I received an email recently from a reader who asks how one might run a guild with a focus on professions. At first I kind of blew off this idea as too fringe to work, but after mulling over a bit I thought of some ways it could be done. My initial reaction was that it would have to wait until Cataclysm and all of the incoming guild changes that will presumably make players more loyal to their guilds. Even those who aren't motivated by loyalty and teamwork might be encouraged by the extra goodies that guilds can unlock, so you'll have a higher sticky factor then. Right now there is no reason for players to favor one raid or another aside from raid schedules, so a crafting guild doesn't look strong for current content.
If someone were inclined to give it a go - a point in favor of a "trade guild" is the current dissatisfaction within the player base. Many of us are tired of e-peen minded, GearScore pimping jerks, so there's probably a decent number of folks who'd consider other options if it didn't interfere with raiding. I can see this as an offshoot of the social guild, strictly casual and mostly populated with alts. I think you could reasonably recruit players to join their non-raiding alts into a "trade guild". I assume one of the perks of this guild will be a more social environment. This could be the guild you'd want to be in when you are fishing or farming. When you have downtime between raids or heroics, or just don't want to be guilted into said activities, you'd log into a crafting alt and hang with your traders. Since everyone else is farming same as you, there should be livelier conversation as a perk.
Another perk would be the understanding that members would be able to trade amongst each other for crafted goodies. If you have a decent number of players, it shouldn't be difficult to have at least one of each profession represented. Not that guild members don't tend to do this normally, but it's hard to barter effectively when other players are constantly popping in and out of instances. I know that the vast majority of requests I see in guild chat for something I can do, I don't get a chance to help out because I'm in a heroic or raid. In a trade guild, most people wouldn't be running content and therefore would be more available to craft items, barter cooldowns, etc. You could even set up weekly events to host crafting swap meets between members.
One way you might attract folks to your guild is with a generous guild bank policy. You could set up all the tabs to be open access, with a limit on the number of withdrawals per day. Then you handle deposits on the honor system where players are expected to make deposits roughly equivalent to what they remove. This would let players share mats they don't need in exchange for mats they do need. If someone is clearly abusing the system, they are kicked or demoted from bank access.
You could also set up a policy of no charge for cooldowns so that all members can get CD-related crafts at no cost from those who aren't actively using their cooldowns. If that isn't workable, you could have cooldowns done on trade. Members could barter goods instead of having to spend cash to purchase a CD. Personally, I'd have no problem trading a stack of herbs/ore for my CD instead of gold.
For some folks this might not seem terribly appealing, but I can see a purpose in having a guild that's just for casual socializing. Sometimes it's hard to get your farming done, especially when your guildmates are frequently asking you to join them in combat activities. A separate guild would make it quite easy to chill for a while, get your farming done and chat with others who aren't looking for group activities.
To extend on this premise, we can delve into ways that Cataclysm might support trade guilds. Allowing players to be members of multiple guilds would be a very helpful feature, as I mentioned in my "Neo-Crafting" article. As a member of multiple guilds, our characters could participate in events from either guild and monitor chat from both. This would be a godsend for developing your character as a craftsperson without compromising your PVE status.
If special Trade guilds were implemented, their members could focus their energies on unlocking new recipes and guild vendors, possibly even beating raiding guilds in unlocking new tradeskill content. Something like this would give trade guilds a huge leg up over PVE/PVP guilds, since they'd be able to draw buyers to them in a way that has never been possible before. Adding the idea of "work orders" to the mix would make this scenario even more potent for dedicated crafters.
There's also a possibility that crafters could gain some sort of customization ability, which could help trade guilds gain visibility. If members of the trade guilds focus their efforts on coming up with lots of customization options, that could be a draw for customers as well. I would really like to see item customization added to craftables, and I think a feature like that would really help crafters distinguish themselves from the crowd.
So what ideas do you think would enhance a trade guild? Would you be likely to join one?