Thursday, April 30, 2015

4.36. Hypocritic Oath

Mature assists Bonechatters, Turtleman and
Volitar (Toadie) in wrapping up "It's Frost Damage!",

The Cut-Off Point

Herp Derp was no longer a team, a fact dictated by Blizzard long before I had any say in the matter. To resolve conflict, I erred on the side of skeptical optimism; hoped for the best but planned for the worst. I liked Riskers, and believed he was capable of making the right decision. I also knew that the psychological drain of people management took finesse. He deserved the benefit of the doubt. But when it came time to declare an officially sanctioned team, Blizzard called that shot, and left me no choice but to circle back and plug holes I’d left open in DoD's code of conduct. It sucked. It had to be done.

Herp Derp definitely met my criteria that called for a named roster, an advertised schedule, and had an official Tactician leading the group.


But thanks to Falnerashe's abrupt exit, the roster was now a 7/3 split. And while DoD held the majority share in that team, it wasn't enough for World of Warcraft. Achievements required 8 of the 10 players present to be part of a single guild. The moment Fal parted ways with DoD, the Herp Derp clan went from an officially sanctioned 10-Man team to little more than a random group of guild members helping a handful of non-guildies.


Riskers wasn't making it a huge priority to solve the issue; as the responsible party, I expected a much quicker turnaround. But I didn’t expect miracles. The likelihood of Riskers being able to convince Drecca, Ben and Fal to return to the guild seemed exponentially monumental. And it's probably the reason he made no headway. I made it clear to Riskers that he wasn't expected to move mountains, only to the solve the problem at hand. Get them back, or replace them...whatever works.

It wasn't happening.

What was happening was their regularly scheduled raids, because boss killing and loot grabbing took precedence over mediating melodrama. I didn't blame him for not wanting to sink his teeth into a task most players would avoid faster than an LFD group dumping out of The Oculus. But Riskers' indecision was infecting the guild with dissent. It was a growing audit trail of absent leadership, lumped in with moments like his defense of Ben when the guild attacked.


The window of opportunity to make a decision narrowed, but I could do little else for Riskers. It was his team, his responsibility to make the call. All I could do was ensure that DoD was prepared for the fallout, leaving little-to-no room for excuses when everything blew up in Herp Derp's face. DoD was the priority, not a random group of players that were proving to me that guild integrity was far less important than a 10-Man Heroic Cho'gall.

"10-Man Heroic". LOL. Stop it. You're killing me.

Mature, Bonechatters, Turtleman, Volitar and Dewgyd
race to Vanessa Van Cleef in under 5 minutes,

Guild Plumbing

Tacticians were the conduit between their team and the guild. In exchange for their administration efforts, I hiked up their access to the guild vault, so they could distribute repair gold and provide raiding flasks/food to their team. To cement DoD's commitment to the 10s, I gave them an additional perk: BoEs procured by the 25-Man progression team would go to the vault, offered up to Tacticians on a first come, first serve basis. The hope was that it might help take the edge off whatever difficulty their teams were experiencing. Primarily, this perk intended to narrow the raid qualification gap for new recruits, or to stave off the often streaky, horrific luck of Blizzard's RNG. Plugging the 10-Mans into the DoD framework in this way not only allowed me to hold a named individual responsible for their team's actions, it provided a clear means of rewarding teams that played by our rules....and if not, it was a valve I could easily shut off, until their options dried up.

It wasn't until I reached for the valve that I noticed the gaping hole in the pipe.

10-Man teams shouldn't need a legal declaration, their definition is baked directly into the title: if you have 10 people, you have a 10-Man team. Some teams have more, choosing to sit a bench just like the 25-Man progression team did. As WoW interest flares and subsides, a 10-Man team may find itself short a head or two, as well. If a Tactician is actively recruiting, however, absenteeism is justifiable. But if there is no forward movement on recruitment attempts, intentionally or otherwise, a 10-Man team can't be called what it isn't.

I didn't think I would have to go to such lengths. Then again, I also didn't conceive of a hypothetical future in which several guildies would defy our rules, and the person in charge would not make a swift decision. Had someone in, say, Bovie's team, or Jungard's team, or Joredin's team did something equally foolish, I was reasonably confident violaters would receive a swift kick in the ass to shape up or ship out.

...but I also never suspected Riskers would be the type of person to drag their heels. And in that moment, I realized I was making an assumption that any of them would act as quickly.

Yet you were intimately familiar with the ‘psychological drain of people management’. Nice work setting expectations.

What I was left with was a Tactician, seemingly incapable (or uninterested) in mediating, yet kept all the perks flowing back into his team while it remained in a pseudo-stasis, not recruiting, not replacing, but still raiding, using guild repairs and flasks, and wasting achievement after achievement due to their 7/3 split.

