Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Some Notes on the Complaint Review Board

by Jason (Aeston) Rosa


Several years ago, in an unprecedented move, the Event Holders of the Realms put their heads together at a particularly contentious meeting and created the Arbitration Committee, making their best effort to address a glaring need in our community. At the time the decision was very controversial, but despite that I truly believed that heads and hearts were in the right place and it was a sign that our game was moving forward. I wrote about my perspective on the decision in a View post you can find here (the latter of the two articles).

So seeing as I went to such lengths to talk about that earlier turning point in our game, and seeing as well that I am one of the primary architects of it’s replacement, It seemed appropriate for me to introduce the Complaint Review Board and to talk a little bit about the purpose of the committee and my thoughts behind creating it.

First let me give you a basic understanding of the body. It won’t take long to explain, the concept is incredibly simple. The Complaint Review Board is a group of elected individuals who have the duty to receive complaints about rules and ethics violations from the player base of the Realms, much in the same way as the Arbitration Committee did. Upon receiving a complaint it is their responsibility to investigate all sides of it through the collection of evidence, interviews, and whatever other methods are appropriate given the situation. All throughout there are extremely high standards for maintaining the anonymity of everyone involved. When the investigation has been completed, the board creates a detailed report that collects all of the information they learned and passes it on to the Event Holders. At that point the complaint is adjudicated by the Event Holders either at the yearly EHC or at an emergency session of the EHC if the Event Holders decide that it’s a matter that has to be weighed quickly.

I’m sure it’s obvious at first glance what is similar and what is different between the Complaint Review Board and the Arbitration Committee. The proposal was long and it was mostly procedural rules, so rather than explain it all in excruciating detail, I’d rather try to express why we designed this new body and why I think it is a step in the right direction for the Realms.

First, please understand that I served on the AC for three of the five years of its existence. In the two years I was not on the committee I had very close friends who were, and so I was never fully detached from how it affected its members. I can tell you with no hyperbole that it was the most stressful and emotionally damaging duty I have ever undertaken for the community. It was time consuming beyond reasonable measure. It suffered irreparably from a lack of direction and established procedure. It created immense conflict and permanently damaged relationships. I say this pointedly and unapologetically. If you are under the impression that the Arbitration Committee was capable of doing what we as a community hoped it would do then you were not close enough to it to understand its glaring faults.

The Arbitration Committee was an experiment. It was a bold one made with the best of intentions. And when you run an experiment, especially for the first time, it is not uncommon that you fail. But in that failure there is always a lot to learn. 

Education (which as most of you know is my profession) is similarly a field that doesn’t have a lot of obvious right answers. It is a vocation that relies heavily on experimenting; trying your best to do impossible things, assessing what works and what does not, gathering evidence, and then using that evidence as best as you can to make the adjustments and assumptions needed to try again. It is in that spirit that I tried to design the concept of the Complaint Review Board. Yes, the Arbitration Committee did not work as intended. But it also produced five years of data and experiences which I and my co-writers tried to use to create something that would work better.

The AC started with no standardized procedures. At its inception we didn’t even know what we didn’t know about establishing any kind of norms or expectations. And without clear directions to follow, each year it felt like the group was making up the rules from scratch, sowing confusion and unintentionally creating unfair situations. The CRB, however, has every aspect of how it works codified as precisely as possible. The members of the board will not suffer from nonexistent direction but instead know exactly what is expected of them and how to fulfil their responsibilities. The AC was mired with misunderstandings about what they could or should communicate, leading to obfuscation, misinterpretations, and overall nurtured distrust. The CRB has clear instructions about precisely what they report, with a focus on both protection of the individuals in a complaint and also complete transparency with their processes. The AC made five people the judge, jury, and executioner, and expected them to mete out their own version of justice as best as they could, only to be met with anger and disappointment from the people they were trying to serve. It was too heavy a burden to place on so few people and it broke members of the committee in ways that they could not foresee. The CRB moves that weighty responsibility to a larger decision making body where a chorus of opinions and perspectives will be brought to bear to help reach the best and fairest conclusions possible.

