How do you drive the progress of a WoW raiding guild?
So far I’ve discussed in quite general terms the kinds of guilds you can see running around in World of Warcraft, why they exist, and their drives and purposes. Next, I covered in quite grizzly and unpleasant detail who the most common characters in a hardcore guild are.
Now that you know the why, and the who, it’s time to talk about how you progress as a guild. I’ve missed out a few steps here (and I will go back to them in future articles), but the question that most often plagues me as a guild leader is: What do I do now? You have a choice to make, and you have to make the right choice in a timely fashion.
This could be something as simple as ‘Do we go to A or B instance?’ but in the grand scale of things, as the leader of the guild (and the raid) you’re going to be the sole decision maker during your (hopefully long) reign. The number of times I’ve wished someone was there to help me make a decision is uncomfortably large; and we’re not talking 1 or 2 decisions a day, we’re talking 50, 100 or 200 little decisions each and every raid. Let me give you a brief example:
Do you wipe another time on that boss encounter, or do you give up for the night? If you stop now, have you spared some guild morale? Maybe you would’ve killed him on the next attempt? Are you going to lose to another guild if you don’t stay an extra hour? Will that extra hour cause unrest amongst the workers in your guild that must be up early in the morning? If you give up, maybe you’ll upset The Killers that are only there for the kill, the fresh taste of blood.
And that’s just one decision! By the end of this article, if you’re a guild or raid leader, you’ll have a much better idea of the _best_ choices to make for the ongoing survival and progress of your guild. If you’re not a raid leader, perhaps by the end of this article you’ll appreciate why us raid leaders always look like we’ve only got 3 blood vessels left – it’s because we do only have 3 blood vessels left — the others were lost in Tempest Keep and Naxxramas…
I’m going to assume, for the sake of brevity and simplicity that the guild leader is a tyrant. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just mean that you are the sole leader of a guild and that there is little or no bureaucracy in the decision making process. Being able to make snap decisions can be vital to the continuing success of your guild, and ultimately… progress!
Types of Decision
Before I get into the ‘decision making process’, it’s good to understand what kind of decisions there are. Some have immediate impact and some are much longer-range ‘for the future’, but both will have a long-lasting effect on the guild if you get it wrong. The decisions you make in a guild (and raid) generally boil down into just a few types:
These are decisions that affect the long-term survivability of the guild, from expansion to expansion. Get one of these wrong and you likely won’t see any problems for a while, but when they do finally rear their ugly heads, it’ll be rough going. These will make or break your guild in the long-run.
- What DKP system should you use?
- Should you recruit more players before the next dungeon is released?
- Is a particular class officer pulling his or her weight?
Day to day decisions
These are decisions that have more immediate implications. Often these are to do with raiding, as that’s what your guild will often be doing on any given day.
- What kind of raiding schedule should you use?
- What dungeon should you raid?
- How do you decide on who gets invited to raids?
Finally we have the hardest decisions – the ones that you’ll often have to make on your own. These are snap decisions that need to be made within a few seconds. You don’t have the safety of a forum to hide behind for these – you have to decide now, and it better be a good decision! (The example I gave above illustrates a chain of immediate decisions)
- Do you kick a player from the raid?
- Do you deduct DKP from a player when they make a mistake?
- Do you change a boss encounter strategy after using the same one for a few nights?
What decisions are important?
Depending on the type of guild you belong to (hardcore or ‘normal raiding’), various decisions will have a different weighting: A normal raiding guild is unlikely to care quite so much about the raiding schedule, but for a hardcore progressive guild the correct schedule can mean the difference between world 1st kill or being 10th.
It is your job, then, as a guild (and raid leader) to make the right decisions for your guild in a timely fashion. I’m going to break down the decision making process for my 2 raiding guild types (go and read it if you haven’t already, as this won’t make too much sense otherwise), defining what constitutes an important decision and, by exclusion, what doesn’t.
(I have left ‘casual guilds’ out of the equation, as raiding is something they so rarely do.)
Hardcore Progressive Guild
In a hardcore progressive guild (HPG) your decisions are going to revolve around making good, instantaneous calls of judgement. Because players in HPGs are wound so incredibly tight (and really, anything could make them snap – especially The Killers or The Dramatics), the tiniest of decisions that you make today could avalanche way out of control, costing you a handful of players at a later date.
You are leading passionate players, players that play to win. That’s not to say that fun isn’t important to these players, but winning is more so – either the worldwide race, or at least the server race for a glorious ‘first kill’. Therefore, decisions that impact a player’s ability to ‘win’ are by far the most dangerous in a HPG. Here are some common stumbling blocks that you might’ve encountered, or you should avoid:
- An unfair loot distribution system — This is probably the number 1 cause of disbanded guilds. This deserves its own article, so be sure to read it when I write it!
- Cancelling raids – The single best way to get Killers to leave your guild: cancelling raids. This is why having active class leaders and a good recruitment system is very important. It also makes sense to design the raid schedule around the days with best attendance.
- Unfair persecution — This is likely to cause a lot of pain, especially if you persecute a Dramatic. You might find that the unfairly persecuted Dramatic will play the role of the politician and breed anger and distrust behind your back.
