The Dark Side of New Recruits

Posted: July 11, 2008 by Kendricke in Guilds
Tags: ,

For nine summers I’ve watched.  Every year, I see it happen.  I know it’s coming.  I remind my members to prepare for it.  I try to warn other guildmasters what they can do about it.

Yet, every year, summer arrives and guilds die.

As I’ve mentioned previously, with the coming of summer, playtime tends to slump across the board.  In larger, more stable guilds, this is a time to weather the storm.  The more organized guilds simply accept the downturn in activity and wait for better days to arrive.  For other guilds, however, this drop off in online members can be a death knell.

Stronger guilds are built around structures, ranks, and interlocking cliques that hold the guilds together in times of stress – whether that stress comes from internal conflict, drama, game changes, or decreased activity levels.  Guilds which do not have these things in place can find themselves in trouble, though.

All it takes is one or two particularly influential or critical members to stop logging in and a guild can find itself in a self-perpetuating freefall state.  One member deciding to take a month off can lead to another deciding to take a break, which can in turn lead to two others neglecting to log in.

In the last month on Guk server, I’ve watched at least 4-5 guilds completely self-implode.  In almost every case, the problems apparently started with frustrations over decreased membership activity, which resulted in more pressure on leadership, which either did not act or which acted inappropriately (shifting blame, etc.), which lead eventually to some tipping point, which ended with large groups of members emigrating all at once.

It’s painful to watch these dramas unfolding from afar, and it adds a bit of perspective to my own leadership.  On several occasions over the past 9 1/2 years, I’ve had similar episodes within my own guild.  I’ve learned quite a bit from these tumultuous scenarios, and have gradually found ways to avoid repeating the same mistakes.  One way I do this is by making sure that I’m always recruiting.  Another is to make sure I empower officers and veterans to assist with recruiting and events.  If I need to take a vacation for a month or so, I know the guild will still be there when I return.

Ironically, one of the odd benefits of guilds falling on hard times is that it means there are suddenly an influx of applicants to other, presumably stronger guilds.  It’s a strange form of Darwinism at work, with weaker guilds being phased out of the playerbase “gene pool” and stronger guilds adapting and re-adapting to better survive.  In the past few weeks, my guild has suddenly brought in an influx of new members, and the applications are coming in on a daily basis.  While other guilds fret over a drought of fighters, I’ve just had a good half-dozen fighters either join up or return to active duty – in the last week alone!

It’s an odd situation to be in.  Many of these new applicants come from guilds I’ve been friendly with for some time.  I have no desire to cause additional friction or hardship, but an applicant is an applicant, and I’m not going to turn down a potentially good member just because I don’t want to step on toes.

Within this burst of applications lies a pattern that pays a very real compliment to my guild.  Over and over, many of these recruits cite absent leadership, guild instability, lack of activity as reasons to leave their former guilds.  When asked why they want to join the Legion, many frequently use the words “stable”, “home”, or “long term”.  The lesson here is simple:  If your members start to view your guild as a place that isn’t stable, they’re going to start looking around for guilds which are.  Some of the best guild players in MMO’s crave this type of stability – it makes them far less likely to leave when the going gets tough.  However, even these members have a line that can be crossed, and when your guild tips over that line finally,even these members are going to start looking for greener pastures.

How can you stop this?  How can you keep members of your guild from looking to join guilds like mine?

Strong officers

Don’t just promote friends to fill the officer ranks.  In fact, a lesson I’ve learned is to not promote officers just for the sake of having officers.  Just as a company shouldn’t promote a manager just to promote someone, you should always have a job or responsibility in mind BEFORE deciding to promote.  Every officer should be aware of what’s expected of them, and they should have the resources available to them in order to follow through on those responsibilities they are tasked with.

You dont’ need to share leadership in order to have strong officers.  However, you do need to think about your officers as more than just extensions of yourself.  Think of them as advisors as well, capable of leading the guild in your stead.  Just as you should never recruit a new member you wouldn’t want to lose a loot roll to, you should never recruit an officer you aren’t willing to let lead in your stead.

