Grand Master Report #49
Covenant: Section 3.04 (b) Grand Master's Semi-Annual Report
The Star Chamber will work with the sitting Grand Master to ensure that there is a workable long-term plan for the Brotherhood. On at least a semi-annual basis, the sitting Grand Master of the Brotherhood must send a report to the Star Chamber detailing the following:
(i) the current state of affairs, including details of positions assignments and training of leaders;
(ii) the short and long-term plans for the Brotherhood;
(iii) relevant membership metrics indicating the health of the Brotherhood; and
(iv) any hardships or problems in the foreseeable future.
Members of the Star Chamber and Members of the Dark Brotherhood, welcome to my #49th report as Grand Master of the Dark Brotherhood. This special report will fulfill both my semi-annual obligation to the Star Chamber as well as provide an update to all of members on the upcoming future of the Dark Brotherhood. I decided to combine my report to the Star Chamber with a regular report in order to maintain a high level of transparency and ensure that everyone in this club, from the Grand Masters to our newest members have the same information on the health of our club as well as my plans for the remaining time I will serve as Grand Master.
In March of 2018, I will meet the three year term limit imposed on Grand Masters. At that time, I will nominate Prophet Telaris "Mav" Cantor as my replacement. Mav and I have worked in a highly collaborative relationship over the past three years and that will continue on all of the projects identified in this report. My goal is to ensure that we do not start a project that does not have Mav's support and therefore will not continue throughout his reign as GM. It would be silly for me to create new changes only to have Mav overturn in them in the future. We will work to ensure that does not happen.
This report will include a large volume of information and will be broken down in the following format:
- The Current State of the Dark Brotherhood: The Dark Council
- The Current State of the Dark Brotherhood Membership
- Short and Long Term Plans: A focus on the next eight months
- The Great Jedi War: A Decision to Delay
- Ask the GM: Great Questions from the Members
- Final Thoughts: Including Future Concerns
The Current State of the Dark Brotherhood: The Dark Counciil
The Dark Jedi Brotherhood continues to evolve as a system of integrated systems designed to off our members a high level of activity and content. These systems are driven by a Dark Council that operates under the simple vision to improve our member's experiences. Our current Dark Council is a diverse group of talented individuals who have been empowered to make decisions, take risk, and make rapid changes to any systems within their area of expertise.
The present Dark Council is composed of five first time members and five members with past DC experience. We have a combined 235 months of current DC experience and an average of 23 months in our positions. This ranges from Howie with just six months of current experience as the MAA to James with 62 months of consecutive time as the SCL. Our ranks include members from different continents, multiple countries, and has an educational and professional background that includes tax lawyers, academics, government servants, three technology based professionals, a student, a teacher, and two Officers in the United States Army.
The Dark Council currently operates under a construct that allows for us to surge on projects in cross functional teams. It is not out of the ordinary to have the Fist ask to work on MAA projects or to see the Herald working with the Voice on fictional updates. Due to the manner of our systems and processes requiring integration, the Regent is a jack of all trades working with nearly every member of the DC on the possessions system.
I am extremely comfortable and confident with our current Dark Council and believe they are the right leaders to continue moving the Dark Brotherhood forward. I am also confident that this Dark Council has the potential to fill any positions that could become vacant in the near future. I assess that we have no less than 3 current DC members who could serve as the Grand Master and I would be confident to place most of the Elders into the position of Deputy Grand Master. Likewise, I also believe that we have a key demographic of Consuls and Clan membership who possess the leadership traits and understanding of team work to move to the any vacant Dark Council positions. This includes the position of Justicar which could be filled immediately in the event Jac died in a buffalo stampede.
The Current State of the Dark Brotherhood: The Membership
The membership of the Dark Brotherhood has remained relatively consistent in the 2014 to 2017 era of automatic AWOL. In those years we had a peak membership of 450 in 2016 with a low membership of 296 in 2014. The automatic AWOL era has an average of 369 active members with our present number of 373 just over that. I have also placed the pre-automatic AWOL era of 2013 on the spreadsheet to give a little context to the roster sizes from the days when some Clans would simply leave APPs on the roster for over a year without activity. It is hard to measure numbers from 2013 and prior without looking at detailed participation metrics in order to make some sort of determination on just how many members were active.
These automatic awol era numbers have remained relatively stable and should give pause to all of us when making value judgments on the Dark Brotherhood's health. Our club has always had membership and activity swings that have mirrored major Star Wars events (the 2016 numbers are after EPVII and right before Rogue 1) and I do not see those trends changing in the future.