To light the fire under Riskers, I amended the requirements of Tactician to enforce the completeness of their respective 10-Man roster. It had to have 10 people, minimum, which qualified them for guild achievements. And if not at 10, they had to be actively recruiting, and I needed to see the evidence of it: posts on their team page, and working with me to recruit the necessary people for the role. Riskers had to have an officially sanctioned 10-Man team in order to keep his rank and to keep those perks flowing back into the team.

Once updated, I politely reminded him of my initial two week window, and encouraged him to be more aggressive in his approach to solving the problem. A few days later, a fourth Herp Derp member, Phame, left DoD. And every day Riskers said nothing to me, I felt awful. I liked him.

But I didn't like who he stood for.

As Sir Klocker begins 25-Man invites, Mature, Onionscoop,
Beefysupryme and Lix barely pull off "Headed South" in time,
Lost City of the Tol'vir

A Compromising Position

As March’s weeks bled into April, I continued to recruit, discarding nearly every applicant that arrived in my inbox. I was convinced that my then-age requirement of 23 was liberal enough to keep reasonable amount of new faces flowing into the guild, but it simply the wasn't the case. Email after email went to the trash, as 16, 17 and 18 year olds continued to submit applications, ignoring the first rule I laid out at the top of our application page. Occasionally, I would hit paydirt. Finally! An applicant able to comprehend my restrictions!

...only to find out the player was into heavy recreational drug use -- a habit that doesn't play nicely with reliability.

The masochist in me wasn't ready to take guild leadership to a new level of pain. Back to the drawing board I went, reviewing underage apps, then discarding them. Eventually, I backed down from my age requirement. For a temporary amount of time, I pitched a "guild promotion" to allow normally excluded applicants to be referred to DoD. If it was a decent app, they came in on solid footing, and were sponsored by a veteran, I agreed to waive the age requirement. We saw a few new faces during this period, but it would take time to determine if there was any value among these kiddies. Besides, there were more immediate hurdles I needed to vault.

Both the underage newbies and our existing legitimate apps had trouble climbing the DoD ladder. The steps were as easy as I could make them. You started as a Recruit with limited access to our forums. It was just enough to introduce yourself, but not enough to inadvertently say the wrong thing in the wrong place, wasting the time of the forum moderators while simultaneously making you look foolish. 

Over time, you worked your way into the system until you qualified for Guildy, which is when the raiding forums became available (in read-only mode). If you were interested in pursuing a raid spot, you didn't need to ask questions or harass players for more info -- everything was laid out in a set of crystal clear steps. Fill out your profile on the raid tool, make sure you log out wearing your best gear so leadership can verify the fundamentals: ilvl, gems, enchants, spec. 

After Raider qualification, you could sign up, were rotated in, and the game was afoot: you proved to us you were ready for the long haul. If you chose, you could push up into Samurai, gaining even more spots, being exposed more forums. Eventually, you were looped in to the Samurai peer review process, participating in a committee with personal investment in shaping who they played with, week to week.

This was simply all too much to handle.

They didn't know what to read, or where to go to find the right info, or why they couldn't create a raiding profile in our signup sheet. When they were made Guildy, they didn't know why they were unable to ask questions in the raider forum, and the concept of rotations eluded them -- even though it was painstakingly detailed in our guild policies and procedures. My gut told me they just needed to read, to use some of that elbow grease to get the brass ring. But as their inability lingered on, I suspected the answer was more dire: they read it...and legitimately did not understand a thing I asked of them.

This new generation of recruit wasn't one that plagued us in Wrath or earlier; inductees were pointed to DoD's steps-to-raiding, and players figured it out. And because of the limited bench, I couldn't waste time circling back, pointing and re-pointing and re-re-pointing to the same instructions over and over until it was jackhammered into their skull. The roster lacked faces. So, I did what I expected most guild leaders would do in a signup crisis...

I backpedaled.

New recruits to DoD were fast tracked into raiding, rather than forcing them to go through the motions. It required excessive micromanagement to ensure each and every one of them knew what was expected of them. In Wrath, if they didn't read the rules, didn't understand what I asked of them...they simply didn't get in. It forced players to re-evaluate their comprehension of DoD policy, and they either improved or withered away. With the roster sitting at 24-25 heads (barely) each week, there was no room to play games. I either accelerated the promotion rate so they could join the 25-Man, or there would be no 25-Man.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of drawing lines through your own hand-crafted rules; a signed confession of a hypocrite.

No, I did not envy Riskers' position, faced with a team that was actively betraying his own beliefs, yet simultaneously aware of his own participation in it. I did not envy him, but I understood his hesitance. And I felt awful for him. And for his end game.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

4.35. The Silence of the Crickets

DoD kills 12 aberrations in under 10 seconds
 during the 25-Man Maloriak encounter,
Blackwing Descent

The Mirror

Where is it written that the best players must also be the shittiest people?

