Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Guilds, Cliques, and You

It may surprise you to know that I was once a horrible guild member. It’s true, I was. No, I wasn’t overtly rude or mean. I participated in guild chat. I greeted everyone with a friendly hello! But I was also part of a clique. There were five of us (not coincidentally, a five-man group). One rogue, one resto shaman, one mage, one protection warrior, and one hunter. We were inseparable, spending most nights running dungeons, doing battlegrounds, or hanging out together on Vent. We snickered about other guild members in our private chat channel. We were very “us versus them,” and unsurprisingly, we ended up leaving the guild in question – all at once, en masse.

I’m not proud of this, by the way, but I am using it as a perfect example of what I want to talk about. I believe that the story could have ended differently, had the leadership in that guild been paying close attention and made any efforts whatsoever. There were warning signs. Here are the circumstances that led to the situation I describe above.

First, Voss and I joined this guild at a fairly low-level. We were about level thirty, while of course the majority of guildies were 70. It’s difficult to run things with people who aren’t even your level, and a few guildies made an effort but for the most part we were very much on our own. So that’s an unavoidable circumstance (although one that’s readily ameliorated, given time). We were so sure that if we just got to level 70, we would fit in! We would have people to do things with!

On the surface, this guild was “friendly.” In actuality, most of the people in it were primarily interested in hanging out with the people they already knew. That’s natural, and it happens. What it did was serve to isolate us further, but around that time a new member joined the guild – a hunter, just a few levels behind us. He deliberately sped up his leveling so he could be of a level with us. Then, a couple that had been in the guild before us (but taken a hiatus) came back. They were around level sixty, which is where we were at the time. We thought we might try some five-mans. We went through each of the Burning Crusade five-mans with our hunter friend driving us. He had greater game experience than any of us, and had left a hardcore raiding guild to reroll on an RP server in order to take it easy. Little did we know, he was honing us to be a very efficient five-person team.

By the time we hit 7o, we geared up very quickly (again, I didn’t realize this at the time, but our hunter suggested instances that would have upgrades for all of us.) By the time we moved on to heroics, we really worked well together and we’d found out something, too: we no longer needed our guild. For the most part, if all five of us weren’t around, we simply didn’t run anything. The attitude of most other guildies towards us hadn’t improved. We expressed interest in raiding and the guild leader said that perhaps an alternate Kara run could be put together. Another guildie we didn’t know remarked on the forums that it could be like “Kara on training wheels.” This air of condescension didn’t improve matters.

Each week at the guild meeting (held in a spooky location in Duskwood) we attended and crammed ourselves onto one long bench, all five of us. As I said, all of the signs were there. We weren’t integrated with the rest of the guild, frankly didn’t care what they thought, and eventually grew so fed up that we left (and when we left, of course, we all left together).

One of those friends has since been lost (MIA), the other two both stopped playing the game. Naturally, Voss and I still play together. I have fond memories of them. Here we are in another guild (guild name pictured is not the guild discussed above. I’m trying to be classier than that). Besides, I know that we were trouble for that guild. It isn’t all, “Oh, how we were wronged.” We stopped trying to be friends with them and instead opted to be the bad kids at the back of the room, doing entirely our own thing. It’s a tough thing to handle, as a guild leader or officer, but I do have some suggestions.

Set Expectations

Have a clear vision for what you want your guild to be. I’m sure in larger guilds it’s harder to manage cliques, because you do have so many people. People are going to naturally want to split off into smaller groups. That’s fine. The expectation in my guild is that everyone is going to get along (even if they aren’t the best of friends, we are all going to be civil and friendly to one another). Anyone will run five mans with anyone else. We’re all in a smaller guild because we want to get to know our fellow guildies, and know them well. It’s part of the experience we’re seeking, so we have the advantage of a very clear bottom-line: you don’t have to best friends, but you do have to get along and be inclusive of other members.

Make sure your guildies know what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them. I think our biggest problem with the guild above was that we joined it expecting to meet people we could spend time with (it was, after all, an RP guild on an RP server; even at lower levels we could have gotten together to RP) and I’m not actually sure what they expected of us. Probably they didn’t expect that we would leave and take five people out of the guild at one time.

Divide and (Befriend)

Cliques usually become more of a concern when:

1) members have a pre-existing attachment to each other, either from a former guild or real-life friendship or both,

or 2) some circumstance in the guild drives people towards each other in the face of adversity.

