Communicating with Your Fellowship

This one is kind of a no brainer in one sense – if you’re archmage, you need to communicate  and foster communication – in your fellowship. I’d like to talk about it and focus on different aspects of it for the moment.

Communication for Function

Basic functional communication is critical stuff – I’m away from the fellowship for a few days for vacation; here’s what I know about the upcoming event; let’s collaborate on a Fellowship Adventure; next tourney is X and you need to do Y to prepare; and so on. This sort of communication ensures that your players know what you know and have everything they need in order to play well. If you don’t have communication for function, in my opinion, you can’t have a truly successful fellowship because of frustration, confusion, and lack of coordination at key times.

If your players support each other rather than simply playing together, you are on your way to a successful fellowship.

Communication for Fellowship

It is possible to be a top fellowship in the rankings with only functional communication. I will be so bold as to say, however, that when you have a truly successful fellowship, you need to have a team; a community rather than a group of independent players operating under the same banner.

The main way we have available to us in Elvenar to create community out of individual players is communication, but of a slightly different type. This is communication that is all about making people interact and see each other as people, not just as usernames and profile pictures. This is chat; newsletters; congratulatory messages when someone reaches a new milestone; and so on. This is key for a couple of reasons. It takes effective function in the game and adds a human component, so you get loyalty (lower attrition); more frequent play (better visits), and happier players (longevity in play, plus the above). When people are happy and part of a community, they thrive – and it’s your responsibility as archmage to bring that about.

Communication for Leadership

This one doesn’t apply to everyone, but I want to talk about it because of the difference it makes in the case of multiple, associated fellowships. In the case of the Starfleet, we have archmages of different fellowships and even on different servers. We created channels of communication between those archmages. This helps enormously with confidence of new archmages, coordinating, moving players around, recruiting, sharing news across fellowships, and bouncing ideas around.

The need to communicate is a no-brainer, for sure; however, if you think a little about how and why you communicate, you can make your fellowship a better and more successful place.

The Role of the Mage

What, exactly, is a mage in Elvenar? At it’s simplest, mage is a role assignment along with archmage, fellow, and ambassador. The mage role has enhanced permissions and can do pretty much anything an archmage can do, save change the role of the archmage (only the AM can do that)  and dissolve the fellowship.

What it means to be a mage is something else entirely. And I tell you, it varies so wildly that I almost didn’t write this post. I have seen the mage role used as

  • an archmage role because the archmage went inactive
  • an indicator of what type of neighborly help was desired when using the mobile app
  • a status to show that a player has enhanced responsibilities and is a good person to go to for answers or help with the game
  • a meaningless tag next to a player’s name.

Essentially what it comes down to is that the fellowship, and particularly the archmage, get to define what the role of a mage is.

In my experience, an archmage who tries to do it all is a tired archmage, a burnt out archmage, a frustrated archmage, or an ex-archmage. Mages, in my fellowships, are people who share the knowledge and responsibilities of leadership so that the game stays fun and feasible for everyone. They also provide continuity, so that if an archmage leaves the fellowship need not fall apart because everyone knows how things work.

Some fellowships even make specific types of mages – a tourney mage, for example, might be responsible for making sure that everyone knows what they need to prepare for a tourney, helping set strategy, motivating people, communicating results, etc. Other types of mages I’ve seen include general-purpose mages, Fellowship Adventure mages, recruiting mages, and communications/research mages.

It’s up to you what it means to have mages in your fellowship. I would suggest finding very regular players, particularly if they have an appropriate interest or skill, and having them help you lead — for the betterment of players and fellowship.

The Role of the Archmage

This is a key topic, and one that isn’t necessarily going to yield to my attempts at an answer. An archmage is and can be many things. These are not (yet) presented in any particular order.

S/he is the organizational principle of the fellowship. Working with the fellowship, s/he determines goals and strategies, practices that are suited to the fellowship’s personality and play style, ground rules, and more. This is a key role, but is often a bit more subtle, as the more obvious communication and support staff functions tend to be the most visible (and easier) tasks.

S/he is the principal communicator. While you should have mages and other fellowship members helping you out, it is your job as archmage to stay in communication with the fellowship. Make sure they know what’s going on; expectations you might have; goals, and progress toward those goals; that you notice when they meet a major milestone; and any one of a number of things. While you communicate these things, large and small, you also communicate your competence and that you care for the fellowship – two key things that the fellows need to know for your fellowship to succeed.

S/he is the cheerleader. Cheer people on, notice when they meet a milestone, walk them through the tough parts, call out how well the fellowship has done in a tourney – all those little successes need to be known, especially if the fellowship is full of small cities and/or new players. Challenge them…. then cheer them on.

