Friday, July 31, 2009

Gut Feelings: Part Deux

So as promised, I did some soul searching and polling of a few of my friends, officers and coworkers about how to deal with gut feelings about a situation or someone when you don't have any proof to confirm what your gut is telling you.

It seems to me that gut feelings are just a precursor to investigating what is the root cause behind why it is you feel that way. Are you having a bad day? Are you being particularly paranoid? Are you noticing subtle trends regarding something that your subconscious is picking up before your conscious?

Let me give you an example of how I took care of my uneasy stomach this week with the advice I was given:

I suspected for awhile that one of my long standing guildies was unhappy. However when approached all responses were "I'm ok." So I let it go. I also, from keeping my eyes open recently saw indications of another guild (that recruited some of our notable drama laden ex-guildies) were trying to get this guildie to leave and join their new guild.

With that scenario painted, here are the steps I took to figure out if my gut feelings were justifiable.

1. Weigh the Evidence

As with most of my long standing guildies, I have set up communications outside the guild to keep up on day to day news whether it is MSN, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I noticed that statuses and conversation that had subtle undertones to it, which probably gave me my first warning that something was up. That, combined with prodding comments from said ex-guildies probably solidified the gut feeling that some poaching was going on. Add a little late night private vent channel discussions with said players and you got yourself a very suspicious situation.

2. Discuss the Situation...

...In confidence, with someone you trust.

I spent a good while talking about my thoughts and feelings with a trusted officer who gave me a little perspective on the situation and compared with me his views and feeling on the subject. It helped get my thoughts in order and find out if others might be seeing the same thing I was.

3. Confront with an open mind

The last step I took was to bring the guildie into a private vent channel with the officer I had my discussion with, and had a no-bullshit, guild related only conversation with the player. I laid my suspicions flat out on the table, and asked flat out if it was true. In fact, the guildie confirmed indeed they were thinking of leaving to join the guild I had suspected. That yes they have been unhappy for awhile but haven't done anything because they have been in the guild for quite a long time and thought maybe it was just a passing feeling. Although, the guildie couldn’t give us any direct point of which to work on to make their situation in the guild better, it still opened the lines of communication that seemed to not be there before. I believe if you are very direct with the player it prompts the player in return to be very direct with you.

The officer and I did not get angry, did not give ultimatums, kept an open mind, stayed professional and open to anything that was said; I believe that to be one of best things to do when confronting suspicions. You just don't know what the actual situation is and can't yet form an opinion about it without actualizing what is going on with the person in question.

In the end, my gut feeling was confirmed and my uneasiness with the situation calmed by now having the flat out facts. By taking these steps, I avoided days or weeks of agonizing supposing or speculation and embarrassment if my suspicions were wrong. By doing less internalization and more communication (which is key in any organization whether it be a workplace or a guild) we were able to pinpoint the problem (or in other situations lack thereof,) and come to a conclusion or understanding about it.

Napaeae's To Do List

1. Finally Organize my bank space so I can easily access gear sets for 3.2 changes

2. Finalize my
3.2 gear wish list

3. Decide how After Midnight is going to approach the Coliseum and how that affects our raiding Ulduar.

4. Decide what we are going to do with
Raid Lockout Timer Extensions

5. Decide if we are making a new DKP tier for the new instance (I'm thinking not until T9 is released Tier 9 "Trophies" are showing up in loot tables already)

6. Farm (Raiding is getting expensive!)

7. ???

8. Profit?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gut Feelings and Drama

I'm an Aquarius III (born in the 3 quadrant of the month), and a characteristic of my sign is having a strong empathy and intuition about things. I tend to feel when something is not right or if there is a negative energy surrounding someone. At the risk of equating myself to my dog, Bailey, it's the same as when salespeople come knocking at our door; he wags his tail and want to be pet by one visitor but, the next visitor he's growling and snarling trying to get the person to go away. He has a great sense of a person's personality and tries to protect our home.

In real life, I tend to steer away from people who cause me to have that pang of doubt in my stomach about their intentions. I have been known to remove people from my life who have caused drama or pain. In game, as GM I believe it is important to stay objective. Like a workplace, sometimes you have to work with the personalities you have and even though you get the feeling something is wrong with someone, you almost have to ignore it and base opinions on actions rather than feelings.

