Friday, 24 July 2015

Guild leadership interview: The Senate Guard

If there's one thing I've found out about guild leaders, it's that they really love talking about their guild. So while I have cut this interview down a lot, it's still going to be lengthy. Please bear with me! Also, don't forget to check out today's twin piece: an interview with Dakaru, GM of Nostrum Dolus.

As my last interview (with Bo of PCG) was with the leader of a large raiding guild, I picked the leader of a small social guild for this interview for reasons of contrast. Are there different requirements for leading a guild? What does it involve? And what does the leadership structure look like? Find out by reading the post below.
I got to know Weels of the Senate Guard as the chatty scoundrel healer I healed my first raids with. While I was constantly afraid of screwing up, she comforted me, said I did great and encouraged me to keep at it. She was an officer at the time and made it to guild leader last year. I was excited to get a look behind the scenes and find out her secrets of keeping a small social guild running.

Guild info

Leader: Weels
Guild: The Senate Guard
Server: The Red Eclipse
Faction: Republic
Real life guild meetings: yes
Trivia: There's also a Senate Guard (without the "the") around on the Red Eclipse, which is a cause of confusion at times.

The interview

Can you tell me something about the guild activities you do?
The guild is really small, so it's really a case of if we have enough bodies or if I can drag enough people off Steam. But I also have some ties with other guilds: Asylum, for one, and also Prelude of Light, who are very much like us, and we do stuff with them on an ad hoc basis. We see what we have, we pug if we need more, and off we go.

The guild members are of an age in which everyone has lots of real-life stuff going on: children, spouses, jobs... We have tried to set a set day to raid and we don't have anyone who can commit to the same time, so we don't. We have a lot of people going away at the moment as well, so the guild goes quiet during the summer and we'll pick up again in the autumn when everyone's back!

What we do... we like helping out other people, so if we see someone who wants to do the fleet datacron, for instance, we might go and give them a hand at that. Really anything; we're up for anything.

You do PvP as well, right?
Yeah, lots of the boys do PvP as well and they always try and drag me in. If they really nag I'll come along, just not ranked, you know, lowbie PvP, that's about my limit.

We talk a lot. We spend a lot of time talking... laughs. About... all kinds of things, really, not necessarily about gaming.

And you've done guild meetings in real life.
Yes, we've done two now. We met up earlier this year in Croatia and next year's is probably going to be in either Greece or Portugal. I personally meet up with the guildies that live in the UK as well. One of them I see on a regular basis. We're also hoping to get a group together when the new Star Wars film comes out. About half of our members are British.

Do you have a goal or vision about how you want your guild to be?
I do, actually. Weels tells her story of how she got involved with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I had read that you could see all the stories and play all the content to level cap without having to interact with those "odd people who play MMOs" (as I thought at the time). I managed to get to level 25 without saying a word to a soul, ever. I didn't do any grouping, because you know, they were all psychotic axe murderers or whatever... laughs. Then I ended up in a guild, I honestly don't remember why, it was one of those guilds that basically took anyone. And a couple of planets later I bumped into the two guys with whom I've been playing ever since. (Well, first I thought they were both female because they were playing female characters. Then while talking to a friend on Facebook she said "you know, a lot of guys play females" and I was horrified because I'd been talking to them as if they were girls, being friendly and chatty... you know, the way girls do!) They were wonderful, they took me everywhere and they did all the stuff I couldn't do on my own - because I was really hopeless - and then we picked up a couple of other guys. 

Server mergers meant the guild was getting smaller and smaller and the original guild leader left and handed over the guild to one of his officers. On his very first day as guild master he spammed guild chat with the notice that everybody had to login to the guild website and sign up for a specific day of raiding and/or PvP. Everyone had to do that, irrespective of the fact that half of the people in the guild hadn't even reached the level cap and couldn't run those ops. Guild chat just blew. People said "who the hell do you think you are? You can't say things like that. I'm only level 35." And others commented that I they hadn't reached cap because they had real life commitments such as full-time jobs and/or children, but were running things like world bosses for lowbie members. He replied that if we didn't sign up, he would kick us. That first day, 40-50 people just left the guild (I'd never seen this happen before!) Over the next few days, every time you logged in he was kicking people out. And I kept thinking: this is the type of psychotic axe murderer I was worried about. Laughs

He kicked me out the day I logged in when none of my friends (some of whom were officers) were online... the coward.

The next guild we joined was actually run by a woman. It was called Shiny. She ran it with three officers - all her friends; and although it was a small guild, it was a proper guild. They'd explain stuff if you didn't understand and she encouraged me to do my very first op, I was so scared that I had never ran one before, and she took me through that whole op, which was EV (Eternity Vault, the first SWTOR raid, red.). And I thought: this is the way a guild ought to be run.

