Turning Over the Reins, Pt 2

This is part 2 of an article series: Jump to Part 1 or Part 3

This article might be a bit dry compared to part 1.  It’s meant to be an expansion of the things that a GM does, and will (I hope) be useful for a GM planning their retirement or a new GM starting up a guild.

In some ways, this is also a list of tasks that a GM might choose to delegate to officers, regardless of whether a leadership change is in the works.  If you use it for this purpose, you may also want to read the article “To Officer or Not To Officer?”.

So, please ignore the blindingly obvious stuff and perhaps you’ll learn a bit about some of the subtle things that guild leaders take care of.

The Figurehead

The most obvious role of the guild leader is as a figurehead.  Even if you none of the other items below, it’s your name at the top of the roster, and it’s you that people will look to to set the direction of the guild.

The only important point to make here is that the guild leader should make a regular appearance within the guild.  This seems obvious, but have you ever had a guild leader switch mains and stop logging on on the high-rank character except for brief maintenance tasks?  If you ever make such a switch, be sure to make your primary character the titular guild leader so that members (especially those who are new) can more easily find you.

Loot System Guru and Maintainer

Loot systems can be very complex beasts.  The good ones keep things complexity from the members, but all stateful systems have a certain amount of upkeep that tends to fall to the guild leadership.

This upkeep comes in two forms: the operation of the loot system during raids, and the maintenance of the loot system on a regular basis.  It’s quite common for the officers to know the former, but the latter is often locked away in the guild leader’s head for no other reason than that nobody else is interested in learning it.

For the day-to-day operation of the loot system, make sure that all the officers can be the loot master on a raid.  If an addon is required, all the officers need to run it on all raids.  If you keep track of loot for upload into a web DKP system, or for posting on a website, more than one person should be logging in case someone gets disconnected or experiences a crash.

The guts of the loot system is knowledge that should be distributed among the officers at all times.  I recall a guild I was in where we had to switch to EP/GP because the guild leader went AWOL and none of the officers had the ability to add new members to the web-based DKP system.

To ensure that this knowledge is properly distributed, assign loot management to a different officer each week (or each raid at your preference).  The guild leader should do nothing with the loot system other than answer questions.  Every time you find something that an officer can’t do, permissions should be modified rather than having the guild leader step in and do it themselves.

At some level, most web-based loot management systems will have a administrative password which can only be held by one person.  We’ll talk a bit more about how to manage such passwords in part 3.

Also make sure that the periodic tasks related to the loot system are known.  This may be as simple as clicking the “Decay” button if you’re using EP/GP or as complex as looking through the entire member list on a web-based system looking for people who haven’t raided in a certain amount of time.  Whatever has to be done regularly should be accessible by officers, as well as the corrective actions that may come out of it.

One word of advice that applies equally to any job where you rely on “the officers” to do it: if you assign a task to a group of people, you only guarantee that everyone will think that someone else will do it.  Rotate the job around the officer corps if you like, but make sure that an individual is tasked with it for each week / month as you see fit.

One element of the loot system that tends to remain with the guild leader (because it’s policy) is revising the loot policy when new content comes out.  If Blizzard maintains their form, every major content patch will have an “orb” of some sort and possibly a new way of upgrading your gear with a token.  It’s the guild leader’s job to go through the loot policy once these details are known and make sure that the policy is clear on how these will be distributed before you first see them drop.  Don’t wait until the first piece of a legendary item drops to figure out how you’re going to assign it to someone.

Recruiter

While you may have an officer or senior member do the palm rubbing and face-to-face recruiting, the guild leader may have a lot to do behind the scenes once someone joins the guild as a trial member.  They may need to create (or approve the creation) of a new user account on the forum, loot, and scheduling websites.

If your guild uses a rigid trial period, or member voting for acceptable of a trial, there may be a special forum post to be made, or polls to set up.  Once someone becomes a full member, many of these sites will need to be visited again to change the member’s status.

All of these are candidates for delegation to an officer, so long as the full process is documented.

A guild leader may also hold certain personal accounts that factor into the guild’s recruiting strategy.  For example, the guild recruitment forums on Elitist Jerks and TankSpot are only accessible to donors, or in some cases a one-off fee.  If you rely on such threads to bring you applicants, make sure that the access to this account (if allowed by the site) is transferred, or a new paid account is set up.  You don’t want to be locked out of your quality recruiting thread because of a leadership change.

Banker

The guild leader often takes charge of keeping the guild bank free of junk which may accumulate.  They may also ensure that the consumables tab is properly stocked by passing mats to a crafter.

Depending on the trust level in your officers, you may be able to delegate this.  Even if you allow unfettered officer access to the guild bank, you need to have some guidance as to what should be sold and when.  Perhaps you keep BoE items and patterns that drop in your raids to give members a chance to purchase them before they go onto the AH.  Are these announced to members, and if they don’t sell internally how long do you keep them before selling them to outsiders?

