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Officers' Quarters: Surviving as a small guild

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 now from No Starch Press.

On the heels of last week's column about the guild achievement experience change, I received an email from a concerned guild leader about the future of his small leveling guild. All is not lost for guilds such as his in Cataclysm. This week, I'll talk about how your guild can recruit and survive in a game where the deck suddenly seems stacked against you. But first, let's read his concerns.

I recently read your article regarding the controversy surrounding the guild achievements. Many aspects of the game are geared towards large groups of people, large guilds, etc. I am the GM of a fairly small guild, small enough that we needed to merge with another guild to manage 5-man guild runs. I have found it difficult enough to recruit folks, scrape together enough friends who haven't already run their 10-man for the week, etc.

Now I feel that our little guild will face even more difficulty in attracting players as we simply can't offer the same guild perks as the large guilds who are capable of hitting the guild experience cap multiple times over on a daily basis while we struggle to reach the halfway point on the scale each day. Allowing guild achievements to provide experience would ultimately make the gap that much wider between the larger guilds and ours.

I hate to see the recruiting efforts of a start-up guild: "Come, recruits, I am asking you to forgo the larger guilds offering many awesome perks such as more loot from gathers, more experience gains from quests and kills, shorter hearth time, longer elixir durations, cool heirloom gear to further speed your leveling process, etc., and join our fresh guild with zero perks!" Personally I am not sure, but I think lead balloons may go over better ...

My guild is just about in that position. We are about halfway through level 1, while others are posting, "We made it to level 3 today," and I begin to question the future of the small leveling guild composed of friends trustworthy enough to share your Real ID with ...


Small Guild GM
SGGM: Despair and negativity is not the answer here. It may be difficult to swallow right now, when large guilds have already unlocked a number of the early perks, but remember that you will eventually have those perks, too.

The fact that achievements no longer provide experience can actually hurt you in the short term, believe it or not. If you could level up the guild by actively earning the guild achievements within your grasp, you could have an advantage over a large guild that coasts on roster size alone and can't be bothered to complete them. Now you're more or less stuck at a slower pace until you add more members. (Obviously a large guild hell-bent on earning achievements would have the greatest advantage in this scenario, and that's why Blizzard removed the experience in the first place.)

The good news is that it won't take very many additional members to put you on the same pace with a much larger guild, as long as your existing members remain active. The question is how you go about recruiting in this new environment.

Fresh recruiting strategies

To attract players, you need to emphasize your strengths. Most players are already well aware of the advantages of signing up with an enormous megaguild. At the same time, most players are also aware of the drawbacks: You're much more likely to run into drama queens, abrasive jerks, clueless morons, snobs, beggars, loot whores, and all sorts of people you don't want to encounter. There's also frequently the issue of cliques. In a big enough guild, cliques are inevitable.

Some players do not want to be part of that scene. That's why guilds like yours will always be viable no matter what else is happening in the game. When you recruit, you need to play up the family-like atmosphere, the friendly attitudes, the lack of drama, and the willingness of your guildmates to help each other. More players than you might believe value those aspects over whether or not their mount can go 10 percent faster.

You would be wise to differentiate your community in other ways as well. What else makes your guild special? Do your members play at times other than peak for your server? Do you focus on leveling by running dungeons? Do you hold special events or contests? Are your members all from the same part of the world? Anything that can give your guild a specific identity is helpful. If you're really looking to add members, you don't want to be Just Another Random Leveling Guild™.

Encourage your members to be friendly to other players they encounter while questing. Sometimes all it takes is throwing someone a heal or a buff to make a friend. Ask them, when possible, to run dungeons with players on the server rather than strictly through the dungeon finder. By grouping up with them, you'll find like-minded people who are interested in joining a guild. Your members will also have a better idea about how the person acts in a group before you invite him or her to make sure that player is a good fit.

Slow and steady

You're not going to add a huge number of players to the roster this way, but you don't want to. If you did, you'd be a different guild entirely! When you invite someone, make sure you're inviting them because you think they'd be a solid addition to your community, not just because you'll earn perks faster. Over time, you will find the right players, but you'll have to be patient.

You simply can't compete with large guilds in some areas of the game, so don't. Instead, focus on what you can provide that they can't. Differentiate your guild with a clear identity, be friendly, and recruit with care. Your organization will flourish.


Join us to learn how to survive the leveling process, deal with guild perk freeloaders, and discuss the guild talent controversy or the guild reputation system. Send Scott your guild-related questions and suggestions at; you may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

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