I am satisfied with our current membership numbers, but I will also detail a series of initiatives in the upcoming months designed to look at how we self organize (Clans, Houses, Teams), how we award recruitment, and how we continue to develop immersive content that can attract old members and future members to the club. The latest Newsletter for the Rogues just went out to 470 of our Rogue brethren and will hopefully bring some of them back for the GJW and/or to check out all the new stuff. For those curious to what we sent out, a HTML version can be found at Rogue Newsletter. Our goal is to bring back members to participate in the Great Jedi War and to engage them for a consistent activity in the club.
Short and Long Term Plans: A focus on the next eight months
The Dark Jedi Brotherhood must continue to evolve as an online club in order to attract new members, keep our current members, and give us all something to do for fun. The following collective plan is the brainchild of our Dark Council with additional tasks that I have directed.
1) Something New: The Dark Brotherhood has used the same method for story telling dating back to 2008. We create an enemy for a Rite of Supremacy or Great Jedi War, we write stories to explain why that enemy is a threat, and we build competitions on defeating them during the RoS or GJW. We have used this "Vendetta" cycle without creating an immersive environment for our members to actually care about our stories. Who are these enemies? Why do we care about them? Why would a JA FFA player care about a 25 page story? Why do we do more research on an ACC match than we do on a Vendetta fiction?
I have decided to stop using this cycle have tasked the Dark Council with developing a Dark Brotherhood enemy that uses our systems. The DC will begin working on a "enemy" that utilizes "like" systems to existing DB Clans. In other words, you can expect an enemy to have a credit account, possessions, character sheets, order-like backgrounds, and nearly every other aspect that our existing Clans have. This "enemy" will also persist for a period that extends beyond a single Vendetta.
James, Mav, and Evant have all allowed me to sell them on this idea and for the most part it is feasible to create in a relatively short amount of time. Which is rather important and highlighted in the GJW section below.
2) Increased Recruitment Awards: The Dark Brotherhood's current members have the opportunity to be our best recruiters. I have tasked Evant, James, and Mav with developing an increased incentive program for recruiting new members to the Dark Brotherhood. This program will use the existing Trophies System, Possessions, and Awards as an incentive to recruit your real life friends. Evant has submitted an initial proposal that will reward our members when their recruits meet certain rank gates in their DJB career. These gates will consist of multiple ranks and will rewards credits and unique possessions only obtainable through recruitment.
3) Graphics Society: Vyr has discussed this in the past and it is a project that we intend to see go live in the next eight months. The Graphics Society will introduce a criminal element into the DJB and will be integrated with many of our other systems. This continues our trend of developing societies to award activities our members already do, encourage them to do more of that activity, and provide our artists with additional room to progress in the Dark Brotherhood. An incredible amount of work has already been accomplished on the society to include testing of ranks/activities/awards and Cluster balancing.
4) An XP Based Promotion System: If the Dark Brotherhood is truly an integrated system of systems it should provide our members with a promotion system that appears to be less subjective and a lot more objective than current promotion rules appear. Don't get me wrong, Howie has done a fantastic job as the MAA and his adherence to policies has made our award and promotion systems operate at nearly unheard levels of smoothness. This is probably the first time in my 4+ years of combined GM time that I have not seen a complaint about a promotion in a 3 month window. However, we have toyed around with an XP system for promotions for a long time, it provides an additional layer of immersion, and the proposed point system will take away some of the mystery from our members. Howie and Mav will have the lead on this moving forward and you should expect to hear more from them in the next several months.
5) Arx: Wally and his team have worked very hard on putting together our new capital planet. This was a painstaking process for several members of the team due to my revisions and constant desire to have things look like Colorado Springs. The Wiki Article for the planet is on standby and we should see it launched over the next seven days. Wally and Vyr will launch a series of Graphics Competitions to help fill the article in with visual depictions of some of our new key locations and structures.
6) Sacred Cow Review: The Dark Brotherhood has operated under the same command structure two decades. We have Clans, Houses, Teams, and a set of leadership positions to usher those units along. This command structure has worked well for us over the years, but I will direct the Dark Council to review these structures to help determine if they are the right organizations for DB 2017. Organizational structure, team studies, and a host of other relevant literature may point us in direction that could see the DJB alter it's units. This same review will continue to look at short term evaluations of current positions within Clans. Don't worry, I intend on eliciting feedback from our members during these processes.
Great Jedi War: A Decision to Delay
The Dark Council has done an outstanding job putting together competitions, a set of rules, and a story for the planned August Great Jedi War. Wally, in particular, has written a story that provides a conclusion to the past two years of our Darth Pravus hunting down aliens and Jedi across the galaxy.
