Back in 2004 House Stalwart was born out of a bunch of friends getting together and planning a community for the launch of the newest up and coming MMO… the World of Warcraft. Over those years we’ve had a somewhat bumpy and often storied past, but at the core the guild remained based on a few core tenets and a shared sense of ethics. It was a set of values that spanned from game to game, and some of my proudest moments were when one of my random guild members would do something awesome out in the world… and news of it would get back to me. I had built a really awesome thing, and people were happy in it.
The problem was that at the time I was not really happy in the game any longer. The yoke of leadership was chafing, and towards the tail end of Wrath of the Lich King, the guild pretty much went on autopilot. With the release of Cataclysm we went through a lot of major changes, as the shift of focus went away from a non guild based raid, to actually raiding as a guild. In the process we gobbled up four or five different guilds that had been feeding the Duranub Raiding Company. As a result of this upheaval was a lot of social strife, as various groups that were not entirely used to sharing the same guild had to cohabitate.
As this happened I got more distant myself, because I simply was not enjoying the game anymore. When I got into the beta of a game called Rift I grabbed on with both hands, and tried my damnedest to recreate the magic of House Stalwart over there as well. There was a big leaving as folks flaked off to join me in Rift. It didn’t last of course, but it was enough to pull a good number of people away form the WoW guild. When Star Wars the Old Republic released another big chunk of players flaked away, and each time something new came out the cycle would happen again. I had set the events in motion and it had left the guild in a state of chaos.
In many ways House Stalwart was somewhat of a failed state when I returned for my brief stint during the launch of Mists of Pandaria. Guild chat was deathly quiet, there was a significant fracture in the guild forming that I talked about the other day, and as a whole the entire place was filled with people that did not know who I was. The number of things I would need to do to fix what was wrong with the guild just felt staggering. I did a few minor adjustments, but for the most part I assumed that since the guild was running itself, that this must be what the players had come to expect. The place no longer felt like home, so after a few months of personally getting bored with WoW again… I left.
When I came back recently something had changed, either in me or in the guild itself. I saw a glimmer of the greatness we once had. Additionally I saw a lot of problems that I thought could be fixed. I was reluctant to take back the yoke of leadership, because quite simply I was not sure if I would be around for long. I expected this stint in the game to go much like the last, with me getting tired of it all and going elsewhere. I had daily conversations with Rylacus the steward I had placed over the guild after my return during Pandaria, and almost always they ended up with some discussion of me taking back the leadership. To be truthful when he handed back the highest rank on Monday I was still very reluctant to do so.
When Rylacus agreed to take over, it was to keep the lights on and things moving forward. We had an agreement that if any of the heavy lifting needed to be done, or any drama arose that it would be me that dealt with it. Over the year of him at the helm, he did a phenomenal job of maintaining the status quo and keeping the guild moving forward. I would honestly say that the guild itself experienced a bit of a renaissance with his hands off approach, and we are more active now than I have seen in years. However as a guild on autopilot for over two years, there has also been a lot of discord and resentment that had set in.
The other night a long time guild member sent me a tell in game and wanted to talk to me, as the founder about the guild policies. He said that he wondered about the recruitment policy, and whether or not we ever looked back and reflected upon whether or not an invite was a good one. I spouted off the well rehearsed lines I have always said, but as I was saying them… I realized that no really we did not any more. Then he hit me with a statement that cut through to my heart like a razor. He wanted to talk to me about the “falling guild standards”, and I guess I had realized this was happening but until he came to me and talked to me about it… I was in a bit of a state of denial. Things were in fact far worse than I had let myself believe.
In particularly a lot of the recent strife has centered around a recent invite, the nephew of a long time member. Generally what happens in this case is that I bring up the issue with the sponsor, and if they cannot deal with it we remove the person from the guild. I had gotten lax to be honest, and without that guild master tag… I imagined that it is no longer my duty to police the guild. The reason why I took up the tag in the first place all those years ago, is because no one else was going to create the type of guild I wanted to exist in. As I sat there over the weekend, I realized that once again… no one was going to step in to fix the wrongs in the guild if I did not step up and do it myself.
After much soul searching, I accepted the guild leadership of House Stalwart in World of Warcraft on Monday night. I had originally intended to ease my reforms into the guild, but last night things reached a crescendo ending with the quitting of a long time member. I managed to talk the member back from the brink and they rejoined… but as a result my first act was to lock down a few of the functions in the guild at least temporarily, and to remove the most negative of the influences from the guild. Over the coming weeks I will be identifying every single one of our 869 current members. I want to know who they are, where they came from, who they are connected to… and most importantly if they are a positive influence in the guild.
I had already been working hard with mixed results on trying to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, but I feel like there is a lot more work to be done on that front. I am trying to exist in both worlds and get the two sides talking and interacting regularly… and in some ways this is working, but in others… there is still a lot of resentment to work through. When I kicked the questionable member from the guild last night, I had a chorus of private messages thanking me. Many of the members simply thought that no one cared about that sort of thing anymore. No one had been complaining about anything to myself or Rylacus until that one brave member stood up and said “this is a problem” and shook me back to reality.
My ultimate hope is that we can turn the tide and bring back House Stalwart to its glory days. The chapters in the various other games that I have founded have clung tightly to the original tenets, but the original guild strayed from the path. My biggest hope is that in writing this, and reaching out to the members… is that they now know that I do care, and I do want things to be better. I want players to interact and communicate regularly filling my screen with happy green spam. I think last night I took the first steps along a long path that will usher several positive changes. I hope that folks now realize that my door is always open, and if they have any issue… be it game related or otherwise that they can talk to me at any time.
We used to jokingly call ourselves the “Little Guild that Could”, and over the years that “Little” part changed drastically, but I feel that spirit remained in place. It felt like as a whole we were pulling towards some shared goal. This is the magic that I want to revitalize in the guild, the fact that we are not just a tag to wear over our heads but instead a large extended family. This tapestry is woven out of so many different personalities and play styles… but together we have always been something more. I am back, because I love these people and I have missed them. I want to be the leader I used to be, the leader they deserve. I played WoW for over 7 years without fail… and after two years of wandering around nomadic… I have simply gotten tired of all the jumping. I feel like I have come home, but there is going to be a lot of work to return the guild to the home I want it to be for us all.