Nepotism versus restricted concepts


  • Admin

    I figured we were derailing the RfK thread with the talk of nepotism, and it's probably a debate which warrants its own thread.

    So how would you handle tiered, special or restricted concepts for a game? I think generally speaking games so far have broken it down into a few semi-distinct approaches.

    • Nothing is special. Things are either allowed or they're not and people can apply to them if they are with an even chance of approval.

    • Some things are restricted due to demographics but they aren't inherently significantly more powerful than the rest. A Bloodline is described in the books as being rare so only <X> of them are ever permitted on the MU*.

    • Tiered characters are offered. The way I've most often seen this is with Elders - it's like the case above, only this time there is a power gap between them and the rest (more XP, dots, whatever).

    • Specific positions or ranks are offered. This may be combined with the case above but it doesn't have to be; usually seen when a game first opens or in inactive factions, staff hand-picks people to lead them.

    Pre-made characters can be a mixed bag. Most of the time they are a mere convenience for those who'd rather not create their own and have neither special or unique abilities or powers, but in some cases - book characters come to mind for MU* using a specific setting - they can fall under tiered content as well.

    My personal take used to be to argue for rough equality, so I'd have allowed the first two cases and nothing else. If anything more potent was needed it could be played by staff on a case to case basis to fit a particular need or occasion.

    These days I consider the game's well being to rate higher than the appearance of all things being equal - because they are not. Some players are simply more involved, pose better and can tell better stories so if given a choice of having one of those play a prominent role, with more responsibilities, I'd hand it to them.

    For instance if I decided to allow four Elders in the entire game I'd rather one of them is played by a talented, active player I'm confident can convey the sense of ennui and Kindred politics than someone who won't be there as much or who might portray the character like everyone else only with more dots on their sheet. Coincidentally, such spots can also function as carrots to keep the ever-depleted Storyteller resource from dropping too low on a game, since the tiered character can come with such responsibilities.

    Obviously this all depends on staff who're themselves involved and capable enough to pick well - and to not pick if there aren't any worthwhile options - but making bad choices is a risk overall while running a game.



  • I was just going to reply on this topic and here it has its own thread.

    I'm actually more in agreement with @Derp than not. He's not letting friends play banned concepts. Something that's restricted is not banned. Staff still allows it, you just need to get their approval first. So what does staff use to determine whether someone is allowed to play a restricted concept? Their opinion.

    Does it really matter if they only met this person on that game three months ago? The person has a limited track record on that game but they seem sane. Staffer instinct? Yes. Is that really better than if the staffer knew the other player for a year elsemu*? Or for two years doing tabletop? It all comes down to the same thing: they think the person won't abuse the concept and will benefit the game. Every player is judged on the same criteria and has the same opportunity to play that concept.

    Now some caveats. Is there a quota? That gets a lot more grey. Do the rules specifically say the person must have been playing for X time first? That's a violation. I could go on but I think my point is clear: if you trust the staffer to decide who gets to play something, they should be allowed to use their discretion so long as everyone has the same opportunity and it violates no existing rule.

    If you don't trust staff, don't play there if it bothers you that much. If you do play there anyway, suck it up. You made your choice.


  • Admin

    @TNP said:

    Does it really matter if they only met this person on that game three months ago? The person has a limited track record on that game but they seem sane.

    You answered the question as well but I wanted to chip in on it - it does matter. It's not a decisive factor but it's still important, track records matter.

    Some of the players who've received the most complaints around here were by any means not bad roleplayers, in fact some have been exceptional ones. That's what makes their impact on our hobby felt so much after all. And they're not prone to going batshit crazy over a period of a week or two, it can be far longer until things are derailed enough that others not directly involved can look at them and go 'yeeah, we got batshit crazy on our hands, boys!'.

    Either way though the reality is great players don't grow on trees. Flagship roleplayers to whom you can trust that Primogen position and expect them to lure others, generate activity and delegate tasks so roleplay is spread around rather than flow exclusively through them are rare - so adding knowing them for years to your checklist is an ideal but not necessarily feasible condition.

    Personally I'd be willing to take a risk with someone I've only known for a few weeks and keep an eye on them but that requires being able to step in and do something about it if it turns out it's warranted after all. That's an important distinction since it's much easier to hire someone for a position than to fire them from it. Where staff historically fails is placing faith in someone, letting them do a lot of work and take some of the burden of everyday management from their hands (which anyone who's ever staffed knows it's a huge relief) then turning a blind eye when things go badly.


