Dec 8, 2011

Posted by in United We Stand | 11 Comments

United We Stand: A Living Document

United We Stand is an Ask A Jedi series focusing on guilds, groups, and other communities in Star Wars: The Old Republic. By examining the communities that we form, we can create a stronger game for ourselves, build relationships that will last a lifetime, and perhaps even change the world itself.

I hope everyone enjoyed their chance to play Star Wars: The Old Republic recently; I spent my time meticulously writing down the exact values for my Twi’leks’ appearance bars. Time well spent.

Last time we talked about the idea of a governing document guided by the concept of transparency to embody the vision of your core message. We could quite literally go on for weeks just about how to write a good guild charter, but unfortunately there are so many other fascinating things about Star War: The Old Republic and its community that we should discuss.

This week, however, I want to highlight a guild charter that as offered up in the comments of last week’s article. GhostBoy submitted this document, one from his own World of Warcraft endgame PvE guild.

The interesting thing about reading GhostBoy’s charter is that you can tell it’s been in use for a long time, there are articles and sections that seem out of place because they were added in later in order to address an issue that came up after the charter was written. This is the natural evolution of a governing document and a sign of a healthy and attentive leadership.

I want to point out a few awesome aspects of this charter:

  • The Guild recognizes that World of Warcraft is a game, and that our members will have real life priorities that must take precedent.” Right off at the beginning, the charter recognizes the importance of its members over any action of the guild or the game.
  • “The Officers Council divides the workload into a number of roles. The total number of officers is not fixed, but determined by the number of people required to cover these.” A major weakness in a guild leader is not delegating responsibility, so this charter writes delegation into its rules. The charter then goes on to carefully define each position’s role and duties. According to Ghostboy, this section was added long after the Charter was originally written.
  • “Each officer will be appointed for a period of 3 months. At the end of a period, they will be subject to peer review by the other officers, and have the option of continuing their current role, changing to another role, or stepping down as officer, either temporarily or permanently. This is done to ensure the leadership keeps a fresh perspective and to prevent burnout.” This is an interesting idea on how to keep the officers fresh. I would be really interested to see how this worked out, and particularly interested to hear what happened when the reviews turned out poor and an officer was asked to step down.
  • All amendments to the Guild Charter or major policy decisions will be subject to a vote by all members of the council and carried by an overall majority. Here comes democracy.
  • “The Guild Bank is used to store useful items, recipes & reagents for use by the guild. Donations to the guild bank are voluntary.” This is the start a long and complicated section very carefully defining what the guild bank can be used for. This is awesome because the guild bank is a tool that is easily misused and so often underused.
  • Any negative feedback received from a member in relation to previous playing experience must be investigated by an officer before an invitation is made.” This is a great clause; negative reviews should always be followed up on for doing so will save you a huge headache.
  • Finally at the very bottom, “All new members must agree to this Guild Charter in order to be a member of Pajama Warriors of Neverland.” We find the most important section of all. Unless the guild charter is agreed to and understood by its members, then it has no power.

These documents that you are writing are incredibly important. Whenever an issue comes up, you can refer back to your charter document. If it is a problem that can not be solved easily by the charter, then amend the charter. Next time, you will know what to do and your successors won’t forget the lessons that you have learned. Every time this happens, it makes your guild stronger. The charter is a living document, meant to grow and learn along with you.

Bad experiences with guilds happen to everyone, whether it be from promising everything and providing none of it, or from giving us nothing and asking too much. An important step we need to take is just to take a little bit more time in designing our guilds, as to not fail the players who put their faith in us.

Leave comments or tweet me @TwinHits with your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

  1. Glad you found a use for it. It’s always interesting to see someone else appraise something you think you know in and out.

    Alas, I cannot offer insights into how well the 3 month thing works in practice, since I used the time of the first evaluation to step down as officer.

    Btw, your note on democracy? Notice that the vote is among the Council, ie the officers. The members do not get a (direct) say in the matter, though something requiring a charter amendment will be talked about in guild chat and sometimes the forums before we nail down the final wording.

    • Also, the guild is not actually called Pajama Warriors of Neverland. ;)

    • Well, the point about the democracy is that there is the vote period, it doesn’t really mater on what scale. Read the article that I linked to and it explains, it’s a weird thing when you find the vote in the strangest of places, like SWTOR.

      • I did, and I realise this. I just found it worth pointing out that, like I alluded to back in that articles comments, we actually didn’t want to mix votes into it. If there was a way to guarantee that 4-8 people would agree on what is best, that would be perfect. Alas, big decisions are sometimes controversial, so it was deemed best to formalise a system of getting a decision made between those in a manner that allows them to get it done and still share a pint later.

        Being denied a holmgang at the challenging hour for practical reasons, it was decided to go for some very small scale democracy. ;)

        • Lady Republic says:

          Poli Sci geek points out that the operation Ghost Boy describes is actually an oligarchy, not a democracy. A representative democracy would be if the officers were elected by the guild as a whole and then made decisions among officers.
          An oligarchy, on the other hand, is where a group of people in power make decisions for the larger mass without being elected themselves per se.
          If people really want to geek out, it’s what Aristotle actually recommended as the ideal form of government (he didn’t really trust the masses to make good decisions, and wanted enlightened oligarchs to lead).

          Most guilds, including my own, work more off this model than a true democracy, FWIW just because – otherwise, decisionmaking can drag on forever!

          /goes back to her political theory geek cave

          • Yes, it is an oligarchy, I kind of misused the term democracy. The point is that no matter the guild structure, we always find the vote somewhere, we always find some respect for the idea that everyone involved in the decision has an equal voice and the will of the majority wins.

            The question then becomes, why is there a vote if it’s not the most effective way to govern a small organization? Is this just how it is natural for us to think, or are we really good at teaching kids to love the vote?

  2. What a delightful fake-name for the Guild…the Pajama Warriors of Neverland. That takes real talent to make up a guild name that funny.

    Great article and excellent advice. Charters should cover the vision (the purpose for the guild) and how it goes about working toward that purpose. The policies (rules and expectation of behaviour as a member of the guild) definitely do evolve. However, there are some solid starting points that I would expect to see in a typical Guild charter.

    People new to running a guild will benefit from this article, and even those that have been running one for a while might get some gain too.

  3. Ghost Boy, your Guild Charter blew mine out of the water and took some aspects of yours to merge into mine.

    And do love that made up name there Twinhits.

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