I know it's nearly February, and I do try to get my yearly letters published closer to the new year. In this case I decided to do a little more legwork at the cost of a little more time, to really think about everything on my mind and review as much of our 2019 history as possible. I'm happy to be able to say that most of my thoughts and memories are good ones. Lows are inevitable, but compared to years before I'm amazed how much more smoothly the guild ran in 2019. That's zero percent thanks to me and one hundred percent thanks to all of you. So I'm starting with a very warm THANK YOU to every one of you for that!
Many of you will remember that last year started with a roster cull that slashed our count from 500 members down to 200. It was needed, and I think it accomplished its purpose, but it was also a disruptive way to start the year. I'm happy to say that we won't be doing that again this year. Instead, we'll be placing a stronger emphasis on growing the size and strength of our roster in a few different ways, which I'll get to in a bit.
I gave this letter a specific title to present a theme that I hope will serve as an unofficial philosophy for the guild in 2020. Every member of the guild is important to me and anyone who believes in our culture will always have a place here. No participation of any kind will ever be required to join the guild or to remain in it, and the only thing I require from all our members is adherence to the rules which I believe are universally fair and reasonable.
Gulda Femina is listed in Guild Finder as a social guild because to me the most important thing that Gulda Femina offers its members is an opportunity to meet and interact with other people. How we interact is fluid, of course, and it evolves as our roster does, but the result is a rich tapestry that we weave together, and that to me is a beautiful thing. A very important thing.
"Why is that important to you, Mix?"
Twice in my life I've gone through extended periods of "existential crisis". That may sound dramatic but they were very real and very big roadblocks to fight my way through. The first time around was me as an adolescent trying to figure out my beliefs, particularly around spirituality and morals. I did some thinking, figured out how I felt, and started to live by those beliefs, refining as I went.
The second time around was a bit more subtle and insidious, and happened many years later. I found myself wondering why I should bother doing anything. It went something like this. "I'm just gonna die someday, and even if I'm famous or successful at something, what difference does it really make? And if it doesn't make any difference, then how should I spend my time?" It wasn't a far jump to ask... "what's the meaning of life?"
How I labored over this question. I'll spare you all the machinations but one time I thought I'd found the answer. "I might as well just have as much fun as possible." A good thing if you can get it... but not really an honest answer. Where's the meaning in just having fun? And who else benefits besides you?
"Who else benefits?" That was the key to the place I eventually reached. For me, the most meaningful way to live your life comes through helping other people.
There are a lot of ways to incorporate these marching orders into your life. In my case, as it so happens, one of the most impactful ways has turned out to be creating, designing and running this guild. When I know the guild has helped someone find a friend I feel happy. I myself have met so many interesting people and found many new friends thanks to the guild, even a few I'd call friends for life.
That's why the social aspect is so important to me. Not so much for myself, but as something I can enable for all of us. So in 2020 I'm putting a special emphasis on getting us all together as much as I can.
I love music, and one of my big frustrations in life is knowing that there's incredible music that exists somewhere in the world that I know nothing about. Whenever I hear something amazing that isn't new I think to myself "I almost missed ever discovering this".
Well that's kinda how I feel about the guild, too. There are amazing people playing ESO who would probably love Gulda Femina that we just haven't found yet, or who haven't found us. What a shame it would be not to look for them.
DLR5K deserves special mention here for his consistent push to recruit new members. Last year DLR rivaled me in adding to our roster which has made a significant difference not just to our overall count but also to the richness and variety of our membership. In the early days of the guild we had a pool almost exclusively made up of people who tended to play at night on Pact characters, because that's what and when I played. (Curiously we also had a disproportionate number of pretty Nord characters. Hmm.) Common sense says the more people you have actively recruiting the more diverse a group you're going to end up with.
So in 2020 there will be an increasing emphasis on recruiting across the board and there are some exciting things on the horizon to help with that, starting with yours truly!
