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The morning of the all hands summon to the Blasted Lands, Aely went for a walk. The late fall air was clear and cool, and leaves crunched under their feet in the less-traveled parts of the streets. She and Roger took the long way around Old Town, south through Tanner Circle and down Bulwarks, across […]

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Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook
comment 1 Written by on June 24, 2010 – 7:58 am

Leading a guild is hard. I’ve never attempted it, but I’ve been both a raid officer (currently) and a guild officer (formerly), and I have seen first hand some of the crap that guild leaders go through.

Good leaders manage to make this look easy. Bad leaders make everyone around them miserable. Sometimes guilds with good leaders fail anyway, for reasons unknown (or known… usually Drama).

Enter The Guild Leader’s Handbook:

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Official Details:
The Guild Leader’s Handbook, by Scott F. Andrews (the “Officers Quarters” columnist at WoW.com).
Published by No Starch press and available for $24.95 print or $19.95 e-book (ISBN # 978-1-59327-258-6)

This book is pretty much what it says it is:

The Guild Leader’s Handbook is for anyone who is or ever wanted to become a Guild Leader.” (p xviii, Introduction)

Andrews lays out clear leadership strategies for building your guild from the ground up.

Rather than going willynilly and ending up like the character from Illegal Danish (WANNA JOIN MY GUILD!?!!?), Andrews advocates a reasoned, planned strategy for creating a guild, coming up with a concept and a name, managing officers and events, recruiting, raiding, and even what to do when the drama llama follows you home (as it inevitably will, in ANY guild).

The book is well laid out, easy to read, and written in a comfortable, conversational style. The book nerd in me would like to mention that it’s also nicely typeset, on thick paper, with an appropriate font, pleasant cover, and nice embellishment.

Andrews takes examples from his own guild leading as well as prominent/famous/infamous examples from across the MMO spectrum.

I’m a big fan of the diagrams he created as well; The Guild-ID Flowchart, Policy Triangle, Player Character Types and other specific concepts are both explained and then outlined in “pop out” boxes or placed into easy to read charts. His ability to break things down into basics keeps this from being too much of a “MMO-specific” book as well, and any gaming jargon is quickly and simply explained.

Particularly noteworthy, Andrews breaks down the differences between leading a guild and leading a raid, explaining very clearly what’s needed for both. Since not everyone can do both of those roles well, I thought it was well placed in the book, and an important point to bring up to new PVE guild leaders looking to get into raiding. His chapter on loot systems is also very good, though it generally leaves out the personalities of the raiders (since some loot systems will work well with one group of personalities but fail horribly with others).

Unfortunately, while Andrews attempts to address the idea of leading a roleplaying guild, he’s obviously inexperienced on the concept of Roleplay as a whole.

The roleplay section of The Guild Leader’s Handbook is very weak. While that’s somewhat understandable – this is not a book for leading an RP guild, it’s a book for leading ANY guild – it’s obvious that he’s led guilds that engaged extensively in PVE and occasionally in PVP, but is relying what he’s picked up secondhand for RP guilds.

His information is often either incorrect, limited, or both.

Using examples that perpetuate RP stereotypes is kind of cringe worthy.

As a full time RPer, I’d have a pretty hearty chuckle at someone that said “I must meditate for a moment before we begin our assault ((AFK Bio))” . The sentiment is good, but it rather unfortunately populates the “RPers are poncy gits who talk too much” stereotype. In such a situation, it’s absolutely acceptable to simply say “Wait just a minute” or some other… not affected, not pompous statement. Sure SOME characters might talk that way, but it’s pretty unusual in my experience with RP.

Maybe that doesn’t sound “roleplayish” enough to use as an example, but it’s a pretty distinct caricature, and not really representative.

The Guild Leader can’t be the guild’s Dungeon Master.

Yes, sometimes the GL will take on that role, but so should all the other members of the guild (or at least a handful of others). A guild that’s entire storyline, plot, events, and actions are tied to the creativity of one person will inevitably fail. A Guild Leader (or even a designated “Storymaster” officer, as suggested elsewhere in the book) may coordinate things, and help make sure that player created content doesn’t overlap, and perhaps work to create a direction or a goal for the guild, but what keeps an RP guild going is the interplay of creativity between guild-mates.

