Mar 1, 2012

Posted by in Council Chambers | 6 Comments

Council Chambers: Whose Guild Is It?

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.

This week’s topic comes from a question that a coworker was talking to me about with respect to his guild. He’s been a long-time member of “That Other MMO,” and after twice being in raiding guilds that suffered from chaotic or badly handled leadership changes, he finally decided to start his own guild about a year and a half ago.

All was well for a while, the guild was happy and making good progress, things were stable and quiet, but as time wore on and TOR drew ever closer, he found himself losing interest in his previous love. So, like many of us, he made the decision to pull up his stakes and move to TOR full-time. Except, in his case pulling up stakes turned out to be quite literal – he announced his decision to disband the guild he’d founded in That Other Game when he left.

Now, for him this seemed the logical choice. Twice prior to founding his own guild, he’d been in other guilds that had been great under one leader, but foundered or failed under the new leadership. However, his decision to disband has caused huge amounts of chaos and turbulence for his current officers and guildmates, in what otherwise was a very stable, successful guild. He came to me asking for advice because he truly doesn’t understand why the other members are upset. Yet to the members, they can’t make sense of his decision whatsoever – and in fact, most of them find it very selfish.

This brings up a very complex question in guild leadership – who ultimately owns a guild? It might seem easy enough at the outset to say that it’s the founder’s, or the guild leader’s, but like any corporation that lives to see its original founder and CEO move on – is it really theirs and theirs alone? Or at some point, do the employees – the people who worked so hard to help that guild (or company) be successful, investing their time and energy to support the overall mission, also own a stake in it?

In That Other Game, members contribute a lot to a guild’s success or advancement, so while I understand my friend’s point, I can also easily see why the members are upset. After all, they too have spent a year and a half helping to build a name for the guild, contributing to its successes and accomplishments, and for the last year or so adding to the guild experience and leveling. To see all of that taken away without a vote or say can be really tough, and I understand why the members feel like they have just as much ownership – if not even more stake – than the leader parting ways.

So who does own a guild? I’m not sure that there is a clear or easy answer. There are a lot of issues to consider – for instance, there is the strength and stability of the name, or the brand, of the guild. For the leader, they’ve often tied a lot of their name, reputation, and stake in the guild – and in my friend’s case, he intends to recycle both the character name and guild name in the new TOR effort, so he wants a clean slate.

However, a guild is also far more than one individual’s efforts alone – especially for a raiding guild, one cannot raid on their own. It’s clearly a team and group effort, one that would utterly fail without the hard work and dedication of 7, 9, 15, or 24 other members participating and working as a team. In that case, they do deserve just as much of a say in the future of the organization, especially if the bulk of players and members do intend to continue working on their previous effort.

In this case, I recommended a bit of an “outside the box” solution – passing off leadership to the officer he felt could best lead the guild in his absence, but springing for a guild name change before doing so in order to free the name and brand of his guild. In other cases, it would require more traditional discussions and potentially votes or meetings to determine what the future of a guild is among its most active and loyal members.

While I understand my coworker’s point of view, I think for my part, guilds are social organizations that rely heavily upon an active core of members, and therefore are also “owned” in part by those members as much as the founder would. Consider them stockholders, if you will – they may not have had the idea or directly lead the organization, but they actively support and fund the effort and without them, the entire organization would struggle. So if pressed, I think I would have to say a guild belongs as much to its contributing members as it does to its leader – but as they say, Your Mileage May Vary depending on the circumstances.

What do you think? Who “owns” a guild, in cases of dispute or disbanding? All the members? Contributing or core members? The leader only? It’s a complex question without a clear answer, and one many of us find ourselves considering as we raise our sights to the stars above and our new gaming futures. I thought it worth analyzing here because, even though it won’t necessarily impact SWTOR guilds (yet), as the game is still quite new – it does seem to be coming up as a potential source of conflict in a few guilds out there.

Got a question for Council Chambers?  Drop a line to Lady Republic at or post a comment here, and you may see your guild questions answered in a future column!

