Tuesday, November 2, 2010

About Vortex: The Structure of a 10-man Guild

Along the vein of guild management, there've been a few questions about how Vortex is run. As many players look to create 10-man guilds in Cataclysm, knowing what worked and what didn't for a 10-man guild is pretty useful information, so I'd like to share what we've done.

As a caveat, the format used for Vortex isn't for everyone: it's just what we have found to work for us. To better understand what it's like to be a 10-man guild, I will point back to my April post about what 10-strict is like, and how the raiding changes in Cataclysm will impact 10 man guilds.


Vortex formed shortly before WotLK's release by a group of gaming buddies who'd raided with each other before. Most of the founding raiders had had their hand at raid leading and, in many cases, officership and guild leadership before, stretching back into 40 man raids and across other games. Our decision for 10-strict was based dominantly on the smaller number of raiders we would have to manage, as we were rather burnt out from leading larger guilds.

We compiled what we liked and didn't like about our past guilds and looked to guilds we respected to see what we could take away from them for our own charter. Very little of our guild policy has altered since its inception two years ago, and we've steadily kept raiding from Naxx to Ulduar to ToC to ICC, until we ran out of content with our kill of hardmode Lich King, a rare kill for a purely ten-man guild. Our raiders are now preparing for Cataclysm, eager to see Vortex enter a new expansion.


The guild leader and two officers form a system of checks and balances with each other. We three have equal footing and yell and scream at each other when necessary. If we're torn on an issue, we use a majority two-on-one vote to deal with major decisions, including whether one of us was out of line on something (and to get after each other). These three leaders handle the bulk of running the guild, and together discuss any major changes to guild policies or personnel conflicts that need mediation. They also keep a finger on the pulse of the guild, both current and looking to the near future as raiders may have conflicts of interest that may require eventual recruitment and roster changes. And, so far, we've survived each other for 2 years :)

Officer duties include website/ventrilo administration, scheduling, raid leading, PR (news, forums, videos, blogs... *cough*), recruitment organization, bank maintenance, conflict mitigation (including both head-knocking and more delicate intervention), strategy research and discussion prompts, log hosting and review, policy review, attendance tracking, and more that I can't think of right now.

Once major policy topics have been discussed by the officers, they are tossed out to the rest of the guild (if necessary) for further discussion and ideas. We prefer having a transparent leadership and make efforts to hear out everyone's perspective on something, and explain our decisions and reasoning.

Vortex Code of Conduct:

We'd seen enough drama eat away at other guilds and our own sanity; drama drove our leadership to all quit the game at the end of BC before we formed Vortex. The very first thing we wrote up, beyond our raid roster outline, was a code of conduct we would expect every member of the guild to adhere themselves to while wearing our tag. It has resulted in a very good public image for our guild, though we have had to part ways with a few former members due to their odd wish to troll trade chat.

The gist of our code of conduct is such:
  1. If you have our tag, you are representing our guild. Please act as a representative when in pugs, public chat, forums, etc. This means no trolling trade chat or general ass-hattery that would reflect back on the rest of the guild.
  2. You are required to attend raids with the best possible enchants, gems, potions, and food that you can. This is expected of offspec, as well; alts and casuals get some leniency when they fill in, but we do push towards proper gear maintenance.
  3. You are expected to help other guild members in farming mats for resist gear and contribute to the guild bank when possible. With a small guild, everyone needs to pitch in. In return, we are able to offer guild repairs on progression fights, as well as stockpile consumables and materials for the whole guild to use (including alts and casuals).
  4. You are expected to treat guild members with respect. Even those that you do not particularly like. I hate that Scythe guy ;) On a real note, though, this is an important part of surviving a small guild community. We have had guild members who did not get along (or have simply butted heads over something) and it is so easy to read against the grain in text. Maintaining civility is a huge help in solving conflicts.
  5. You are required to adhere to the guilds "no drama" policy. See below.

No-Drama Policy:

Few people will argue that drama kills guilds, so we have instituted a no-drama policy. Anyone found to be causing drama that creates rifts within the guild or damages our reputation will be warned and potentially removed from the guild at the discretion of the officers. This does not mean you cannot disagree with each other nor does everyone need to get along all the time. What this means is that you must be conscious of your actions and be responsible for them. This does not mean you cannot discuss heated topics on the forums but there are right ways to go about things. We are adults. Please try to resolve problems with the person you are having a problem with. If that fails or is too uncomfortable, speak to an officer; if that fails then perhaps it would be time to take it to the forums. Think with your brain, not with your anger.

