Breaking Up a Guild Bank

I’ve mentioned in a few past articles about choosing to disband or close up a guild when the needs of the members can no longer be met.

When this happened to the guild I started WotLK with, we had to decide how to distribute the contents of the guild bank.  You hear horror stories about this from time to time, and I thought it would be useful to share the method that we used to distribute the guild’s wealth evenly.

Clearing Out the Trash

Most guilds end up with a lot of useless items in their guild banks over time.  Nobody wants them, they aren’t useful for raids, but they won’t sell on the AH.  Things like the Gnomish Army Knife that engineers have to make en masse while leveling and low-level tradeskill mats.  If you have a free-for-all guild bank tab, you can just move all these items there and leave them out of the valuation step.  You could also vendor them and distribute the gold (even if it may be a paltry sum).

You can also choose to disenchant BoE gear that may be lying around so that it can be distributed as shards, dust or essence.  Though it seems counter-intuitive, leaving BoE gear for direct distribution can make things difficult, as they can pack quite a bit of worth into a single item.  If the items have a particularly high value, consider selling them on the AH and adding the proceeds to the gold balance for later distribution.

Quantifying Effort

First, you need need to have some way of ranking the relative effort put forth by the members over time.  How you gather this depends on how you’ve been distributing loot.  If you use DKP and any of the common web-based DKP systems, you should have a history of attendance per member.  If you’re using EP/GP, the total EP is a good measure.

/roll or loot council systems can be more difficult.  If you’re using such a system, keeping track of raid attendance using an addon like HeadCount is a good idea – your loot system may not be stateful, but you never know when you’ll need to make a decision based upon what has happened in the past.

You’re not looking for specific effort values here – just relative effort between the members.  Once you have quantified every member’s contribution, add it all up and determine what percentage of distribution each member is entitled to.  You can get fancy here by weighting distribution by rank, but in my case we were a small guild and everyone who was left at the end had been an active raider.

The results will look something like this spreadsheet.

You should also consider whether you have any members who for a justifiable reason should be excluded from the distribution.  This might be by rank, or a minimum effort cut-off.  In my guild, we had one poorly geared member who had joined for one raid as a trial, picking up something like 8 or 9 items in one run before going AFK for the three weeks leading up the guild disbanding.  He had the 4th highest GP value in the guild but zero EP (because he received the items before we invited him to the guild).  We set the minimum EP threshold to 5 specifically to exclude him from the distribution.

Identify High-Value Items

Certain items are intrinsically high value, and should be divided evenly based on effort.  This includes things like dream shards, abyss crystals, and frozen and runed orbs.  Set these aside for now and don’t include them in the valuation step.  This includes the gold in the bank – it will also be distributed by effort.

Assiging Value to Items

Next, you need to work out what the items in your guild bank are worth.  Again, you aren’t worried about the specific value the items might have on the AH, only the relative value of the bank contents.  If you have data from an addon like Auctioneer or AuctionLite that covers a long enough time period, this can be a useful place to start.  Otherwise, I would recommend that you use a site like wowhead to get buyout values.  Using the single snapshot from your realm’s AH is not recommended, as certain items can see their worth fluctuate wildly from day to day within a week.

The results of this step will look like this spreadsheet.  Note that my sum specifically excludes the first three rows containing the high-value items I identified in the last step.

Calculate Entitlement

Now that you know what percentage of effort each member put forth and the total value of everything in your guild bank, you can multiply each member’s percentage by the total, the result of which is how much value they are entitled to.  It’s important to remember that the values don’t relate to the market outside your guild bank.  Members can’t just ask to take their valuation as cash.

Due to rounding, some members may not receive any of the high-value items.  You will need to decide if this is a problem.  If it is, I suggest taking some gold and purchasing items on the AH to bring the total of the high-value items up to a level that allows everyone to receive at least one item.  So long as the AH pricing doesn’t differ wildly from the prices you used for valuation, this shouldn’t really alter the overall value of the bank.

This is a good time to decide if you’re going to put any restrictions on what members can take out of the bank.  In our case, we said that no single item request could exceed 25% of your entitlement.  We made items like herbs count as one item.  This forced every member to select at least four items from the bank instead of taking their entire cut in items that had the highest resale value.

The results of this step look like this.

Letting Your Members Know

You’ll notice that I’ve used Google Docs for the example spreadsheets.  This is a great way to keep the process transparent, as you can keep a published copy on the web for your members to view and grant write access to trusted officers so that they can help with distribution.

By showing exactly how the distribution was done, you retain the integrity of your loot system and ensure that everyone receives their fair due.  Think of it as insurance against ending up in next week’s Guildwatch

Distribute the High Value Items

Once you’ve made your members aware of what’s going on, you should send the appropriate amount of gold and high-value items to members via in- game mail.

Record What People Take

As requests for items come in, record what they have been given and the value that those items had per your valuation spreadsheet.  Update the distribution spreadsheet to reflect how much they have taken out so that everyone can see how much is left in the bank and what their cut is worth.

The most resellable items are going to go first, so it’s best to do this at a time when most people are online (we did it when our scheduled raid would have been).  If this is not possible, you might want to ask people to submit requests, but do distributions once per day so that item distribution is more even.

Leave an Officer Alt Behind

If you are moving on to another guild, create a level 1 alt and leave it in the old guild at an officer rank to make handing distribution requests easier.  There will undoubtedly be some users who are taking a break or who otherwise won’t be aware of what’s going on at the time.  Change the MOTD to indicate where more details can be found (typically your guild forum) and be prepared to handle their distribution requests when they log on and realize what’s happened.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Before you /gquit and start your search for whatever comes next, think about sharing out-of-game contact information, either directly or on your guild forums.  You never know when you’ll have an opportunity to play with these people again, and being able to keep in touch goes a long way towards preserving the sense of community you’ve built, even if the guild no longer binds you as one.

Until Next Time

The spreadsheets linked from this post are also available in Excel and OpenOffice.Org format here: