Stroke My Wookie – Interview with a GM

A few months ago as I recorded my conquest calendars each week on Darth Malgus, I noticed that Stroke My Wookie (abbreviated: SMW), the servers largest PvE guild would be ‘shutting down’ after a decade of activity in SWTOR.

Being an ex-member of the guild and being heartbroken after hearing the news through the grapevine, I hopped back into the guilds community and sat down to have a chat with the GM of SMW, Ula Vii, taking the time to ask him 13 questions about how creation, success and drama that ten straight years of being a SWTOR GM has had, and what other GMs or those interested in creating their own guilds could learn from him.

I started by congratulating Ula Vii on ten years of SMW, the ‘shutting down finale’ party, and his real life with a recent proposal and marriage to someone special;

Stroke My Wookie is the just about the only PvE guild of this size to remain for ten straight years in SWTOR, that takes a lot of work. What would you say the key to your guilds success was to last as long as SMW has?

Ula Vii: Planning, time management and the best officers a guild leader could ever wish for. ❤️

If you play on Darth Malgus today, odds are you’ve seen SMW constantly on the top of the leaderboards earning hundreds of millions of points. How does a guild such as SMW, which isn’t inherently just a ‘Conquest Guild’ earn so many points each week compared to guilds on other servers that demand their members earn a set amount of points each week or they get kicked/banned?

Ula Vii: For me, leading the guild was about helping people be happy. 10 years ago, I chose to do that by organising events that catered to their different tastes and introduced them to new things they might not normally try.
Eventually that led to us having over 120 events in our calendar each month! That level of organisation attracted people who enjoyed leading which meant we also had a lot of groups running outside of what was on the calendar. When the devs added conquest, it was a perfect fit for our guild as all our groups started generating conquest points.
On top of that, we also had people who enjoyed conquest as an activity itself. This meant we had a good combination of passive and active point generators.
Conquest was just one part of the game for SMW, so it made more sense to encourage people with rewards instead of forcing them to reach a point goal. It worked well for us with over 400 1st place victories.

Now SMW awards its members for earning huge amounts of conquest points, infact one of your members Darknell has earned over 700 million CXP alone for the guild. Are you ever worried that people ever join SMW just for the conquest rewards you offer and has it ever caused drama over the years? (With people joining just to gain X advantage or Y reward instead of caring about the guild).

Ula Vii: We definitely had people join us to get the conquest achievements but then everyone who joined us did so for one reason or another. The important thing was to ensure we had a good environment, great rewards and a fun event schedule to encourage them to stay.

For me, the biggest conquest dramas arose from other guild leaders trying to interfere with my guild instead of focusing on improving their own. This was usually trivial tactics like harassing our openworld groups or getting their officers invited to SMW so they could mess with our conquest events from the inside.

I think one of the most memorable was after one of the server merges when I kept refusing offers from a guild leader who wanted to form a conquest alliance. After a month he agreed to drop it and we continued chatting as friends. Fast forward a couple more weeks and some of my officers told me he had been asking them to leave SMW and join his guild. He even started bragging with one of them about how he was going to punish me for refusing his alliance offer and said that they could have a top level officer rank in his guild so long as they helped him with a favor before leaving. He wanted them to empty our guild bank of items and credits and remove everybody from guild except me before changing the message of the day to “Ula Vii Burn baby burn!”.

I decided to fight back with the karma game. I asked my officer to agree to join his guild with the caveat that he invited one of their characters and set the top officer rank before they burned SMW. The other guild leader was overjoyed and could not send the invite fast enough. Once they had the rank in his guild, they asked him to confirm his decision to attack, which he confirmed. They relogged to SMW and asked him to confirm it a second time. He confirmed it a second time and asked them to record it as a trophy for him. We gave him a third chance to stop his plans and asked if he was absolutely certain he wanted to cause that kind of damage. As soon as he said yes, my officer relogged to his guild and removed half of the characters there before gquiting. I then /w the other guild leader “Burn baby burn!”. It felt very dark side and dangerously satisfying. We never had a problem with him or his guild again. 🔥

Stroke my Wookie’s 40 guild teams.

Stroke My Wookie has had over 40 different teams within the guilds lifespan, from PvP teams, to Conquest and Raiding, how does one such as yourself manage this many hundreds of people spread out across these teams, as well as encouraging others in the guild that arent apart of a team to join one?