I'm sure there are exceptions; there's always exceptions. Yet whenever I look from a distance, it's easy to spot the douche-canoes pulling ahead of the flotilla. Finding a solid gamer that's also a decent human being is an achievement by itself. Egomania is too often the bastard stepchild of proficiency.

Perhaps it comes from who we are as gamers, why we turned to this as a hobby in the first place. Cast out of social groups at a young age and mocked for our ability to geek out on subject matter too niche for the general public: ham radio signal frequencies and 'handles' imprinted onto license plates, the collected works of Rumiko Takahashi, an admiration for the aesthetic of a twenty-sided die. When the Nielsens reported a drop in Twin Peaks ratings, we leaned in further. This is us: gamers, geeks, nerds...shunned by the jocks and the preps, the popular and the masses.

Kids and adults handle us very differently. Playground bullies take to name calling and pantsing to prevent us from knowing the truth: they have no idea what you are talking about. The workforce demands a little more tact. Colleagues smile and nod gracefully, but you can see the milky glaze of their zombie-like stare while you ramble on about Buffy and Firefly and why you think there's a polar bear on the island.

After a time, any interest in mingling with them far outweighed the effort of dumbing down our conversation...or we simply didn't care to risk additional mockery for our less cavalier interests. We grew thick skins, shielding us from the ignorance of the others, saving us from having to carry on a meaningful conversation about what's important to us, what we need, what we are missing in lifeIn turn, we lost our shot at honing the tools necessary to persuade, communicate.

We withdrew to our darkened amphitheater of gamedom, flashing bytes of color narrating week-long binges of Mega Man and R-Type and Phantasy Star II. We ranked each other by who beat Battletoads, and our struggles with humanity were digitally obscured by the universes we occupied: the empty solitude of Fallout and the corporate greed driving Ultima into the ground. Stories in games may have exposed us to alternate perspectives, not unlike those of L'Engle, of Lewis, and of Herbert, but at least the bookworms could carry on a healthy debate about the work with their fellow readers. There's few opportunities to learn that your words and actions have a lasting effect on another human being...when you're busy memorizing all of Shang Tsung's transformations. Debate devolves into nothing more than who wins and who loses.

Our only means of relating to people was through games; we saw interaction itself as a game. Watch how fast I pick the gamers out of this crowd. The spirit of competition compelled us to seek perfection in our own technique, always refining, always going for the high score. Winning came with a convenient kickback: we surrounded ourselves with more like us, more gamers that thought and acted and behaved like us. A fortunate echo chamber of support, distancing us from anyone who didn't fit the mold. Oh, you're a gamer too? What's your favorite game? Madden?!? Please. Don't make me laugh.

We never notice the reflective sheen of the wall, even well after it is complete. As we engage in the one thing we do well, the comfort of our own perceptions bounce back at us, reminding us of how good we are, how right our decisions feel. We're kept blind to what offends, what intimidates, and what inspires. Alternate perspective, morality and ethics, personal preference -- these are all just hurdles in the way of winning. Theorycrafting and min / maxxing prove those inefficiencies aren't worth the time or energy. If we ever doubt ourselves, well...the mirror is quick to remind us how soft we've become.

In the end, we're reduced to "winning" as our only defining metric. Beating everyone in line at the Mortal Kombat machine. Earning the most kills in Deathmatch. Defeating Sephiroth. Killing Diablo. Coming out on top of heals at the end of the raid. Winning is the only safe way we can connect with others; it is how we both gain and measure credibility. And so, the mirror stands, a reflection of what confirms our trust and our judgement. It allows us to sort people out easily, at face value, read as easily as a position on a ladder. And as we continue to win, we're reaffirmed that we're right...

...but not necessarily that we're decent human beings.

Mature assists in a 10-Man kill of Al'Akir,
completing "Defender of a Shattered World",
Throne of the Four Winds

Mistake at the Lake

I caught myself second guessing my decision to make amends with Falnerashe. We had history, a blemish on the DoD timeline not easily forgotten. Nor should it have been. But we could at least forgive, accept we made mistakes in judgement and move forward. Better to be in a group of similarly-minded folk than to be off alone, roaming Azeroth, exiled to a life of pick-up groups and battlegrounds whose ever-changing faces ensure no history...nor any opportunity to write one. On that day, back at Lake Wintergrasp, I meant what I told Falnerashe. No player should be forced into that Hell of anonymous pugs. Even players that prefer to be off, doing things on their own, can appreciate the value of a familiar face...if for nothing else but to vent a shared opinion.

When Fal finally decided to give DoD a second chance, things went smashingly well. The excitement of fresh content mixed with an augmented roster sparked guild chat into a wall of solid green text. We ran dungeons, ground out rep, pieced together what armor and weapons we could salvage in preparation for the 25-Man kickoff. And all the while, I reminded Fal of our agreement: I don't want things to ever get as bad as they did in TBC. If you are being pushed aside, mistreated, or have an issue with anyone in this guild, you can come to me directly and I will deal with it. Even if you think it’s not OK to bring up -- I’m letting you know: it is.