Is the Complaint Review Board the best possible solution for what we need as a community? I can say with almost absolute certainty that it is not. Arriving at the best solution will certainly be a lengthy process of doing exactly what I’ve tried to do here. We will work with this new system, gather data about what it is capable of doing and what flaws it contains, and redesign it or reinvent it when it’s time for it to evolve. I am confident that this is a significant step in the right direction.

Years ago, in the article I linked above talking about the contention of creating the Arbitration Committee, I closed with this sentiment:

To some of you I seem like an old veteran player, but trust me, compared to many in that room, I am inexperienced and naive, so I probably lack the standing to express this. Nevertheless, I am truly proud that everyone there tried their best and showed one another that they deeply love the Realms and that they deeply care about one another and the community. Expressing it like that, in that moment, was a rare and special thing. I understand the perspective of those of you who can't agree with the decision or the method that came from that meeting, but please, if you can, try to be proud of them too.

Once again this change comes from people who deeply love the Realms and who deeply care about one another and the community. I am extremely grateful to the many people who contributed to the authoring and fine-tuning of this proposal, some more than me. Ryan W, Pat B, Pi F, Angie G, Tucker N, Alex C, Matt B, Justin M, and Renee B. I am deeply thankful to both the Players Meeting and the Event Holders Meeting for passing the proposal, both times unanimously in a fitting homage to how the AC was passed years ago. I am very proud of the eight individuals who were selected to be the first Complaint Review Board. On it are some young passionate Realmsies, both event holders and players, who the community will rely deeply on in the coming years. Joining them is a diverse cast of veterans who can utilize their wealth of experiences to help them accomplish their tasks. This job is likely not going to be an easy one, but I offer you my unwavering support and appreciation for your willingness to attempt it.

It’s no secret that as a large, loosely-structured, diverse game the Realms faces and has always faced challenges that sometimes seem insurmountable. I can only offer you the broadness of my experience when I tell you that I have seen the best us when we come together to try in earnest to solve those problems and create a place that we are all proud to call our home. 

In service,

Jason Rosa



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Animal Companion Competition: Surprise Challenge

 vAnimal Companion Competition: Surprise Challenge


ACC Challenge C - Surprise (hey look, a distraction)


The third challenge our competitors took on...


Surprise Challenge: You’re at a feast with your person, and they have decided they desperately need an entire tray of the next hor d'oeuvres (ok, let’s be honest, it’s probably the soup tarts) for themselves.  They have given you the vital task of drawing the attention of anyone nearby so they can do so without being noticed.  (you’re getting a cut of the noms in exchange of course) How do you do it?


We had some truly surprising distractions sent in and you won’t believe what some contestants would do for the best food at the feast! 


First up, Kedol Maas has several distractions ready to go:


“I am best boy! So I be cute to distract while Janus gets noms! First, I find other dog, and have it carry me around! How can anyone resist Corgi-Wolf teamup!”


“Next, if that wasn’t enough of a distraction...I take something, but try looking cute at same time.  Something people don’t want me to take from them.”


“Finally, if that doesn’t work, I start howling in pain and acting sick! Nobody can resist this!  Also...maybe i’ll get bellyrubs this way!”


Cressida: I NEED to give bellyrubs to the best boy!!! Even if that looks suspiciously like my box of Thin Mints...

Cimone: Thin Mints… but puppy dog eyes… but Thin Mints… but puppy dog eyes… 


Next up is HelperPink:


Watch as HelperPink distracts Bright with a dance as DaniDanger grabs pancakes.





Cimone: Smooth moves, dancing and otherwise.  A solid distraction for a delicious heist.  (Can I have some of the pancakes?)

Cressida: I love dancing so this would work well to get my attention off the delicious pancakes being prepared. 