Ula Vii: Delegation. Each team had a leader who got promoted to officer rank. They were responsible for managing their team member’s rank, officer note and Discord role along with notifying me about roster and progression changes so I could update the team’s webpage.
Team recruitment was a combination of posting on our site, posting in guild chat and teams contacting people that stood out to them during guild events. I helped setup each team and managed their website progress updates.
The rest of their adventure was up to them.

Stroke my Wookie reaches level 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 before any other guild in SWTOR.

When SWTOR created Guild Levels and EXP during 5.0, SMW took off and was able to globally beat every other guild across all servers including mega-conquest guilds that often outearn SMW’s conquest points by double each week, making your guild the World First to reach level 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500! Did you as GM, and SMW as a whole decide that this was a feat you would race all other guilds in the game for, or did reaching 5 separate world first guild level tiers come by chance?

Ula Vii: Myself and the officers saw the potential to help our guild members win more world records so we went for it. They’re a good moral boost and being the first to win a record is a lifetime achievement for everyone involved. 🥇

SmW, the first guild to reach 1 billion Conquest Points in a single week.

On the topic of Conquest Points, your guild was also the world first to score 1 BILLION points in a single conquest week. Now again, was this something pre-decided that you would organise ahead of time and how did you come up with a method and players to earn 1 Billion points in a single week?

Ula Vii: We won a conquest battle against another guild a few weeks earlier were we scored 784 million points. Thanks to that unexpected challenge we realised that 1 billion points was within reach so we started planning it out properly for a future date.
Although not super exciting, we decided to take the simple and steady approach by focusing on the Gree droids. We had one ops group that ran in a big infinity symbol loop destroying all the small droids in front of the Gray Secant.
We had some incredible guild members who led those groups for hours each night that week. People could join and leave anytime they wanted. We encouraged them with badass credit rewards and the satisfaction that they personally helped achieve such a cool world record. First guild to achieve 1 billion points and over 3 million droids destroyed! ⚡

Off of the topic of SMW and onto yourself, when you first created this guild a decade ago did you have any prior experience going in to the rank of GM or was it all new to you?

Ula Vii: SWTOR was the first MMO where I joined a guild so it was all new to me although I was not the original SMW guild leader. That guy picked the name and took care of the initial invites but then stopped playing so we handled everything ourselves and then after a few weeks, I was voted in as leader.

This seems like a good time to clear up the whole “Wookie” vs “Wookiee” topic as I know that has driven some people crazy over the years. Our first guild was created on the Imperial side: “Stroke my Wookie”. A month later we opened our Republic guild: “Stroke my Wookiee”. The original guild leader claimed he chose the single “e” version for our main guild because both were used in the 1976 movie novel and he cited this page as his proof:

There have been a few times when I have considered swapping the names around or renaming to something else altogether but decided against it for several reasons. The first was that I very quickly found that trying to write “Stroke my Wookie” next to anything important took some serious writing effort which was a positive thing as it forced me to think about what I wrote. It was a good reminder not to take things too seriously and I liked that my old friends could always find us when they wanted to re-join. The name also had the bonus effect that it kept out 99% of Karens and Kens in the game😁

Did you have anyone help you establish SMW at the beginning such as a group of friends or did you rely on luck of recruiting and finding likeminded players in game? How do you feel like that affected the success of SMW in the yearly weeks/years?

Ula Vii: The guild started with random people grouping up in fleet chat for flashpoints and raids. We voted on a lot of things and then as the guild grew, more decisions fell to me. I’ve been lucky enough to have several Dark Councils advise me over the years. These were trustworthy people who saw the big picture and were willing and able to help shape the guild’s future. Their guidance and assistance directly contributed to every success and victory. 🏆

The leaders of Stroke my Wookie and Ula Vii.

No guild is without controversy or drama, even if everyone gets along, there could always be a troll or a guild bank stealer looking to creep in. How have you as a GM handled drama around SMW and were there any instances where you thought the guild was doomed or perhaps you were infact wrong and needed to change how you ran the guild?

Ula Vii: At the very start we had a short list of rules but then some people would try to get away with bad things by saying we didn’t have specific rules covering what they did so then we would add more rules and the list kept growing. At some point I stepped back and decided to put an end to that game of wack-a-mole. The only rules we needed were: treat people as you want to be treated and don’t spoil the game for others.