She was a star healer in those first weeks of January and February, granted every rotation she signed up for. Even when other DoD vets bitched and moaned about having to re-qualify for the Raider rank at the start of Cataclysm, Fal checked every requirement off the list without so much as a complaint. She took pride in her gear and her skill; she was the kind of player a guild leader scours forums for. And while others may have questioned "Why do I have to do this?", Fal's response was always: "Why aren’t you?"

Inside those raids I monitored chat very carefully, listening for her in Vent and watching what she typed into /raid and /dodhealers. Was she rebutting a healing assignment, or merely seeking clarity? Did I detect some snark, or was it an innocent observation? Were remnants of her bitchy, passive-aggressive tone creeping back into the conversation? Or was she merely pointing out possible reasons we wiped as a means to educate? I analyzed every sentence, every phrase...every single word she typed into chat, while considering her personality, her history, her possible targets of resentment.

If I were Falnerashe, who would disgust me?

The first to mind was Lexxii, healing officer and self-appointed podium of Priests. She was a veritable megaphone of opinion whose style had a tendency to grate on you. She'd proven herself a capable healer during Wrath (in Fal's absence), but my decision to put her in charge of the healers rubbed a few people the wrong way...some of which ended up in Herp Derp. More recently, Lexxii had a growing tendency to stick to obsolete specs and tactics -- ones formerly accepted as gospel during Wrath. I wasn't sure exactly why she seemed incapable of retiring these beliefs. Stubborn? Self-esteem? Lazy? Afraid to be seen as a fraud? An unquenchable hunger to be right? Whatever the reason, this risk was the same: an expert player like Falnerashe would see through her like a sheet of plate glass.

Fred was a potential second candidate, a dedicated, enthusiastic member of the healing squad. He backed opinion by quoting articles and research but struggled at the performance part. Fal might have seen Fred as little more than a dilettante, the likes of which Fal would chew up and spit out when put to the test. I imagined Fal sickened with just the thought of having to play with wannabe-professionals, and watched their interactions carefully.

The riskiest of all was Rainaterror, the enhancement shaman with all the personality of a tamagotchi missing its battery. Raina liked to question every single adjustment made on each boss attempt. Excessive tactical scrutiny implied a deeper understanding of the encounter's mechanics, but her line of questioning removed any doubt from our minds:

"Why are we standing here again?"

"What is the point of having me interrupt this?"

"Why is it essential I join the add group?"

It's the kind of paradoxical malaise that some players feel compelled to express. In my mind, I could feel Falnerashe dragging her nails across her wrists every time Raina opened her mouth.

And yet, each time I'd ping her, Fal was amicable, perhaps even (dare I say it) pleasant. The plight of the intractable, the ignorant, and the incompetent didn't seem to be getting to her. We were going to have folks like that, a fact that all guilds must deal with. She took in stride and with each passing week, I felt more optimistic about Fal's state of mind. In fact, I didn't even care when she mentioned she was putting her alt into Drecca's 10-Man.

But that was before the event.

After the event, every day that passed with Fal's absence on the sign-up sheet found me second-guessing the decision to bring her back into the DoD fold.

Good. You should be second-guessing yourself. It’s only a matter of time. People don’t change.

DoD defeats Halfus Wyrmbreaker in Heroic: 25-Man,
Bastion of Twilight

And Then There Were Seven

I told myself it was simply an oversight -- players did have a tendency to forget to sign-up from time-to-time. Even Blain had me automatically sign his character up in advance; this is why I kept a close eye on the roster and spammed guild messages / forum posts with reminders. We're fallible, we forget. It happens.

I doubted the reasoning was steeped in disgust. We had a good roster, with a few fillers here and there, but it was nothing like the days of Wrath: whole groups of players of each class, vying for a spot in the 25-Man. Progress was admirable: we were through tier 11 normals, and Blain was ready to push into heroics. But we would need our best and brightest to do so, which is why I eyed Fal's missing sign-ups with optimism, yet dreaded the root cause.

You knew this was coming! Wow. You must have been really desperate to get those Lake Wintergrasp achievements knocked out.

The day before the March 18th raid weekend was set to tackle our first heroic encounter, Falnerashe exited the guild of her own accord. No note. No goodbye post. No forum PM. No text message. When word got to me through the officer chain, my first instinct was to ping her SO, Teras, whom I had a connection with on Facebook. What had happened? Had something transpired while I was away? Could it be resolved?

LOL. Why are you even bothering? You know exactly why she left.

I was surprised...and then discover that Teras himself had no idea she left. He was equally stunned, stating she hadn't expressed any discontent to him...or to anyone, for that matter.

