How ‘special snowflakes’ kill a raiding guild

It’s been some time since I last posted, mainly because a lot of things have been going on IRL – I’ve moved from freelancing back into agency work, and with my kidlet now in high school, time is tight in general. As a result of this, I’ve been spending much less time in game, and found myself quite burnt out late last year, to the point where I wasn’t really logging on much outside of raids, and even took a month-long break over December.

Jeez – was that the worst thing I could have ever done.

In my absence, the ‘special snowflakes’ lurking in our guild took over. Literally tried to cause a guild coup. We managed that for a time, but the behind-the-scenes lies and bullshit that continued throughout caused us to take a ‘sit back and wait’ approach, rather than buying into drama we had no time for.

We couldn’t believe how a group of ‘adults’ (read – most are 30+ at the very least) could do what they were doing, and knew people were being manipulated, so we just waited. There were screenshots of flat out lies sent around to other raiders via email, feelings were hurt for no good reason, and people were generally behaving like I was the enemy.

Funny thing was, I wasn’t even around for most of it, nor was I in any way involved. I was used as the whipping girl by a number of people who took issue with my burnout, which had unfortunately translated into me being cranky and over it on a number of occasions during raids, hence why I took a break from the game – I was sick and tired of the ongoing whinging from a number of people behind the scenes, and that was showing in my attitude.

They were also using it as an excuse to ‘be unhappy’. Reality is, you create your own happiness, so I was gobsmacked at the amount of ‘power’ I apparently have to fuck with people’s enjoyment of a game I love, and actually want to enjoy myself!

The result? Insidious is no longer progression raiding, and 6 of our core raiders left with our ‘second team’ over a period of weeks and joined a guild we took in last year to help them survive with our extras. Effectively, after almost 6 years of managing, running and maintaining Insidious, it’s all over, and we’re now a social guild of mainly alts with a few non-raiding mains.

Myself and four other guys made the decision to leave Nagrand, which has been my home since I started playing WoW, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I was literally crying when I was speaking with the guys about joining our new guild on Caelestrasz, but luckily for me, I already knew a number of them from when they were raiding on Nagrand, so they were nothing but supportive and understanding of my angst.

They knew all about our good reputation as a guild over a period of YEARS, and welcomed us with open arms. It’s hard to let something you’ve worked so hard to build go, and it’s even harder to let go when you know people are being cajoled and manipulated into leaving by some of the people we previously trusted 100%, but I think we’ve made the best decision for us.

So how did it all come about?

Effing WoD, and ‘mythic’ raiding.

warlords-of-draenor-1920x1200

As soon as the announcement was made about 20 man mythic raiding in WoD, a few people in our core team got all fired up about ‘switching up to 25s now so we have a good team for WoD’.

Errrrr – excuse me? WoD is HOW far away people?!

The leader of our ‘second team’ (I shall call him ‘Fucknuckle’ in the interests of storytelling) had originally wanted to join us to move up to 25 man raiding, but was denied that opportunity for both himself and his team based on his horrendous attitude towards the officers of Insidious and me (who recruited them, mind you) in particular. He started getting in people’s ears over Christmas/New Year and that’s where it all began. We came back to raiding to a lot of chatter about ‘we have to switch up or the guild will die’, and there was pressure to look at combining the two teams or joining other guilds to do so.

There was a slight problem with this, however.

Fucknuckle is a misogynistic, egotistical and downright nasty prick. He wanted to switch up to 25s desperately so ‘his team’ could be carried through content we’d already mastered – they didn’t even kill Garrosh N until 3 weeks ago for the first time, and they’ve been raiding MoP since release.

There had been early discussions on sharing experienced and lesser experienced raiders between teams, but our core team had zero interest in that, so we made the decision as an officer group to intentionally keep the teams separate, and recruit separately (that’s a whole other story I won’t go into here).