I'm putting my own personal gold on the table to kick off a guild-wide recruiting campaign starting today and ending on our five year guild anniversary of September 21st. The arrangement is simple and has four pieces to it. First, get our roster to 500 members and keep it above 495 for 7 consecutive days (under prevailing membership rules, including inactive or disciplinary kicks). Second, hold a one-day (24 hour) event to which any 100 members make an in-game appearance. Third, get 200 members promoted to or above Chic rank (or its equivalent if there are changes to ranks in the meantime). And fourth, get 200 total members to be present on at least one of our social media platforms. For each milestone you hit I'll pay 1,000 gold to every single person in the guild on September 21st. Achieve all four and I'll pay 10,000 gold to every one of you AND I'll drop 1 million gold in the guild bank! Any controversy will be decided on by our officers, excluding me, to make sure we have a fair contest.
Since this raises an obvious concern around placing quantity over quality I'm going to address that directly before it has a chance to eat away at the spirit of this gesture. We have a time tested infrastructure in place to ensure our members are people we want in our guild. I'm not proposing that we change our policies to meet some arbitrary goal and in fact I won't allow it. The fact is you take a chance any time you add a new member but you have to take a chance to have progress.
Some coordination will be necessary to meet these goals which means you'll all have to communicate and work together. And therein lies the beauty!
Events are the core of our day to day guild activities. Every now and then the officers and I poke around to try to figure out if changes are needed and the feedback tends to be that people are generally satisfied. I can't argue with having satisfied customers, but being comfortable in our routine is only a small step away from things going stale. Attendance counts are lower now than they once were and that tells me that our events may not be the right mix for where our members are today. I think there's space to do more.
I applaud our event leaders who try to spice things up in creative ways. kedgie1982 did this especially well last year by regularly incorporating themes into her events and by proposing creative ways to entice new members to participate. This year Kedgie is upping the ante.
For two weeks, beginning on February 1st, Kedgie will be running a participation raffle. Attending any event during the fortnight will earn each attendee a raffle ticket, and each day Kedgie will raffle off a custom furniture pack from her own stash. (I snooped around and saw a lot of really nice Elsweyr and Alinor stuff!) Better yet those raffle tickets don't go into the trash. They also serve as a ticket to Kedgie's Valentine's Day party and enter you into a drawing for a 100,000 gold grand prize! Kedgie will have more specific details coming soon!
In addition, I'm introducing two new recurring guild events that I hope will cater to a lot of the feedback I've received. First, our Friday event will be changed to meet a common concern for long-term players and that's farming for achievements. Leadership for this event will vary by week and the schedule will be determined by compiling an achievement wish list and ticking off the boxes depending on who attends. The mechanics are a little complicated but I think it will benefit many of us significantly if we can make it work!
The second event is being put in place in recognition of the fact that most of us have dailies as part of our routine. There are many flavors of daily events out there to tackle, and many of them are more easily done with a friend or two. Much like the achievement event this one will be without a dedicated leader and will be determined by compiling a running list, with one big difference. This event will occur EVERY DAY starting at 8:00 PM Eastern!
I also want to place additional emphasis on non-recurring events to keep things fresh. Some of our best fun was had with special events like our beauty pageants, housing contests, naked and afraid, hide and seek, etc. (Even drunken dungeons was fun... for the first hour anyway...) So this is my clarion call to all of you, especially to our Sirens, to take the lead on bringing these events back, or better yet, to propose some new ones. epeira8 suggested mixing up event leaders. Syraena7 suggested a monthly featured home. There are a lot of ways we can do fun new things but we need ideas!
I'm launching a very special new event of my own, in fact! It's one I've been talking about since my last letter to you all over a year ago. Of all the things I'm discussing in this letter, this is the one I'm most exited about! And it's called!...
Don't let the name put you off - this is an event for EVERYONE! No matter what you do in ESO, no matter how anti-social you may be, and no matter how LAZY you are you can have great fun with Fantasy Battlegrounds. You don't have to even set foot in a battlegrounds match if you don't want to! It's going to be an incredible amount of fun no matter how many or how few participate but you'll really be missing out if you pass this one by. I've worked extremely hard to design this event and to make sure it works well.
