Sometimes the Best Plan is to Start Over

Posted: March 3, 2009 by Kendricke in Guild Leadership
Tags: ,

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
-John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”


Over the past several weeks, my guild’s raid force has finally begun taking out targets we’d been after for months. It’s a source of pride to see more and more guildmate names broadcast to all of Guk server showing that we’re finally earning Mythical epic weapons. Personally, it’s also a source of relief and vindication: the plan worked. Frankly, for a while there, I wasn’t sure it would. I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing for my guildmates. I just wasn’t sure.

As a guildmaster, you’re going to be faced with many challenges. The older and more successful your guild becomes, the more challenges you’ll face. Different guildmasters will face challenges differently, to be sure, but sometimes the best plan is to scrap the plan. Sometimes, the best plan is to simply start over.

In August and September of last year, my guild’s raiders were on top of the world. As a casual raid force, it’s tough to attract enough talented or skilled players week after week to build a consistent enough core group capable of handling tougher raid content. Some guilds handle this issue through strict attendance policies. Other guilds handle this through overrecruiting – sometimes enough to run a second raid force altogether. For us, I wanted to stick to the idea that we were truly a casual guild with a slightly more serious raid “core” upon which we could build. I thought I had the right “plan” to take a short cut: I started recruiting experienced serious raiders who would be interested in helping to build a more serious raid force.

Now, though this concept unto itself is not a bad one, in this case it did not work out nearly as planned for our guild. The raiders which were recruited generally had very strong opinions on how to do everything from recruiting, handling loot, running raids, and even running guilds. Rarely was there a raid night where I didn’t spend at least another hour online afterwards speaking in tells with many of these newer members, listening to criticisms on everything I was apparently doing wrong. The stress began to mount and a few of my more veteran members started to drift away from the game in the process. To be fair, I’m certain that most of those members would have left the game anyway – with or without the newcomers stirring things up a bit. However, the real issue is that as they moved on, I wasn’t replacing them through our normal recruiting – since we had the new “experienced” raiders ready to go already.

Now, as is usually the case in such situations, the newer members who weren’t really fitting in soon left to find a new guild. For all the stress those members had been causing me, the fact remains that we’d begun to rely heavily upon them on our raid nights. Losing 1/3 of your most consistent raiders in the course of a week will really throw a wrench into the works. Whatever plans you thought you had just went out the window. As a guildmaster, it’s not exactly an unusual situation to have to deal with, but that knowledge comes as a small comfort to the members in your guild who are still there.

So there we were. It’s October. A new expansion is due out in weeks. We were this close to clearing Veeshan’s Peak – we just needed one more dragon to clear before the pieces would fall into place. The problem was we no longer had the raid force capable of handling her. Though we had most of a strong raid force – 16 to 18 solid raiders – many of those raiders were in classes that were less than critical to our needs. We were missing a couple of critical classes from our nightly line-ups and we had too much redundancy in classes that were not “core” to what we had to have to field a successful raid.

We had a couple of urgent officer meetings to figure out what we should do. Ideas were thrown around. Recruiting was discussed again and again. Alliances were brought up at least once. The one problem I continued to see was that every plan hinged on using our current raid force – as is – to build a foundation upon. In essence, we were looking to simply take what we had and plug in the gaps, even the critical gaps with brand new guild members. To me, this seemed as if we hadn’t learned a thing from what had just happened, because we were basically looking to perpetuate the same mistakes we’d just made.

In the end, we made the decision to scrap the current raid force and start over. We cancelled all raids for two weeks. We needed time to recoup and reflect. We needed time to rebuild. However, before you can start rebuilding anything, you need to have a plan. You can’t just start slinging mortar and sheet rock without a blueprint and hope to have a house worth living in. We wanted to live in our house for a long time to come. We needed to get back to the drawing board.

We pored over data. We looked at our attendance histories – not just from raid nights, either. We figured out patterns. We noted which members were online more often and which ones were more casual. We decided to choose a good two dozen of our most consistent members with which to use as our new foundation. On their broad backs, we would build our new house.

We built a template which outlined the type of raid force we wanted, rather than what we already had. Once we had the outline built, we started planning out which classes we had available to us already and which ones we would need. We looked at our roster. We didn’t just look at primary or “main” characters. We looked at all of those secondary “alts” we had piled up at the bottom of the page. In particular, we noted which classes were already avaiable to our “foundational” raiders. If we were going to use them as our new bedrock, then we wanted the most critical classes to be theirs.

