Thursday, September 13, 2012

2.7. One Suggestion Too Many

The guild collects to celebrates Annihilation's
High Warlord win,
Orgrimmar Arena

Expertise via Promotion

Annihilation proved to me early on people were important. He expressed genuine empathy towards other players. If people quit the guild, he would instantly see that as a personal failure on his own part and take it upon himself to contact the person, trying to find out what was going on and to see if anything could be done to resolve the issue. This noticeable compassion towards other players was something the officers knew well and were thankful to have in their pocket. All too often, raiding guilds (especially hardcore ones) were perceived as extremely cold and distant from each other in-game, interacting at a minimal level, only to log in, raid, and then log off. We strove to be something more, though, and it was due to his concern for others that helped cement our guild's ideals in mutual respect.

When he acted as my warrior officer during Vanilla, Anni painstakingly took it upon himself to keep the warrior roster full of players that would perform a very pivotal role in our raids: tanks. Tanking was a far less glorified role than others; no tank would ever walk out of a raid with huge numbers, topping any meters or breaking any records. Yet, the tank was vital to our success, and a guild full of damage-dealing machines would see little raid progression. Humbly, Anni took the job as seriously as anyone could. He extended each and every warrior the same grace, gave them a shot while keeping them on a tight leash. If they performed well, Anni would have them back. If not, they'd be forever benched. He busted their asses, not to piss them off or upset them, but because he felt they were worth the effort. Whatever he was doing, it seemed to be working. The Warriors were always competing to best each other, playing at the top of their game, fighting to keep their spot in raids. It goes without saying that Annihilation got along fantastically with Ater once he arrived mid-Vanilla, and they had an excellent synergy working together. Ater would play the role of Main Tank, and Annihilation fielded all of the fire resistance-related tanking, also becoming quite adept at handling Onyxia. He knew that everyone played their role, and glamorous or not, he knew of the vital importance he...and all of his tanks...played in progression.

Needless to say, it wasn't often you could fool him into thinking you were good...if you weren't. Expertise doesn't come with a title, nor is it measured by length of stay.

It is earned.

Graulm messages Kerulak about Dreadlocker's
forgotten Onyxia Scale Cloak,
Blackwing Lair


I lost my Warlock Officer Gutrippa at the end of Vanilla to real-life; he had put a greater focus on his family and taking care of his daughter. I could appreciate his reasons with two kids of my own. Being a parent was a full-time job, and the great cause of Descendants of Draenor would have to take a back seat. Sadly, I bid him adieu, but felt confident that his choice of a replacement would suffice. Dreadlocker had been present in our 40-Man raids as far back as our Ragnaros kill, and was an established, recognized member of the team. We got along well and chatted nearly every evening; he had expressed real interest in taking up the officership. I felt he was solid and trustworthy -- an appropriate replacement, so I concurred with Gutrippa's assessment to have Dreadlocker fill the role of Warlock officer. He was granted an official promotion, and joined the officer core as we began our ascent to raid readiness. I took the same stance with his promotion as I had taken with many others: I thanked him for his contributions and expressed gratefulness toward his interest in serving. As with my other officers, I simply felt humbled and thankful that anyone wished to help.

Now as luck would have it, Dreadlocker had a significant other in the guild, Littlelocker, and they played together quite frequently. When he wasn't raiding, they were often taking care of other WoW-related business, whether it happened to be leveling alts or running dungeons. Littlelocker was a great gal, polite and friendly, and not someone I ever had any problems with. In a guild of our size, still bursting at the seams after I inflated during Vanilla to field two 40-Man raids, I simply considered her as I did many of the others. She was an equal, but not anyone that would receive any more or less attention than anyone else. She was a guildy in a sea of guildies. Such is the story when you have four-hundred players online at any given time.

So when the players started to drop from the guild that fateful evening, and Littlelocker was one of them, my thoughts immediately turned to Dreadlocker. What had happened? Who had become pissed off? Had someone offended her or said something wildly inappropriate? As Dreadlocker himself joined in the mass exodus, I continued to search for answers. I wasn't getting a response and was trying to figure out if I had been ignored in-game. I was still scrambling for a response when a message finally came in from Dreadlocker. He spoke. What was the problem? He was upset and offended. By whom? Who was it? What was said to make things go so south so badly? The person he called out was the last name I expected to hear...