Fantasy Battlegrounds will start on February 17th but you can read all about it now... just click here!
If you want a happy and healthy guild, people should want to join and want to stay. It's human nature to seek out things that please us or benefit us and move away from things that don't. I'm biased of course but I think we do a pretty good job of making our members feel good about being included. But what about people who AREN'T members?
If I could make one criticism of Gulda Femina it would concern our reputation. What do non-members think about our guild? How many people who aren't members even know we exist? What do our former members say about us? Are we taking advantage of all of our opportunities to be seen and appreciated? My honest answer to those questions is not a rosy one.
And that's a shame, because I'm proud of Gulda Femina and I think the rest of you should be too. We've come a long way and solved a lot of problems to have what we have. We should be singing our praises and looking at our guild with pride, so that others will too. There's much more we can do than what we're doing today and it's up to all of us to focus on that.
If you feel the same way and you want to make a memorable impression this year, be an ambassasor for Gulda Femina. So often I see players asking for guild recommendations in social media and only once did I ever see our guild mentioned by anyone other than me. If you see an opportunity, take it. Mention the guild. Post a link in zone chat. Say hello to new members and check in with those who have left. If a non-member or another guild needs assistance, be charitable and model the culture we subscribe to. Let's extend our reach beyond our own roster, however we can. This isn't just the responsibility of our officers, it's a job for everyone.
Speaking of officers, I want to extend a specific thank you to them. Running a guild is actually a lot of work, even if it looks simple from the outside, and officers do that work for essentially no tangible reward. It's pure service to the guild, and me by extension, and I'm very thankful for it.
"By the way... how DOES a player become an officer in this guild, Mix?"
It's changed over the years, but my goal has always been to make officership in Gulda Femina essentially a merit-based system. In the past it was purely me acting as monarch, but I'm happy to say we've gradually moved toward a more democratic approach. The system isn't apparent to everyone, especially to our newer members, so I'm going to take a minute to go over it all. (You can also read about it, along with our overall guidelines, here.)
New members come to us in one of two ways, either by a player invitation or via the Guild Finder system. In either case, these players join at Belle rank and stay in that rank for seven days. Belle rank prohibits use of the bank, therefore helping to cut down on the likelihood of a quick bank cleanout by a recent add. In very rare cases of a player being "on probation", usually for bank abuse, higher ranked players may be moved to Belle until the issue is resolved.
If all goes well, after seven days members are automatically moved to Grace rank. Members can stay in Grace rank without concern for the remainder of their tenure if they wish to, however to move to Chic rank a member must attend at least one official guild event. (It's the responsibility of the event leader to ensure these members are promoted.)
From this point forward rank advancement lands in the hands of the guild leaders. Officers are responsible for assessing which Chic rank members have distinguished themselves and have expressed interest in more actively participating, and then nominating those members for promotion. A majority vote by our Elegance and Sultry officers automatically promotes those members to Siren rank. Sirens join our VIP chat and are listed on our website, and are the pool from which members are selected as officers.
Elegance rank is our first active officer rank. Promotions to this rank are made either through direct promotion by me, or through a unanimous vote by the Sultry officers. Sultry rank is our highest officer rank and Sultry officers are appointed by me. Sultry officers who retire may be granted the rank of Starlight.
Recently added to the list is Wraith rank, which is a holding rank for inactive officers (hey, life happens) granting permissions equivalent to Siren rank. Elegance and Sultry rank officers move here automatically if requested or if inactive in our Discord officer chat for a month or longer but can be reinstated when ready.
For those unfamiliar, Discord is our primary platform for social media relating to the guild. Over time, member presence on Discord has moved from a fun add-on to an essential location for discussing all things Gulda and some other things too. This year I'm more actively encouraging everyone to join the server who hasn't already, and for everyone to use it to its full potential. You're definitely missing an essential thread if you're not there.
Effective immediately the guild will be moving to a brand new Discord server with some new (and hopefully welcome) features. Making the change is easy. You can either use Discord invite code ktvkZSB or existing members can just accept my forthcoming invite. The old server will remain open for a week to help everyone make the move, but after that time content will be archived.
