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Officers' Quarters: Zero-pressure raiding?

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

For many WoW players, the prospect of seeing all the raiding content the game has to offer is just a dream. They don't want to be part of a hardcore raiding guild with all the attendance requirements, strict loot systems, and, for lack of a better word, pressure. But can zero-pressure raiding work? The writer of this week's e-mail wants to know.

Dear Mr. Andrews,

I found your column while searching for other information, and find
myself up at 6:30am after reading almost all of your articles. They
are very informative and I thank you for sharing your experience.

I am seeking advice on how best to move our guild forward. I should
provide some context and maybe it will provide you with some insight
into what I am looking for.

I inherited our guild from a personal friend (outside of WoW). [. . .] After
one to two months of managing a guild with about 30 players and maybe
10-15 active, my friend decided it was too much work and handed it
over to me.

I hit the ground running, trusted mature players and

together we grew our guild. We now average around 70 members with at
least 30 or more quite active. I feel that we have been successful
considering that I took over as GL in March of this year.

The officers in the guild are mature but with only a few that have
vast experience (I am not one with vast exp). Most of us have children,
mortgages, etc. We are almost all interested in moving into instances
and raids quite regularly. We have more than enough active members for
most of the content. My concern would be how best to move towards that
content without affecting our relaxed, friendly atmosphere. We have
worked hard to have as few requirements such as having to be at a
raid, specs etc.(we don't) as we feel that the game should be about
fun and adult camaraderie. We still feel very strongly that we do not
wish to pressure anyone into this content but wish to provide it for
those that are game. Do you have any advice on how best to move
forward while still providing a pressure-free atmosphere? One other
concern of mine would be creating an atmosphere where casual players
that are uninterested in raids and instances feel like their guild is
moving on. We want to provide both types of players a home while still
serving the relaxed, mature player. Any advice?

Our website is casual-crusaders.net. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Scott, Guildmaster

Thanks for writing, Scott. I'm sorry I cost you a night's sleep! My guild was once in a state similar to yours. We were sick of UBRS and Tribute runs and wanted to see something new. At that time, the only way to do that was to raid. We've never been on the bleeding edge of content, but we've been raiding several nights a week for more than two years now, so I think I can help you.

First, however, I have a concern: In your e-mail you say that the officers are interested in moving the guild in this direction. Does a significant portion of your membership feel the same way? I'm going to assume they are for the sake of this column, but be sure you're not doing this purely because the officers want to. It's a long, treacherous journey you're embarking on. You will need the support of the majority of your guild to make this work. As for those who are not interested, like it or not, the guild will be "moving on" to a certain extent, and there's little you can do except to make sure those players' needs are also being met, whatever they may be. And of course, don't treat them like second-class citizens just because they aren't raiders.

Now, if your guild really hasn't run instances much, then 5-player dungeons are the place to get started. At 70 you could start with some of the mid-60 instances such as Old Hillsbrad, Mana-Tombs, or Auchenai Crypts to build confidence, and then work your way up to Steam Vaults, Shattered Halls, Shadow Labyrinth, Black Morass, and the three wings of Tempest Keep. These places will help you coordinate pulls and crowd control, help your tanks learn how to keep aggro and your DPS'ers from pulling it, and let your healers get a feel for managing mana during boss fights. They will also improve a players ability to adjust when something goes wrong.

These dungeons are very forgiving of mistakes. That doesn't mean you should overlook said mistakes, however. If something goes wrong, the leader of the party should ask questions about why something happened so everyone can learn from the error and avoid repeating it.

With 70 members, you should have no trouble at getting two or three 5-player dungeons going at the same time, as long as you plan for it properly. I would suggest using your guild's forums or an add-on such as Guild Event Manager to figure out which nights and times work best for the people who are interested in this content. Adult players usually prefer not to commit to WoW-related activities on Friday and Saturday nights, and most parents can't sit down in front of the computer for long blocks of time until later in the evening. But if you narrow it down to two nights per week for two hours (three for raids), you'll be able to get started. Designate this time for instance runs. Choose two or three different dungeons, and have people sign up for the one they want to run. If they fail to show up on time without notice and without a good explanation, make sure they know you expect to be notified whenever possible if that person will be unable to follow through with his or her commitment. It's not asking for anything other than common courtesy.

