Bans Rulings and Decisions
From WoD Gotham
Does that open up the flood gates for people crying foul? How can you be sure that the rules are applied equally to all?
Well you just can’t. Not even in a codified community can you do that. Someone will always question how the rules are applied and if it’s the same for everyone. Then there will be rules for the rules to ensure that things are fair. Then you’ll see that there are rules about rules about rules….etc.
So we aren’t even going to try. There are just some core principles for players and STs to remember when STs arrive at their decisions and players are made aware of them:
- Any decision made by the STs will be made with the good of the community in mind.
- STs are the final call when in session. Players are free to bring their concerns up the chain after a scene is run.
- Most decisions will not involve banning or removing players. Most decisions likely will take on some form of mediation. For example, a ST may instruct players involved in a meta-gaming incident as to what exactly may or may not be taken IC and then let the players move on with their RP.
- For slight offenses, we’ll just mention something casual and be done with it. There’s no reason to beat a player down and brand them for ostracism.
- However, if the offense is severe we will come down hard and fast. We’re not going to dick around with a problem player for months, shooting off repeated official warnings and the like while we hope the player shapes up. We’re much too focused on helping with stories and creating adventures to be allowing ourselves get bogged down in policing people.
- If the offense is not severe, but recurring then a player can expect stronger action taken like a temporary ban.
- Players can expect that STs will be clear in their judgments and decisions. If a player is not clear on something, they are accountable for their behavior and need to ask for clarification. Also, STs are responsible for making themselves clear to players. It’s a two-way street and both parties need to be totally certain of what their expectations are moving forward.
- Once a decision is made, everyone needs to move on. Topics are not up for discussion. The team makes a decision and it's over. It’s hard, but STs and players need to try not to carry grudges. Everyone deserves a bit of patience and a chance to redeem themselves.
How Bans, Rulings and Other Admin Decisions Happen
We have several layers for handling rules infractions. Various levels of team members are able to use different moderating tools and they are outlined below. Further, all of these items apply to ALL community members, not just players.
Reasons for Permanent Bans
Permanent bans only happen for the following reasons:
- Inability to take the ST Disclaimer to heart. We reserve the right to tell prospective community members that don't take that ST Disclaimer to heart to find another game right away. If you're already having serious issues during the sanctioning process, then we'll take it as a sign that we're just not a good fit for you and that'll be that.
- Actively seeking to antagonize the community or members of the community by sewing discord within the community via trolling, instigating arguments for no real reason, being an asshole to people for the hell of it, and generally sniffing out trouble wherever one can find it. These are premeditated and calculated attempts to bate people into arguments, create general strife, and show a level of negativity that makes it readily apparent to staff that one is incapable of social interaction with the basics of common courtesy and civility. This does not include people who get hot under the collar because of circumstances in RP - we all say and do things we don't mean when we're angry. We don't permanent ban for that. See: Respect and Fun
- Unwillingness to maintain RP standards on the chat. This is a tricky one as it applies mainly to people who demonstrate a repeated unwillingness to conform to our standards. The team isn't unreasonable on this as we have a fair amount of experience among us to recognize when someone is trying and having difficulty and someone who is being disruptive.
- Harassment, griefing, stalking. Any activity where someone is being stalked or made to feel creepy or unsafe on the chat will cause the offender to be permanently removed. This includes sexual harassment, griefing characters belonging to another player for no IC purpose or for a thinly veiled IC purpose, lobbying against another member of the community that one may have a grudge with, or using one's position as a staff member within the community to settle a score or to extract sexual favors even if it is for pathetic cybersex. This is a separate chat from other chats and people joining the community in good faith are entitled to a fresh start. No one is allowed to bring garbage from other chats and pursue vendettas here.
- ST Corruption. The need for trustworthiness among team members is absolute. Any corruption will result in a permanent ban. Corruption could be anything that gives the offending ST's characters an edge in the game or an edge to another player, friend, spouse, significant other, another ST, etc of the offender. This includes allowing gear that would not otherwise be allowed, misuse of inside information, less than an egalitarian application of the ruleset used by WoDG, lack of following established precedent, allowing for EXP expenditures that were not backed up by established character development, etc. Be advised that ALL parties involved in such activities are done in WoDG. In plain English, this means that the offending ST and any person receiving favors from the ST will be permanently banned.
- Cheating. This includes but is not limited to: attempting to compromise any technical tool used by the community, giving oneself an unfair advantage by misusing confidential information (primarily this affects STs), misrepresenting yourself as a player by creating multiple accounts or creating new accounts in order to avoid a previous ban, warning, or other disciplinary sanction or to involve more than one of your characters in a storyline, or otherwise engaging in an activity that is against the spirit of the rules of the community in order to give yourself unfair advantage in the chronicle.