...he called out Annihilation.

A group of DoD works to defeat Omen
during the Lunar Festival,

Not Enough Gratz

It had been another night in game, one where everyone had hung out together. Dreadlocker had been online, alongside Annihilation, now playing his Warlock Fatality. There'd been a few words exchanged, a few opinions made public about a spell cast here, a rotation there. What might be the more appropriate way to handle yourself in a fire fight...and the key differences between PvE and PvP. The sort of topics that an ex-Warrior officer and High Warlord might engage in on any given night.

The sort of topics that would rub a Warlock veteran the wrong way.

Some "advice" that Annihilation had slid Dreadlocker's way on how to improve his DPS as a Warlock had pushed him too far. Dreadlocker had been playing a Warlock since Vanilla -- he knew everything there was to know about Warlocks...or so it would seem. But, perhaps there may have been some room for improvement? Perhaps a tweak here or a tiny adjustment there...whatever it would take to play at the very best level that one could play at. Apparently, it was just one suggestion too many that pushed him over the edge. When he was my Warrior officer, Annihilation cracked a whip on them, challenging them to play at their absolute best -- which is what I expected. As for Dreadlocker...well, he wasn't the officer in Vanilla! He'd played second fiddle to Gutrippa, who only put him into a role of responsibility to help delegate the tasks of management, a necessary evil of managing the monstrosity of two 40-Man raid teams. Dreadlocker only reported in to a higher-up, and was granted the right to assist in raids as needed -- so now in his new-found role, perhaps he expected to automatically be considered the expert.

But expertise doesn't come from a title. Nor from gear. Nor from tenure.

So while some people can take criticism and have an open mind about how they evaluate their own skills and play-styles, others cannot. Dreadlocker saw himself as an expert purely based on duration, and was tired of being told how to play by someone who had been a Warlock for all of two-minutes. So that is what he used as an excuse to me: he was offended. He was offended by Annihilation. Anni, the person in the guild whom everybody liked and respected and nobody has a beef with. A person who'd demonstrated extreme dedication to the guild through his officership, continued reliability, and the integrity to lead by example, pushing the Warriors to outdo one another. Anni, my Warrior officer who was still humble enough to step down into a far less glorious role of fire-tanking while Ater took the limelight at the head of each raid.

This was the person that offended Dreadlocker.

When I tried to mediate, he decided to play the girlfriend card, telling me:

"Nobody ever says 'gratz' to her in guild-chat when she dings."

I sat at my computer, speechless, shaking my head. It was clear that there would be no resolution to this trivial series of excuses. It wasn't about Littlelocker not getting enough gratz. It was about ego and being shown up. So, I let Dreadlocker go and form a competing guild, Illusion, which put up a website a few weeks later. On their homepage, their mission statement revealed that "In this guild, we are comfortable with ourselves, and won't tell you how to play"...

...which is just code for "If you happen to be bad, nobody in this guild will hurt your feelings by trying to help you improve."


dread said...

This is Dread, and anni was not the reason for forming my own guild illusion. After Anni brought in his asshat friend as a lock to help clear naxx I couldn't get a word in edgewise. The B team of DoD was ignored including people I played with for years afterword and continue to keep in contact with which Kerulak will not remember. I also started Illusion with his original #2 Graulm and I based my guild on personality rather than sheer gameplay.

Sorak said...

While I can't speak to Dread's time as a member of DoD or his and the others' reasons for leaving, I will certainly comment as a member / officer of Illusion from just after its creation and say that your assessment of Illusion's "mission statement" as code for "If you happen to be bad, nobody in this guild will hurt your feelings by trying to help you improve." to be about as inaccurate as possible. As it happens, the members of Illusion did NOT care if a player came to us and was, in your words, "bad" - our members were not just numbers on a damage meter. What we cared about was whether or not a player was willing to LEARN. Where you started from didn't matter. Most of the time, admittedly, this came back to bite us in the rear as we would help and teach folks that were otherwise not given the time of day only to have them move on to bigger and better things once we'd done so - but most of the time with no hard feelings. It may be the case that as a result Illusion's reputation on Deathwing was that of a "stepping stone" guild where you put your time in, learn and get geared and then move on - but in no way was it some holding tank for players with no skill or who didn't have thick skin. Just to set the record straight.

