In an effort to return to our roots and remain transparent, I've decided to post our new and reformed staff policy for players to view. Staff will once again be held accountable for their actions and treat the pbase with a measure of respect that is deserved.
Policies and Rules – Staff
From Game Policies:
“For the most part, members of the admin staff should be viewed in much the same way as the DMs of traditional pen-and-paper roleplaying games. We are here to enrich your roleplaying experience in a way that mere code could not; we strive to ensure that IC actions will carry realistic ramifications, and that the gameworld is balanced, authentic, and enjoyable for our players. We are -not- here to favor one faction over another, to give you a free replica of Glamdring because your character was raised by a secret, elite corps of Rangers, or to play ridiculously overpowered PCs. There are a great many restrictions on any PCs that a staff member may choose to play; rest assured that no favoritism is tolerated.”
-- Traithe, original game creator.
You are a member of staff here. That is an honor and a privilege, because the players trust you. Never forget that.
Staff Policies and Rules
If you are new here bear in mind that you need to do the following:
Acknowledge the Mission Statement
Read the Knowledgebase
Be assigned mentors in your timeframe to help train you
Turn off your OOC contacts and create a new Discord account which is your admin name.
Have some fun being here.
Assume everyone knows who you are. They do. Someone here or elsewhere will have told them. Don't fret about that, it doesn't matter.
Now for the other stuff.
- Let the players own the forums/discord outside of the staff forums. It is their forums after all. No attacks, defenses, jokes, insults, ideas, profanity, etc on the forums or discord. I want staff focused on the game. If you want to join in with anything else, do so as your old player account.
In the past the Staff Rules have been too lengthy, complicated, overbearing or too difficult to find and as a result this Mission Statement was created as the -only- set of rules for staff to abide by going forward. Everything you do is judged in terms of if it is good for the game and it’s playerbase or not. If you are not sure if something is OK, refer to your fellow staffers.. The Elder Staff will always be there for you to lean on for answers when the need arises. Use them.
Treatment of players. Players and Staff are on the same side. Treat them as real people, not nuisances! All support emails (Asana) from players are to be answered properly within two days. If it is something that requires someone else, or requires more time, indicate that to them with a reply! All items that are not able to be answered immediately should receive a reply of “Received and will get back to you in X days” or “Received and looking into it” etc. Acknowledge the players have contacted you.
Having fun. If the area you are staffing is not much fun for you or the players, do something about it. Change things. If you are logging in and having a blast, you have done all I ask. If you are logging in and hating it, you’ve failed the players. Players have no power over you to make you feel anything or do anything. You are completely responsible for how you feel and your actions – don’t blame the players if you screw up or go in the wrong direction. Apologize and move on.
If you are bullying others or are being bullied, tell us and we will help you. If Elder Staff are bullying you, tell us and we will stop and apologize. We’re all adults and I will have a drama-free team of Staffers if I can help it.
Let's keep all bans of forum or game accounts strictly to Level 5 please. I investigate and keep notes, etc. on the Elder Staff forum,
plus I am the one who will ultimately take responsibility for it. Anyone wishing to ban anyone simply PM me or post on the forums and I'll look into it. In an emergency then temporarily ban someone if you must, but let them know this is a temporary measure while I look into it.
Do NOT believe players all the time. Do believe them most of the time. However always leave a note on their player record as well as posting in the RPANotes board.
Only a Level 5 may create a new account, set up the email and so on. Level 3 and below should leave this to Level 5+. With rare exceptions, all new staff will be marked NOPLAYERPORT on their staff character and will have their current character noted as being part of their staff account. Simple as that.
Please bear this in mind - General Staff is for ALL staff members, PP and BP, coder or builder or RPA. Don’t post your plots on General Staff.
Use of the Staff Announcement Board
There are a few policies that will apply from here on in when everybody posts on the Staff Announcement Forum. These apply to everybody, and to every post once we reinstate the newsletter.
* Any staff announcement MUST have a corresponding newsletter announcement. If something is important enough to be on the announcements section of our website's homepage, it is important enough to go in the newsletter. This does not mean all newsletter items must be on the announcements page though.
Note: The only exception to the above rule is announcements about MUD, website, or other service unavailability, downtime, reboots, warnings about emergency anti-crash maneuvers, and the like. As many of these would be "Ongoing" threads that are quickly resolved, there is no need to include them in the newsletter. The results of them may be considered for this however, but it is a judgement matter.
