The Guild Counsel: Does running a guild have to be so hard?

Herding cats
When you hear people describe the role of guild leader, you often hear descriptions like "herding cats," "constantly busy," or "running the crazy house." Guild leaders are often easily identified because they're the ones running around at a frantic pace, trying to micromanage every last detail. It's no surprise that few people actually want to be guild leaders because the way the role is described, you're almost expected to take on a second job.

But sometimes guild leaders make things harder than they need to be. Part of that is from a desire to take on too much, but part of that is because there have traditionally been certain things we all assume have to be done. Whether you're a brand-new guild leader or someone who's been running the show for years, it's worth stepping back and questioning whether we really need to be doing all of the things we're doing. Let's put on some Bob Marley and look at a few ways to cut down on the busy work.

Guild nanny

Guild leaders often become amateur counselors to their members, and while it's important to be accessible as a leader, it isn't good to let it dominate your playtime. We've all come across the den mother archetypes before, and they're often spending more time fixing relationships, stroking egos, and making sure everyone on the roster is emotionally happy. The reality is that there will always be someone with a problem, and many times, it's not something that you can, or even should, get involved with. In fact, if you don't react to every single personality clash, complaint, or flare up, members learn to work things out on their own rather than constantly coming to you first.

Application process

Want to know the Twitterific version (140 characters or less) of why guilds have a long and involved application process? The guild leader is afraid to say no. He's hoping the layers of hoop-jumping will either A) cause a bad candidate to give up and move on or B) another member on the roster will step up and say no for him. The best guild leaders are good at evaluating candidates, finding the best matches for the guild, and having the honesty and guts to say no to the ones who don't fit.

Guild tax

This one I will never really understand in the first place, but you always see it come up from time to time. Why anyone on earth would think it's a good idea to tax members is beyond me, but even if there's a good reason for it, the process is a book-keeping nightmare of epic proportions. Let's say you have a monthly tithe and you carry a roster of 50 players -- even the most organized guild-leader is going to be stuck spending multiple evenings just recording and tracking who paid what. On top of that, what happens if someone doesn't pay? It's not like you can send out a virtual Vito with a sledgehammer to "talk" someone into forking over the gold. But I digress...


We've looked at loot systems in the past, and DKP is a popular one, but it can blossom into a second job if not done right. The biggest problem with DKP is that guild leaders look at it the wrong way -- they want the system to cover every scenario possible rather than allowing for members to have the power and control of working it out themselves. So leaders add in extra rules to determine how points are awarded, when they can be spent, how they can be spent, and who can spend them. The K.I.S.S. rule is best when coming up with a system to ensure that it's as fair as possible, with everyone understanding that no system is perfect.

Guild bank

Fifty years from now, guild banks will be customizable so that they will auto-sort and deliver everything fairly to the exact members on your roster who need it. Crafting materials will be sorted and mailed off to the appropriate crafters, gear will be sent off to the correct classes and levels of members who can use it, and the guild bank will be lean, mean, and very clean.

In the meantime, come up with a way to get stuff out of the bank and into the hands of those who can use it, but keep it simple. I've seen leaders attach rules to guild bank items, with DKP getting thrown into the mix, but why make things that complicated? Often, the more formal the system, the less likely you'll get those items moving out of the bank in the first place, meaning valuable items that will help members (and by extension, the guild) will sit there collecting dust.

Rift Shimmersand calm

I was always the worst when it came to backflagging because I hated seeing anyone left out, and I probably had the guild run backflagging raids and groups more than I should. There is a limit on how many times you should run things before moving on, and it's up to you to set the bar on what you'd consider a reasonable amount. It's one thing to do something over because CasterBlaster the wizard went linkdead right before the boss kill for the update. And we all have lives, so it's understandable that someone might need a do-over because the raid coincided with important family business. But if you've killed the same boss 25 times and suddenly Twinkle the Bard shows up out of nowhere asking for a backflag run, you are justified in saying no.

Helping with catch-ups

Similarly, you don't have to spend your time constantly going back and helping members with catching up in levels or gear. It's common for members to take breaks, and when they return, they're usually behind a bit, and it's not always easy to catch up by going it alone. As a guild leader, you have the ability to get members back on the on-ramp to catch up, but you have to weigh the time spent doing that with the return on that time later on. A week of helping someone get up to speed will help the guild if that member sticks around for the long haul and participates in guild activities. But if someone is notorious for going MIA every other month, it's not really fair to constantly use your playtime (and guildmates' time) to go back and catch someone up. You're essentially playing the game for him rather than playing for yourself and for fun.

The role of guild leader doesn't always have to be as time-consuming and difficult as it is. While there are certain things that you take on when you choose to run a guild, they don't have to consume your playtime. Often, if you recruit wisely and set clear expectations ahead of time, the little details end up taking care of themselves, and the drama that everyone always worries about never even materializes. Whether you're a hardcore raid leader, or a small, casual guild leader, it's worth taking time to look over your daily responsibilities. Chances are, there's some busy work in there!

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.