Shawn Holmes said...


Thank you for giving your side; it's enormously important for the readership to get multiple points of view, especially since this is a very one-sided (my own) view of events as they unfolded.

As I mentioned to Dread (who is now telling his side of the events over on our forums), it's important for the readership of this blog to understand what I was thinking and feeling at that time, based off of my own anger and frustration, coupled with limited amounts of information. It was easy for an amateurish guild leader like myself to jump to conclusions then, when I had nothing else to go off of.

Hopefully, as readers continue on, they will come to see that this was a learning experience, and not some magical gift that came overnight. It took years to refine and polish, and that should speak to the overall theme of the blog: being a guild leader is *not* as easy as it looks and is *not* something everyone is capable of.

Roswen said...

My husband and I were both in DoD when the split happened. I used to run a Warlock named Roswen and he had a mage named Clint. We left DoD along with Dread and several other players for a multitude of reasons, none of which are mentioned in your post. If you are hoping to present a view of the difficulties facing guild leaders, then I think a good one to focus on would be the difficulties balancing your personal biases and preferences towards your own friends and team vs the rest of the guild.
Speaking for just myself, it was a hard choice to leave DoD. I had been in the guild for a very long time, and had formed a lot of friendships within the guild. But in the end I decided to leave because of the impossibility of progressing through the two tiered raiding team setup that we had complained about multiple times. My husband and I canceled several real world plans, rushed home from trips, skipped out on hanging out with friends, all in order to be available for our scheduled B team raiding time. We went out of our way to be reliable for a guild that we respected, only to get slapped in the face with "well the A team has a healer/tank/DPS who couldn't show, so we are taking the B teams best to fill in". It's kind of hard to get any raiding done when your team is just being used as a farm to supplement the A team being unable to get their players to show up reliably each week.
We complained about this several times, and were ignored. This fit with the general enviorns of DoD, where if you were part of the key circle of players you were noticed, if you were not part of that circle, you were ignored. I imagine that is what you were referring to when you mentioned the comment "no one ever says Gratz to her in guild chat". I imagine that was probably part of a much longer comment mentioning the multiple times when Little would talk or ask questions in Gchat, and get ignored. This was not a phenomenon that just happened to Little, this happened to the entire rest of the guild that was apparently just not on a high enough radar to be noticed.
I appreciate the difficulties of being a guild leader, it is a thankless job trying to mediate between over a hundred different personalities all playing a game that they care greatly about, but in the end it is still a game, and when the guild you are in starts to feel like a job that you are not getting paid for, then it is time to leave. That is why the players who left DoD formed Illusion, we wanted a team where we had fun, respected the people we played with, and were actually respected in return. If that is something that you feel deserves scorn, then that is fine with me. After all, we did leave for a reason.

Dalans said...

@Dread: Would the "asshat" in question be Ouleg? I'll agree with you in that his personality could be grating at times but he was also a really great player. I'd ask why it wasn't addressed to the lock officer at the time (Eaca? Gutrippa?) but attempting to get a resolution for a problem 4+ years old is moot.

The fact that we had to have an A team and a B team honestly fucking sucked. I was one of the most vocal detractors of switching from 40 man raids but I also never agreed with the naming of the A team and B team. On several occasions I actually berated people for referring to it in that fashion because it fostered the obvious "us vs them" mentality.

That being said, Blizzard had boxed us in. I posed this question many times to folks who were vocal about the lack of rotations: what's a better alternative? Should we sit down each week, waste time making sure each run has an equal amount of greater and lesser skilled players and then accomplish nothing progression wise?

Most times I never received an answer.

The way the system was setup, even early on, you got out what you put in. I can say with no compunction whatsoever that if someone came to me and said "I had a great run this week, look at my numbers, ask so and so, can I get in the progression run?" would I have said fuck off and ignored them, druid or otherwise. Did it happen? Not very often.