S/he is the support staff. It’s your job to see that housekeeping gets done. Is someone making a habit of not visiting? Talk to him. Someone leave the fellowship? Put on your recruiter hat. Is your tournament mage sick? Best see to it that you get the preparation message out for the upcoming tournament. You get the idea – these are the “duties as assigned”.

As an archmage, it’s important to remember that you do not have a captive audience – any player can opt out with a few clicks.  If you become dictatorial, people will leave. If you’re not a master of the art of persuasion and people management, this is a good opportunity to work on your skills.

Ancient Wonder Programs

Nearly every player who is past the earliest stages of the game has one or more Ancient Wonders in his or her city.

When a player is in earlier chapters, the wonder is often left alone as KP go into the Research Tree to move the player’s city forward in the game. In later chapters, players frequently get techlocked and  have KP to donate to their own and others’ wonders.

Some fellowships institute a Wonder program to help build up the Wonders; they can take many forms. I figured I could describe several  common ones I’ve seen here, along with their pros and cons. There are more, but they’ll have to wait for a different post.

KP Chain

This program is usually voluntary contributions when a player has extra KP to use. An email chain is started – say, a 5 KP chain. It starts with a message indicating who the first recipient is and what AW the next person should contribute to. The next person responds with the name of the AW they’d like 5 KP donated to, and then it goes on from there. Any number of KP can be used – the most common KP chains that I see are 5 and 10 KP. I generally start a new KP chain about once a month. It might look something like this:

Original Message Subject: 5KP AW Chain

Original Message Test: : Start with Lani’s GA (Golden Abyss), please.

Message 2: Mountain Halls (MH), please

Message 3: Prosperity Towers (PT)

Pros:

  • Requires virtually no maintenance or oversight. Hurray for easy!
  • Entirely voluntary, so no pressure
  • Creates regular interaction between players
  • It creates enough structure and regular reminders of the AWs that folks generally do use the KP chain to grow their AWs
  • It mostly keeps extra KP in the fellowship

Cons

  • Ironically, the voluntary nature is also a con, because people are free to neglect their own AWs if they wish, or not to share their KP within the fellowship
  • It’s not at all systematic
  • It’s not terribly beneficial in absolute terms because there’s a net zero KP benefit – you give five, you get five. There are the rewards that go with KP donations when an AW is completed, though, that generate some benefit

Regular KP Donations

Another model is a simple KP donation requirement. Each day, a different person receives a set number of KP from the other players. An email chain is frequently used for the AM to confirm that the KP were actually given by the various players.  This model generally requires a spreadsheet to track the cycle of wonders and those who make or don’t make their contributions. Often a mage has the AW program  as a dedicated duty.

For example, a 5 KP donation rotation:

Day 1: Lani’s Golden Abyss (GA) receives donations.

Doc contributes 5 KP, posts in the email chain that she has done so.

Other players contribute and post.

Pros

  • Systematic wonder improvement for everyone
  • Equal participation and benefit
  • Entire fellowship is improved

Cons

  • Takes a fair bit of work to keep track of things
  • Some players try to skip
  • Some players don’t like to give KP when they’re hard at work on the research tree, and prefer to give KP only when they are techlocked.

Chosen One

One player is designated the “Chosen One.” All free KP go to that player’s wonder until it is full and ready to upgrade. I’ve also heard of this as “swarming” an AW. Generally some tracking is needed to keep the order of the Chosen Ones straight. A spreadsheet is common, with message posts making sure people know who the current Chosen One is and who the next one will be.

Example:

Lani is the Chosen One, and her AW of choice is her Golden Abyss (GA).

Doc contributes 5 KP.

Esper contributes 10 KP.

Ral Dorn contributes 7 kp.

Eventually, Col contributes 25 KP and finishes off the wonder. Lani upgrades and the next Chosen One starts to receive KP.

Pros

  • Pretty systematic wonder improvement for everyone
  • Equal participation and benefit
  • Entire fellowship is improved
  • Fairly easy for players to keep track of

Cons

  • Takes a fair bit of work to keep track of things
  • Some players try to skip or don’t contribute, but do expect to receive KP when they’re the chosen one
  • It can be slow, particularly if someone has a wonder with LOTS of KP needed in order to reach the next level.
  • Reward can be pretty uneven, as one person’s wonder might be a lot lower level than another and thus require fewer KP to complete. I view it more as a leveling benefit than a KP benefit, and everyone increases the same number of levels (one) at a time.