Safety in numbers

A large membership does not guarantee safety, in and of itself.  However, a smaller guild is more susceptible to the issues that can come from inactivity.  Obviously, a guild with less membership feels each inactive member more keenly than a larger guild might.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t other issues that come from presiding over larger guilds – only that there are more bodies in the ranks with which to handle the rough patches.


If you’re not recruiting, you’re dying.  Believe this.  Always be recruiting.  Always.  This isn’t to say you should always be accepting applicants – but you should always be looking for good fits for your guild.  Keep the standards for your guild as high as you like, but never stop looking for members who meet those standards – no matter how stable you think your guild is right now, you’re always only one or two cancellations away from a potential problem.

Offer incentives

I offer my members free legendary and fabled adornments.  I offer them guild reimbursement for repairs on new raid targets.  I offer them three raid nights per week.  I offer them groups to older zones every Saturday morning.  I offer them a guild bank which is organized and kept stocked by no less than three officers who oversee it.  I offer guild assistance in tradeskilling.  I offer them forums, voicechat, a guild store, and a feeling of belonging.

What are you offering your members?  Are you offering them ANYTHING in return for their membership in your guild?  What benefits do your members get for being in your guild?  What’s the point of your guild?  If you can’t answer these questions to your own satisfaction, imagine what types of answers your own members are coming up with.

Keep ’em busy

As I just mentioned, my guild maintains at least 4 scheduled events per week.  We’re looking to schedule more because we’re not sure THAT’s enough.  How are you keeping your own members busy?  Are you scheduling anything at all?

You don’t need to be a master storyteller or raid leader to keep your members busy.  Start running a mentor night, or a tradeskiller night, or a harvesting night, or one or two nights where officers form groups – the point is to start SOMETHING.  Because if your members aren’t busy with guildmates, that means they’re busy elsewhere…maybe even grouping with my guildmates…who are probably busy telling them how much fun our guild is.

Always have a plan

You should always, always, ALWAYS have one or two guild goals that your members are trying to attain.  Whether it’s the next big guild level, or a particularly hard raid target, or completing X number of epics, make sure you’re always planning a shared goal for your members.

Know when to say when

Whatever it is you’re doing right now, you should have a general idea if it’s working or not.  Either your guild is a happy place you look forward to logging into, or it’s an obligation you feel you’re required to show up for.  As a guildmaster, you’re going to run into both feelings – often at the same time.  However, when you start to realize that obligation is outpacing fun much more often than not, it might be time to start letting someone else in your guild take over the reigns (even if it’s just fora  little while) or recognize that it’s time to throw in the towel.

If you start a guild, you have a responsibility to the members of that guild to work for them.  Oh sure, it may be your guild and you have every right to do with that guild tag whatever you want – but it’s still your duty to make sure your members know when your heart just isn’t in it anymore.  It’s not fair to them to lead them on if the relationship’s over.  At least have the intestinal fortitude to tell it to them straight if that’s the case, so they have the opportunity to determine their own fate in-game.  Remember, just becuase you wake up one day and decide you don’t like game X anymore doesn’t mean your members feel the same way.

You may lose some face in the short term by doing this, but honestly, it’s better than dragging things out and being yet another “deadbeat guildmaster” who just stops showing up.

  1. broomy says:

    Great article Kendricke! I too am seeing guilds implode on my WOW server and found myself guildless only last week due to it. I can take alot of things but an absentee Guild leadership isn’t one of them.

  2. ogrebears says:

    My guild would be on the dieing side. Our leader had real life stuff come up over the last week and the guild pretty much self imploded when they said they would no longer be able to play.

  3. Taymar says:

    We have just had a rash of unsuitable applicants and I was wondering why – this makes sense.

    A good article. Our guild (eight years old now) is a total lesson on everything not to do – but that has made for an extremely strong core which is great.

    Regarding applicants, I only see an issue when someone starts recruiting. “Having problems in your guild, you should come to us” is, to my mind, beyond reasonable. But if you are approached, then I can’t see why you should have to turn people away.

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