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Officers' Quarters: Critical mass

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

How many members should your raiding guild have? It's a simple question with a complex answer. This week, one reader wonders whether his guild simply has too many people.

Hi, Scott.

I'd like to first mention that I'm a big fan of your column, Officers' Quarters. Rock on! And today, I'd like to ask you for advice on the problem that my guild is facing.

I'm a member of a raiding guild, one that hovers just below the best guilds of our realm. We have cleared 10man Ulduar, and I was lucky enough be there as I'm a member of our 10man progression team, which is now doing hard modes. Our 25man . . . well, thats where the problem comes in. Back in May, we didn't have enough strong players to really progress past antechamber. Then things started coming up for our raiders -- we couldn't do a 25man guild run for whole 3 weeks in May-June due to lack of people!

So our officers aggressively recruited people, some of them geared members of a reputable guild that recently went down and some of them friends transferred in from other servers, and our new recruits recommended us with their friends who were also exceptional players. After 3 weeks of no 25man progression, we found ourselves with just under 40 people online for our raid night.

Of 40 confident individuals officers selected 25, and on that night we made amazing progression. Some original guild members voiced concern as they felt that we have way too many raiders and there was bound to be problem arising around raid spots, but officers said the more raiders we have at our disposal, the better.

We started making very fast progression through 25man Ulduar, but at the same time raiders (both old and new) started to leave the guild. Some left and formed a 10man raiding guild of their own, some left and joined guilds that have 25man Yogg on farm, some joined guild that are still working on siege of Ulduar. But there are still too many people as officers accepted more raiders into the guild -- we had 45 people online for our raid today, and when the officer announced that selection of 25 people was over, a lot of angry messages filled the guild chat channel.

A lot of people are angry, and we can see the divide among those that get chosen every week and those that stay on waiting list for 4 hours every night. If this continues, I dare say that we'll have half the guild break up and form another one. What should our officers do?

--S

Thanks for writing, S. It's amazing that your guild is able to recruit so many people. The complaint I'm hearing from most officers is that there just aren't enough competent people to recruit these days. I guess all those players are on your server!

The question, however, is not how you're able to recruit so many, but should you? I don't think "the more, the merrier" is necessarily true for a raiding guild. The problem is this: You can only keep so many players happy at one time.

It's an issue that nearly all officers have to deal with. You want enough people to fill your raid slots for every scheduled run without spending too much effort to scrounge up enough players. But once those people stop showing up, because of school or family or summer, you have no choice but to replace them. You recruit so that you can fill the slots again. Then those people come back and want their raid slot.

It's a problem for nonofficers, too, because ideally you should be able to take a few weeks to sort out some real-life situations without losing your slot. If your guild recruits too aggressively, like S's guild, then you become paranoid that any absence will mean you never get to raid again. That's not a great situation, either.

Raiding guilds have a critical mass. In science, a "critical mass" is the minimum amount of material needed to maintain a nuclear reaction. For a nuclear bomb, if you don't have enough mass, you won't be able to start the reaction. Likewise, with too few players, you won't be able to raid.

But if you have too much mass, the bomb detonates before you want it to. In the case of S's guild, the critical mass has been exceeded. You've got a sustained chain reaction -- you're raiding every night -- but the bomb seems to be blowing up in everyone's face. As a result, a lot of unhappy people are leaving the guild.

The critical mass for a raiding guild depends on a number of factors.
  • How often does your guild raid?
  • How many players come to just about every raid?
  • How many players come to 50% of the raids or less?
  • How many players will need to take long or frequent breaks from WoW due to real-life commitments?
  • How many players need to be carried by other players in order for the raid to make progress?
If you don't have enough people, those who would answer "yes" to the last three questions will require additional members to balance their absences or deficiencies. Some guild leaders would just dump them, but many would not, if they have been loyal members of the guild for a significant period of time. And if you're hurting for people to begin with, kicking people out isn't going to help get your raids off the ground.

If you have too many people, those same players are probably going to be on the short list of players who don't get taken to raids. As a result, they may become disgruntled and leave the guild.

Either way, the officers have to guide the guild toward that critical mass. For this particular guild, the officers seem hellbent on recruiting at any cost. It makes their lives easier, because they can handpick the cream of the crop every night. They never have to worry about whether a raid will happen. And their raids will be tremendously successful, which often leads to better recruiting. They may eventually realize that the drama they're causing isn't worth the convenience. Or they may just be trying to filter out the very best players and let the rest quit.

It's hard to say what their game plan is at this point. So the best thing you can do is to have a talk with them about it. Ask what their plans are for the guild moving forward. If you're concerned about your own slot, ask whether you will be taken to future raids. If you don't like the answers, as a nonofficer, the only thing you can do is start looking for another guild.

If your officers wanted my advice (and I assume they don't, since it's you asking and not them), I'd start filling slots with the people who are both good players and loyal guild members, even if they're not quite as good as some of the new recruits. You may lose some recruits if you do this. But as long as you've still got a critical mass of players, your remaining players will be happier and you'll deal with less drama on your raid nights.

New recruits may be gung-ho at first, but they have no history with your guild. They may jump ship at the first sign of difficulty. For them, it's easy come, easy go.

The people who have been with you for a long time have more at stake, and they're more likely to have your back when the chips are down, as long as you treat them with respect. It's easier to maintain a critical mass with players you can count on.

/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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