1) Breaking Away from Canon
Well, in this case, there are a few rather large points to be made. Some players may not care if SOI follows canon or not, but who can deny that SOI exists in itself, and entirely, because of J.R.R. Tolkien.
When I joined staff, I was extremely enthusiastic and optimistic. Being a somewhat new player who had had extremely positive experiences on SOI in his small number of characters, I had experienced no reason to distrust the staff or think them anything less than incredible. Of course, they are, as we all are, human; but humanity spreads a wide range of archtypical egos and personas, and I do not believe that the excuse "they are only human" is any better of a riposte than to say that a con-artist or swindler is "only human". Time is money in this world, and howmany of the staff or players could claim that they could not take their beloved SOI time and turn it into some amount of financial gain? A small number, most likely. No, there is a level of responsibility towards integrity in the pursuit of exploring Tolkien's world and in running what is obviously an addictive and relatively long-lived virtual world.
The very first thing that ever happened once I was on staff that made me feel uneasy came in one of my earliest conversations with Kite. During a conversation about the Seven-Year "Plan", I questioned how the Battle of the Fields of Celebrant would fit into the bigger picture for the future. For those of you who do not know, or don't have text reference close to you, this is an event that takes place about three real life years in SOI's future where ten-to-twenty thousand orcs and Easterlings overrun Gondor's armies and defeat them in what is one of the two largest documented battles in Tolkien's Third Age. The significance of this battle is that it happens just a ways to the southeast of Angost (in an area that is mostly already built, as per Kite's orders); Gondor is defeated, and certainly there is nothing that stands in the way of a massive host of Dol Guldur and a successful invasion of Gondor. It is at this point where Eorl of the Eotheod rides down from the north, and beyond the odds, saves Gondor from being overrun and defeats the hosts of Mordor and Moria upon the Fields. The result of this victory is that a large section of northern Gondor is given to the Eotheod, who with it found the nation of Rohan. If you know well who comes to Gondor's aid during the War of the Ring, at the Battle of the Pelanor Fields, you realize that this is easily one of the most significant events in the entire Age, and certainly the most significant event that SOI would ever see in the likely future.
Kite told me very clearly that the Battle would not be taking place as it was set to, that Gondor would not be defeated, and that Rohan would not become a Nation (even off of the playable map). Of course, this disturbed me as I care about canon a lot, but in retrospect I believe that it fits into a grander theme of occurences ... having had the chance to play in Gondor, Gondor's army, Tur Edendor, Angost and even the Mines of Moria - having had the chance to help many players from spheres all across the world - I've come to understand that Gondor seems to rarely lose at all nowadays, even when it fails to reach goals that are set out. Another point for later.
The Haradrim situation. My suggestion to Kite, to clarify a point that he has brought up, was to consolidate the spheres in the following manner; move all of Gondor to a single region that constituted of Army, Fellowships and all of the major clans that exist now in perhaps slightly alterated situations. Additionally, FJ would close down and the Mines of Moria would potentially close down after a trial period to see if the players were able to maintain interest in such a unique setting. So you would have a consolidated Gondor, Angost and then a new Mordorian sphere set a short ways south of Mirkwood Forest and Dol Guldur (the Mordorian sphere is actually an idea that Kite shares and wants to pursue, though he does not believe we need to close down current human spheres to open a new one). This Mordorian sphere would be the Balchoth, the "Easterlings", a very over-populated village with strong influence (though not direct leadership) by the Black Numenorians. Very nearby would be a haradrim outpost, where they would be involved with the war effort and trading with the other Mordorians. After all, the Haradrim, like Easterlings, are of the Fourth House of Men, the "Dark Men", who have always served -Morgoth- and -Sauron- after him. This is blatantly documented, and never are the "Dark Men" presented to be anything less than pawns of the Dark Lords.