Learning your class role in a group, learning from mistakes, and personal accountability: These are all frames of mind that will serve you well in the next phase, when you take on raiding proper.

But let's pause here. After a few weeks, you're going to start to notice a few things about your players. Some players will emerge as true assets: They arrive on time, bring plenty of consumables, and know the strategies the group needs to win. Others will stand out in a negative way: They show up late, don't have what they need (reagents, drinks, etc.), and go into the runs clueless about what they will face.

And this, I'm afraid, is where the dream of experiencing group content in a "relaxed, friendly atmosphere" breaks down. To move on to the next phase, you're going to have to make some tough choices.

Karazhan will be your next destination. It has a nasty reputation as the make-or-break raid for guilds in The Burning Crusade, and for you it will be no different. First you'll have to get your players attuned. If you've been running the 5-player dungeons, you shouldn't have much trouble collecting the key fragments. Then you will have to decide who to bring to that first run, and that's where things get a bit sticky. Do you bring 10 people who are always dependable, or do you just bring the first 10 who sign up and hope for the best? You face unpleasant consequences either way.

If you just bring whoever signs up, you could be in for a rough night of frequent wipes. A few nights of that might change your mind about the policy. It's especially going to frustrate your more effective players. They're going to be a little less friendly after the third night of wiping on Moroes. If there's one thing adults hate, it's when other people waste their time. Tempers may flare. The prepared players may blame the unprepared for the raid's shortcomings. The unprepared will justify their lack of effort as an extension of the guild's casual nature. It can get ugly.

Now that your best players have had a taste of raiding, they might begin to weigh their options and decide that they'd be better off in a guild that takes raiding more seriously. Once one person makes this decision, you're in trouble, because now everyone in the same category is thinking about doing the same thing. The players who leave may even try to recruit other members away from you. You will bleed players until you're left with the people who caused the problem in the first place. And eventually you'll either have to try to recruit the fill the void -- which could be tough at this point -- or give up on raiding.

On the other hand, if you start getting picky about who goes and who doesn't, you're going to get a lot of complaints from the people who are left behind. The hand-picked people on these runs will insist on the standards they've held themselves to. They'll want everyone to be 100% prepared for every run. Certain mods like BigWigs, Omen, and Natur EnemyCastBar will become mandatory. Over and over again, you'll hear from the people who either can't go or won't go the same refrain, "The guild has changed."

Quite a grim picture I've painted here, haven't I? I don't mean to discourage you. Personally, raiding has definitely been a rewarding experience. For me, nothing builds that kind of camaraderie better than working as a team to slay some giant monster that's been giving you hell for hours (or weeks) on end.

But I do speak from experience about the consequences and they are very real. My guild started out taking the first path and, while we were successful to a certain extent, it nearly destroyed us. Now we have chosen the latter option. In my opinion, it's the way to go, even though it means your raiding is no longer pressure-free.

You can still be somewhat casual about it. We don't enforce attendance minimums. We don't make people spec a certain way. But we do expect people to be prepared: to spend gold to enchant their gear properly, bring consumables, install the proper add-ons, know the strategies, and so on. And there's a certain amount of pressure in that. We chose to see it as being professional -- as not wasting the other players' time.

Yes, you'll always face complaints and unhappiness on this road. The trick is to mold those people who aren't living up to expectations into better players so they can contribute to a raid instead of watching from the sidelines (or just coming along for the ride).

In the long run, not being quite casual enough but succeeding at group content is better for most guilds than being too casual and failing. It will make recruiting easier, bring your members together in new ways, and lead to a lot of fun, memorable moments. I wish you luck!

/salute

Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at scott.andrews@weblogsinc.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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