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.
If there's one phrase that drives sports fans crazy, it's "rebuilding year." In sports, a rebuilding year is one in which expectations for the team are low, either because the team traded away aging veterans, gave starting positions to young and inexperienced players, or both. But sports fans are an impatient bunch. We don't want rebuilding years -- we want championships. Thus, teams do everything they can to deny that they are, in fact, rebuilding.
The same is true for guilds. Potential recruits don't want to hear about rebuilding -- they want to join an established organization in its prime. Thus, when your guild is in that starting-over situation, it can be very difficult to dig yourself out of the hole.
For some reason, I've received three emails about this topic over the past two weeks, so I figured I'd feature one of those emails here. I chose the one that bounced my message back when I tried to reply to it, so at least that person will know I did respond!
Dear Scott and the Officer's Quarters,
I am writing to ask for some perspective on the current state of my guild and the actions I could take to turn things around. I am the GM of a small guild on one of the older, more established WoW servers. I am told this server has been around since the early days of vanilla WoW.
As with any established server in any game, cliques are formed, reputation is king, and small guilds have a hard time flourishing when three quarters of the active player base belong to one of a few monster guilds. Our server has both monster progression guilds that field multiple 10-man raid groups in addition to 25-man groups as well as the Mega-store bargain perks blowout guilds that give every member the ability to invite new members with no real guidelines for membership.
My humble guild began as a way for a few real life friends to play together. Raiding, progression, and consistency were never a big deal for us toward the end of Wrath. Once Cataclysm came along with guild levels and the perks associated with them, our roster of casual and fun people plummeted. Some left the game completely because they were accustomed to blowing through the Wrath content without any difficulty. Others were deployed with their military units to the ends of the earth to fight real life wars. At this point we are left with the few real life friends in addition to a mere one or two other active members.
Enough of the back-story, now it is time for the point of my email:
How can a weak-roster guild survive amongst the concrete establishments of the dominant guilds? What can I do to find new members who could be beneficial to the guild and our goals of breaking into raiding without having to beg?
Recruiting only brings about a few scenarios and none of them are beneficial. Aside from the replies that need to know a guild level before asking anything else, we often find someone who could be an excellent guild member, only to see them leave two days later because they are too impatient to wait as we try to put together a raiding core.Hi, Sad GM. Here are a few pointers to help your guild get back on its feet.
I have tried several things to help boost interest in my guild, such as free gems, enchantments, food, pots and repairs care of the guild bank. I'm not sure what else I can do to entice new members.
I seem to be stuck on a server full of people who would rather be a non-raiding member of an established and popular guild than commit to a smaller guild and actually raid every week. It could be a twisted perspective on my end, but I just cannot understand the community that I am dealing with.
Any thoughts, suggestions, or criticisms would help my guild and myself greatly. We are struggling to survive and our time seems to be running short.
1. Leverage your uniqueness. In a server full of huge guilds, surely there must be some players who are sick of that model. When you try to recruit, emphasize what makes your guild different from others. Start with its small size and the opportunity to be part of a fresh raid team without cliques or favorites. Think about other ways you can differentiate yourselves from the mega-guilds and use those points in your recruitment pitch.
2. PUG. After last week's controversial tier 12 nerfs and the tier 11 nerfs prior to that, raiding has possibly never been easier and more PUG-friendly in the history of WoW than it is at this very moment. Bring some PUG players into your raids and see what you can do.
Keep your expectations low but your attitude positive. Maintain a friendly atmosphere, and do your best to encourage rather than criticize. Players will take notice that your PUG runs are less hostile -- and likely more fun -- than the norm. Stick to the same schedule each week and try to bring back the same players (at least, the ones whom you would want as future members).
Don't balk at inviting alts from other guilds into these runs. Having more players on the server aware of your guild is never a bad thing, and leading PUGs is a great way to build up that awareness.
3. Form an alliance. Another option would be finding another small guild to run raids with. If the alliance is successful, you may eventually decide to merge into a single guild.
Even if you don't, the fact that you're actively raiding will help you to attract new members -- and retain the ones you invite. Players have little patience, as you've seen, with a guild that isn't actively raiding, so doing whatever you can to offer raid content to your members should be your top priority.
As a last resort, patch 4.3 will give us the Raid Finder feature. However, it's unclear at this point whether that will actually help guilds to find members or whether it will become a hotbed for griefing ("lol i pulled the boss and left group") and willful incompetence ("i don't need hit gear, i just need this one trinket for arena . . .") like the Dungeon Finder often turns out to be.
We've only got one more major patch to go in Cataclysm. For guilds in situations like yours, the best time to recruit is between expansions, particularly toward the start of a new one. If you can stick it out till then, you'll be in a good position to fill out a raid roster with quality players. Until that time, I think those three options are your best bets.
Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to email@example.com.