At first glance, the tip 15 Minutes of Fame first received from Nocturne on the Khadgar realm appeared to be one of that "Interview my GM; he's the coolest evah!" kind of tips: "very helpful to all players"; "truthful"; "anxious to make compromises that suit all players"; blahblahblah ... But buried near the end of the note, we spotted this little gem: "We have a rotating GM system which sees all officers take a spot in the leader chair! Weird, huh?"
Being insatiably curious about anything even remotely "Weird, huh?" -- as well as harboring a voyeuristic fascination with what most people would consider the train wreck of leadership by committee – we hit the Reply button. What we found at the other end: a fun-loving group of European raiders that rotates administrative tasks so that everyone gets the chance to relax and enjoy the fruits of their common effort. We visited with a half-dozen of the officers' cadre to uncover the secrets of their success.
Anyone who's been around the block in the workplace knows that "leadership by committee" is an oxymoron. And anyone who's been around the block in a guild knows that a strong central leadership is integral to longevity and progress – or is it? Not if you're the Nocturne guild of Khadgar. Nocturne has developed what member/officer Kaleel calls a "collective" comprised of a few officers, a rotating leadership that changes monthly and a mission statement leading the guild through the high-level raids and instances.
The consensus on the collective: It works. "We have come from a small group of people unable to down The Curator to a guild that runs two Karazhan groups each week on a farm status, runs heroics regularly and is now clearing Gruul's Lair with diversions such as Doom Lord Kazzak from time to time," Kaleel reports. "Our leaders are competent, run raids in a friendly way and don't shout at people when they make mistakes. We do not run DKP and don't believe in it; we like to be generous towards each other within the guild."
Ever curious to learn more, 15 Minutes of Fame rounded up a handful of Nocturne's officer/leaders for a Q&A:
- Shalorra, a Warlock from the United Kingdom
- Kaleel, a Druid from the United Kingdom
- Morgaroth, a Warrior from Sweden
- Petshak, a Hunter from Hungary
- Frossti, a Mage from Denmark
- Welcar, a Priest from the United Kingdom
15 Minutes of Fame: How did you come up with the idea of having all the officers rotate through the GM's position? Did you ever use a more traditional approach?
Shalorra: I think the idea came about when I agreed to set up Nocturne. Many of us came from the ashes of the previous guild I had run for about 14 to 15 months, and one of the conditions I made when I agreed to set the guild up was that responsibility would be more evenly shared out amongst the officers. The rotating GM concept came about as a consequence of this.
Petshak: We did use the traditional way (before), and after one and a half year, Shalorra became fed up with the GM post and he decided it's more like a work now, not a game anymore. If a game that you would like to enjoy becomes "no fun," you have to change something. This is the main reason why we decided to rotate the GM post around each other and share the problems within the officers.
Frossti: Don´t know whose idea it really was, but it seems fine to me, as we split the guild work between us. It also gives all guild members the best treatment in the end, as it is not just one person's meaning that controls guild. We talk stuff out so everyone get the issues seen from all sides.
So what responsibilities does the GM have that the officers don't?
Kaleel: The responsibilities are identical; the GM is just the first port of call. Also, each GM has his own goals and ideas which he can implement; e.g., Welcar/Galatea decided to bring a class leader system into place this month.
Frossti: Even though we are a set of good people, there could come up issues that we just couldn't find a solution to. In that case, it is good to have a GM who could do the last word.
Welcar: At its simplest terms, the GM has final say over any matter in the guild, regardless of the officers' views. In reality, we discuss it in the officers' channel, and then the decision is announced/acted on by the GM. The officer rank has almost full access, as the GM position is more a chairman of the board, not a king/queen ruling over the rest.
Tell us how the actual rotation process works. How long does each person stay in the GM's seat? What determines who goes next?
Shalorra: When I started Nocturne, I stayed as GM for about six weeks to get things going and off the ground. I then handed the baton on to another officer, and each officer does a stint for one calendar month on a rotation basis.
Kaleel: We pretty much randomly decided who would be in which order at the start. Whilst I was GM, I put a list together for each calendar month and people made slight changes. (Shal, for instance, has holidays in April so opted out of that month in exchange for a different one.)