Big surprise there. Why should she share her plans with him? It’s not like they’re dating or anything. God forbid any kind of communication goes on between her and people she gives a damn about. Maybe that’s it! Maybe she doesn’t give a damn about anyone! ...except herself.

I wanted to give her the benefit the doubt, walk the walk of judging each action independently -- one thing doesn't have anything to do with the other. People can change, people experience challenges in their lives and grow all the time. This could very easily have been a real situation that needed my attention. Perhaps Bulwinkul had gone off on a drunken tirade again, or she had words with had to be something like that.

You give the gal too much credit. Anni was right all along. The cricket stops chirping when you get too close. But you had to push, had to keep checking in on her, checking to make sure things were all warm-and-fuzzy, all up in her face.

Teras didn't know. Riskers didn't know. Nobody knew...nor would they. Not until the commotion died down and they all went about their business. A cricket needs time for things to settle. Too much activity forces them into a defensive position, unable to cope. Leave them alone, let them step away, and the stridulation is sure to follow. You'll get your chirping, about how your guild has become "too big of a crowd for their personality", or that they "shouldn't have been passed up for a promotion". It'll be then that you'll understand why it wasn't worth it, all the time and energy you sunk into making them feel like they were a part of something bigger, something great, something that mattered.

When it is all about them, what they are a part of never matters.


The 25-Man team went into Bastion of Twilight on March 18th and defeated Heroic Halfus Wyrmbreaker without Falnerashe. When the raid finished, I returned to the forums, opened up the guild rules, and added a single requirement to the rank of Tactician:

- Must have an officially sanctioned 10-Man team.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

4.34. The Difference Between a Guild and a Business

Syrophenikan assists Cheeseus's 10-Man, Juicebox Bandits,
in killing 12 aberrations within 10 seconds,
Blackwing Descent

The Wrong Man for the Job

The first order of business was to contact Riskers. As Herp Derp's Tactician, it was up to him to maintain order, ensure that group was playing well together, and communicate any team deficiencies to me for recruitment purposes. Most of all, the Tactician was there to keep a close eye on the behavior of the group, corralling any ill intent. The common sense rule had been violated far too often.

Maybe I should have been more up front with Cheeseus and the members of Eh Team, back in Wrath. "This thing that you are doing is actually in direct violation of the guild rules and you are not to do that anymore." Seems silly and pointless; it is neither. Tacticians had clearly defined marching orders: Ensure your team stays within the boundaries outlined by this guild. You are responsible for your team's behavior. If they misbehave, it falls to you to resolve.

That's a lot for a team lead to shoulder, but was necessary in order for me to stay directly connected to DoD's extremities, especially when said 10-Man teams tended to keep to themselves. Those with more obstinate, cynical personalities required the closest scrutiny: they ran the risk of devolving into a burgeoning echo chamber, amplifying each other's resentment.

Things got off to a bad start.

Guildies privy to Ben's shenanigans unleashed a shaming campaign on the boards, shutting down his troll-like antics, dismissing anything Ben had to say. Beyond the internet acronyms and badly constructed thoughts, Ben had little to contribute to the conversation. But Ben had a few friends left in DoD and they rallied behind him...

...namely, Riskers.

Riskers was one of the former 25-Man progression players who chose to step down in favor of the 10s at the advent of Cataclysm. But, he didn't contribute an alt to the 25 in his off-hours (as some 10s did). The side-effect was a lack of awareness around Ben's events unfolding the night I hellbanned him from Vent.

Lacking this context, Riskers made a move not entirely unsurprising, immediately going to bat for Ben, his friend and teammate. Forum Karma spiked up and down as guild members sided with either Herp Derp or "the authority" before I even had a chance to get online and corner him.

"Wait, something happened with Ben?"

"I would definitely consider it 'something', Riskers."

I revealed the drama-soaked story to Herp Derp's Tactician, and waited to see how he'd respond. Riskers' tune completely changed. No longer defensive, he expressed genuine concern for the livelihood of the guild. As he learned of Ben's transgressions and Drecca's lackluster problem-solving skills, I could tell that an uncomfortable realization was setting in: he had been a fool on the boards.

As Hanzo examines his alt, Syrophenikan,
Gunsmokeco discovers Dadsdeath's guild,

Damage Control

"God, I'm really, really sorry about this. I had no idea."

"It's over and done. Let's move forward and solve this."

"Should I delete the posts?"

Part of me wanted him to reply to the thread, stating he was now aware of the larger narrative that needed addressing. By doing so, he'd have an opportunity to apologize to the guild for being so defensive. But, it would also mean leaving the initial thread (and attacks) as a permanent public record of Riskers' inability to handle "his" team with any degree of leadership. There was the possibility of excising the individual posts themselves -- a tactic Dalans frequently employed…

Quit doddling and make a decision.

"Nix the posts."

He did as instructed, then sought direction for next steps.

