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Old 09-03-2007, 11:35 AM   #1
Perillus
 
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To Chat Or To Splat

Not very sure to start because I have a truckload of questions and could really use some advice. I'm a very, very new and inexperienced imm off a smallish, RP-ish, restricted-PK mud, was pulled off the playerbase for a catch-all coding/building/admin position almost exactly a year ago and had been playing the mud for almost exactly one year before that. Basically I am all but clueless on what to do with myself and have screwed a few things up already (did I mention I could use some advice?) Three questions - please bear with me, I have no idea where else to look for advice.

1) Chat or splat?
Some players do things like trade inter-faction insults on the newbie help channel or challenge a much smaller player to fight every two seconds. The general policy with incidents like this is to tell them to stop and then talk to them about it. However, every time I tell them to stop doing something or try to explain to them what's wrong with their behaviour, I get a load of backtalk followed by accusations of partisanship and deliberately coded skill imbalances. It's extremely frustrating and I have no idea where to draw the line between patience and dealing out a hard smack. I've heard that punishments lose their effectiveness if handed out too often, yet how else can I deal with pains in the neck? Or is this simply because I'm only a junior imm, one whom people still remember as a mort?

2) Sheet of cheats
Second question I have is how to protect players from, well, other players. The trend is to pick out a player who is doing well, and then accuse that person of being an imm's alternate character who was godloaded. Alternatively, they accuse the person of being a bigger, much stronger player's alt who was buffed up by the larger character (which is banned under our rules). Because we are a RP mud, the impact of the accusations is hard. A variety of people have been targetted, including myself and other imms, and players have quit over it. I have no idea how to stop this as they take the accusations to private messages, anonymous notes and even to out-game chat programs. (I'm starting to hate MSN.) Players who get accused of being godloaded alts just aren't inclined to stick around. Is there anything at all that can be done?

3) Power factions
This is probably a stupid question but it's bothered me for a while, not least because it's contributing to player attrition. Two warring factions in my home mud makes for excitement, until one faction grows to about six times the size of the other and starts attacking the other one hourly. If we were an open-PK culture, people in the smaller faction might be more accepting of the situation, but unfortunately they are not and leave instead, making the imbalance rather worse. Should anything be done about this? At all?

I know some people will look at that monstrous block of text up there and ask me why I'm not taking these (relatively minor) questions to the head imm. As it happens I quarrelled with a higher-ranking imm last week over issues related to the above and have not returned to my home mud since...but I hope to make things right if I ever have the chance to go back. All I can really think of right now is to hope that some of you out there will share your experience. I have never been in an admin position of this scope before and yes - I am lost.
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Old 09-03-2007, 01:24 PM   #2
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

Well, first of all. Without knowing anything about your mud I can only talk in general terms. My experience is that to have rules that directly contradict what's possible under your code is a common source of grief. For example, you say that the mud has "limited PK". How is this handled? Is PK only possible in certain zones? Is it only possible between people that are members of a faction? In other words, is the rule only enforced by the staff, or is it also enforced by the code? If players -can- do it, they -will-. So having the rules and the code go hand in hand is critically important.

On "godloaded" characters. Such accusations are pretty common on many muds. Do you have explicit Staff rules governing this? Are the players aware of your Staff's rules of conduct? If the players know that such "cheating" has consequences for said Staff Member they are probably less likely to be concerned with this.

On inter-faction insults on the newbie help channel. Like any communication medium you will probably want to do some form of moderation. If talking to the offenders doesn't help, then revoke their channel priviliges for a period. "Smacking" is rarely a good solution, because, as you said, it tends to have less and less effect, and it promotes an Us vs Them mentality (Player vs Staff).