* All posts must be concise and professional. If there needs to be a large amount of explanation, or discussion, consider doing it elsewhere and perhaps announcing a link to the discussion. This is left to the judgment of the poster, but please do keep it professional. Use formal language, be concise and to the point, and keep the subject matter objective.
* Do not post absences in Staff Announcements.
STAFF BREAKING RULES AND PUNISHMENTS
If you break the rules you will be warned and possibly punished, as follows:
Discovered giving away staff secrets (such as staff identity, plots, plans etc) to players – sacked and account closed. While we can’t prevent info sharing between players, this is a zero tolerance subject for me and I will not hesitate to enforce it should I find out this is happening. I often check the logs so consider this your heads up.
Discovered bullying players using staff influence – banned from the player port as staff and player for one month. Must work on the BP to fix typos and assist with work there until the senior staff agree you can return. You will post a full apology to the general player forums and to the player via discord/PM and post a log of the interaction via the Staff Forum.
Interrupting a player to criticize them or their roleplay when you should have used HM or email – warned the first time, banned from the player port as a staffer for one week.
Showing favoritism to your own friends or clan which breaks the rules you signed up to – forced retirement of your character, banned from player port for a month. Must work on the BP to fix typos and assist with work there until the senior staff agree you can return. You will post a full apology to the general player forums and to the player via discord/PM and post a log of the interaction via the Staff Forum.
Basic punishments – if you have broken our trust you will be thrown off the player port, if you have broken building rules you will be thrown off the builder port. If you have blatantly ignored the rules and made yourself a lovely player empire either IG or OOC, you will be stripped of everything important to you and be forced to confess to the players and apologize.
Continual repeating of anything above will result in you being sacked, as you would expect.
Clearly, all of this is easily avoided by simply being fair, treating players and staff with respect and maintaining a positive attitude towards the game.
PLAYERS BREAKING RULES AND PUNISHMENTS
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to resolve difficulties through discussion, and we are required to take action to see a matter to its close.
Although each situation is unique, the following are the general guidelines that we consider when deciding an appropriate sanction for a policy breach, or repeated instances of the same or similar offense:
1st Offense: Verbal warning.
2nd Offense: Minor sanctions, such as a small skill drop/nogain, roleplay point deduction, or short-term siteban.
3rd Offense: Moderate sanctions, such as a more significant skill drop/nogain, roleplay point deduction, or temporary siteban.
4th Offense: Severe sanctions, up to and including either the removal of the offending PC, or permanent siteban of the party in question.
Players should be aware that if they attempt to manipulate staff, keep asking different staff to get the answer they want, bully other players OOC, or do anything that is bad for the game with intent, they will face punishments with immediate effect. We hold the right at all times to ban and remove players from the game if they show that they are destructive.
An admin may play one player character.
Please do not play a character if you do not have time. We have had terrible failures in the past with staff getting excited and rolling a new character than letting clans and other players down and stressing themselves out about it. We keep a record of this on Level 5 and ban some staff from having any other characters. However, we do encourage all staff to have a character, so as to keep in touch with the game.
Your character may not benefit from unique items that another player of your RPP level (and we assume all staff are 4 RPP for this particular rule) would not be allowed to have. You may not benefit from code awareness to make uber items or cheat..
If you are experiencing difficulty playing a character that has others relying on them, due to RL or staff commitment, you will retire that character properly as quickly as possible so as to not let players down.
Please always remember that you were once a player and you are encouraged always to play the game as much as your other responsibilities allow.
If you are a Level 4 or below YOU MAY NOT APPROVE A STAFF CHARACTER.
Level 5+ will approve staff characters and relocate the existing player character onto the staff account. You may be on the player port on only ONE character at a given time. PC or Admin. Not both.
All Admin PCs must be authorized by the Elder Staff. Elder Staff will agree to almost any idea, of almost any level of RPPs, as long as the staffer in question can show that they are able to keep that PC in game and make it one which creates RP and opportunities for RP.
All Admin PCs must be properly utilized. No creating a PC and never using it, or losing interest after a week and dropping the players relying on you. If you want a PC then you will treat the playerbase with respect by ensuring you play that PC. You will not treat your PC as an experiment or distraction. Remember, we are here to help the playerbase expand and enjoy, not sit around wondering where you have gone.
Multiple PCs are no longer allowed unless previously granted permission.
Feel free to put forth an idea for any race you like and any kind of role you wish. We'll consider them without looking at any RPP restrictions, we will however look at your past behavior - not because we're fascists, but because we care about the players too and the impact Admin PCs can have on them, for good or bad. Since an Admin is beyond RPP (which measures trust) we don't see why we should restrict the trust in you when you come to us about roles.