"Should I try to get them to come back?"

I chuckled. Like that will ever happen.

"Y'know, Riskers, I'm not opposed to hearing them out. If you feel like you can get a conversation going between us, I’m willing to give them an ear. I actually don't think this is beyond repair, but that first step is going to be tough. Both Drecca and Ben need to take responsibility for their poor decision making, and I have a feeling that's going to be a tough sell. But DoD is not their doormat."

Riskers agreed, and assured me he would do what he could to convince them to see the error of their ways. Before he left Ventrilo, I gave him a parting thought.

"If you can't convince them otherwise, you may need to start considering the alternative: dropping them entirely from the team, and putting a new tank and ranged in their place. It would suck to have to do that; it's never fun to boot people from a team that jells. But if they continue to remain defiant in the belief that they're right and I'm wrong, there's potential for them to do some serious damage to the morale of that team. It could even result in a mass exodus. I'd hate for that to happen, as there are still good people in that team – present company included."

Riskers thanked me for the advice, heading off to an alien vent server, to see what he could repair.

He's "really sorry about this"? What kind of a team lead is he? Why wasn't his very first decision to come to us immediately to figure out why Ben was being attacked, instead of creating more of a mess for us to clean up?

Because he was the wrong man for the job. Riskers didn't earn Tactician, nor want it. He was get the guild leader out of someone's face, so that more important things could be tended to.

Syrophenikan assists members of DoD in tricking
Lady Naz'jar to kill one of her own minions,
Throne of the Tides

Keeping the Pieces

With clears of Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight still freshly under our belt, Blain was not yet ready to push the team into Heroic 25s. Many of the normals had proven to be complex, demanding nearly heroic-like skills to execute with any consistency. An early push could certainly end in disappointment. I trusted Blain, now in his seventh year with the guild, who had long proven his innate ability to read the roster and determine if the gear, skill and mindset was competent to stand a raid trial. Blain had accrued a few days vacation, back in the real world, and said we would discuss heroics further when he returned.

In the meantime, Jungard fronted raid leadership for the 25 in Blain's absence, while I stuck to my raid roster micromanagement. It was a day-to-day effort, checking with each 10-Man's Tactician, working out who was locked and who wasn't -- dealing with last minute emergencies, and finding any filler possible that could play the role needed. And even though class shouldn't have mattered, it did. Just as the Paladin (or Warrior) vs. Death Knight tanking kit demonstrated superiority in encounters like Nefarian, other classes brought (or left) significant favor when joining the 25-Man. We did what we could, and farmed the content dry, bleeding bosses for any semblance of upgrade to anyone and everyone that participated.

I took care to step over the cracks in the sidewalk, but put on a good face to keep the negative vibes at bay, opting instead to vent my frustrations to folks like Cheeseus over IM. I ranted to my Wrath-era raid leader about how difficult Blizzard had made things this time around, how their "good intentions" had left me with a lot of extra paperwork, and how more difficult raids with no better reward only caused guildies to see the 'exit' sign that much clearer.

Every week there was a new guildy issue on hand. Soot was proving less available than originally intended, keeping me shackled to a tanking role more frequently than I would have liked. One of the shining stars, Ignismortis the warlock, withdrew his Samurai app, citing personal circumstances that unfortunately stood in the way of the the responsibilities expected of the role. It felt grim, and the only way to keep that feeling at bay was to recruit -- keep that steady flow of raider material coming through the front door, in the hopes that we'd land some significant contributors that were in this for the long haul.

In the back of my mind, the Drecca / Ben fiasco lingered. I wanted desperately to put it out of my mind. You lose people. It happens. You put measures in place to plan for situations like this. Forget it and move forward. But I couldn't.

The Sentras of the world bitched about how I ran DoD like a business; an observation that is grossly oversimplified (to him, it simply meant following rules). But there is one way running a guild will never be like a business, and is too easy for a guild leader to lose sight of. You don't choose who you work with, but you do choose who you game with: you work with colleagues, but you game with friends.

When people leave your company, it's time to move on to bigger, better things; a grand new opportunity. When people leave your guild, it's inherently personal. Feeling betrayed is natural, if you consider it a friendship someone walks away from. That's the part that makes guild leadership the most difficult, or any kind of leadership, for that matter. Which is probably why Riskers wasn't up for the task, or wasn't thinking on those terms. Only crazy people volunteer for this kind of work.

I pondered the next possible 'betrayal'. Would it be someone unaware of the events unfolding in DoD, or someone intimately aware of what was going on? Would he be someone that would side with Drecca and Ben out of stubbornness and immaturity, or would he be someone more likely to choose the path more convenient and secure? Would he be someone I trusted, someone with legitimate concerns I wasn't addressing...or would he be more likely to lie to my face when I put him on the spot? Would he even tell me the truth, even after this all came crashing down?

