This is probably going to sound weird, but I like rules (guild rules, at least). I like making them. I like writing up thematically appropriate charters, laying out codes of conduct. I like designing systems for dealing with certain issues, or determining how a given event is to be handled. It’s part of what I like about doing the strats for boss fights – it’s creating a set of rules for a given encounter to ensure the success of the endeavour as a whole.

My alignment, in D&D terms, is Capital L Lawful.

In our current guild, we have very few rules – and I mean very few – because our set up is rather unique. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say there are extenuating circumstances that make actual rules inappropriate, and largely unnecessary. The “society” that is the guild has its own way of protecting its resident citizens. This breaks down a bit in the raid group, but not much, and that’s got more to do with personality conflicts than a failure of the rules (or lack thereof). The raid group is sort of like a collection of siblings still living at home – you could like and respect and love each other fine enough if you had some kind of distance between you (an ocean, preferably), but right now you have to share a fucking room and they keep ruining your shirts and taking your stuff and reading your diary. Stupid jerks. Those were my favourite shoes.

In fact, our guild only really has two rules, and in both cases they’re just for the sake of clarity. Not rules so much as a statement of purpose – this is what it’s for. Not this, this or this.

This is all awesome and wonderful in its own way. Fewer rules mean more freedom. Rules are created for the minority that breaks them, after all. The less rules you have, the better behaved your “citizens” – not that the behavior is a consequence of the rules, but that the rules are a consequence of the behavior. It’s like warning labels on machines and coffee cups. They’re only there because someone was stupid enough to actually do it, and now the rest of us must constantly be informed upon purchase that our hot chocolate might be hot.

Yeah, I figured, since it’s called – you know what? Never mind. Thanks for letting me know, I’ll keep it mind.

Which is not to say that if your guild has a lot of rules, or if you started the guild with a set of rules already in place, that’s wrong or you must be a real group of asshats if you need that many rules. Quite the opposite in fact – it’s almost required. In a lot of cases, the rules are preventative, or for the sake of clarity, especially in the case of behaviours that might be okay in some settings, just not this one. Better to just put it out there up front, than wait for someone to inevitably stumble across an unspoken line and suffer the consequences forever.

Some of the best fun I’ve had in this game was writing up the rules for an old guild we created (looooonnnggg time ago now) – it took us a couple days as we debated back and forth over what needed to be said and what didn’t, what actually mattered and what was just us being too picky. Wording it with all the care and attention of a lawyer out to make his name by setting some kind of legal precedent. This was fun. This was incredible fun. Because I’m a gigantic nerd or something.

There’s just something neat in establishing a framework for a given activity. It’s partly the planning aspect of it. What do we want to achieve? What’s required to achieve it? What would keep us from being able to achieve it? What do we expect to happen? What are the contingency plans for this or this or this? You basically lay all that out, and from there the rules break down to “Do things that help us achieve our goal; don’t do things that hinder it.”

I guess, on some level, rules for me are a statement of a mutual goal. Here are the things we value. Here are the things we want. Those who choose to join our community are those who also want and value these things and are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

The rules are a super-optimistic, in-an-ideal-world description of what a Guild is. Because, after all, this is real life and therefore things are rarely so clear as they are in a guild charter. Some situations fall between the rules, personality affects the way the rules are interpreted and applied, enforcement is often easier said than done, if your community changes over time the goals and desires of the community change with it, and your rules may suddenly no longer be accurate or applicable. But in that list of things to (not) do – however long or short it may be – you find the kernel of what the guild actually is; the idea from which it grew.

I guess, after all, I’m not Capital L Lawful – I’m Capital I Idealistic. Rules are a description of a perfect world – of the Utopia of a given community. They are born from a shared goal, and enforced through a shared set of values. They’re what makes a guild work, what lets a community operate, what keeps society humming along no matter what – not because you’re limiting human behavior or imposing restrictions on individual freedom, but because you’re defining for all members what it is we’re working toward.

Makes me jealous when I read other guild’s websites and look at their charters (guilty admission: which I totally did last night, and, you know, do from time to time on a general basis), given that my current guild doesn’t have any. It’s a struggle to keep myself from signing up or applying to join, because in these charters I can see what they’re going for, and it’s something I whole-heartedly want in my own play experience. I’m in on that, or down with that, or whatever the kids are saying these days that basically comes down to “Fuck yes!”

To everyone out there trying to achieve some small piece of Warcraft Utopia: I am with you in spirit, if not in character! Send me a line if you make it.