This brings me to my point. FJ was originally created before my tenure, and I can only speculate as to the "why". However, Kite told me that it was originally designed to offer a new instance of war with the Army of Gondor. It quickly became apparent that FJ's playerbase would be unable to support a war, and instead of following through with what was canon at this time (Corsairs from Haradwaith are documented to warring with Gondor at this very time), somehow the decision was made that to help keep Shadow's sphere alive, intersphere trade would be pushed despite the fact that there is indeed hostility and outright fighting between Gondor and Haradwaith at this time in history. This has grown and grown, and while perhaps it has presented interesting roleplay scenarios to a few characters, it is just a gross manipulation of Tolkien. Never would Gondor do what Gondor is doing now, and this is all in an effort to keep FJ alive. This brings me to my next point.
2) Cheating, Favored Clans & Staff Playing Spheres' Highest Powered PCs
I warned above that you should not read this if you did not need or desire specific examples and information that basically is ban-worthy of me to give. If anyone abuses this information, I can only express my disappointment in their judgment, but it is important to understand the situation as it is. I will try to wrap up (as best as I really can) my more specific complaints of cheating, lying and bullying that is ever-present at the Senior Staff level.
Kite plays Halathadir in Gondor for anyone who did not know. I didn't before I joined staff, but as I've noted elsewhere, I was likely naive and newb. Halathadir is fairly clean, honestly. He is, perhaps, more powerful than I believe a staff PC should be (certainly more powerful than other characters know him to be). Kite's sin isn't so much that he cheats himself, but that he is aware of other abuse and cheating, and defends his IRL wife Rhubarb and moreso his friends Shadow and Salahdin. To note is that myself and several others have caught Halathadir breaking Kite's own ROE rules on NPC allowances on occasions. Of course, when brought up, we were met with vehement words and were investigated ourselves for trying to "start shit". I can honestly say that, as a briefly lived member of Senior Staff, there are a disgusting number of occurences of the same handful of staff being investigated again and again, where their abuses are called "honest mistakes" and the investigators (myself included) are severely threatened and insulted for hurting their feelings (no matter how polite our investigations may have been handled, and mine were certainly polite).
Rhubarb, Kite's IRL wife, plays Katalyn in Gondor for any who did not know. Again, I didn't even learn that Rhubarb was Kite's wife for a while -after- I joined staff. I came in pretty fresh, and only nine months ago or so. Rhubarb was caught crafting on her admin character for her PC, and afterwards, Kite changed the rule - now, admins are able to craft (it takes no time for them to do so, all crafting is instantaneous and without timers) for their PCs to help out their clans. Beyond this, Katalyn was one of the characters that I discovered had been given too many "free RPP boosts"; she had received one too many "free point", which was chalked up to a mistake (and may possibly had been just that).
Shadow plays Nur in FJ (and TE previously). Shadow is the staff that players seem to complain about the most, and she is one of the oldest staff left on SOI. I, myself, have caught various instances of lying, cheating and shadiness, though I will only speak to what I have personally experienced and not things that I have read on the Senior Staff forums about the past. Nur received sixteen free points of stat-boosts that took her beyond the realm of possible stats for her race (Haradrim). She was only eligible for ten points at most, and there is no mathematical solution (though I attempted to find one) to possibly explain how bad math could have been the cause of such a huge mistake. In truth, there is even a log presented on the Senior Staff forum which shows her discussing the boosts in such a way that indicates that she was aware of this. Despite my findings on the boosts, Kite decided to inform the players that this was merely a mistake and there was no punishment or reproach beyond lowering her level of boosts to ten points; still, this does not account for the fact that is obscene that staff would be given ten points of boosts to their characters when players could certainly never afford that many. Was Nur a 12RPP-worthy character? I cannot personally say, as I’ve had little to no experience with her, but to note is that there is not a single player who has 12RPP in the game. Her boosts made her more powerful than a Noldo or Vanya Elf (the sort that are thousands of years old). Beyond this, her character was certainly the most powerful and influential in all of