To respond to all these questions, I say to you, loyal reader:

What makes you think it was a ‘he’?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

4.33. Derpy Moves

"My Little Deathwing"
Artwork by Teemu Husso

Kant Justify the Behavior

Dragged through the filth, word eventually got back to me. Word always got back to me. I wasn't about to let a 10-Man team conduct their business in isolation...not after the events of the past. I leaned on trusted loyalties -- both the leaders and the inconspicuous, to feed me information from the other side. Keeping my finger on the pulse was imperative...especially if sprouts of psychological damage were taking root.

Their closed door discussions repeatedly trash talked the way the 25-Man handled itself. It was Eh Team all over again, but with added panache. The concern was no longer entitled elitism clamoring on about how the "carries" were getting a free ride, undeserving of loot they helped procure. Instead, voices inside Herp Derp chose to assault the fundamental precepts that the guild was built on. Loyalty. Dignity. Respect toward one another. Hell, even making an effort to be respectful toward so much of the pit that was dredged up out of Deathwing-US. They cared little about wiping away the spit and blood. Oh, they cared about getting shit done...on their terms. Time was far too valuable to waste on the likes of the 25.

I was constantly reminded of how little the guild meant to them. Every block of achievement spam that scrolled up through guild chat, weeks ahead of the 25, married to the hypocritical insistence that their road was the true challenge, the real effort, the actual goal...told the tale. They weren't on board.

I'm not about to defend Eh Team's behavior, but obvious differences emerged. They may have conspired behind protective walls, but when the bitching and loot collusion was over and they set foot in the 25, they meant business. The team mentality took over and the best and brightest led the charge, driving progression into something DoD could be proud of. Even if they did it for their own selfish purposes, they valued DoD enough to make their own successes a part of the guild's.

Herp Derp, by comparison, turned their back on core. They weren't stupid -- exceptionally skilled players rarely are. But they made a conscious decision to step out of the 25, fully aware of the jeopardy they thrust the guild into. Or maybe they didn't...and just didn't care.

So, they kept to themselves, crickets that chirped in the darkness, waiting for you to approach -- then, silence. And in that silence, an unspoken agreement that this was ok, right, and just. Nobody once thought to take a stand for the guild that they called home. All on account of…

...what was that reason Bheer gave me? The day he confessed all of Eh Team's sins?

"...because we had a good thing going."

DoD wasn't their home. It was a means to an end.


Monday arrived. Herp Derp was scheduled to resume their own Heroic 10-Man work. I prepped Jungard the night before; he was completely up-to-speed on the Ben incident. Jungard was in the eastern time zone, and so enjoyed the luxury of being online a few hours before the guild leader. I assigned him a mission. Keep tabs on Herp Derp as they prepare for the evening's raid. Ben had been dark for three days now, and Drecca -- like me -- had always been a stickler for Ventrilo. With Ben's kick/ban still intact, the curiosity was bewitching. What was Herp Derp's next move going to be?

The clock ticked up to 5:00pm on my contract gig, another web agency in the Denver Tech Center. I packed up my laptop to head home. Still no word from Jungard. No text messages from Ben. No private messages on the forums, no phone calls. As I stepped outside, proceeding to the Civic, the phone buzzed. Finally. I pulled it out and glanced at the number. Job Interview. A healthcare company I'd been back and forth with for several weeks wanted to schedule another tech screen. Dammit. I felt the frustration rising.


I took a deep breath, then exhaled.

Focus. Don’t be pissed off at a possible new job opportunity. Leave the Herp Derp rage at the door.

I flipped the switch into "professional courtesy" mode, and took the call, scheduling the next interview with a gal by the name of Allison. It sounded like a great opportunity. I felt good about my chances, and remained optimistic. The call was quick -- done and out of there in no more than three minutes, tops. It wasn't until I hung up that I caught a glimpse of the tiny SMS icon:

Message From Jungard: Drecca spun up his own Vent server.

Death Knight vs. Paladin

"I see that your best interests are at heart (as always) but I would like to take this opportunity to point out that are you providing Ben with a means to circumvent the very carefully crafted guild rules I've put into place. Although it may seem like I'm picking on Ben, this rule applies to any guildy. He needs to be held accountable for his actions. He cannot be allowed to mistreat his fellow guildies, then get off, scot-free. It's what we call a double-standard, and I don't allow that behavior in DoD."

"I also realize that I ought to be taking this up with your ‘Tactician’, Riskers, so allow me to clarify why I'm filling up your inbox with my rant. You were the one that consciously made the decision to set up a new Vent server and put the team, Ben included, on it. I admit that a part of me held out the hope that you would demonstrate some leadership that I've sensed is buried deep inside you somewhere, and half-expected you to turn him directly back to me, so that we could resolve this outstanding guild issue. Alas, no such luck."