If anyone feels under attack, isolated, or otherwise excluded from guild activities – they are liable to gravitate towards other people who feel the same way.

What’s the solution to this? Be as inclusive as you possibly can. Make an extra effort to get to know specific people. You don’t always have to be the one spending time with them, but bringing them into a five-man group with other guildies might make those guildies more inclined to run together later. One of the best officers I ever had was a lady from the guild pictured above. Each week she’d say to me, “Oh, so-and-so is my ‘project.'” She meant by this that each week she was focusing on getting to know one person specifically, to talk to and include them. Of course you have to do this with moderation. If someone is an introvert, being badgered constantly is probably not going to earn their friendship; it might get them to stop logging in with exasperation. So this is your first step, you must get to know people and include them. The second component to this (if a clique already exists) is to try to do it without existing friends around.

See if you can get the guy who is usually quiet in guild chat into Mumble to run some five-mans. Most people will open up a bit more in that circumstance, plus they get to know you as well. Do this with everyone you can – separately. People who realize that you care about getting to know them as individuals are much more likely to feel at home in your guild, and much less likely to only talk to their close friends.

Limit New Folks

This one is easier said than done. One guild I was in actually had a hard and fast limit of members they would accept within a given time frame. This ensured that before new members joined, others would already be a part of the guild. The needs of a raiding guild can sometimes preclude this, unfortunately, but it’s still important to keep in mind. Each new person you introduce into a group will unbalance it simply by being there. Everyone has to get to know the new member, and assert their role within the group. It takes time to settle down. When you have many new people at one time, you run the risk of completely unbalancing the preexisting social dynamic. You can even isolate the guildies you already have, because things have changed, and they may no longer see themselves in the change.

For this reason I’m especially wary of groups of players. You see these ads on the forums, “Mage, H Pally, Druid LF Raiding Guild.” Sometimes, maybe these will be a great find. Just be aware that you may be letting yourself in for a ready-made clique that could prove difficult to integrate into your guild.

In Business Time, we all get along, because we're all Voss.


This may seem overly simplistic, but if you respect your guild members are a up front with them about any issues or problems, I have a naive belief that you can’t go too far wrong. It’s tough, because you can’t exactly tell someone “I notice you only hang around with these two other people. Could you try to spend time with other people too?” Small cliques and groups will naturally form in any group of people. They aren’t even necessarily something you want to avoid at all costs, so much as be aware of. Does it matter if Jim, Jacqueline and Joe have an arena team together? Probably not. Do they have an arena team together but also never run five-mans with anyone but each other? You might have a problem there. What you CAN say is, “Hey Jim (or Jacqueline, or Joe), want to come run this five-man with us?”

If folks are still sticking to themselves primarily, you could just ask them separately if there is a problem they want to talk about, and whether everything is okay. Maybe they had a conflict with another guildie and are specifically avoiding him/her, or maybe they are shy and haven’t known how to expand their social circle within the guild. Whether there is a problem or not, you won’t know unless you ask. Taking the time to talk to someone is far preferable than saying later, “I am always available to talk! Why didn’t you come talk to me?” Plenty of people aren’t comfortable approaching leadership about anything “official,” or they themselves may not know their problem is big enough to need addressing. If you take the time to check in with your guildies periodically just to see how they are doing, I guarantee you’ll have a healthier guild as a result.

I should add, as an aside, that I sometimes feel a bit odd writing posts like this when I know that some guildies read my blog. Yes, I think about “management stuff,” but it isn’t motivated from a place of wanting to manipulate guild folks. I’ve seen this attitude of “We are such a small group, so we don’t need rules” or “We just want to have fun, we don’t need any management BS,” but I actually think that having people who do consider these things is what helps to ensure that everyone has fun. Most of the time, I’m just thinking, “Hey, let’s go kill some internet dragons!” and having fun with the people in my guild. But I do stay attuned to the social currents, if you will, to make sure that potential problems are waylaid before they ruin anyone’s good times.

So have you had the trouble of cliques in your guild before? Were you a member of one (like I was?) What did/would you do to handle them?

Comments on: "Guilds, Cliques, and You" (24)

  1. I’ve been a cliquer and been a GM struggling with a clique. It’s a tough call on both sides of the fence frankly. My cliques have invariably involved multi-year gaming/RL friendships, and were generally NOT guild formed/related. However, it did take running my own guild and seeing the harm that a group of players could do to a guild to re-evaluate how my group affected the guilds I was a part of.

