The Central Outpost
Starting a Clan
by "Grizzly"
July 23, 2006 (Last updated on August 1, 2007)

First off, let me start out by saying that this document is all about ideas and suggestions. It’s not meant to be followed word for word or meant to be strict guidelines that all new clans should follow. Surely if you are thinking about starting your own clan, you already have ideas about how you think it’s going to work out. But hopefully some of these suggestions will enlighten you and perhaps get you to ponder things that you haven’t thought about yet, so you can begin the monumental task of building a clan with a better understanding of how to run it successfully.

Why do I want to start a clan?

Do you want to start a clan because you want to lead, provide, and be a part of a great gaming community? Or do you want to start it because you want to play God and be appreciated for every little thing you do, or start one because you think it would be “cool”? If your reasons are anything other than lead, provide, and be a part of a great gaming community, chances are that you’ll be disappointed and your clan will dissolve quicker than an Alka-Seltzer tablet.

Is starting a clan worth my time?

This is probably the most crucial decision a clan leader will ever make, not the most difficult, the most crucial. Leading a clan isn’t just recruiting a bunch of members and throwing together a website. It’s a lot more than that. Chances are that you are going to spend lots and lots of time maintaining your clan, especially when it’s just starting. Do you have enough free time for this? And are you ready to spend most, if not all of it keeping your clan running?

Far too often, people get the idea of starting up a gaming community without thinking it through. They think of the goal, but they don’t think of the steps it takes to get there and what might stand in their way. Do you go to school all day and do homework all night? Do you work all day and do household chores all night? Clans pop-up everywhere, but the sad fact is that most of them die soon after they are created. If you, as a leader, don’t consider your clan as high up there on your to-do list, your clan will crumble like a cheap cookie. If your “to-do list” is full, starting a clan is not an option for you. Stay out of clanning and save yourself the trouble.

Another question you might want to ask yourself is, “How many pain-relievers can I consume in any given amount of time?” Believe it or not, clanning isn’t just all fun and games; there will be a lot of headaches involved. Other immature clans will wage war against your clan and harass you and your members. Members won’t show up for meetings or do what they’re told. Your server and forums will go down for days, leaving you to jump from host to host, domain name to domain name. You’ll make decisions that many members won’t agree with. Now, I’m not saying that all of that will happen, but what I am saying is that you and your clan will definitely hit some speed-bumps along the way. If you stick it out and solve your problems, your clan will keep on going. If you’re prone to say, “Awe, screw it!” then stay the heck away from clanning.

What game(s) is my clan going to play?

Most clans start out in one game and expand into others later on. It makes things simpler when everyone plays the same game, and that’s important as a clan is just starting out. But expanding may be a difficult process when it comes time (revamp the website, have extensive discussions on which games to support, etc.).

Expanding to other games is a must if the clan is going to survive. Games get old quick, and when they do, you don’t want your clan to go down with it.

For most people, this goes unsaid, but for some blithering fools, I must say this: Don’t start a clan that plays the demo version of a game. For those sane people out there that are questioning why I need to say this, I have seen clans that claim to support one game and one game alone – a demo. I know, very sad.

What’s my clan’s name going to be?

Your clan’s name has to be cool, it has to sound cool as a tag, be easily read, be easily spelled, be relatively short, it needs to make sense, it must not offend anyone, and it must not be restricted to the game that your clan plays.

Don’t name your clan “Smoke a Joint,” “Flying Turds,” or “Lame Pirates.” If you come up with a name similar to that, then you’re not trying hard enough. And having little creativity is not an excuse. These sorts of names tell everyone that your clan is a joke – and it is. “Flying Turds, that’s such a great name.” It’s just too bad your clan is crap. No pun intended.

Don’t name your clan “Killers of Krouceatia.” People will stumble across your clan and think to themselves, “Killers of Kroo, Kraw, Kraoosee, Kraookayteea, Kraookayshia. WTF?” And if you were to get a domain name, no one would be able to spell it, even your members. This goes for made up names, like the one above, and other real words that are hard to spell.

Don’t name your clan “Fabled Bloody Injuns.” This name does not make sense and it’s offensive. If a clan was really called this, you would be able to clearly tell that this person was more worried about their clan’s tag (FBI) than their actual name. Don’t find a cool acronym and then try to think of words that fit it; do it the other way around. If you think of a good name, always consider the tag that it would be abbreviated into. If it abbreviates into the acronym for something that would not boost your clan’s popularity, think of another name. Also, tags don’t necessarily need to be an abbreviation of your clan’s name. It could be just an odd character, but I don’t recommend this because it makes it difficult to remember. Another thing that isn’t recommended is adding a member’s rank into a tag, for example [FBI-LT]. It makes it difficult to associate your tag with your clan when most can’t tell which is the rank and which is the clan. If you use a ranking system, members are either high-rank or low-rank. Everyone should already know who’s of high-rank, and everyone who isn’t of high-rank is definitely of low-rank.