- Abuse of Community Resources. Attempting to exploit, hack, spam, attack, harm, or disrupt any of the technical tools for any purpose whatsoever is grounds for immediate removal from the community without warning.
- Recruiting for other chats and sites. We have put a lot of time and effort into developing World of Darkness: Gotham. We expect our community members to respect that effort and to support the chat. Those found recruiting for other sites are subject to immediate ban.
- Three Strikes. If after being temp banned from the chat 3 times, a community member can't get it together, they will be removed permanently. Supporting documentation and precedent must be followed from the history of past offenses up to the current offense. This three strikes policy applies to lesser offenses and venue specific offenses. It gives players and STs a chance to course correct and dial it down before things escalate to permanent ban levels.
These are the only reasons that we could come up with at the top of our head that we could all agree make it so that we absolutely refuse to have an individual participate in WoDG. However, we reserve the right to add things to this list should they come up - we just can't foresee every scenario. We take our responsibility to be clear and up front with the community seriously, so when we add to the list we will announce right away.
How Permanent Bans are Decided
Team members have a forum to review possible permanent bans. In these forums any and all material and supporting documentation that serves as evidence of the questionable behavior is brought forward. This includes forum posts, fpms, chat logs, screenshots, instant messaging logs, etc. The STs and Admins look over the evidence and make their decision according to the weight of it. No evidence is allowed to be introduced that is taken out of context. It must be supplied in whole or not at all. It is required that no fewer than 2 staff members (one must be an Admin) participate in the decision. There is no waiting period for this that way decisions that need to be made quickly are carried out speedily.
If you're a prospective player and already getting into trouble, you will likely be removed right away. In this case, you'll have to appeal to an admin and work very hard to convince us that you can abide by our standards before you'll be allowed to participate again.
What Options Do Community Members Have?
Offenders will have had at least one clear warning shot to swiftly correct their course in the case of actively instigating and antagonizing community members - including staff. If this isn't quickly rectified, then the staff will follow procedure and immediately begin the decision process. Cases of trolling are pretty clear so there really needs to be no debating on the subject with the offender - that only encourages the baiting into flames and other nasty business and we just don't go there.
Keep it Together!
We've had several cases where players become unhinged during the sanctioning process. Community members need to be aware that there are personalities within the larger cWoD community that go from one chat to another. Typically the players create waves in one chat so they leave in a huff and then insert themselves in a new chat and repeat the same behaviors until they've run the full circuit and begin again under new accounts and IPs. There is a certain sense of entitlement among these personalities who we call snowflakes. When we find them, we remove them. We don't spend a lot of time debating the point. If they can't hold it together and remain respectful and try to make a good first impression, we will simply indicate that the chat isn't right for them and move on.
Players accused of harassing others will be given an opportunity to offer up their own documentation for STs to bring with them into deliberations. We understand that sometimes a majority may single out a minority. We also understand that sometimes in the case of sexual harassment the waters can be muddy so everyone involved will have a chance to have their say. Further, while we are deliberating all parties involved will avoid contact until such time as a decision is made. Anyone not following that directive for ANY REASON will be considered as further engaging in harassment activities and immediately permanently banned.
In cases of ST corruption and Three Strikes, all parties will be able to offer their own documentation and they may be subject to interviews by Admins. With Three Strikes cases, there should be a pretty clear history of documentation already established.
We feel it's important for players to understand why we ban when we do ban. Therefore, once a ban is made all the evidence collected is shared with the community and an explanation of the decision is disclosed. We use a read-only forum for players to review the documentation should they want to.
Since we only ban permanently for serious reasons, topics are not up for discussion and the decisions are final. All community members are expected to move on after a ban. Should any community member not do so, and start campaigning and otherwise actively seeking to antagonize the community or members of the community by sewing discord, etc. they themselves are engaging in an activity that could be cause for permanent banning and they will be dealt with immediately.
Warnings are the least formal of all mechanisms we have in place on WoDG. They are wide ranging from a ST saying informally to a rowdy player in session "Dude...get over it." To a serious formal warning that a player has become close to being unwelcome in certain Alliances or within a ST's sessions. We can't cover all scenarios here because there's just too much variation. However, we will cover the official warning.
When is a Warning Official?
When the team member(s) involved believes that the infraction is serious enough to thoroughly document and then bring to the attention of the Project Lead.
How is an Official Warning Given?
Admins and STs hand out Official Warnings via contact ticket in the Character Dossier System. Alternatively, an Admin can give an official warning for disruptive or trollish behavior on the forums via the forum warning system. Whether it be by Ticket or the Forum warning system, Admins and STs will share links, logs, screens, etc. with the offending player so that it's absolutely clear why the warning was given. This will be done via our Time Out Forums which hosts private threads belonging to individual offending players where any and all supporting documentation that is not taken out of context is posted.