This essentially left Fucknuckle powerless in our guild, and cut off from any access to the main raid team. Hence the bullshit over Christmas, when a few combined runs were done and a ‘few’ people started talking about WoD, and he somehow managed to convince them his team was the better option for heroic raiding.

He even went to the effort of demanding a ‘change of leadership’ on our guild forums because we DARED to take a short break from the game over the holiday period, and approached people who are long-term real life friends, trying to poach them to his re-formed guild once they left. He and others were whispering them saying ‘you’ve been abandoned’, when our friends were fully aware of the entire situation, and found it endlessly amusing.

This from the ‘leader’ of a team who always started raids late, had people afk’ing constantly mid-raid, and couldn’t maintain a stable roster to save his life. No guild website, no paid voice server, no effort – wanted us to go to all the effort of recruiting for him, but wanted veto power over who was trialled in OUR guild.

Sounds appealing for successful heroic raiding, doesn’t it?

Well now he has all the ongoing pains in our arses (plus a few ‘friends’ who joined them to keep raiding), and it’s only a matter of time until the ‘special snowflakes’ start causing the same drama they’re well known for – people always revert to type once the honeymoon period is over. We wish them – well, something.

Special snowflakes are a pain in any officer’s ass.

lol1387386608503

There is no place for special snowflakes in a progression raiding guild – full stop. As soon as people start making demands as individuals rather than thinking of the team first and foremost, the slippery path to mutually-assured destruction is set.

We had a number of them, and they came and left and came back again like the guild was their own revolving door. They thought the grass was greener elsewhere, but overestimated their ability and were often benched in ‘more progressed guilds’ so begged to come back, time after time.

And I let them – I forgave them.

I’m a good person who cares for the FRIENDS I play with, so I forgive. And get kicked in the face. Good behaviour for a while, then straight back to the bullshit that being a shut-in recluse with nothing else in life than work and WoW creates.

When one person in particular got into cahoots with Fucknuckle, I knew the inevitable would happen. We WANTED it to happen – we were totally over the ongoing demands to ‘not take undergeared people’ or ‘not take people who are shit’ – people too easily forget that you NEED to give people chances, and often they surprise even the most elitist asshat with the work they do to improve. GOOD PEOPLE>EXPERIENCE any day.

What’s funny is…

There was always a back up plan.

backup-plan-plan-b-1-10-11

As engaged and responsible officers, we always had a Plan B. That was to find a new home who could accommodate us as a group with the loyal people who stayed. A few of us had already had discussions with a number of guilds off-server about it, and we had a loose plan in mind, as well as a couple of options, though many meant moving to the Horde, and we weren’t particularly keen on that.

We weren’t going to divulge Plan B openly until we knew what would happen with our guild however, as we wanted it to survive if possible, but that wasn’t to be the case.

We’re now happily ensconced in a 25 man heroic raiding guild on Caelestrasz, and in the period of two weeks are already 7/14H, soon to be 9/14H.

That feels good.

REALLY good.

I love not having any responsibility other than my own job as a melee, and the guild we’re in now have policies and rules that mirror our own in Insidious (the problem we had was people not respecting those rules, and often overtly flaunting them with no real repercussions). There’s an added bonus for us now of having a GM who genuinely believes a guild is NOT a democracy, and that is SO. REFRESHING.

On a sad and pathetic note however, ‘someone’ took it upon themselves to send this to our GM on Cael this week and promptly delete the toon…

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 7.03.04 pm

We know who did it. My new GM thought it was hilarious, and sent it to me straight away with a ‘oooooh someone doesn’t like you’. Understandably, I was quite pissed about it, but was given the following sage advice from a friend,

“Don’t mud wrestle a pig, you just get filthy and the pig likes it.”

Well you know what, you coward? I’m not going to mud wrestle you, but…

FUCK YOU.

You failed, and made a total dick of yourself to boot. Enough said, really.

Oh wait…

kartoosh111-2182600

From 3/14H to 7/14H  in two weeks, with zero drama to deal with, and a team of like-minded people with no tolerance for egotistical asshattery. Pure win.