Do NOT load free items for your character.
Do NOT create custom weapons or armor for your character with statistics different than non-custom armor.
Do NOT _EVER_ use your admin avatar to deal with disciplinary matters related in some way to your admin PC. Always use someone else.
Do NOT engage in excessive PK with your admin avatar.
DO NOT show a bias towards your PC's interests in your administration.
DO NOT use your influence as an administrator to "Lean" on people for IG advantage for your PC.
DO always be on your absolute best behavior as your admin PC. You should be the very image of high-total RPP players at all times.
DO use your Admin PC to generate player-like plots.
DO use your Admin PC to show players alternate solutions to common problems - pvp, crime, leadership, general conduct. Think outside the box.
* Be aware that your Admin PC is a scapegoat. If a scapegoat / sacrifice / crash test dummy is needed for a particular important plot, admins WILL be asked to volunteer their PCs.
* Be aware that you may lose the right to a particular PC or Admin PCs as a whole for misconduct - entirely at the discretion of the Elder Staff..
* In all cases, player satisfaction comes before admin satisfaction when conflicts arise.
Assisting your own character
You may expect this to be an enormous NO. However, I have long agreed that when we hire players who used to be a pure player running a clan or having a responsible and time-consuming player role, that we will assist them when they come to staff. Speak to an Elder Staffer if you feel you fall into this category of player.
Please do not use staff knowledge to abuse the system so that you find an exploit and make use of it. Exploits are there to be pointed out and fixed.
We trust you to do this. Break that trust and you will face banning and possible loss of your staff and character accounts.
This is NEVER a long term solution to not having the time to meet commitments.
Examples from old SOI of what has been done in the past:
- I finished a cabin construction after having been so busy RL that I could not find the time to do it, but players were relying on me meeting a deadline. All equipment and materials were present and all consumed objects properly consumed.
- I loaded some sandpaper and paid for it, rather than make the trip, as I only had 15 minutes before meetings. My character ran the craft using that sandpaper.
- I loaded numerous objects etc that were incorrectly missing from rooms due to errors or crashes and that I had spotted as a player. I logged off and did this, then logged back in again.
Player Plots and You
I have noticed a falling away of the system we had in place for dealing with plots and stories, as well as keeping in touch with player actions and plots. Years ago it ran like we well-oiled machine- players provided feedback to staff who planned the next phase and then made sure players knew how to follow that, what to look for, and do what they had to do. There was a process of rolling feedback between staff and players about what was going on, plus an understanding of how to keep a storyline or set of activities going with proper information back and forth. This has pretty much died. It's coming back.
We return to a simple system that worked and we stick to it. Here it is.
GENERAL EASY STUFF
1. You will post to the forum with what's happening.
We can't be on 24/7 so POST on RPANotes AND the plot thread when something happened you were there for.
2. You will glance at the appropriate forum to see if some instructions or plot notes were left. If the player is noted as being in a plot read their pnotes.
3. If a player is part of an ongoing plot, leave a note on their account stating where to go find more information or what may have progressed or conspired while you were online; or a forum link.
4. If progression in a plot is made, POST POST POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT IGNORE.
Ok now for the interesting stuff.
PROACTIVE, REACTIVE AND PROGRESSIVE
A story is either started by staff or players. In the case of players, it's the duty of the clan leaders or main players to keep the appropriate staff informed. It's the responsibility of the staff to keep the player(s) informed.
You have to understand that there is a cycle of how this works for players. Here's some factors you've probably forgotten:
1. Players have on average 2 hours to complete an RPT.
2. Staff have on average 3 hours to plan and complete it. Delays mean you have to will likely have to pass it on to another staff member or the players are stuck.
3. RPTs on average take 3-5 hours currently.
4. RPTs tend to be insular events with poor recording of IG information and poor follow through to let players and staff alike know what happens next.
5. RPTs tend to happen when 1 or 2 staff decide they have the time and energy
So let's look at what this means:
1. RPTs are TOO LONG. Plan for a ONE HOUR RPT. If it takes longer or is delayed, ensure you communicate that to the players and ensure you are not going to have to log off in the midst of it.
2. RPTs are just PART OF THE LIVES OF THE PLAYERS. They are not a one-off you can then ignore or fail to push on with or drop because you got bored, or drop because players retire or get bored or complain.