Don’t name your clan “Sojo’s Super Duper Yummy Water and Orange Juice Drinking Guild.” For those of you laughing at my exaggeration of a clan name that’s way too long, that’s not an exaggeration. That was a real clan. Your members will be using the clan’s name a lot, make it easy for them to type out and spread the word.

Lastly, don’t name your clan “The Ship Commanders.” You don’t want to restrict your clan to one game. The name needs to be able to expand into other games. It would look kind of silly if the Ship Commanders were part of an anti-terrorism task force.

What should I do for a website?

We’re going to address this issue before we get into details about leading the clan because this is a very important part in the life of a clan. It provides a central headquarters for all your members to meet, get news and information, and communicate with one another. A clan is not a clan without a website.

It is important for you to have skills in web design. If you don’t, it’s going to make running a clan very difficult. You only have a few options if you don’t want to involve yourself in web design: you can hire a design firm, or you could get a clan member to do it for free. The first option is a problem because designing firms will charge you big bucks, which you probably can’t afford to blow on a clan that’s just starting up. The second option is a problem because the member would need to be on call all the time and be even more active than you are. Finding someone available for something like that may be near impossible. It’s better to do it yourself.

If you’re not accustomed to web design, I suggest you get accustomed. You don’t have to learn all those programming languages or learn how to use a bunch of confusing art programs. You just need a few things, a web graphics program (Adobe Photoshop) and a web page creation program (Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage). All of the programs I mentioned are easy to use and very popular. Once you begin using the programs, you will quickly learn the ropes and be making web pages in no time.

Whatever you do, especially if you’re not fond of revamping a site, don’t base the site around a game, because your clan will probably end up expanding to others later on.

Make your website flashy with well-executed design, make it easy to navigate, and stuff it with great content. Your website needs to be something that receives compliments, not complaints, because the sad fact of clanning is that a clan is judged by how well the website looks.

For content, you’ll want something like the following: a sign-up form, rules page, members list, rank information, award information, and news. Make everything clear and straight-to-the-point – don’t add dummy content (the act of spreading things out and babbling just to make it seem like your site has lots of content). Remember, more is less.

You’ll also need a forum for communication. Yes, your clan chats in-game, keeps in touch through e-mail, and meets on an IM program, but that’s not enough. A forum is great because it allows for your entire clan to be apart of any discussion – and not in real time, so members can have the luxury of responding to topics when they get the time. And there’s some great forum software out there that’s totally free. I recommend phpBB or YaBB.

Your clan needs a place to put its site. You’ll need to find a fast server with the features you need to run a great clan website. Now days, many hosts provide very inexpensive plans – for some, a years worth of service costs less than your average computer game. Now how can you go wrong with that?

And be sure to update the news often, even if there’s nothing going on in your clan, you need to let people know that your clan is active and strong.

Of course, the things I mentioned above do cost money (programs, server fees). If you wanted to take the free route, you could hook yourself up with a GeoCities website and an EZBoard and pretend you actually run a clan. Trust me, this free, slow, ad-infested, junk will get your clan nowhere. If you’re truly dedicated to creating a great gaming community, you’re going to have to open that wallet.

What type of clan do I want?

If you’re a good leader, you’ll be striving to create a great gaming community, but what type of gaming community are you striving for?

A small community of closely-knit gamers is what most should try to aim for. This type of community is less prone to problems, easier to run, and just as fun as a large community. If everyone knows everyone and everyone’s very loyal to the clan, the problems of keeping track of people, making big decisions, worrying about inactivity, and worrying about spies go right out the window. This is also the type of community that can recruit solely based on skills, the type of community that can really be elite.

A big community is a dream that many have, fantasizing about running a clan that everyone’s heard of and is so active it’s almost overkill, but that dream doesn’t touch on the many hardships involved in getting there. Chances are that you will have many problems along the way, and the size of your clan could keep you way too busy. Or, if you’re lucky and you’ve developed your clan properly, it could just run itself and let you take a break if need be. If you strive for a big community, it’s a gamble that you’re going to have to take.

Whether you’re striving for a big community or a small community, always make sure you keep the atmosphere mature. Mature clans are many more times likely to survive longer than immature ones. And being immature won’t make very many allies.

What type of leader should I be?

A clan leader needs to be fun, firm on opinions, and very intelligent. People want to be lead by someone better than themselves, not someone exactly like them. You don’t want your members to go off and start their own clan because they think that they can do a better job. But remember, you need to be someone that the members can relate to. Strutting around and showing them that you’re better than they are will send you and your clan straight to the dump.

