Thursday, January 17, 2013

2.27. The Tantrum

"Emonator - Blood Elf Paladin"
Artwork by Katherine Dinger

Making an Example

The rules had been written down and formalized. At last, the "I didn't know" excuse could no longer hold water. Blain was back in charge of commanding the troops, and my forum post "Let's Talk About Raiding" fulfilled one of his conditions to returning. It was no longer appropriate to allow players to justify their terrible, horrible play. Expectations were now crystal clear and concise. There wasn't anything wrong with choosing either a high or low level of commitment to the guild, but the days of treating these vastly different levels of dedication equally were at an end. The new edict was as follows: come in with a casual mindset and your chances of getting into a raid would be slim-to-none. But, prove to us you were willing to go the extra mile, take some ownership in your place on the raid team, and you'd see continued rotations. Ultimately, the goal was not to change the feel of the guild as we sold ourselves as a family-friendly option on Deathwing-US. The difference now was that in order to be considered for progression, you had to step up. It wasn't a requirement for was a requirement for progression.

The first time I made this type of change was back in Vanilla, after the fallout of a poorly thought-through guild merger...if one could call it that. I took a temporary leave from DoD and instructed my officers, along with a core of raid-focused players, to follow me to Ugly Black Warhorses. That lasted all of a day. The consequences of my actions reflected the severity of such a decision: those casuals who were ignored and felt betrayed took their leave, and thus produced the first exodus of DoD. That ostracized group of players were those unable to commit to any sort of raid schedule, and felt our approach was far too serious. But seriousness was vital to continued success. A fly-by-night attitude wasn't going to get us through Ragnaros...and certainly not through any of the content in Blackwing Lair (or beyond). So when I communicated our latest round of new raiding expectations to the guild, ones where we defined what was 'fun', I expected a similar backlash. Surprisingly, the pockets of resistance that developed didn't come from the casuals of the guild, but from certain players these rules were tailored to protect -- players that possessed a set of raid skills greater than the average guildy.

By wanting to increase accountability among the group, I (and the officers) naturally gravitated toward keeping the guild on a much tighter leash. As an extension of Blain's wishes, I wanted less fucking around in raids. We were there to get a job done; even Ater got caught up in this, once joking in Vent, "We're not here to have fun!" But the line between joke and reality had been washed away amid Blain's militant leadership style -- he was getting us back on the rails, which meant the raid team wasn't afforded freedoms and distractions formerly allowed in the instance. I continued to tighten the noose on players found hanging out in general chat while in raids. When people went AFK mid-instance without telling anyone, we docked them 1 DKP per minute. Efficiency inside the instance grew week-by-week, but my mentality bled outside of the raid and into the day-to-day operations. Suddenly, players that traditionally were brash and lacked a set of inter-personal skills became the target of more frequent officer wrath. If word got back to me about inappropriate behavior, players throwing tantrums, talking shit in battlegrounds, on forums, or in trade chat, punishment was swift. Before, I would often turn the other cheek and allow various cliques to play their little reindeer games. Now, I was calling people out: taking them aside and issuing a direct warning to them. If I don't see an immediate change in your behavior, I'm pulling the plug. During an evening of play at the start of November, a player by the name of Lhaktar pushed me too far. He'd been a perpetual repeat offender, derailing into bouts of unprofessionalism and profanity in his dealings with other players. I removed him from the guild temporarily -- a timeout of sorts -- with the expectation that this would be a wake-up call, so he could get his act together. He would become the example to which others would refer when contemplating taking our guild rules for granted.

Kerulak mediates an issue involving Lhaktar,

Clique Healing

Meanwhile, back in raid progression, we continued to scrutinize player behavior and attitude, assessing the driver behind each respective wheel. Players that came prepared, flasked and with food buffs were praised, while I made notes of those who were adept at the excuse machine.

"I don't need a flask, the carries do." 

"This is overkill. I know my job, why don't you focus on the other failures in the raid?" 

It was easy to pick out the players that were vocal in their defiance, they were dealt with the quickest. The ones who remained quiet in their solemn, critical rage were a much bigger problem to solve.

With Kadrok and Volitar both gone from the roster, my healing paladins had dwindled. Sir Klocker was my one guarantee from week-to-week and I'd relied on his healing since his early shaman days in Vanilla. But I needed more. We enjoyed the benefit -- albeit a temporary one -- from a passionate guy by the name of Corivs. His claim to fame was a multitude of paladins under his belt, both on the Alliance and the Horde. He understood all facets of the the class, be it Retribution, Protection or Holy, and helped immensely throughout SSC progression. But, as luck would have it, Corivs performed a magical vanishing act, without notice or forewarning, causing the officers and I to look elsewhere for divine inspiration.