3. We need to follow through afterwards by posting IG or by making changes IG to help to immerse the player. That is our goal! Make tavern posts, load changes to terrain, use echoes to imply change.. as a result of player actions or staff actions.
RISK AND REWARD
You must assess the danger of an event in the lives of the players and decide on the classic storytelling ploy to escape routes, reinforcements at the last minute, dire tragedy, unexpected humor and heroics and so on.
Let's break this down into practical tasks:
1. You WILL assess how dangerous to the players a place or event or whatever is. You will then take appropriate action to make sure that there is ALWAYS A WAY OUT of certain death. You will NEVER place players in a situation they cannot escape from. This is part of the excitement of being alive - when unable to win, they need to CHOOSE to admit that and get the hell out. If they don't, good luck to them.
You will NOT remove creatures or dangers generally just so players can make it out alive. If they let themselves get into the shit, they can paddle alone. Life is harsh, and if they do something suicidal, they deserve to get killed - even if you love the pcs. This also means, learn the foes you’re using and do NOT prepare mass suicides for the players that they cannot handle.
2. You WILL assess the risk of an RPT and ensure that the level of danger is appropriate TO THE SURROUNDING EVENTS AS WELL AS TO THE PLAYERS. If there are three pcs in the a patrol and they are taking part in a major battle against orcs, you will make sure that the numbers they face are down to how many they can realistically engage with at once and the position they are in. You will not let them slaughter small numbers of enemy just so they can feel good. If they are in the middle of a battle and the human side is losing, they will feel the pressure to retreat.
3. You WILL set goals for RPTs and long term stories. If the sphere has been given the duty to claim a piece of territory and it is going to take 10 attempts of back and forth, you will assess how they are doing and change the world around them as a result. You will not read that they spent 4 hours doing something in a group of 8 and then make no effort to change the world as a result. You WILL show players that their time and love of this game is meaningful. If they screwed up let them know it. If they were heroic, let them know it. Provide feedback with direct goals to the players if applicable, especially highly responsible clans.
4. You WILL plan ahead and give the players sufficient opportunity for success and failure so as to make them know they really really had to FIGHT to win.. Let them see where they could have failed and a glimpse of what would have happened. And if they fail give them a glimpse of how they could have succeeded.
Remember, players are there to be involved in A COMMUNAL EXPERIENCE THAT IS DEEPLY MEANINGFUL TO THEIR REAL LIVES. Treat them as such. Reward them with opportunities to be involved, but never ever face them with impossible tasks or give them too easy a time.
- A battle is at its best when the tide could turn either way.
- A rogue group is at their best when one person could turn tail and betray the others just when the deal is being struck.
- A businessman is at their best when faced with corrupting their morals to do a dodgy deal that they know isn't right.
**A player who knows their decision to commit to something that could finish their life, their dreams, their direction forever MUST BE MET BY PROPER AND WELL-THOUGHT-OUT REPERCUSSIONS.**
It matters if someone chooses to die for a clan. It matters if someone betrays others. It matters if a player runs through the dark to gather reinforcements and try to get back before everyone dies. It matters if they run away instead. It matters.
That is what our one single job is - TO LET PLAYERS KNOW THEY MATTER.
If you are bored, can't be bothered to change the world to reflect your stories and the actions of the players, if you don't give orders IG to player clan leaders, if you fail to post in taverns, if you sit and complain about it all, you are letting me know players don't matter.
The only reason players get so frustrated here is that we do not follow through enough on what they begin or what we begin.
Never let it be said that we let a story die again, or didn't care when a player tried to do something that sacrifices them potentially to losing their favorite ever character in some way. These decisions matter. Remember your most frustrating moment ever as a player, your worst experience with a plot that never went anywhere or a clan that worked for 6 hours to build something or achieve something only to see NOTHING change as a result.
We will care for our players and we will reward their love and crazy commitment to this game.
Training Criteria for Getting Onto the PP
In order to fairly adjust all new hires we will do the following:
1. Two months after commencing on the BP, the new (Level 2) staffer is assessed for log in time and general attitude. If they suck or have gone, get rid of them, otherwise set them to Level 4.
2. At least two months after commencement on the BP if they demonstrate all of the following they should be added to the Staff forum group if the exhibit:
• a willingness to learn
• an ability to ask questions
• good log in times
• strength of mind
3. They must complete the set of tasks assigned to them via Asana to test their ability and knowledge otherwise prior to being considered for access to the Player Port.
