The feedback to my first Officers' Quarters column made me realize something that was floating around in my head for a while but that I never fully acknowledged: It's usually the guild leadership that causes a guild to collapse. I don't have any hard data to prove this statement. However, from what I've seen on my server and heard about on others, the cause of a guild's demise is much more likely to be its officers than its nonofficer members.
It's obvious when you think about it: A guild's leadership defines not only the guild's rules and regulations, but its philosophy, purpose, and culture. When its purpose is to do what the GL wants and its philosophy is to do what the GL says, that is a guild headed for extinction.
From time to time I'll be bringing you a feature in addition to my weekly Monday-morning posts. Today's feature will explain how to destroy your guild in seven easy steps.
1) Invite everyone. That 10-year old warlock whose dad obviously helped him fill out the app. That warrior in Serpentshrine gear who wants to switch guilds so he can raid more. That guildless hunter who melee'd his way through the Ring of Blood quests with you. There are often many warning signs that someone may not be the right fit for you guild -- ignore them at your peril.
2) Put a greedy player in charge of the guild bank. It happens to the best of us: Something shiny and purple drops from a trash mob in a Steamvault pug, and you think to yourself, "Sure, I have no real use for a Don Santos' Famous Hunting Rifle, but I sure would look cool walking around Orgrimmar with it." You might pass on that gun in favor of a more appropriate (and eternally grateful) class, or roll on it to give to someone in your guild, but you still think about equipping it just to see how often it procs. Now imagine that tempation -- times a hundred -- staring you in the face day after day. And the day when all of your void crystals, rare recipes, and BOE epics are liquidated, you can always blame Blizzard for not implementing a real guild bank feature. But the truth is, most people are only human: Your bank ninja gave in to temptation, and you made a costly error in judgment.
3) Let drama spiral out of control. Two things are inevitable in MMOs: There won't be enough healers but there will be more than enough drama for everybody. Even the smallest guilds have it from time to time, but the larger your roster is, the more likely it's happening right now as you're tabbed out and reading this. Deciding when to step in and get involved can be difficult, but in my experience it's always better to do it sooner rather than later. If your members are using GEM to schedule a sock party for the shaman who thinks guild chat is his personal sounding board for dating advice, it's probably too late.
4) Make all your real life friends officers. You may have known that guy since he helped you do a keg stand freshman year, but just because he bought the game and figured out which server you're on doesn't automatically qualify him to become second-in-command. If everyone leading the guild lives in a 5-mile radius from your house, you'll have an easy time organizing officers' meetings. But you might also alienate everyone outside that radius.
5) Give players no incentive to be loyal. Warcraft is a tough game to run a guild in because there are absolutely zero built-in rewards for guild participation and loyalty. All incentives to stay have to come from the guild members themselves, and most often from the officers. And in a lot of cases, "Stick around -- we're running Black Morass Heroic tomorrow" isn't going to cut it. A DKP system is one way to keep players from jumping ship without at least sleeping on it first, though it is certainly not for every guild. Another is to assign ranks based on certain requirements like the amount of time someone has been a member. Then give players of higher ranks certain perks they normally wouldn't have access to.
6) Create an Orwellian dystopia. Are you and your fellow officers compassionate leaders with every member's best interests at heart? Does anyone who says otherwise mysteriously disappear? You can tell your members that a guild is not a democracy (and in the end, it isn't). But no one wants to live under a faceless dictator. Your don't have to call for a guild-wide vote on every decision that gets made, but if you're about to do something unpopular, you have an obligation to explain why you feel it is the best course of action. Shouting down disagreement might seem like fun for the talking heads on Fox News, but their ratings say otherwise.
7) Type /gdisband. I know there's got to be at least one person out there who was joking around and typed the command into the chat window with a friend looking over their shoulder, and then that friend decided it would be absolutely hysterical to reach over and smash the Enter key. Have fun buying a new charter and reinviting everyone -- if they decide they still want to be in a guild run by an idiot.
Those are just a few ways to destroy a guild, but the means of doing so are practically infinite. I'm curious to hear about some of the astonishing and bizarre circumstances that have led to the disbanding of a WoW guild. E-mail them to me or post them below!
I'd also like to thank everyone for your feedback so far and for being patient with me while I sort it all out. I will address several of your questions in Monday's regularly scheduled column -- and more in the future!