    I’d like to >think< that I personally wasn't a contributing factor, but looking back, I can see how if I wasn't individually causing a problem, a guild attempting to factor our group AS a group and not individual members probably caused some distress from time to time.

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it? I can look back now with clarity and think, “What a pain in the ass we must have been for that guild leader.” Given that our clique was formed within the guild, though, I can also recognize that there were things she/they could have done to prevent the outcome and fallout. I still have sympathy. A bit less sympathy, because I think that GL was a prima donna who basically liked being a GL for the self-importance factor, but we weren’t all that super ourselves.

      I think having been a GL probably makes for nicer guildies in general. You “get” where the resident authoritah is coming from!

  2. I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been an officer in a guild where a small clique joined and for awhile it was great, I think we were all pretty welcoming and social. But when TBC came out and the shift to 10/25 man raiding, they actually split the guild. They had already decided they wanted to run their own show and recruited enough guildies to go with them that the original guild couldn’t continue. (I was asked, I said no politely, then I left the game for about a year.) I always felt they needed our guild to help get settled on the server and make some friends, but as soon as they felt settled they grabbed enough of our guys to make a go of it and split. I don’t really know if there’s anything we could have done.

    I’ve also been in a clique when a couple of my friends moved to my server and joined my guild. We ran 5 mans at the beginning of Wrath and then I organised a 10 man group for off nights which naturally had all of us in it. What changed there is that I was really attached to my guild so when my two friends wanted to be all hardcore and find a more hardcore raid, they decided to ditch me and go. So much for that clique. (I do sometimes wonder if I just lack the social skills …)

  3. Zaralynda said:

    Whenever I read a post like this – about someone assuming that a group of players looking for a guild together is a clique – I despair a bit over my own search for a guild. My husband and I play together, and I think that that makes us stronger, more dependable players (since we aren’t dealing with “spouse aggro”). I don’t know how to make the distinction clear in apps/advertisements, though.

    • There’s no question that finding a place as a pair can be trickier, but not impossible. I was thinking more of three+ players. Applying as a husband and wife team comes with its own special set of prejudices, unfortunately, but don’t despair. It doesn’t mean there’s no great guild for you! Voss and I actually applied to our current guild together. If I may give you some unsolicited advice (as someone who has both applied and reviewed spouse-type apps), I’d recommend a few things.

      Fill out separate applications. Make sure that each of you as players is represented as an individual. After all, you play side-by-side but you’re not playing FOR each other. You want to be considered on your own merits. Doing this does away with some major concerns otherwise; oftentimes guilds may question whether each spouse is as committed and serious about raiding as the other. “I raid because my SO raids” can be a common occurrence. We’ve also had situations where one player is really good and the other just isn’t, which are awkward for everyone. It’s also nice to get a feel for the personalities of each person, which is tough to do when an app is written by just one.

      Also consider (and indicate) whether you are willing to raid separately when the occasion calls for it. Having “blocks” of people that must raid together complicates scheduling, and showing some flexibility in this regard can help. If you absolutely wouldn’t want to raid without the other person there, ever (even on rare occasions) then a 25M guild might be the best fit for you. I know that juggling couples for our 10M roster got to be a bit of a headache at times, but it’s doable.

      Similarly, I could see your ad being written by both people (or at least with sections and armory links to each character and person). The biggest thing that will make a conscientious guild cautious is reading about one player who sounds great, and one who is a complete wild card. I hope that’s in any way helpful – good luck in your guild search!

      • I’d definitely second the making separate applications suggestion. I think the only time my husband has applied for both of us was the very first guild we joined. After that, we’ve always done individual applications. When we applied to our current guild, our applications got pulled into a private forum as soon as we posted them, so I wasn’t able to see the comments on them until after we’d gotten into the guild. When I did, I found that the guild leaders had decided to reject my husband on the basis of his application, and it appeared that the care I’d taken with my application had gotten *both* of us in.

      • Well, actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that my application convinced the guild leaders to reconsider my husband’s application, and that after they’d managed to chat with him in-game for a bit, they then decided to accept both of us.

      • Zaralynda said:

        We have filled out separate applications in the past (when the guild required them, and the last 2 guilds haven’t…).

        And… we really are a couple where we raid because the other person raids, so to give the impression otherwise would be dishonest. I think the only reason that my husband still plays the game is for raiding and because I’m playing, but neither of those alone is enough for him. Because raiding is the only thing that he really likes to do in game, then I raid as well.

