We have cleared everything on 10 man and just about everything on 25 man, so everyone in the guild agrees that 25 man hardmodes is the next natural target. We didn't have much trouble with Halfus (especially not after the nerf) and we managed with Chimaeron after a couple of (ok, many) wipes. Now we are currently struggling with Atramedes and have got him to 20% at best, when writing this (UPDATE, he is now downed). The problem with Atramedes is that he is easy, as compared to Chimaeron. The things you have to get right in that fight are fairly straighforward. In fact it is exactly like in normal mode, only you have adds and everything is less forgiving. Unlike Chimaeron, Atramedes is very little about split second decisions and perfect timing. And yet we fail. And right now we are having trouble deciding where to go next. Boot the failures asap, or work with the team we've got? People have different ideas.
This is far from the first time I've been in this kind of situation. This kind of issue was what got me to leave my old guild. I don't switch guilds lightly, the last 4 years I have only done so once, and that was when I thought there really was no other alternative, and I had struggled to get my old guild on their feet for months (or probably more). My current guild is nowhere near the situation my old guild was in, we still have plenty of time to adapt to the problem and actually do something about it. It got me thinking - how do we end up in these kind of situations and how can we avoid them in the future?
Plenty of good posts have been written about guild management and administrative issues that need to be handled for successful raiding. Alot hangs of course in having good, capable, enthusiastic officers (and guild leader) who make things happen. My points will cover an even more general area. Many of these things might sound obvious or easy, and they are in theory. In practice however, guilds often get trouble because they didn't practically manage to solve these points in a satisfactory manner.
Make clear goals
This is the very essence of a successful raiding guild. Whatever raid guild you decide to be, everything from 10 man casual "raid whenever we feel like it" to 25 man hard core "raid 4 times a week" need to make absolutely sure that everyone who raids know what kind of raid they're in.
- How big? 10 man or 25 man?
- How often? Whenever you can/feel like it or a set amount per week?
- What setup? How will you treat reserves or replacements?
- What kind of signing? Do you want people to be able to sign long in advance or is it ok to sign the same evening?
- How demanding? Come as you are or fully prepared? (Flasks, gear, tactics)
- How serious? Everyone tries their best or replacing "bad ones". Penalties or no penalties?
If you aim to start a raiding guild or start raiding with the guild you've already got, no matter if you've done it before and just were on a break, make sure you've set the above questions in stone before you get started. This doesn't mean at all that you can never change them (I'll get to that) but people need to know what they sign for. Alot of unhappy faces will be had if person X thinks he signs for a raid where everyone has to come fully prepared (and does so) and person Y thinks he signs for a raid where it is ok that he hasn't got the rep epic gloves yet. They will both stare at eachother with irritation in the end and you need to be able to point towards the guild rules to avoid this kind of trouble.
Equally important is to have a clear plan for how you will treat people who didn't get into the raid group for one reason or another. Will you treat all reserves equally, although there might be different reasons for why they didn't get to join (player not good enough, or too many of the same class for example)? If you have some kind of token system (epgp, dkp), will you award reserves the same as people in the raid? Will you rotate reserves?
Some people can't tell several days in advance if they will be able to make it or not. Some people really prefer it if they can plan the raid into their schedule as soon as possible. It could be immensely annoying for someone who has a family to plan for a raid one evening only to notice that he was put on reserve. Equally bad is it for someone who works a job with short notice changes, where they might have to change their raiding plans at last minute notice, if they don't have the leeway to do so.
Get enough players
This might sound obvious again but in practice it really isn't. Once you've decided what kind of raids you want to do, you have to find enough people to fill those types of raids. How many people you need depends completely on what raids you want to do. Even when accounting for 25 man vs 10 man raids there are more factors that play in. Will you replace people who are having a bad day? In that case you need replacements and therefore need a bigger raid group than just to be able to fill your 10/25 man group. Some people must need to be reserves, so that everyone currently in the raid know that if they can't perform, someone else will be ready to fill their slot. If you prefer raiding as far as you can get with your group no matter of personal performance, you need alot less people on the reserve list, actually it might even be better to have as few people there as possible, or have some kind of system for rotating people.
Few things can lower peoples morales as much as raids that are cancelled due to lack of people, either it is pure amounts or lack of skilled people. Make sure you have a good foundation, and that you know how much you can count on everyone to sign, so that you know approximately how many people you have for each run.
Have patience, but not too much patience
Few guilds, not even the really leet ones, will replace someone for any mistake. Everyone does mistakes, and everyone needs practice and to have tried the fight some, before they can get it right. Even if you are in a guild who have decided to not give people too many chances, it's not always a good thing to replace someone who might have got a feel for things with someone who has to learn it all over, or get "warmed up". On the other hand, few guild get very far if they accept anything from their raiders. This is especially true in current content. Even if you have decided what kind of demands you're putting on the raid, in terms of gear/consumables/skills/knowledge, you need to have a plan for which mistakes to point out, and which are less of a problem. This too depends alot on the people you raid with. Some people find it ok that the raid leaders yells about every little thing, some people will only perform worse if you point out even near to meaningless mistakes. Your (as a guild and as a raid leader) level of patience too is something you have to make clear before you start raiding.
Like I said, nothing has to be definitive. If you decide that your guild is ready to start a new path, or simply has to change to adapt to a new situation, make sure everyone knows about the changes and what they will mean. It is basically point one (Make Clear Goals) all over again. Just because you've been clear about the initial plans, doesn't mean you should stop being absolutely clear about any ongoing or actual changes to these plans. I have seen alot of times where a guild has one goal, officers/guild leader/raid leader decides to change those goals (which is totally ok in itself) but doesn't throuroughly communicate what these changes will mean to the rest of the raiders. Not only is there a chance that not everyone agrees with the changes, as soon as people start having different ideas about what the goal of the raiding is, you will have a foundation for arguments.
Treat everyone equally
It is so extremely easy to slip, when it comes to treating everyone equally. Yet there are few things that can bring more problems to a guild than when people don't feel like they are being treated fairly. There are many areas in which this can occur, and unfortunately this happens even if you are absolutely clear about the rules and even, probably, if you are 100% fair in your treatment of all the raiders. But every measurement taken to avoid unfair treatment will save you a whole lot of trouble. People who are being set on reserve are one big area in which this problem can arise. Make sure they know exactly why they are reserves and how they can change that in the future (which depends on why they were reserves of course).
The biggest reason problems like these arise at all, are rarely because of new players who join the guild. It is most often old players who haven't adapted to new content, but who presume they will be treated the same way as always. New players who might just see "a slacker who for some reason still get to be treated like the rest of us" will of course be annoyed. Make sure that being an old member, officer or anything really, won't exclude you from the rules. If your rules say that you will replace someone who is playing badly, this must include everyone in the raid (unless you have certain rules for certain members and everyone is ok with that). I have personally been affected by this when everyone was expected to use TS to communicate through raids, except one person who didn't have to because she "didn't like to talk on TS". I have written a whole post on this which I might post some day, but needless to say it was very confusing for everyone in the raid when someone got this kind of special treatment just because she was an old guild member.
It will be extremely difficult, and one could question if it is at all completely possible, but if you manage to get the above things under control, you are a big step closer to successful raiding!