This is our take-a-chill-pill policy. Also, we consider our under-18's to be adults: it's a matter of maturity, not age :) This policy has given us a good outline for handling conflicts in the guild.

Raid Roster

Now we're getting into the more functional aspects of 10man raiding. Vortex has run with a 13-14 person roster, fluctuating based on class needs and current raiders' available attendance, as well as the presence of exceptional applicants we just couldn't turn away.
  • 2 main tanks. 2 offspec tanks.
  • 3-4 main healers. 2+ offspec healers.
  • 8 DPS, with a gamut of offspecs.
We have required all of our raiders, even pure DPS classes, to keep up an offspec for the purposes of composition flexibility. In cases of hybrids, we highly prefer that each spec fill a different role, rather than dps/dps or healer/healer, though some fights have required exceptions (particularly in the case of holy vs disc).

For the most part, each of our raiders fills a main, unique spec, with some overlap of dualspecs. This gives our raids a necessary flexibility to adapt to fights, and we have certainly made use of it: as recent examples, our first Sindragosa kill had the usually-resto druid as an offtank in cat spec, and our holy priest was shadow for our HLK kill. Whenever we received an application for a class/spec we already had, it took some intense discussion to determine if we could feasibly accept the player in their chosen class/role. Of course, our roster space also meant we did not have every class present: rogues in particular are something we've run without, as well as enhancement shaman and DPS warriors, in spite of past attempts to recruit them.

Rotations are used to allow everyone a chance to play. Rotation applies to everyone, though our two tanks are rotated relatively infrequently. Rotation is based on fight need (best group composition to get a new kill), gear/achievement need, showing up on time, and, when on a farm run and all else is equal, just rotating between wings/bosses to give everyone a chance to play.


In such a small guild, recruitment is weighed in on by all of the raiders. All of our raiders will read through applications and put their 2 cents in (or more) in a private guild forum, and based on the discussion and general yay/nay will an applicant be able to continue on to interviews and possible test runs. We have some very well-read guild members who will write essays on an applicant; we also have a very blunt interrogation squad who will question gear choices and talents and guild history. We take our recruitment very seriously, because once you're in, you're in, and we're relying on you to then uphold our guild tag and coordinate with the rest of us in our raids.

You can check out our application here. It is long, and we expect good answers from our applicants. It covers everything from gear maintenance, spec, interface care, personality, where you're coming from, goals, hopes, dreams, and general fit into the guild's community. As a note: we do not recruit for "the bench," nor do we accept applications for casual ranks. All of our casuals are of the "friends and family" variety and follow no formal recruitment process; they are simply reliant upon officer approval.

During all parts of the process, every raider has an opportunity to speak their opinion. Final votes on applications are done among all the raiders; they don't always choose to exercise that right, but they have it if they wish to use it. All applications are archived in a hidden underground bunker so no one has to see the trauma their application went through before being accepted. ;)


We choose to raid 3 nights per week, with a 66% attendance requirement (2 out of 3 raids). Most of our raiders are available all 3 nights, though we all enjoy or need a break every now and again, and some have class or work; we also allow exceptions for short vacations.

We expect all raiders to show up to every raid, unless they inform us otherwise. This is contrary to "sign up sheets" used by other guilds, where you don't have to show up unless you say you'll be there, which often caused problems when the "slackers" didn't want to go on a progression wipe-night or they finished getting all the gear they wanted. Instead, our raiders post if they CAN'T make it, as it's assumed they will be present otherwise. This has its obvious difficulties if a member looses power or internet, but that's no different than the sign-up method, and many of our raiders have exchanged phone numbers to combat this.

Those who dip below this attendance requirement for an extended period of time are called into question. We have had to ask others to either step it up, or step back from being a raider.

Loot Council

We officially use a loot council as our loot system. We have NEVER used it, though: there has never been a time when we've had to put together a tribunal of some sort to decide which raider should get a piece of loot. This is due to a couple things:
  • Small raid size. There are fewer people to compete with for drops.
  • Lack of greed. "It will drop again." In general, our raiders view loot as a means to an end, rather than the goal: they wouldn't've chosen 10-strict in WotLK otherwise, where the best loot they can get is iLevel 264 (compared to the 277 in 25mans).
Usually a quick discussion will settle things, if not a random /roll. "It's a huge upgrade for me," or "Eh, it's a sidegrade," or "Eh, I don't really care" are the most common phrases we toss around during loot time, along with "She's pulling trash, let's go," "Oops, I moonfired the trash," and "OMG I'm just going to shove this in your bag!" (aka "BLATANT ML POWER ABUSE!") or "If you want it, get it from [the disenchanter]" from the master looter.