FJ, and arguably in Tur Edendor beforehand. Beyond this, Shadow has given the FJ clans awe-inspiringly high paydays with money that poofs out of thin air. When she was the brief lead of the Mines of Moria, and I was doing a lot of legwork for the sphere at the time to try to keep it alive, I witnessed and was made aware of many times when she would convince an orc player to retire and take some grand noble role in FJ; some of these players may have been unhappy with the struggling sphere, but to note is that all of the players that she “stole” (which is, in itself, unethical) ended up retiring their FJ characters. Needless to say that Shadow accomplished nothing by taking over the Mines of Moria, and it was made clearly evident then, later and even now, that Kite desires the Mines of Moria to be closed; whether or not the sphere should stay open has merits on both sides of the fence, but I have certainly seen very little lasting effort given to helping it. Also to note is the odd matter of Haradrim armor, which I have fixed several times (and apparently, so has
Farmer plays Mansur in FJ (and TE previously). Farmer, who to my witness has not done anything at all on SOI during my tenure, created Mansur on the same day that Shadow created Nur. Even though Shadow lied to Senior Staff (which I pointed out) and said that she had created Nur before she was on staff (Shadow pre-dates Nur by about a full year), it took very little research to realize that Mansur and Nur were both given some strange boosts very early on in Shadow’s career. All that I could prove on Mansur was that, like Nur, he received +16 boosts when at the most he should have received +10. Again, though ten points is beyond reason, even this was generous. Mansur has not been an active character in quite a long time, Farmer is not an active staffer, and the fact that he received boosts at all went against the policy that said that staff characters had to be active to receive boosts. To note is that every single “mistaken” boost given to a staff character or ex-staff character (no normal players had mistakenly high boosts) had been poorly documented by Shadow with one sentence, whereas the rules stated that specific reasoning and background needed to be applied to be considered for boosts at all. Mansur’s stat total was rectified as well, but again, this was chalked up to a mistake. The mistake was in letting staff characters get free boosts at all – and when I suggested that staff characters lose all of their boosts in an effort to instill some faith back into the playerbase, my plea was of course ignored. Mansur, like Nur and Halathadir and Katalyn is one of the most influential (if entirely inactive) characters in the gameworld. The argument has been made that because Shadow is so intensely attached to Nur and that Farmer is her friend, that FJ was created to keep their characters in the gameworld. This can only be speculation, but the resistance that I have seen towards the idea of intelligent consolidation (that is, consolidation that removes none of the playable races or large clans, but brings the world together) by Kite, Rhubarb and Shadow certainly increases my suspect of this being true. It is my finding that, though the rumor-mill certainly twists occurrences and causes them to be somewhat inaccurate, most of the complaints that I have seen come in from players have been true.
Salahdin (Rhino, for those of you who that name means more than it did to me) plays Geraint in Minas Tirith. Salahdin is an interesting addition to the collection of staff who most certainly work to protect one another and are admittedly friends. Salahdin is an old staffer who was punished many times, and eventually sacked, for being abusive to players (as Rhino). He also was the staffer who trained Kite, when Kite was but a Newbmin. Salahdin was the first staffer who really burned me on SOI; there was an instance where Shadow had proclaimed that there could be no more Haradrim or Corsairs as Earmhyde in Angost, because they were meant to be played in FJ and not in Northlands, and that we could not possibly know enough about Haradwaith culture to fit them into our sphere. And so we had a player, who I will not name, who applied as a common human from Haradwaith but specified that they were not a Haradun. We utilized them for a little plot, which we sometimes try to do with new players to sphere to help with immersion, and things proceeded nicely. My backup RPAs for an RPT involving a trio of trolls were missing, and Salahdin offered to help out. I gave him simple instructions on which direction to move and what the deal was, but when the RPT started he literally did the opposite of what I had asked him to (for instance, he literally moved in the opposite direction and attacked the opposite group of people that I asked for). However, I witnessed him continually attack this commoner with a Haradwaith background over and over again as his