"Well, then we have a severe difference of opinion. The team is not circumventing anything by using a different Ventrilo server to raid in. If you want to impede the team's progress by keeping someone banned (it's well within your right to do so), then I will do what's best for the team in order to move forward with content and not concern myself with guild politics."

"Nowhere in the rules does it state we're not allowed to use a different Ventrilo server. So, if you'd like to go ahead and interpret your own rules on the fly, then we'll be disagreeing quite a bit on things."


"Drecca, the guild was founded on common-sense rules, and over the course of six years, I've had to write those rules down, because there is always someone who thinks the rules don't apply to them, or that it 'wasn't written down anywhere'.

Let's break down the facts of this particular situation:

1. Ben violated guild policy by being a douchebag in Vent, which he's been warned about, multiple times.

2. Ben was banned from Vent as a result of this continued behavior.

3. Rather than come to me and take responsibility for this behavior, he chose to remove his alts from the guild.

4. Then, he came to you and said (most likely), ‘I can no longer connect to Vent.’

5. Your solution to this problem was not to inquire why (which would have given you the means to direct him back to me), but instead, to move forward with your very own solution, blissfully unaware of the damage you were causing by doing so.

So, in summary, the entire mantra of DoD going into Cataclysm of "people being held accountable for their actions" was circumvented, not by the team, but by you. I can only assume your thought process went a little something like this:
Well...Ben was apparently banned from vent for some reason Hanzo deems important, but our priority is Herp Derp first, Hanzo's rules second, so I will go ahead and find a way for Ben to avoid taking responsibility for his actions so that we can kill bosses and get some fat loot and ring up achievements.
Read that last statement very carefully before you rebut me. Look at what is happening. This has transpired as a result of your actions, and this is the direction you have chosen. If, after this explanation, you truly do not see the error in your judgement, and declare me a 'dictator that is free to interpret his own rules as he goes', you may pack up your things, and take your leave of DoD now."


"Great countries have fallen under less tyrannical rule than what you impose upon this guild."


A day later, Drecca made his decision, exiting the guild.

The Third...Wait For It...

When Jundar (no relation to Jungard) left the guild back in '05, taking the handful of guildies that would eventually become Horderlies, it was DoD's first exodus. And it was my first mistake. I take full responsibility for it. Shortsightedness an inexperience as a guild leader prevented me from communicating a unified vision to my guild. This is what we're here to do. This is why we exist. The result was I lost good people like Hend and Chariot that weren't interested in 40-Man raiding, or didn't have the means to dedicate themselves to that sort of lifestyle.To be honest, when I reflect upon my own all-encompassing devotion to the guild in those early years, I can't say I had the means myself!

For me to criticize the casual preference of play while ignoring my family and responsibilities should, to some extent, convey to you how completely ill-equipped I was to make those kinds of judgments.

Some two years later, Dreadlocker, and those loyal to him, left the guild under a different pretense. Though I chalked it up at the time to petty self-conscious criticisms, the truth wasn't established until much later. I directed my disgust at Dreadlocker's insubordination, a player I put in the role of officership to defend the guild, and deal with miscreants in short order. So, when the second exodus unfolded before my eyes, my disgust was a convenient mask, shielding me from the root cause.

Many of those that followed Dreadlocker into the guild Illusion were a part of B-Team, aka "the bench", while A-Team enjoyed all the glory and progression of Blackwing Lair, Ahn'Qiraj, and Naxxramas. He was tired of it. Tired of sitting back and watching his friends increasingly forced onto the perma-bench, as the 40 transitioned to the 25, come TBC. And when you care about your friends, and see them disrespected after so long, an authority role in the guild making those decisions means very little. In fact, you probably wouldn't want to have anything to do with a guild like that. I own that second exodus as well, and am truly sorry for my decisions in handling B-Team. They didn't deserve that. Dreadlocker didn't deserve that.

I went through a long period of introspection after that. I'd learned a lot between the day Dreadlocker left the guild and the day I fought with Drecca over a series of forum PMs. Many epiphanies fundamentally changed how I approached the management of my guild. And although it may not have been perfect, by the arrival of the seventh year, I felt more in control of the little details than ever before. I was more respectful toward players preferring a different style of play (even if it was one I didn't agree with). And I was extraordinarily careful to clearly define my expectations of the guild, and ensure that they knew what our direction was, what our goals were, what we needed to succeed, and what would ultimately be our ruin.

The third exodus would not explode in a blast of g-quits as the first two had. And this is the key, loyal reader. Because I can't help but wonder which is worse. Watching as the band-aid is ripped off, a mass of dedicated followers now all siding with a leader whose vision is vastly superior to your own? Or watching a group of players make no decision either way. To not be concerned with the trivial details of a member's guild tag, now suddenly changed, or a Vent server suddenly different. To not take one moment to internalize these little details, and contemplate a larger narrative.

Or perhaps that they did consider, and didn't care...because they had a good thing going.