Jan 3, 2012

Posted by in Council Chambers | 1 Comment

Council Chambers: Before You Begin, Or “The Whys”

Council Chambers is all about the ins and outs of guild leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Each week, we’ll look at running and managing a guild through good times, bad times and everything in between.  

One of the biggest questions that I see pop up regularly in forums or general chat is some variation along the lines of “Should I start a new guild”? There are many reasons people think about forming up a new guild. So before we begin even talking about how to start a guild, let’s first talk about whether. You can find help in-game on how to form the guild, but it is not always as easy determining if you should form a guild. Of course, this is a bit counter-intuitive as anyone who is researching guild leadership in the first place will likely be a good guild leader, and the ones who could most benefit from some consideration about the merits of their plan are not the type to research guild leadership. (This is just like when I have to mention to my student the merits of showing up on time at the beginning of class with administrative announcements, when really the ones who need to hear it are not there yet. *sigh*) Be that as it may – I am still starting off with the most basics of basics in guild leadership – questions to ask yourself before agreeing to lead.

In journalism, they teach you how to ask questions – basically, always start with the who, what, where, when, why, and how. So let’s start with those too! Now, we know the who already – presumably you, or a friend of yours. That part is easy. We know the what, as well – leading a guild. The where – well, odds are you know this as well, the server you are playing on in The Old Republic (or other MMOs). When gets a little more complicated, and we will talk some more about that in another week’s entry. For this week – let’s start with the why, then move in the coming weeks to the when and how.

So without further ado – the “Whys”.

I think the most important question for any potential guild leader or officer to ask themselves is, WHY? Why are you doing this? The truth is – this, more than anything else I have seen, is where guilds can founder early on. If you do not have a good reason why, or even worse do not know why, that can be a real recipe for disaster. So let’s talk about some good and bad reasons why one leads a guild.

1. Power/Respect:

It never ceases to amaze me how many people start guilds just for the notion that it will give them additional power in the game (or popularity, see below). Now, if you do lead a successful guild then yes – you will have power, and if you do a good job at it, respect as well. But those are both things that are earned over time, and if you abuse either then you will not have it for long. I have seen a lot of guilds, of all sizes and skills, completely dissolve in very short order if the leader starts taking advantage of his or her power – there are different ways this happens, sometimes tinkering with a gDKP system to benefit friends, sometimes just using the guild bank as a personal spending account, all kinds of things. Short answer is – if you abuse the power, you will quickly lose the power. So while this may be a byproduct of leadership, I would definitely say it is not a good or a solid reason to form up a group.

2. Popularity:

This is probably the second most frequent reason I have heard for people deciding to start a guild, after the above. For the uninitiated, there is this idea that as the leader everyone will love you and be your friend. Anyone who has even *been* in a leadership position knows otherwise though – as a leader, you have to make difficult decisions, and will often have to mediate or arbitrate between different viewpoints. Making decisions can be difficult, and will often put you into some level of disagreement when the decision contradicts what someone else wanted as an outcome. Follow any presidential poll in the U.S., Canada, or EU member states alone, and you will see how quickly a President or Prime Minister can go from beloved to reviled after a contentious issue.

This is true in guild leadership as well, albeit on a much smaller level. You will make many friends as a guild leader, but you will also be responsible for doing things that can make enemies – especially when you have to start dealing with disciplinary issues or booting members. No matter how hard you try, there will always come a time when you have to make a decision that upsets someone, and you will be surprised how easily months or even years of good, diligent leadership or friendship can be forgotten in the face of a player’s “not getting their way” on a specific issue. It really winds up being a lot more like a parent or supervisor at times, and a lot less like a friend. So again – perhaps a more well-intentioned reason than power, but ultimately not something you should use as justification to lead a guild, or you set yourself up for heartbreak down the road.

3. Vision:

Vision is when you have an idea of how to do something that you really believe in or are passionate about. It can take a lot of forms – on my server (Shien, a roleplaying server) people often have a new idea for a roleplaying guild based around a certain race, class, theme, or even professions (last week, I saw a merchant/trader’s guild recruiting in the Fleet). However, you may also have different ideas on management from the guilds you have been in, or are aware of on your server – so it does not just have to be about RP concept, either. Maybe you want to focus on pushing deep into operations content and setting up a guild to top the progression path, or you have come up with a way to do loot distribution that you think is much better than the typical DKP system, and you want to implement it in practice. Another example from my server is a guild just for military members and their families. The point is – you have an idea for a guild that you really want to do, or that nobody else is doing. Or, maybe it is an idea others are doing but you think it can be improved or that you can do it better. This is a great reason to investigate forming a new guild, and most of the forthcoming entries will break down how you pursue this vision going forward.

