I’m thinking of leaving my kinship on LotRO. While I was away, there was apparantly some stirup that threw off the whole essence of the guild. Yet, I have no idea what it is.

After a month of being gone, I thought I’d log into the forums and give everyone a little update. On the main page I was greeted with a brief yet ominous letter from one of the officers. In as shadowed a way as possible, the letter stated that the guild was undergoing restructuring to, well, remove structure and build community and that they would understand anyone who chose to leave. Oh, and that they appreciated the support from the remain members.

To me, that little message spelled out “exodus.” For some reason, people were bailing from the guild, or so it must be from the sound of things. This struck me as odd because, honestly, it was one of the best I’d found in any game. It was highly structured, yet I saw this as a positive; the system was designed to support people in all walks of play. Weekly, messages were posted about how the guild had reached a new membership threshold and that we were becoming more selective in who we would allow in (we made sure applicants ideals matched our own before). In short, up until the posting of the letter, everything about the guild was sparkling. Or so it seemed.

Needless to say, when I saw the note, I wanted to know what the hell had happened. I checked the forums and found a single thread with another member asking the same questions I was. Two weeks after it’s posting there was still no response other than people echoing the OP’s concerns.

I stepped away with a “well, that’s not good…” notion floating through my mind. With so much going on IRL, though, it slipped away like so many fragmented ideas have of late.

When I logged in last night, I found myself looking at a “New Mail” icon on my screen. The officer who had posted on the website had sent out a guild wide message saying that the last few weeks had been filled with turmoil but giving virtually no indication as to what that was supposed to mean. I asked the nearly 20 other members online at the time and was more than a little surprised that not a single person knew what had happened. As a matter of fact, most people had been left wondering too.

That wound up leaving me with was a very drear impression. I knew something was going on, something big and dark,  but no idea what I was tied up in. That didn’t lead to a very good “feeling” within the guild. Chat was quiet and what did occur was brief. Everyone knew there was something but no one knew what.

That really sucks. This kinship has been great in everything leading up to this. I mean, they were big enough that no matter what you wanted to do or when you wanted to do it, the chances were that you’d have other members by your side to do it with. They had a philosophy of “build up the individual to build up the whole” even if you weren’t a raider. Hell, they would even gear you out with the best in slot crafting gear every 10 levels. How many guilds can say that?

And yet, here it stands, for all its structure and great community, crumbling before those who witness.

What I hope guild leaders understand is that, for many people, guild choice is a very personal and meaningful decision. Most people that actively search for a guild settle because they find a philosophical match with their beliefs on why a game should be played. Once they’re in they invest themselves and try to find a spot within the community. When things like this happen, it hurts morale. This “thing” that people have come to care about, even if in a small way (if you didn’t care about it to some  degree, the chances are that you wouldn’t have bothered trying in the first place) is suddenly changed in some vital way.

At some level, it almost feels disrespectful to not address the issue at its face. Maybe it’s presumptious or rude of me to say that but, after all, a guild provides a reciprocal relationship. Giveth as you taketh away… or something like that. Yet, it’s almost like if you weren’t there for whatever dramatic event occurred, then you’re out of the loop and are now cast outside the circle. That’s not community.

I know that I’m the exception. Having to leave the game for extended periods of time carries with it this work hazard. But when 20 people are online and not one can name what this big pressing issue even IS, I think we can phone Houston about the problem. There are guild meetings but is that enough? For the day to day maybe, but in this case, I don’t think so.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Right now, it’s like there’s a black cloud over kinship chat. It’s quiet, it’s brief, and no one wants to mention the storm brewing overhead. I signed up for the guild because the community philosophy matched my own, so I’m hesitant to admit that it may be failing. Yet, like so many others, I don’t even know if it is failing, and that fact seems contrary to the “community building” the leadership is trying to push right now. I mean, if we’re facing a darker night, shouldn’t we band together? That’s what they’re asking for but against what? It’s hard to band together when you don’t know what it is that you’re even facing.

Should I head to brighter shores? Or hold down the fort and hope someone offers a breadcrumb clue on the issues at hand? If you’re a guild leader, I’m interested to know how you would approach a big issue like this. I’m full of questions today but perhaps someone has some insight.

You know, it’s times like this I have to ask, WWAD: What Would Arbitrary Do?