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.