A Guild by any other name…

Some recent discussions about soloing vs grouping have spurred me to contemplate the nature of guilds.  A lot of people seem to only be familiar with one type of guild, and assume that their type is representative of all guilds (e.g. spinks speaks of “guilds” by which she means “raiding guilds”, as if they were one and the same).  This leads to some communication breakdowns, where one party assumes things another party doesn’t.

Guilds can exist for a number of disparate reasons, and almost always exist for more than one.  The five most central reasons for guilds that I’ve come up with are: achievement, friendship, crafting/trade, roleplay, and PvP.  Let’s look at each in turn.

Achievement Guilds

Goal: Achievement guilds focus on gaining power for the guilds’ members.  Power can be achieved via levels, loot, faction, skills, etc.  

Behaviour: Achievement guilds tend to group together a lot to complete quests, visit dungeons, etc.  Some content cannot be soloed or cannot be easily soloed, and that content is the focus of achievement guilds.  Many achievement guilds focus more on loot than on levels, with the implicit assumption that levels are easier to get than high-end loot.

Subtypes: One of the most common subtypes of achievement guilds is the raiding guild, which focuses primarily on endgame raiding.  

Friendship Guilds

Goal: Friendship guilds exist to foment strong bonds of friendship between members.

Behaviour: Friendship guilds tend to use guild chat a lot to talk about personal issues as well as make small talk; members enjoy sharing their lives and thoughts with each other.  Friendship guilds are also frequently strong support networks for members, providing a lot of in-game gifts to each other as well as advice and support for out-of-game issues.

Crafting/Trading Guilds

Goals: Profit!  Crafting/Trading Guilds are often all about the money, though they can also support artistic expression if/when the game supports this.

Behaviour: Crafting/Trading Guilds thrive on economic interchanges.  They often aim to help members master crafts, gain footholds in markets, or dominate said markets.

Roleplay Guilds

Goal: Roleplay guilds seek to provide a context for members to roleplay and to create a shared narrative.

Behaviour: Roleplay guilds often have a lot of in-game events scheduled that don’t directly pertain to achievement or crafting/trading.  Remaining in-character in public channels is often paramount (especially /say and /emote).

Subtypes:  Some roleplay guilds represent groups that exist in the game world, e.g. mercenary companies, businesses, etc.  These groups tend to focus on roleplay centered around the group’s official activities.  Some roleplay guilds don’t represent groups that exist in the game world, but are simply collections of people who like to RP together.  It’s also worth mentioning that a small percentage of roleplay guilds focus on erotic roleplay, often forming as bordellos/escort services (this is most often an example of a group existing in the game world).

PvP Guilds

Goals: PvP guilds seek to excel in PvP combat encounters (as opposed to PvP politics, which is usually roleplaying, or PvP economics, which is usually crafting/trade).

Behaviours: PvP guilds tend to focus most often on either gank squad or zerg tactics.  In a gank squad, quality is key, and members need to be disciplined and careful, and as skilled/powerful as possible for greatest success.  Gank squads roam the game world looking for targets, most often easy targets, to overwhelm.  Some gank squads seek fair fights or even fights where they lack advantage, for greater challenge.  Zergs are all about quantity, and seek to add as many players as possible to achieve simple numerical advantage.

Subtypes: PvP guilds can focus on PK, anti-PK, or warfare.  PK or player-killer guilds seek to gank unsuspecting targets, and can be home to griefers.  Anti-PK guilds seek to hunt down player-killers and protect their targets.  Warfare guilds seek conflict with the opposing side in a side-vs-side game (e.g. WoW, DAoC, WAR); this might involve capturing battlefield objectives, city sieges, etc.

9 comments so far

  1. Ysharros on



    That’s a pretty nice breakdown, at least from where I’m standing, and as you say most guilds are a mix of various elements.

    That’s all I can coax out of my brain right now, after 3000 words of extremely badly written French I just translated into very good English. 😛

  2. Tesh on

    You could also throw Exploration guilds in as a subtype of Achievers. As in, either those who try to cover as much of the game as possible to be in a better position to help others, or a group of “Elitist Jerks” who dig into the game for digging’s sake to better theorycraft on the side.

    There are also the Journalist and Gold Seller guilds, but perhaps those are best left to the dark wilderness of the internet…

    • foolsage on

      I considered explorer guilds, in keeping with the Bartle types, but I’ve never actually seen a guild that focuses on exploration as such; that’s been the province of motivated individuals in my experience. “Explorer” guilds interesting in mastering the game tend to fall within the “Achiever” purview in practice it seems. At least, I don’t know of any real Explorer guilds, which doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The absence of evidence, and all that.

      Gold seller guilds are a subset of Crafting/Trade guilds. Journalist guilds… I dunno what those are really. Ysh’s guild in EQ2 is increasingly peopled by bloggers (*waves*) but I’ve never experienced a guild formed by and for journalists, just guilds that happened to have journalists in them.

  3. Tesh on

    Well, that’s sort of the point I’m seconding. Looking at a guild from the outside, we can only make assumptions as to what drives them. If we assume that everyone (or even just every guild) operates the same way, we’re leaving out a lot of reality.

    I’m in a “guild” in Puzzle Pirates, for instance, that is almost entirely built on exploring (memorizing routes to different islands) with a minor in forum events. There’s no checkbox on the crew construction form that asks what purpose the guild will be bent to, and while the need to classify/pigeonhole guilds by purpose is more open minded than assuming all are just progressive raid guilds, even a relatively wide taxonomy like this can’t cover everything.

    • foolsage on

      Fair enough.

      You’re quite right that there’s no checkbox, and most guilds are an ever-changing mixture of the types above, doubtless with some other types I haven’t covered. I’m content not covering everything as long as the basic taxonomic structure is sound and generally inclusive of the majority of guilds.

  4. Modran on

    Nice article !
    I’ve almost always joined guilds where at least a friend was already in. Or created guilds with only my friends, in order to have a “common ground”.
    @Tesh: of course it’s not extensive, nor are guilds bent on one style only. But at least it may help open people’s eyes :p. And… what do you mean when you talk about journalist guilds? Is it the bloggers’ guild foolsage talks about? I’m not sure I see why the distinction would matter. For me, these are ordinary players would just like to talk about their thoughts thereafter, no?

  5. Tesh on

    Oh, certainly, it’s a good core taxonomic structure. I’m just floating the cautionary point that even this isn’t the final word. 😉 It’s definitely a good start.

    I’m thinking of a journalist guild as a group of players who are more interested in figuring out how the game works and how to describe it and write about it than they are in actually *playing* the game. Say, an Elitist Jerks group of players who are deep into theorycrafting, or a WoWHead group of researchers who go around and gather data, sharing it with their coworkers as they build a database.

    I’m not sure how prominent such a thing would be, and it’s almost certainly a subset of an Achievement guild as foolsage describes it, but while the core mechanics of “achieving something” is the same, the reason for achieving is different.

    That’s why I mention it; do we need to look at the reasoning behind any given guild, or just describe their behavior? It’s not all that important, but it’s one more thing to think about.

    • foolsage on

      I think the psychology behind the ways guild form and the structures they adopt is probably beyond the scope of what I was aiming for here; that likely deserves its own post. 😉

  6. […] Age has a terrific breakdown of guild types, although I could probably add a couple more to that list (The “We Take Anyone For No […]

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