|Graulm updates Kerulak on Dreadlocker's need to|
hearth and retrieve a forgotten Onyxia Scale Cloak,
Along with garnering interest from brand new players, tales of our exploits trickled back across the internet's sea of digital waves. They were pulled back like alcoholics getting a whiff of that intoxicating aroma, falling completely off the wagon into Azeroth's mud. The question was: Do we embrace them with open arms and welcome them into our perpetual AA meeting? After four years of running Descendants of Draenor, we had developed a colorful history of departures. Some were clean. Others were so filthy I still feel the dirt under my fingernails as I type this memoir. Discreetly, they would approach me, striking up a conversion over in-game whispers. “Kerulak! How’s it going! Long time, no chat!”, as if I had forgotten the painful details surrounding their exit, and the many late nights it had caused me, as I desperately scrambled to recruit for their absence. I'd push myself to respond politely, carrying the conversation as long as they wished. Secretly, I timed how long it would take for them to drop the big question.
Addressing the prospect of a player’s return boiled down to a number of items. First, I had to consider their past and the context of their exit before I let the water rush under the bridge. In some cases, it wasn't appropriate to have them return, because I had completely lost trust in them when they were in a role of responsibility. This was the case with Dreadlocker, my former 2nd Warlock officer, who had left us mid-TBC after being given too many direct orders from Annihilation on how to play his class. I remember how I felt when it happened: frantic. I had no answers, and nothing made sense. It was a situation that, as a leader, made me feel like I had no control over anything. I struggled just to get him to speak to me -- to explain why it was happening and could we reconcile this? Instead, he and his girlfriend carved a chunk of meat out of the guild with their group of close friends following them out the door; it became known as the 2nd official exodus from DoD. Now, some time later, word was getting around about our accomplishments -- the Twilight Vanquisher titles spoke for themselves. And although Dreadlocker and I continued an amicable relationship, speaking infrequently via /tell about how things were going since the exodus, he dropped hints that it might be beneficial for us to return to our combined former glory.
Personally, I did not see the need.
Another type of exit I was loathe to consider for return to DoD were ones that sent my moral compass spinning. We are human, we make mistakes; part of being a good leader means forgiving and moving forward. But ethical mistakes cannot and should not be forgiven; they paint a picture of a person with either ulterior motives or they are too easily manipulated to put faith into. The DoD raiding environment I set out to rebuild in Wrath was steeped in trust and communication. Violations of that meant chipping away at our raiding foundation until the tower collapsed, no matter how trivial the infraction seemed to be. In a virtual social environment where honesty and strength-of-character are often cast to the wayside, I did everything in my power to compel the guild to be honest and follow-through. This mutual trust between the raiders and I would form the basis of my raid rotation policy and promotion structure in WotLK. There is no need to mention names here but players in Vanilla and TBC I had come to trust, who made me believe they were aligned with the goals of the guild -- only to betray that trust and align themselves with someone else -- weren't given a second chance. Furthermore, I instituted a rule that prevented alts from joining other guilds. Hanging out with us on your alt, only to flip to your main raiding toon in another guild and sap our resources for their benefit was a prime use-case I wanted to avoid. Alignment aside, it caused too many hard feelings. I was a big boy and could put it behind me, but I couldn't say the same for the rest of the raiders -- and animosity between them only chipped away at that raiding foundation with greater tenacity.
Forgiveness is tricky, but it helps if the person genuinely knows where they went wrong, as was the case with Bretthew.
|Kerulak keeps an eye on heals|
while Taba tanks Buru the Gorger,
The Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj
There remained the amusing tale of a certain Paladin, an old-school DoDer, who sought passage back into the guild. In the days of Vanilla, he’d played a Warrior named Taba. Taba would be forever remembered by his clansmen for the events surrounding a Blackwing Lair clear one night, in which the coveted sword Ashkandi was pulled from Nefarian’s carcass. In our zero-sum, fixed price loot system of Vanilla, Taba was the highest DKP holder in line, and won the infamous blade. Upon issuing the loot to his Warrior, screams of joy emanated throughout Vent as he stepped away from his keyboard and proceeded to dance in uninhibited delight, running frantically from room to room and screaming with all the excitement of a child tearing into that one present they had dreamed for all year.
I remember when loot had that effect on players.
