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Last time we spoke about kinships, I talked about my uncertainty on whether I should stay with The Council. I liked the guild quite a bit. Their philosophy matched up with mine well; build the player to build the guild (you’ll have to forgive me, I’ll probably use guild and kin interchangeably). It was great, when I joined – before student teaching. Four months later, I had returned to turmoil, uncertainty, and a kin lacking its leader. The idea of “take our their leader and the rest will be lost” was absolutely true.

So, I left the kin mid-last week and joined another called The Council of the Secret Fire. I’d grouped with several of their members before and they’d always been very friendly. Something… was missing, though. It’s hard to put my finger on. Maybe it was the lack of goal. They were a “jack of all trades, master of none” guild. Even though they were friendly, the whole thing felt without purpose. I chalked it up to making the guild-hop too soon. I spent some time kin-free.

Yet, as always, I soon felt like something was missing. After doing some research, I came across another that had been in place across several games for over four years. You may have heard of them if you played WAR close to release, they’re called Shadow Company. Unlike CotSF, they’re highly organized and structured. Militaristically so as, unsurprisingly enough, the guild leader is a former military officer. I was hesitant to apply at first. I mean, was the trade off for organization a virtual boot camp?

Still, I put in an application in good faith. Thankfully, it’s paid off well. The militaristic aspect is for RP purposes but it’s also established enough to keep things well structured. There are activities planned for nearly every day, master crafters of every variety, and active players at every hour of the day. Events and meetings are not mandated but encouraged and there’s an understanding that RL comes before the game 100% of the time.

The whole thing got me thinking though, what’s a better way to go: high structure or player freedom? There’s an appeal to each and both types serve different kinds of players. Yet, each type must borrow characteristics of the other in order to succeed. What is the formula to success and progression?

Personally, I’m a believer in structure. Players work and interact best when there’s a defined hierarchy and rule system. Likewise, I believe players contribute to the community more when such a system is in place. It’s easy to be complacent and silently solo all the time when there’s no incentive to interact. When you give players the potential to advance their guild rank, they try more.

On the other hand, maintaining a lot of structure takes more work, causes more stress, and can result in a more constrained environment. High freedom solves this but can also lead to less getting done due to the more hap-hazard design. Such a guild may find themselves as players sharing a guild tag and little more.

I had a hard time finding a structured guild that was open to non-raiders. I think by the nature of the game, LotRO lends itself towards open kins. They come in every variety, to be sure, but let’s pose the scenario: a guild wants to have a good community, come together on occasion, and be able to provide for members that like to tackle new dungeons. How should they go about it in a casual game?