EP/GP system, to minimize DKP hoarding and ensure that the people who put the most time/effort into raiding have the highest chance to be rewarded.

    There is a consistant core group of 12-15 well geared raiders. The rest of the raid is usually made up of whoever signed up, is online, and has the time to go. This makes for alot of inconsistancy in raids and leads to alot of downtime reexplaining strats, and at least a wipe or two due to new people gtting the hang of the fights. Therein lies the current progression issue we are having. Apparently there are alot of guilds stuck at this point in progression due to the same issue (9 guilds on my server alone between both factions), lack of consistancy. The core raiders in the guild are beyond frustrated with the situation, and some have allready left. Too alleviate this issue the officers decided to recruit raiders. This idea, while working to some degree has caused the guild to become a feeder guild that gets people geared up so they can go somewhere that is more successful. We can’t keep recruits long enough to become a more successful raid team.

    At this point, the guild is nearing the self destruct point, with all of the raiders considering leaving, and going elsewhere. As a last effort to aviod this, the guild is absorbing a smaller guild that is fully Kara geared, but doesnt have the numbers to run 25 mans. I dont know if this will work, but getting 15 more consistant well geared raiders at the same time will hopefully make enough of an impact on our raiding scene to hold things together. If not, we’re likely no worse off than we currently are.

    Any help/suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Doug, wow, and ouch. OK, I may not have a full grasp of the situation, so bear with any missteps, please.

    I’m to understand people can sign up, but that does not commit them to the raid? If so, that’s one of the places I’d consider tightening up — if you sign up and are on and say, “no thanks”, then you’re going to take a hit. Whether it’s ineligible for joining farms for a period or you subtract EP or build a database for reduction in rank / potential /gkick or, well, you get the idea. You’re in high-level and need the commitment. FWIW I’d not punish for people who don’t sign up. But sign up and not on, or worse signed up, no, but “I know I said, but not tonight dear I have a headache” is destructive.

    First time players wiping is inevitable. However, having to explain the strategies at the last moment for everyone can be an extraordinary pain. A suggestion might be a series of pre-written strategies. This can get fairly complex – you need them to read, and preferably ask questions before start. At the least you can have one strat posted on a website, which everybody who signs up for this week’s activity is required to read (proof is a comment – even “read”, but questions are ideal). More complex is to have every officer write a separate one from the point of view of each class or task (healer, tanks, dps – through healpriest, shadowpriest, frost mage… you get the idea). And again, “read and sign” at signup.

    You can supplement or supplant this with another trick. Pre-write the bare bones and critical points of the strategy. Create a series of macros that are basically /ra “message”. Before the fight, click each in turn – this will cut your typing time severely. Yes, I know you do it by talking on Vent/TS/skype/etc — I don’t know too many high-level guilds that DON’T do this. But a chained message, especially with a Raid Warning “STRATEGY IN RAID CHAT”, might save a fair amount of effort. Heck, you might do it as raid warnings – though it may cause information overload.

    Frankly, the means of getting the strategies out is secondary. It sounds to me as though it’s the people reaching burnout, and the new players trying to catch up are just exacerbating the issue. What you may have to do is cull your guild – large and full of waste is, well, you might as well be too small.

    Hopefully these spark some ideas that may resolve the problem. Regardless, good luck.

  3. We allready penalize players that sign up and were approved that dont show up. When we were learning Karazhan, we replaced the people who werent performing up to par. (We had a waitlist of the people who were signed up, but were not approved, and they parked their mains outside the instance and were ready to jump in as needed, these people recieved 50% of the EP given out for being ready/available to raid for the evening) Currently with 25 mans, we’re lucky to fill them with a semiacceptable class balance, leaving us saddled with subpar performance, and usually a wipefest.

    Our raiders do read the strats beforehand, but our excessively verbose raidleader says taking 5 extra minutes to explain things again (over vent) and set them up is better than wiping because people dont know what they’re supposed to do. The inconsistancy in attendence and peformance are the main reasons that we do things the way that we do. Heres a bit of insight on what happens in a casual raiding guild post BC: (hopefully you’ll see the frustration here)
    Last nights Gruul+Lurker was was the first time in 6 days we could actually get a 25 person group together to raid. (How does a ‘raiding’ guild with 75 different people only manage to have 25 people for a raid 1/2 of the time?)
    Here’s how things went: (this is typical of our raids)
    3shot Maulgar due to terrible spellsteal resists and a poor healing assignment, 1shot Gruul (12 growths), even though we had 5 newer people there die to the first shatter which in most cases is a definite wipe, but the core and a few others held it together and succeeded. Is it just me or does it seem like the core group is actually managing to carry 5-6 semiuseless people?
    Lurker, 3shot due to people getting used to the fight. Three people (not the new ones) somehow managed to die to the spout, regardless of the call to get in the water, and the same rogue got 1shot/cleaved by a guardian all 3 times…
    That about sums up the raiding experience in my guild.

    You sugested culling the guild, as we see it, the guild used to be a friends/family/casual raiding guild that progressed nicely through ZG/AQ20/MC/ONY/BWL. Trimming the ‘dead weight’ as far as raiding is concerned isnt really an option because most of these people are still friends/family. Thats why your suggestion wasnt the original solution to the problem. We hope that by absorbing a small raiding guild (that is frustrated by a lack of progression due to numbers as well) we can improve the raiding situation. Worst case scenario, it doesnt work, we’re no worse off, and the raiders all bail (including myself, although my alts will likely remain in the guild), and the guild loses the ‘raiding’ tag. If the raiders do leave, they would like to stay together, and would likely join up with a guild at our current point in progression that is struggling with similar consistancy issues.

  4. Doug, yeah, I see the problem. I’ve got two articles in progress that address different aspects of this, so rather than another long comment I’ll try to get them done — today if work allows, by tomorrow if not. Just… in the end there may not be a solution. sigh.

  5. Guild Absorbtion successful, their GM and 2 of their officers are now officers in my guild, and all are working to ease the transition. We have our first raid together this evening, hopefully people show up and a boss goes down. Will update you on the outcome.

  6. @ Doug good, I look forward to your success.

  7. First raid was a complete success, 2 shotted Magtheridon. We hit the jackpot and picked up some Very good players. Smoothest raid in quite a while. :)

    We did lose a few people from the guild (6 complainersand a lootwhore) That aside, I think things (on the raiding side) have really cooled off and are looking good.

  8. […] it brilliantly. I am so far in need of guild advice that I take it wherever I can, and when I read the Priestly Endeavors composition on Guild Issue Resolution, I found so much of worth for me personally I knew our readers should know about it. Yes, it was […]

  9. […] it brilliantly. I am so far in need of guild advice that I take it wherever I can, and when I read the Priestly Endeavors article on Guild Issue Resolution, I found so much of worth for me personally I knew our readers should know about it. Yes, it was […]

  10. Kirk, grats for making another brilliant post that WoW Insider called out. I hope that you are doing well and everything is moving smoothly over there.

  11. BBB, thanks. I’m beginning to feel like a semi-regular on those pages (grin).

    As to the well… private message, soonish.

  12. Great blog and advice. Guilds have trouble transitioning from 10 to 25 man raids. Often guild leaders feel they have to stop running 10 -mans (Kara) in order to focus on the 25-mans. This is a big mistake. Guilds need success to keep members. Constant wiping in 25-man raids can cause the FUN to leave the game. Your advice on scheduling is exactly what guilds need to remember. Bravo.

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