So, hopefully you have a little to think about. If you have other KP models you’d like me to feature in a post, drop me a line or leave a comment.

The Gift of Celebration

People who are cities are still people. They come to Elvenar usually as an entertaining escape from their real life for a while – time away from children, enduring or recovering from illness, de-stressing from a busy life, you name the reason but the end goal is often the same.

As such, players want to feel good. They want to be happy – and deserve to be, as they’re willingly sharing their time with you and your fellowship. And if players are happy, they are more likely to come back and spend more time with your fellowship – growing, chattering, and participating in a multitude of ways.

One of the simplest, easiest, and most effective things that you can do to help with the happiness quotient in your fellowship is to recognize achievements, large and small. Someone just pass 50k? Give a shout out. One of the big players just get a new profile picture from opening a new chapter? Say something. Did you have top 100 players earn rank points in the last tourney? Awesome! Say something. Did someone provide leadership for the last Fellowship Adventure, all unasked? Thank them publicly.

All of it matters. It becomes positive energy in your fellowship, which means lower attrition and better performance. And, of course, your fellowship is an awesome place to be.

Recruiting Etiquette: Poaching

Recruiting is an important part of the life of any archmage. It is anxiety-inducing, as you feel the pressure to fill the open spot(s), you might be bummed that a great player left, and you feel the need to fill the spot as well as possible.

Some people just wait for applicants. Others start cruising nearby cities; some start looking at fellowships that appear to be struggling and seeking a merger. There are lots of ways to find additional players, and the truth is that nearly all of us use a wide range of strategies. My personal favorite is to be an awesome fellowship in terms of rank and having an awesome play environment, so people come looking for us.

An other strategy is  reaching into other fellowships for players – for example, asking players to reach out to players in their old fellowships, or directly recruiting from other fellowships. This practice is referred to as “poaching”, as you’re trying to get players actively in another fellowship who may not be looking for a new home. For some archmages, it’s a perfectly acceptable and normal practice. For others, it’s anathema.

I  accept that poaching happens but do not engage in it myself. Reasons being…. I’m an advanced player in a fellowship that is working its way toward the top tiers. I know most of the top players by username if nothing else. The odds of running across someone that I made angry by poaching their players is pretty good, and the backlash can be pretty strong. Also, it’s in poor taste and borderline unethical even if there’s no rule against it.

Vetting Possible Players

One of the common tasks in any fellowship is finding new players. I’ll talk about recruiting in another posts – that could be a whole topic series by itself. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about vetting players before bringing them into your fellowship.

I’m making an assumption that you as archmage care what kind of player you get, and that not just any random player will do. In some “school” fellowships that have a goal of helping small cities grow, for example, they will in fact accept just about any city. But the fellowship I have in mind is a more standard fellowship.

Here are some of the things you might want to look for when a player expresses interest in your fellowship:

  • What are the player’s boosts? Make sure they are ones that fit fellowship needs and help to keep boosts balanced.
  • What is the player’s rank/score? Sometimes this matters to a fellowship and sometimes not. In general, it matters because if a player is a lot larger or a lot smaller than most of the other cities in the fellowship, it can make playing challenging for the new player.
  • Why is the player looking for a new fellowship? This is one that you may not always get an answer to, but archmages often ask. Why? If a player is a fellowship climber, they may stay with you only until they find a higher-ranked fellowship to join. There’s nothing really wrong with that except most archmages aren’t really interested in people who intend to play with the fellowship for only a short time. If the player left because of conflict, it may be that the player is hard to get along with, and so it’s worth digging into a bit more. Usually it’s not a big deal, but it is worth asking the question.
  • What is the new player looking for in a fellowship? This one really does matter, because fellowships tend to fall into play styles based on things like the fellowship’s level of ambition, frequency of play required, trading habits, and so on. You need to know what they’re looking for so you can tell if your fellowship is a good fit for the player.
  • What are the player’s habits? This is frequently reflected in what the player is looking for in a fellowship, but not always. Often in emails I get from prospective players, they’ll say something like: “I’m so-and-so, score is 100k, boosts are Marble/ Crystal/ Elixir and boosts are maxed. I visit daily and play in tourneys. I’m looking for a new fellowship because the players in my current fellowship only visit once or twice a week, and I need a more active fellowship than that”.

Personally, I think it is worth exchanging a few messages with a prospective player. It’s not a lot, but you can sometimes get a sense of what players are like – and you can see some things like how long it takes them to reply that can tell you a lot.

At the end of the day, due diligence on your part vetting potential players will reduce turnover of players and increase the satisfaction and investment of the players who are in your fellowship. It’s worth the effort.