Guild Guide: Dealing with rival guilds
All you really want is for your guild to work. You want to have enough members to fulfill your basic goals, you want to have fun, you want to be known by other players as a good place to hang around. Also, you'd kind of like ponies, but on the whole your guild is a pretty positive place with simple goals.
Unfortunately, nothing can complicate simple goals as quickly as someone else having similar goals that involve you scurrying after the same limited resources.
Rivalry between guilds is always present to some extent; after all, in most games a character cannot be the member of four or five separate guilds at once. But full-blown guild rivalries are something else altogether, and they involve a careful balance of making sure that you're communicating with your rivals while keeping things light... or making sure you're in totally different arenas past a certain point.
Assessing your rivals
It can be said that you can know your character by the sorts of enemies you attract. Rivals are different. Rivals don't want to be better than you, they want to be you, just better at being you. Probably in a way that doesn't sound quite so creepy.
Most rival guilds come from one of two places: former members of your guild who want to do something different, and totally unrelated members who want to ease into the same niche you have. (Or already did ease into that niche and you're trying to fill that space, depending on timing.) Thus, you can learn a lot about the way others see your guild by seeing what your rivals do that's different from your own guild.
Generally speaking, the most encouraging rivalries come from situations where you aren't all that dissimilar. A former member goes on to found a "rival" guild that's also a small-group content guild, but you differ slightly over what nights you schedule events for and what sort of topics get discussed in guild chat. That's perfectly normal, and even the sort of thing that you want to encourage. It's not a failing on the part of your guild, it's just a difference of flavor; one person might want chocolate and another might prefer vanilla, but you're both eating ice cream.
More worrisome are guilds that advertise to be your guild but better. This often means that there's some issue with your guild as someone else perceives it, real or imagined, and you'll want to pay close attention to how that "better" manifests. If it manifests as letting the members be more dickish to one another or having a more hardline and unpleasant attitude toward progression, well, that "improvement" really isn't. At other times, you'll see a guild with a similar focus but less cliquish officers or more open membership, which may well speak to actual problems within the state of your guild.
Rivals who want to be your guild but with a different flavor are the sort of rivalries you want to encourage. Those that want to be your guild only better should prompt a bit of soul-searching and also aren't something you really want to traffic on.
If you've got two progression raiding guilds on your server, a friendly rivalry is a good thing. The key word there, if it weren't obvious, is friendly. You aren't trying to poach members from one another, you aren't in direct competition, you're two teams working internally to do well and externally to support one another. The other group is not your enemy here.
How do you encourage the rivalry? You work together. You share strategies. You support an open door. In other words, you treat the other guild much like a sister guild, just one without any formal connection to your group. You exchange jokes, you talk, you may even exchange members from time to time when someone seems to work better with the other guild than with your existing setup.
This might seem like a terrible way to deal with a rival, but the point here is that you're thinking about your guild's reputation. You don't just want to have your guild be the best, you want your guild to be exemplary, and that means also celebrating the idea that you might not be the best guild for everyone. By managing the rivalry as, well, a rivalry, you keep players interested and both guilds operating without a hitch.
If you really want a glowering, hate-filled rivalry, consider this: if you're pretty sure your guild is the better guild, you want it to be the one that's around the longest, yes? Which means, ideally, that you will eventually be absorbing the members of this other guild. Do you want the members of that other guild to despise your guild and think of you as awful people, or do you want a merge to seem natural and productive?
Shutting down rivalry
Of course, all of that assumes that you actually want to be rivals with this other guild. Sometimes you most decisively do not want that. Sometimes, in fact, it's clear that being rivals with this other guild is the worst possible thing you can do for your guild, due to your potential rivals being some flavor of unpleasant. So how do you stop that rivalry right off?
First and foremost, you start with denial. Yes, that seems counterproductive, but it's really not. You aren't in a rivalry with this other group; heck, you're not even considering this other group. You're focused on making sure that you're doing the best you possibly can. There's no way this is going to turn into a friendly matter of jabs back and forth, and you refuse to be the one who sinks to the level of swinging first.
Second, you figure out what spawned this would-be rival group. Remember how I mentioned earlier that you might look at your self-declared rivals and discover that they want to be you, but with something like "less cliquey officers"? Take a step back and evaluate that. Not just among your officer group, but among members and among those close to your guild. Step back and see if the "problems" that this new group is supposedly fixing are, in fact, problems that need to be fixed.
The ultimate goal here is to take the high road and let the would-be rivalry more or less roll off. This is hard to do, because under the circumstances the first instinct is to insist that your guild is already ideal and can do much better than any other guild. But sinking down also means implying that your rivals have touched a nerve along the way, that you really do see this other guild as a legitimate threat to your guild, and you're trying to fight back against their very existence.
No, let it go. Let your rivals talk about "beating" you and just continue onward without a thought given. It's not an act of defiance so much as not taking part in the would-be mudslinging well before it starts up, and it keeps the rivalry from ever growing beyond someone's idea of a rivalry.
Obviously, there are a lot of guilds who will coexist with your own, possibly even eyeing the same members, without ever being your rivals or even positioning themselves as such. But that doesn't change the fact that you will have rivals, and dealing with them calmly and appropriately will itself say a lot about your guild and how you handle conflicts.