In July 2007, a high school friend of mine were both playing The Lord of the Rings Online and found ourselves in one of the largest Kinships, LotRO's guilds, on our server. Yet we never truly felt like we belonged. We felt ignored, oftentimes our calls for help or groups were not answered - the guild seemed more interested in simply growing rather than helping those already there.
So that month the two of us broke away from the Kinship, desiring to make our own. What spawned from that point has become some of my closest friendships in any game - and a group of likeminded Tolkien-fans to expxlore Middle-earth with.
Why a small guild?
For me, I've been in large guilds before. I was in one in Runescape when I first started playing that in high school. I felt useless and alone, even though I could see people talking and working together. It never felt close-knit and as tight as it could be. Fast-forward to 2007 in LotRO when my high school friend and I were duoing most of the early content and we found ourselves feeling very much the same.
Big guilds aren't bad - there are hundreds of amazing large guilds that make their guildies feel welcome and appreciated. I've never been in one that made me feel that way. Even now, in other MMOs such as The Elder Scrolls Online I find myself wondering why I'm still in some of the Guilds I'm in. I've been in one guild since the launch of ESO and I'm not sure I've ever quested or run dungeons with the members - yet it's a massive guild.
For me, having so many people on the list leaves a lot of room for people to be glossed over. It makes it hard sometimes for the more shy and introverted players in your midst to reach out for fear of being drowned out. I feel that way sometimes in even the guilds I'm more active within as well. I recently joined a player-run corp in EVE Online and found myself struggling to get the attention of those who are meant to help those new capsuleers in their journey.
I've never felt that way with my small Kinship.
Some of the most pivotal moments of my time in Middle-earth have been with this group. Helping the Rangers take care of evil in Angmar, getting my first real epic drop in Barad Gularan, getting into PVP after being basically PVP-adverse my whole MMO career. We downed the Balrog of Morgoth together, we fought in Isengard and on the walls at the Hornburg as a Kin.
Most of all, we grew as people together. We invited each other into our lives. My kinmates have watched me get married, were some of the first people I told when my daughter was born - and helped me during my divorce last year in ways I'm not even sure they fully realize. With our Kinship - Eruchin - we kept it deliberately small. At our peak we probably had about 30ish total people. Today, still playing LotRO in some capacity it's about half that.
I sometimes miss how active I used to be in LotRO - this job has me playing so many other games I find it hard to get back to my first choice of MMORPGs - but oftentimes it's not because of the content of the game, rather I long for it so I can catch up easier with my Kinmates and see how life has been treating them during my hiatus.
In my personal experience, the smaller guild has helped really foster that close-knit community I find makes every MMO better. This isn't to say that this can't happen in a larger guild - I'm sure many in the comments will be able to attest to that. But for me, I'd take a small fellowship over a large group anyday.