        We aren’t equally dedicated and skilled either, so it’s difficult to find a place where the less skilled person can still contribute but the more skilled person doesn’t get overly frustrated.

        I do a lot of the legwork in looking for a new guild, so I know what obstacles I need to overcome. It’s just not always clear how to do it (and it’s also awkward making that first contact with someone to say “okay, in a few hours we can do this again with my husband…”). ARGH.

    • I think you’ve also given me a post idea, if you don’t mind!

  4. I’m GM of a casual raiding guild – have been for close to 4 years now. I have come across cliques “second hand” before now – in a (now ex) alliance guild and following the fortunes of some of those we had played with from that ex-alliance guild. It was notable that one particular group of people seemed to move from guild to guild – at best leaving bad feelings behind, at worst a broken guild.

    That group have now ended up in my own guild. Two main reasons why they were accepted – a conviction that our guild is a lot more “grown up” than many others, with people who are sensible and know well the “feel” of the guild and

    • … Haha hit the publish button by mistake …
      Secondly we felt that we should allow them the chance to prove they could integrate.

      They did not apply together – one joined first saying that he had been away from game for a while and no longer had contact with anyone else on the server. Another applied and joined about a week later – then another few joined a few weeks after that.

      We do have a specific rule about cliques. I don’t see the point of a group of people applying to a guild if they do not wish to actually integrate. The only possible reason is one of greed – wanting something (perks, vault access, access to guild raids) that they cannot get on their own.

      Unfortunately as GL I’m also the one that has to be the bad guy when it appears that rules are being broken.

      I don’t know what will happen in the future with this particular group. One of two options I guess – they will either integrate or they will leave. How that happens I guess is up to them. But I’m determined that they will not break my guild.

      • Oh good, I was afraid you were going to leave me a cliffhanger there! 😉 I think it’s completely natural that these sorts of cliques tend to happen and move from one place to another together. “Oh hey, friend joined this guild!” is followed by, “I’ll join too,” and then “Hey, those two joined…” It sounds like you have a good handle on the situation, though, and that’s what matters most. Hopefully these people settle into your guild and are fine. If not, you are ready for the worst case scenario!

  5. Vid… as one of your guildies, I want to express my opinion that I don’t think you should feel odd about posting these sorts of things. If anything, they strengthen my already very strong belief in you as my guild leader. Nice post!

  6. There are days when I think that Rexxar had it right, and just going out in the wilderness is a better thing than dealing with all the cliques and whatnot. It’s a natural outgrowth of any social endeavor, however, so just as in RL we have to deal with it in game.

    I don’t envy the GL in much the same way I don’t envy the manager at work –the old saw about ‘herding cats’ comes to mind– but I can respect a good GL’s balancing act. It’s also not fun to admit your own shortcomings, but you need to do that to grow as a leader.

    Although I don’t see you in action as a GL, I’ve seen enough to know that you make a good one. And you’re still learning, and pushing yourself, which is also good.

  7. Oh, the clique.

    I’ve been a clique member since forever. My raid team is my posse, and we’ve stuck together through guild collapses and comings-and-goings that make my head spin. We’re the kind of people who’ve taken a great in-game team and turned it into great in-game and out-of-game friends.

    When it comes to our casual guild, it’s quite a bit of us-versus-them. Because we’re the mainstays. We’re the semi-hardcores in the totally softcore guild. We’re the ones who are always around, not rolling alts on Timbuktu(EU) or taking a month off to play Spiral Knights. It’s hard for us to look at the people who come, grab some things out of the bank, ask some questions, play for a week, and then disappear again without a little bit of bitterness. We’re the ones who’re filling the guild bank and helping and educating and holding down the fort. I’m arrogant enough about our raw awesome that I suspect the guild would utterly dissolve without us. We are the foundation to which all our pop-in-pop-out members cling.

    We’ve definitely had our detractors, and I won’t lie and say we’re an open circle. We’re not. We collectively disdain the noobs and stand-in-fire, undergeared keyboard-turners. We don’t let just anyone come to raid with us, much to the florid dismay of “Arthaas” and his other alt, “Arrthas”. We got tired of dragging undergeared and underskilled players through content back in Kharazhan, so we don’t do it any more. And the people who cry about elitism while standing in fire and doing 4k DPS can kiss our collective, deliciously-purpled asses.