  • Pitcrew

    I'm curious -- if we're not supposed to use track record/experience with a player as our basis of judgment, what are we supposed to use? The objections to nepotism don't seem to explain that.


  • Pitcrew

    At the end of the day, staff is staff for a reason. (Let's ignore shitty or unethical staff: that's an overall problem that causes anything involving staff discretion or insight to go south.) The idea that they shouldn't be allowed to use their own discretion in handing out particular character concepts is vaguely baffling to me.

    Can everyone apply for concepts the game has marked as restricted or overdone? Yeah, as far as I'm concerned and on games I've staffed on. They're open for application, and that's the fairness and equality. But on games I've worked on, when we have restricted or overdone concepts, we're up-front about wanting an application with a little more depth to it. And you know what? If you're a shitty player who's been a problem, or even a great RPer who nonetheless flakes and disappears a lot, we're probably not going to hand over something restricted even if you have a really nice application. I don't actually think that's unfair or unequal.


  • Admin

    I actually am not so sure opening positions for which players may not be accepted until staff finds the exact thing they're looking for is a good idea.

    Rejection never feels good so why invoke that negativity if you know in advance you'd only accept a very specific kind of player for it? Having to tell otherwise perfectly decent (if not great) players 'no' won't be pleasant for you or for them. It's better to simply be aware of the opening internally and open it to someone when they appear on your radar as good matches for it.

    Basically, this isn't a good way to go at it; the intention is good but the result won't justify it. A player who's not allowed to play that advertised Elder and sees the position stay vacant for week before someone else fills it will feel they aren't valued very highly by staff on their own game instead of be thankful because the impression of equality was given, you know?


  • Pitcrew

    I'm not coming from the position of staffing on games with, like -- positions like that? So I can only speak to things like particular character concepts or powersets or something like that. Things where it's not that there's an internal opening, but rather just a type of character that we'd expect a higher quality of application on due to it being particularly powerful or something like that.

    I also tend to be on smaller games, so we're talking a pretty low volume of inquiries for these kinds of concepts in general. I imagine it might be more of a mess if you're on a big game and have an opening for something a lot of players want.



  • There's no good way to do this. Anyone who says they've found one that works consistently is lying or deluded. Back in my BSG staffing days, we probably stressed about who to give the "Leader" positions to more than we stressed about anything else. We tried be completely open and just take whatever apps came in. We tried recruiting specific players when positions went vacant. We tried entirely different things or combinations of this when neither of those things had consistent results. In the end, some FC-level characters worked out and some didn't, and sometimes even great players who'd been active got eaten by RL or drama. You have to accept that, whatever you do, it will piss somebody off because they didn't get their particular shiny.

    This stuff is hard because humans are hard, but I'm not going to stress too much if I think staff is at least trying to be fair. That's all I want or think you can expect.

    I'm less concerned about who gets a position, honestly, than how you remove someone who's playing it so poorly it's actively harming a faction, or who's gone dead idle. Which I have no particularly good ideas on, either, but I think that's probably more important. Giving everyone a chance is much more viable when there's a mechanism for opening up those slots to other people.


  • Pitcrew

    I also work in theatre professionally, so honestly part of me is like IT'S JUST CASTING THAT'S HOW IT GOES. Maybe I'm just mean and ruthless.


  • Admin

    @Roz said:

    I can only speak to things like particular character concepts or powersets or something like that. Things where it's not that there's an internal opening, but rather just a type of character that we'd expect a higher quality of application on due to it being particularly powerful or something like that.

    That's what I had in mind more or less. For example consider this scenario - staff want a veteran Werewolf with high Renown to come into the sphere since there aren't enough alphas for packs. I apply for it and write an application I believe is high enough quality... but I'm not picked. A few weeks pass, maybe I even figure it fell aside, then suddenly that Werewolf comes into the sphere possibly played by someone you've never heard of or wasn't even on the game to begin with.

    Few of us have egos that can't be bruised in some way so why risk that in the first place? Then instead of having me be pleased when a niche is suddenly filled played by someone who's actually pretty damn good (let's assume staff pick well) I might feel a bit miffed because essentially they just demonstrated they don't think very highly of my skills.