Malcolm Mallard had some clever ideas this week to make sure the noms were achieved:


“For this challenge I have two ideas. Pretty much every feast will support at least one. The first is that there must be some sort of sweet bread, or biscuits, and well, I am a mallard, and I like bread. Steal some off of people's plates, and along with my previous demonstrated noise making, I do a great distraction. If somehow, there is not any bread, then there must be some sort of soup or punch (Though I would prefer it not to be poisoned) that I could turn into a bird bath, and while I am more refined than either of these, occasionally it is fun to make the bipeds freak.”


Cressida: Bread and punch are staple food/drink items at any feast so I think both ideas would work very well. Just be careful around the punch at Black and White!

Cimone: Maybe go for a single bowl of soup? You don’t want to court the wrath of a Feast-O-Crat by messing up an entire pot of soup. Although watching an angry cook is very distracting.  (just a bit more dangerous to you than I think you realize)


Aara has a trick up their chainmail for this challenge that is sure to get them the best noms:


“A distraction, you say? Who can resist these puppy-dog eyes?”


Cimone: And the wolf one two punch strikes again.  (my, what a big snoot you have Aara)

Cressida: *Stares into eyes* Yes Aara is best pupper. Take all the food. 


Jharru mulled over this challenge and came up with several somewhat approved of solutions:


“Make a distraction so Aranel can get food? Alright, sounds easy enough. And for a worthy cause too, Aranel has trouble finding food to eat at feasts sometimes, so if there's something that won't upset her stomach for once, she deserves all of it! So, I figure I have a few options here, but I'm not sure what to choose... It might depend on the room and the people in it, you know?


Plan A would be to just be really cute and try to talk to the people around the food table and get them to look at me not at her. I'd try to strike up a conversation with whoever might be watching, making sure to be *extra* cute so they pay attention to me. Aranel says I have big expressive eyes and it's easy for me to manipulate people with them if I wanted to.


Plan B, if no one fell for my cute routine, would be to make up an emergency to get all the adventurers to rush out of the tavern. I heard there's a little girl in a nearby village that needs rescuing! *wink* By the time everything got sorted out, I'm sure Aranel would be able to eat her fill.


Plan C, which Aranel says she does *not* approve of, but who cares, is to do what dragons do best, and light things on fire. What?? Don't look at me like that, my human needs food!”


Jharru giving his cutest expression:


Jharru practicing his fire making skills:


Cressida: Gonna agree with Aranel here, fire starting is frowned upon in the feast hall, but if an emergency arose outside the hall I would be out there ready to help and far from the food.

Cimone:  … could your fire plan turn into getting someone to do a hibachi show?  That seems less destructive and equally distracting.


Our final challenge response this week comes from Cleopatra in her pursuit of Soup Tarts:


“SOUP TARTS SOUP TARTS SOUP TARTS I WANT SOUP TARTS!!!!!”


At the mere question of “do you want a soup tart?” Cleopatra immediately proceeds to run into the middle of the room while screaming about soup tarts. Onlookers are confused about how this tiny handmade-looking lion cub can scream so loudly or run so fast. She manages to trip a few servers, who are stunned but uninjured. Hildegard, in the guise of helping a server or healing a limb, manages to grab a tray for her table. Neither she nor her companion has ever had a soup tart, but Cleo will go nuts for any kind of food.





(For those wondering, the foiled dish in the video is cottage pie.)


Cimone: Meep, everyone quick, pay attention to your feet not the sideboard so you don’t get knocked over.  The fact that she doesn’t know what the food she’s yelling about even is makes it all the better.  

Cressida: The concept of yelling about the item so loud and running around haphazardly through the hall is quite the strategy. I wouldn’t be looking at the tarts when I could be knocked over any second! 


We were shocked by some of these surprising distractions, but truly all of them would succeed in diverting our attention so a certain someone could sneak away a fresh tray. But it's not what we think that matters, it’s what you at home thinks! Which of these distractions would take you by surprise? What would you steal an entire platter of at a feast? Let us know in the comments!


