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Officers' Quarters: Unchart(er)ed territory

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

It's no secret that the game we all know and love is in a period of transition. Many basic assumptions of Warcraft are changing, from the way loot is itemized, to the way buffs work, to the very nature of raiding. Amidst all this change, I decided to update the document my guild wrote to define our basic principles and guidelines. Written in 2005, it was astonishingly outdated. I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised. Someone who stopped playing back when Blackwing Lair was the endgame would barely recognize WoW if they rolled a premade 80 on the beta servers today.

We call this document our guild's philosophy. Many guilds call it their charter. However you label it, right now is a great time to reevaluate exactly what your guild is all about and what your basic rules and beliefs will be going into the next expansion.

For those of you who may be starting a new guild, I recommend writing a charter, however brief, before you do anything else. In the game itself, the charter is that annoying item you have to get 10 people to sign to start a guild. But in the context of your guild, your charter should be like a constitution. When a question of policy arises, it's the document you point to and say, "This is why we do it this way." Trust me: it comes off much better than "Because I said so."

In this column, I'll go over the information you might want to include. Then, for those who already have a charter, I'll talk about how you might want to update it before the expansion.

Origins: Some charters begin by giving a history of the guild, from how it was founded to what the guild has accomplished throughout its existence. If your guild has been around for a long time, it helps new recruits to get a sense of the legacy of your organization. The origins of some guilds may even extend to the days before Warcraft, if they were founded within a different MMO and then carried over.

Many guilds come and go like a passing comet, burning brightly for a few months and then fading away. When your guild has a storied history, it never hurts to remind your membership that they are part of a group that has endured through thick and thin. Perspective can go a long way toward easing members' concerns about the future.

Statement of Intent: If you include nothing else in your charter, this is the one thing you should describe. Basically, your statement of intent answers the question, why does your guild exist? The answer defines your goals and provides a framework for every decision you make. Be forthright here. If your guild exists for raid progression only, say so. If your guild's entire purpose is to flood the world with level 1 gnomes, don't be shy about it. Potential members need to know in no uncertain terms what they're getting themselves into.

Rules of Conduct: You can get as detailed as you'd like here, but I'd recommend using broader terms when defining conduct. It's much easier to enforce a statement like "Members should be respectful of fellow players" than "Members should avoid using the following phrases and terms when addressing another player" and go on to list all the offensive things someone might say. There's a lot of creativity out there when it comes to being a jerk. The more specific you are, the more you leave yourself open to loopholes.

Make sure to build consequences into the equation. There should be no doubt about what happens to players who break the rules. However, I'd be careful about making your punishments so draconian that you give your officers no room for flexibility in their judgment.

Some rules may sound good on paper, but then when a real situation comes up, you might find yourself in a bit of a quandary. If an officer wasn't present at the "scene of a crime," it's not always 100% clear what actually happened. For example, what may seem like a straight-up ninja move could have been a case of misunderstanding the loot rules. And what is characterized as a misunderstanding could be a case of someone trying to cover their tracks.

Requirements: Some guild have requirements that their membership must meet to remain in good standing. For a raiding guild, that could include attending a certain percentage of runs. For others, it could be anything you feel is essential to be part of the guild. Be careful here! Absurd or unreasonable requirements can have an adverse affect on your ability to add new members.

For some guilds, particularly casual ones, you might instead want to list all of the things that are not required. Quite often, that's what separates you from other organizations.

Recruiting Policy: What do you look for in new members? What attributes or abilities do you seek out? When someone applies to your guild, you need criteria to approve or deny that application. A charter is a great place to list those criteria.

Ranking System: If your guild has a formal ranking system, it can be helpful to outline it here.

Loot Policy: If you've got a complex system, it's probably a good idea to create a separate document that goes into the nitty-gritty details. Even so, mentioning the system in your charter is a way of formalizing it. If you've got a basic, straightforward system, you may be able to sum it up succinctly in the charter.

Guild Bank Policy: If you have a bank, how does it work? Who is eligible to donate and withdraw items? What is the bank's gold used to purchase? A charter can define all of these guidelines.

Now, for those of you who already have a charter, I recommend taking a close look at the information there. Does membership require Onyxia attunement? Is your ranking system based on the old PvP ranks? Does your loot policy specify what happens with Dire Maul class trinket drops or the Primal Hakkari Idol? It may be time to revise those guidelines.

Likewise, look to the future. What are your guild's goals for the next expansion? Now is the time to make major adjustments to the way your guild operates, before everyone settles into the new content. If you are drastically changing your loot system, or shifting from 25- to 10-player raids, or focusing exclusively on annexing Lake Wintergrasp as your guild's turf, you may need to update your charter.

Such major decisions cannot be unilateral, however. Like most countries' constitutions, you should make sure enough of your officers approve of the changes before you formally amend your charter. And before your officers vote yes or no, they in turn should talk to members to get a sense of whether these changes are desired.

It's a time of uncertainty for many guilds. By working on policy documents like your charter, you can reassure your members that the officers have a clear vision for the expansion and that they are working diligently behind the scenes to make that vision a reality.

/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! For more WoW Insider gameplay columns, click here.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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