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The Guild Counsel: Is it time to shift your vision or just shut down?

Karen Bryan

A big part of running a successful guild is having a clear idea of what type of guild you want to have and knowing how to make that work. Everything revolves around your vision for the guild, from recruitment to scheduling events to guild rules and even the overall tone and atmosphere. But what happens if your guild philosophy ends up clashing with that of the bulk of your members? Massively reader Mbbrazen, who commented on a recent Guild Counsel article, illustrated the issue:
The other issue I've seen, which is not specifically mentioned in the article, is what should the guild leader do when the people who originally joined the guild because they all had similar interests are gone (burned out, gone to other games, etc.) and the majority of the new people have more varied interests? Should the guild leader shut the guild down or adapt to the new membership? I actually think a guild I was in recently is dying a slow death because the leaders needed to decide to either shut it down or adapt to needs of the active membership. Thoughts?
This is a tough situation but all too common. Let's take a look at some options in this week's Guild Counsel.

Recruitment is key

It's too late for a guild in this situation, but the example above actually highlights why consistent recruitment is key to a happy guild. Many guilds focus on skill and class type, but they should be focusing on whether or not potential members fit in with the guild culture. Do they play at the same times as the bulk of the guild? Do they agree with the guild philosophy? Will their personality mesh well with that of other members? Are they OK with the pace of the guild's progress? It's amazing how a relatively small thing, like guild chat, can balloon into a huge problem.

You can have the best player on the planet, but if he swears like a sailor and you have family-friendly chat, he'll end up causing so much disruption that it will actually slow the guild down (and create all sorts of headaches for the leader). Have a specific set of questions ready to ask any potential member, similar to Rick Grimes' "three questions" in the Walking Dead. If you are careful with recruitment, you can reduce your chance of having to consider changing your vision or shutting down completely.

Shift vision

It is possible to change the guild's philosophy and playstyle, but it's very hard to do it successfully. Members who signed on based on your vision won't necessarily appreciate a sudden shift; they'll feel as if they were the victims of a bait and switch. It's also hard to implement because the leader needs to be comfortable with that new vision. You'll often see guilds fall apart after a leadership change because the original tone and vision for the guild doesn't match the personality and leadership style of the new leader.

As the reader described above, though, there are times when the older core of the membership moves on, and the newer members, who hold a different philosophy, are now the majority of the guild. Attrition is an unavoidable part of guild life, so every guild faces that problem. In that case, it may be time to have a discussion with everyone about whether to change things up. You won't have everyone on board, but it might be that shot in the arm that will get your guild back on track.

The Guild Counsel Is it time to shift your vision, or just shut down

That shift in vision will probably come with some pain, though, so be prepared for some bumps in the road. Some members might decide to move on, which is understandable, and hopefully it will happen with respect and no hard feelings from either side. That will mean recruitment takes center stage, and it'll be even more crucial that potential candidates are chosen carefully. And there might need to be a temporary pause in scheduled events to let the dust settle and chisel out a new direction for the guild.

This also might be a good time to consider changing leaders. Again, a guild leader's personality tends to resonate throughout the guild, and if his leadership style doesn't fit with the new guild vision, there needs to be someone new who can take the reins and work with that philosophy. That can be extremely difficult, and while it might be the best solution, it's not without some mixed feelings all around.

Hold your ground

On the other hand, a guild leader doesn't have to bend to the will of the majority because it's his guild and his hard work. And in MMOs with guild levels and guild perks, there's even more reason to hold firm and maintain control. That large core of players might want a change, but they also might want to take advantage of the situation to inspire a coup and acquire a nicely leveled guild in the process. The short-term blow from members leaving is nothing compared to starting over from scratch and building up a new guild.

Do a check-up

In some cases, a guild needs not a wholesale change of vision but merely some tweaking. Every guild leader should do an assessment of the state of the guild. Are your guild rules working, or are some outdated? Are members generally happy with the schedule of events, or do you need to adjust the time and frequency a bit? Is your short-term goal list taking you down the right path, or should you aim for something else? Together, these make up the overall vision for the guild, but it might be quite possible that you really only need to change one or two, rather than everything, and those changes might be relatively minor.

Once you've done that assessment, pass your findings along to the guild. I liked to send an in-game mail every few months to summarize what we have been doing (and members were usually surprised at how much they had accomplished!) and also to outline what's on the horizon. If I felt something needed to be adjusted, I'd pass that along and explain why. A "state of the guild" shows that you're focused on the well-being of the guild, and you can often get ahead of potential issues before a member has to bring them to your attention.

Shutting down

While it's difficult to close the doors on a guild, there are times when it is the best solution, although it should be the last resort. It's harder on everyone to see a guild slowly shriveling up, and deciding to close gives everyone a chance to have a final goodbye and a better shot at sticking together wherever they go. If a new vision isn't an option and you can't go through the rebuilding process, a clean break might be the best choice. It's better to do that then lead people on knowing the inevitable.

In every guild, there are bound to be members who are not on board with your vision and philosophy. And a little healthy debate here and there is good for the guild. But the guild was built on the ideas of the guild leader, and it should take a lot before the leader decides to abandon them and start with something new, especially since they're the fundamental reason players signed on in the first place.

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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