Make sure to return next week for the ever important Talent Showcase!


Monday, March 1, 2021

Meme Monday

 by the Meme Team





Friday, February 26, 2021

Home Questing: The 25th Task

by Christopher "Janus" Donnelly




Here is the form for you to enter for trivia:  https://forms.gle/5sWxNahPWRrfc2WC7

If you would prefer to send something to me directly rather than uploading to youtube or some other video hosting site, please email it to techiemikey@gmail.com.

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Transcript:

Hi all, Janus here and welcome to Home questing, the 25th task.  This week I’m asking you to answer some trivia.  You have until Friday at noon to sign up, and your time starts now.

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Acrostic the Realms 1

The below puzzle is an acrostic. The clues correspond to each numbered row in the puzzle. Some boxes have small numbers in the upper right. Every box that shares the same number also shares the same letter.

If you are on mobile or your browser is having trouble displaying this puzzle click here.

Detestable Commestables

What do trolls end up doing to adventurers who casually wander into their lairs?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Summary of Proposals Going to the EHC

 by Pi Fisher


Hello, Realms,

The EHC is coming up in just over a week. We haven't had any in-person events with the 2020 Omnibus, so we don't have any proposals aimed at gameplay changes. However, we do have a whole lot of proposals aimed at changing how the Arbitration Committee does things, including one that completely replaces it with a new group. Even though you won't have to make any changes to how you play, you still might be curious about how the rules might change after the EHC this year.

Some of the AC-related proposals are very small in what they do. Every year, the AC is supposed to present a report of cases to the EHC and then put it on RealmsNet. Some of the proposals seek to require that the report be written, how soon it needs to be published, and how long it needs to remain available for. There's also a couple proposals to clarify who gets to set AC policies and what those are, such as how long after an incident a victim has to report it, what to do when several AC members recuse themselves, and how much to communicate with EHs when cases take a long time. There's a few more AC proposals, but most of them are short enough that I can't really make my summary shorter than the proposals.

The big proposal this year is the one to replace the Arbitration Committee with a Complaint Review Board (CRB). The idea here is that the AC puts some difficult decisions into the hands of just a few people. Not only does the AC need to figure out what happened, but they also need to decide what, if anything, should be done about it. The CRB would be in charge of the first part of the process, but the rest would be put into the hands of all EHs. If someone has a complaint, they tell the CRB, who then investigate what happened, including by talking with people involved and witnesses. After they've finished their investigation, they contact the EH list with a description of what happened, and it's up to the EHs to decide how to proceed. If the EHs want to deal with it quickly, they can call for an Emergency EH Meeting. If they think it can wait, they can put it off until the EHC. At that meeting, the EHs will discuss whether and how to punish anyone based on this. The proposal is very long, mostly because it's very specific about how this process should be handled.

The next proposals I want to talk about deal with Emergency EH Meetings. This past year, we had our very first Emergency EH Meeting, and it was to discuss Covid restrictions. We noticed from this that the Omnibus really doesn't say a whole lot about how they should be run, so one of the proposals adds more structure to them, both in the topics they can cover and in the way to call for one. Another proposal seeks to make explicit that it's acceptable for Emergency EH Meetings to be handled remotely. There wasn't anything saying this couldn't be the case, but sometimes it's worth being extra clear with things that are allowed.

Sort of on the topic of EEHMs, and sort of on the topic of Covid restrictions, I have a pair of proposals to create a framework for Standing Policies. EEHMs are not able to change the Omnibus, but sometimes it's important to be able to make temporary rules. For example, we wouldn't want anything in the Omnibus saying "no more events", but we probably do want a temporary rule that bans events until it's safe to have them again. We sort of did this at the EEHM where the EHs resolved to not have any in-person events for a while, but my proposals would codify a way to do that in the future, including for any other types of temporary rules people thought were important to have.

