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The Guild Counsel: Simple ways to build a successful alliance

Karen Bryan

Recently, we looked at the benefits and pitfalls of guild mergers. While a merge is something that can work, it's a pretty drastic step that comes with some big risks. The alternative to a mergers is an alliance, and over the years (and much less direct competition thanks to instancing), it's something that's becoming much more common. Alliances are definitely more low-impact than a merge, and they give guilds the option to back out if things aren't clicking.

But if not carried out just right, alliances can put enormous stress on a guild and enormous pressure on guild leaders. In this week's Guild Counsel, we'll take a closer look at ways to help make a guild alliance successful.

The good

First off, alliances thrive based on the premise that there's strength in numbers. The larger pool of trusted candidates provides guild leaders lots of options when it comes to filling open spots on raids and guild groups. There's no doubt that it can help a struggling guild get back on track, and it can definitely help with progression.

Alliances are also great because they're social. Members have a chance to form bonds, not only within their own ranks but with a new circle of players whom they can get to know better than the greater mass of players on the server. I've been a part of a few alliances, and when they're constructed right, they're actually a lot of fun.

The bad

When done poorly, alliances can be dreadfully unpleasant. It might seem simple to set up a few rules, but if you aren't thinking through every last detail, you can really mess up an alliance and create lots of headaches for yourself later on. Let's look at a few of the biggest areas of concern.

Two to tango

Consider the fact that when you have an alliance with two or more guilds, you are dealing with two or more systems of loot, two or more sets of guild rules, two or more types of playstyles, two or more leaders, etc. While each guild can, and should, continue to maintain the policies it already has, there will need to be some give and take when it comes to doing things jointly. Chances are, you're already friends with the other guild or guilds involved, so it's usually easy to find a middle-ground that works for all, but if you neglect to do this upfront, you're setting the table for guild drama on a Jerry Springer-level.

The tug of war

The second concern is the fact that one guild will naturally be stronger, perhaps by a slim margin, but even a minor gap in progression is important to recognize. If it's a large gap, you have a potential scenario in which the stronger guild's members feel resentment that they're pulling along freeloaders. On the other side of that, you could have division in the other guild, which has members who pressure their leaders to catch up, or worse, who move closer to jumping ship entirely for the greener pasture.

Everyone kicking the ball

One of the biggest risks is that in an alliance, you have too many cooks in the kitchen. Raids begin to look like a kids' soccer game -- everyone trying to kick the ball at the same time. A single guild usually has a hefty chunk of type A personalities, so the more guilds involved in an alliance, the more potential for those personalities to clash and the greater the chance for confusion and chaos when you're doing things jointly. Members won't know whom to listen to or whom to follow.

If you can spot potential areas of conflict such as these, it's much easier to be proactive and shore up a solid foundation that leads to a successful alliance. In some cases, you might need to set up some formal rules and policies, while in others, just a simple acknowledgement is enough, and you can take a more hands-off approach. You might choose to negotiate one consistent policy when it comes to raid loot, for example, or you might decide to leave it up to each particular raid leader in the alliance to dictate the loot rules for that night. Either can work, as long as the members all understand it clearly and know the rules at the beginning. Taking an upfront and clear approach is the golden rule when it comes to most guild management issues, but it's even more important when forming an alliance that involves multiple guilds.

Of all the rules you decide to put in place, one that I'd strongly recommend is a clause about guild hopping. If you have a close and friendly relationship with the other guild in your alliance, chances are that the two guild leaders wouldn't invite a guild-hopper to begin with, but if you have something in place that discourages a member from leaving one guild in the alliance and joining another, that can help take a bit of the pressure off guild leaders. I was part of an alliance that said if a member deguilded, he would have to wait a month before he could apply to a guild in the alliance. It worked well because it didn't prohibit switching guilds, but it did make it clear that doing so was a serious step, one that wasn't without consequences. As a result, guild-hopping was never an issue.

One other piece of advice I'd offer is that, generally, the fewer guilds involved in an alliance, the better. It's probably best to stick with the K.I.S.S. method when it comes to deciding how large to make the alliance.

Overall, alliances can benefit all parties involved, as long as each guild feels it's getting something from the arrangement. That could come in the form of a larger pool of candidates to choose from; it could mean a helpful resource to provide tips and strats on encounters; or it could simply mean a fun opportunity to bond and play with more great people. But no matter how successful your alliance is, it won't last unless you maintain your own guild identity. The people in your guild chose to be part of your guild first, and you need to make sure that your schedule and your guild atmosphere maintains that identity. If you can walk that fine line, an alliance can succeed and be a lot of fun along the way.

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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