Expectations of New Staff
a. New staff are encouraged to explore the map both IG and via the google document.
b. New staff are encouraged to experiment with commands in their private rooms, especially combat and group commands.
c. New staff in training on the PP may only log in and interact beyond the above two items if a full member of staff is on the PP and is not idle. The full member is there to aid the new player in their probation period.
e. New staff may provide low-level animations under the guidance of a full member of staff.
d. New staff may come up with their own plot ideas, but may not begin them until they have been posted upon the forum and full staff has given the approval for the go ahead. Small animations and fun interactions are not considered plot.
e. New staff should not engage in combat RPTs until they have ridden along as wing with a full staff member.
f. New staff should not make themselves available to answer petitions unless a full member of staff is there to assist and aid them with it. (see item c.)
Expectations of Full Staff Aiding New Staff
a. New staff in training on the PP may only login if a full member of staff is on the PP and is not idle. Keep an eye on them and train them if you are free to. This is to teach them some of the commands, pitfalls, hiccups etc. If you see them spending more than a week doing this, aid them in moving up to higher duties.
b. New staff are encouraged to animate low-importance NPCs and create small fun interactions, but full members are expected to provide bits of demonstrations of tiny animations to new staff and oversee their first attempts. Then we trust them to go and play a bit.
c. By this time new staff are probably beginning to think up plots. Encourage them to just write up all plots and either hold them or post them on the forum for review and approval. As soon as we feel we can trust them, we can approve a minor plot and send them off to run it with regular and complete reportbacks on the forum thread.
4. The new staffer on the PP is under a two month probation period. At the end of those two months they are to be assessed. If the team feels that the Admin in question is ready, they are made a full member of staff. This may not happen earlier than two months after initial hire. The probation assessment is a sit down with the new staffer during which they are formally talked to about:
- General attitude
- Work so far
- High points
- Areas needing improvement
- Areas the new staffer wishes to concentrate on and the training available
- Future goals and how we can help them achieve them
- Overall probation assessment: Success or Fail (meaning try again in a month from now)
It is important to make a very big deal about going onto the PP. This goes towards them being proud of their position, recognizing that they can make some absolutely dire mistakes etc etc. To be honest we'd much rather they were over-cautious than over-confident. Confidence is so much easier to develop than caution - the latter usually happens because somebody just made a god-awful mess. And anyhow it really IS a big deal getting onto the PP. We should make it feel like it is. Easy-won promotion does not count for anything at all. Hard-fought promotion is treasured, respected and fiercely protected by that person promoted up.
5. Formal approval as staff means changing their rank and the probation period is over, ability to assist new members is passed on.
A player no longer has to request staff to retire, although they do to unretire (which we rarely allow.) The backstory must be approved by elder staff. In other words, the player would approach a staff member who was Level 5 or above. Only they can approve and make the call. If a request is made to retire, help the player to do it themselves.
It is not your right to retire or unretire a player character just because they want to come play where you don’t want them.
You WILL please leave a player note detailing this on the player account.
That player must follow the policies of making sure a message is left IG and they leave behind what they should leave behind.
Inconsistencies and false promises comprise the most serious problem we have on this game. In the past, a whole range of reactions have been attempted, from anger to denial to silence, from no action to total bans. None of these will ever solve the perceived problem, except transparency and mutual respect between staff and players going forward. The best method for dealing with accusations is to be responsive to players, friendly within the boundaries of staff-player relationships set at staff level, seen to favour all players equally.
The playerbase expects good service; they do not always congratulate you for that good service as if it was extraordinary, though be assured they are still grateful. Players expect consistent and speedy responses to their requests for assistance. If they do not hear from you, you have failed and the same problems that plagued the SOI of years past start to arise again. This is why staff members are going to be trained to answer petitions and messages, even if it is to say we will need to come back to them later. This is why organizing tasks and refusing to focus on a single clan or player for excessive proportions of volunteered time is stressed. You may satisfy one player and feel proud of your efforts, especially if you had to "win them over" as they had been annoyed at the time they had waited. However, while the hours it took to "indulge" that player were spent with good intention, many other players are also knocking on the staff member's door for attention. Balance is therefore vital as is communication with fellow staffers and players alike.
We will -not- continue to make promises we cannot make good on in a timely manner. We -will- return to the days when immersion and player involvement was the keynote of this game. We have a long list of issues to tackle yet the future of SOI remains bright so let me be the first to thank you for all the time and effort you will ultimately contribute to make SOI a more enjoyable game for all our players.