GMFD – Handling a Guild Breakup

Wow! I really didn’t think I’d get the chance to write this particular article quite so soon. Last week was a real rollercoaster ride for Tin and Anelf.

Yup – CIPHER has been hit squarely in the face by the drama handbag.

So today – in possibly our last Guild Mastery for Dummies post – I’ll talk about a few important lessons on the less pleasurable aspects of guild mastery. Hopefully our learning these lessons the hard way will mean someone else doesn’t have to. If nothing else, this should be an amusing story for those of you who’ve been following CIPHER’s progress🙂 .

Here are the lessons:

  • Lesson #1: Your new guild is most at risk when you’re offline.
  • Lesson #2: The first you’ll know a guildie was planning to leave is when he’s already left.
  • Lesson #3: Don’t expect recognition for your efforts as a guild master.
  • Lesson #4: Be quick to sideline or remove drama queens.
  • To be fair, not everyone behaves in the way I describe below. But these lessons are taken from behavior I’ve seen and heard of in other guilds as well, so I know they are pretty common.

    Lesson #1: Your new guild is most at risk when you’re offline.

    There’s not really much you can do about this as a guild master. You can’t stay online all the time. Its not that things happen while you’re away, its just that people will often wait until you’re offline to act because they don’t want to have to explain themselves to you. Other times, its just that a small drama snowballs because you’re not around to handle it. And if someone is acting maliciously against your guild (e.g. poaching your members) then an absence of even just a few days can be disastrous.

    Our rollercoaster week started with a high. We were on to Hodir on only our second Ulduar run. We’d not downed him, but I could see how we could improve our coordination (particularly healing through the Frozen Blows) to get him next week.

    But Tin and I had some real life engagements to take care of so we didn’t login between Tuesday evening and Friday evening. That’s the longest period (3 days) we’ve both been offline since we took over organizing raids for our old guild back in January. But we have a mature guild, so we knew they could manage without us for just three days.

    We couldn’t have been more wrong.

    We logged on Friday evening ready to start organizing that night’s raid. There were surprisingly few people online. Tin checked the guild activity log. Seven of our 16 raiders had left. We did a /who on the leavers – those online were all in the same guild and in the middle of a Naxxramas run.


    Lesson #2: The first you’ll know a guildie was planning to leave is when he’s already left.

    People don’t like confrontation. You normally have to explain your actions to others in real life, but in a game you can avoid any unpleasantness for yourself by just cutting and running. If the people you dumped get upset with you, you can always put them on ignore.

    In addition to this, many people will freely complain to their friends that they’re unhappy with something in the guild, but they won’t talk to the people who can do something about it – the guildmaster or officers.

    In Soldiers of Fortune, we had an officer who bragged to our guildmaster that he knew someone in the guild was unhappy but wouldn’t tell him who. He wasn’t an officer for long after that.

    The result is that most people who leave your guild will simply /gquit without saying a word. Often they’ll wait until you’re offline before they do it.  The strange thing is that even people who have been very friendly with their guildmates will do this. Its like flicking a switch to turn off those old friendships to make room for new ones.

    Looking at this from the other side, if you’re going to leave a guild then talk to the guildmaster before you /gquit. If you’re polite about it then you’ll go away on good terms. You never know when your paths might cross again, and its stupid to make enemies of your former guildmates when you don’t need to.

    And if you want to leave because you’re unhappy, tell an officer why you’re unhappy – they may be able to sort it out for you.

    Of the seven people who left the guild, just one of them sent us an in-game mail. He said in his note that he’d been pugging during the day with a larger raiding guild for a while, and had decided to join them because they could offer him faster progression.

    So he’d been thinking about leaving for some time. And it seems he’d been discussing this with at least two of the other people who left.

    If he’d discussed it with us we’d have seen if we could change our raid or arrange a raiding alliance to accommodate his needs. If we couldn’t do that we’d at least have wished him well and added him to our friends list.

    Although we wouldn’t have wished him well if we knew he was going to poach half our raid🙂 .


    Lesson #3: Don’t expect recognition for your efforts as a guild master.

    When someone decides to leave your guild – especially if they’re leaving because they think they can progress faster elsewhere – they will often feel guilty for letting you down. No-one wants to feel bad about themselves, so its natural to invent reasons why you never really liked the people you’re leaving in the first place – putting together several imagined slights and building them into a huge grudge. This will often build up over time – once you’ve seen it a few times you can spot the pattern.