But at what point do stop ignoring gut instinct?

There have been several times in the past few years I have had my "spidey senses" tingle about a situation or person in relation to the guild, that I have ignored and treated my decisions based on actions, only to have an immense amount of drama happen within days or weeks of the feeling.

Now, I cannot arbitrarily go around removing players from the guild that I get bad vibes from, nor can I go around paranoid about every situation that goes on, but at what point do you act upon those primal urges to remove the problem outright without a concrete action to base it upon?

Everytime I run into a situation that could have been stopped by acting upon my feeling right away, I tell myself, "Next time I am going on gut, forget objectiveness!" But how does that align myself with being the fair and just guild leader that I am/try to be?

I'm hoping to make a guide post about this soon, but I am looking for input. How do you deal with your gut feelings and drama in your lives or guilds?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Phase wha?

Just a quick note to my guildies whom I am super proud of for getting Phase 1 of the Yogg-Saron fight down in 3 attempts last night. Let's get through the next phase tonight!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Girl Power?

I know the majority of Guild Masters out there are men. There’s no doubt about it. However, there are women out there who like to take leadership roles as well and you know what? Thrive at it sometimes better than their male counterparts.

Now, I’m not saying that I am the best guild leader in the world. In fact, sometimes I feel like I am downright crappy. Personally, and I don’t know why I do this, I tend to be very soft on people in the guild where as in real life I’m not entirely the biggest doormat like I am in game. That’s why I enlisted my assistant GM Forth who tends to put things in perspective for me and is not afraid to be the bad cop to my good cop. But I am sure I bring a different perspective to leading than some of the other male GMs out there.

When I am recruiting or dealing with inter guild relations I find it very funny when someone comes to me very pleasantly with an issue or a question and I get approached with “Hey Dude, thanks for the info or thanks for dealing with x, y , z…” When I reply jokingly “Its ‘hey Dudette’,” I’m often taken aback that attitudes change to the negative or even surprise. “You’re a chick and the GM of After Midnight? Oh, sorry ma’am!” or “Whatever girls can’t lead guilds yours must suck!”

I have heard of guilds that don’t recruit women at all for various reasons; either they are a distraction to male players, they bring drama, they don’t play as well, etc. (On a side note some of the women players in our guild can out play the men twofold, and I have seen my fair share of male drama queens in my years of leading.) For whatever reason, a person that avoids women in game or brings a misogynistic approach to them leading is very telling to their real life approach to the opposite sex. There have been many of time I haven’t been taken seriously because of the difference of my private parts or have been called every name in the book when I make a decision or “let someone go” from the guild; something my male friends would rarely experience for the same actions. Those would be the same people I would avoid in real-life, why should I surround myself and the women in my guild with people like that?

So what do I do or try to do to make leading an easier for me? (Try being the operative word)

Let it roll off your back

Probably not exactly associated to being a woman, but when you get insulted or put down or called out etc, specifically because you are a woman (or anything else for that matter) let it roll off your back. I struggle with this the most. I tend to take things very personally because of the amount of work I have put into the guild, but being put down because I pee sitting down shouldn’t be a reason to get upset. Let it go, and appreciate your ignore list.

Don’t be the doormat

Sticking to your guns as a guild leader is an essential part to fair leading, so why do women tend to feel guilty when they need to play the bad cop role? I think sometimes it leads back to the whole old-fashion way of raising girls that they need to be kind and nice at all times. I was pretty much raised as a tom-boy but was still formed to be the “accommodating one” where as my brother was able to run around and act however he wanted towards people with disregard and it was seen as just being a boy. Now, because I don’t like to have people angry at me, I blame this on my mom, I tend to accommodate players who end up using me as a doormat because they know can. The only advice I can give to other women leading out there don’t do a Napaeae and let people wipe the mud off their feet on you.

