We all need a break from WoW sometimes, whether it’s to focus on work or school or kids or because of boredom; everyone needs to ease off WoW responsibilities occasionally. If you’re a guild leader, however, there’s a lot more to consider when taking a break than just letting your account lie idle for awhile. Last year there was a guild on my server that suffered the total loss of their guild to a guild member, aided by a GM, using a rule that few are aware of: “Guild Dethrone“. The harsh reality is that no matter how much time or energy you have invested in your guild, it doesn’t actually “belong” to you as far as Blizzard is concerned, so if you want to retain leadership despite a prolonged absence, it’s wise to prepare.
The guild I mentioned above had been a large, prominent raiding guild (relative to our server progression) which had spent most of early Cataclysm swapping the top progression spot with the other “big” raiding guild on our server, and which had claimed many Realm First! achievements here over the years. The story that was reported on the realm and leadership forums is that they were finished with the current tier of raiding (Firelands) and had, collectively, decided to take a raid break. Many of them – including the guild leader – became largely inactive in WoW, though the leader remained active on their website, staying in touch with the guild. He was often in Vent as well, because he and most of the core raiders were all still playing other things together – primarily League of Legends, which was very popular amongst a lot of bored WoW players last Fall. The leader never lost touch with the guild and even popped on to play alts on a rare occasion, but he never logged on to his main toon – the one that actually led the guild. This was a mistake, unfortunately.
Thinking he could trust the people in his guild and not wanting to leave the few active players in a bind without officers around regularly to assist them, the leader changed rank permissions to give them more access in his absence. This was his second big mistake. One member decided to take advantage of the leader’s lack of attendance and, quoting Blizzard’s rule for leader absence, convinced a GM to turn over guild leadership to him. The thief-cum-leader promptly kicked the real guild leader and every raider out, and, with the help of a friend, promoted one of his non-raiding, unplayed alts (to salt the wound) to leadership of this once-renowned raiding guild… and began recruiting in Trade. Blizzard was unsympathetic to the player who had had his guild essentially stolen from him, citing his absence on his leader toon, and refused to reverse the situation. It was a dirty deed all around, particularly since the player who took the guild did nothing with it and the guild faded into non-existence. A rule exploited by someone simply trying to cause grief to others.
Now, this is a pretty extreme example of what can happen if you don’t keep all your ducks in a row as a guild leader, but it’s worth paying attention to regardless. Losing an older, established guild has a lot of ramifications. There’s the gbank and funds, of course, though gold and most materials are replaceable. Name-recognition and server reputation are a noteworthy loss too, especially for guilds that have worked to establish themselves within the server community. For social guilds, name-recognition and reputation can be a primary asset, and losing something that you’ve worked for years to establish is painful.
The most significant loss, however, may be their guild achievements – particularly the server firsts. These unique and often difficult accomplishments represent many hours of both individual effort and teamwork. Guild achievements are essentially a quantifiable representation of civic virtue within a guild and, for some (for many, even), can generate a sense of patriotism about the guild. Team loyalty or a patriotic spirit is often strong in a well-established, active guild, and guild achievements have gone far to bolster that. Server first achievements are particularly extraordinary. Gold can be replaced and reputation rebuilt, but server achievements are never coming back to those who earned them once they’ve been removed from (or left) the guild.
So how do you protect yourself from losing your guild if you need to take a prolonged absence? There are definitely a few steps you can take. As a disclaimer, I’ll point out that these tips don’t necessarily apply to every guild, but are certainly worth considering if you’ve got a well-established guild that has years of blood, sweat and tears put into it and you don’t want it to fall apart while you’re away.
First of all, educate yourself about Blizzard’s rules for guilds and leadership. It’s highly unfortunate that the rules don’t account for situations out of our control such as an illness or accident that may keep a leader out of a game for an unintended length of time, but that’s the way it goes. The rules have been there for years and they don’t often become an issue. The reality of the situation, however, is that WoW is a video game and players don’t feel bound to stick around if push comes to shove in their life – or even if they just get bored. Regardless of any previous declarations of commitment people sometimes just quit, and if this happens to be a guild leader then the active members of the guild can be left hanging with no access to change anything. Blizzard’s rules are in place for a good reason – to protect everyone. So be sure you know what they are and how they can affect you.
Along with becoming familiar with the rules, be careful about how you set up your ranks and who you promote. If your guild really matters to you, be sure that you genuinely trust the members who have the highest rank below you. These are the first people that a GM is going to look to in the case of dethroning an absent guild leader, so be sure they’re people you’d want leading. That said, trust is a tricky business in an online community; I’ve had plenty of opportunities as the leader of a big, active guild to learn that firsthand. Just take the time to get to know the people who you give the highest ranks to, and if you have doubts, don’t promote ‘em to that rank. And while we’re talking about trust, make sure your highest ranked officers get along well. Nothing will destroy a guild faster than officers fighting officers, especially without you around to crack heads and keep order. On the other hand, make sure that the officers you do trust have the rank permissions they need to do their job while you’re gone. Pick good officers, and give them the proper authority to lead while you’re away.
Communication is your biggest tool in preparing the guild for your absence, and may even be insurance against situations like the one of the guild mentioned above. Make sure that your officers know what is going on and have ways to reach you, whether by text, email, or just posts on the website which you will be checking periodically. There are also a few places in-game to communicate with your guild, such as the info page on the guild tab and the Message of the Day – though you can’t access these without being in-game. Be certain that the authority to change this info is in the hands of people you trust: double-check the Guild Controls tab for rank permissions before you take your leave. A little bit of insurance here can go far to protecting you, just as it does in other areas of your life.
Finally, be sure to communicate with your guild as well, on a website or perhaps through your officers if you don’t have a website. Inform the guild at large – they will definitely notice your absence, and if you care about them (which obviously you do, since you’re taking steps to maintain stability while you’re gone) then let them know what’s happening, what measures you’ve set in place to ensure they have leadership while you’re gone, whether they can get in touch with you if they need to, and when they might expect you back. Also, let them know who to go to if they have problems or need assistance with a guild matter – it helps them to hear it directly from you. And a few reminders about the guild rules while you’re discussing all of that can’t hurt. When the cat’s away, the mice will play… just remind them to play according to the rules, heh.
Nothing can protect you from all eventualities in WoW, but if you’ve got a guild that supports you and understands the demands of real life, and if you’ve taken some steps to prepare your officers and the guild for your absence, it is possible to take an extended leave without everything crumbling to dust. Educate yourself, pick good officers, set your house in order, and keep your guildies in the loop and the guild should continue on its merry way until you get back.
Enjoy your break :)