No matter what game you’re playing, you do not get to play it exclusively with your guild. Ever. There are going to be other people playing the game, some of whom you want to have a positive relationship with — and your guild needs to handle how you interface with others.
Of course, that also comes with the caveat that people who aren’t your guild are, well, not in your guild. Which means that you have to handle a different sort of interplay. You simultaneously have to make sure that you’re treating people who aren’t in your guild as important and relevant while at the same time not letting your actual guild feel less relevant. It’s a juggling act, in other words.
So let’s break this down into three major categories… after we determine the sorts of people you’ll be dealing with.
Who is this person to you?
Total strangers are people whom your guild interacts with based on more or less nothing. They’re random people tossed into your guild by queued content or other unplanned excursions. They’re people members meet out in the field of open-world games. They’re not people you have recruited or ever interacted closely with.
Associates are people your guild deals with infrequently, but steadily enough that you know who they are. They may be part of a sister guild or just someone who’s close friends with some officers through other means. Your guild as a whole sort of knows them, but not really.
Partners, in this case, are non-members who wind up in your guild space a lot. They’re the sort of people who make you ask why they aren’t actually with your guild — and while there’s often a very good reason, they’re a familiar presence. Though they have no actual ranks in your guild, they’re treated as almost a member.
Last but not least, former members are people who were part of your guild but aren’t any more. It’s important to consider why they’re former members rather than present members, and that’s going to inform the way you interact with them. If they left on positive terms, they can easily be akin to associates or partners; if they left on bad terms, there are other cans of worms to deal with.
Handling complaints and feedback
More often than not, you’re going to be getting this sort of feedback from total strangers. “Your guild member did X at our event,” or something similar. Someone you don’t know is going to accuse your guild member of being rude or otherwise violating a rule.
The first thing to do is to explain, calmly, whether or not what was done actually violates a rule of your guild. Guild members make an agreement to follow the rules of your guild, which is why I’ve mentioned in the past that you should have rules about behavior to outside members. However, if the guild member did something that was entirely valid but ruffled someone’s feathers, your only real recourse is to explain that to the (no doubt unhappy) victim.
Assuming that this is a violation of rules, thank the person and tell them that you’ll look into it. Follow up by talking with the player in question and explaining the complaint. You aren’t, hopefully, going to automatically side with your guild member just because they claim innocence; however, you’re also going to still take their version of events into account.
If you feel like there’s room enough to consider this an actual violation, you may as well treat it as one. Furthermore, if the person bringing the complaint is an associate or partner, you’ll probably be able to skip ahead a bit; you don’t need to know if the person leveling the complaint is trustworthy. More often than not, this is the sort of thing that merits a warning and a filing away until a later date. But if the member in question has several warnings for dealing with non-guild members the same way, it’s a sign that more serious steps should be taken.
Handling attendance at events
Events are a bit trickier simply because, at least in theory, events have limited space. Every non-guild member who attends is one more guild member who can’t, and that’s important to consider. But that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily wrong to have non-guild members about; it just means that you have to have a care for how you invite people.
When setting up events, designate if they are open to non-guild members and also emphasize whether signups are based on a first-come first-served basis or on a priority system. If it’s the former, whomever offers to show up first gets to come, and if that means guild members get pushed out, that’s on them. The latter case, however, lets you tailor the list based on who you want there first and foremost; just don’t claim a priority system if you’re going to be inviting non-guild members and not inviting members.
Obviously, you can’t punish people who fail to attend if they’re not part of your guild. As a result, it’s best to limit events like this to ones where you can go with a flexible number or cancel if you can’t get enough guild members; if you’re doing a World of Warcraft raid on Normal and you don’t have ten members sign up, don’t try to fill out the base with non-members. It’s also completely fair to prioritize former members (on good terms) and partners over associates.
If the non-members showing up are part of another guild, you may want to communicate with that guild’s officers first, just to coordinate matters. It might not be necessary (your guild might be a casual raiding group while they’re a PvP group), but it can be good to know that if you do need to hand out some punishment, the other guild has your back to some extent.
Handling progression content
This is where things can get very tricky. Progression content is something that, in theory, not everyone has done yet. It’s something that drops some really high-end rewards. And traditionally, it’s often been one of the bastions of guild content. A guild offers a group that can clear this content. But sometimes that winds up being just plain limiting, forcing people to choose between guilds and environments that they want to either follow friends or progress, not both.
The first step, then, is to make sure that any progression groups are operating on a priority system that is understood ahead of time and is entirely transparent. Once that’s established, the question has to be answered: for every non-guild member present, why should that person be there instead of another guild member?
At this point, you’re pretty much only discussing partners and former members on good terms. If you’re filling out with totally random members, it’s probably not really progression.
The other major thing to consider here is rewards, and there’s really one hard-and-fast rule you need to have in place here: If there’s something that’s being fought over by a member and a non-member, the member wins that fight. No matter what it is, the member gets the item. That ensures that members don’t feel as if they’re fighting against people who aren’t even in the guild to get rewards they need; they still might not get what they want, but at least it’s not because of someone who isn’t even part of the guild.
You’re always going to be dealing with non-guild members, but with careful management, this can actually be an asset. Just make sure that your priorities center around the people who are in your guild. Otherwise, those members are going to wonder why they’re supporting a guild without an interest in supporting them.