I'm excited to see the comments from the readers about this column. Like your guild, Jim, ranks are something my officers and I are currently trying to redefine in anticipation of the bank system. So maybe our readers can provide some good feedback for us!
When we first started out, we were pretty small, and ranks didn't matter much. The officers were the founding members. Everything was pretty straightforward. But as we grew and added features to the guild like an officers'-only forum to our Web site and an informal bank, we realized we needed to better define what ranks meant and who should be an officer. We had one too many situations where new recruits took a look at the bank inventory and put in requests for BOE epics from Molten Core. (Remember when such things were coveted? It seems like a very long time ago . . .)
So, with input from the other officers, I sat down and created quite an elaborate system that in retrospect was quite unwieldy and time-consuming. Players gained rank both by consecutive months spent in the guild and participation in group content. It required people to keep track of dungeons and raids they ran with guild members. Gaining rank allowed you access to better items from the bank. Once you reached a certain level, you gained access to certain officer-like privileges. You started with the ability to schedule and lead raids. Then, once you had a certain amount of leadership experience and proved your worth as a guild member, the current officers would call for a vote to elevate you to the next level. This rank granted you access to the /o channel and the officers' forum, but you weren't a full officer and couldn't invite or kick members. We raised people to full officer very rarely and usually only when an existing officer left or quit the game.
My intention for the system was to reward dedication and give people the opportunity to earn a greater role in the guild's leadership and decision making. It was a great way to ease new officers (or near-officers) into the job. Some of our members rose through the ranks and now I can't imagine running the guild without their help. In the long term, however, you can imagine the drawbacks, and it sounds similar to what Jim is facing right now: The organization has become too top-heavy. There's an awful lot of people in leadership positions, and we have even more guild members who rightfully deserve to be there -- and they know it. But we've had to hold off on raising them for fear of becoming even more top-heavy. That has obviously led to some disgruntlement.
Now we're looking to change things up and streamline the leadership. Our goal is to keep the ranking system as clear and simple as possible. At the same time, however, we still want to reward our long-time members with certain privileges.
Our first step has been defining how many officers we need. I figure we need about 4 people to lead and schedule raids, 2 or 3 to handle recruiting, 1 or 2 to oversee casual content, and 1 for the bank. So 8 to 10 officers seems like a good number for us. Considering the size of your guild, what types of activities you participate in, and what sort of government you have, you may need more or fewer officers. The important part for us has been putting a finite limit on the number to correspond to the required roles so that we can prevent bloating of the officer corps. (Beer and nachos may cause some temporary bloating.)
Below the officer rank will be the rank for dedicated long-time members, a sort of veteran rank. My guild is closing in on its third anniversary, so some of our long-timers are really long-timers. We're still working out who will qualify and what sort of perks will come with it. Obviously time spent in the guild will be a big consideration, but also the player's overall activity/inactivity. Better bank access and priority for raid slots seem like good choices for basic perks, along with voting rights on key guild issues or officer elections, should we need them. There could be others that are simply fun status symbols.
Beneath the veteran rank, everything will be pretty simple. Since we have raiding and nonraiding members, we'll have ranks to differentiate them, but they'll basically be equivalent. The bottom rank will be the trial rank for brand new members before they are officially welcomed into the guild.
Some guilds add a rank without guild chat privileges so they can shut people up, but we haven't needed anything like that in a long time. Besides, if a member is being so offensive or intolerable that you have to resort to such an action, you might as well get them out of guild chat the most direct way: Boot them!
So that's what is on the table for us. Every guild has its own needs when it comes to ranks and their associated rewards, so it's difficult to say what might work best for you. I would urge you not to repeat my mistakes.
1.) Keep the system simple.
2.) Make it user-friendly.
3.) Limit the number of leadership ranks.
4.) Limit the number of officers or quasi-officers.
5.) Provide incentive for members to advance to a rank with better privileges -- without overcrowding the /o channel.
Another way to limit top-heaviness is to rotate the officer positions every so often. But that's really a question of policy rather than ranks.
The ranking system is definitely an aspect of guild management that I haven't mastered yet. Maybe with our readers' help I can get my act together!
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!