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The Guild Counsel: What's your guild really worth?

Karen Bryan

One age-old debate in MMOs revolves around the buying and selling of characters, and the argument becomes especially contentious when it involves the exchange of real-life money. The members of one camp will staunchly defend the practice, saying they put the time and effort into the toons and that those characters are theirs to do with as they please. Others argue the opposite, saying that there are plenty of characters who were given help from others in leveling and acquiring gear, and it's not right to take that collective effort and market it to the highest bidder.

It's a complicated issue for sure, but it's mainly centered around one single character. But what if it involved an entire guild? That's a question that players have had to tackle recently in World of Warcraft, as the practice of buying and selling guilds has become more and more popular. Would you buy a guild if you were just starting out? And would you sell your guild if you were done with the game? As usual, there are three sides to this coin, and it's something that we might see more of in other MMOs, so let's take a look at some of the arguments both for and against in today's Guild Counsel.

Why even buy and sell guilds?

At first glance, it doesn't seem to even make sense. Why would you want to buy someone else's guild? It's sort of like buying a worn pair of shoes -- even if you're the owner, you weren't the one who logged the mileage. It's also a source of pride to be able to create and run a guild over the long term, so why would you want to skip past that process?

But it's the process that's actually the reason some choose to purchase a guild; the system of guild levels and perks has meant new guilds need to grind levels in order to keep up with the larger, more established guilds. And if those perks give huge benefits to guildmembers, it's easy to assume that some players will want to get them with the least amount of effort required. As a result, the buying and selling of guilds has grown, although it's still not common.

The pros

Those who support it argue that there are plenty of guilds in WoW that have fallen inactive and are essentially ghost towns. Why not allow a guild leader to sell the guild and give a break to a budding guild whose members want the perks that make the guild more marketable to potential recruits? If the guild is dead and sitting there unused, shouldn't the leader have the chance to collect the value of the guild's time and effort and split it up among the remaining members? Not only would it help a brand-new guild, but it would potentially help a small or more casual guild that might have a hard time leveling up.

EQII dragon
The cons

Others argue that there is potential for abuse, and it's hard to know whether a guild being sold might actually be damaged goods. What if a guild was taken over by an unscrupulous officer through the inactive guild leader demotion who decided to implode the guild and have a fire sale? An unwitting buyer might actually be purchasing a guild that still has an active membership and resources.

There's also the morality of selling a guild to consider. A guild's not a single item that one person owns; it's actually the collective efforts of many members over the long term. It's similar to a character that looted endgame raid loot and then sold to the highest bidder -- there's no way that character would have gotten the gear without help from others, yet those others get shut out of the transaction. And of course, the most obvious argument against selling guilds is that it's viewed by some as cheating, since it's paying to skip ahead of something that many other guilds had to earn in-game.

How did it come to this?

Over on the WoW forums, there are several threads offering to buy and sell guilds, and while I haven't seen it in my two MMO mainstays, EverQuest II and RIFT, I can see it happening to both eventually. The inherent problem is that MMOs, in an attempt to give more teeth and relevance to guilds, have unintentionally created a commodity market by adding in guild levels and perks. On the surface, guild levels seem like a nice way to give guild members something to focus on as a whole in addition to a feeling of satisfaction when they reach milestones and attain nice buffs and amenities.

But often, guilds that are trying to level end up asking their members to do things in game that they might not do otherwise, and there's something wrong with that. I remember grinding crafting writs in EQII to help level up the guild, even though I wasn't a crafter, because it was one of the faster and easier ways to build up stats and level the guild. In RIFT, I ran PvP warfronts to complete guild quests, even though I'm a carebear at heart. Vanguard doesn't have guild levels per se, but it does feature the massive endeavor that is building a guild hall, and I recall grinding diplomacy to help earn the pages we needed for the deed. Players tend to search for (and take) the path of least resistance when it comes to reaching objectives in MMOs, and why not? If I can spend 12 hours doing crafting and earn the same guild experience that would normally take me 30 hours to gather through dungeon-running, I'll break out my needle and thread and stitch... but I'll resent every second of it. If it means getting a huge guild bank, rally banners to teleport the guild, or buffs that give my guildies a leg up on adventuring, I'll grind levels, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see someone else try to skip past the whole process by offering to pay.

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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