troll, going against my instructions and ruining the RPT (which was actually supposed to be a jaunt into the more comical side of trolls). He did not emote, he did not do anything but attack this singular character until he manage to give the character a mortal wound. This ultimately resulted, with the players own actions owning a part, in the character’s death. When the player complained that a staffer had attempted to assassinate him, he was given a permaban by Kite for questioning the staff. Now, I fully believed then and do now, that Salahdin was attempting to kill that character played by a player who had just retired his FJ character and stated that he was unhappy with the direction of the sphere. We now take Geraint, Salahdin’s character, who has been a Master Weaponsmith since before I even started playing SOI. Geraint has a low-to-mid level of Adroit skill in Metalsmithing, though he could potentially cap out at Master level; think closely about this, and any of you who have been metalsmiths know very well how easily the skill level raises. How could an extremely long-lived and insanely influential character create massive amounts of top-notch armor and weapons and have a skill-level in metalsmith that is lower than most Apprentices and even non-Fellowshipped smithers? How could Master Weaponsmith Geraint have a lower skill-level than newb orcs? How could it be possible for someone with such a low coded skill level make weapons that were the equal (and sometimes, the better) of magical weapons, dwarvish weapons, or elvish weapons? Creating that many things should have surely raised up his skill level, and though the ability of searching backlogs was removed from myself (and all of the staff besides Kite and possibly Shadow), I can only speculate. However, the only thing that could possibly explain it, in my mind of understanding the code pretty damn well, is that Salahdin loads armor and weapons for Geraint and that he is allowed to make weapons that break the barriers of our rules for a character who is (codely) not even a very good smith. Just branching his skill-sets alone should have raised him up beyond this level. Does this sound fair to the players who craft obsessively in hopes of branching new skills and raising their skill enough to be able to make solid pieces of equipment? Beyond this, since I’ve been on staff, I’ve seen Salahdin reprimanded quietly numerous times for attempting to steal players from other spheres, insulting and belittling players on the forums; currently, he is supposed to have been on a three month ban from the player-port, wiznet and the forums. Certainly, he has posted in the forums, certainly I have seen him logged onto the player-port, and constantly he is involved in talking over wiznet about how to screw over political opponents of his character with other staff (something that happens FAR too often in Gondor). When I raised these points, again, it was a “mistake” that he was never actually removed or banned like Kite claimed that he was. Certainly, they made no mistake in banning me for posting my resignation notice while Kite was asleep and unable to immediately remove it and blanket information from players. Salahdin is certainly one of the worst offenders on staff, and I could write pages upon pages of instances of him ruining crafts, cheating or acting poorly towards players if I had the inclination. However, your poor brains are likely hurting by now and need another break.
Hawk and Dove. This is the treasured clan of two Senior Staff, the married couple of Kite and Rhubarb. Without access, all that I can really say about it is that I have seen how they evade having to pay taxes (through a system that they have created), how they claim to be entirely self-sufficient but have paydays for the clan that would make Knights and Captains weep, and how Rhubarb has spent a lot of time on her admin avatar crafting for her clan and character . Additionally, it is Halathadir and Katalyn that I (and other staff) have found most often breaking Kite’s own ROE rules involving the number of NPCs one is allowed to take out with them for combat purposes. I have no inherent problem with the clan itself, beyond that it is evident that Kite and Rhubarb’s devotion to this clan is at least as great as their devotion to the game as a whole, and that that clan experiences a level of influence that does not really make sense. It is an “everyman” clan with high political power and influence, and it has the ability to force itself into anywhere that it wants to and do anything that it wants to. I believe that the clan likely started off well, but with the ever-increasing power of Kite and Rhubarb as Senior Staff, it is easy to watch the increase of power on Halathadir and Katalyn, and just as easy to watch the increase of influence of the Hawk and Dove Company. The fact that rules were changed to make allowances for Senior Staff characters sits poorly on me.
