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.