Surround yourself with good people

I have had a total of 2 players who in my opinion had no respect for women ever recruited to my guild; it was not fun and even being in After Midnight for the time they were tried to cause dissention from within and usurpation. I am a big advocate of recruiting married couples, other women and players who have great respect for the females who play this game. Not because I want every player to respect me but because I find those players who have no problem with interacting with both sexes tend to be better guildies all around. Even in real life when I have met people who objectify women they tend to not have the same respect for everyone around them including men. If you want to build your guild around a group of players that work well with each other you need to continue to recruit respectful people. That axiom that your girlfriends tell you time and time again is true – find a man that treats his mother well, and he will most likely treat you well too.

Don’t tolerate being called names (or any of your other guildies being called names)

I loathe the B word. I have been called it at least once a month since I started playing the game either to my face or hearing it through the grape vine. As I said above I don’t do things that differently from other guild leaders out there, in fact I think sometimes I might be nicer than most; yet I still once in awhile get called nasty things for putting my foot down. If someone in your guild makes nasty comments relating to gender, race, financial status, sexuality etc, it’s time to cut to cord quick with a swift guild kick.

Finally the best piece of advice that was ever given to me was mind your own business; what you think of you and your work is what matters most. Ignore the nay sayers and be true to yourself and your goals and you can never go wrong.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Emptying the raid bottle...

Just a quick note to say, after a few burst bladders and horse voices from saying group 1, group 2, group 3, or group 2 heal, group 1 go get mana... After Midnight downed Vezax last night. I think it was the first time we went so long attempting a boss without a bio break but no one wanted to redo that trash!

Everyone was super focused and into it last night it really makes a guild leader proud. (As a single tear rolls down my cheek... that was for you Dovi.)

I promise I have another useful post coming shortly.

Friday, July 10, 2009

After Midnight the After Math

So I haven't written in a few days, that is mainly because I haven't had much time. Work has been crazy and the "behind the scenes" work Forth, the officers and I have been putting into the guild has been a long arduous but rewarding task.

When I last wrote we were trying to find ways to rebuild/revamp the guild while staying on our server, Uldaman. I have to say so far so good.

After much soul searching and discussions with the officers, we felt it was unfair not to outline what we expected of our raiders in specific during-raid rules. One day (usually farm days) we would let loose on vent and on progression days we would command silence. Those that have been raiding with us for a long time might have known the reasons but newer players might view that as bi-polar.

So we implemented much regimented and very straightforward rules and expectations, in writing and published on our website so all could see. Our goal is to make sure our players feel comfortable knowing the limits they have within our raiding environment and never have to be paranoid with not knowing what is expected of them.

We fully expected some players to not be happy with the new implementation and style of leading we were setting forth; in fact we had a couple of players leave outright the next night. Two with minimal drama, one with a slightly over the top post on our forums due to sitting for one night, only due to min/max reasons of setting up out raid and not agreeing with how we wanted to go about the changes in the guild.

It's hard for me to accept that you cannot please everyone, so the over the top posting was hard for me to objectively handle; mainly due to my personality and I'm sure something a lot of women struggle with in society in general. Gender issues within the game though will be something I will touch on in a later post.

In order to properly ease the guild into the new way of doing things, we held our regular monthly guild meeting on Wednesday but rather than having a complete open forum with any topic that came to mind at the time we asked for 15-20 minutes silence on vent while we went through the changes to be implemented. Then instead of a complete open forum, we had each class leader (and one officer for those classes that we do not have class leads for) take their teams into separate vent channels to discuss concerns without the GMs present. One by one Forth and myself "visited" each group, elaborating for anyone who had questions, asking players to voice their concerns and giving them a task of coming up with evaluation benchmarks (on specific boss fight and on training dummies) for their class for any future newcomers to the guild.

All in all it was a very positive experience. Forth and I were very aware there were people hesitant or unhappy after the meeting but were not willing to say so; but we also knew there were lots of people who felt more at ease and actually appreciated the direction. We also knew that some were waiting to see the outcome of our labour within the raid environment.

We ended the night with pulling everyone back into the ventrilo lobby and handed out promotions to initiates and instated our new raid leader we were looking for.