Dalans said...

@Roswen: Who's friends? If you think the officer core were all friends then you are sorely mistaken. I understand what it may look like from the outside-in but any biases were kept to a minimum and was one of the reasons why we had a multitude of officers; checks and balances. Shawn wasn't sitting atop the DoD throne personally picking and choosing the anointed ones who got into the progression runs it was delegated to class/role officers.

"My husband and I canceled several real world plans, rushed home from trips, skipped out on hanging out with friends, all in order to be available for our scheduled B team raiding time."

I never understand this reasoning, no matter how many times I see it. You wanted to be in a raid, so you changed your plans? Do you want special recognition for that somehow? No one else has other things they could be doing? You either want to raid or go do something else and you had both options available to you. We never removed someone from the guild for wanting to play less.

As a hypothetical: If you put 100 hours into your character, including skill, gear, research and whatever else that entails, why should you be getting preference ahead of someone that puts 200, 500, 1000 hours in?

Complained? To who? How often? The same person every time? I was friends with no one in the guild when The Final Cut mass joined DoD but I spoke up, constantly, to the point where current officers were asking "who the hell was this person thinking they know XYZ". I did so until my skill was recognized, why wouldn't you do the same?

Want another example? Cheeseus didn't know anyone either. IIRC he server transferred so there was no way he was part of the "key circle". He pestered any officer that would listen, sending them damage meters and having people vouch for his abilities in an instance run and he ended up being raid leader.

Not getting responses to messages in guild chat is poor excuse for anything. How many people had it on a different tab or turned off? There are any number of factors that can go into why a message in guild wasn't responded to.

I'm sorry that your personal enjoyment wasn't payment enough for the "job" that was raiding in DoD.

Roswen said...

You have keyed in on the one statement of our cancelling plans, and missed the rest of my point entirely. We made ourselves available for progression, and were penalized when A team members were unable to do the same. This is what led to raiding with the guild to feel like an unwanted extra "job".
We were expressly told that as raiders we were required to be at all scheduled raids for our team unless we had a previous documented excuse and a replacement. Failure to do so would result in penalization by being replaced. A fact that somehow did not apply to the A team. We neither asked for or wanted any special recognition for canceling plans to make raids, we just expected the same respect from our fellow "teammates" in the guild. The only special recognition that I ever expected was for the entire guild to be held to the same standard of attendance rules, which was not the case.
The second problem that I have with your point is that for some reason you feel that I think that I feel I should have had more recognition for my character than someone who had put in more time. At no point in my post did I complain that I was not a part of the A team. In fact, I know why I was not a part of the A team, because I did not put in 5000 hours on my character. I was well aware of that and was never at any time angry about not being a part of the A team, for some reason you have made that assumption, and it is wrong. I would like to point out that no part of my post complained about that. I did however complain about the B team having raid members plucked out of our raid weekly in order to supplement the "hardcore" A team. I understand that the A team did put in the extra hours on their characters, but is that a good enough reason to cancel the entire B teams raid by pulling key members to supplement when one of your healers had a date they just could not cancel? That disrespect to fellow guildies is just the main symptom of the problem, the Gchat issue was another symptom of the same problem. I remember watching people post multiple questions in Gchat and being ignored (different players, not just one targeted ignored individual), but the moment that one one of the "core" players said anything, there would be a plethora of responses. So just stating that Gchat was tabbed out is minimizing a problem that apparently, you never faced.
As for who we complained to, we complained to multiple officers, multiple times. We didn't just randomly blast out complaints in Gchat, we brought it up to leadership each time, and each time we were commiserated with, were told they agreed that it sucked, but it just had to happen.
I am wondering though, if this was such a minimal problem, with so few people just "being dramatic and expecting unearned rewards" then why did so many people leave?

Shawn Holmes said...


My intention was to apply those same standards to both the A and B teams, with the theory that in the case that it happened in A-team, we could use it as an opportunity to bench those folks as punishment, while giving B-team people the opportunity to move up the chain and take their place; this was a rough-around-the-edges strategy that I later perfected with the rotations and Raider/Elite concept in Wrath.