    As a result, people who leave will be thinking about all the things you didn’t do for them, and not about  everything you did do for them.

    Don’t become a guild master if you want people to be thankful for your work in organizing their gaming experience – especially the people who move on. Do it because it satisfies your own needs.

    Tin and I started organizing raids for our old guild because we wanted to raid and no-one else in the guild was stepping up to organize it. We started CIPHER because we wanted to continue raiding, and also create a home for our raiding friends after our old guild wound down. We also wanted to see what running a guild felt like. We didn’t expect any plaudits for this, but even so …

    The guy who sent the note was someone we’d played with for a year. He would ask Tin for advice for his hunter alt almost every week. Two of the other leavers have been with us for about 8 months. We’d organized their raids for them every week during that period – usually two or three nights a week. At least this one guy sent a note. These others said nothing at all.

    This isn’t very unusual behavior. I now understand why Entrigan (our old guild leader) would get so mad at people who /gquit without a word. It feels much more personal when you’re the guild master.


    Lesson #4: Be quick to sideline or remove drama queens

    If you see someone creating small dramas, you can be sure they’ll eventually create a big one if you give them enough time. If you want to avoid those big dramas, you need to act decisively when the small ones come along. This can be hard because you might be dealing with someone you consider a friend, or their departure may be a temporary setback for the guild.

    – If the drama queen isn’t important to the guild, get rid of them as quickly as you can.

    – If the drama queen is in a key position in the guild, find a way to remove them from that position.

    – If the drama queen has some close friends who you think would leave with them, be very quick to introduce redundancy into those raid positions (and then /gkick the queen😉 ).

    Two of the people who left us had been our main recruiters, and most of their recruits (and some of those who joined us from our old guild) were their friends from a previous guild they’d been in. That accounts for the other four people who left.

    These two had already caused drama in the guild. We didn’t act quickly because  we considered them friends. However, that friendship had started to cool when we refused to take their side in a drama they created over a loot roll.

    We knew there was a significant risk that they’d leave and take their old friends with them. But we were too slow to recruit enough other raiders to mitigate that risk. That was a huge mistake on our part. This being our first raiding guild, we failed to realize the importance of pugging as a recruiting tool. We were doing everything we could to run all-guild raids, so we didn’t have to rely on the randomness of pugs.

    Such is life😀 .

    So there we have it. Four important lessons learned, and CIPHER no longer a viable raiding guild.

    What next?

    First I have to finish counting to ten. (I’m counting really slowly🙂 ). Then we’ll decide whether to build again or simply move to a larger raiding guild and let someone else organize raids for us for a change. In some ways, the timing of all this is quite fortunate. Tin and I have relatives visiting from abroad for the next three weeks, so it gives us ample non-playing time to decide what comes next.

    .

    And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those CIPHER members who have stuck with us. (No roll-call – you know who you are😀 ). Knowing we’re going to be offline for a while, we made sure our remaining guildies knew what had happened and told them they have our blessing if they want to move on to continue their raiding. Tin and I have been very touched by their support.

    A final GMFD lesson is that some online friendships really do mean something – and its when things aren’t running so smoothly that you find out who those friends are🙂 .

    3 responses to “GMFD – Handling a Guild Breakup

    1. This truly bites. I’ve seen it way too often, and wish I wouldn’t see it again, but know I will. The other side of the coin from the people who wait for you to be offline are the ones that specifically wait for as big an audiance as they can get for their bitter diatribe before their /gquit, hoping to inspire other people to go with them. It’s so childish.

      If you ever find yourself over on Nagrand-US and needing a raid guild, Burning Dragoons would be more than happy to have you. We’re ally and pretty low-key, it’s one of the less dramaful guilds I’ve seen, and I’ve been playing WoW since release and EQ for a few years before that. ><

    2. I’ve followed your site here a little while now. Sorry to see the guild breakup.
      I take a little issue with #2 though.
      I have left a few guild myself, when the time came that I outpaced them. Each time I have let the guild leader know in advance, and where I was going. It really depends on the quality of the player in this regard.

    3. @ Tzivya – Lol. You’re right. A hissy fit on guild chat is probably the worst way to leave🙂 . And thank you for your kind offer.

      @Renthala – I did put the disclaimer at the beginning of the post that I know not everyone acts like this. The way you do it is the right way to go about it – kudos. But I’ll wager you’ve seen a lot of people doing it the other way🙂 .