I’ve always made an effort to cover a wide variety of guild related topics on Epic Slant and have managed to do an alright job of it. One of the things that I have not covered is what happens when a guild is coming to a close. This is an eventuality that we prefer not to think about and certainly don’t prepare for. It is also something that I’ve been through and when Spinks suggested I write about it I thought it was a great topic.
I could write huge volumes about why and how guilds fall but for the sake of today we’re only going to look at one example and how to deal with the situation. How do you deal with the impending doom of a guild you’ve loved, nurtured, and spent a lot of time building? The short answer is of course, “this ain’t easy!” There are ways to help guild officers cope and make the best of the situation.
Recognize the signs
Kingdom of Sky was a really good time for Iniquity in EverQuest 2. Our guild had suffered some dreadful losses in Desert of Flames and was on the mend for most of that expansion. We still managed to get the server firsts, dominate the contested mobs and complete all of the content besides the Djinn Master (only six or so guilds ever defeated him before the new expansion anyway). In KoS we did far more than limp along. We hit the ground running and really chewed up encounters left and right. Contested mobs were locked down, progression was quickly made and we finished everything notable before the competition. Then we went into farm mode.
Farm mode can be a rough time for a raid guild. The challenge of the encounters are gone, the thrill of seeing new loot has left and you’re pretty much just stuck doing the same thing over and over. This took a heavy toll on Iniquity and our attendance numbers began to slip. With attendance we also lost attention to detail. Our members didn’t take encounters seriously and something that we could kill in one attempt a month ago with worse gear would take us six. At the same time we had a lot of “Scrappy Doos” in the guild claiming how to do things better. Finally, and this is key, the officer corps was burnt out and experienced a lot of change in life. We were graduating college, some getting married, entering the work force and spending 60+ hours a week leading a guild seemed silly. All these things are signs of the end.
Come up with a plan
If you’ve recognized the signs and have decided that you no longer wish to pursue the role of guild leader, it is time to make a plan. It is far easier to just let things go and watch the explosion from afar but you’ll always regret it. A lot of effort and time goes into a guild and it always deserves better than a dramastrophy. What do you want the outcome to be? There is always the option to hand it over to another leader but for the sake of this exercise we’re assuming that isn’t an option. What is the best way to shut things down?
In Iniquity it started as a quiet conversation between myself and Thax. We talked about not sticking around. We brought in Starla, who didn’t seem too keen on the idea of taking over the reigns and was pretty worn out too. Tages, the final senior officer, had been spotty with his connection for the last month or so and was pretty much on board. The junior officers felt about the same and we agreed that we wanted to retire the guild before the decline that we saw coming. We weren’t sure if we could compete in Echos of Faydwer and didn’t want to find out we couldn’t. It was our plan that we’d hold a guild meeting, announce that the guild was retiring and that we wouldn’t be handing it over. In short, “You don’t have to quit EQ2 but you can’t stay here.” We now had our plan but the hard part was still to come.
Executing the plan
When it comes to guilds everyone feels like they own a part of it. Iniquity members were no different. They would get fiercely offended if you questioned the fact that it belonged to them. It was, in a way, nightmarish to get in front of them all at a guild meeting and tell them that they would be de-guilded. Stripping someone of their hard won guild tag is a huge insult. My emotions were mixed too. Part of me didn’t want to let go and I was quite sad. At the same time part of me soared with the thought of being unchained.
It is important to note that when you execute the plan you will be analyzed. Are you sad enough? Are you positive enough? I had to appear sadder than I am normally accustomed. I don’t show a lot of emotion so I didn’t want to come off as unfeeling. I had to push that a bit. It is important at this stage to remain unswayed, though. Do not half execute your plan and change your mind. Once it is in motion it is best to carry it out. Stay on message, stay positive and get it done. I encouraged the members who wanted to remain playing to form their own guild and start a new chapter. They did just that.
The real trick to letting a guild go is what to do next. Your best bet, at least in the immediate future, is to disappear for at least some time. Roll an alt that nobody knows, take a break, or try a different game. You need to let your emotions cool and avoid being pulled back in. My members tried to include me in their new guild and I told them I couldn’t do that. You must be careful with all your actions because it will effect your reputation in the long term and most of us want to keep playing MMOs.
I made a great mistake in the aftermath. Unlike Thax, who smartly put some distance between EQ2 and himself, I sent an email. My motives were pretty pure. There were some members I absolutely loved. I sent them a letter to tell them that and to thank them for all the support. I told them that sooner or later I would be playing something and that they were welcome to do so too. Unfortunately, one of those people wasn’t really that loyal to me and gave the letter to everyone else who took it quite wrong. Anyone who didn’t get the letter assumed I disliked them (not the case) and it was drama after the fact. The point I’m trying to make here is that it is better to just make some distance and then approach individuals later on.
Eventually the feeling of loss will fade. All of the bad will seem less bad and you’ll have wonderful good memories of your guild. You’ll learn a whole lot and realize that you can probably do it again and far better. I lead a smaller and far more casual guild through a series of games accomplishing nothing but enjoying the company. With each game I’ve reduced my “officership” and tried to be more of a peer. It has honestly let me enjoy MMOs far more. One day I might want to lead again but that isn’t any day soon. My point is, no matter how bad it seems when you lose your guild, it can be for the best. We learn through pain, failure and mistakes. If your guild is going to fall, make sure it retires classy instead of turning into a huge flame on some forum somewhere.
Consider discussing “When a Guild Falls” on the Epic Slant Forum!