How Many Official Warnings Are Given Before an Issue Escalates?
What Happens If An Issue Escalates?
A time out or temporary or partial ban is issued.
Temporary Bans or Partial Bans - Time Outs
I like to think of these as not so serious time outs so that community members can cool off. However, there are times where for whatever reason a ST's personality and that of a particular player may not mesh or perhaps a player has proven to be a nuisance in one venue, but other venues have not had any real issues. In cases like these, a player may be subject to a partial ban.
Temporary bans are issued in the same way as official warnings and are in essence the second time that a particular issue has been needed to be discussed with a player. In cases like these, the player will be removed from the chat for a period of no more than 1 month and no less than 1 week so that they can cool off. Once the cool off period is over, they are welcomed back and are offered the opportunity to start fresh. However, should the behavior continue, then it is re-documented and another temp ban is issued. Once the player has been subject of three temp banning procedures, the third one will be final. Then procedure is followed as per the Permanent Ban policies above to disclose all documentation in the Banned and Unpleasant Stuff Forums and the relationship between WoDG and the offender is officially and permanently terminated.
Partial bans are more serious as they act as permanent or temporary bans from a particular venue or from a ST's events. Criteria for partial bans are the same as the over all criteria for temp or permanent bans and warnings which are chronicle wide. The only real difference is that the ban is venue specific. Sometimes players and STs do not get on for whatever reason and a player who has issues in one venue, may click with a ST in another. In cases like these, a partial ban might be the way to go. We can't force our STs to ST for players that are a regular problem in their game and we don't want to. Players are not forced to play WoDG, so STs don't have to accept every soul that is hell bent on making their lives miserable as STs. Further, STs need to be able to move on and spend time with players interested in participating in good faith. To spend time with a couple problem ridden individuals is simply not fair to the rest of the players.
How are Temporary and Partial Bans Given?
Temporary and Partial Bans use the same mechanisms as the official warning system and documentation is required. Banning privileges only are given to Administrators, so STs will have to have everything posted in the Time Out Forums. Temporary bans are not a big issue and are expected to happen more frequently. Admins therefore will not get involved so much in the deliberations, they will just flip the temp ban switch as it were after the player has been notified via email of their temp ban status (including begin and end dates). We don't envision a scenario where a temp ban is a surprise to a player as a prior official warning would have been issued. Further, where it's demonstrated that a permanent partial ban is warranted, the same standards and disclosure policies will apply as with chronicle wide permanent bans. Therefore, at least one Admin and one other staff member must be involved in the decision making.
A natural reaction of STs will be to look at a player that has been banned in one venue and expect the same sort of behavior in their own. It's a challenge, but STs should not allow that to color their judgement and they should allow the player who has such an issue in another venue hanging over them, to start fresh. The policy is that after a decision is made, we move on. No grudges from players or STs.
No community is perfect. No team is perfect. We anticipate there to be issues. Perhaps even our vetting process might fail us. We recognize that nothing is infallible. However, we do our best as a team to keep things clean for both players and STs. That being said, we recognize that there might be issues at some point where community members may clash - whether that be among players or STs and players.
If you feel that you're unfairly treated, first of all get screens. Hit print screen on your keyboard and paste in your favorite imaging software and save as a jpg. Text logs are nice, but they can be doctored. It's best to have accompanying screens. Make sure that your screens and text files are not taken out of context. What do we mean by that? You can't just post snippets of a conversation to make your case for you. You have to have from the beginning to the end of the incident if it's over chat. If it's on a forum, well don't worry. We'll have the thread saved on our end - you can just link us or use the nifty report tool on the forums if you're finding a post or a fpm inappropriate. Keep your documentation orderly so that admins don't go nuts trying to piece together stuff from a whole host of sources. Help us by keeping things in chronological order. As you can imagine, issues like this will already be complex enough to sort out without people's documentation being all a mess.
Bring It Up the Chain When Possible
If your problem is with a player and you feel it's serious enough where you can't work it out amongst yourselves, then bring it to your ST and they will handle it. Most of the time, the ST will step in and settle down all involved and things can go on without much interruption. However, in more extreme cases STs will follow procedures outlined above.
If your problem is with a ST in your venue, then bring it to the Project Lead. Generally start with an opening confidential fpm that describes the problem briefly. Then proceed as instructed by the Project Lead. Then we will follow normal procedure with offenses and a Time Out Forum will be started where everyone produces their documentation.
You are welcome to produce your own contrary evidence if you feel during a Time Out Forum discussion, you're being railroaded or have something else to offer to support your dispute of any warning or ban being discussed. In the case of a possible permanent ban for harassment a community member will always have the opportunity to offer up any contrary documentation.