Raid Manager

Who decides when you raid?  Who sets up the invites, and decides who raids and who sits if there are more raiders than spots?

If you do have to sit people on a regular basis, do you keep track of who was asked to sit and try to get them a starting position on a future raid (balance concerns allowing)?  If so, where is this tracked?

As I mentioned in part 1, if you have a functioning raid schedule when you change guild leaders, keep it – at least for a month.  Once guild I was in decided to drop the “Sunday raids start half an hour early” after a guild leader swap.  Not only that, the change wasn’t made consistently.  As a result, we never started our Sunday raids on time and had less time in the instance.

Rank Maintenance

How do people move from trial to member to raider rank?  Do your members have to maintain a certain percentage of attendance to remain at a raider rank?  What about people who don’t log in for several months – do you purge them to keep the roster under control?

Most of these should be delegated to officers, but the periodic cleanup may be something that the guild leader took care of from time to time.  Document it and assign it to a specific person to manage once a month.

Policy Manager and Goal Setter

Beyond your loot policy, you should review all your policies from time to time, checking whether they still reflect the way the guild is mananged.  Ideally, as the operation of the guild changes the policies are updated alongside, but this is quite time intensive and anyone can fall behind.

If a policy needs to change to reflect the way the guild operates, you probably don’t need to make any announcement – just post the changes and indicate that it’s to reflect reality.  If on the other hand you feel that the policy needs revision to serve the guild better, go with a transparent approach and provide both justification and advance warning.  But as I advised in part 1 of this series, don’t start doing that right away.

Don’t forget to keep your goals up to date either.  These will require updating more frequently than policies, but at the very least, they should be updated every time a major content patch comes out.  Updating them during seasonal slowdowns during the summer and end of the year is also a good idea.

Webmaster

I’ve saved the obvious intersections with real life until the end.

When it comes to guild websites, there’s many different choices.  The simplest is a free sub-domain of one of the popular guild hosting sites like Guildportal, Guildomatic, Guildlaunch and the like.  You get a bunch of pre-made widgets to throw together, and various levels of customization.  The domain name won’t be very memorable, but you can get up and running quickly.  You won’t have the flexibility to put different third party packages like eqDKP or WebDKP.

Transferring sites like this is fairly simple because everything is hosted by one site.  There’s just one password list.

A guild that puts a lot of effort into their website might have multiple packages – a front page portal, a forum, a DKP or loot site, a scheduling system, etc.  Depending on where each comes from, they may be able to share passwords or they may be separate.  If the person managing your website is particularly crafty, they might set up some kind of password synchronization of their own design.

The guild leader may not be the person who sets up and runs all of these pieces, but they should have administrative access to all of them.  If you leave the website management to an officer or trusted member, you are just as much at risk if they leave, and and officer leaving may not be something that you think to plan for in as much depth.

However your guild website is set up, make sure that the person responsible makes a short list of everything that goes into it.  A list of software packages and where to download them.  A brief description of how the bits plug together, and whether any patches or other changes were made to the software.  You want to know where to start re-building if that ever becomes necessary.  A regular backup should also be part of the websmaster’s job – but don’t forget to test them.  Nothing’s worse than finding out that your “Backup and Restore” system was just a “Backup” system when you need it most.

If you go with paid website hosting, make sure the guild leader has access to the billing account.  If the account is in the name of the former guild leader, you may need to contact the hosting provider to get both the account and the billing moved over.  Though it may be tempting to just keep paying the bills and leave the account details untouched, don’t do it – when you need to talk to support or customer service, you’ll run into roadblocks if you can’t prove that you’re the account holder.

If you have a custom domain name, bear in mind that both the registration and DNS may be completely separate from your web hosting.  Many providers offer all three, but sometimes you’ll find setups where each is handled by a different company.  Make sure that you transfer ownership of the domain if it’s still in the old guild leader’s name.  If the domain provider isn’t changing, you may be able to do this via a portal.  If you’re moving hosting companies, you’ll need to get a transfer authorization code to give to your new provider, as well as unlocking the old domain for transfer at the old provider.

Voicemaster

I highly recommend that guilds have their own hosted Ventrilo server rather than piggybacking on a free service.  Professional services aren’t that expensive – $85 a year for a 30 user server, which is less than $0.50 per month if even half of those users contribute.  A 10 person guild could get away with half that.  Many providers make it easy for you guild members to contribute individually.

Like a website, the Ventrilo service will have both a billing account and an admin account.  On top of that, each server has a configuration file and set of custom channels, each of which may have channels.  The guild leader should have all of these passwords.  Most voice providers give you some way to back up these settings, which makes it a bit easier to re-create the server on another provider, or even on another account with the same provider if you can’t change the name of the registered account holder.

Have I missed anything?

In the final article of this series, we’ll examine some ways in which you can set up your guild to make the migration from one guild leader to another easier.

This is part 2 of an article series: Jump to Part 1 or Part 3

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