4. Nomination:

Sometimes, you never wanted to run a guild per se, but there you find yourself anyway. This can happen a lot of different ways – you might have been an officer and the existing guild leader left the game (or never joined when the game went live), or had to retire for some reason. Other times, the current guild leader just – vanishes, and you are the one who stepped up to the plate and tried to keep things going. Or, there is a group of people that want to start a guild together and who all share a vision but nobody else really seems willing to take the helm and steer. (For those curious, that is how I initially became a guild leader.) In any of these scenarios, what happens is that you find yourself a little reluctantly in charge – leading not because you had a strong sense of vision, wanted the power, or sought the popularity but rather it wound up finding you. Not a bad thing in itself, and in fact a lot of great guild leaders get their start this way.

The biggest thing to ask yourself, and really think about if you find yourself in this position is – do you want to be there? Not everyone does, and if ultimately you are not happy with leading then you should not stick with it. After all, this *IS* a game, right? My advice would be to give it some time though – if people asked you to take over or you gravitated towards it in either a vacuum or chaos, well there may be a good reason for why. Odds are, you have some innate skill at it that led people to look to you. That, or you just had a “sucker” sticker on your head! Nomination is not justification to do something that makes you unhappy in the long run, but before you duck and cover, it may be worth giving it a shot to see how it goes and whether you grow into it or finding yourself enjoying it, in spite of all the work. I may not have intended to run a guild myself initially, but since agreeing to do so, I found that it really becomes an honor and privilege in spite of the hard work and effort it takes. (Plus if nothing else, what would I do with all that free time?)

On the other hand, think long and hard about the amount of time and effort required and whether you want to devote that to leadership. As a guild leader, your playtime is often not your own, and there is a good chance any time you log on something could crop up that demands your attention – whether you have the energy to deal with it or not. Again, from a personal example, my husband and I used to co-lead our guild  in our former gaming home. When our guild decided to move gaming homes, we also decided to open leadership up again to ensure our current leaders wanted to continue or if anyone else wanted to step up and manage. I chose to continue, but my husband decided he wanted to just focus on his own playing experience this time around and not be an officer – and that is just as valid a decision as the one to continue leading. So if you land in that odd position of finding yourself heir apparent, really weigh out the pros, cons, and try to give yourself an honest assessment of your interest and capabilities before giving an answer. Don’t rule it out of hand, but also don’t automatically agree, either.

5. Why Not:

Sometimes, your reason for leading a guild can be as simple as, “I’ve always wanted to do that”. If that fits you, well then – why not? This is not quite the same as having a vision, but a strong desire nonetheless for many. It is a perfectly legitimate reason to start and form a guild, and I would encourage those who want to run a guild – once they have looked a little deeper into why they want to do so, as mentioned above – to go ahead and take the plunge. The main advice I would give here is, you will still need a vision and a plan in doing so. You *can* form a guild by randomly spamming invites in starting zones or blasting recruitment messages in general non-stop, but while it gets you quantity, it will not equate to quality. So before hitting recruitment, spend some time scoping out your guild project and trying to develop a vision as discussed here by TwinHits, or in future articles, and then go ahead and take that next step into leadership.

These are just a small sampling of “Why” people think about starting a guild, or find themselves leading a guild. Trust me, there are many more reasons out there – but these are the ones I have seen come up the most frequently in the years I’ve been doing this and following server forums across the gaming community. By now, you’ve at least gotten some good things to think about on whether or not you’d even *want* to lead a guild….so next week, we will assume you have made the decision and begin breaking down the nitty-gritty details of the how. See you then!

Got a question for Council Chambers?  Drop a line to ladyoftherepublic@gmail.com or post a comment here, and you may see your guild questions answered in a future column.

  1. Boss Dwarf says:

    As with just about everything else in the world, the reality behind the curtain differs greatly from what people standing outside assume it’s likely to be. It doesn’t matter where it’s running a Guild, running a government, making a film or TV show, playing a pro sport…the bottom line is once you go behind the curtain you have a much greater level of respect for the people who do it on a daily basis – and especially for those who do it so well those on the outside never see the strain of how much work is involved.

    I will admit, as a former Guild Leader, whenever I hear someone talk about running a Guild I think “Oh dear, WHY?” first and second – “Oh, actually you might be pretty good.”

    There are certainly rewards to doing it, and doing it well, but they are honestly not the rewards you think they will be when you get into it.

    I fully recommend anyone considering it to go into things with an open mind and an ability to find appreciation in little, unexpected details. if you can do those things, you can really have a first rate experience.

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