Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Beauty Of Tradition

A while back, Vaneras started this thread, asking people about their guild traditions. This chapter is an extension of the thoughts and ideas the thread connotes. Take a deek.

A tradition is different to a novel, one-off occurrence. Holding a guild meeting once is different to having one on a weekly basis. The dynamics are different. If you just hold a single event, then it's likely that it will be remembered fondly by everyone who attends. This is because they have nothing to compare it to, so even if the first thing you do with your guild is sit around and get drunk, they'll still approve. Furthermore, promising another event but not actually setting a date for one is a good way to keep people in the guild. When the going gets tough, a small percentage of your members will hang around just to see if you have another event. I only suggest this tactic if you're highly manipulative or facing desperate times. Remember that no one will stick around forever if you keep making empty promises, but the occasional white lie can retain members and help you make progress in key areas. You may have absolutely no intention on holding another in-character piss up, but if you advance with raiding in the meantime, people are likely to be far more forgiving if you reveal you lied to them. Conversely, if your raiding progress goes down the drain, then holding a fun event to raise morale will help considerably. This is what's known as 'plate spinning'; if one area seems to be doing OK, then go fix the other parts of your guild. Just remember to come back to the 'OK area' before it begins to falter.

Skillz that killz.

For good raiding guilds, plate spinning is optional, as most of your members will be simply satisfied with having a basic attachment to their fellows – so long as you're making progress in dungeons. Social guilds who recruit en masse have it harder. There's a good chance your average layman off the street will want to PVP and PVP (and RP depending on your server). This means you'll have to cater for everybody's main interests, and thus 'spin more plates'. Namely, this leads to you having to hold more events to cater for different player archetypes and dedicate more time to the game. Are these events going to be 'traditions'? Perhaps, but if you're forcing yourself to hold them every week, then consider a rethink of what exactly you want from your guild.

So we've established how the odd get-together can be used as a tool to keep people interested in a dwindling guild. Traditions are different from these sorts of events, though. They are more abstract in nature and sometimes can be simply be created spontaneously. Every guild I've ever known of has possessed different traditions, but why is there so much variation? Any muppet can buy some beers from Darkmoon Faire, give them out and have a 'guild party', right? There's little room for difference when it comes to the basics, so why do each guild's traditions tend to be unique from the last?

Come! Dance! Be merry! Engage in casual cybersex!

Unlike most other elements of a guild, leaders only have a small say as to which memes become embedded in a guild's lore. Yes, you can decide on the exact nature of any events and the general direction they take, but it's the masses who decide everything else. Unless you're an RP guild, i'ts very unlikely that social events will take place frequently. Thus, traditions assume other forms. I'm talking about when guilds play certain songs over Ventrillo after each successful boss fight. Or how people 'roll' for the blame after a wipe. When these things are repeated enough without getting annoying, they attain 'tradition' status. As guild leader, you can certainly instigate and encourage such behaviour, but most of the time you'll find that this sort of thing occurs naturally, provided the guild has the right collection of like-minded members.


Does this mean you should allow silliness in hope some funny private joke will be spawned from it? Personally, I don't believe idiocy is ever justified. When a member says or does something genuinely funny that catches on, then give them praise. However, remember that such instances should only occur naturally during the social evolution of your guild. You can give people the tools that subtly aid the creation of good, memorable times. This could even go as far as creating a karaoke channel on your voice chat server. On the other hand, it's a universal fact that the more forced a joke is, the less funny it gets. When people start causing wipes on purpose, or making jokes when you're explaining tactics, then it's time to stop laughing and start kicking.

Traditions will always be used to give guilds a unique sense of identity. What traditions you have are a true reflection of the sort of people who are in your guild. If you have blood rituals every Thursday and Friday nights then your guild's name will become synonymous with 'dark' roleplay. Likewise, singing the Mercenaries 2 theme 'Oh No You Didn't' after every time you kill Kel'Thuzad will demonstrate how you're a collection of fun personalities who are competent at raiding.

Actions speak louder than words. It's all very well claiming you're a bunch of nice chaps who have a smashing good time and kill a good few nasties, but actually going out and doing those things on a regular basis proves just how competent your guild is. Quantifiable progress in PVE/PVP/RP is what will bring guildies together initially, but emotional attachment and giving them a sense of belonging will cause them to stay. Raiding is the heart of most guilds, but the people and the quirky little traditions they create are the soul. Whether its running through old instances for a laugh, or singing along to the Back To The Future soundtrack on TeamSpeak, traditions keep people together in a magical and charming way.

Quite an interesting story behind this one. I searched Google for 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words' and found this epic picture.

You should keep the origins and reasons behind adhering to such behaviour transparent to anyone who asks, so these 'traditions' don't turn into a glorified private joke between a small clique of members. The stranger the activity, the more open you must be about justifying it and its relevance in the guild's history. Even if it's unintentional, elitism will have the opposite effect to what traditions were originally created for and drive the guild apart. There's a difference between the whole guild having a laugh together, and a bunch of cocks giggling at how funny they think they are.

Don't alienate people from any tradition. It doesn't matter if you or one of your subordinates created it. As long as you carry it out on a regular basis (from every day to every year) and i'ts compatible with the general theme of your guild, then traditions can be the deciding factor in whether people stay or go.

To summarise:

  • Occasional events are used as tools to keep people interested when other aspects of the guild are in decline. Such things are not traditions, but simple methods to raise morale. They are often led by the leader's will alone, not instigated or loved by the collective.

  • Managing and balancing the frequency of such infrequent events is known as 'plate spinning'. The more casual and social your guild is, the more plates you have to spin in order to keep everybody happy. When you're recruiting people off the street, there's a good chance they'll want to RP, PVP and PVE, so catering for all aspects is about reaching an equilibrium between the three.

  • When you find yourself being forced to hold events on a weekly basis, then don't consider them 'traditions'; they're chores.

  • Traditions can vary. They range from actually getting together in-game, to shouting 'YATTA!' whenever Yogg-Saron goes down. As long as you do it frequently and everyone enjoys it, then they're a-OK!

  • Know when people are taking it too far. A forced joke is never truly funny. Don't be afraid to kick someone if they're simply a cocky git. In fact, anything forced is never really fun. Remember this if you're consciously trying to craft elaborate traditions yourself.

  • Don't alienate people.

  • Do remember that traditions are the last step in giving your guild a sense of identity. Provided your guild is big enough and full of nice people, they will occur naturally.

[Image credit, oh, and here too. And here. Yep, and here.]

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