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Between a rock and a hard place > when casuals want to become core

The sign says it all…

I’ve had this ‘insidious’ feeling of anxiety building over the past few weeks that I just haven’t been able to put a cause to. But with MoP now only days away, I’ve finally figured out what’s been scratching away at the back of my mind…

What will happen to our guild on launch week?

Having been a WoW player since 2008, I’ve seen my share of tiers and expansions, and the inevitable comings and goings of raiders over time. This experience tells me that Insidious could (potentially) be in for a challenge in a little over a week.

The great thing about our guild is that we have non-raiders, social members, casual raiders and (hard)core raiders all actively engaging with each other through various interests. They talk about stats and gems. They talk about addons *rolls eyes*. They are beginning to talk about class changes, and theorycraft. On rolling a new character, they ask questions of people with that class as a main, and they get cogent, helpful answers without any elitist epeen. They tell dirty jokes in guild chat while the core team is raiding, often leading to outbursts of laughter and spitting of wine in vent (*note to self – turn guild chat off during raids – your keyboard can’t take much more wine abuse!).

They roll outrageous panda names ‘Huflungpoo & Yooflungpoo’ on placeholder characters, run to Stormwind and get all up in the grill of some Enigma players outside the AH.

The offending soon-to-be-panda trolls at the scene of the crime…

This is the magical mystery woofer – afk as usual…

On that note, does anyone know of an addon that can enable players to see the main of someone on an alt? This woofer worgen we were taunting was a truly magical being, as he went quiet for a bit, then came out with ‘Genowen & Finia, huh.’

uh oh, busted.

“YOU’RE A MAGICAL WOOFER MYSTERY WORGEN! PLEASE DON’T TELL MY GM, OR I’LL HAVE TO KICK MYSELF IN THE ASS!!”

He found out our mains from our little baby pandas-in-waiting?! What the, Mr Magical Mystery Worgen!! Does anyone know of where this trickery originates?

*cough* ok, back on topic. I just had to ask if anyone knows how he did it.

All this shows that we promote a guild culture where it’s the people, not the progression status, that keeps everyone logging in. Everyone has value – hell, that’s why they’re in the guild!

With a 3-night raid schedule, being a lootmaster currently trying to get her non-math brain around implementing an EPGP loot system, and the additional responsibilities being an active GM requires, I sometimes feel a bit ‘stretched’ to do what I do best – getting to know every member of the guild through actually spending time with them, doing what they want to do. (Wanna kill a world boss? No problem, even if the whale shark DID kill us 10 times last time)! I have a feeling it’s about to step up a notch.

Here is where the rock and a hard place comes in…

What happens when casuals want to become core?

I’m blessed to be part of a great guild of people who range in age from 16 to 50+ (the 16 year old LIED TO ME! but we let him stay, as a pet. And we tease him, mercilessly), and I’ve had the great pleasure of 5-manning, raiding, pvping and being a general dingleberry with all of them. All have varying schedules for their WoW time, and that often impacts on the content they consume in-game. Over the course of cataclysm, we’ve seen various core raiders take a step back for real life stuff, and we’ve recruited to fill the gaps.

What we have right at this moment is a highly competitive raid team that have been playing together long enough to have developed that x-factor of raiding – group synergy. We’re running a core roster of 14-15 on progression content, and we’re planning a second ‘casual’ team for Saturday afternoons in MoP so that guildies with more limited schedules can still access current content through a more relaxed approach. We’ve pre-planned as much as is humanly possible, but there will always be a curve ball we didn’t anticipate.

