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Officers' Quarters: Tax time

Scott Andrews

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.

In the United States, federal and state taxes are due in just a few days -- April 15 is the deadline. If you haven't figured out your taxes by now, you're probably in a bit of a panic. Though we often resent paying, taxes are the price of living in an organized society. They pay for defense, schools, roads, social programs and a host of other benefits. Some we can all agree on; some are a matter of fierce debate. In a guild, taxes are often a controversial issue. Some guilds who use point-based systems like DKP will tax members' point totals to prevent point hoarding. This week, one reader is wondering about a different kind of tax.

Hi Scott,

I am a member of a casual raiding guild. Recently some of the officers have been kicking around the idea of a "raid tax" -- a set value of mats used in a week's worth of 25-man raiding that can be paid by members either in gold or through supplying the mats themselves. It's funny because the "tax" for a given week sounds exorbitant to me (close to 1,000 gold when they figure in the price of enchanting mats and gems for loot).

My question is, how do other guilds handle the weekly expense of raiding? Is it every man for himself to supply flasks, food, gems, and enchants. Is it a shared expense? And, maybe more importantly, is there any way to know how possible changes with Cataclysm will affect these dynamics?

I would love some insight.


--The Price is Wrong

You are right to wonder about this policy, TPIW. I haven't heard of many guilds who use a tax system to provide all the material goods needed for raiding.

Most guilds, in my experience, use a sort of communal "every player for him/herself" policy. Each guild member is responsible for making sure he or she has everything needed for every night of raids and for equipping gear with the gems and enchants required to get the job done. However, many guilds practice informal sharing of goods to accomplish this, either using the guild bank as an item dump or trading among themselves -- a few flasks in exchange for an enchant, for example.

In fact, I find it useful to let members bring their own consumables and be responsible for their own gear. This sort of policy can show you who really cares about preparation and progression and who is phoning it in.

Some guilds use a hybrid system. They might ask members to bring their own consumables and provide their own enchants/gems, but they will ask members to donate funds to the bank in return for feasts and the option to pay repair bills using those guild bank funds.

Your officers seem to be taking the system completely into the realm of taxation, where everything needed to raid is provided for every player, but every player pays enormously for those benefits. I'm wondering why they feel it's advantageous to enact this policy.

Perhaps they've had issues with people showing up unprepared, and they assume it will be easier to give everything out rather than asking players to be responsible for their own raid prep. There's some comfort in knowing that everyone will always be 100% ready with all the best available item modifications.

However, this system will require an enormous amount of work on the part of the officers. They'll have to make sure everyone is paying those taxes in the first place. Then they'll have to purchase all the necessary items week in and week out and distribute them accordingly. Since there's no such thing as a "Flask Feast," an "Enchant Table" or a "Gemwell," there's going to be a lot of player-to-player trading before and during raids.

According to the changes announced at Blizzcon 2009, Cataclysm will help officers tremendously with these issues. Setting a tax will be part of the guild UI. A portion of what each player earns will go to the guild bank. Also, it will be possible to use guild currency, which doesn't cost any gold, to purchase materials for items like flasks. So a fully tax-funded system for raid prep and item enhancement may become more feasible and more common with the next expansion. For now, it remains rather difficult.

The other issue at stake is whether the price is, in fact, wrong. One thousand gold per week, at first glance, seems to be quite a sum. However, it really depends on how much your guild raids and how successful you are at it. Let's assume a best-case scenario, which is a full weekly clear of ICC-25 in eight to 12 hours. Let's also assume worst-case scenarios for costs.

You're starting with 25,000 gold.

Assuming the worst case, no one in your guild is an alchemist, so you need 300 flasks for 25 people for 12 hours of raiding. The price of flasks is way down these days, so let's say they cost 20 gold per flask. That's 6,000 gold per week. We're down to 19,000 total.

Feasts have only gotten more expensive as people grow more and more bored with fishing up all those sculpins, salmon and nettlefish. Let's assume they cost 20 gold each and you need on average three per boss, assuming some bosses require zero feasts and some require six or more. That's 720 gold, leaving us with 18,280.

Now, since we're clearing the zone, we're getting three items per boss. In a best-case scenario, nothing is sharded. That's 36 items, most of which have at least one gem slot and require some other enchant. This is difficult to cost out, since the prices of different gems and enchants vary widely. But we're assuming the worst here, which means each item has three gem slots that need expensive gems (200 gold) and it also requires a pricey (200 gold) enchant. The total cost would be 28,800.

Overall, our costs are now 35,520, putting this theoretical guild "in the red" for the week at negative 10,520 gold.

We haven't even factored repair bills into it, assuming the pooled money is also used for such expenses. You can see how quickly the costs pile up when you're planning for a worst-case scenario. Fortunately, costs tend to decrease over time, since the runs become faster with practice and more items are sharded as players gear up. Also, not everything needs to be purchased from the auction house. Basic enchanting mats, for example, are acquired during the runs whenever a green item drops. Raw gems can be purchased and cut by a guild member to save cash.

If your officers are seriously planning this, I'm sure they're doing these types of calculations, and they know much better than I what the actual costs would be for your guild on average. I went through the numbers merely to make a point that it could actually cost much more than 1,000 guild per person in a given week for everything required. It's a number that's easily adjusted, however, as your officers get a better sense of the actual costs.

I can't say I recommend this system, based on the extra burden of effort it puts on the officers and the onerous financial burden it puts on each member, particularly since TPIW describes his guild as "casual." Until Cataclysm's new UI elements and guild overhaul make a tax system easier to implement, a better solution is emphasizing preparation and commitment to raiding well. Casual raiding does not mean lazy raiding. Lazy raiding doesn't work.


Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas and suggestions at You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

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