The last proposal I want to talk about is about how to handle when an EH decides they need to ban a player from their events. If the proposal passes, EHs who want to ban a player from their events will be responsible for notifying the EH mailing list and also the Realms Announcements mailing list of this. Further, depending on which option passes, there will be a way that they are allowed to include names of banned players in their event announcements. The reason for sharing the information with the entire Realms community, rather than just with the EH list and the banned player(s), is so that players can make informed decisions about which events to attend. If a player has been victimized by someone in the past and doesn't feel safe attending events with that person, that player should be able to find out whether the person will be allowed at events without needing to reach out to every EH and talk about why they're asking for the information.

Finally, something that's not a proposal. At the Emergency EH Meeting in September, we agreed that we would discuss Covid restrictions again at the EHC. If my proposals for Standing Policies pass, I expect the discussion will be a short one: "we like this thing we passed? yes? okay, good." If it fails, I expect we'll discuss other options. But no matter what happens, we'll definitely be discussing it, as our current covid restrictions end at the EHC. If you have strong opinions about how we should handle this, I encourage you to bring it up with this year's Players' Representative, Crystal Welch. (I'd appreciate it if you first read my relevant proposals. 🙂 )

That's all for now. I'll probably write another article after the EHC, but I'll hopefully keep it shorter than this one, so that I don't wind up repeating myself.


-- Pi Fisher

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Animal Companion Competition: Strength Challenge

ACC Challenge B - Strength (puff up they hate that)


The second challenge tasked to our competitors… 


Strength Challenge: You have been charged with watching your person’s back while they are dealing with solving a particularly frustrating lock puzzle. Over the course of waiting for them to figure out the puzzle, you are beset separately at various points by a goblin, a limb zombie, and a suspicious sounding voice (is it something invisible near you, or in your head? You’re not sure.) How do you keep them from interrupting your person and making this wait even longer when they forget where they were in the process?


Per usual, the responses were fantastic this week as the animals took on some fierce enemies! Up first this week…


From Jharru:


Hmmmm. Defend Aranel? Unfortunately I'm not a particularly good fighter, I'm too little still. But, I am an inherently magical creature, so I'm pretty good at spells at least. After all, I helped Aranel with all her spells at first. So the first thing I would do would be to cast circle of protection. I used to do that for Aranel sometimes, and I still remember how. With that at least, she'll be protected from magical beings while she solves the puzzle. I would try breathing fire at enemies too, but I can't shoot very far. I'd do my best to protect her though. Here's how I imagine fighting a goblin would go.” 


And here is the practice video against a very intimidating goblin:





We also have this great picture of Jharru and their circle of protection:


Cressida: Jharru coming in with a very strong circle of protection! Those monsters are gonna have a hard time getting to Aranel now, but will that circle work on the mysterious voice?

Cimone: oh man, and looks like you might have gotten a magic sword out of the deal with the practice run. I like that you have a backup plan of breathing fire in case any of your foes aren’t stopped by your circle.  


Our next entry is from Aara:


“Oh no! Monsters! Kovaks fights with this 6'6" halberd all the time. How hard can it be?”

Cimone: I guess it’s a good thing weapons aren’t sized in part on the size of the wielder like I hear they use to be. Not sure how high you can lift it, but kneecapping enemies bog monster style is always an option I suppose.

Cressida: I know I couldn’t fight with a 6’6” Weapon of any kind, literally I am a little too focused on magic for that, but this is a great strategy for keeping monsters at a distance. 


Next up we find out how Malcom would deal with monsters:


“Hello Judges. This week, your prompt is asking how would I defend my clueless pet Bogen, when he is solving a puzzle, when a Goblin, a zombified limb, and some invisible voice.