But these are just some of the instances of cheating and power-mongering. There are other staffers with high powered characters in Gondor, and I have watched them abuse OOC information and talk about exacting action against regular players who are in-game political opponents of them. You learn from who leads you, and right now, Gondor and FJ are unfortunately rotten at the level of leadership. This is not to say that we’ve not made mistakes in Northlands, which I will address later, but any of us who had influential characters in those spheres have found ways to kill off our characters in a plot once the clan that they were involved with was stable, or find other creative ways to continue to play our characters but remove them to a less prominent level of influence as soon as possible. This is because we truly believe that the players are the ones who should shape the gameworld. The Hundredmen in Angost, who are the most influential figures there, are played by new and/or previously unappreciated players who are excellent. The Knights, the Guild Foremen, the Elves – these are all players. It was always my goal that, in Year Five (next in-game year), we may be even to the point where we could toy with the idea of player Ealdormen. In the Mines, it was much the same; the fact of the matter is that the power in the game world should be in the hands of the players, and that the staff should be more than satisfied with the idea of playing prominent and immersive NPCs that bring life and energy to a region, insteading of wanting to hog the glory and power for themselves and their OOC friends.
3) Kite: Lying, Bullying and Backstabbing
This is perhaps the point that most personally offends me, though certainly I feel strongly about cheating. The truth of the matter is that many of the players seem to believe that Kite is a man of integrity who is honest with the players and the staff. This is unfortunately far from the truth. Though I’ve seen very little evidence of cheating directly from Kite (again, mostly he just vehemently defends his friends who DO cheat), no staffer has lied to me more than Kite has. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times that I have read Kite post something to the players on the forums that I know is not the truth, and that Kite and I have even spoken about! I cannot tell you the number of times that Kite has made promises which he had no ability (or perhaps, though it is speculation, intention) of keeping. I have spoken to Kite on issues involving storyline or policy plans on AIM, only to see him post something different on the staff forums or player forums. I have seen him blatantly claim to have no knowledge of things to other staff that I know that he and I have had long talks about. I have seen him mislead players and rob them of the ability to really be able to affect the gameworld around them. I will provide a few examples and then move on.
There was an instance where I was hiring for new RPAs for the Mines of Moria a couple of months back. I approached Kite on AIM about the idea of getting in touch with Jackrabbit and Shammat and finding out if either of them would want to come back to RPA once again; I had never spoken to Jackrabbit or Shammat before, but I had had positive experiences with both of them as a player, and respected their work and creativity. Kite told me that I could absolutely recruit them, but that Jackrabbit was unlikely to respond to me (which ended up being true) and that Shammat was unlikely to want to return because of past issues (which ended up being only half-true). Shammat I approached, and she gave the matter thought for a week and then decided that she would like to come on quietly, just to do animations and immersive stories and echoes for the Mines of Moria. She did not want to have a major impact, and she did not really want to come into conflict with other older staffers (a point which I did not fully understand at the time). I then had a second conversation with Kite on AIM, who told me that I should actually probably let him talk to the Senior Staff to get their input first. Of course, it was Shadow who stated outright that she would quit the game if Shammat was allowed back in any capacity. Kite wrote me what was to be the second of three PMs during my tenure where he threatened to sack me; he told me that he had never given me permission to speak to those staffers and that by doing so I had put him in an incredibly awkward position with his friend and Shammat’s boyfriend (who I will not name here, out of respect). I was somewhat indignant, and replied that we had spoken about the matter a week prior and even told him exactly what he had told me. And yet, at the Senior Staff level, Kite continues to threaten and bully me, and he has consistently lied about this matter to save face. It came down to me, of course, to apologize to the ex-staffer and let them know that, infact, they would not be able to return to help.