Collecting orokeets is a guild activity

On how she became guild leader:
We then moved guilds when Shiny went dark and ended up in the Senate Guard. More people left for other games, we got another guild leader and he promoted me to officer. OMG! I actually whispered him and asked why and he said: "Because you have a knack for smoothing troubled waters." As you know there is always fractions going on between our rugged individualists and I'm good at talking people down. When he also left (moved to Australia) he handed the guildmastership to me. I considered for a minute or two just handing it straight over to Ev, as I'm not a raid lead and believed at the time that it was essential for the GM to lead raids. I decided to give it a go and see what I could do on my own and I'm actually very pleased the way it's turned out.

Weels explains how she keeps the guild the way she likes it.
The guild rules are very simple: be nice and don't f*ck with Weels. "Be nice" covers everything: from the way people talk to each other in chat, in general chat or what they say in PvP. They have my guild name over their heads and I run a rainbow-coloured, multi-cultural guild. I won't tolerate -ists of any kind: racism, sexism, oldism, anything -ism, forget it.

I would like to think that we are very good at doing stuff on an ad hoc basis with 5-6 of us online, deciding to pug a raid and then carrying three pugs who are possibly undergeared and inexperienced. Ev and Laura are amazing raid leads: both patient and kind, and they know what they're doing. That's also how we acquire new members, drag them into Mumble (their voice chat program, red.)and at the end of the raid they may comment that "OMG you guys are so awesome, you're funny and you're friendly... can we join?" and we go "sure!" Anyone that joins gets a massive cash boost, they get a ton of XP boosts, I make them armourings, mods etc. They also get a mount and a speeder unlock if necessary. Because I remember how hard it was for me back at the beginning; how I would not probably even have reached level cap if I hadn't been adopted by the guys that I was lucky enough to meet. I hope that people feel that way when they come and play with us, that they are lucky to have met us.

Some R&R in Karagga's Palace

Someone here at the moment has put up in chat: "looking for a new guild with a 10% XP boost". Now that's obviously very useful... but to put that as your only criterium for joining a guild? It seems like a sad way to choose people to play with. "I'm looking for new friends, people that make me laugh or are interesting to talk to" - that's what I would want from a guild.

About getting the guildmaster rank:
When I announced I was going to keep the GM, the boys unanimously said "yeah yeah, please, you run it!". I told them I would hand it to someone more qualified but they were insistent. That was a huge pat on the back. You know, I'm not a raid leader, I just am not. But I am good at what I do, and even though there are things I can't do, like knowing what every single class in every single game needs to be doing or how to do massive DPS, I an good at finding people who do know and are willing to share that information with others. I find that being generous, not just with loot but with one's time has hopefully rubbed off on the others. Spread the love, I say, and that's why I get so upset when we do an ops and people are being awful.

What do you think are important qualities for a guild leader?
That really depends on the kind of guild. Personally I believe that everybody is good at something and we should try to play those strengths. Some like to lead raids and I’m lucky that we have officers who are very good at it, and always open for advice. This is something I think is very important overall, that one listens to what people are saying. However some hard core players can have a short attention span and get frustrated with slow progress. This is where I try to make people laugh and/or get them chatting and usually it works. So it's encouraging your members to do what they're good at and getting them to encourage people to do the same thing. I think I'm good at being nice... encouraging people to do things... I'm really not good at anything, I don't know why you're interviewing me! Maybe you're better off asking one of my guildies rather than me.

I think you're being modest. Obviously you're doing something that makes these people stick together.
We all like each other, we like playing socially and this is the one place where we can do that. Some of them have told me that they probably wouldn't play SWTOR if I didn't keep the guild up and running.

What do you find hardest in being a guild leader?
Coping with people that take a sudden dislike to each other. Dealing with any sort of racism or homophobia. Or the fact that guys, in general, and I know that I'm taking a sweeping statement here, are not as sensitive as women. So I've had a case in which non-stop jokes were being made about someone and it wasn't meant to be taken seriously, the butt of the jokes was getting very upset. I had to take people aside and tell them to pack it in.

That was a minor thing, but we've also had some major ones. A new guildie invited a group of his friends to the guild. One evening we were doing an op and two of them joined Mumble and started squabbling amongst themselves and the language went off the charts. And it wasn't the language - I don't mind that - I swear too, but it the foul sexual innuendo, "oh I'm going to lock you in the cupboard and do this and that" went on for a couple of minutes until I had to tell them all to pack it in. Told them what they said to each other was their affair but they were irritating everyone else in channel. And then there was a long silence. I worried then that I had lost the original guildie because of how hard I came down on the group but the next day, the two worst offenders came into the game and separately apologised to me and said they realised they were out of order. I explained how the guild runs and suggested they might be happier in a Hard Core guild but they both replied "No no, we want to stay here". And they are still here as a matter of fact, and I have never had trouble with them again. That was hard, though, I didn't like doing that.

