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The Guild Counsel: Surviving the dreaded plateau

Karen Bryan

One of the challenges of running a guild is avoiding the emotional peaks and valleys that tend to come up. In fact, one of the scariest times for a guild is when it's just accomplished something big because once the cheers stop, there's a void left and people begin to wonder what's next. It's not uncommon for a guild that's just hit an amazing goal to lose some members shortly after, and in some cases, it can actually lead to a guild withering and drying up because there's a letdown and apathy sets in.

How do you survive the dreaded plateau? Let's look at a few ways in this week's Guild Counsel!

Provide the horizon

You'd think that MMOs would be doing this, since they want to keep players coming back, but that's not always the case. There are layers of progression in most MMOs, ranging from individual character progression to group progression to PvP progression to large-scale raid progression, but each path isn't always clear, and in many cases, they intersect with one another. With raiding, for example, you would think that clearing one zone would gear you up to begin the next, but sometimes your guild has to go back and farm materials or fill gear gaps through other means before moving ahead. If you're a guild that runs group zones together, you might need individuals to "do their dailies" in order to purchase good enough gear to survive. Not everyone will know what to do in order to be able to contribute to guild endeavors, so it's up to you to highlight the options available.

More importantly, once your guild has reached its objective, be prepared to answer the question, "What's next?" If you're raiding, what targets are next on the list, and how long will it be before you're able to attempt them? If you've downed a tough boss, how long do you plan on farming him before moving on? The more tangibles you can provide, the easier it is to keep people focused and interested in staying the course. This applies to any guild goal, whether it's raiding a hard boss, leveling up a guild, or even building a guild hall. The more able you are to provide the horizon, the better the morale of the guild.

Revisit old content for fun

If you've just killed a raid boss that you've been working on for weeks, it's really fun to take all that gear and pent up frustration and blow up old content that you haven't done in a while. Chances are, somewhere in those old raid zones is an arch-nemesis that you struggled with, and it's satisfying to be able to smoke him with little effort. It becomes a victory lap, a nostalgia trip, and proof of how much you've improved, all wrapped up in one. Just make sure it's something you know you'll be able to win! Some fights have random scripts that can hamper even an over-geared guild, and it's not exactly fun to wipe to trivial content because someone missed a cue.

Role reversal

Everyone has alts lying around these days, yet when it comes to raiding, people usually have to play their one raid-capable toon either because it's well-geared or because it's needed to fill a crucial role in the raid force. If you've just cleared a tough zone, why not let people break out their alts and have a night when you try raiding in different roles? Expectations will be low, so there isn't as much pressure, and it becomes a refreshing change to have Meatshield D'tank be on healing duties and Paperthin Nukey'McNuke take on the role of main tank. Heck, if it's a zone that you know well enough, let the resident guild joker lead the raid and do his best impression of the raid leader. Changing things up lets people get a glimpse of what it's like to be in the other guy's shoes (which isn't always as easy as it looks), and it also breaks up the staleness of having to play the same character over and over.

Have a party

If you've been single-mindedly focused on a particular goal for a while, why not celebrate it with a guild event? It's a chance for people to savor the moment a little bit longer, and it's a way to ease those inevitable concerns about what to do next. Drunken naked gnome races are a common idea, but there are lots of things you can organize without ending up mired in party-planning. In fact, we'll look at this in a future column!

Switch games

More and more, guilds are more about the people than the game, and if that's the case with your guild, one definite option is to try a new game whenever you feel that you might be hitting an eventual wall with your progression. This is a tough call because you don't want to pull up roots prematurely and end up with guild strife over who wants to stay and who wants to go. But at the same time, if you can see your guild running into problems with finding attainable and compelling goals in a particular game, then you don't want to wait so long that you end up hitting that wall and losing members as a result. There are many more options today than ever before when it comes to MMOs, and the rise of free-to-play gives leaders a chance to scout things out and make an informed decision on what potential MMO would be the best fit for the guild should you choose to switch games. Given that fact, I'm amazed at how many guilds stick around in a game even though the members admit that it lost its fun factor long ago. People end up logging in to play with their friends, even though they aren't really having much fun. If it's to that point, and you've hit a plateau, it might be worth discussing other options with guildmates.

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that it's impossible to avoid the roller coaster feeling that comes with being in a guild, but you can minimize it if you're mindful of it. If you can tone down the peaks a bit and build up the valleys, it ends up getting easier and easier to weather them down the road. And if all else fails, break out the ale and roll up some naked gnomes!

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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