The majority of our loot disagreements take the form of "You take it." "No, you take it." "It's better for you, you should have it." "Nah, it's not that big an upgrade, you can have it."


Rankings are not something we actively strive to achieve. We are proud of our accomplishments, but getting there first is not our driving goal. Just getting there, downing the content and overcoming the challenge it presents us (without beating our heads against the wall blindly): that is our goal.

For most of the expansion, we bounced around world ranks 30-15, but caught up in the last year of the expansion as other guilds began to fall apart and give up on HLK and his understudies, H-Sindy and H-Put. We won our spot more through persistence and strategical flexibility than speed. We also chose to play to the ideal of 10-strict: we disallowed all members from raiding any 25 mans once they joined us, even if they already had the achievements from their previous guilds. This did mean that our members' alts were often forced into side guilds for pugging, but it kept us on the strict charts.

We never expected to end up in the top 2 in the world for progression. I think it would be folly for us to think we can hold onto it in Cataclysm without making some severe changes to our raiding schedule, however: we just don't raid often enough. We have our pride and we push ourselves to be our best, but we aren't insane :)


This is the first expansion change we'll be riding as Vortex, but I'm not overly concerned about it. We've been discussing what each member is interested in doing, as some have been considering character swaps, and laying on the expectation that everyone put effort into leveling and playing together as a guild until we are raiding again at 85. It is, however, the first time many of us have run out of content in an expansion, so we've been trying to find things to do to keep us occupied without stretching our sanity.

I look forward to seeing the 10-man raiding scene adapt to the changes Cataclysm is bringing. To everyone that is working now to build their own 10-man guild, I wish you luck, and I hope that our policies, experiences, and ideas may be of benefit to you as you build your own guild.


Jen said...

That sounds like an awesome guild to be in... and I'm happy to say it sounds a lot like mine! To a scary degree actually - except for the loot council (we use DKP), this could be a description of Soulbound. We're younger, just 6 months old, but I hope we make it to 2 years.

Good luck in Cataclysm! If you managed to live through heroic Lich King (the fight and the stress), I'm sure you can do anything now :D

Kae said...

Interesting that you use DKP, I hadn't expected to see that with a 10-man guild :)

Good luck to Soulbound as well; hopefully you'll be able to get HLK yourself before Deathwing flies over! Are you still working on him?

(Also, do you get shark attacks in gchat? :D )

Jen said...

Is DKP unusual for 10-man guilds? We never considered anything else, I've used it all my WoW-life and it feels the fairest to me. In an ideal world we could just use common sense, but we have had the odd loot whore and I think DKP is very good for rewarding people who show up. We generally run into the "no, YOU take it" issue, but I think having points makes people feel like their raiding is getting them something tangible (and it stops the people who only show up for farm night from getting too much stuff).

Loot council is a can of worms to me, I think it's very time consuming and error prone (I have no idea what other people's BiS gear is), so it's last on my list of potential systems. Very, very rarely we'll tell someone they can't have an item because it's obviously not for them - warlock with Abracadaver rolling on Mag'hari against a healer - but that's happened just a handful of times.

We're on a raiding break right now, pretty much (just normals). We stopped in September after we got our wyrms, and a couple of the raiders needed a break due to burnout/real life. With the players we have available now there's no way we'll kill H Sindi again, so we won't even see H LK. I don't mind it really - the wyrm was my ultimate goal this expansion and I'm happy with the holiday. I get to finally sleep! :D (And I'm glad we're giving my RL a break too, she was really stressed out for the last days of raiding and I don't want to lose her because of that.)

Our guild chat is shark free... but it's full of inappropriate flirting (usually the guys among themselves! and they're all straight except for one), teasing and "that's what she said". Today we had a South African gazelle that ended up in someone's plate...

Beranabus said...

Even though loot council is our official loot method, our looting mostly comprises of "you take this, no U, oh ok let's just roll". Occasionally we use "loot master poragative" which is where our LM just throws random stuff into random bags. Sounds fun, eh?


Alyae said...

Well... The way our look council would work if we ever had to use it is this:

Do a random in raid and find some raiders, At least one officer, and the GM go into a separate vent channel.
The GM is usually silent, and a tie breaker unless they are designated one of the officers, then the other officer plays GM role.

The ML asks for tells on the item. With those tells a person can say "Best in slot" or whatever comment they want to make about the loot. Some cases they might say.. "if so and so wants it i pass."

The ML then provides the information to the loot council via Tells.
The council takes into consideration attendance, performance, degree of upgrade, and how much loot the person has gotten in say a month's time in relation to others in on the item.

(We tracked loot using a DKP system, but without any dkp points, just informational only. Same with attendance.)

