Building A Successful Guild
With LotD having been around nearly 25 years, played multiple games, and having a good track record for each guild game we often get asked for advice from others on how to build a lasting and successful guild. Our primer is mainly designed for a new guild master or a guild master of a competitive guild (larger than 25 people) who are moving their guild to a new game for the first time. Without writing a novel, I’ll cover some of the core elements that have helped us last through the years and remain competitive in each game we’ve played.
It all starts at the top with a stable leadership core that knows how to plan, develop a consistent set of standards, delegate and supervise to implement the plan and to ensure that critical timelines are being met. Good leadership can make or break a guild, and many new guilds or guilds trying to make a transition to their second MMO fail due to breakdowns in the leadership.
A guild must also take the time to develop junior leadership that can quickly fill key roles in the event that a senior leader has to step aside, or if a senior leader has to be removed for other reasons. Guilds should have a good set of policies and procedures in place that allow for talented members to slowly ease into positions of escalating responsibility and authority. Properly trained and oriented junior leadership can be an asset to a guild, but poorly trained junior leaders can cause all sorts of problems.
Policies and Procedures
Believe it or not, a set of standard policies and procedures can save a guild lots of headaches. I don’t know how many guilds I’ve seen fall apart because members got special treatment, promoted, or discipline without regard to any set standard. In LotD, every member is evaluated, promoted, demoted, or booted according to our by-laws. In instances where our by-laws haven’t been followed by the leadership, the Elder Council has overturned junior leadership decisions and sanctioned those leaders. Some policies on behavior, expectations, etc need to be tailored for the game being played but its always a good idea to have some universal standards and expectations for the membership.
Standardized procedures are also a good thing. Having a basic start-up plan, standards for certain activities that are fairly universal no matter the game, PVP standard operating procedures, etc are all ideal to have. Once you establish basic procedures, then you just need to modify the parts that are new to the game you are presently playing. For example, in LotD we have standardized PVP Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). These SOP’s cover how we organize for PVP by going over how we prepare, what some critical roles are, what each class is expected to do, and some basic strategies we employ on certain maps or zones. Having standardized procedures helps us with new member orientation and training. The newbie member who shows up to his first PVP practice with an obvious lack of knowledge of our procedures isn’t allowed to run with our groups until they show they understand the basics.
Taking Your Guild Across Games
In instances where your guild is starting new or transitioning to another game, your leadership will need to do some careful planning. How long is your setup time going to be? How do you plan to handle recruitment? How many of your existing members are likely to transition? What resources is the guild likely to need, and how soon? Who do you have that will be able to fill key leadership roles in the new game?
Guilds don’t fall apart because they plan to fail, they fall apart because they fail to plan.
We usually consider our setup phase of a new game to be the 45-60 day mark, and we plan certain milestones into that time period for where we want the guild to be by that time. We consider the operational phase to be the 60-90 day mark, and by the end of that period, we want to have the guild engaging in its long term strategy for that particular game.
In a sense, you have to treat a guild like a business. You have to do your homework on the new game you are going to, create a setup plan, create an operational plan to maintain after the setup is done, and then follow through accordingly.
While nice to imagine, it is highly unlikely that your guild will retain the same membership year after year and game after game. In 12 years LotD has rebuilt 80% of its membership in each new game it has played, trained and oriented that new membership, and then gone on to achieve success. Members that do not follow the guild into every single game are placed into a certain membership category, and members who do follow the guild from game to game are put into another membership category.
Either way its highly likely that LotD or any other guild will have to rebuild its membership for new games. This is where planning, leadership, and policies all become critical because new members have to be recruited, trained and oriented, and brought up to a certain level of performance usually within 60-90 days. If you are still struggling with new membership training and orientation issues after the 90-day point, the odds of your success in that game go down considerably and it shows in your guild’s overall game progression. After 90 days of retail release, the player base on a server usually becomes mature, and it becomes harder to maintain continuous recruitment if potential applicants see your guild still mired in growing pains.
Personnel activity is fluid though, and you always have to have a game plan to deal with normal attrition. I advise a continuous recruitment process and recruiting what you need as you need it. Eventually, though a game matures and a server matures to where recruitment becomes difficult, and at that point, your leadership has to consider options such as server transfers or whether or not its time to move on to the next game. Once you lose the ability to recruit, its only a matter of time before guild effectiveness is eroded. If a guild waits too long to make decisions, it can lose its core members to guilds that are more proactive or guilds that are moving to other games.
In this day and age, voice chat is all the rage. Any guild worth its salt is going to have discord, or some voice server capacity. Things happen so fast in games these days, that you just don’t have time to sit there and type in text chat commands to people. For day to day coordination, it is imperative that you establish some sort of voice-based communications capacity.
On the flip side though voice chat makes people lazy. The guild leadership must take time to establish policies and procedures on its website or in forums, make regular news announcements, and ensure that their members are reading the updates. Otherwise, you waste time and productivity with having to constantly explain what’s going on to every idiot who’s too lazy to take five minutes a day to check the forums. Voice chat is great for coordinating activities, but it sucks ass for long term planning and organization.
Figure out what works for you, but beware of the trap that voice chat can create.
Whether its PVE or PVP, the leadership should have a strategy for guild progression. The strategy should be both realistic, and obtainable without requiring the membership to feel like the game is a full-time job. It is also advisable to regularly check your strategies, and update them based on existing conditions.
Establishing class leads, PVP coordinators, etc is very helpful for keeping the guild organized and to assist in creating optimal group configurations. With good coordination and communication amongst your leads or coordinators, creating optimal group configurations is usually not very difficult. Sure you can advance to the end game without an optimal group configuration, but you usually get there faster with the best group configuration possible.
I wouldn’t be too strict on forcing people to play a certain class, but you have to encourage members to roll things needed to fill gaps or be able to recruit the types of classes you need. Class makeup and group configurations can make or break your progression so it’s important to balance the needs of the guild vs the class needs of the guild.
A nerf here or there could totally gimp a character class while making another character class powerful. These types of changes could require individuals to reroll and level new characters and could affect guild progression in the meantime. Whatever the situation keep your members actively doing something that contributes to the overall guild goals.
Public Relations and News
One way to keep your guild in the public eye is to make periodic announcements about relevant activities, events, or achievements. This shouldn’t be overdone or the public will get “your guild” fatigue, but its certainly acceptable from time to time. By keeping your guild in the public eye, it can also help to attract new recruits over time.
Regular guild news is also a good way to keep your membership informed about guild events, planned activities, outlining goals, and setting preferred activities for your membership during a given time. I like to release monthly newsletters, internally, on guild chapter forums to that everyone knows what the expectations and priorities are for that month. When members know what to do or what the priorities are for a given time period, they usually become more productive.
Last but not least we have member discipline. Most members integrate well, but from time to time there’s always that one person who feels he’s god’s gift to your guild. This is gut-check time because sometimes you have to boot that guy and all his friends who came with him. Personally, I believe it’s acceptable to suffer a temporary setback in order to remove a cancerous member and his supporters within the guild than to let them fester and grow. Games like World of Warcraft that require a perfect combination of so many people or so many of each class do make one hesitant to boot someone and their friends at times, but letting cancerous people remain in your guild can doom the entire guild. We have booted recruits, full members, and even Elders over 12 years when they got too big for their britches, but those things are required if you want to stand the test of time.
So this has been a short primer, and I covered the things that I feel are most important. If you’ve got more things to add, feel free to let us know in our forums.