Thursday night was "show-time" so to speak. It was our first raid night after the guild meeting, with a new raid leader and new raid rules. After the whole gquit drama at the beginning of the raid, everyone seemed to fall into a comfortable rhythm; players were able to focus when needed, knew the limits of speaking in vent and joking around and were able to keep a comfortable medium doing so. Trash went faster, we one shotted bosses, people laughed, joked and had fun. It was nice to see the guild turning into a happy family again, albeit even for this one night and hoping for repeats. By buckling down, keeping a positive attitude, applying the new rules right away which corrected any (minor) problems last night evenly and without bias we were able to set ourselves up for a complete weekend of progression attempts on General Vezax with only spending 2 raid nights on farm content. This is something we have not been able to do since Ulduar came out.

I'm hoping for a repeat again tonight on the progression attempts. Our new raid-leader seems to have the calming "Aura of Command" (I love this term which is stolen from Matt of and I hope the guildies continue to respect him as under his delegation and organization we seemed to thrive last night.

So through the storm the guild seems to be finding their light, I guess change is not a bad thing after all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pruning the bad apples… How to go about it?

We’ve come at a quasi roadblock for After Midnight. Due to the way some of our core is used to raiding with a “laissez-faire” attitude we’re about to lose a handful of people. Because of the lack of “focus” of some of our raiders those that need the focus in order to play, lose it as well.

This raiding week has been horrendous. Not only because I think I caught the swine flu (there were 4 cases in my office alone over the past month), but because even though last week we were working on Mimiron (downed him) and had attempts on General Vezax by this time. We have wiped too many time this week on Hodir and I blame part of the reason to dps not reading strategies (again) and players who underperformed I’m sure because they were watching tv at the same time.

So what do we do? Uldaman is considered a medium pop server but in my and several other eyes it may as well be a low pop considering how everyone knows each other. Depending on what we do choose we can pull off a “pruning” in one of two ways, either it goes off without a hitch slowly and behind the scenes or we cut ties fast with those causing problems and suffer a month of drama like any other guild who seems to try to go back to basics to rebuild on this server.

There are a good handful of us who feel we won’t be able to recoup on this server and we’re thinking of a possible re-roll on a higher population server. After this week’s raids and the applicants that we have been getting from the server I’m starting to think having a guild transfer may be the best bet. However, this is our home. And people are asking us to get rid of the players who are not pulling their weight and rebuild on the server itself before we all jump ship.

Here’s what I am thinking of doing below.

Mama’s Clean Slate Ideas:

Reread and redo our raid rules.

I was looking over our raiding rules and although the requirements to raid are very clear I noticed our “during raid” rules are almost non-existent. I’m going to go back with a handful of players and set up reasonable raid rules to guide our raids by. For example, we have 3 players who disconnect constantly on fights which have sometimes wiped us since one is a tank and 2 are healers. We’ll be implementing the 3 disconnect rule. Disconnect 3 times on any boss fight and you will be replaced since being disconnected doesn’t help the raid much at all.

Enforce raid attendance

We have always been relaxed with our attendance rules which I think has come back and bitten us in the virtual ass. We’re now facing players having more time in the summer than anticipated. Usually players stop playing or reduce play time during the summer; we seem to have people coming back to the game and now have many players sitting on the sidelines.

Implement a 3 strike rule during raids

In reference to my first idea, 3 strikes for anything that detriments the raid, you’re out. No consumables? Haven’t read the strategy? Do that more than 3 times you’ll need to sit. I’m sure if players sit enough they will get the point and start coming prepared or focus up. If not, they’ll probably leave or we will ask them to leave.

Weed out the players causing distraction or problems

Unfortunately, we have some players who do distract other members while raiding. Although they might be able to focus and still talk, joke, watch tv etc., others can’t when they pay more attention to these people than the raid. If players can’t accept that they need to focus and keep silent just as much as everyone else, I think it’s time to remove them.

Also, After Midnight has a low tolerance for bad attitudes, or usually does. I think its time we confront players who are on the cusp of hitting that guild kick for attitude level and find out if they are truly happy here or just here cause they have no other place to go.