Among the changes you'll see a new section called Feeds. The two channels included here will hold automatic feeds from the Dwemer Automaton bot including daily Undaunted pledges, items for sale at the Coldharbour luxury furnisher (on weekends), items for sale at the Golden vendor (on weekends), patch notes, ESO news and server status. Our regular bot lookup channel is still in place but you'll no longer need to use it to get information delivered via the feeds.
If you don't enjoy using Discord in the traditional way I'm pleased to announce that it can now be accessed right here on our website. It's not as slick as the native Discord itself, but in a pinch it's really pretty good!
Our other social media platforms such as Facebook and PSN Communities will remain active but should be considered secondary to our presence on Discord.
On September 21st of this year Gulda Femina is going to hit the five year mark. No two ways about it... that is an INCREDIBLE milestone.
To help us reflect on all this awesomeness I've added a "Memories" channel to our Discord server. Over the course of the year we can use it as a place to post old pictures, recount things that some of us might not remember, perhaps even reacquaint ourselves with players who have left but still contributed a few threads to our tapestry, for better or worse.
There is... one other thing. A promise I made a few years ago. I proposed a party to celebrate our five year anniversary and promised, should the party happen, to make an appearance there. Many of you know that I'm extremely protective of my identity. Releasing that anonymity is something I'm very hesitant to do, and won't do if I don't feel comfortable. However, if the party happens and the circumstances are agreeable, I will do my best to keep that promise.
Not everything worked well in 2019, and probably the biggest example of this was my launch of a sister guild called Gulda Femina's Fellowship. While it was admittedly a disappointment to me personally, as Gulda Femina's guildmaster my job is to give members things they want and in that case I simply missed the mark. Though the guild itself still exists the associated web content has been removed, as has the "hall of fame" list of player achievements.
Speaking of unsuccessful sister guilds, years ago I instituted a VIP bank guild to allow access to rare and high quality items. It was a good idea but it was an administrative nightmare and ultimately not worth the effort. I mention it as a reminder to you all that we still have our own guild bank to look after, and if we use it well it can be a great resource. With a little effort I think we can improve it.
Perhaps I haven't learned my lesson though, because I have some new ideas to try out this year which are still in the works. One of these is a Gulda Femina tabloid newspaper called the Night Mother's Gazette which will give members a place to advertise to the guild while also providing juicy gossip on your favorite deities, daedric princes and Tamriel celebs!
I'd like to aim for the guild to have a trader every week. Building momentum allows us to bid higher and seek out more visible traders. Much thanks to Syraena7 for administering and sustaining our monthly raffles and doing her best to advertise them. While the raffle is the main fuel for our trader bids, and while there remains no cost to guild membership, I'd like to ask those who do use our trader to make voluntary gold donations to the bank so that we can keep it going. Traders are ridiculously expensive and the only reliable way to have a trader every week is for members to donate to the cause. There's no way to enforce this rule so consider it a suggestion only.
Something that DID go over well was the creation of our new guild hall. Please remember... this is my primary residence but it's YOUR guild hall. If you have any ideas to make it better, share them!
Feedback from all of you remains very valuable to me. I can assure you I read EVERYTHING. In fact, to prepare for writing this letter I re-read all of our social media threads since last January 1st to make sure I didn't miss anything important. But I want to specifically remind you all that there is a completely anonymous way to provide feedback directly to me if you wish to do so, right here on our website, by filling out this form. It goes only to me and unless you specify I promise that I have absolutely no way of knowing where it came from. Please, if you have anything at all to say and don't feel comfortable using another method, use this tool!
Just one more thing!
Congratulations to gavin_dark, howitzer85 and Nikki_Bolas who have each been promoted to Siren rank!
And second, please extend a warm welcome to our two new Elegance officers... madame_jeanne and Mr-X-!
In closing I hope this letter has helped provide some insight and inspired a little renewed vigor in the guild. I myself remain extremely proud of what we have. Extremely. You all are wonderful and I'm so lucky to be able to say that.