Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available this spring from No Starch Press.
If ever there were a time for guild-leader or raid-leader burnout to set in, we are living in it. We are at the end of perhaps the most challenging six months of raiding content in WoW's history -- not in terms of its difficulty, but in its sheer potential for drama and member loss.
First we had the half-hearted tier that consisted entirely of Trial of the Crusader, a one-room raid that took all of an hour to clear, and Onyxia, a well-loved but well-worn raid boss that was also a quick, and often boring, clear. Keeping raiders motivated during what felt like an endless four months wasn't easy. Many raid leaders were pulling out their hair trying to fill slots.
For the most serious guilds, ToC was an absolute nightmare. Not because the content was itself difficult, but because of the rewards offered for clearing the zone without a single wipe, or even a single player death. Some very good players cracked under this kind of pressure. In a situation where one person's mistake -- not to mention disconnects, lag, or other external factors -- can quickly cause a death or a wipe and cost the entire raid access to loot, offering these achievements seemed to me like Blizzard was going out of their way to cause drama.
Icecrown Citadel was supposed to be our savior, but instead it brought new and unanticipated problems.
The gated wings of Icecrown Citadel put extra stress on guild leadership to coordinate raids. From one gate to the next, we'd be uncertain whether the run would take one night or two. If it took one night, the week might feel empty. We might have to schedule some other run -- like ToC, which many players were entirely sick of -- to give our raiders something to do. If it took two nights, players might worry about our progression.
If you ran two teams, eventually the second team's night could get taken over by the first team when it needed a second night to clear the zone, leaving the second team high and dry. Even if you had more nights available, the first team might need players from the second to fill in for players who couldn't make the second night. It was, at times, extremely difficult trying to keep raiders happy during these long, gated phases.
On top of all that, forcing limited attempts onto normal-mode encounters was, quite frankly, hellish for many raid leaders. Some raid leaders in casual guilds were forced to choose between making progress and taking unpleasantly "hardcore" measures, such as replacing players mid-raid who were too laggy. More serious guilds who wanted to compete for server-first kills sometimes went to extraordinary lengths to overcome the limited attempts, such as running entire raids of alts just to get more practice. That sort of thing led to burnout all around: Players who ran ToC four times per week due to the four different lockouts were now doing the same thing for ICC on two different characters.
Things have settled down now that all bosses in ICC are available and the limited-attempt system has been relegated to hard modes, where it belongs. But if your guild has survived the past six months intact, pat yourself on the back, officers!
And that brings me to this week's e-mail, about a guild that is not so fortunate -- a guild on the verge of collapse.
I'm the officer of what WAS a fairly successful raiding guild, from the latter half of BC all the way up to when Plagueworks were released. We had started out as a guild of friends that all went to college together, and it slowly evolved into this.
Recently, however, no one has been showing up to raids, for whatever reason. The past week, our guild leader and I were away on vacation for seven days, and in the amount of time it had taken for us to come back, no one had run a single raid, and we were down at least 3 healers and lost 2 of our top DPS. Our once close-knit group of core raiders has pretty much disintegrated.
This is part of a problem that has been prevalent since BC: no one will run anything without our guild leader present. It is true that he's the best player in guild, and that as a paladin he is able to fill any role you give him and competently, but... it's frustrating as an officer to have to try and put raids together and have no one be willing to go because he's not online. Others have expressed similar frustration, and have left.
I can't find it in myself to blame our failures on our guild leader; he's an incredible leader and a great player, but he doesn't have the help that he needs in order to run the guild effectively. Unfortunately, the other officer and myself were really only here because... well... we'll just say pickings were slim, and we were the least terrible options, lol. No guild can be run by one man alone, and the fact that this guild has stayed afloat for nigh on two years due to his leadership ability says something, at least to me.
The downside of this is that he's now so burnt out on trying to hold this guild together and pull it through end-game content (and getting so close he can practically taste it) he's been considering taking a hiatus until Cataclysm comes out. I know for a fact that if he does that, we'll have to rebuild the guild from the ground up, something which I don't really have the time (or, frankly, ability) to do. Also considering the fact that recruiting anyone decent is nearly impossible at this stage in the game. He knows and understands this, and is at about as much of a loss about what to do as I am; he wants to lead a guild, but knows he can't do it in the current conditions, nor can he start from scratch until expansion.
