The Guild Counsel: How to keep your guild from disintegrating when you need a break

Let's face it, everyone needs a little MMO break from time to time. The open-endedness of MMOs gives a lot more freedom than a fixed-content single-player game, but after a while, that freedom begins to feel grindy.

For a guild leader, taking a small break is a dicey prospect, and many leaders have returned only to find that the guild they carefully pieced together and managed is now empty and defunct. The thought of losing the guild has even led many guild leaders to press on and continue playing even though their hearts aren't in it. Can a guild leader take a vacation and have a happy guild upon returning? This week's Guild Counsel suggests a few ways to do just that.

Give a fixed time frame

One surefire way to lose guild members is to go offline for a period of time without saying so in advance. The first couple of days, members begin to wonder. After a week, concern sets in, and by the second week, players begin to look for the exits. If you know you'll be gone for a couple of weeks either because of a planned vacation or a need for some downtime from the game, let the guild know in advance. It's much easier for people to hang in there when they know that you'll be back and that it won't be too long until you are. And by giving everyone a heads up, you're also able to minimize the perceived significance of your break. The sky isn't falling, and guild life can go on even if you aren't online.

Avoid being too big a figure in your guild

At the heart of every guild is its guild leader, and to some extent, that's necessary because it's the leader's original vision and philosophy that is the foundation for the guild. But in some guilds, leaders become such large figures that members look to them too much. The guild has to be about more than just a leader with a big personality because if it's not, then the guild withers as soon as that leader is offline for any significant amount of time. One on end of the spectrum are the den moms (and yes, guys can be den moms too!) who spend large amounts of their playtime bending a sympathetic ear to guild members problems. On the other end are the General Pattons, who command attention and lead their guild to all sorts of success, but when they log off, guild activity screeches to a halt. For some, it's exciting to log in and have so many who are eager to follow, but that comes with a price when you want to get away.

Make management a team concept

Longtime guilds are better able to keep perspective when a leader or a key member is on a break because they've usually established enough trust and a team-minded philosophy to guild management. Members know each other so well that if the leader isn't on, there's bound to be someone else who can take the reins and keep the wagon train moving. There are many areas of guild management that can be handled by officers or others in the guild. And there are even some things that don't require oversight and can pretty much run themselves. Leaders shouldn't fall into the trap of feeling as if they need to put their official stamp on everything. Likewise, if you trust your officers, delegate and give them opportunities to even take over some of your responsibilities from time to time. That way, they'll be prepared to fill in for you when you take a break, and the guild members will transition well because they're used to seeing your officers in key management roles.

If you're done, turn over the keys right away

There are times when burnout is just too much, when a guild leader is really at the point of being done. It's important to not delay and drag things out if so. Work with your officers and members on the best way to transition from your retirement, and make the break clean. The longer you wait, the more confusion will build within the guild and the harder it will be for the next leader to successfully take up the mantle.

Set up realistic expectations for when you're offline

If you're going to be away for a week or two, what are some attainable goals for the guild during your break? You are the one who best knows your players and your officers, so try to suggest a few activities or events that will keep morale up and frustration down. Don't encourage the guild to take on a new and challenging raid boss if you know it isn't prepared. Similarly, don't propose easymode farm nights if you know the guild is far past being sick of running it. Your officers could very well be ready to push the guild into new content while you're gone, but if you aim too high (or too low) with guild goals, you could end up increasing the chances of people getting frustrated and ready to leave.

Consider a guild break

Maybe you're not the only one who needs a little break from the game. Guild breaks can actually be helpful in keeping your guild refreshed and happy over the long haul. In the past, we've looked at how guilds and sports teams share a lot in common, and just as sports teams need an off-season, guilds need a little downtime at times too. If you know your guild well and you can tell that many members are feeling a little burned out, don't be afraid to announce a break from your normal guild events for a week or two. Consider the time of year as well -- the upcoming holiday season is an example of a time when a break might give members some needed time to celebrate. Set a fixed time, explain what guild goals you have when things start back up, and encourage people to use the time to either step away from the game or play at a more relaxed pace. If you time it right, members will be happy to see each other return and come back with a renewed energy and higher morale.

More and more, players have grown to understand and accept the fact that everyone needs a break here and there. But there are still players who frown upon taking a break, particularly if that person is a key player or leader in the guild. It's a tough balancing act because guildmates rely on each other to accomplish team-oriented goals, and a break could slow that down. Players shouldn't focus so much on the short-team, though, because that week or two-week slow-down will usually enable a guild to stay together and progress over the years to come.

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.