Morgaroth: We try to rotate on a monthly basis. The next GM for each month is the person who will be online most of the time; some months can be hard to be online very much due to RL work, etc.
Do all the officers share the same responsibilities, or do you split up and rotate those duties as well?
Shalorra: We do try to share responsibility out amongst the officers. We make collective recruitment decisions, and all applicants must apply on the guild website in the first instance. Similarly, when guild members want expensive items or loans from the guild back, we just decide on the officers chat channel informally whether or not to do this.
The GM is more of a figurehead and decides how to implement the direction of the guild during their tenure. They set up raids and also things like group quest evenings where a group of people can sign up to do, say, the Ogri'la quests in an evening for whichever guild members need that. The overall direction of the guild stays the same, but the "look and feel" for the month tends to reflect the current GM's persona more. This month, our GM is a mother whose son is also in the guild, so we're looking at raiding at more "family-friendly" times as an experiment.
Kaleel: It's a case of whoever is online deals with minor problems. Anything major we will discuss in forums, so everybody gets a say. And amongst the six officers, the only classes not covered are rogues and shamans, so if people want class advice, they are pointed towards the officer who plays that class most.
Frossti: It seems we have the same responsibilities. No one is told directly to do specific things, but of course we know each other and therefore also know what the different officers are best at.
Welcar: Some officers have shown themselves to be better at certain aspects of the guild, so tend to take on those roles. Shalorra, for example, runs our website and is generally first point of contact for new members. Cirka has handled the recent applications very well, Kaleel/Welcar arrange raid slots, etc. Any of us can assign bank items, invite new members, issue promotions, etc., and those are more ad-hoc events. We don't have specific rotations for those, but I think we're encouraged to try our hand at each one.
What makes this rotating GM concept work for Nocturne? What does everyone like about it?
Shalorra: We think the rotating concept works because it stops the guild being so dependent on one person as the overall leader and decision-maker. It also stops that person becoming totally exhausted doing it (which is what happened to me when I ran the previous guild). Lastly, it means the guild has a more democratic approach, which we find appeals to the sort of players we want to attract.
Kaleel: It's an easy way for everyone to share the burden. As it has been this way from the start, people don't think too much as to who is GM; they think of the officers. (I have noticed, though, that if I deal with a recruitment application, that player will normally come to me because they know me.)
Morgaroth: I think it's a unique way of working together, instead of just having one person to do all the things. Everyone likes it because it's working very well, and people don't have to stress too much.
Petshak: This system makes our life easier. The officers become happier, and I think fun is the key to enjoy the game as a part of the team.
Frossti: I really like that it is not just one person that has to decide everything for so many people. I want issues to be treated fairly, and as we are more than just one person to look at the issues, we also get more than one meaning -- and from that, we find the best solution. In the end, we are all humans and therefore I believe we have to be nice and fair to our guild family.
Welcar: Pressure. In our last guild, no matter how much responsibility was given out to the officers and what they tried to take charge of, one person was always seen as the leader. People would naturally go to them first for almost every problem/question/request. Nocturne was created around the concept of the shared running, and that allows for the officers to be both more involved with the guild and have less overall pressure. I also believe it allows the players to develop themselves and take on a role they wouldn't have normally considered. That leads to better understanding of the game and more confident people. The first time one of our officers took the raid leader position for Karazhan, for example, he had two other officers along helping with marking up, boss tactics, reassuring support, etc. -- but the confidence boost was apparent to everyone. It's amazing how many people have never been given the opportunity to be master looter or marker on a raid. Give them the chance to prove themselves, and be pleased with the results. I know I have been!
Shalorra: I've served as GM, of course, as I set the guild up. I also ran my previous guild as I mentioned above. I'd say that at the moment, I do actually prefer the GM role, as people still often perceive me as the GM -- so I have to refer them to the current incumbent! But over time this approach will lead to a better balanced and stronger guild, so I just need to be patient.
Kaleel: I enjoyed my month as GM, as it saw the guild clear 90% of Kara, which was my main goal. We spent ages banging our head against the Curator and downed him just before I took over. Although I wasn't at a lot of the raids due to RL work, it was good hearing the discussions of how things improved as more and more bosses were on farm.