To us, this made perfect sense. Our raid force’s Main Tank had recently graduated from college, married, and had started his first “real” job. He had family obligations, work obligations, and spousal obligations. He was already missing raids here and there, not to mention his relative lack of activity on non-raid nights. Frankly, the guy was busy. We knew it. He knew it. Yet, we were still expecting him to carry the load for us as our MT. He’d been our MT for more than two years. We’d geared him up. We’d come to rely upon him. However, as officers, we knew that things needed to change – not just with him, but with every member of our raid force that was filling a critical slot who wasn’t able to consistently give the effort they wanted to. As officers, we had chats – first with each other, and then with individual members of the raid force. We spent a few days figuring out who could switch classes and who could simply take a less active role on the raid force.

That, in itself, is a hard place to come to. Ego is a precious and fragile thing. You’ve got to handle it firmly, yet with care. We were careful not to diminish anyone’s personal performance, and we concentrated on committments and the good of the guild. We’ve got some fantastic guildmates in this little guild we’ve kept going, so talking from a team perspective seemed to be the way to go. Everyone wanted us, as a guild, to succeed. No one wanted to be the person who held us back. Everyone was willing to do what needed doing to pull us up again as a group.

There are dozens of examples I could go into here. How one of our two swashbucklers betrayed to brigand because we suddenly had a need for one; how our necromancer started building up her fury and then betrayed to warden for us; how our MT stepped down and our paladin built a new guardian up from Level 1 to take over. Almost every member of the existing raid force sacrificed in some way to make sure the guild would not only survive, but thrive.

We cut our weekly raids from four to three, because (as I’m sure everyone got sick of hearing me repeat) “we bond in groups”. We began running more group instances. We began gearing each other up. We started mentor groups and flat out powerlevelled several members who were starting over for us. We opened up new guild funds from our long neglected treasury and we started to outfit new members in free gear, adornments, and spells. If members were willing to sacrifice for us through their time, the guild would meet them halfway. This had started as a shared effort to rebuild our diminished raid force. What it became was a rebirth of our guild’s purpose.

Five months ago, my guild had lost a third of its raid force and was at a crossroads of purpose. Today, we have new goals and a redefined perspective. We have nearly 40 Mythicals in our ranks now, with more on the way. We’re benching anywhere from 6 to 12 members every raid night (we’re back up to four). We’re fielding anywhere from 3-4 groups on most nights. We’ve revamped our guild loot policies a bit regarding coin drops (we’re completely self-sufficient now). We’re turning down applications from anyone looking for a raid guild (which tend to shoot up when you put your guild name in front of the server each time you gain a couple of Mythicals, mind you).

Five months ago, I was worried about the future of my guild. Now, we’re too busy logging in and knocking out targets to worry much at all. It wasn’t easy getting from one point to another. We though we knew exactly how to get what we wanted. Now we know that sometimes the best plan you can have is to just get rid of the plan.

See you in Norrath,

  1. Illuminator says:

    So my guild goes down the crapper and once again I’m wishing that all of the game’s content were Plug-and-Play, or in this instance able to be cleared by pickup groups/raids. I could never add up all the dead time I’ve paid $15/month for, all because of the organization, manpower, rebuilding, and commitment hassles that raiding requires. These are collective forces we depend on for success but which we have no control over as individuals.

  2. Loralor says:

    This is the part I miss the most. Missing all theses raiding achievements the Legion handles theses days.

    I still remember our beginnings, trying to figure a strategy for Rognog the Angler. Me and my wife trying to make the best of our classes to make sure we are at top efficiency all the time.

    Sadly, life sent me on a separate pathway. Still, I watch the comings and goings of the Legion. I still hope to be able to return someday. In the meantime, I watch, and find myself proud of what you have done with the Guild Kendricke.

    Time and time again, you fought with Guildmaster problems, always managing to find a solution. You can really be proud of yourself. You are one of the very few Guildmaster that can put “causual” and “raiding” in the same sentence, and be true to the full meaning of both.

    I know I am far away, but I am closer than you think my friend. Keep up the good work.

  3. Kilanna says:

    Congrats to Legion!!

    It is difficult and frustrating when a guild looses a chunk of core membership, but cudos to you and your guild mates for not losing sight of your guild core values or mission.

    Maybe I am speaking out of school, but our guild has been going down its own pathway too. We have chosen to go down the pathway of guild alliance and inviting people from out of guild for the last couple of months.

    We have made new friends, and have a core of people joining us regularly which is REALLY nice. We are progressing well IMHO, and I honestly dont think we are long out of VP. You shall hopefully start to see those Mythical messages on Guk for Pax Fatalis too 🙂

    Thank you for your continued insights Kendricke. I think about some of the things you write and consider how they apply within my own guild. I would like to think I am a more effective officer and a more considerate guildmate as a result.

  4. coppertopper says:

    This was really a fascinating read! It just emphasizes the point that nothing worth getting comes without hard work.

  5. […] 2. trackback According to Bruce Ferguson’s Producer Letter today, SOE is completely scrapping their plan and starting over with regards to the “hate revamp”: Well, we’ve been talking since the last Fan Faire […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s