The result of our collective recruitment effort produced two gals, Shimerice and Falnerashe, who both gave us a dedicated, loyal set of signups as we pushed further into SSC and beyond. By Tempest Keep: The Eye, the two pallies were nestled firmly into progression, spending their off-raiding hours within their respective yet independent social circles. Shim spent her off-raiding hours with folks like Dalans and Sir Klocker, a group of players that were long time veterans of DoD, and who had long proven their worth in our raid progression. Coincidentally, this group demonstrated an equally short amount of tolerance toward players that sung the excuse song, rather than take some responsibility for their play. Shim was generally quiet, while Dalans and Klocker fielded the brunt of incessant, ignorant play. She had a much subtler way of taking out her aggression on players that disgusted her: she simply stopped healing them in raids. Their group kept this on the down-low as much as possible, and since Dalans was in officership by this point, he took it upon himself to mediate issues that arose as a result of Shim's judgement. No sense in stirring the pot, he thought, especially with the leader on a guild-kick bender for any little infraction.

Fal shared Shim's disgust with casuals, but was more overt in how she vocalized this distaste. She became frustrated easily, and liked to point out where players were failing, even if it meant ridiculing them in a public channel. "Idiotic" and "Retarded" were adjectives she wielded like a machete, slicing through the roster's self-esteem when players made mistakes. This outgoing, tell-it-like-it-is demeanor caused her to fall into a group of similar-minded folks, a social group less adept at discretion. Folks like Kargor, a hunter who continually managed to rub Dalans the wrong way with his less-than-stellar attitude towards raiding. Folks like Cyrant and Bamorm, two enhancement shaman brothers with a tendency to lash out at other players that got under their skin...

...and folks like Lhaktar, who may have meant well, but lacked the social graces I now demanded of the guild.

Complaints about loot were the worst, especially in a guild where I continually harped on the importance of skill over gear, an ideology Blain burned into my brain back in Vanilla. So in heated moments of aggression when players took to guild chat to whine about the loss of loot -- as Lhaktar did that fateful evening -- I had come to the end of my rope, clicking the big red button that ejected him from our roster.

As it turned out, someone else had come to the end of their rope...fed up with the shitty, imprecise decisions of the guild leader.

Judging Righteousness

With Shimerice making privately bad decisions about who to heal, and Falnerashe making publicly bad decisions about her etiquette, sides began to take shape. Unfortunately for Falnerashe, the winning side was the public-facing one: the one that came to raids each week, proactively driving progression, mediating issues with diplomacy rather than insults. It was not enough to kill bosses, we had to do so under the guidelines of our charter. Our guild image would be our success, and any blemish on that guild complexion would be lanced like an infected boil. Personal accountability. Respect to fellow players and guilds. Constant, consistent success.

If Shimerice's propensity to stop healing people reignited, Dalans or Klocker would smother it with a blanket, keeping it out of the public eye...and my own. Fal's support circle was less proactive and her fire raged into an inferno. Her behavior was out-in-the-open, pissing off guild members and officers alike, and was front-page news to me. With every new "retard" claim that Fal made, her mediation options dwindled; I was left with little choice but to rotate her out with greater frequency. And Falnerashe had no back-up crew in her clique -- she was already surrounded with like-minded folks that had troubles of their own adhering to guild law. Her only ace-in-the-hole was Annihilation, but unlike Dalans' strategy of simply dousing the fire, Annihilation's days of mediation were behind him. He had no intention of solving Fal's problems. As was his nature, Anni knew people; there was no point in teaching diplomacy to those who would never wield such discretion. As Anni explained succinctly, Fal was very much "like a cricket. Makes a lot of noise from a distance...but once you get up close, goes completely silent." 

He was right. Any attempt to reach out to Fal to help resolve her people issues was met with a closed door. So, my only other option was reduce her rotations, thus diminishing the impact of her negativity on the raid team.


A few days after I fired a warning shot over the bow for Lhaktar to get his attitude and behavior together, he was gone for good -- off to start a guild of his own: Triple Zero. It came as no surprise, then, that when I logged on to my forums a few days later that I was greeted to a scathing exit post, denouncing my mishandling of guild leadership. Falnerashe tore into the guild like an Enron shredding machine. It was a post of cruelty and self-righteousness, spinning a tale of how we had all failed her, failed the guild, and deserved her wrath for such mistreatment, while her friends were ignored and raked across the coals. The post radiated so much vitriol that I deleted it out of disgust.

The actual content of that post is foggy in my memory these many years later, and I do not recall the specifics of who she attacked and why. I can only hypothesize that her fury centered around Lhaktar's treatment (along with other friends in her clique) while players like Shimerice were allowed to run free with more discreet contempt. Perhaps Falnerashe felt she was better than all the rest of my players, better than me, and was too good for my guild. Perhaps it was none of these things at all, and Falnerashe was driven into a rage by an event that will forever remain a mystery.

What I can say for certain is that -- for Falnerashe -- the story would not end here. We would pick this up again, amid a backdrop of the frozen north, during a struggle to gain dominance over Wintergrasp. On this day in the not-so-distant future, it would remain to be seen if people, in fact, can change -- or if they remain shackled like slaves to their life-long hatreds and grudges.


Fredrick said...

Now I want to read more about Falnerashe and what exactly you got up to in Winterspring! Pretty please?

Shawn Holmes said...


To be continued!

Fredrick said...

Wow, reread this today and cant understand how I managed to read Wintergrasp as Winterspring..

Since that's WotLK content, will we get to it soon? :)

Shawn Holmes said...


"Outlook extremely good"

Fredrick said...

Yay :D
And btw, now that I reread all these old posts I really feel like leveling up a resto shaman...crud.