Go out there and develop strong relationships with the few members you have in the beginning. Show them that you’re fun to be around. You’ll also want to feel your members out, see if any of them are organized enough to help lead the clan. This is also important at a time when your clan is unheard of and not at war with anyone, because there are some spies out there that’d love to have a high-ranking position in your clan.

Don’t be bossed around by your members. Be firm when it comes to decision-making. Every member has his or her own opinion, and you can’t please everyone. If members see you as a leader who changes his/her mind a lot, they’ll see you as just some flimsy idiot and lose respect for you.

And you don’t have to be intelligent in a “college professor” sense; you just have to sound intelligent. When you write, write in the most grammatically correct form as possible. If your sentences are broken and hard to read, don’t get angry after the members give up when they don’t understand a word you’re saying.

A good clan leader also needs the guts to stick it out through the hard times. I mentioned this before, but I really mean it! Stay with it and your clan will prosper.

What type of leadership system should I setup?

Most clans usually start out with just one leader and a few co-leaders. More often than not, the leader does all the work and the co-leader just sits back and watches unenthusiastically. If you’re going to start a clan, start a clan by yourself so you have ultimate control over what goes. You don’t want to run into a problem where the two of you have a big difference in opinion that leads to nothing getting done.

When your clan is first starting out, keep the leadership relatively simple. You lead, they follow. When your clan gets bigger, add more ranks. Don’t make up 50 different ranks when you only have one member, and you most certainly don’t want to put the first people that join in the “High Council” or something similar. That will lead to disaster. The first candidates to join may not be “High Council” material, very few are. You need time to get to know people before you elect them to high positions.

Once your clan gets big enough, keep some high-ranking positions open for members to be elected into. This will keep people active during voting times and give clan members something to do. Not only that, but it will give your low-ranking members a sense that they have a say in what goes, and they do.

For ranks, you have a variety of options. For starters, you’ll want to have a “recruit” or “initiate” rank. Everyone who joins the clan will be automatically assigned this rank. The only way to receive full-member status is to stay active in the forums and in games for a given period of time. If the initiate passes the activity test, they become a part of the clan. If the initiate does not, they get the boot. Next, you’ll want to create a rank that most of the members will fit into. Next, you may want to create a rank specifically assigned to members who show great skill in-game. The members with this rank could be on the frontlines when you fight wars and represent your clan in tournaments. Lastly, you’ll want to create a “High Council” or “Senate,” made up of the members with great leadership skills. Of course, you’ll need to add more specific ranks as necessary, but you’ll still probably never stray far from this type of ranking system.

How can I get more members?

Recruiting people isn’t the easiest of things to do. Having a website and posting around on a bunch of different gaming forums to advertise your site isn’t the way to go. It may bring in some hits to your website, but chances are that it won’t bring in many members. Most gamers aren’t going around visiting a bunch of websites; they’re playing games.

The best way to recruit people is to get into the game you play and get to know the people you’re playing with. If you have a good time with them and you think they’d be an asset to your community, ask them to join. If they say “sure,” don’t say to yourself, “Yes! I got another member!” Have a test for them to go through so you know they’re really interested. This test can be as simple as having them fill out a sign-up form online or posting in your clan’s forum.

You also need to have your members recruiting other people. Hand out awards to those who recruit five people. Encourage members to be out there recruiting. You could also create a special division of trained members to recruit, particularly members that are easy to get along with, “people people.”

Should I give out awards?

The answer to this question is a definite “yes.” Awards are one of the best ways to keep members active. Give out awards for recruiting members, being a long-time member, being active, doing a good deed for the clan, winning a tournament, donating to help pay for server fees, etc.

Should I make allies?

It’s always a good idea to have at least a few alliances with other strong, organized clans. If you ever make enemies with another clan, your allies should try to back you up (in theory, mostly an alliance just means that your clan and their clan won’t wage war against each other). To help strengthen the bond with your allies, plan events that involve both your clans, like a friendly tournament.

What’s the deal with wars?

In clanning, war is never what it’s like in real life. Some consider clan wars to be one huge tournament between clans, but more often than not, a clan war is all about denouncing the clan you’re at war with. And a war never ends until a final, organized showdown takes place. If your clan is triumphant in the showdown, don’t brag. If your clan is defeated in the showdown, admit defeat and move on. Lingering wars are not good for morale.

How do I make sure all the members are active?

This question is easily answered. Keeping track of activity is easier than promoting it. Simply create a thread in which all members say “here,” similar to a roll call. Or if you’re a programmer, you could devise a way to have members login every so often to remain in the clan.

I’ve got a clan. Now what?

Keep at it! May you never have a dull moment leading it!