This brings up the question of loyalty. Some of our officers think we should give them a second chance while others [are] against them [. . .] coming back. Most of these people have great skill and gear, I'm sure they can help with our progression, but on the other hand, we don't know if they will leave us again for a better raiding guild after getting some gear from us.
If you are the GM what do you think is the most logical choice?
It's the circle of life for many raiders in an MMO. A player buys the game and makes a character. The first guild they join is almost certainly a casual guild, because a hardcore guild won't accept a novice player. This new player not only learns the game but eventually excels at it, to the point where the player has surpassed his or her peers in the casual raiding guild. Then, with a lesser or greater degree of drama, it becomes time to leave these familiar spawning grounds and move on to the big, scary ocean of hardcore raiding.
It's a big pond with the biggest fish around. It's exciting but intimidating. Loot is more plentiful, but you have to work hard to gear yourself here. It's a competitive environment and there are no handouts. Eventually, however, all the loot in the world doesn't seem worth the stress and effort anymore. The ocean grows stale and boring, and the player finds him- or herself longing for the comfort and companionship of the casual guild they grew up in. They swim back upstream, hoping to reunite with their former guildmates.
Findra, you are not alone here. This cycle seems to happen to my guild prior to every expansion. The question for us, as officers, is whether we allow these big fish to rejoin our modest schools, knowing they may one day grow restless again. It all depends on two things: the drama quotient and your raiding situation.
If they caused a lot of drama when they departed, many members of your guild may still have a bad taste in their mouth over the whole thing. Bringing a drama-prone gquitter back may lead to forgiveness, but it may also cause some unwanted flareups. In extreme cases, people who have been loyal to you the entire way may quit in disgust. That's obviously a worst-case scenario, but it doesn't mean it won't happen. That will force you to make a horrible decision between kicking the person who returned or watching a loyal member depart for good.
However, if the player left on good terms, you have much less to worry about. Maybe they have kept in touch and even helped your members from time to time. Most people will be happy to have them back, even if it's just for a few months. They can lend their expertise to your membership and help people learn to play better. Even if they're gone the second WotLK launches, they've still left in their wake a better, more prepared group to tackle the challenges of the expansion pack.
If you're not raiding at all right now, there's really no reason not to accept them back aside from any lingering bad blood. They won't be taking any drops, so if they leave before the expansion you've lost nothing. In the meantime, you've gained another person to help run alts through dungeons, to PVP with, or to grind up profession materials together.
If you're still raiding, the question is a bit trickier. It's true that they could take drops away from your loyal members and leave you in the lurch. Even though their main character probably doesn't need any of the drops in the raids you currently run, they may want to raid with an alt that does need the drops. So make sure your loot rules are clear on who gets priority so that loot continues to be distributed fairly. Still, they probably plan to stick around at least until the expansion, so any drops they receive (in addition to their knowledge and experience) will help you see more content prior to its inevitable obsolescence. If you're not sure that they plan to stay until then, just ask.
Your biggest concern, however, should be what happens when you start raiding at level 80.
Assuming they don't immediately jump ship when the expansion launches, they're going to be taking loot drops from the early raids like Naxxramas. Their excellent skills may help you to conquer the initial raids quicker. But once they gear up enough to apply to a raiding guild, their departure will leave a gap in your ranks. If your roster of raid-prepared, level-80 members is slim, you'll have to settle for another player who isn't as geared or skilled even though you're still struggling with some of the new encounters. You may even have to stop raiding altogether while someone prepares a toon to fill the void. The consequences of this stoppage could potentially be disastrous. You could lose even more members who don't have the patience to wait it out, setting you back even further.
So I caution those officers in casual raiding guilds, if you take these returning players back, and they plan to stick around to level 80, speak with them before you start raiding again. Glean their intentions before you hand out loot. It's not unfair to expect them to pass on loot that someone else who plans to stay could use. On one hand, by beating the boss, they've earned the right to roll or bid on a drop. On the other, they're going to use that gear to leverage their exit from your guild. I'm not saying you should shard every item they want out of spite, but if a particularly hard-to-get and valuable item drops, it's not unreasonable to want to keep it in the guild to help with your own progression. Just make sure to communicate exactly how you plan to distribute loot ahead of time so there are no surprises during the raid.
A zero-sum DKP system can make this sensitive situation much easier to manage. Just make sure that anyone who plans to leave agrees to stay until their DKP is at zero or higher. That way, if they've taken any drops, they've helped out enough to get other drops for your remaining members.
Of course, these "salmon" could always agree to this or other compromises and then leave anyway, or just simply change their minds about staying. So ultimately it comes down to how much you trust them. If you can't, then don't put yourself in a position where their departure brings your raiding to a screeching halt. Protect your guild and make backup plans accordingly.