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 now from No Starch Press.
It's been more than 10 months since Blizzard introduced major endgame content to World of Warcraft, and raider burnout is at an all-time high. In times like this, hardcore players often look to casual guilds as a refuge from the demands of more serious organizations. It's not always a bad thing, as I'll discuss, but sometimes taking in these hardcore refugees can lead to major problems. This week, an anonymous officer tells his tale:
I'm currently an officer in a guild that started as a social/leveling guild, but toward the beginning of this past summer, we had some level-capped players who decided to take on raiding content. We were having a lot of fun at first whether or not we successfully downed bosses because we were finding a way to stay socially active in our social guild.
During this period, one guildie and I became de facto raid leaders because we were always there on raid night and always the two who got the groups organized. This was when I also got promoted to an officer position. The problem I'm facing now is that we ended up recruiting a couple of new members who had burned out on hardcore progression raiding and wanted to take a more casual approach to raiding.
At first, they were a big help in fine-tuning our raiding style, but they quickly grew impatient with the fact that sometimes we have to pug some slots because we're lax on attendance, that we might have to pug a tank who wants to do a fight slightly differently than what they are used to, or because we're happy with just downing Marrowgar and Lady Deathwhisper and calling it a week. Basically, their idea of casual raiding and our idea just don't match.
Apparently, one day when I wasn't online, this tension came to a head, causing the loss of three of our oldest and dearest members and apparently our GM having to take one these guys into a private chat channel to discuss his attitude. He refuses to leave, since he has a relative in our guild. Raiding started to die off as this player's attitude made people not want to participate, and the more and more people we had to pug, the worse his attitude got. It was a never-ending spiral.
The other raid leader and I don't know what to do about this guy who refuses to find a new guild. Should we jump ship or not? I've also been thinking about waiting to see what happens when Cataclysm drops, but I don't know if in the meantime I've gotten myself in a position where I'm not seen as an effective leader. Your help is appreciated.
As I mentioned earlier, Anonymous, these situations tend to crop up toward the end of expansions when current content becomes stale and most people have all the gear they want. Hardcore players think that by joining a casual guild, they can enjoy raiding in a more relaxed environment. In many cases, this situation works out just fine for everyone. The burned-out raiders get to step off the hardcore treadmill, and the casual guild gets the benefit of their expertise and skill.
Sometimes, however, it becomes a situation like the one you're facing now. Instead of going with the flow, these fresh recruits try to reshape their new casual guild into a proxy of their former one. They're like retired Navy SEALs attempting to turn a paintball match into a military mission. This type of behavior makes me wonder why they ever leave their old guild in the first place.
The most common result, if the officers don't intervene effectively, is exactly what you've experienced: drama leading to decreased interest in raiding, and then eventually gquits.
Let's look at what you could have done to prevent this from happening. You could have been more firm with these players and told them that you're going to run raids the way your guild always has, and they can either get on board with it or sit.
As the raid leader, it's your job to manage everyone's expectations, and theirs were far too high for the type of raids you were running. It should have been made clear to them exactly how things work in your guild before they stepped into your raids. Unfortunately, one of these players decided to take out his frustrations on some of your other raiders, and you lost them as a result.
The guild leader's response to this incident was too weak. A scolding doesn't fix what happened. A player can't refuse to leave if you don't give him a choice, and it sounds like what this player said was reason enough to kick him. At the very least, your GL should have asked him to apologize to the people who were caught in the crossfire. By taking stronger action, the GL might have brought those three players back and salvaged your raiding as it once was.
What's done is done, but the question remains: What are you going to do about it? The easy solution, as you propose, is to leave the guild. You can always keep in touch with friends after you leave, and if you do it before the expansion, then at least your former GL with have some time to sort things out before Dec. 7. I'm sure people will be disappointed, but it's your $15 a month, after all.
If you stay and you want to get the guild back to raiding, you'll have to confront these players. Hopefully, your GL and the other officers will back you up. Obviously, this is the more difficult path, but it's also potentially the more rewarding one. You didn't stand up for yourself before, and certainly your players' opinion of you has suffered as a result. However, you can make this right, regain some credibility and get back to enjoying the guild.
There is a third option, as you point out. You could stick around for Cataclysm and see what happens. In all likelihood, these hardcore players will either leave for serious raiding guilds or quit the game. I don't see them sticking with your relaxed pace for very long at 85. You won't fix your members' perception of you quite as quickly this way, but if you can get people raiding again -- and having fun at it -- you can gradually overcome the fallout from your current problems.
So, there you have it: three options. I can't tell you which choice is best. It's a decision you'll have to make on your own.
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas and suggestions at email@example.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!