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Officers' Quarters: The perils of guild mergers

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.

With many guilds struggling to keep viable rosters, officers are left with few solutions. The first is of course recruiting players. However, finding those quality members can be a long, difficult road, fraught with setbacks and frustration. For some guilds, a better option can be forming an alliance or outright merging with another like-minded community. This week, one officer wants to know how to manage it -- and how to keep a few negative nancies from spoiling the endeavor.
Another similar guild on the server is about to merge into our guild. [. . .]Short background: both guilds have two 10 man teams: A progression and casual/alt team. We're going to keep the same teams intact for the most part (with minor shuffling for integration) [. . .]. Moreover, the alt/casual C Team will have a bigger pool to draw from for the easy/entry level stuff.

Officer structure will largely stay the same – we have a GM, raid leader & heal officer (me) / they have mostly the same but with an extra pair of officers.

So, aside from those details we grouped the officers from both sides into Vent last night and had a chat about the above and general future.

Personally, I'm excited. I think new blood will refresh the guild and the personalities are already so similar that I don't foresee any problems.

That was until we hit our guild forums.

Already we have a small crowd of doomsayers, naysayers and general prognosticators of oblivion.

I'm putting a cap on it now since it's mostly generalizations: "I've never seen it done before" / "These things rarely work out well."

There's nothing specific about the merger that hints of failure however I'm optimistic whereas I have pessimists in the ranks.

So, to the questions:

1. What pitfalls should we avoid?
2. What tips do you have to make this a smooth merger?
3. How should officers deal with the gloomy peanut gallery?

Anonymous, your guilds are already on the right track to succeeding in this venture because you have a solid plan in place for managing personnel and the officers are communicating with each other to make it work.

It's true that mergers are risky and rife with the potential for drama. To an extent, your guild members are right to question it. After all, both of you seem to be doing okay on your own, at least from a raiding standpoint on your own. Why mix the two drinks when both taste just fine?

As officers, however, you have a better sense of where your guilds are headed. Judging by the general trend lately, it can be wise to merge now instead of waiting for attendance problems to surface and possibly lose members as a result. You're almost guaranteed to lose a few people who are unhappy with the merger, so you're looking at losing people either way.

Together, though, you should be able to cope with those losses much better than you could alone. After the merger, you'll have the flexibility to reduce your two progression teams down to one, if necessary, or to fill in slots with better players from the casual team. Neither situation is ideal, but it's preferable to canceling raids altogether.

Three questions

To answer your first two questions, I'll refer you to the two-part column I wrote about guild alliances way back in 2007. The same principles apply today, and the same concepts apply to mergers.

As for the forum naysayers, I wouldn't worry about them too much right now. Let them air their grievances, since shutting them down will only cause more rancor. Instead, acknowledge their concerns. Let them know that you hear them and will continue to listen to reasonable arguments. Ironically, doing so usually shuts people up -- mostly because they just want to be recognized as voting "against" (even if they don't really get a vote). Anything that falls under the category of unreasonable you can feel free to smother.

As long as they're just talking, that means they're willing to see where this leads. It's only if people start gquitting in droves that you have a problem. But if you follow the advice in the columns I linked above, you shouldn't have to worry about that!

Like I said, it's practically inevitable that you will lose someone from your own roster when you merge. Somewhere, somehow, somebody is going to get rubbed the wrong way by the whole thing. Your job as officers is to keep your ears to the ground, encourage patience and tolerance, and minimize damage through the adjustment period.

A viable solution

I would encourage guilds to consider mergers these days, especially if the alternative is to watch your guild suffer a slow, painful demise. If you're worried about losing perks, achievements, bank slots, etc., you could absorb one guild into the other. Just keep in mind that such a move will sting a bit for the players who "lost" their own guild. The officers will need to go out of their way to make sure the migrating members aren't made to feel inferior to those in the original guild.

As a way to cushion the blow, you may want to keep the empty guild intact by leaving an alt there as guild leader. Then at least your members know they can repopulate their former guild should events post-merger go awry.

Don't think about an alliance or merger as a quick fix. You'll still have to work hard to make them work, perhaps just as hard as you'd have to work to recruit. It's just different work. It's managing expectations, compromising on policies, learning to work with new officers, and handling any resulting drama.

Many mergers fail because their officers don't want to do this hard work. If you're looking for a quick fix, you're on the wrong track. Such things don't really exist in the social reality of MMOs. An alliance or a merger can be a great fix for attendance issues, but it is by no means easy to make such arrangements successful.


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

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