There will always be players who really WANT to play in the core team, but who just can’t commit to 3 solid nights of raiding. They always have the best of intentions, but there are some people you just know can’t realistically commit. Also:

  • Some won’t be happy with what they see as a ‘B’ team, even though that team can be just as competitive on a more limited schedule – it just takes more planning and preparation.
  • Some will push for a core spot based on time in guild, history, raid composition etc, and will be very vocal when they’re politely declined.
  • Some have only recently started playing the game, and don’t have the experience needed for progression content – these guys would benefit most from a casual team.
  • Some simply don’t have the reaction speed required to raid competitively, even though we love them to death.

It’s always a tricky situation to be in. Do you:

  • prioritise skill over friendship?
  • make contribution to progression during the most recent tiers a requirement?
  • prioritise friendship over skill?
  • ignore all history, and create an optimal core team from a pool of classes and skill sets?

Grrr… arrrgh…

It’s really doing my head in. It’s important to keep my guild as happy as possible, but it’s impossible to please everyone. I’ve made some big long posts on the guild forums about our expectations for the core team, which we’ve never done before. It shows how we’re evolving as a ‘core progression raid team’, but doesn’t impact so much on non-raiding or casual guild members.

I think the other part of my anxiety is that I’m anticipating comments along the lines of ‘you’ve gone hardcore, but the guild is ‘social progression’ oriented’. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t want to hear it that a guild doesn’t have to be forced into being ‘one thing’. Our experience during Cataclysm taught us:

  • that truly difficult content (think t11 pre-nerfs in 346 gear) will always bring the committed players to light
  • that when the going gets tough, the dedicated members will see it through, and the casuals will drop off
  • that if someone was once Horde, they will likely return to the Horde side when you’re at a progression road block to chase that boss kill – once a Hordie, always a Hordie *evil grin*
  • that people all have a different idea of what ‘hardcore’ is – some think it’s time investment or heroic v/s normal content, others think it’s mentality
  • that people will get upset when they’re not included in the core run, but will also understand why when it’s communicated properly
  • that Malfurion is a sexy beast, and needs to get rid of Tyrande…
  • that our first crack at a formal loot system via Konfer Suicide Kings really didn’t work for serious progression; in fact, it favoured and even sometimes encouraged casuals/casual behaviour
  • that most of our more casual guildies are laid back about raiding, and are happy to fill in when they’re online or sit out farming gold by dancing on a mailbox or trolling guild chat for lols
  • that there are plenty of fun things to do outside of PVE raiding, and it’s only going to get better in MoP.

Now do you see why I feel so freaking anxious?!

And what about returning players??!!

Returning players – I LOVE them! Our ‘retired’ rank is rather overstuffed at this point, and Mortigen mentioned to me over the weekend that we should probably have a clean out of people who hadn’t logged in for over a year, but I just. couldn’t. do. it. I believe my immediate and vehement response was something along the lines of:

‘NO! They might come back one day! I don’t want them to feel all alone and be guildless if they log back in.’

I just get so excited when an old friend logs on out of the blue after a long absence, but it always brings its own set of challenges for the officers to manage:

  • established groups will change as a result of shifts in the guild’s social dynamics, potentially leading newer members of the guild to feel marginalised through the lack of ‘history’ old friends share
  • raid spots in the core team are already competitive, and good players are hard to find. There could be pressure to include a returning player over an existing raider for various composition/skill reasons
  • people returning after progression has commenced who are behind on the gear curve and need extra help.

My tentative approach is going to be to err on the side of caution until people hit level 90 and are geared for raiding. We have made the expectations clear, and we plan to enforce that, even if it means delaying our start to progression. This includes initially saying that returning players or people who haven’t raided t12/13 won’t have any priority for core spots.

The people who have done the hard yards recently are those who ‘officially’ get priority, and I think that’s a good thing – it rewards those who have gone the distance with us through a challenging expansion.

We plan on getting a second team up and running, which will also help the core roster with being able to rotate experience in and out of the casual team. We’ve done all we can, and now it’s up to the gods to see what happens.

How about you? What do you think the challenges will be for your guild in MoP?

