The Guild Counsel: Fan Faire 2011 guild leader panel

As you know from this column, I'm a big fan of guilds. So it's probably no surprise that I went to Fan Faire with a special goal of meeting up and talking to guild leaders from a variety of SOE games. Last year, I teamed up with Adam Trzonkowski, my former podcasting co-host and author of the book The Guild Leader's Companion, and together we recorded a show with several guild leaders from EverQuest, EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies and Free Realms. This year, we met again, and had a chance to catch up with a few returnees as well as some new faces. Joining the discussion this year were leaders from DC Universe Online, EQ, EQII, and RIFT.

Judging by the turnout, you could say that guilds are like snowflakes. We had Rick Hall and his juggernaut guild Heroes, the oldest guild on the Luclin server in EverQuest. He's carrying a roster of hundreds, and regularly raiding 54-man raid content. Added to the list of "long in the tooth" guilds were Legion of the White Rose in EQII, led by Kendricke, and Iniquity, who has moved from EQII to RIFT, and is led by Adam. The league Absolute Justice in DCUO, led by Arctic Titan, is not only playing in a different genre of MMO, they're on a completely different platform, the PS3. Twilight Company, led by Megera in EQII, is mainly a tradeskill guild, which set it apart from the others in attendance. And last, but not least, is Revelry and Honor, my guild from EverQuest II, and now led by Maesyn, Nauralea, and Andaraiel. Read on for a peek at what has led to their success, and some amazing war stories along the way.

Why lead? (i.e. Are you nuts?!)

One similarity was that each guild leader took on the responsibility after the guild already was formed. Each described a moment where there was a need for someone to step up and lead, and they considered themselves the best one for the job. Kendricke ended up taking over after winning a coin toss, Arctic Titan built his crew from a core of members that had departed together, and Megera took over because no one else wanted to do it, and she was the only one that no one would talk back to. Adam said he had to use a bit of deceit to nudge a young and feckless leader out of the way. Our guild has also taken on new leadership recently, although it was a voluntary and relatively smooth process in comparison. Regardless of the method and despite the differences in guild makeup, each of these leaders took the initiative to lead their guilds in the right direction.

The surefire way to avoid drama

Next, we touched on drama. Every guild has it, but not every guild can endure it. I asked these leaders what they've done to mitigate drama in their guilds. Kendricke shared his secret to running a drama-free guild -- "be the only person on the roster." While joking, his point was that you'll never have a drama-free guild, but if you focus on having "like-minded people" on the roster, you'll go a long way towards avoiding it as much as possible.

Rick Hall said that in Heroes, they never talk about religion or politics in guild chat - they "keep things level." Chat has to be PG-13 even though the average member is probably over 40 years old. Kendricke agreed but added "no sports" to the list of chat taboos. Adam's guild allows it all, but stresses that they've been so close for so long, they can have the occasional clash and still stay friendly. Roster size is a factor though, and Hall explained that when you have hundreds of members coming and going as he does in EQ, you don't have as much flexibility that a smaller, more tight-knit guild would.

Nine months for a guild invite?!

Discussion shifted a bit to the topic of recruiting, and leaders compared battle scars from the long, arduous process of trying to join a guild in the early days of EverQuest. Hall said that it took him three months to join, and today due to the slowdown in population on the Luclin server, the process for joining Heroes is much more streamlined. Early on, you needed to get 15 sponsors from the guild before being considered for a tag. Adam said it took him nine months, and that was after failing his first attempt to join. He had to make 100% attendance for nine months in order to get an invite. Today, his recruiting tactic is to actually try to discourage people from joining, and if they still join then they're probably worth it.

Real life comes first

Heroes, Absolute Justice, Iniquity, Twilight Company, and Revelry and Honor all stress that people come before the game, and that no one should ever have to choose the game over their real life obligations. Heroes even explained how they try to schedule around guild members' activities so that they can raid when the majority of the guild has free time.

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!

When the question of leadership skills came up, Arctic Titan explained that his focus on efficiency in his consulting career carried over into the game. When they're setting up to do something together, he's focused on cutting down the amount of time that people have to wait for everyone to arrive. Kendricke and Adam agreed, saying that if you're late, you're wasting the time of everyone else that is on that particular raid, so they stress the importance of being on time. Kendricke explained that they raid on a very fixed time schedule, so those that choose to raid are expected to make a commitment to be on time and available for the duration. Rick from Heroes had a completely different take on it, saying that the larger, 54 person raid cap leads to situations where they have some members needing to leave early and others arriving late. Due to different time zones and obligations, they have a revolving door during raids, with about a ten person turn around throughout the night. What's interesting is that while the guilds had completely different approaches to latecomers, each method worked out well because they had different needs in game.

Battle-scars

Among the horror stories of the evening was Arctic Titan's description of how loot works in DCUO. If you aren't physically present on a raid, you can't receive dropped loot. And due to stability issues in game recently, members would crash during the fight and not get back in to be eligible for loot. Attendees groaned at the thought, and you could tell who the EQ vets were because they immediately uttered the word "backflagging." And believe it or not, Rick said that backflagging is still a part of the game, and he felt it adds to the charm of EverQuest.

The changing face of raiding

As leaders reflected on their memories of raiding in years past, they talked about mechanics of raiding, and how it's changed the way look at their raid rosters. With changes to scripts, such as mobs getting healed when players are killed, leaders have to be more particular in who they bring along. As Kendricke and Krosp both agreed, there are certain fights where you have to choose an empty slot over taking along someone that might be undergeared or not as attentive.

Dealing with downtime -- and RIFT

Lastly, the panel talked about the strain on the roster from two major events -- the recent downtime from the attack on SOE and the launch of RIFT. Regarding the downtime, they all agreed that it was hard on everyone, but was particularly tricky for leaders who had to figure out ways to keep their members in touch with each other and hungry for the game when servers came back.

Heroes had an IRC channel, Absolute Justice said that some members just didn't come back. They had just gotten to a point in progression where they didn't have to take undergeared people, and then with the downtime, they lost too many and have had to rebuild. He added that healers and controllers were hard to find, and hard to level up, making their recruiting efforts much more challenging.

When the subject of RIFT came up, several remarked that it did affect their rosters. Adam's guild was the only one that completely moved from EQII to RIFT, while others lost some members and struggled to rebuild. The EQII guilds, however, did note that they've recently seen some come back from RIFT, and Megera summed up the reason with a hilarious description of the game. As she put it, "It's a completely different experience. In RIFT, you have to be in the mood to go in there and die repeatedly because if you park in a city and get up to feed your cat, you'll come back and suddenly there are just demon butts wall to wall, you are face down on the ground and there's a little angel saying, 'do you want a rez, or what?' Not here! There's just demon butts everywhere!"

Overall, it was great to be able to meet and talk to leaders from other games, since that's something we rarely have the opportunity to do. A special thanks goes out to SOE for providing one of the conference rooms to us, and thanks to those who attended and shared their stories. Adam is editing the show, and it will be up soon, but in the meantime, you can hear the unedited recording here.

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

This article was originally published on Massively.