Friday, September 08, 2006

Anatomy of a Guild Death

I had the unfortunate experience of being in a guild which started going through death throes this week. Problems had been building for about a month as some of our key members left. However, in the end it came down to the simple fact that a few people were pushing our guild to be more hardcore against everyone else's wishes. Too bad all of our priests were casual players who felt offended by these people having free reign. Most of our priests were close friends and the wives of other guild members. Once one decided to quit they all decided to quit and the guild members started to drop like flies. The best part is the person who started all the trouble was one of the first ones to quit after the priests left.

I've been in a lot of guilds and experienced a wide range of guild politics, loot distribution systems, and hardcoreness. Honestly by the time I had gotten into World of Warcraft I had almost decided to stop raiding for good. This guild breaking up had a sort of deja vu feel to it since I swear it was an exact copy of my last guild breakup. In fact I was freaking out my friends by calling out who would leave next and what they would say in guild chat before they left. By the end of the night my friends were convinced I was telepathic and I was convinced I needed to write an article on guild death.

Guilds break up for two reasons and two reasons only:
1) The guild leader is leaving and wants the guild to end with them
2) Someone starts a divide in the guild

1) Guild Death by Self Destruct

There's not much you can do if the guild leader decides to self destruct your guild. This really is rare though as most guild leaders are more then happy to hand off leadership to someone else. I've only ever seen two cases where the leader didn't want to hand over leadership when quitting. In both cases the guild leader had absolute power in every decision and always seemed to be on. My only guess is that these type of leaders often want their guilds to die so they won't be tempted to come back to the game.

The guild leader handles all loot and is sort of tyrannical. People sort of like having an absolute law to follow though and your raids tend to run smoothly with much success.

Anatomy of the End
The guild leader starts to talk and complain about the pressure of leadership

B. Attempts to help the leader in loot distribution or raid planning are rejected

C. The guild leader will start making weird decisions and striking back at people they think are trying to take over the guild.

D. Long rant by the guild leader with lots of accusations ending with a thank you to everyone.

E. Guild Kicks for everyone. This was easier in Everquest where they would simply disband the guild.

2) Guild Death by Divide

This is the much more common method of guild death. In every case I've seen it starts with one person who uses the divide in an attempt to gain power. Sure by the time of the guild death both sides of the divide have supporters but it took one person specifically to start it and convince the more gullible guild members to support them.

An antagonist. Much like every story has one to drive conflict so does every guild death have one. This person will be dissatisfied with some facet of the guild which most members are fine with but will use several different tactics to explode an issue into a divide.

B. Leadership Vacuum. People like this can only survive in a leadership vacuum where no one is really sure if they should be listening to this person or not. Most people are sort of unsure of their guild rules and the antagonist usually has some sort of unofficial rank which they can use to bluff against people. Most successful and long lasting guilds have leaders that recognize antagonists and know to swiftly get rid of them.

Anatomy of the End
A new person in the guild leadership will appear usually about two months before the guild death. They might have been a member for a long time but the divide almost always starts with this person gaining some power. 70% of the time they will start running raids since this is the most tiresome duty of guild leadership and most will be glad to hand it off to someone who wants to do it. This also gives the person the best chance to change guild policy since raiding is where it mostly comes into play

B. The new person in guild leadership will have a close friendship with a few vocal supporters including at least one officer. Even if the guild leadership isn't well experienced they still should be able to recognize the new person as a divider and guild kick them. However, having a close relation with an officer prevents this unless they are caught red handed. Be especially watchful of anyone dating or flirting with an officer.

C. Private tells and Private chats start happening between the antagonist and members of the guild. Basically at this stage the antagonist is looking to make a few people who were fine with the current guild policy change their mind. They might use bribes, slander, or just spur up resentment by talking trash. Despite the efforts of the antagonist most people still like the way things are but are starting to wonder if they are in the minority.

D. Cha-Cha-Changes start being suggested and implemented very quickly and without everyone's full knowledge. Most people don't complain right away because they are afraid they might be in the minority. Changes are usually done to one of the following areas:
- The amount of raiding is increased often under the antagonist's control
- The loot system is modified or an attempt is made to modify it
- New ranks are made in an attempt to move the antagonist’s supporters into power

E. Vague accusations are made about a segment of the guild to justify why the changes are not going so well. Such accusations are usually against casual players or a certain class that is effected more then others by the changes.

F. The Divide hits Rock bottom: Someone gets fed up and pissed off. People realize the antagonist has created the divide and split the guild on an issue that only a few people really care about. Expect a nice long rant post on your forums or speech on your voice server. If at this point anyone but the antagonist is not guild kicked immediately the two sides of the guild will fall away from each other. If a priest gets involved and quits expect this part of the guild death to be quick.