It’s going to be a long hard road but I think we’re going to be headed on the right path again soon to getting our guild be where we had originally intended it to be.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sex sells a little too well… My thoughts on recruiting

I used to be one of the best recruiters on our server. I say used to be because I have recently started to doubt that claim. I used to spend hours on end scouring recruitment threads, cross realm transfer requests, researching unguilded toons, promoting, etc. I love to recruit, so much so I think I should have gone into head hunting rather than marketing. Although I suppose my marketing background helped some.

After Midnight has been no exception to fuel my love; however this time around recruiting has been somewhat of a different beast.

We started off the guild as a focused raiding guild that has fun but still gets things done. I have been raiding with some of the players in this guild for almost as long as I have been playing the game. We are extremely comfortable with each other and due to this fact I believe this has made us into extremely crass individuals in game. Don’t get me wrong, we have our limits, however several of us are comfortable to have discussions out in guild chat that most would only have with your best friend over a bottle of wine. This is where recruiting for the guild became interesting.

I’m still coming across moments where I slap my hand against my forehead and say why didn’t we recruit this way in the first place for After Midnight’s “special” situation. Let me share with you what I learned.

Mama’s 5 rules to recruiting:

Know your focus and define it clearly

One of the biggest issues I have had deal with is changing how the guild is to appease everyone. After Midnight’s goal was in fact a semi-hardcore one. We wanted to down bosses and have our proverbial cake too while still being allowed to mess around. Unfortunately selling yourself as a focused raiding guild doesn’t go over well when recruits understand this to mean that during raids everyone brings their “A” game, mutes their mic and gets the job done.

After Midnight has become a special case as our members have become slightly bipolar in their wants for the guild and we have twisted and turned the guild to try to accommodate every change whether it be monthly, weekly or even daily. We have gone to complete horsing around during raids which tend to make them much longer in length, to complete silence on vent when members complained we’re not focused enough, back to a medium of minimal horsing around when those same members complained it wasn’t fun anymore which in turn lengthened the raid week once again. (Not to mention added to the number of wipes)

Ideally, what should have happened is we should have defined the guild clearly, recruited as such as a focused raiding guild and upheld the standards rather than bending and twisting to every member’s whim. In doing so, we would have entered a clear contract with everyone in our guild by keeping the promise of focused raiding with them complying or else face unfortunate consequences to keep the guild integrity.

Set reasonable standards then stick to them

If your goals are to only recruit players who are completely geared in Tier 8.5 to see the content you are currently doing stick to it and don’t deviate. That said you wouldn’t make such a demand of players if you were only starting out Naxxramas with your guild. Set your player demands early on and stick to them.

If you raid schedule requires your players to meet 50% raid attendance, enforce it. If players must be gemmed and enchanted properly to be considered for recruitment, require it 100% of the time.

If you set reasonable standards for your guild based on your guild’s status (casual, hardcore, pvp etc.) and server demand (low pop servers tend to have a more competitive player market than high pop) and you stay with them throughout your recruiting career you will be respected by your guildies and potential recruits alike. Deviate and you run the risk of seeming wishy washy or desperate depending on your situation.

Research your applicants

Never heard of the player you are about to recruit? Investigate. How many times have I run across a situation where I didn’t look into the guild background or server background of a potential recruit only to find out once recruited they were either a) a guild hopper, b) disliked by several members of the guild, c) trade chat spammer or d) drama queen. although not used that much anymore can sometimes give you a fair idea of where the toon you are thinking of recruiting has been.

Has the player applied to several guilds at once? Your server’s realm forums may have a “guild list” with their websites so you can check it out.

Are they coming from another guild? Talk to the guildies of that guild or better yet the Guild Master to get the 411. (This obviously might not be an option if the player is trying to be discreet but I’ve always felt sometimes it’s best to have the discussion with their GM to uphold better guild relations.)

In any case, a little digging and you might find yourself with a diamond in the rough or avoiding serious drama.

Don’t over recruit

One of the worse things to do to fresh applicants unless it’s outlined and expected from the outset is to sit on the sidelines night after night waiting for a chance at a raiding spot. I’ve been in situations where I have over recruited and had about 15 people sitting on the sidelines. People started dropping like flies because they felt they weren’t needed and applied to guilds that had a full time raiding spot for them. Unless you have detailed the fact that players need to work for their raid spot and the spot is not guaranteed, do not over recruit.