The problem was that, in reality, when it came time to punish someone in A-team for being late, not showing up, etc., there was nobody in B-team ready to step up to the plate and take their spot...because, of course, that is what made up the majority of B-team: players that were unwilling or unable to provide the extra dedication I needed for progression. At that stage in my guild leadership, I was at a loss. Rather than controlling the failures of A-team, they controlled me. I didn't get a handle on this until late TBC, and specifically rebooted the guild's rules in Wrath to account for this, so that poor players would never dictate how much/little held others accountable.

Unfortunately, I assessed this too late to save the second exodus from happening. So if you were ever curious as to why A-team never got the same treatment as B-team, there's your answer (and it is also explained later on in Part II). I agree -- it wasn't fair; the double-standard bit me in the ass many times in early leadership. I simply had no way to treat the wound by that point...and wouldn't for months to come.

Roswan said...

You might not have taken B team members to fill in the spots permanently (which I have to admit would have smoothed some ruffled feathers, but I completely understand why you couldn't. If someone doesn't perform, they don't belong, period end all)but taking piecemeal each week to fill in the A team raid is what eventually caused the majority of the issues. We felt marginalized by our perceived punishment each week. Instead of punishing the A team member who failed to meet standards, you effectively punished the entirety of the B team instead, including some decent raiders who were genuinely trying to progress to the higher level. It is one thing to say just work on your character more, and another to try to imagine how to do that in a guild where you can't get a consistent raid each week to get actual gear, and when you can raid A team members use their higher DKP levels to gear their alts. Yes, the B team had a much lower performance level, but why was that? Were we just way less dedicated? Or were we just not given the opportunity to raid in a guild that was so large it was trying to maintain two raiding teams with only enough geared members to run 1 3/4? This is a difficult problem to work around, but at the same time, punishment should land on where it is due, not on where it is politically easy. I can see how this would be difficult as a GM, honestly I can't say that I would have been able to make the call that I am now saying you should have back then. In fact, I am almost certain I could not have, but I was not a guild leader.

Shawn Holmes said...


I'm glad you agree (and I think many of the readers here will join you) that guild leadership decisions are not easy -- almost like a bad joke, someone always ends up on the receiving end. It was a monumental effort just to come to the realization that I couldn't please anyone. You guys weren't the first to suffer as a result of my bad decisions, and as the story goes on, readers should see that you also weren't the last.

My personal opinion on my biggest failure in regards to the handling of the events leading to the second exodus was simply not communicating our intent up front. As I've tried to explain the story, much of our decisions in management went unspoken, which wasn't fair to everyone involved (and is essentially one of the reasons that caused the *first* exodus as well).

I spent those early years diverting too much attention to my own needs over those of the guild's, hovering in a state of paranoia that things were falling apart, while my real-life responsibilities were neglected as much as those of the teams not directly attached to that "inner circle" you referred to earlier.

It took time and hard knocks for me to get to that point. Hopefully, our story gives readers a taste of exactly what that entailed, so they are less dismissive of the effort involved in this colossal task of leading a guild of casual/hardcore raiders.

Dalans said...

I'd like to say I could remember exactly what happened with the second raid team, but I don't have specifics. I'd ask for names of players in progression that were not being held accountable but I'd venture a guess that that list is just as blank.

The only thing I can offer is going back to my original statement in that Blizzard screwed us and someone was going to be left out when suddenly you have 15 fewer spots in a raid but the exact same head count. It was unfortunate all around.

We didn't have the roster whether it was due to gear levels, skill levels or keying progression for instances in order to enforce penalties on people who went missing but would show up later. I also don't believe that when we were struggling to fill a progression run that the second raid had zero issues with attendance discounting whatever members had been "poached".

I would not consider it disrespectful to poll the guild as a whole when running progression and coming up short on numbers. As I said, no one was ever forced or coerced into a run at the expense of another raid. It would seem that not everyone shared the same views as you in what they wanted to accomplish or else we would have had no response when trying to fill spots.