I hope you find some ways of improving your situation.
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Old 09-03-2007, 03:03 PM   #3
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

Actually, what your Head Imm thinks is critical here. If they don't support what you're doing, then you're in a very sticky situation, and one without a clear exit. Yes, you may be a Junior Imm, but players shouldn't be allowed to openly accuse you of cheating and so on. Whoever's in charge should visibly back you up and show that what they're doing isn't tolerated. If that means getting harsh with someone, so be it - but it should be your boss doing that, not you. If it comes from the top, they can't do much about it other than stop doing it or stop playing. To be perfectly honest, if you don't feel like the head honcho supports you all the way, and talking to him or her (your boss) doesn't resolve this, you should resign. Otherwise you'll be caught between a rock and a hard place and you'll just end up getting more and more frustrated.

One thing to bear in mind, though: when you're talking about players insulting newbies or driving each other from the game - that isn't staff vs. them. You have to defend the innocent, as it were. Like you said, it's driving people who have done nothing wrong, away from the game, harrassing them in all different places and so on. It isn't as though someone abused a bug to get awesome exp, or something - it's much more serious. Assuming that you do have your Head Imm's total support in this (otherwise, run now), you can't ignore it, that's for sure. Personally I'd find out who the troublemakers are, get evidence, get a hold of them, and if you get anything less than a complete backdown on their part, drop the bombs. The big ones. If they're seriously driving people away and aren't going to stop, then you have to stop that by any means necessary, really.

Yes, too many punishments will cause future problems, but not doing anything will also cause future problems - it'll embolden them and like you said, they'll find another target.
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Old 09-04-2007, 11:17 AM   #4
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perillus View Post
Not very sure to start because I have a truckload of questions and could really use some advice.
snip
I know some people will look at that monstrous block of text up there and ask me why I'm not taking these (relatively minor) questions to the head imm.
Your questions are far from minor. In fact they address some of the hardest and most universal problems that exist in connection with ‘adminning’ a Mud.

Perhaps it would help making one post for each question next time.

Anyhow, let’s take the first and easiest one first - enforcing the rules of the game and player respect.

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Originally Posted by Perillus View Post
The general policy with incidents like this is to tell them to stop and then talk to them about it. However, every time I tell them to stop doing something or try to explain to them what's wrong with their behaviour, I get a load of backtalk followed by accusations of partisanship and deliberately coded skill imbalances. It's extremely frustrating and I have no idea where to draw the line between patience and dealing out a hard smack. I've heard that punishments lose their effectiveness if handed out too often, yet how else can I deal with pains in the neck? Or is this simply because I'm only a junior imm, one whom people still remember as a mort?
I think this specific problem might have a bit to do with your being a junior imm, yes. Many newly appointed imms seem to think that their new rank will automatically earn them respect from the player base. (You don’t appear to be one of those however. In fact, your questions are so intelligent that I feel confident that you won’t take this statement from me too personally).

Nevertheless, respect is not a thing that can be forced on anyone, it has to be earned. As a Staff member, respect is earned by the work you produce for the Mud, and by acting fairly, calmly and consistently in all situations. (Sure, anyone can blow their top once in a while, since honestly the behaviour of some players could make a Saint blow their halo, but the main key is to always stay calm and cool.

This is why in my Mud we generally advise new imms to lie a bit low with player intercourses, until they have established their presence long enough to be regarded as a natural and respected part of the ‘Pantheon’. Enforcing the rules of the game generally is the most unpopular task an immortal can get, and expecting a relatively junior imm to do it is downright cruel.

Now to the actual issue, dealing with offensive behaviour on open channels:
The easiest and most effective way to handle players that get ‘cute’ or offensive is to of course silence them, for a shorter or longer period. This in turn assumes that the Mud has a no-channeling command, a written policy about how to use it, and that the policy is applied equally to all players. If you silence some players, while allowing others a free reign, you’ll get into problems. If some imms tolerate bad behaviour while others don’t, (which is often the case), it makes things a bit harder, but still - players quickly learn the tolerance level of different imms.