Class Balance; know what you need ahead of time

When we started After Midnight we looked at the amount of raiding toons we had and the amount we had for each spec and set our recruitment needs clearly on our website. Although Blizzard has been quoted as saying “bring the player not the class” it’s hard to have a successful raid with 10 paladins and 15 DKs. Ok maybe DKs are slightly over powered but hey even they have their raiding limits!

Knowing what classes bring which buffs to the table and building your raiding team accordingly is essential in a raiding guild pining for success. If your guild is more casual then Blizz’s cliché might be more up your ally but even then players don’t like having to compete with 10 others of their own class for gear especially if it’s done through /roll as some guilds do. The best way to build your guild is to have a good mix of all classes and specs. This way your raiding guild can min/max properly or your casual players won’t feel faceless in a sea of players with the same class.

For those of you building your raid roster by min/maxing buffs one of the best raid building tools I have seen comes from MMO champion:

This tool allows you to play around with the different classes/spec to build an optimal raid based on the buffs you need to maximize your raid’s potential. Don’t have that Shadow Priest in your guild for the + to hit? Your Boomkin friend can do the same thing.

And Mama’s unwritten (until now) sixth rule of recruiting don’t use the promise of hot dirty priests as a selling point to your guild. Even though they tell you they come for the focused raiding you’ll find very quickly your guild is full horny old perverted men who think they can get into your pants, for real.

Happy Hunting!

First to post in epic thread...

So I decided to do it. I figured hey, everyone has been why not me? So here I go, about to embarked on my "epic journey" through blogging by taking you through my journey of being a "chick" GM in the World of Warcraft.

So I figured I better start off by giving you a little background behind myself to start this thread out right.

My name is Rachel, also known as Napaeae to everyone in my guild and on my server of Uldaman. I have been playing for just shy of 4 years and have been GMing just a couple months shy of that. I have been holy since I started playing way back when and only recently have dabbled in the shadow specs since dual-specifications have come out with patch 3.1.

I originally GMed one of the largest casual guilds on Uldaman called the Elder Ones along with my husband for over 2 years during vanilla wow and part of the burning crusade. Around approximately that time my husband and I had a little surprise and found out I was pregnant. I had morning sickness to the extreme and the game made me too nauseous to play so my husband took over GM duties for awhile. We had two types of players in the Elder Ones, the casual players who just liked to level, quest and play alts, and the raiders. Sometime shortly after TBC started, we passed the Elder Ones off to a trusted friend and created a guild called Sufferance and took a semi-backseat role to leading the guild. Unfortunately Sufferance did not survive past much of Tier 5 content and fell apart while I was in the hospital giving birth on July 1st 2008 to my wonderful daughter named Caitlin.

After my return to the game and sitting in a guild with no one in it, (and feeling much better with baby outside of me!) I decided to start a casual PUG guild called Badges R US since there was really not much time left to TBC until the release of Wrath of the Lich King. Badges R US catered to players who didn't have a guild and wanted a community of players who just wanted to run anything from regular instances to T6 content. We hosted a community where players could sign up for completely PUGged raids. Week after week we had guilded, non-guilded, very experienced and not so experienced players come together and learn as a group through the content right up to Illidan.

By PUGging and networking, Badges R US had invited a lot of great players who, as a guild, wanted to pursue guild only raiding come the expansion. Badges R US closed its doors and reopened under the new name of After Midnight at the start of WotLK.

And that where we are now; We have cleared all 3.1 content except for OS with 3 drakes up, we’re working on General Vezax and have completed 1 hardmode by changing the order of Iron Council killings. I along with my assistant GM Forth (my husband has since taken a backseat to leading himself) deal with the day to day workings of After Midnight and work through any issues, lead raids, and generally act as information specialists for the guild.

My goal through this blog is to document how we lead, my experience with being a woman GM and the stigmas and issues that have been associated with it as well as showing my readers the female perspective to being a leader. I’m hoping to be able to let you into my world with my posts and possibly get some interviews going with other GMs to cover topics of interests to all guild leaders whether woman or man.

Happy hunting!