In a recent sub-plot in the Pel-Anor region, Kite had borrowed the concept for my warg spawn-nests that I use in Angost. He did not place a cap on how quickly or how many wargs were spawned, though I attempted to help and point out that they would grow at a wild rate unless things were changed; however, I was assured that the challenge was one that Gondor would step up to, or there would be "IC consequences". It was when I continued to follow the pattern of the Druadan wargs' growth and pointed out that there were over TWO HUNDRED high-powered wargs fashioned after the ones that we had designed for Northlands, that the staff came up with a plan. All of the wargs were purged and vNPC Marchwardens were said to have arrived and fought a massive battle and won. The last small number of wargs that were placed in a store-room for an RPT were defeated by a small number of PCs, including Kite and Rhubarb's. More than a couple of PCs died in the Druadan due to those wargs, including even a staff PC or two. All (or very, very nearly) of those PCs were given resurrections, and the players involved were told that the wargs were "bugged". This is, however, untrue; the truth is that Kite was aware of how the design worked, we had spoken about it, and when his poorly-built creation proved too much for Gondor, he bailed out PCs and entirely removed any chance of there being IC consequences. Truthfully, two hundred "uber" wargs could have overrun all of
Kite also told me that he is an ex-Professor of Psychology and has many degrees of it. I have, of course, found this out to be entirely false with very little googling effort (he is a Department Manager for Customer Phone Service at Sony, or something to that extent, and no noted degrees on any business portfolios or bios that I read about him). His willingness to lie about even mundane things just casts a very untrustworthy wash over him in my eyes.
So beyond my point, that I could continue to stretch on for a long time, that Kite double-talks and lies to players and staff constantly … there is the matter of bullying. Surely, a snippet of Kite’s temper tantrums have been seen on the players forum here and there; however, Kite is absolutely beyond horrible to his staff. So many staff have come to me extremely upset, because Kite has sent them a threatening PM, or a PM that insults them in very personal ways (their age, their gender, their ability to not wet themselves, their integrity, their intelligence, everything that you would expect from a standard schoolyard jackass). I, myself, have experienced it on many occasions, though it has less of an affect on me, because I learned long ago that bullies only have the power that you give to them. The truth of the matter here is that Kite will threaten to close down your sphere or sack you if you disagree with him, and that he will find any personal way to insult you if you argue with Rhubarb (his wife) or Shadow (his friend) and it “hurts them”. He is absolutely, absolutely horrid to staffers; and I have seen him work actively to deface ex-staff and lie about them in an attempt to move the public opinion away from any who would have a reason to speak out against him. Daffodil, for instance – despite what was said about Daffodil’s reasons for being fired, I was privy to the entire discussion of why Daffodil was sacked. Daffodil was sacked because Rhubarb gave him permission to make changes to the geography of Minas Tirith to be more hospitable, and Daffodil moved everything that was useful into the AB area of the city. Kite absolutely flipped at this, and he sent several disgusting PMs Daffodil’s way. Daffodil insisted that he only did as he thought best and was given permission by Rhubarb, which was of course called a lie despite his log showing thus, and the “abuse” that Daffodil committed was not even a much talked-on point in the lengthy bitchfest about him on the Senior Staff forum where they decided that he was out. This was a long time coming; they had bullied Daffodil (who is a young man, admittedly) and treated him awfully for months, and there were many staff who were aware of it. It was even worse for him than it was for myself and Nimrod and Frigga and some of the other staff who frequented being Kite’s targets for abuse. Surely, huge abuses towards players actually had been made recently by Bones and Salahdin (and the Senior Staff themselves), but they would point fingers at Daffodil and deface him because they knew that the work and effort that he put in made him popular with the players of Minas Tirith. Now, Kite will surely do the same for the Northlands staff, and he has claimed that he had no idea that our resignation was coming. This is, of course, absolute crap; Kite knew very specifically how we felt, and we were open with him about it.
Backstabbing. This one I will keep short, but you do not have to guess far to see how lying and bullying would be related to this one. In short, there are many instances where some staff will try to “set another staff up” to get in trouble; in one occasion, a player had contacted Kite about acquiring a single point statboost before the RPP-boost system went away. Kite, knowing that I strongly disagreed with a system that allowed something as OOC as RPP to be the affect of something as IC as stats, made a note at the Senior Staff level that the request should be sent to me so that they could punish me if I decided to tell the player that the boost system was no longer active (of course, we had made the decision to remove it before it was removed, but it was left in just long enough to allow a few key characters could acquire one last round of boosts). I must thank
The end result is that I’ve come to understand that Kite is a (perhaps compulsive) liar and completely untrustworthy. While some of the other staff may be more directly out for themselves and their characters, Kite retains the unique ability to literally make me feel sick to my stomach when I read what I know to be lies, or see how he treats other staff/players, or watch how he plots against people who disagree with him.