If an official policy exists, and is consistently applied by you, it will work, and the punishment will definitely not lose its effectiveness.
(As a working policy I’d suggest this:
1st offence; Warn and explain why.
2nd offence; Silence for 5 minutes, to give the player time to cool off.
3rd offence; Silence for a week, or until they learn the lesson and apologise.)

Now the main problem is that most people tend to react very badly to being silenced, especially when it can be perceived as repression of free speech. (You can see examples of this in these boards too). Oldtime players in particular sometimes seem to think that they should be allowed special privileges. If you succumb to that, you’ll get into even bigger problems. You will have to resign to the fact that you might lose some friends as a result of maintaining respect and consistency. But if you do, those friends were probably not worth having anyway.
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Old 09-04-2007, 11:38 AM   #5
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

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Second question I have is how to protect players from, well, other players. The trend is to pick out a player who is doing well, and then accuse that person of being an imm's alternate character who was godloaded. Alternatively, they accuse the person of being a bigger, much stronger player's alt who was buffed up by the larger character (which is banned under our rules). Because we are a RP mud, the impact of the accusations is hard. A variety of people have been targetted, including myself and other imms, and players have quit over it.
This is a rather common problem in Muds, mainly based on envy, and the fact that some people cannot accept the fact that others could be better than themselves without cheating. (There is also a – hopefully small – number of Muds, where the accusations are actually true, but that is yet another question). Again, this mainly is handled by the Mud’s Imm Policy.

First step is, that the Mud has a firm set of rules and guidelines to what imms are allowed to do and not do, and the consequences if they break any of those rules.

Second step is, that those rules are made public, and that they are enforced mercilessly, so that cheating imms get kicked out at first offence.

Third step is, that junior imms don’t even get access to commands that would make it possible for them to beef up their characters or otherwise cheat.

Even so, rumours sometimes occur, especially if you have a certain type of players, known as Griefers, in the game. There doesn’t even have to be imms involved, any ‘successful’ player can be the target of such accusations. I hate these rumourmongers myself, since they can poison an entire Mud with their untrue allegations. And there is no real way to stop it, unless you ban them, which in turn can be hard to justify, since Griefers usually take care not to break any rules.

However, you must realise that having an imm and a powerful player at the same time does represent a conflict of interest – (especially if the game involves PvP). Once you join the staff, your main priority should become the general welfare of the Mud, not the general welfare of your own character or Clan. (Especially when it comes to Clans, people often have a problem dropping their old loyalties for the ‘greater good’ of the Mud).

At some point or other, you’ll have to make a choice between your imm and your mort, if nothing else because time rarely permits you to keep a mort on top, while at the same time doing effective work as a Builder or Coder. I stopped playing my own mort pretty soon after I realised that my main vocation was building, even though I still log her on occasionally, to playtest a new zone. And even so, she is non-PK and has crappy stats and commonplace equipment, which makes her more representative of the average player.

On a side note, dealing with player relations, and in particular personal player quarrels, is one of the hardest and most sensitive tasks that a administrator can indulge in. Wherever there are rumours and accusations of cheating or harassment, too often those are based on personal quarrels and dislikes between two players or groups of players. I rarely try to mediate in personal conflicts myself, since those generally are best sorted out between the parties themselves. You cannot force anyone to love anyone else, and interfering usually just makes things worse.

But sometimes a situation gets so infected that it spills over to the entire Mud, and then you may have to do something about it. Usually trying to sort the facts out results in endless accusations and counter-accusations, lies, half-truths and finally accusation against yourself of being biased in favour of the other party – coming from both parties, because you didn’t automatically take sides. (And it usually takes two to tango, so in most cases both parties are guilty to some extent). The best - and probably only - way to handle situations like that is to place both the parties in a !exit room, with yourself as referee, and have them fight it out between them. (In words, of course, not literally). But this presumes that they both are on line at the same time as you, and that neither of them decide to leave or drop link in the middle of the session. Tricky…


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Two warring factions in my home mud makes for excitement, until one faction grows to about six times the size of the other and starts attacking the other one hourly. If we were an open-PK culture, people in the smaller faction might be more accepting of the situation, but unfortunately they are not and leave instead, making the imbalance rather worse.
This again is not uncommon in Muds that have a culture of Clans or Factions, and where the usual restricted PK is abolished during a Clan War. I’ve seen it happen twice over the years in my own Mud; in both cases the losing Clan was almost completely wiped out, and lower level players left in droves, when dragged into the conflict.