Cata post-mortem: GM lessons learned

With the Cataclysm over, and Azeroth saved (for the time being), I thought it was time to publicly expunge my mind of all the trials and tribulations our guild has encountered over the past year and a half or so. Hell, maybe some of what I’ve learned throughout my tenure as a long-standing officer and now GM could even help someone else avoid the same mistakes!

As people who have ever been involved in running a guild know, it is by no means an easy task. Those who ‘covet’ what they see as ‘power’ are usually the ones who are most vocal in their criticism of the people who do their best to keep what is, in real-world terms, a ‘volunteer organisation’ running effectively – as UNPAID CEO’s/Managers.

Our GM’ship has been like a hot potato during the course of Cataclysm, with the role changing between the three (re-)founding members a number of times, mostly due to real life responsibilities hindering our various abilities to do the job well. Feelings on GM retirement by Mortigen, current officer and previous GM, should give you a further idea on how important we feel it is to have effective leadership in our guild.

So without further ado, what lessons have I learned during my stint?

GM Lesson #1: Guildies are people, and people will always have their own agenda.

Bill Cosby is a bit of a smart man…

  • Regardless of how well you manage your guild, people are individuals, and they will always want things their way in their ‘perfect world’. Whether it’s missing out on a raid spot, getting purple fever rage over losing out on a piece of loot, losing their shit just because they’ve had a bad day or overestimating their value to the raid team, I’ve learned that you can never please everyone all of the time, and you can very rarely please even one person some of the time! When in doubt over a decision you’ve made, remember the old saying ‘trying to please everyone pleases no one’.
  • Avoid ‘real life’ friends joining you unless your guild is purely social – their expectations of what you will do/they can do/they can get away with will invariably be higher than anyone else’s, and it’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster (see second dot point of Lesson #2).

GM Lesson #2: Never, EVER, entertain the thought of taking on more than two people from another guild at the same time.

We may take their guild name, but they’ll never take our freedom!!! (to do whatever the hell we want and not care about its impact on our new guild!)

  • Offers of guild merges with other guilds on your server at a similar level of progression as you? Don’t do it. It’s highly likely you’ll already have a few, if not many, of their ex-player base, and they are chasing you with the offer of a merge to get back to where they were previously. Those people left for a reason – in my experience, the reason is ‘usually’ the very person who approaches you about a potential merge.
  • ‘Real life’ friends who get wind of the happy little community you have going with other mutual friends, and server transfer to be a part of it? One or two is fine, but just wait until their ex-raiding buddies decide to make the move to follow, and decide that rather than become a part of the wider guild community, they are going to ‘run things their way’ and ‘not be told what to do by a bunch of scrubs – we’re awesome, and we’re gonna just grab a couple of your other raiders we know from before they joined you to fill our independent raid team while we’re at it’. ‘Nuff said.

(there are some obvious exceptions to the ‘rule’ here, but for the sake of this post, I won’t go into them)

GM Lesson #3: Always stay true to your guild’s vision, and don’t panic when someone spits the chewy – wave goodbye, and kill them in your mind!

Keep calm!

  • First and foremost, your guild is your baby. If you’re into progression raiding, it’s highly likely that you had a vision for how your guild would interact, play together and (hopefully, if you’ve done it right) stay together. Now when I talk about vision, I don’t mean a static ‘this is the guild, and this is how it will always be’ – people will naturally come and go, and you will evolve and adapt over time. Our guild’s vision has always been ‘semi-hardcore progression on a 2-night schedule’ but that increased to 3 nights during cata, mostly due to the masses of content available on release. The other part of our vision is as follows: Insidious isn’t all about the raiding. We are a highly social guild, and value the unique individuality of our people as much as we value our dragon killing. We welcome all religions, sexualities, races and creeds, and have no time at all for socially ignorant asshats. Insidious is a guild where intolerance means you’re out the door, and where people are free to express their individuality openly and comfortably. We endeavour to foster a fun and friendly guild environment and various members try to meet up and get crazy drunk as often as humanly possible. Sounds great, right? The ‘challenge’ comes in when people who were originally on board with your vision decide:
    • they want to get more serious with progression than the ‘adult, time-poor’ raid team can facilitate
    • they don’t like the banter that goes on during raids, and try to change the existing culture
    • they just don’t like someone else in the guild, and cause drama as a result.