Once all factors are considered, then council votes. Majority wins. Ties are broken by the GM or (Acting gm).

At that time the council disbands and loot is distributed.

Back in the day we'd random for the raider and officer spots at the start of the raid to save time later.

This keeps the council kosher. Any favoritism would even out over time, especially since in the council system we would use, a loot whore could never exist since they could never get loot over someone else all things being equal, if they have a lot more loot that month then someone else.

In a 25 man it worked very well for us, even if it did take some time. Keep in mind, that loot council can take place while trash is being pulled. Much like our loot discussions are today. Only person that needs to stay with the body is the ML.

Theladas said...

Vanq tokens are my favorite loot to see:

"Damnit... All right guys, who wants it? Bus? How's your Cat(third kit) gear looking?"
"All set."
"Hmm... Kae, do you need Boomk-"
"Uh... Calla! Clearly, mages need more than one kit, right? Right. Enjoy."
"Wait, what?"

'tis super chill. When more than one person does find an item to be a legitimate upgrade, we are surprisingly good at backing off. It truly does boil down to, "No, you can have it; it's okay." As for those caster trinkets and other highly-desirables, /roll takes the day. It's so different from what I used to that I'm amazed, and happily so, to be a part of it.

My only complaint with Vortex is our roster limit. We've had a couple of really excellent applicants come along that, despite doing everything they could, simply couldn't fit the narrow opening we had. And, as stated, we don't recruit for the sidelines - that really wouldn't be fair to anyone.

But then, I wouldn't have it any other way. I know why we have the limit, and it really does wonders for keeping everyone active, engaged, but not so pressured to attend every raid because there's absolutely no one to cover the spot. More people would just saturate the roster, and any fewer would pressure a lot of key roles (tanks, healers) to have 100% attendance or force raids to be canceled. I'm just sympathetic to those we can't take on, especially when they play one (or both) of their roles with such polish.

PS: You may want to remind Kuch "Do not LifeGrip me into the fire." Otherwise, the raid is totally getting s'mores when you pop ToL CD.

Kae said...

I have to inspect Kuchki and direct loot towards her, otherwise she turns everything down and never gets any upgrades :( Silly priest!

I found DKP to take just as long as loot councils in similar raid sizes. All the bid-wars, checking DKP totals, then having to tally things and keep track of what went where for how much... my hubby still has an old notebook from MC/BWL/AQ40 days with lists and lists and lists of loot. Not sure if he has the BC lists. Addons helped, but only so far, and then people would stockpile their DKP for one major item and blow it all, and new players to the guild wearing a blue would be out of luck when someone decided they wanted what, to them, was a sidegrade. Headache.

DKP was blindly methodical. Loot Council *can* be corrupted, but doesn't have to be. Our current system of just sharing and shoving loot at each other is easiest, for us, though :D

(RE: vanq tokens... no bag space for a fourth spec set, kthnxbai)

TheGrumpyElf said...

Thanks for the educational post. I think it opened my eyes to a few things I missed when thinking about the future.

A lot of that sounds like our core already. Just wish we could get more then 7 dependable people. That is always the hard part.

Gaia said...

Great read! I have lots of small comments and questions about various parts but don't want to drop a novel in your comments section. Sounds like both of our guilds are headed in the same direction but coming from different histories and backgrounds. Same general loot practices and raiding policies though. I would never raid any other way again myself.

Jen said...

I love to watch bidding wars, they're exciting :D And everything else was done with an addon, all the master looter had to do was enter the winning bid and then upload the data to the site. The addon could even whisper you your DKP so you wouldn't have to check the site for it.

As for a veteran stockpiling their DKP... it's their right for being there at every raid. But if they bid for a sidegrade a few people would point out that someone else needs it more. Except one person (said warlock bidding on a healer item, who thankfully isn't a core raider), everyone else has a big dose of common sense.

Beruthiel said...

This was a great read Kae! Thanks for sharing it :)

Interestingly enough - you guys run things very similarly to how we run things, which I found intriguing!

I know people say that part of what makes 10 mans so lovely is that it's easier to wrangle 10 people together than 25. But I've often wondered how much truth there really is to that. I'm curious to know what your opinion on it is, do you think that statement is true? Even if it is - do you think that there are other challenges (attendance, etc) that make facets of running a 10 man raid team perhaps more challenging than a 25 man team?

Kae said...

