The Spoils of War

Recently I found out from a friend that the account of one of officers in her guild had been hacked.  21000 gold and all the guild bank items was taken, and anyone who could be was kicked.

Hopefully they get most of what they lost recovered, and their leadership wise up and make everyone with enhanced guild bank privileges get an authenticator.  The incident did get me thinking however about the benefits of hoarding gold in a guild bank.

21000 isn’t that much for a player to have, especially not one with multiple characters.  But that’s in the context of a game that has some pretty big player-focused gold sinks:

None of these upgrades are required, and none of them really improve your performance in a raid (save perhaps your utility going up a bit if you can carry a few more consumables)

So what does a guild need gold for?  I’ll assume we’re talking about an “average” raiding guild – one that does somewhere between 9 and 15 hours or raiding per week.  I’ll assume that you don’t pay for all your raider’s repairs – perhaps one repair cycle per raider per week after a particularly brutal raid, or a capped stipend per member per raid.  Let’s say that it comes out to a maximum of 2000 gold per week.  I’ve never been in a guild that was even that generous – keeping up with repairs was always the member’s responsibility, and in today’s WoW really shouldn’t be a burden for anyone who can spend an hour outside of raiding per week running daily quests.

You may need to maintain a stock of gems and consumables for use during raids, but for the most part these can be supplied by gatherers within the guild.  Even allowing for a few supplementary AH purchases, let’s say that your cash burn rate is around 3000g per week.  Again, this is vastly more than for any guild I’ve been in, but perhaps I’ve just been drawn to miserly company in the past.

Taking the example of the guild that was hacked, do you need to have seven weeks of cash reserves on hand?  Where did the gold come from?  Presumably from selling BoE items that dropped in raids.  The guild as an entity unto itself doesn’t make any money – leaving gold in a guild bank doesn’t accrue interest (wouldn’t that be wonderful, if horribly unbalanced?).  The earnings come from the activities of the members, and stockpiling large amounts of gold beyond what is required for the next few weeks of activities just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

Obviously there are times when you do want to stockpile – when content is on farm and you’re preparing for a stint of progression raiding (such as the current lead up to patch 3.3).  But for the most part it seems like the gold should either be redistributed or reinvested in the guild.

Reinvestment

Reinvesting in the guild means that you sell BoE items, then use those to purchase items that are used in raids as soon as possible.  While funding repairs can rapidly cost more than your guild takes in, selling a 1000g BoE every week can easily keep all your raiders flasked all night when you’re doing progression content.

If you choose to reinvest, resist the urge to stockpile ahead of time.  You might think that having 50 Flasks or Relentless Assault are the best way to boost raid performance, but if you’re up against a DPS wall, crafting a large number of haste or wild magic potions might provide more benefit.  If you do find yourself with purchased or crafted consumables lying around in the bank for a long time, put them back on the AH.  Unless you know that an upcoming change will make a large difference in the cost of the consumables when you need them, the bank space is probably best used for other things.

Reinvestment can also cover a repair stipend.  Some guilds choose to supplement repair values of tanks, as they take a durability hit whether they perform perfectly or not.  If you choose to do this, try to level out repair costs – figure out the average repair cost after 5 wipes of your dps and healers, then cover the additional amount that tanks pay out of pocket.  It should go without saying that this should be part of your policies rather than an under the table deal.

Redistribution

Redistributing wealth is something I’ve seen mentioned in a few recruitment posts on tankspot.com.  Guilds keep track of everything that was sold over a given time period (typically 4-8 weeks), then calculate the proportion of effort put forth by each member and distribute the gold to each member using that ratio.  The guild keeps a portion of the gold to cover operational costs, but once you know what a sufficient reserve needs to be for your activity level, you pay out a dividend from anything that exceeds this amount.

In many ways, the formula is similar to the one I suggested using when breaking up a guild bank.  Quantifying effort is the hardest part of this system.  If your loot system is point based (DKP, EP/GP, Ni Karma, etc.), then you can take the amount of points awarded for activities.  Hopefully your loot system tracks this separately.  In a system where you buy gear with the points you earn, you need to be sure that you don’t just use the difference in balance from month to month.  Gold distribution should be based upon effort put out and should not be considered a backfill that favours people who picked up less gear in a given cycle.

If you offer bonus loot points for non-raid activities like gathering crafting materials, be sure to take these off before working out the proportions.  The gold only came from raiding, so the split should only be based on the effort put forth raiding.

If you use a loot system that only orders your members (Suicide Kings) or only awards points when loot drops (zero-sum DKP), you may need to find a different way to quantify effort.  The addon HeadCount can be useful here – it tracks raid attendance and lets you export reports to HTML or bbCode.  You can then assign an effort value to attendance to use for quantifying effort.  Essentially you’re adding an aspect of point-based loot systems to your non-point-based system.

Reducing Temptation or Targeting

Another good reason to keep the amount of gold and/or high-ticket items in your guild bank low is to reduce the temptation to less-than-honest officers.  While we’d love to believe that every guild only has leadership that is honest and above board, the forums and wow.com’s Guildwatch column show us regularly that there are some greedy, vile people out there.  If you keep your gold stocks low and sell all unnecessary items as soon as possible, there is less to lose if your guild leader or officer goes rogue.

The same argument also makes your guild bank a lesser target for scammers.  Through some careful abuse of the armory, you can make some educated guesses about the amount of gold a guild may have on hand.  If you do get hacked, Blizzard can’t always return everything – sometimes you get items back but no gold.  In that case, better that you lose less gold than more.

Cataclysm

The issue of responsible gold management becomes even more important in Cataclysm if you take the “guild tax” talent that skims a bit off the top of your member’s intake.  It’s extremely important if you don’t pair it with the talent that increases gold dropped by mobs by an equal or greater percent than the tax.  For full details of the synergy between these talents, see my article on Guild Changes in Cataclysm.

Ideally, guilds won’t implement a tax without balancing it with increased gold drops.  If possible, I’d suggest that guilds try to put one more point in the increased drops talent than in the tax talent, so that it’s a no-brainer for members: rather than two two talents cancelling out, members get a little bit more gold and the guild bank maintains a healthy stream of income.

We don’t know how much gold the talents will bring into the guild bank, but I’m going to assume that the design is for the guild tax to cover operational costs.  Now everything that drops and is sold on the AH gives the guild gold that it doesn’t need to operate.  Can you really justify having that gold sit around in the bank?  Sufficient operating funds and reserve should be your prudent financial principle.  Allowing a guild gold balance to increase until the leaders are atop a seat of perilous wealth is at best depriving your members of the spoils they helped earn and at worst setting you up for a proportionate fall.

Until Next Time

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