Morgaroth: I was the GM last month and I think it worked out well. The thing I noticed was that I got a lot more questions and stuff like that than (as) an officer. For one month, it's fun to get so much attention, but being a GM for a long period without any breaks from it becomes more like a job than enjoying the game.
Petshak: I have not served as a GM yet; I think May will be mine. I have the poorest English in our guild, and it's better for me to see how the others are doing it before I start it. But when my time comes, I want to do my best.
Frossti: Yes, I am actually GM ATM. I don´t mind if I am an officer or a GM, as we talk about all stuff that comes up. The rotating system just makes us know for real that we have to talk through stuff and it is not just said as we (each think it should be).
Welcar: I was a bit nervous about my first day as GM but quickly relaxed, as I found the rest of the officers were just as supportive as I hoped. It gave me a chance to develop some ideas I had for the guild, and I look forward to seeing how they develop under a new GM. I enjoyed my time as GM. It gave me a chance to interact with the guild in an important way but didn't leave me feeling out of my depth. There were even times when I could assign jobs to the other officers and sit back with nothing to do!
We've seen plenty of guilds where even players who had belonged the guild for years weren't sure what officer to contact for particular questions or how to get the help or answers they needed. How do you prevent confusion among your players over who to ask and where to go for help?
Kaleel: They players can come to any officer over any problem (within the guild or outside
problems). If that officer can't help, they will ask each other through forums/officers' chat, and we work together to solve people's problems. Like they say, six heads are better than one.
Morgaroth: Our players know us pretty well. We encourage people to contact one of the officers if they have problems with something. To new people who join, it might cause a bit of confusion in the beginning, but that usually doesn't last for long.
Welcar: Currently, our players know that they can ask any of the officers for general questions/help/advice, and we'll try our best to help. We don't have only one person who can allocate bank items, for example. Queries regarding class effects/spells/talents are usually taken by one of the officers who has experience in that field. We are looking into assigning class leaders, to give people a recognized contact point for such queries, but it's still in the officer discussion stage. All our officers are happy to make use of our web forums, so any queries, notes, "I've done/said this to So-and-So..." can be recorded and discussed.
Kaleel tells me that not all members of Nocturne are native English-speakers. What is the predominant language of the guild? Do you run into any language-based problems when playing as a group?
Shalorra: The predominant language of the guild is English. Raid chat and guild chat must be in English, but individual groups can choose a common language if they prefer, of course. We have quite a mix of people from all over Europe, and so far it's not been an issue on either TeamSpeak or text chatting.
Kaleel: The only problems we have are very minor, i.e. someone forgets a word or two, and is always easily solved after a second or two of description or memory coming back.
Morgaroth: Our officers are all pretty good in reading and typing English, but sometimes, some expressions or certain words can need more explaining. Overall, we understand each other pretty well.
Petshak: It's the problem for me, but I think I have only a few times when the English speakers whisper me like "??". Currently, I think my spoken English is better than my typed one, but my guild members have never heard my voice because my son destroyed my microphone, and until we run 25-man raids, it's not necessary. Now that we have started Gruul, I have to point my head to the closest computer store to buy one.
Frossti: Well, I am one of those who doesn't have English as my main language, but I haven't had any big issues about it. We have my son in guild, too, and he isn´t very good in English. Then I or another Danish-speaking (player) communicate with him on Skype while the rest are on TS and tell (him) what he needs to do. We make somebody hand over the message. I believe my son is the only one who isn´t great at English, so it really isn't an issue.
Welcar: We have players from all over Europe, it seems! However, the main language remains English in text and voice chat. There are slight communication issues sometimes, but nothing that can't be worked around by in-guild translations. It always amazes me how well non-English players can understand and speak in the game. I know it's not always easy for them, and at times we've had a boss fight explained in English and then again in Dutch so everyone is happy. I always try to be clear and concise when I'm typing or speaking in raids, so everyone can focus on the important things!
Think Nocturne sounds like the guild you've been looking for? If you're on Khadgar, they may be looking for you, too. Kaleel writes: "If you think you'd fit into an informal, relaxed guild that knows how to have fun and won't make you do anything you don't want to, then you might be just the sort of player we want. All applications must take place via our guild website, and we're based on the Khadgar realm in the EU. If you've found yourself a bit of a "misfit" in other guilds, you might find we're just the home you've been looking for."