    In fact I feel the same way when I look for someone to play a concept relevant to my character. Opening it up means I'll have to tell some folks no, and it's a very small gap to leap from 'I found someone else, sorry' to 'I found someone better'.

    I also tend to be on smaller games, so we're talking a pretty low volume of inquiries for these kinds of concepts in general. I imagine it might be more of a mess if you're on a big game and have an opening for something a lot of players want.

    I guess that can be true where everyone knows your name. :) I tend to play on larger games, the perspective is likely different.



  • On every game I have ever played on when someone is allowed access to something that is normally restricted whispers of nepotism always creep up. Whether they are true, false, or have facts that back up these suspicions are often irrelevant.


  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel said:

    @Roz said:

    I can only speak to things like particular character concepts or powersets or something like that. Things where it's not that there's an internal opening, but rather just a type of character that we'd expect a higher quality of application on due to it being particularly powerful or something like that.

    That's what I had in mind more or less. For example consider this scenario - staff want a veteran Werewolf with high Renown to come into the sphere since there aren't enough alphas for packs. I apply for it and write an application I believe is high enough quality... but I'm not picked. A few weeks pass, maybe I even figure it fell aside, then suddenly that Werewolf comes into the sphere possibly played by someone you've never heard of or wasn't even on the game to begin with.

    Is staff just not giving you feedback or a reason in this scenario? Correct me if I'm wrong, that's just the impression I'm getting from your wording.

    Again, I'm not generally dealing with things like filling positions of IC authority, so my perspective on this is different. It's more like we have a particular power or background feature on a list of restricted concepts and a player comes in and is like, I'm interested in one of those things, and we go, okay well just so you know that's a restricted concept so we look for a more in-depth application for it, and we probably talk to the player more during the app process and talking with them about the concept, etc. It's not positions that we're advertising as wanting or needing and someone comes up and apps and we go, psh no.

    @Saulot said:

    On every game I have ever played on when someone is allowed access to something that is normally restricted whispers of nepotism always creep up. Whether they are true, false, or have facts that back up these suspicions are often irrelevant.

    That's pretty much the case if staff gives anything to a player. The best staffers can do is do their best to be generally transparent about things, but it'll never make everyone happy. That's just the way of things.



  • @Roz Yeah, Rain on HM had gotten some plot to distribute in 2007 and Magdalena (the romani mage gal) STILL complained at me about it over mage chan when I came back in 2014. SEVEN FREAKING YEARS.

    I don't mind leadership positions being doled out to known players or ones who have been around, but I do object to restricted abilities/cgen stuff. I like an 'app whatever, work for positions' kind of dealybopper.


  • Pitcrew

    My experience in and around This Is Not A Clique has honestly meant that I always seek an outside opinion or defer when it comes to placing RL friends into positions.

    And I also can't agree enough with the idea that for coveted limited "spots" either in position or in type, clear guidelines for activity and behavior expectations and removal procedures (doesn't have to be complicated) really need to be in place.

    I've said no and ruled against friends many times. Some accepted that with better grace than others. But it's true I personally scrutinize them more and seek more feedback from others before I place them, because I also know I'm human and know that I will trend to give them the benefit of the doubt or they have more opportunities than other people might to explain falling down on the job. Having a trusted 3rd party take a look and give me feedback on it is invaluable.



  • @mietze said:

    My experience in and around This Is Not A Clique has honestly meant that I always seek an outside opinion or defer when it comes to placing RL friends into positions.

    I've definitely been wrong about people I trusted, and thought I knew, in the past. It's made me feel pretty burned about this hobby in some respects, because looking back I can see that I overlooked obvious warning signs because this person seemed otherwise together and fun. Staff has to make decisions and some of those decisions are going to be wrong, which is why I think clear removal mechanisms are a lot more important than approval/app guidelines.


  • Admin

    @Roz said:

    Is staff just not giving you feedback or a reason in this scenario? Correct me if I'm wrong, that's just the impression I'm getting from your wording.

    I'm not sure if feedback is going to make things better or worse. For starters it's so easy to come off as condescending by telling someone exactly why their skills aren't good enough. For another staff aren't professional writers or english majors, so being able to pinpoint the actual reasons something is 'okay' yet not 'great' isn't necessarily possible - let alone actually telling someone how to improve (although obviously I'm excluding the possibility that someone's writing is just bad or riddled with typos and spelling errors).