G. The antagonist will leave the guild and join another one within a day. Chances are they had been talking to the other guild for a couple weeks and will bring some of their supporters with them.

H. If your priests got involved your SOL since it takes a long time to gather more of the rare healers. While unable to raid people will get bored and leave at 5am in the morning. While many people think big dramatic rants followed by guild quits are when guilds die, the truth is that guilds almost always die quietly in the early morning hours when the birds start to sing.


Jim said...

Amen, especially as regards involvement of the priests (once you lose the healers, it's all downhill). Interestingly enough, when you have the scenario of someone pushing a guild to be more hardcore (more raiding, mandatory attendance, less PvP) - I've noticed that it's the DPS classes (eps rogues and fury warriors) that push hardest.

And usually they're pushing on the dedicated healers and protection-specced warriors - the players who've already given up the most to support the other players.

Sinker said...

Wow, I can totally relate to most of your points. I was a guild officer, and we set our guild up to be a casual-friendly raiding guild. Over time, the 'hardcore' players became impatient and that caused reactionary policy changes from the officers.

In the end, too many of the core raiders decided to leave for better guilds, and the remaining officers decided to disband. I was the one to do it, and yeah, it happened in the early hours of the morning.

I'd add one other scenario to your list. I was on a server that received free transfers from several high population servers. We were doing as well as we could dealing with a low population, but after transfers, recruiting became so much more difficult. Seven or Eight raiding guilds transfered over, and that opened up too many new opportunities for players frustrated with our slower pace through endgame.

Relmstein said...

Its really sad how the struggle between hardcore and casual playstyles tears apart guilds. I guess this is why there is such animosity between the two types of players on most forums. I think guilds need to stick with their orginal playstyle philosophy. Since mixing the two never seems to work

Daztur said...

There's also death by churn. In a lot of guilds people who have no real problem with the guild leave the guild because they're tired of the game and a lot of guilds die with a wimper in that way.

Most guilds don't have branches in various games or can't keep peoples interest up between games...

emyln said...

I don't know what server you are on, but most of the established servers (since the start) have priests left and right. Most are alts but still, there's seldom a priest shortage.

More importantly, once a priest (or any player) finds a good guild, they will not leave the guild and will tend to avoid PUG's like the plague.

I'm a Priest on Doomhammer, and belong to a "Mature Causal Raiding Guild". 3/4 of our guild are over 25 years old, we even have 50+year olds. We only started raiding in MC about Aug/Sep 05. Currently we have MC/BWL on farm, and working on AQ40 + we've downed Instructor Rev in Nexx. We raid Thurs - Sun. But here's the thing, there's no 'requirement' that you have to join up for any raid, we do signup sheets.

We chat and are social on Vent. We have a fun causal attitude. We never point fingers, and if its a bad raid night, there are always people saying "We'll get it next time", or "Its just an Off Night".

I think the key to our success is the members in the Guild. Sure we had some who left the guild for more hardcore guilds that have a much faster progression. We might not be the fastest but we're steady, we encourage each other, have fun and eventually we will get the job done.

Elira said...

Please to say we manage to show so much apathy that the hard core gamers move on - strangely enough they usually ask to rejoin a few months later complaining that they haven't been able to find a guild and after that are quite happy with our causal play/raiding routine. I guess we use apathy as a tool!

May as well use this as a recruitment opportunity: anyone on the European Doomhammer Server interested in a casual gaming/raiding guild, then consider The One Eyed Dragon. We are a casual gaming guild, very friendly and play when we fancy (we aim to raid about once a week, and baby dungeon runs about the same, but don’t force anyone to join in). Our Guild Website is:

Anonymous said...

Was with the same guild in Everquest for years, was so sad when it died. Scarlet Suns was this huge guild, as old as the game itself. They invented strategies through trial and error, and push into the frontiers. They helped others in their travels - nobility was the foundation. when i first discovered the game they were like a guild of titans, and when i finally leveld up to 65 and got a reputation as a good enchanter i was allowed to join them. Ah the new places i saw, all the best bits! When you play a few hours every day with the same people you become kindred. Eventually there was a dissagreement in leadership, a coup. i logged on to find !!GUILD IN CRISIS!!. many friends had allready gone, formed a new guild and like a rat abandoning the sinking ship i left the old guild, and the honor that went with being a member, behind. 'Phoenix' was formed (it rose from the ashes), and it worked very well. Raiding had stronger leadership and we succeeded into new expansions, but it just still lacked the heart of the good old days.

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