A successful guild
Success for a guild is defined by the goals that guild has. A guild does not have to be the first to conquer raid content to be a successful guild. Nor does it have to exist for years and years and years.
What a guild has to do to succeed is to achieve the goals the guild members are collectively interested in achieving. There are roleplaying guilds on Silver Hand that will never even reach the general in Upper Blackrock Spire, but they are successes because their members are getting to live out the roleplaying storylines and experience the immersion their members are after. There are PVP guilds that chew through their enemies like a champion watermelon eater, and they are successful because that's their goal. And there are raiding guilds that are successful because they chew through Molten Core and Blackwing Lair and are the masters of all they survey.
What makes these guilds successful is that the guild members have a vision for where they want to be and work together to achieve the goal.
Contrary to what is sometimes intimated, MMORPGs are relatively simple games. Since there's a monthly fee involved (not to mention Internet connectivity), the difficulty of the games tend to be on the interpersonal side. Even the most difficult soloable material in any MMORPG pales beside even an average single player game. Soloing a devilsaur in Ungoro Crater is peanuts beside beating the final map in Warcraft III. The guilds that succeed in MMORPGs beat these games do so by working together towards whatever goal they seek to achieve.
All guilds are democracies
Most guilds are centered on a few personalities, often a guild leader, but sometimes an officer corps. While these people are important engines for a guild to achieve their goal, it's an illusory power structure. The power of a guild is in its membership. There is nothing forcing a member of a guild to remain in the guild, other than the perception that they will not be able to achieve their goals without the guild. But in EQ and other MMORPGs, periodically guilds have demonstrated the real power structure by reforming their guilds without their leaders. Guild members are volunteers by definition, and when the volunteers start talking, and they always eventually do, if they decide their goals are not matched by that of their leadership, either in goal or in execution, they can and will do something about it, even if it's only the slow water torture death of members trickling away by ones and twos.
Recognizing that a guild belongs to its members, Sawed Off is explicitly run by its members. Leaders are elected and officers, while nominated by the leader, are approved or rejected by the membership. It's their guild, and who they vote to map out the way doesn't mean that everyone else isn't essential. The downside is that democracy is not fast, although having an executive and officer corps who will move decisively (subject to flags being thrown on the play) speeds things up considerably.
About Sawed Off
So, how does this apply to Sawed Off?
First off, there is a shared vision, although good intentions, like battle plans, never truly survive first contact with the enemy. People's views and goals evolve, but at the core of it is that we want to play as (generally mature) friends. We want to see the raiding game, but not to have it take over our lives. There are a number of couples in the guild, and a generally low level of d00dishness. Many of us played EverQuest together as Walkers, and we all expect certain things on raids (Ringo to yell, to die when learning and for people to generally behave like disciplined people who know what they're doing). We joke around in guild chat a lot, and merciless (but well-meant) teasing is the order of the day.
Secondly, it's a democracy. No one joins the guild without every active member in the guild having a chance to either bring them in or bar them from entry. The people voting are the people playing -- long-lost members not playing are welcome to kibbitz on the board forever, but only the people actively playing have political power. If a leader or an officer is being a butt, they can and will be removed from a position where being a butt will cause real problems. Everyone in the guild is someone's friend, and usually everyone's friend.
Is Sawed Off the guild for you?
I can't answer that here. The answer to that is something you'll have to figure out, along with members of the guild, should you decide you're interested in joining. But there are a lot of us around, and we're a friendly bunch, except for Rommie. We're always looking to meet cool new friends, even if you never end up wearing our tabard. We look forward to meeting you.
General discussion board. Open to everyone.
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