  1. gamerladyp says:

    If you have a successful guild, I think you owe it to your officers and players to try and find an heir to take over. Maybe it won’t work, but this guy really burned bridges this way. He could have had his cake and ate it too. With a little discussion with his officers, he might have found someone to take over in “that other game” but kept ties in the new game/guild and stayed connected. Then there could have been play happening in multiple games.
    It isn’t an easy or black and white answer or situation. A GL really needs to have confidence in a replacement and the replacement really needs to have drive and dedication. How often does that happen?

  2. I think you answered the question pretty well. The players own the guild but the guild leader is ultimately in control. The thing I don’t understand is what is preventing you officers from re-creating the guild with a new name or the same name for that matter. Maybe he made the right decision to not pass the guild to anyone else if noone has already stood up and created a new guild. If the guild is really owned by the members then why if one person leaves, even if it is the guild leader, there is now chaos and turblence?

    • Lady Republic says:

      Well, if I wasn’t clear above – this wasn’t “you officers” in terms of me, this isn’t a guild I was affiliated with at all. ;) It was an advice question posed to me by someone I know – but I don’t even know what guild or server tbh.

      You do offer good suggestions though – I think for the members, the major issue in not forming their new guild is that they were a level 25 guild with a lot invested, and preferred not to start over as a brand-new, level 1 guild if they’d already invested so much in the other one.

  3. GhostBoy says:

    I’ve been in a situation, where I and the only other remaining officer of a floundering, but previously successful, raiding guild, had “The Talk”: Should we disband or not?

    Our issue was similar to this guys, in the repect that the two of us were starting to suffer serious burnout giving CPR to the guild, yet to the players this might just seem a slow period in guild history, which we had suffered through before and come out on top of. So we wanted to quit, but the active players, and a good chunk of previous members who still had social ties to the guild, would be upset to see it gone and probably not understand why this time was different.

    We ended up deciding that the ones that get to make the decision of disband are the officers. The current officers (us two) had no real interest in keeping the guild going, but still liked (most of) the community around it, and didn’t want to be jerks either. The compromise was this:
    We gave the guilds members another 3 weeks. In that time, the guild as a whole would have to start showing some raiding progress again (most raids had been cancelled due to lack of signups), and a new batch of officers (3 or more) had to step up to the plate and be willing to take over completely. These new officers would have to convince us two that they were up to the task, and that this wasn’t just another short-term solution to avoid losing their home. If either of those two hadn’t happened by the end of the three weeks, we would disband.

    In the context of disbanding, I think the officers own the guild. They do the boring work, they get the flak for screwups, in many cases they pay out of pocket for website hosting and VOIP servers. They are the ones holding responsibility for the guild, inward and outward, and they should be the ones in control of the Big Red Button. Not the “unwashed masses” that make up the body of the guild. If you don’t trust officers to make that call (and it’s a call that sometimes has to be made, if you want a guild to be anything by a shared chat channel with perks for joining), then you are in the wrong guild or have the wrong officers.

    BTW we had the rules for what happens to guild property written into the charter from day one: useful gear is given away first-come, first server (1 item each). The rest is vendored or auctioned off, and the gold split evenly between all non-alt characters. At least we didn’t have that headache as well.

  4. Darth Todd says:

    Yeah, given that the guild had advanced so far and had obviously already spent a ton of funds on bank slots, etc., it seems extremely selfish for him to say to them essentially: I’m leaving, so all of you have to start over and forget everything you’ve done so far. If he’s leaving, he’s leaving. He gains nothing by disbanding the guild. A guild is not physical property, it’s an abstraction; an idea. And you can’t continue to claim ownership of an idea that you’ve abandoned.

  5. Arclinon says:

    Ah the good ol disgussion of who owns the land/house/country/planet/sector/guild well most of people would say the king or the leader of course but the question should be asked “Could he/she achieve all this without the peasants/members?” so it is really depends on your point of view but in this case nost fair thing to do would be thinking guild belongs to all the members,officers,socials etc just like your body have you ever asked what organ owns the body? Heart? Brain? Stomach? Butt? none they all play a role thus they all should get a say if brain decided to commit suicide dont you think? On the other hand if your point of view involves declaring yourself as the owner of the guild because you are the guild master/CEO/King remember that such behavior never and i mean EVER ended nicely usually with lots of drama and sometimes through usage of guillotine.

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