We created a ban list when it became clear that some trolls will keep coming back if you don’t shut the door on them. Each entry includes their name, legacy and usually a description of what each did to get banned. I also proactively banned outsiders who were being extremely or frequently abusive, misogynistic, racist, etc. My viewpoint was simple; guild members deserved a better environment than fleet chat and one of my duties was to guard the gates. I kept the ban list in a private officer only forum because I didn’t see the need to publicly name and shame the people that got banned and I didn’t think it was fair for their victim’s names and affairs to be made public. Over the years, there were a few rare exceptions where I created posts in our website forum to explain my actions to the whole guild as sometimes keeping issues quiet would of caused more harm than good. We have unbanned people but that pathway always depended on them showing they had changed.

One of the most valuable lessons I got from dealing with 10 years of people problems is that time is incredibly precious since it’s really “lifetime” and you don’t get that back, so you have to spend it wisely. We learned that the hard way as we once had someone who consumed over 40 hours of officer time each week! They would get officers into voice comms and literally cry for hours about how bad their life was and how the problems in-game were due to other people not being considerate enough to their issues. It was a shock when we realised how much time we had been spending on one person and how the guild was suffering because we had been neglecting our regular duties. We changed how we handled player problems due to that. We started writing brief summaries in the officer forum when one of us handled a problem involving a guild member which made it much easier to see how much time we had collectively spent on issues and allowed us to catch bigger problems before they got out of hand. The difficult part of the lesson was that you can’t solve everything and sometimes the best thing for everyone is to cut the person free.

For anyone looking to start their own guild or ‘expand’ their guild to the level of success that SMW has seen, do you have any advice for those people on what they should do vs what they should avoid?

Ula Vii: Think about why you want to create a guild and ask yourself if you really want the responsibility of being the guild leader. If you just want to lead groups and have a kickass time then you could contact the leader of one of the big guilds and ask to setup a raid team or event series there. Most would jump at the chance to have someone volunteer to lead groups so you get to do what you want plus the extra benefits of joining a large established guild.

Ten years ago when SMW started, we usually didn’t have enough people online each night to run a raid so we were frequently filling spots with people from fleet chat. We would invite them to join us in voice comms while we were raiding and more often than not people would enjoy themselves and ask to join the guild. We found the same thing happened when we ran our server events. This worked so well for us that we kept doing it for an entire decade.

When you are looking for officers, keep your eyes open for people who are natural leaders. These are the people you see forming groups of their own volition and who are patient enough to help others improve. They often don’t realise how special they are and won’t ask to be promoted. On the flip-side, I’ve found that people who ask to be promoted to officer rank are usually not suitable for the role.

Try to handle problems with guild members quickly. You might think “I’ll sort it out with them in a couple of days” but to them that could be 48 hours of festering fury and bad thoughts.
Remember that every time you write or speak, you are representing the guild.
When you are setting up ranks and guild bank access; only grant permissions & withdrawals that each rank actually needs.
Be wary of the guild members who frequently tell you “they heard” this and that but can never put names to who they heard it from. Usually that means it is their own opinion.
Make easy to access message templates that you can copy and paste as needed.

There are loads of ways to fund your guild with credits including farming mats, crafting, special boss sales kills, kills for items and kills for decorations. It’s good to diversify to avoid bad surprises when devs change things without warning.

Of a decades worth of experiences, drama, stories and the game, what would you say your proudest moment in SWTOR was as a player yourself, and what was your proudest moment within your Guild?

Ula Vii: There are so many amazing moments that it feels wrong to single one out above the rest. Instead I will say I am extremely proud of everybody that helped the guild achieve a decade of success. ⭐

Were there ever any times in the last ten years of SMW that you ever wanted to quit, give it up or close the guild or SWTOR (except for this current time), and if so, why?

Ula Vii: There were definitely some intense moments where I questioned myself but my friends always guided me back to the right path.

With SMW going out with one last hurrah and bang this month, a decade of memories, friendships and dreams in one game. What will Ula Vii be up to next?

Ula Vii: I’m rebalancing my life so I have more time for family, friends, fight training and personal projects.

I also have 10 years of games and TV shows to catch up on so that’s going to take a few weekends! I’m not planning on leading any more guilds although I am going to check out the latest FPS and VR starfighter games to see how they are team wise.

Ula Vii: Thanks for the great questions, they took me on a really nice stroll down memory lane. Have fun everybody, play well!

All images courtesy of, interview date 9/9/2022.

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