    But we also help. We try to be friendly, as long as other guildies don’t blow their undedicated suck too hard in our direction. We greet guildies with a bit of teasing or joking or a friendly hello. We answer questions. We pass along info. We fill the otherwise-silent guild chat with our witty banter and friendly teasing.

    … and I completely lost the thread of my comment. Suffice to say, that’s my clique, and I’m sticking to it. ❤ I no longer care if it's an awkward lump in my guild. To me, they ARE the guild.

    • To some extent, I think a clique is unavoidable in any guild that has a raid team, and has other members who aren’t part of said team. You can ameliorate the effects a bit, but in the end, a raid group is going to bond more tightly than other people will, probably for many of the same reasons military units and paramilitary forces such as police departments do.

      If the guild is big enough that a raid team can live its own life within a larger social context, I think that can work out all right. The difficult, delicate, destructive dance comes when the guild is mostly the raiding corps, and only a few others. Such a guild would be better off simply not accepting social members at all.

      Guild leadership has to be alert to this, assuming they care. 🙂 On the other side, I think it’s important for people who join a guild to be alert to this as well. If you want to have a good time, and you see this kind of thing going on, don’t wait around to get frustrated by it. Say a polite farewell and move on. You’ll be happier that way, and so will everyone else.

  8. ““We just want to have fun, we don’t need any management BS,””
    I refuse to join guilds where this is the extent of their rules. I personally read “we just want to have fun” as “we aren’t going to put any effort into sorting out issues other than booting people that ‘make a fuss’, regardless of what the issue is.” or “we just want to have fun, who cares if YOU aren’t having fun”

    Love the rest of your post, and I’m sure your guild know that you thinking about these things means that you are looking out for them!

  9. Mimfollee said:

    Well, im part of a clique, and one going on for years, since i started playing and those two guys in ashenvale asked if i want to kill some satyrs together.

    Now our clique has about 7 members, we keep in touch wia RealID, most of us in same guild, but we play with others, we are split in two raid teams due to RL constraints, and i dont think we are giving a headache to the current GM, heck, 2 of us are officers now in this guild, and we mostly like it.

    We still complain in our own chat channel etc, but i feel it more like im keeping additional communication with friends i have for 3 years now, than a clique.

    However, we were in a guild that well, tried some forcefull integration on us, and well, it did not really work, we all left after one us got insulted and called root of all evil, and the poor woman was not even guilty of what she was accused.

    Looking back, i prefer a guild that lets me slowly integrate and getting to know people by running raids and instance together to one that calls me for a conversation and tells me i spend too much time with people i enjoy spending time with. I am shy and find it really hard reaching out to others, so i found that intrusive and offensive. Im not in first grade, and after being put in school to sit next to worst cases to help them improve, tyvm, but no one is telling me now whom i will spend my free time with.

  10. I have been part of a clique, and see the damage it did to the guild when we all left (the whole healing team packed up and walked away, even the guy on the bench.) I regret being a part of that.

    I have also seen it from the other side, and being the lone man out really sucks. Especially when the clique is comprised of the GM and oficer corps. I have seen that far far too often.

  11. I’m GM of a small raiding guild that’s had the same core group since the beginning of TBC, and the long-time members can certainly fall into the clique category if we aren’t careful. We’re so comfortable playing together that we often forget what it’s like to be in a new social setting. I’ve found the best way for me to overcome that cliquishness is to ask for help, rather than offer it; making people feel needed gives a confidence boost as well as setting up the opportunity to return the favor later. The one thing that just kills my interest in integrating a new person is when they don’t make any effort to join in or improve their character on their own. “I want to raid, but nobody will run me through heroics” in guild chat makes my gkick finger itch. Being prepared takes work, and often other people’s needs will coincide with your own, but don’t expect everyone else to drop what they are doing and carry you.

  12. […] Manalicious shares some ideas on avoiding the formation of cliques in guilds. […]

  13. Excellent post. This is the kind of attitude that a very close group of friends and I also shared once. We were in a top ranked guild, led by yours truly once, and once that disbanded and our lives forced us to leave the hardcore raiding lives behind, we banded together, played together, reminisced together and bitched together, a sub-group within the larger guild.

    Six of us quit en masse. The other four were kicked out.

  14. […] or how it could be perceived in such a way. Here’s a good read from Manalicious on Guilds, Cliques, and You, with some great comments as well. Do you think our alt raid might fit the parameters set in that […]

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