I can only speak from my own perspective on Guild Chat but yes, it was ignored unless I was sitting in a capital city doing nothing. There were too many other things going on while playing, doing an instance or raiding and even then still managed to answer questions. Off hours this would have been an entirely different case. Different groups of people and the occasional thought process of "I've never seen that name before or I don't know what they are talking about, I'll go about what I was doing" along with an infinite list of other reasons that I can imagine all by my lonesome as to why a comment in Guild Chat was ignored. Did they whisper someone directly? How about hop into Ventrilo and ask someone there? I had alts in the guild, many of which no one knew was me and I still managed to get responses from other guildies so we'll have to agree to disagree that this was operator error and a non-issue.

Cheeseus said...


I thought the reason I got up so quickly is because Alberta borders Saskatchewan :P

Thank you for the kind words.

Gnomey said...

This comment section is like reading a novel and suddenly having a bunch of the characters interrupt the narrator and add their own version of events.

It's awesome!

And, speaking as a complete outsider, it sounds like you all are a little right and all a little wrong.

Shawn Holmes said...


It gets worse before it gets better!!

Schinn said...

Reading through all of this really brings back some memories. Parallels of managing Ravencrest Watch's raid teams (and eventually coordinating between two guilds when members split to form Ravencrest Guard) on the Alliance side of Deathwing-US.

Shawn Holmes said...


Hail fellow Deathwingers! I remember seeing Ravencrest Watch many times throughout my travels. May even have a few screenies still buried with them in the shot.

Oromis said...

I'm a bit late to this party but I want to start off by saying I am enjoying the hell out of all of this. I read from the first page and I will be reading the entire thing for sure. Not only does it bring back memories of my own time in Wow but alot of issues hit close to home.

I was also a guild leader, however, for only around 4 years. That's enough time though for basically having to go through nearly some formulation of every situation you've detailed so far myself. I remember exactly how it was being inexperienced, hoping to christ people didn't notice, but still somehow keeping it together just enough to keep the team on the tracks. I will say this, especially after reading the posts of the actual guildies chiming in reprimanding you and others: someone is going to be unhappy no matter what. The thing that I see here is something I also went through in my guild. People need to realize that Wow Guild Master Studies is not a degree. This is not our job. 99% of the general population in guilds complain and whine about something instead of working to help make it better. And when you complain about a problem with no solution you're not helping the situation and should probably just stay quiet.

In this situation specifically in their position I would have suggested as a raider that if you're going to pull people from A team often then there should be more relaxed rules on attendance for B team. If that was suggested to the B team leader and he told you to fuck off then you go to the GM. Idc who you are or what you're in, be it a sports team, a job, a guild in wow, a leader cares about the smoothness of their system, and if the issue is presented multiple times or heard from through multiple people, the gm, boss, Captain whatever will fix it. Usually, hopefully, because they care. If not for anything else, to stop hearing about it so often.

Unknown said...

Have never played WoW but cannot stop reading this. As a gamer I find this a truly fascinating insight into a game world I have never been a part of but always been curious about. I have been part of various guilds/alliances/and clans in many other games and it's funny how somethings just don't change no matter what game you're playing. Seriously though this is addictive. Are you typing with letters laced with crack?

Shawn Holmes said...


Your "typing" question is answered in post 4.38. No skipping!

...ok, you can skip.

Pigglett Daniels said...

Hey Shawn - I see by some of these posts as I continue to read along on your grand adventure that you do reply to some of the comments. We went through a lot of the same issues as a smaller guild, we had to build a rep (at least my brother and I) to be allowed into raids. My stepson, not so much, even though he was abrasive as hell, since he was willing to tank anytime, anywhere, he got invited a lot. As DPS'rs, my brother and I did not get into many raids, thus our gear usually sucked, like Blain's, but we DPS'd well - I did not specialize in any one toon, I tried them all, thus I find myself with Jack of All Trades label - my brother loved Paladins, so once Horde could have one we were all together again. I am going to keep on reading this missive, I hope you combine it all into a complete volume and like others, I agree with the Gnomey, the comments should be included, its like DEADPOOL's fourth wall!! On top of all of this you are actually a very good writer, something to consider?

Terena said...

This is a fascinating read, and I can really empathise with the struggles of raid and guild leading. I only wish I'd found it before I gave up on the whole thing. As Oromis said, there is no Guild Leader course, but maybe this can be required reading? ;)