Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.
"You can punish bad behavior in your guild by having a leader talk to the person causing trouble."
-- WorldofWarcraft.com's Game Guide
Blizzard's official site can help you do many things. It can help you communicate your grievances to a customer service representative. It can help you figure out when the Darkmoon Faire will be setting up camp in Mulgore. It can even help you spy on the competition. But it is remarkably ill-equipped to help you run a guild. So where do you go for a little advice when drama explodes in your face like a backfiring Goblin trinket? For myself, I've basically had to wing it. But I'm here to make sure you don't have to. I'll discuss some ideas about how to punish guild members in a moment. Since this is my inaugural column, however, allow me to introduce myself first.
Hi. My name is Scott and I'm a GL. In fact, I've been a GL of a single WoW guild for longer than just about anybody. My guild was founded in January 2005, about a month after the original game's launch. Because I was the first person of our group of friends who bought the game (and therefore had the highest level character at that time – a mighty level 40 or so), it fell to me to set up the guild. It was my first time running a guild in an MMO. My previous leadership positions included senior patrol leader of a Boy Scout troop and editor-in-chief of my college's literary journal – not exactly good preparation for the sheer insanity that can confront the leader of an online guild.
Through the years, I've seen it all: the humble beginnings as a small group of friends, the horrendous recruiting mistakes as we tried to expand, the guild alliances, the guild mergers, the guild schisms, the ninjas, the drama queens, the glory of a new boss vanquished and the frustration of that last 5% your raid can never seem to outlast. We are still going strong more than two years later with a membership of almost 200 accounts. And while we aren't always the most progressed raiding guild on the server, we are one of the most respected. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't damn proud of that tag under my character's name.
When things aren't going so well, any GL can say to their members, "Don't like it? Leave." But to run a successful guild -- one in which every member has fun playing the game while meeting their goals -- can be extraordinarily difficult. This is the first of a new WoW Insider column where I will share with you some of my hard-earned wisdom gained through trial and tribulation, and I'm hoping you will share yours with me. Together we can help each other figure out just what the heck being a GL or an officer is all about, and what to do when the felhound poo hits the fan.
So send me your questions, conundrums, ideas, suggestions, and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them below. I don't claim to have all the answers -- no one does. But I will do my best to share with you the lessons I've learned.
This week I will address the issue so neatly wrapped up in a little bow by the authors of Blizzard's Game Guide in the quote above: punishing bad behavior.
As a GL, this is one of the trickiest situations you can face. You don't want to come off as a weak-willed substitute teacher who talks a big game but doesn't really care enough to follow through with your threats. If your members don't take you seriously, you have no way to enforce the rules. You also don't want to be a trigger-happy ogre booting anyone who causes a problem. In short order, you'll be in a guild with one lonely but remarkably well-behaved person: You.
The best way to deal with punishment (as even Warcraft's Game Guide can attest) is to establish penalties ahead of time and stick to them. If the consequence of a blatant ninja move is a /gkick, then don't waffle at the last minute because the person said their cat got run over. You're just inviting people to flaunt the rules.
This is especially important when the offender is an officer or a personal friend. It can be difficult to bring the hammer down on someone you're close to, but you have to follow through. If there's a different set of rules for officers or your friends than for other members, people will catch on to it. Their resentment will create a divide between the officers' inner circle and everyone else.
Make the consequences publicly available. You don't have to list every single thing someone can do wrong, but anything that results in a specific action on your part should be noted. The greatest thing about predetermined penalties is that no one can really argue with you about them (though you can be certain they'll try). Also, if someone from outside the guild is unhappy with your decision regarding an incident, you can point to your rules as a rebuttal. Figuring out who's telling the truth in an interguild dispute is a matter for another column . . .
Some punishment ideas:
Public apology: This is one of my favorites. Maybe it's because most of my guild is American, but some people just HATE to apologize, especially in public.
- Volunteer night: Assign a two-hour period where the person has to help out any member who requests it, whether it's running a lowbie alt through WC or grinding cobras for scales.
- Donation to guild bank: Much like a "swear jar," sometimes the most effective punishment is to hit a player in the wallet. Don't ask for gold. That's shady. Instead, have the offender donate potions, crafting materials, or other items that can be used to help others. Make sure everyone knows that the stuff is available so they can request it. Never let an officer use these items or you will face accusations of corruption.
- Riding the pine: If you're in a guild that can afford to bench members during key raids, it's not a bad idea to put someone on timeout for a week while they cool their heels.
- 50 DKP MINUS!: In my guild we don't use this one. People put a lot of time and effort into making the guild's raids successful and they shouldn't have to fear losing the fruits of their hard-earned labor. We prefer to suspend someone's DKP-spending privileges for a fixed number of bosses. The only way they can spend points on an item during this time is if it would be sharded otherwise.
- The dreaded /gkick: Sometimes you have no other choice. Always make sure the person being kicked understands why it's happening to them. Make the guild aware of the situation, but don't go into more detail than necessary. Finally, don't actually use the /gkick function unless you absolutely have to. Ask the person to /gquit instead. The end result is the same, but it allows a certain measure of dignity for the person leaving, even if they don't deserve it.