I fervently believe in the statement that 10 are easier to wrangle than 25 :) 25, of course, are easier than 40... I've helped run guilds in all 3 sizes, and found it significantly less work to handle 10 (well, 14 on the roster). Fewer cliques, fewer conflicts, fewer to recruit, and much easier to keep track of things like gear, specs, skill progression, etc... it boils down to being able to either devote more time to each individual raider, or just putting less of a time-commitment on the leadership team since they don't have so many raiders to keep track of :)

Similarly, I find it easier to teach a small group of kids than I do a large group. Larger groups are not as personal, so I struggle with keeping all of their attention focused on the task (or making sure they all understand) without breaking them into smaller groups with their own leaders... officers, as it were. Ironically, my camp is paring down its class sizes to 10 this next year.

As for attendance, I think it's proportional. With 13-14, we have room to have a few missing; tanks are the biggest limiting factor, but that's partially due to our class distribution (lots of ranged = few tank offspecs). On major holidays, we might have to cancel a raid, which happens to 25's, too. Sometimes luck has us with only 8 or 9 available, but we often fill those spots with our casuals or even a pugger (we've recruited that way, actually...)

What has been harder is the raid makeup, balancing to maximize buffs and class abilities. The 4.0 changes ultimately made that less of a problem than it was, but there will still be the ranged vs melee balance and their respective buffs. You just can't fit all of the classes and specs into 10 slots :(

Kae said...

Oh, and loot distribution. We've never had to use our loot council, nor do we have to keep up with DKP. I think having such a small raid contributes greatly to our ease of throwing gear around! Loot in itself has created officers in other guilds whose sole responsibility is managing it... and we just throw it around like it's a Happy Fun Rock.


Unknown said...

Shouldn't your drama policy state "MOST people would argue that drama kills guilds"?

Kae said...

?? "Few people will argue that drama kills guilds" is grammatically sound. Argue vs agree, makes sense to me.

Gunter said...

I have run a 10 man guild for most of WotLK. Final Element on Eonar US. Yours' is the first guild I've seen that uses a similar raid spot selection policy as my guild. I hate having people benched for the entire night so we rotate people per-boss or per-wing depending on the content. On progression it may add a little extra time because of rotating people in, but in the long run it has worked really well for us. You have to have unselfish raiders for that system to work though. Luckily, we do in my guild and it sounds like you do in yours as well.

We recently started working on HM LK after getting the drakes for our 12 core raiders. Unfortunately, myself and our other RL need a break so it looks like we won't be getting that achievement before Cata. That's ok though. The drakes were my main goal for ICC and we've accomplished that.

Kae said...

Congrats on your drakes, though! They are in themselves a huge accomplishment, and one that will look cool flying over Azeroth come December :)

Nefernet said...

That was a great read (along with your post about beating HLK as a guild).

We are, with my friends, in the process of building a 10-man guild for Cataclysm. I found a lot of your guild in ours : people tired of leading 25-man raids, a tight group, hardcore goals with limited schedule.

Like you, we choose 3 officers for 12-15 raiders. Our forums and gchat are very active, as is our TS. Our guild rules are very long and explain very precisely what we want from our guildies : an applicant really have to be dedicated to join. We make no concession about the preparations for raiding : enchants/gems, tactics and videos, be on time, sign up on the calendar, know your role as a class/spec for the different fights, take part in the strategy's discussion. We are less strict with rerolls, casuals and pick-up but expect them not to hinder us.

We also have a "no trade chat trash" rule, including trolling the official forums with our tag. This rule was hard for some guildies who love word fights over a forum, but it was for their own good... :D

And about loot system, we choose a DKP named Shroud Loot System, where an item you really want costs you half your points, a lesser upgrade (or no competition) cost a fixed minimum price. If several people use the minimum bid, we roll, that add a bit of random into the looting process that some raiders like. We reset the points at each new content patch, that way, everyone is on the same line for new loots. At the moment, we use free rolls with no ML as it's old content and no one really needs upgrades... We see it more a way to balance who gets loot because it's not easy to follow when there is no ML and we expect the system to balance itself so we, officers, don't have to make decisions about who gets what. I talked about it on my blog the other day.

And about attendance, during Christmas holidays or summer, we put into our guild rules that these periods are free time : raids are run but no DKP, no hard schedule, alts/friends raids, no attendance obligation. It's mainly because us officers and RLs might be away sometimes 2 at a time. The other reason it's difficult to run progression raids with half the roster scaterred around the country for holidays. Like we say in my guild "curse you real life !" :D

I wish you and your guild all the best in Cataclysm. The changes to raids IDs will change many guilds. On my server, there are tens of new 10-man guilds recruiting all over. Many will collapse over the first hardmodes and we will see how strong we are, as a guild, when we will hit really hard fights. We passed the HLK test already, so I'm pretty confident.