Some rest for the wicked

I’m writing this down because I keep meeting new people who don’t know this story, and it is rather an important one in explaining how I got to be where I am today in terms of running LRP. So here we go:

Once upon a time, I helped to run a rather popular LRP. By helped, I mean I did all of the OOC admin required to keep the infrastructure going; occasionally wrote events13 out of 12?; and reffed every event in the first season bar three – two of which I played and one of which I missed because of a wedding clash I forgot to plan around.

I owned and ran the bank account, the website, the forums, the Facebook page, the Facebook groups, the email lists, the Google Drive, the Dropbox, the email accounts, the domain names, everything. I was the one with contacts with suppliers and site owners. I was the one who ran the ticketing and recruited the crew. I wrote the bulk of the original rules and large chunks of the setting. I wrote every app and technical tool used by the system. I don’t say this to be arrogant, but to provide the context for this story.

When we started running the game, we intended to run a five-year meta-plot then either end the game or start it afresh in a different way. Every time I ran a game, I was advancing the meta-plot within it. The final game I did2Co-written with one of the original team who had stopped being involved with running games some years before. was to be the penultimate game of the season; the first stage of the finalisation of the meta-plot and the ending of Season 1.

The thing is that running games does stuff to your game. Letting players into your world changes it; letting players use your system reveals the flaws. The setting adapted and the rules changed quite a lot from the first game to the last. And it is very safe to say that in this particular case no one – not refs or players or crew – really knew precisely what the rules were, nor what was or wasn’t in the setting.

In order to combat that, I wanted to ensure that everyone knew precisely what rules we were running with. I created a document which contained information on the event and what to expect – including information on a number of rules clarifications and changes that I would be enforcing with an iron club at this event. These were things that we always got questions about and that people were not clear on – the sort of thing where if you asked three people on what the rules were, you would get three different answers (even amongst the refs). It was very important to me that everyone read this guide because I did not want people to discover that the rules they thought they were using were not actually the rules in effect.

About four days before the event, the inevitable happens. A player asks in an open post something that is outlined in the event guide. The rules I clarified in my document were very confusing and I wanted to ensure everyone was on the same page for. I also knew that this particular player would be using a number of the rules I had clarified in the document and that if they hadn’t seen the information for X, they probably wouldn’t have seen the clarifications and changes to rules Y and Z either. So my (rather terse and stressed) response was to direct them to the event guide which contained that information.

It has been said that I am terrible at communicating on the internet; that my grasp of tone is sub-par. Frankly, from conversations with the player, they took no offence and understood I was stressed. However, another player3I do know who, and I do know they may end up reading this and that they want to play in my new games. They should take heart from the fact I have welcomed them to my new games as a sign I bear no grudge (in case they were worried). decided that this was a step too far and yet another example of me being a horrible person on the internet who shouldn’t be allowed to communicate in official capacities. They submitted a complaint.

Since this was about me, the person who handled our complaints took it to the other directors of the company who had a meeting on the subject. Since the third such complaint in five years4Yes. Five years, not five months or five days, the directors decided that something needed to be done rather than simply saying “don’t do it again”.

The decision they came to was three-fold: they decided to remove me from my position within the company, to remove me as the event runner for the upcoming event (three days away) and from being able to volunteer for the system for the rest of the year, and to ban me from attending said event in any capacity.5Looking back at stuff, this is rather funny. The official post says I decided to step down in all regards rather than that I was being removed. Ha! This decision was reached based on various factors, not least of which being that an element of fear was sparked within the group that if that happened to them, they would flip out and try and ruin things and they recognised I could do the most damage so they wanted to limit the damage I could do.

This is where I would like to refer you to the previous statement about the control I wielded within this company. Had I wanted to, I could have removed everyone else from access to the email accounts, Facebook page, Facebook group, etc; I could have drained the bank account; I could have cancelled the site booking; I could have cancelled the prop and van hire; I could have told the crew the event was cancelled… and none of that would have been stopped by the actions they took.

They expected me to flip out because they would; because they had convinced themselves that I would and that I would ruin the event if they let me attend it.

So three days before the event, I was fired and banned from my own event. It’s quite strange, the zen feeling you get from that. Once the reality sets in and you realise that you can stop stressing about finishing the plot bible and the encounters and just chill. I wished them luck; pointed out that none of them knew how the event was running and that I hadn’t actually finished writing it; and got an early night.

By the next morning, the ST inbox and Facebook was full of people telling them they were idiots for firing me and it was dawning on them that they may have made a mistake. A particularly beloved quote below (taken without permission, sic):

Fuck you. You have dicked over one of the people who got me into this hobby in the first place, who bullied and cajoled me into going to one of the first events I ever crewed, who has made some of my most entertaining and fun moments of larp happen, and who has supported me to do stuff I wouldnt otherwise have ever considered myself capable of. So you’ll have to deal with it if I’m a little miffed.

I had a personal visit at my office to apologise for what had happened and to ask if I would come back and run the event after all (the firing was not revoked and even if it had been, I would have quit). There was also a public apology for the manner in which it was done, parts of which I will quote below.

…we acted in error when not only asked [Eligos] to step down from volunteering but also the manner in which the conversation was had. We apologise unreservedly to [Eligos] for both our actions and the harm done to [them] as consequence of our actions, it was unprofessional, regardless of the intentions behind it.


Genuinely, without falsehood or reservation, all three of us would like to thank [Eligos] for [their] hard work, dedication and passion over the lifetime of the game. There is so much that literally might not have happened without [them] we cannot list it. These are not platitudes, they are our heartfelt thanks – irrespective of other actions. We would also like to praise [them] beyond my ability to form text for [their] professionalism over the last twenty four hours – [Eligos], your actions are a credit to you I will not soon forget.

That event is one of the best events I have ever run. It’s also one of the most acclaimed events I’ve ever run. It was also relatively stress-free because the worst had already happened – nothing else was going to beat that.

After the event, I more or less immediately downed tools. No more event admin, no more anything. The final event of the season didn’t happen because I wasn’t there to organise it and no one picked up the pieces to kick the writers into actually writing it – they lost the site deposit. The company taxes and records were filed late resulting in large fines because I didn’t prompt it to be done. The bank account remained in my control for 2.5 more years with no one else having access to it for about 1.5 of those because no one else who could as willing to sort it out.6If any of this isn’t public record, it really should be…

No one has ever removed my access to anything – I’ve had to do that myself. If I wanted, I would still be control of everything and could have blocked the bank account transfer.

The second season did start and has largely been successful, but I would rate this as happening despite of the company management as because of them. I don’t think others would disagree with me on that.

This story is biased. I won’t deny that. I’ve attempted to give it a fair accounting, but it’s my side and not theirs. I have also skipped over the more personal details regarding some decisions because there are better things to do than call out exactly why someone made the decision they did.

What I can say is that that experience, as well as five years of running that game massively informed me of how I wanted to run games in the future. It wasn’t with them, it wasn’t in their style, and it wasn’t anything close to pandering to players.

Two weeks ago I ran my first proper game as a solo act. I did it with the help of a number of people, including someone who basically wrote half my event plot for me and actually made the game work while I was spinning up a world and ensuring people kept busy. There were a few problems but I wouldn’t say I was stressed by it. Much like that event in 2012, the worst had already happened and I was left rather zen about things – either it would work or it wouldn’t and we’d handle it either way. Based on the responses I’ve had from players and crew alike, I may have succeeded in running games the way I want and having people enjoy them.

Now, that’s enough of looking to my past – there’s a whole future to look to instead.