With the release of TBC, Taba was retired and a new Blood Elf Paladin named Bretthew took his place. As he had tanked in Vanilla, Bretthew continued this tradition and assisted in the defeat of Gruul and Magtheridon, preparing for the challenges of Serpentshrine Cavern. Since the Horde had only just gained Paladins, we lacked experts in this department. Some of our healing Shamans from Vanilla had cut over to the Plate-wearing, Flash-of-Light spamming Blood Elves. But tanking on a Paladin wasn't a viable role in Vanilla; Pallies could spec that way but simply weren't cut out to do it competitively. This changed in TBC, so Bretthew helped dive deep into those mechanics, learning the nuances of the class in a quest to become an expert Tankadin. He tanked for the 25-Man progression team alongside folks like Ater, Kurst and Dalans, and played a particularly key role in tanking the massive waves of murlocs that rushed in during Morogrim Tidewalker’s attempts to drown us.
It was as this key moment in our progression through Serpentshrine Cavern that he experienced the inconvenience of a hacking. He lost his account, and we had lost a fully geared and experienced tank. The hacker had even gone so far as to rename his character to “Pumpintitan”. I remember the guild flipping out, spamming this illegitimate account holder, threatening him, demanding he returned the account to its rightful owner. It was no use. The hacker responded with disemvoweled speech, insisting that the account was his, and that he had legitimately purchased it; we were all wrong and needed to leave him alone.
The hacker stuck to his guns so long that I began to question whether or not Bretthew had, in fact, been hacked at all. Surely, he’d had no reason to make something up like that? I mean, he was an adequate tank, well liked among the guild, a funny, respectable player with competency behind the wheel of a Prot Paladin. And we were making progress! Blain was back behind the wheel and we were on our way to completing SSC. So, what possible reason would he have to step out of progression, point-blank, right in the middle of what we were all accomplishing?
The only thing I could think of was: embarrassment.
|Bretthew stands among the 25-Man Progression Team|
after defeating Morogrim Tidewalker,
Repent of Your Sins
Shock would not be the word I’d use to describe how I felt as Bretthew laid the entire story out for me in Vent one night. He'd been filled with rage during a late night PvP session. It had led to a temper tantrum. That tantrum caused him to make some (pardon the pun) bad judgments. And in the heat of anger, Bretthew had grabbed his keyboard and flung it against the wall, systematically destroying it in a single moment of fury. Then, the realization set in. A gaping hole in the wall of a rental. Money needed to repair the damage. It'll have to come from selling the account.
It was time to cover the blood-laden tracks.
He found a buyer, ready to take the account off his hands. Once the deal was done and Bretthew had morphed into Pumpinntitan, all that remained was to deliver the news to the guild leader. He knew I would be furious, as we’d come to rely on him in progression; he was not ready to deal with the conflict that would arise from coming clean. So, he concocted a story to get a free pass -- that he’d been hacked. What could I do? It wasn't his fault his account was gone! It sucked, but that’s what happened and he was very sorry, but it was out of his hands. Which is exactly how I handled it at the time; just another hacked account in the long line of wedges driven into our progress throughout The Burning Crusade.
So now that I had this whole story in front of me, I had to reason, is it worth taking a risk on someone like Bretthew again? On the one hand, I clung to my age-old biases which had been tempered with one experience after another: People don’t change. I reasoned, if he had the capacity to pull something like that on me once, there’d be nothing holding him back from doing it again. I laid that on the table; he agreed,
“You have absolutely every right to feel that way about me, Hanzo” he said to me in Vent, while I flew across Northrend in search of more achievements to complete.
“I assume you've read all the rules that I've published for Wrath”, I said, “things are different now. I intend on running a much tighter ship this time.”
“I've read it all, I think it’s great...what you've done.” he said.
“And you’re 100% clear on the tank situation? That it’s going to be difficult for you to find a spot on a regular basis? I just had this conversation with Beercow, you know. He opted to switch roles entirely because of that.”
“I’m completely clear and fine with it; I can help fill other runs if needed.”
I paused a moment to make sure the next phrase delivered some impact, “You realize that there is a very slim chance you’ll see the Elite rank, ever, based on your previous exploits.”
“No, I hear you. I just want to be able to contribute in some way.”
I pondered the other side of the case a moment. He had come clean, after all. He had made the effort to give me the real story regarding his account. While his motives may have been less than stellar, and his timing painted him a little more like a treasure-hungry Goblin, I decided that it was important to give a player a second chance that genuinely knew where they had fucked up, and were remorseful. If they could be man enough to acknowledge the error of their ways, I wagered, it was the first step toward growing into a better person. I appreciated players who were willing to take accountability for their actions, and wanted to reward that behavior with positive reinforcement. So, Bretthew returned to the lineup in late March. The 25-Man progression team grew stronger.
But there was still the case of a missing raid leader...