This too is a tricky situation, since, as you stated, having warring factions adds to excitement, and putting a damper on Clan wars might create a safer environment, but also a less interesting one.

One comfort is that the strength of different factions usually vary over time, that even a wiped-out Clan can recover in time and become even stronger than the opposition, and that the players that left during the height of the conflict sometimes return when things have calmed down a bit.

Officially declaring one of the Factions the winner in the conflict might help a bit here.
Adding a third and a fourth faction might help too, since the ability to seek allies might make them less vulnerable.
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Old 09-04-2007, 04:43 PM   #6
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

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1) Chat or splat?
You need to have very specific rules about your channels here, especially if you are an RP oriented mud. I'm assuming that you don't have a lot of global channels and that your newbie channel is probably your most important one since it helps the new players get started. A newbie channel is for NEWBIE HELP. If you have to, restrict access to this channel for newbies and people who want to help newbies.

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2) Sheet of cheats
You can't really fight this. For some odd reason, some people really can't stand to see other people do better than them. Their first instinct is to accuse the player who does well of cheating, being "favored", having help, etc. The best thing you can do for this is to make everything transparent. If there are IMMs playing the game, people need to know who they are. If there are no IMMs playing, your rules for this need to be clearly stated and repeated.

If you make it clear that this is unacceptable behavior, then you can begin to use "time-out" punishments for people who do it. Ban them from OOC channels (if you have them, I'm assuming yes since these accusations are being made IC) for 24 hours on their first offense, etc. Be very careful that you only do this to the people who are repeat offenders. People will get your point sooner or later.

Discuss this behavior with your community. Explain why it is unacceptable and how it feeds itself. This is a cycle. Players who accuse others of cheating because they're powerful will get those players to quit, and sooner or later, they will be the ones accused.

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3) Power factions
This is a game design issue that really can't be solved easily. You can talk with the people in power about it, but be know that if you do so, you are impacting their gaming as much as they may be impacting the losing side's gaming. You can give encouragement for the people on the "winning side" to restart to the losing side, but keep in mind that your players may have a serious problem with this and see it as an advantage they never received. Honestly, you may have to just wait it out. The pendulum will often swing back the other way, but it may take quite some time to do that. Some players enjoy nothing more than being the underdog, and once their side starts "winning", they get bored. Of course, then you have players for which the opposite is true, and when the pendulum starts swinging, you may find that it swings rather quickly.

The only way to really prevent this is by game design choices. It sounds like your game is already established and in full swing, so I don't think this is an option.
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Old 09-14-2007, 06:42 AM   #7
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

1) Chat or Splat

I like to chat about what happened, that way a player can lessen his punishments by being apologetic and courteous... but when I see evasiveness or anger then I'll just say I'm ending the discussion because of that, and do it. Backtalk = end of discussion. Splat.

2) Sheet of cheats

Sounds like balance issues within the game, maybe the equipment disparity is just too great between the rich and the poor. On AR its not possible for a player to get so powerful that a team of three can't easily do him in. Is that similar over there? I mean, if a guy takes five players to bring down on a small playerbase, that's kind of horrible and you're going to need the Hand of God slay to get it done. Just my guess.. since we don't have this problem.. nobody actually gets that strong.