    @mietze said:

    And I also can't agree enough with the idea that for coveted limited "spots" either in position or in type, clear guidelines for activity and behavior expectations and removal procedures (doesn't have to be complicated) really need to be in place.

    While historically this is an excellent idea it's also a pain in the ass to regulate. Sure, you're told you need to be 'active' but what does that mean? Even being told you need to run <X> plots a month requires someone checking in on that. But yeah, if there'll be 'tier' positions on a game they should be treated as actually being there for the game's own good. So if you're not doing something above and beyond to justify having it - stuff other players are encouraged but not required to do - then you shouldn't keep it.

    ... And yet because as noted earlier firing someone is much harder than hiring them, most staff will just tolerate someone who's just doing their own thing at their own pace as long as they're not actively causing trouble. It's just the nature of this particular beast.


  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel said:

    @Roz said:

    Is staff just not giving you feedback or a reason in this scenario? Correct me if I'm wrong, that's just the impression I'm getting from your wording.

    I'm not sure if feedback is going to make things better or worse. For starters it's so easy to come off as condescending by telling someone exactly why their skills aren't good enough. For another staff aren't professional writers or english majors, so being able to pinpoint the actual reasons something is 'okay' yet not 'great' isn't necessarily possible - let alone actually telling someone how to improve (although obviously I'm excluding the possibility that someone's writing is just bad or riddled with typos and spelling errors).

    I feel like we might have very different application processes generally. I'm not sure! The idea of giving application feedback being out of the norm is strange to me, because it's been totally common on games I've staffed on to send a first draft of an application back with things that need some adjustment or clarification.

    And it's not really like "your writing wasn't good enough." It's "this thing doesn't really make sense" or "this thing really isn't clear" or "this thing doesn't work in the canon because this reason." Not really a critique of actual writing style.


  • Politics

    @Arkandel said:

    It's better to simply be aware of the opening internally and open it to someone when they appear on your radar as good matches for it.

    Conversely, when you do that, players will get butt-hurt anyway when they see the position has been filled, for any number of different reasons. I was given a prop leadership on a game about a year into playing there, and was immediately met with 'zomg but I've been here longer' flak from some other player who wasn't involved with the prop, but had hoped to marry into it, so I understand.

    Basically, people will complain no matter what you do, so you might as well do what you personally prefer.


  • Admin

    @Roz said:

    I feel like we might have very different application processes generally. I'm not sure! The idea of giving application feedback being out of the norm is strange to me, because it's been totally common on games I've staffed on to send a first draft of an application back with things that need some adjustment or clarification.

    And it's not really like "your writing wasn't good enough." It's "this thing doesn't really make sense" or "this thing really isn't clear" or "this thing doesn't work in the canon because this reason." Not really a critique of actual writing style.

    I think the difference comes from how we view the perspective application processes for a feature character and for a normal but perhaps more important one.

    What you may be talking about and correct me if I'm wrong is a character concept such as say, a potential Carthian leader. No extra power other than perhaps allowed more dots in Carthian Status, that sort of thing. So with that come more stringent background requirements - everything has to make a lot of sense and be appropriate and there can't be any weird points that would have caused them to not be elevated to that level of high regard by their peers. However since nothing says other Carthian PCs have to obey or become a bottleneck if they aren't active it's a normal character in every other regard, and staff need not worry if the player turns out to be a bit of a weirdo or stops logging on they'll have a bigger than expected mess in their hands.

    What I was talking about is more along the lines of "a five centuries old Lasombra priest rose from torpor and was sent to be the Bishop". That character has significantly more powerful than average and if played badly has the potential to derail a lot of PCs; care has to be taken in picking them than merely going through the background to make sure the t's are properly crossed, as it's much better to have no one playing him than someone who'll be bad at it. It's just that the pay-off if you do make the right choice for a player is high since they could rejuvenate the game with their mere presence - and by requiring them to run plot and distribute RP around that potential just increases.

    That's how I look at it, at least.


  • Admin

    @VulgarKitten said:

    Basically, people will complain no matter what you do, so you might as well do what you personally prefer.

    Yeah, that's a thing too. :)


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