The Raiding Guild
A raiding guild is a lot slower moving but also tends to be a breeding pit of agitation and discontent. You are likely to have a lot more factions in a raiding guild – nationalities, real life friends, etc. It is not uncommon for such a guild to be ‘cliquey’ and split into the ‘hardcore crew’ that always get invited to raids, and the ‘casual raiders’ that fill the gaps. Raiding guilds are much more about the interaction of players, rather than focusing on conquering the content of the game. This isn’t to say they don’t want to clear the content; it’s more that they don’t raid enough to keep themselves occupied, so their attention inevitably turns towards… drama.
You are far more likely to have a player walk out of a raid in a ‘normal’ raiding guild. Perhaps even more so than in the HPG, you need to be very, very fair. A raiding guild is all about the structure you build, rather than the individual player skill. As such, you the common problems you’ll bump into when making decisions are:
- Unfair loot distribution — The leaders of raiding guilds tend to be slightly less ‘serious’, and see less of a problem assigning loot in the way they deem best, or ‘most fair’. You can be assured that giving loot to your real life friends before everyone else is a very quick way to destroy your guild.
- Acting above your station — In a normal raiding guild you are more of a lieutenant than a major. You are certainly leading the raid, but don’t even begin to think that you know other classes better than your own. Telling someone ‘how to play’ is a pretty bad idea. Stick to peripheral decisions, like ‘this is the boss strategy should we use’.
- Choosing the wrong dungeon – A common mistake made by raiding guild leaders is choosing the wrong dungeon to progress in. Either the raid leader isn’t clued up enough, or they are trying to close the gap between them and more hardcore guild. Skipping content and thus making life unnecessarily hard is a bad idea; unless you are trying to become a hardcore progressive guild!
How do I push the guild forward then?
By now, if you’ve read everything I’ve written, you should be quite intimate with the kinds of players in your particular kind of guild. You should know what pleases them the most (boss kills!), and what is likely to upset them quickly (unfairness!). The plan must surely be to build a guild that cultivates member happiness and eliminates any cause for unrest, or distrust in you as a leader.
The best way to quell any kind of discontent or uprising is, as you guessed from the title of this entry, progress. The best way to destroy a guild’s attempts at progress is the opposite: stagnation. It’s your job as the leader to keep things moving — it doesn’t matter where particularly, as long as it’s somewhere – to the side or hopefully forward — from where you are right now.
How do you choose where to go? How do you stop your raids stagnating?
You try to reduce the blunt trauma of raiding. Raiding is repetitive. Humans are very good at repetition, until they master it, and then it very quickly becomes boring. This is in fact why we, as humans, like to mix things up. It’s why those Dramatics like to stir the guild with a big stick and see what happens. It’s why the Killers want to try a new way of killing a boss each week. It’s why the Silent But Deadly players enjoy nothing more than theory crafting a new ‘better’ strategy.
Let’s face it: WoW is about having fun. You can try to convince yourself otherwise — ‘Raiding 10 hours a day means we’re the best!!’ — but at the end of the day, if you want to avoid massive churn and the joy of recruiting new raiders every week, the guild has to have fun. The only real questions you have to ask are: what constitutes fun for the members of my guild? What makes it a game?
Your decisions therefore must create fun. As I said in the example earlier, it’s entirely your decision: Do you go home, or do you stay for one more try? Ask yourself ‘which is more fun for the guild?’ It is sadly a question I can’t answer in definite terms; it’s about your personal leadership experience, and knowing who you play with. It’s about judging the mood of the raid, or even the guild – do you need that kill for guild morale? Or do you need to go and lick your wounds?
In my guild, there have been times when I’ve gone home, and there are those few fateful times where staying for that last try has resulted in us obtaining a server first kill. You can’t always make the right decision; you can only try and learn from experience! The only real difference today I can make the right decision 90% of the time, instead of 50%.
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve written this article from a much more personal, empirical perspective. That’s because what I’ve written here is the ‘secret’ of how I have led my guild (with many helping hands) from a server 15th (!!) kill of Ragnaros 3 years ago, to 30th in the world (as of Patch 3.0.9). I’m actually an incredibly soft leader, nearly always choosing the ‘easy’ way out — going home, or cancelling the raid, instead of wiping mindlessly — but as I have tried to explain: what makes a guild happy varies wildly from guild to guild. What I’ve given you here is a basic set of ground rules that can help you keep a raiding guild happy and moving forward!
Furthermore, while this article was written from the perspective of a tyrannical leader, there are perhaps better alternatives – our guild runs a ‘[dual leader]’ system, for example – but at the end of the day, the key is to be a fair and just leader. This certainly isn’t as easy as it sounds and it’s no wonder we have very few dictatorships in real life. If tyranny isn’t for you, I will explore different leadership styles in the future: tyrannies, multi-leader councils and of course… communism!
I understand this entry actually raises more questions than it answers, and for that I apologise. I will hopefully fix that with the next few articles that I write. The next one will focus on the most evil of all MMORPG beasties: the mighty destroyer of guilds… fair loot distribution!
If you have any questions about the issues or topics raised here, I’m more than happy to answer them. You can ask them in a comment, or email me using this form.