    The simple lesson I have learned here, is… (See Lesson #1!). Let them go, wish them well, and move on. Kill them in your mind if you have to. It’s all good. If they didn’t want to stay with you, you’re much, much better off without their negativity polluting everyone else’s game time.

  • As per the previous point, one very important thing I’ve learned is that sometimes – just, sometimes – people you thought of a ‘key personalities’ in your guild actually aren’t, and you only find this out AFTER they have moved on, and new blood comes in to replace them. Our guild is at a point now where most of our raid roster is aged 25+ (read: more like 30-35+ *cough*), and while vent can get rather filthy (and drunken *another cough*) at times, everyone is extremely tolerant of each other’s varied personalities, and we’re all on the same page, with the same goals – FINALLY. I couldn’t have ever dreamed for such a great end result back at the start of Cataclysm, and it demonstrates that having a genuine interest and passion for driving and maintaining (as well as sadly, sometimes replacing members of) your community in good times and bad actually does pay off – it just takes a while! Stick with it!

GM Lesson #4: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Communication is key.

  • Nothing will kill a guild faster than not communicating with the rest of your community. This lesson goes for good times AND bad times. Of course, as a leader, it’s part of your job to spend a lot of your time shielding guildies from unnecessary behind-the-scenes drama, but there are times that being frank, open and honest bears the best fruit. The fact our guild is still going strong three years after rebuilding from scratch is evidence of effective communication. Have there been times when we could have done things better? sure – but on the whole we’re a fairly ‘mature’ bunch who tend to see a problem and actually WANT to fix it before it escalates out of control, which leads to my next point…
  • If people have a ‘problem’ and refuse to communicate, and become like the aforementioned kids in a sandpit, there’s nothing you can do to change them. All you can do is tell them what you expect from them as a member of your guild, and leave it at that. There’s nothing more draining than trying to reason with someone who is being unreasonable (and believe me, I’ve tried it many times), so just don’t do it. It will sort itself out one way or the other, and usually it results in that person leaving the guild, either with a dramatic exit, or quietly in the middle of the night when no one is on to question it, so don’t lose sleep over it. People who aren’t willing to communicate aren’t people you want to play/raid with anyway.

GM Lesson #5: Remember you’re also online to have fun in your GAME of choice.

  • So you have the GM hat? apparently it’s all mystical and amazing, and acts as a flame to all the ‘moths’ that are your fellow guildies. Everyone wants to talk to you about something, and often it’s all at the same time. To avoid burnout, I’ve learned that you need to share tasks with your other officers, and make sure that the rest of the guild knows the ‘chain of command’. My method of choice is via posting on our guild website, and referring guildies to particular people/posts/policies when necessary e.g. when I’m in the middle of a progression fight and a new recruit whispers me to ask about our loot rules >.<
  • Regardless of how your guild started (which is usually with the GM and Officers), you need to have some peaceful time in game every now and then, so if you’re really not in the mood, ask a trusted officer to take over for a while and go do something fun. If anyone whispers you, refer them to the person who is ‘boss’ for the day, and carry on.

So there you have it – 5 lessons I’ve learned since making the transition from officer/second in charge to GM. I know it’s a TLDR post, and I’m sure I’ve missed numerous pertinent points, but these 5 are the essence of the challenges we have faced and conquered in Cataclysm.

I never cease to be amazed by the wonderful people I play with, regardless of past drama. We have a great culture that has endured through everything, and I look forward to the continued success of <Insidious> in Mists with a light heart, sharpened claws and a solid guild of great people I totally admire and respect!

/angst expunged.