Guild Guide: Basic Rules Guilds and Teams Should Lay Down

There are certain basic rules that every game group should figure out right from the get-go once they have a set focus and goal for the future.

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There are some rules that you cannot anticipate a need for in any gaming group.  You can't know ahead of time that you're going to have to deal with a member who is deeply offended by the word "trapezoid" or that there will be a new class of items in the game that reward you for taking screenshots of your fellow members after they've died.  So you'll have to come up with reasons and solutions on the fly while you're on the ground.  There are no ways around that.

But there are also issues that are going to come up time and again, things that you know will start debates.  The best part of forming or being granted authority in a guild is that you don't have to just stand there, deer-in-the-headlights style, until one of them comes along and starts a huge fight.  You can, in fact, step forward and do something about it.  You can lay down rules in advance.

As obvious as it seems, it's one of those things that doesn't get done all of the time.  So let's walk through some basic situations that you will almost certainly have to deal with.

Adult language

Very simple: is cursing allowed or not?  It sounds as basic as can be, and yet I see a lot of groups that either don't address it or stick with something as difficult to enforce as "no excessive cursing," which is the same as having no rule at all.  Rules are not about judging excess or appropriateness; they're about saying what is or is not permissible.

If cursing isn't all right, decide that early on.  That doesn't mean that cursing can or should carry an immediate penalty of getting tossed out on your rear, just that the rule is on the books that you aren't supposed to curse.  If it is, that's fine too.  But make a call.

Adult discussions

Similar to the last point, do you want to hear about bedroom conquests and the like or not?  There's no right answer, although if you're billing yourself as a family group it might be best to keep this one off of the "permitted" list.

Behavior toward other members

Even if your group's focus is just organizing casual League of Legends play, there are certain behaviors toward others that you consider unacceptable and others that you consider par for the course, in-game or out.  Maybe you consider trash-talk during a match to be completely normal, or maybe you think it emphasizes the reasons you formed a group in the first place.  In an MMO, maybe you have strict rules against undercutting another guild member's auctions.  That sort of thing.

Odds are near absolute that you will, at some point, have two members who are both perfectly behaved otherwise but really don't like one another.  As the person in charge of the group, you can clamp down on how they interact, or you can let them just fight it out.  There's no real right answer here, much as there might seem to be one; both can work out in the long term. But you do need to have rules in place ahead of time to make sure that things do not get out of hand.

Presence

I'm here, yes.  I forgot my guns, yes.  I'm doing my best.

For some groups, presence is immaterial.  People stop playing for a while, they come back, they leave again, they stay for ages, it's all the same.  Other groups have much stricter rules about when you have to be in-game at the bare minimum.

Both ways of dealing with matters produce different sorts of groups.  If you let people drop in or out whenever, then you've created an atmosphere where people will frequently leave for a while, but they'll also know that any time they come back they'll be welcomed.  Making a group with strict attendance requirements leads to a tighter bond, but it also means that when people leave they're not likely to come back.

If you're in a group that's trying to take on concentrated challenges, like a progression content guild or an eSports team, you almost certainly want hard rules about attendance.  How much time you want to give lapsed members is variable - three months without notice is a good middle-of-the-road answer, giving time for real life to happen without letting people vanish for years and then reappear.

Group resources

An MMO guild likely has a bank at the bare minimum.  Most online groups have some form of shared voice chat server in place.  Competitive teams will often have strategies and tech that other players just don't have access to, in general.  So who gets to use all of this?

The answer often is not as simple as "group members."  If you have shared resources, you have to take the time and ask yourself which members get access to them, what access is and is not appropriate, and so forth.  Maybe you want people to use them, but you don't want people using them for non-guild matters.  Or you don't care what gets taken so long as something gets replaced.  Some MMO guilds have dedicated quartermasters who decide what will and will not be distributed, while others throw open the larder doors.

Similarly, you need to make rules about puting things back, even if the rule is as simple as "toss something in wherever."  The reason for that is a bit more subtle.  Members who contribute a lot with the expectation that more contribution is a mark of pride will not be well-served to find out only after the fact that you have no rules in place to reward people who contribute more.

Extra-guild interactions

Walk the walk if you talk the talk.

Everyone has friends outside of their gaming group, especially in MMOs but also in games that support smaller groups.  Being on a Hearthstone team doesn't mean that you don't have other friends not on that team whom you'd occasionally like to play with.

You don't need to religiously police your members outside of the group, but you do need to lay down rules going both ways: what non-members can take from the group and what members aren't allowed to do.  It's perfectly reasonable, for example, to say that a member of your team can't be in ranked events with another team.  It's also perfectly reasonable to say that your guild will not bring non-guild members along for progression runs.  Or you can say that progression runs are not the guild's purview and bringing in outside people is fine.  Just make a call and stick with it.

Punishment

This is probably the least fun sort of rule to lay down, because who wants to deal with it right out of the gate?  But you still have to, because otherwise it's going to come down to the mood of the officer in charge and how much the officer likes the person being punished.  Making things fair and impartial is the goal here.

In MMOs, I've found that the best results come from having a three-strikes sort of rule.  One incident is a warning, two incidents is a final warning, the third busts the player in question down to a provisional rank as if they had just joined.  But exact enforcement is all on how harsh you want to be.  What matters most is that there is a rule, and it gets applied to everyone.

Actual application matters a lot here, and knowing the rules exist creates the impression of fairness.  I totally understand not wanting to think about it - you don't want to be cracking the whip as soon as people walk in the door.  But again, this issue will come up, and failing to consider it in advance is just asking for trouble when there are no rules on the books.  You want rules for leadership as much as for members, so that leaders aren't left trying to figure out the right punishment in five seconds with a confrontation between two normally good players.

You will have to deal with these situations.  Best lay down a rule in advance.

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Published Dec. 8th 2015

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