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The Guild Counsel: Managing mistakes

Karen Bryan

Despite what some folks say, running a multi-party event (raiding, PvPing, dynamic events) is hard. There are the logistical issues of trying to coordinate many players who are scattered all around the world and rely on only voice chat and typed text to communicate. There's the need to instantly react to changes during the course of battle, and the larger the party, the slower the reaction time. And there are even nuances in how individuals approach various situations, which has a ripple effect on the others. Tank Bob might prefer to pull a boss to a different spot than Tank Susie. Or Sniper Sally might be used to peeling away and taking up a position in a tree while Captain Pete prefers to charge in as one force.

Suffice it to say, there are plenty of mistakes that happen any time large numbers of players get together, and it's often difficult to sort out which ones warrant a player's removal from the force and which ones don't. Let's take a look at how to handle mistakes in this week's Guild Counsel.

Once upon a time, when I was a fledgling guild leader and didn't exactly have the best screening methods, I invited into my guild a player who ended up giving me epic headaches. He played a Mage and had two amazing skills: He could pull aggro like you wouldn't believe (which usually ends badly for a squishy Mage), and he did exactly the opposite of every instruction I'd give on raids. If I said to stick together and move as one, he'd wander off around a corner. If I said to not click the lever, he'd run over and do it. It got to a point where I'd make stuff up just to see what ridiculous things I could get him to do (by saying not to do them). I guessed he was a younger player, and while he was nice and polite, he was a textbook example of how to completely fail as a raider.

Of course, the easy answer is to just kick him, and I eventually did, but not until I had exhausted all other options. This was when EverQuest didn't have a cap on how many could join in on a raid, so it wasn't as if he was taking someone else's spot, and his damage output (when he wasn't lost) was pretty decent, so he was making a contribution. He wasn't a bad person, just a bad player, and if I kicked out every player who ever made a stupid mistake on a raid, I'd have a pretty empty roster. (I'd even have to kick myself!)

Don't be such a n00b

Guild leaders have it tough because they need to make the best use of everyone's time, and when someone screws up, it affects everyone that's there. Luckily, my careless Mage didn't wipe the raid, but every time he wandered off, it slowed us down, and if I had to do it again, I would have removed him sooner. But I've also had times when the best players make colossal errors that did cause us to wipe, and that meant hours of corpse recovery and rezzing (ah, the fun days of raiding in early EverQuest). I'd never even consider removing them, even though their mistakes were far more costly than those of the wayward Mage.

The trickiest players to manage, though, are the ones who are mediocre players who try hard and are great people but just don't execute well. You might decide to give them time to improve, but that's time you're also taking away from the rest of the team.

The Guild Counsel Managing mistakes
Put me in, coach

If there's one pet peeve I have against guild leaders, it's that they don't always have the patience for players who make mistakes. And it's no wonder that so many good players get turned off to guilds; sometimes the bar is set so high that it's simply not worth the hassle of trying to reach it. It becomes a Catch-22: Decent players might want to join up and participate in a guild event, but they're afraid of making a mistake. However, if they don't participate and make mistakes, they will never learn and improve. Guilds always suffer from the challenges of trying to recruit and fill the roster with good members, and yet they don't always help their cause when they're intolerant to mistakes.

I hardly ever use the word "job" when referring to the role of guild leaders because if you feel it's a job, there's something wrong. But in this case, it is your job as guild leader to help prepare members for the challenges of a multi-party event. If there's a difficult step during the course of a boss fight, use the days leading up to the raid to help everyone understand what's involved and how to execute properly to counter it. If someone is hampering your PvP force, figure out what can that person do to improve or what role he can have so that he won't be a detriment. The job of a coach on a sports team is to instruct and adjust on off-days to get his team in the best shape possible for the game. Guild leaders are just like coaches, and if you do want to run a successful multi-party event, you need to roll up your sleeves and get down to business at times. The nice thing is that the more you do it initially, the less you'll have to do it down the road. You'll also create an atmosphere where members are enthusiastic about participating rather than anxious and averse.

Forced vs. unforced errors

In the end, there is a difference in the types of mistakes players make. Forced errors, like a boss mob blasting the raid at a bad time or a sniper getting a lucky headshot on your best player, are always going to happen, and it's hard to justify kicking a player out because of those. It's the unforced errors that shouldn't be tolerated, like my Mage buddy's insistence on pushing the big button that says, "DO NOT TOUCH." There is a grey area, though, for honest mistakes that players make but you feel they really should know better. You might be tempted to kick someone out, but it's best to weigh all the factors above before making that call.

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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