3) ...tough problem, I've broken up a few perma-groups but mostly let things run their course. As long as you are clear with the players that you will intervene when you need to, they should be reasonable most of the time.
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Old 09-16-2007, 07:08 AM   #8
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

Thanks for all the replies, everyone. After reading everything (a few times) I sort of figured out that my real problem is that there's no fixed working policy where I am, and what's fixed isn't written down anywhere. I probably will have to make up something on my own (with or without Head Imm's approval) which leads me to a big, burning question I have for all you Head Imms out there.

In situations where there's no fixed policy (and I bet there are millions of those, because people will come up with the most ingenious ways to bypass the rules, exploit loopholes in the code and so on), what are junior imms generally expected to do? Fly it blind, using our own judgement, or defer it until we get to consult with higher management? How much of a level of severity/leniency is expected?

I know this probably differs wildly from MUD to MUD, but it would help a lot to know what people generally expect. Thanks!
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Old 09-16-2007, 10:05 PM   #9
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

As someone else already implied... If you can't communicate with the head imms, you really should consider moving on. In addition, if someone on my staff started making rules on their own I'd react rather strongly. You can set up a few rules and suggest they implement it, or a modified version. If they care about the game at all they'll do it. If they -don't- care about the game... Well, then I simply find it difficult to comprehend why you want to stick around.
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Old 09-17-2007, 04:22 AM   #10
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

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In situations where there's no fixed policy (and I bet there are millions of those, because people will come up with the most ingenious ways to bypass the rules, exploit loopholes in the code and so on), what are junior imms generally expected to do?
Normally, let it go. Save your strike for when they do something that they can't argue back about.. Remember, these guys are cheaters. They will eventually do something bad. Try to refrain from giving the perception of there being witch hunts. If numerous players has complained about the specific behaviour then suggest a code/rule change.
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Old 09-17-2007, 06:14 AM   #11
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

It's the no-win thing again, unless there's a senior imm on at the time who you can ask and get a response from right away, or defer the problem to them. If you wait for one to come on and it takes a day or two days or whatever, the moment's gone. No one will remember exactly what happened (or will pretend not to), and the players may have even taken that lack of response to mean "go ahead, it's ok" - so the playerbase as a whole would be more upset later if they're told they're breaking a rule. "Well Immortal <insert your name> was on and knew about it and didn't say anything!", etc. On the other hand, if you do something and it isn't what the higher ups had in mind, you're done like dinner. Any other immortal who doesn't like you for any reason will say that you're overstepping your authority and being a troublemaker and abusing your position to attack players, or whatever.

Ideally, like I said, the Head Imm would show that he or she supports you, would be active to take charge of the situation or at least tell you what to do, would clarify policies and make rules or whatever. If not, think about whether you really want to stay at a place where you don't have that support. If you decide you want to tough it out, my recommendation would be to "see no evil" - just pretend you don't know what's going on, even pretend that you're AFK or something if you have to. Because the second you put your fingerprints on the situation and acknowledge it, you're in that position that really doesn't have a nice and neat ending.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:35 AM   #12
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

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As someone else already implied... If you can't communicate with the head imms, you really should consider moving on. In addition, if someone on my staff started making rules on their own I'd react rather strongly. You can set up a few rules and suggest they implement it, or a modified version. If they care about the game at all they'll do it. If they -don't- care about the game... Well, then I simply find it difficult to comprehend why you want to stick around.
A good staff and management is only accomplished with specific line of authority and specific titles and rules for them.

NW has a 4 tier staff and rules for the levels are clear. Even so it sometimes because difficult to keep things clear. It's another reason why many times I will give kudos to games like Threshold and IRE and other commercial enterprises. There is something to be said about professional management.
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Old 09-17-2007, 10:13 PM   #13
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

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In situations where there's no fixed policy (and I bet there are millions of those, because people will come up with the most ingenious ways to bypass the rules, exploit loopholes in the code and so on), what are junior imms generally expected to do? Fly it blind, using our own judgement, or defer it until we get to consult with higher management? How much of a level of severity/leniency is expected?
Rules and policies can't be something created by one person, especially when you have ranks like "Junior Imm". You really need to have your whole staff on board even if it's just on board to say, "You can create these rules." Basically, they either need to support your creation of these rules (which means that they'll stand behind them), or they will need to work with you to create them. Otherwise, your players will easily figure out that they can just go over your head, behind your back, or around your side.
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Old 10-01-2007, 03:49 AM   #14
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Re: To Chat Or To Splat