4) Donations and Other Oddities
This is an issue that Phoenix brought up to my attention right before I joined Senior Staff, though of course while looking into it, the threads that she had referenced for me had been deleted. There are a few issues here, and I will attempt to give you what small glimpses of information I have on them.
The website, www.angelpaths.com – which I found easily via google. With a simple WHOIS, as shown below, it was simple to find that this site is on the same server as SOI. This is the business site of Rhubarb, who is a tarot card reader/writer and something of a colour/energy healer. As Shadow controls the Paypal account that runs SOI’s donations, it is impossible for me to know clearly if SOI’s donations go towards running this site and Salahdin’s alleged Halo server. However, it does seem odd that these two things were merged together and certainly causes a lack of transparency on Kite’s part.
Moreover, it was unfortunate to find (and I do not intend to call out the players, who have likely done nothing wrong in themselves) that there are forum accounts with identical names on both SOI and the Angelpaths forum. Now, I’ve not claimed that Kite has recruited from IRL to SOI, however it is absolutely true that there are players who have extremely prominent positions of power in Rhubarb’s sphere who exist on the very active Angelpaths forum, and at least one or two that appear to be actual clients. Of course this is not damning in itself, but it creates an incredible conflict of interest. The entire website creates an incredible conflict of interest.
Players are also likely unaware that there was a discussion on the Senior Staff forum some time ago where Kite asked permission of the L5s to reimburse himself with some of the excess donations that SOI had received from players. Of course, many players may not have minded that Kite pocketed the money that they had donated, since he had himself paid (and so have I paid, and other admins) previously. However, he did not ask for player permissions to use their donations thus, and infact said to the players that any excess donations would be stored away for later use on advertising, upgrades (unnecessary ones, perhaps), and upkeep costs. This is not what happened, and when the donation well began to run dry recently, it was actually Traithe who stepped in and paid a large amount of SOI’s future costs. To me, this is an absolute breach in trust, and since Shadow has proven to be untrustworthy and is a good friend of Kite, it is absolutely impossible for anyone to know for sure where their donation money is going; is it going to Salahdin’s Halo site, or is it going to Rhubarb’s tarot business site, or is it reimbursing Kite who has proclaimed financial hardships recently, or is it going to pay for SOI in an entirely proper manner? Unfortunately, there is no way to tell, and it is a very sticky situation.
5) Northlands, Mistakes and a Sort of Summary
This is not to say that mistakes have not been made in Northlands. There was a time, for instance, where a staffer (Daffodil) was allowed to play a character with the Hex skill.
Early on, we were far too kind to elves.
Magic. There have been a few “magical” plots in Northlands and quite a few supernatural or superstition-based plots. I do not regret these, because I feel like they are a part of Tolkien’s world, and a very important part of this region of the world. What I do regret, however, are a few compromises that I had to make on certain plots. For instance, I knew very well the limitations of canon-magic, but to right a wrong of Sudo (an old staffer who never survived on SOI to see the opening of Angost), I had to incorporate teleportation into an early plot of mine. Now, teleportation is out of bounds in Tolkien, but rprogs had already established it; if I had had more time and more experience, I am sure that I could have found some sort of more canonical and creative solution to finish that plot (which was a beauty, otherwise) without diminishing its affect. There were a couple occurrences of this, particularly early on when I was a newb-RPA, where I was put in charge of tying up old and messy plots left by a generation that never even got to see the opening of Angost. It is a small regret of mine now, because I can see clearly how I could have made some very creative choices that might have been better. I am harder on myself than people know, and I certainly want to make it clear that everyone makes mistakes.