Because this is also a guild full of RL friends, as well as players with whom we have forged friendships, our decision also has some personal ramifications.
I'm going to be speaking with our leader about this more in depth later tonight, but if I'm reading the signs correctly, would it just be easier for us to disband? Or should I try to make the effort to hold down the fort anyway?
Torn, your guild is one of many experiencing problems right now. I listed the problems officers and raid leaders have faced over the past six months to illustrate that.
It's amazing to me that your guild leader has been able to hold everything together for so long under those types of conditions with, as you say, practically zero support. And it's really quite a shame that, when he takes a much-needed break for a single week, the entire guild falls apart. It goes to show just how vital a guild leader/raid leader can be -- but it's not necessarily a good thing for one player in any position to be that vital.
Both the guild at large and your long-suffering guild leader are at fault for the current state of the guild. As you said yourself, "No guild can be run by one man alone." Too many people try, and too many of their guild members and supposed "officers" are content to sit back and watch that person do everything humanly possible without any help at all.
A long time ago, your guild leader should have made it clear that he needed help. As I've told other guild leaders, if no one in your guild is willing to help you, why are you working so hard for them? But people do it anyway, out of a sense of obligation, to avoid feeling guilty for letting his or her guild down. Meanwhile, the guild is letting that person down day after day. It's not fair, and guild leaders shouldn't put up with it.
Torn, you as an officer played a part in this. You say you were among "the least terrible options" for officers. I'm not sure what that means, but I assume it's related to the fact that you weren't really helping your guild leader. It should be no surprise to you that he finds himself overwhelmed. You had a chance to avoid this situation, but you've squandered it.
I know not everyone has a lot of time to dedicate to helping with guild duties. Personal lives outside the game can be very demanding. But if just one or two other players had spent an hour every week getting something done for your GL, whether it was recruiting, helping players to improve their performance, handling some of the logistics and scheduling, or any of the other myriad tasks of guild leadership, then things might be different today. Even if the effort was minimal, at least your GL would have felt like he wasn't the only one doing all the work.
It's too late to go back and fix it, so now you have to decide what you want the future of this guild to be. It seems like your instinct is to disband. You say recruiting is impossible now. I don't find it to be. My guild has received more applications in the past month than we have during any other time in this expansion. The players are out there. Many of them, I'm sorry to say, are from guilds such as yours, whose leaders were overtaxed and couldn't bring their communities through this six-month raiding gauntlet unscathed.
What you need to do is find out -- not just speculate, but investigate -- exactly why your players weren't showing up to raids. "For whatever reason" doesn't cut it. Only when you identify and fix those underlying issues will you be able to recruit effectively. It sounds like you had attendance problems even when your guild leader was available to lead the raid. So it can't be purely about him.
If you want to preserve the guild for your friends, then you can't coast along in the shadow of your GL anymore. You need to step up. Do more than have a conversation. Tell your GL what you plan to do to help him get the guild back on track. Do your best to get other players on board, too. Then carry out that plan.
The only other option is just giving up. When you say you don't have the ability to build the guild up again, it sounds a lot like giving up to me.
If you make your GL feel appreciated and, beyond that, let him know that someone, anyone, supports him in this endeavor, he might feel better about the situation and give it one more go. He might be past the point where it will matter but, if he's as essential as you say, then it could be your only shot. If he still wants (or needs) to take a hiatus until Cataclysm, then you'll have to respect that. Maybe, when and if he comes back, you can make a fresh start and do things differently next time.
On another note, I have a personal aside. You may have noticed that the Officers' Quarters blurb at the beginning of the column has changed for the first time in three years. That's because I'm finally ready to announce The Guild Leader's Handbook! This book is a comprehensive guide that covers all aspects of guild leadership: defining and creating your guild, recruiting, resolving drama, distributing loot, raiding, roleplaying, managing officers, maintaining morale, hosting real-world meet-ups, and much more!
Like many guild leaders, I started out clueless. I was thrust into the role more by chance than anything else, and I had to learn the job on the fly. I hope this book can be a resource for new guild leaders who find themselves in that position, as well as for veteran officers who are looking for new insights on guild issues.
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at email@example.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!