Well, I come back from the experience of an Imp on my game who has risen through the ranks and (unlike a lot of immortals) have actually stuck to the same game for almost 10 years. The going hasn't been exactly easy and we had periods of complete nastiness as well. I do not have a solution to the answers, but there are some words of advice from someone who has gone through this before.

1. As was said earlier by one of the posters, do not expect automatic respect. We had a VERY good immortal leave the staff recently. He was committed, hard working etc. He was actually RIGHT most of the times that he took up an issue. However, what he forgot to do was that you need to not only be firm and fair, but also seen as being a. above the general struggles of the populace (what % of the playerbase know your alts?), b. explain the rules and be polite even if you want to kill the bugger who has broken he self same rule 10X previously. While its important to remain in control (especially if you are a junior imm with a well known mortal alt; familiarity breeds contempt), starting with a polite and friendly explanation of the effect of the actions of a player (as compared to saying person X broke rule Y) yields better results then cracking the whip. Also, if there are certain people that get a kick out of picking on you (or it looks that way to you), get someone else to discipline them (this can be another imm, but peer pressure works as well). I simply cannot believe that there are NO players in this game who aren't respected and don't oppose this crap. Understand the larger political picture of the mud and find your allies.

2. Yes, its important to make sure that the Senior Imm supports you in your actions to bring some sense to the chaos. However,admin are also people and have RL commitments and are often reluctant to rock the boat. For most of my DE career I have played in the graveyard shift where there are no senior staff to brainstorm with. I have, however, worked out some key principles for how to get reluctant senior staff to listen.
a. Chose your battles. Start with the smaller things and change the aspects of the game that you CAN change first. If the players see that your minor changes result in a better climate, they listen to you. These may not be the most burning key issues, but you need the support of the playerbase first?
b. Win Friends and Influence People. Identify people within the playerbase who think like you and would support you when and if there is conflict between players and if it comes to it, with the imps. However, when you do so, make sure that they are supporting the cause you represent, and not YOU. There is a thin dividing line between indiscipline and mobilising committed players. The imp may not be bothered to listen to lowly you, but WOULD listen if a significant section of the playerbase does. Make allies within the wizlist, however, ALSO on the basis of the issue and not give the impression you are undermining the leaders.
At the same time, demonstrate that there can be an alternative. Build a clan or guild that functions effectively and which is loyal to you (I mean your principles). Show to the hecklers that an alternative way of doing things is possible and reward them for good behaviour (even a thanks, friend IS a reward; it doesnt have to be about giving out something)
Make friends with the imps (a rule I obviously never followed, but seen applied in others). If you are a friend, the imp trusts you. This means talking about stuff totally unrelated to the game and not being the person who only brings up "issues". You may be perceived to be naggings.
c. Have a written system first before you talk to the imps. Also do your homework anticipating all the questions that someone may ask. If you want to change something that thats already in, dont just say so and so is wrong, have an alternative worked out and well researched plan ready BEFORE you talk to the game owner. It would help that the owner thinks its his idea to do it in the first case; but its not essential.
d. Do not give up, if the imp shoots an idea down the first time, do not give up. Rework it, rewrite it. Keep bringing it up until the imp finally gives in and implements it. Address the concerns he or she voices, incorporate his feedback (even if its only cosmetic modifications) so that the owner feels involved in it.
e. Do not quit. If you are committed to the game, remaining on the wizlist would make you an influence for good. If you quit, THEY win. Eventually you would rise through the ranks and would not be a lowly imm, but an imp and THEN you can try to get all the things you have wanted to do and could not.

Thats what I did anyway.
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