However, with that said, I want to return to the idea that there are mistakes … and there are wrongs. What is happening on SOI right now (and what has been happening, for a while) is wrong. Kite misleads the players and the game is feeling the affect of it. Our numbers are down and continue to drop, and staff PCs continue to become ever more rich and more powerful than the PCs of regular players. The group of staff that run the MUD continue to become more and more the same group of OOC friends (or married couples, in some cases) who are the very source of the abuse and cheating that they pawn off onto others and deny. However, when you look at the extreme turnover of staff in the past year on SOI, it brings to light two major problems:
1) Kite and the others do not seem to care if they chase away good staff volunteers, as long as the volunteers who support them and will not speak against them or accuse them of cheating and being dishonest may stay.
2) The Talent-Well is running dry. When we put out notices for applications, we often get no responses, or a single response. Recently, we have been lucky to get two responses. How can SOI possibly continue to maintain being spread out so far geographically with such a small staff roster, when it can barely find new staff and the turnover rate of good staff is greater than the ability to hire?
Ultimately, I struggled to stay on for as long as I could. The more that I got promoted, the more information was at my fingertips. The more information that I had, the more that I realized that there is something extremely wrong about SOI and the group that is leading it. There were times when Northlands and non-Northlands staff came to me and said that they wanted to resign, and I told them that we could work it out, that we could find a way to make things better, that they should stick with it. Right now, most of us are resigning not to make a point, but because a House-of-Cards is finally falling under the weight of knowing the truth and being driven miserable over it. The players, they are wonderful. Every plot that we were able to write, every time that we were able to help someone, those were great moments for us. But we are human, and we were volunteers; it got to a point where many staff were burnt out from all of the insanity, and those of us who are immune to burning out (like myself!) just knew that there was no way to reconcile with what is happening. In a recent PM to the staff, Kite veiled a threat to close down Northlands because some time ago we had proposed a plan of consolidation; in the same PM, he said that he would not defend rules to other staff (even if they exist entirely to server the staff PCs and not the player PCs), and that SOI was not the other staffs’ game or even the players’ game – but his game. He claimed that SOI was his game and that he wants to have fun, and he wants his friends to have fun. This is what he said. That is not the vision that I believe an RPI, let alone one steeped in a fantasy-world so beloved and respected as Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, should be. The game should be a place where the players have the power to affect and change the world, where there are IC consequences for IC actions, where there is failure and heroes and hardship and politics that are player-driven. If Kite wants to break his own rules, lie to players, threaten and insult staff, create policies to make legal things that once were cheating, allow cheating to happen, cover up the truth, and break Tolkien’s canon so that he and his friends can have fun … so be it. But, for me and the team that I work with, we would be happier creating our own world and RPI - we would be happier letting the players know the truth than being a part of the problem by trying to sacrifice our mental health to give players a region that is (hopefully relatively, at least) free of the corruption of other spheres without indicating what is the simple truth:
There is a big problem with SOI, and you have been lied to about it. What you do about it, I cannot tell you. I know that I wish the game the best, and I pray that the wonderful staffers who did not decide to resign can continue on with a tradition that we were proud of in Northlands. You players made us smile, sometimes cry (not myself or Hulk of course, because we’re men), and gave us a great time and joy while we volunteered for you. I’m very sorry that it came to this, but when it comes right down to it, we just weren’t paid enough to have to endure just how awful things are right now staff-side.
If you read this and you now wish that you hadn’t, you can join me at the club. I wish that I could be ignorant as well, because I was much happier then in regards to SOI.
Perhaps some of us might play our characters again in the future, if we are ever unbanned. Perhaps we will work on a new project (since only those who ‘do’ have a right to bitch, as they say). Perhaps we will write up some stories for Northlands and submit them here or elsewhere. Perhaps we will create a traveling circus troupe and you can pay fifteen bucks a ticket to come see Hulk walk the tight-rope. I could only speculate.