Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available from No Starch Press.
Guild perks are coming, and with them a big change in the way guilds are perceived. In the past, some players shunned guilds for one reason or another. Maybe they didn't want to bother with the social aspect of the game. Maybe they had a bad experience with a guild and never had the urge to find a new one. Maybe, like the writer of this week's email, they felt like they wouldn't be able to contribute enough.
I wanted to suggest a topic or at least get your opinion on something.
It seems like the guild rewards in Cataclysm are pretty much irresistible. Even though I'm a long-time guildless player (because of my completely unpredictable playtime, my last attempt at being a guildie was in Asheron's Call 2, if that means anything to you ...). I'm going to be looking for a guild to join because I want to have a shot at some of that good stuff.
Of course that's not a good reason to join a guild from the guild's perspective, but I bet I'm not the only one thinking this way. I'm not looking to get a free ride; I'm excited about helping out with guild achievements and advancement. I just can't be a part of a regular raiding guild because of my freelance RL. But a purely casual guild won't have the horsepower to get the best achievements.
How should I go about approaching a guild without sounding like a freeloader? How should guilds approach this transition? Am I a parasite or a potentially valuable asset?
I think it's an interesting topic from a number of different perspectives, and I know it's on a lot of player's minds.
I agree that the perks (as they currently exist in the beta) are good enough -- particularly the second set I reviewed -- to make joining advanced guilds extremely desirable for the average player. It's pretty difficult to ignore less durability damage, more frequent trade skill-ups and hearthing, getting more items while gathering, and gaining more heroism and honor points. All of these perks benefit the solo player.
This is both good and bad. It's good that belonging to a guild will come with rewards for those who enjoy the guild experience. On the other hand, it's bad that players who have no business belonging to a guild will suddenly have such convincing reasons to join.
This is an important topic for both nonofficer players and officers. Let's break it down by role. This week, I'll provide advice for the guildless player looking to join a guild without becoming a burden. Next week, I'll talk about how officers can filter out the freeloaders and deal with the ones who get past your screening.
How not to freeload
I really can't blame players like you, Whig. If I weren't in a guild, I'd certainly consider Cataclysm as the time to join one.
The first step toward not being a freeloader is to find the right guild. With your schedule, you don't want to join a guild that has attendance requirements for scheduled activities. Likewise, you probably don't want to join a close-knit guild where frequent absences and an unpredictable schedule may lead to friction.
The best type of guild for you would be a large, social guild where people are frequently logging on and off. In this type of guild, you can fly under the radar. As long as you aren't actively causing problems by being a jerk in guild chat or ninja looting, you should fit in just fine.
Guilds like this usually don't expect any specific contributions from their members. Guild activities may happen spontaneously and the invites may go out to anyone who happens to be around at that time. If you're online, you can feel free to jump in to a spur-of-the-moment raid or dungeon group. As long as you know how to play your class, doing so makes you an asset, rather than a parasite.
Many social guilds thrive by having a large, diverse population. Players stay because the people are friendly and there are always other members around who are willing to engage in activities. You don't have to join any guild groups if you don't want to, but at a bare minimum, you should at least be approachable when you're online.
If you never talk in guild chat and ignore everyone, eventually people will catch on to that and you'll become the "weird, quiet guy." Nobody likes the weird, quiet guy. That player makes other people uncomfortable. You don't have to be the life of the party every time you log in, but chiming in with a comment now and then during a g-chat conversation can help people to feel more at ease with your presence on the roster.
Aside from that, you won't have any real obligations to the average social guild. Just remember that the guild has no obligations toward you, either. Don't demand a raid slot or pout when you aren't invited to a dungeon group or arena team. Keep your hands off the more valuable items in the guild bank unless you're frequently raiding, competing in rated battlegrounds or other meaningful guild activities (or, obviously, unless you're contributing items to the bank in return).
Also -- and I can't stress this enough -- buy an authenticator for your account. Hacked accounts can rob entire guild banks regardless of their characters' UI-determined access. Restoring stolen items is a huge hassle for officers. Causing a breach in security is one way to draw a whole boatload of unwanted attention on yourself.
The second you cause drama or problems, or you pillage the bank for expensive items to help you solo dailies, you've crossed over into the parasite role. If this is your plan, stay away from guilds. You'll create a bad name for yourself, and pretty soon no guild will want you in their community.
It's true that a large, social guild may not be lighting up the progression charts. However, even with a 20-player cap on guild experience gains, such guilds are actually more likely to have 20 players who are going crazy questing, running dungeons and PvP'ing. With the sheer manpower they can exert, these guilds will level up quickly -- and that's what you're after, right?
Getting the invite
Before you apply to a guild, read over their policies and their "charter"/mission statement/philosophy so you know what you're getting yourself into. Make sure the guild is a good fit for you personally, and then express that in your application.
Fill out the application thoughtfully and completely.
It sounds to me, Whig, that you're interested in more than just the perks. You also want to help. If that attitude doesn't come across, a discriminating guild won't invite you.
Be completely honest about your situation. Don't kindle false expectations that you'll be a key member of their raiding roster. Be frank about why you haven't belonged to any guilds in WoW so far. Officers appreciate honesty from new recruits. Along those lines, only apply to one guild at a time.
It always helps, also, if you run a few dungeons with members of a guild before you app. If you're a solid, friendly player, those people may chime in to support your bid for membership. The recommendation of a current member carries a lot of weight when officers are considering applicants.
It's not always easy to get into such groups these days with the dungeon finder. Do a /who search for people in the guild hanging out in Dalaran. Whisper one of them. Say you're thinking about applying to the guild and you'd like to get to know the players a bit by grouping up for a dungeon or two. If you have a tanking or healing spec to offer them, you're more likely to be received with enthusiasm.
Don't get frustrated if the first player you whisper isn't interested. You can ask that player to forward your offer along in guild chat, or you can whisper someone else. If the guild is getting ready for a raid, there may not be many people available for other things, so try again some other time.
Chatting with an officer prior to submitting an application can also be helpful. Ask questions about policies to get a clear picture of the guild's culture. You can even ask the officer point-blank if a player like yourself would be welcome in the guild. At worst, the officer will say no and you've saved yourself some time. At best, that officer will respect your proactive approach and recommend an invite.
Whig, many players with your limitations belong to guilds. The key is to find the right guild for you and to be up front about your situation from the beginning. Good luck!
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!