First, dealing with goblin is simple. I have Bogen carry me around in his pouch, and as such, I have access to his money. Just toss away something small and shiny, like a Rowan perhaps. That coin is smaller so is probably worth less. I don't know how this currency thing works though. But goblin runs away with this coin. Then then next easiest is the Voice. Once again I am a water fowl. While I am not as vile as my cousins the Geese, I can make a Ruckus if I need to scare something away. Attached is video evidence. Zombie is harder, it is mindless, so I can't manipulate or scare it, so First I would see if there are other adventures I could alert to the problem. If not, I suppose I would have to get dirty. Ugh. But I would peck and grab at the limb to prevent it from reaching Bogen, but alas, I'm not sure if I could kill it. But prevent it from being a problem until Bogen can kill it? Of course.”


And check out exactly how he makes a “Ruckus”:





Cressida: I would run for the hills if I heard that terrifying ruckus. Who knew such a petit creature could make such a huge fuss! I also appreciate the blatant theft of Bogen’s money in order to keep him safe.

Cimone: Bribing monsters, always a classic - especially goblins.  And I certainly would think twice about tangling with an angry waterfowl.  


Cleopatra is up next with some clever ways to deal with enemies:


“Puzzle? Like a jigsaw puzzle? I love jigsaw puzzles! When Hildie-guard does one on the ship, Napoleon and I like to chew on the pieces! Then Hildie-guard yells at us! It’s so fun! But I guess I’m not playing with this one. Hokay. Goblin and limb zombie? I’m kind of like an orb with legs, so maybe I could fool them into thinking I’m a magic missile! I just need to get up high enough and land on them while screaming “magic missile” loud enough and maybe they’ll be fooled. As for the voice? I’m gonna growl. I’m gonna growl as loud as I can and be louder than the voice wishes it could ever be! Maybe even roar. It’ll be so scary that the voice will run away!”




“In the attached video, you'll see me practicing my magic missile trick on Ello-wan! See how good I did? I do need to practice my aim though.”


(Special thanks to Elouan for putting up with Cleopatra's shenanigans)


Cimone: Tenacity with the magic missile claim seems to have done a good job of selling it to Elouan - I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for actual monsters as well.  Well done.  (If you ever encounter mothriders, you should chat with them about good pretend magic missile tactics)

Cressida: Much like the quacking Malcom would use, a loud growl would definitely give me a good scare and make me think twice about messing with Cleopatra! Plus any enemy is bound to give up after enough “magic missiles” to the head and chest. 


Our next competitor, Kedol Maas, is always ready to help Janus:


“Janus is solving puzzle, time to keep him safe.  He trained me for this!  Distract!  I have been taught things for this.  Goblin comes!  I run around and lead him away for others to kill.  I do good job.  Oh no!  Limb zombie snuck up on me!  Luckily armor protected me!  I can take one more hit!  I distract limb zombie and get out of way.  It still goes to Janus though!  So I get in the way.  He attacks and I do the thing.  I be not where the sword is!  I be on the other side of it.  I do this to annoy him!  I lead him away.  Far away.  Then I run fast back to Janus.  But voice appears.  Bark at it.  Bark at it away from Janus.  Go far away.  Distract.  Oh, Janus is done.  Time to go!”


Cressida: I make other people stab monsters for me all the time so acting as bait is a Cressida approved strategy!

Cimone: good use of armor, and solid questing choice of luring problems over somewhere others can stab it for you.  


Our final entry this week is from HelperPink! and DaniDanger:


“HelperPink uses the legs to defend, cover my ears, fight, and wrap up the limb zombie until it gives up.”


Cimone: Tentacle earmuffs, solid idea for handling the mystery voice.  Seems like Helper Pink’s many tentacles help them with multitasking as well.  

Cressida: HelperPink is truly ready for any and every challenge! Securing the limb zombie with one tentacle, while another one earmuffs DaniDanger, and yet another attacks the Goblin... I need to get me more arms. 


We were very impressed by the competitors' various and clever approaches to dealing with a variety of challenging enemies! They all displayed great strength and we are excited to see how they continue to tackle these challenges. Now that you’ve seen this week’s challenge responses tell us what you think in the Facebook comments. How would you deal with these fierce enemies? Will you try yelling at your enemies in the future? Let us know!


Next week come back for the Surprise Challenge!