Yes, a RP guild needs their Guild Leader and officers as coordinators, but if all of your stories rely on one person, they will burn out VERY quickly.

Encouraging player storylines is equally, if not more, important than coming up with them yourself. And guild stories can stagnate without multiple people working on them and moving them along – especially if they are in any way extended. Placing that responsibility entirely on the guild leader ensures burn out, as well as players quitting the guild when the guild leader has a bad idea, or runs out of ideas, or can’t sustain a story.

Basically, RP happens with the guild, not to the guild, and an RP guild that relies on a single person to come up with and coordinate all the RP will quickly either fizzle out or explode.

The book also doesn’t address (m)any of the specific issues that come up in RP guilds.

In fact, the only “Roleplaying Issues” mentioned are Erotic RP and Mary Sues – neither of which is usually guild-breaking. In fact, I’d say that at guild creation, either Erotic RP is allowed in guild chat, or it’s not, end of story, no more issues. Mary Sues are really only a problem if they’re negatively impacting the story or other players – which is a simple player to player conversation… but it straddles the IC/OOC boundary. Unfortunately, the book never mentions how to navigate the IC/OOC interaction balance, especially with regards to drama, nor does it go into the balance between in-game and forum-based RP, how to handle timelines, and how to handle patches, new lore, and other gameplay changes. These are issues that will come up in most RP guilds, especially those that want to work on group storylines and plots.

Also, the designations of “light, medium, and heavy” roleplay are pretty much obsolete in my experience. With the creation of player channels and the changes to in-game RP (at least in WoW), most RP guilds can’t be placed fully into any one of those categories, and it’s over-simplistic to try to set up a guild specifically as one or another. Most guilds are either just RP-friendly or have explicit RP rules and protocols that are explained to any new recruit. Those RP rules and protocols usually evolve organically out of the specific community.

As an example, the Wildfire Riders have IC only guild chat, plus a secondary, non-guild-restricted IC chat channel, but we also have an OOC chat channel, and you can find people participating in all three – sometimes simultaneously!

As Andrews admits that he’s never been part of a roleplaying guild, let alone leading one (only having done some occasional, very loosely roleplaying world events that were connected to PVP), these shortcomings aren’t surprising, but since RP is the focus of this blog, I think it’s important to note that there are definitely some things that a RP Guild Leader would want to know about that aren’t mentioned.

All that aside, would I recommend this book?

Absolutely, but not with any specifics towards RP guilds.

The Guild Leader’s Handbook is a solid introduction to guild leading and a good resource for anyone (RP or not) wanting to run a guild. A new guild leader, of whatever type, would do well to read The Guild Leader’s Handbook, and could glean a lot of information from it, hopefully avoiding some of the pitfalls of new guilds. While long-term guild leaders may already have picked up on some of the information, Andrews’ breakdowns, charts, and easy to read examples still provide useful “extra experience”, and having everything in one, easy-to-reference guide is quite helpful.

The Guild Leader’s Handbook is not, however, in any way RP specific, relegating RP Guild Leading to a poorly done half of a chapter – which is understandable given the content (the vast majority of guild leaders are not leading RP guilds), but ultimately not very helpful for a fledgling RP guild leader.

For most guild leaders, you’ll get the majority of information you need to get started from The Guild Leader’s Handbook. For RP guild leaders, it is a good stepping off point, but you’ll need either trial and error, experience, a mentor, or more information to get into the nitty-gritty of leading a group of roleplayers. While Andrews’ information is a very solid start, it won’t prepare a RP guild leader for the issues he or she is likely to face on top of the usual issues found in guild leading.

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Full Disclosure – I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, as a review copy. I am under no obligation to review it favorably, but I did promise a review in exchange for the book. (And I ought to probably apologize to Andrews and his editors, as I’ve had the book nearly a month now. Whoops!)

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