Everyone is dead. "And then everyone laughed. That's what I want to have in an op. 
That's why we do this."

Then Weels talks about the toughest decision she had to make.
Now I inherited a guild that was never mine with members that were here from the beta. One of them had a problem with drinking. He could be incredibly funny and he was an amazing player when he was sober but when he started drinking things went downhill. For instance, joining an operation and then running the wrong way on purpose, jumping of cliffs three times in a row, or run in, 'play tank' and pull everything. We then would wipe and it would really annoy people, understandably.

He guild quit twenty odd times. I know, because I re-invited him back into the guild twenty odd times. I would listen to his rambles, his swearing and all the crap that came out when he was drunk and I would re-invite him the next day, because he would never remember what he had done or said. He'd log in, realize that all his toons weren't in the guild and whisper for a re-invite. I did this and rationalised that the final decision wasn’t up to me as at that time I was only an officer – if the guild master wanted to kick him, he should.

I like this guy, it's just that he was really difficult for some people to take. About a week after I ended up as guild master, this player logged in (he hadn't been playing for ages) and he went on a rant in guild chat when he misunderstood a conversation about an exploit. It was totally unjustified as we were only discussing it - we weren't doing it. He then went on to call out individual guild members, raved how how much the guild had disintegrated and logged all his toons to guild quit. I was busy fire fighting with guildies asking "who the hell is this guy and how dare he speak to you like that?" and I told them I would take care of it.

A week or two later, when he had a time to think about it, and after being kicked out of a couple of other guilds for being drunk and/or doing something stupid, he came back to me, saying he was really sorry and asking for a reinvite. I consulted my officers who all knew him well and was surprised at a unanimous decision not to have him back. I had imagined they would want to keep him in – no matter what – as he was one of the top dps on the server. So it was down to me to inform him and it was really hard. He said, okay Weels, I understand, and whispered me, on and off for about a month. I got long ingame mails, containing a lot of apologies and I had to keep telling him that although he still is welcome on the website, and in our Mumble, I was unable to invite him back. The last mail I got was a message saying that I was the nicest person he'd ever played with in any game and that he could totally understand why I couldn't invite him back. That was so sad.

I take it all personally. I can't go "oh, it's just a game". You're all people to me, especially actually having met people.

Ancient guild run in Karagga's Palace

How dependent is the guild on you? If you are away for a few weeks, does guild activity drop?
Yes. How dependent? ...well, not for raiding, they don't need me for that. They can all pug raids on their own. However, if I don't play, because I'm ill or away or whatever, I'm aware that they don't play as much. But that's because we're mates. Sometimes I'm away because we're all playing other games, like with Elder Scrolls and Neverwinter.

Does it bother you? I can imagine running a guild becoming a job for guild leaders.
Yeah, I think you have a responsibility to login as often as you can. I use the message of the day in-game to explain to people if it's going to be very quiet and why and most of the people we have now are perfectly happy with it being the sort of guild that it is. Some of them have left toons in the Senate Guard for the social side and raid with other guilds as well.

Do you have a lot of officers running the guild?
No, I run the guild. I've given one friend a high officer rank so he can run things if I'm away and all of my friends have the officer rank so they can invite and kick people (which I don't expect them to do) and fly around the guild ship.

How do you avoid guild drama?
What do you mean with guild drama? Give me an example. I think the situation with the alcoholic guildie is a good example of guild drama. It's something happening that you have do something about or it'll go wrong. But drama in real life is the main reason we are all so close. We have supported each other through job losses, heartbreaks, medical problems and bereavements. A mutual support society with a slightly warped sense of humour! I believe people deserve a second chance. Or a third. Or twenty, in his case? Yeah, he was a sweetheart to me. People have given me second and third chances all the time as well in operations, as I regularly screw up.

Weels enthusiastically goes on with how she incinerated a whole raid in Explosive Conflict.
There's a pyramid puzzle where you have to move the blocks around and Ev said to me "it's fine, I'll do the puzzle, you just heal and when I say "fire", you press that button." So he did his thing and everyone was running around... "Alright, fire!" I did. "You're supposed to inform them first!" Oops - I'd incinerated the whole raid, as I didn't know I was supposed to tell them to move. And then everyone laughed. That's what I want to have in an op and that's why we do this.

This interview is part of a series of twin posts on guild leadership by Ravalation and Gamers Decrypted, looking at PvE leadership and PvP leadership respectively. Check out today's twin piece: an interview with the leader of the competitive ranked PvP guild Nostrum Dolus.


  1. Pretty interesting. This is the kind of guild I drift to if I am in a new MMO by myself and feeling like taking a chance with a guild. The kind that is more about just having fun together and that anything else is a bonus.

    Thanks for the interview Ravanel and Weels for her answers. :)

  2. Oh dear lord, the problem drunk guildie.

    You're a better person than I am for dealing with that one.

  3. So proud to be part of TSG ^^



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