Unfortunately, it is not the Great Jedi War I want to deliver to the DJB. This is my fault. I painted Wally into a corner in our DJB plot by artificially using the story to explain OOC events. The plot explained our OOC decision to remove certain alien species from the club in order to stay in line with Disney Canon. The plot explained our OOC decision to conduct another fleet reset. These events resulted in a story that I have have lost faith in. This is also my fault.
As mentioned in point 1 in the above list of projects, I have asked the DC to begin working on a more immersive vision of what a DJB war could look like using our website. Why in would I make a PPT battle plan rules page when our members could simply go to the enemies possessions page? Why would I make a dozen word document profiles of the enemy when I could just make a character sheet? These are something that I want to deliver upon.
So now what? The DC is going to do some work, Wally is going to release a series of plot updates and host some fiction competitions to give everyone closure, and then we are going to progress to something a little different. Who that is, or what that is, has to be a Dungeon Master secret for now.
I know this decision is going to upset some people and I apologize for that. Our Clan leaders altered some of their own internal schedules to make a August GJW work for their members and it is unfortunate that I have decided to delay again. However, I truly believe this is the best decision for the DB. A good GJW is not good enough.
Once we understand the requirements (data input, coding, graphics) behind what I have asked the DC to design, I will release an updated time table. The intent....although no promises, is to get this thing done as soon as possible.
Ask the GM
1) Vic Asks: Have you considered whether the number of Clans needs adjusted? Answer: Yes. I am not opposed to closing any Clan if they show an inability to keep their current and prospective members engaged. Mav and I keep a pretty close eye on the pulse of each of the Clans and will stealth-mode inquire when we believe things are off course. However; I will not close a Clan without putting them on probation first and allowing them an opportunity to rally. Tarentum is a fine example of why we should give Clans a chance to rebound.
2) Turel Asks: How do you feel about Consul Term limits? Answer: I don't see a need for Consul term limits. It is my job to monitor the activity of our Consuls and the health of their Clans. Example: If I receive a complaint about a Consul, I will make sure it's not a move for powah, review the Consuls activity in detail, review the Clan's Group Email, review the Clan's Telegram Channel, and speak to senior members of that Clan in a discrete manner. In some cases a Consul is given the opportunity to resign or be fired that day. In other cases we let a Consul know that an anonymous concern was raised and give them an opportunity to fix the situation/perception on their own.
3) Evelynn Asks: What is the purpose of restricting gaming to a handful of platforms? Answer: The Fist staff is awesome, but they have a limited amount of time to review a game, determine if that game can be exploited, balance it with our other games so the CF/CE value is fair, and establish a manner for members to submit submissions. We can't do this for every game. This is why I, not the Fist, instituted a number of players policy as a general guide for when we add a Game to the DB Roster. We just can't expend the time on games that only two people play.
4) Anonymous Asks: There are only so many leadership positions in the DJB. Why do some members hold so many of these limited positions? Answer: Bottom Line, no one applies. I know this isn't true in all cases, but in many cases we will open a position and no one will apply. Or we will receive an application, but the applicant has shown previously that they are unsuitable for the job or they simply lack the technical know-how to hold it. Arcona, one of our most popular Clans, has a hard time filling leadership positions. Our "Recruitment Position" has not been filled in nearly a year because the applicants have had a hard time showing any vision that we would trust for the position.
But, I do see and understand a member's concern when they see another leader with 3 x current positions. QUA/PROF/M:Whatever seems like a lot of work. Mav and I take this into consideration when we review the staffs and often discourage our DC from making those selections, but sometimes...the best person for the job is simply the best person for the job.
5) Kaz and others asked: After two stints as the GM, how do you see your retirement? Answer: I am only retiring as the Grand Master. I have no plans to go to the Rogues or step away from being a contributor to the Dark Brotherhood. I will more than likely transfer to a Clan that appeals to me, has a sense of community, and is willing to put up with an active GM. I plan on participating in our writing and gaming communities and more than likely I'll look to fill the void where people are interested in having me help out. At present, I have not made a decision on where I will go.
6) Mark asked: Are Clan Named members defacto Summit Members. Answer: No. Clan names are honorifics for members who have long and productive careers in a single unit. The honorific does not extend beyond a name on the dossier. Each Clan has their own culture and views the name holders in various lights, but the DC does not view a Clan Name holder any different than any other non-positioned member.
That was a long report and weaved and bobbed on a series of different topics that encapsulated some of my concerns as well as updated everyone on our plans for the next few months. The GJW announcement is a bummer, but I believe it is the right one. I left the last ASK the GM for this section because I wanted to just take a moment to convey a few things.
Qor Asked: Have you learned anything about leadership in this tenure? Answer: Of course. The Dark Jedi Brotherhood is an eclectic mesh of cultures, attitudes, and beliefs. Our members come from all walks of life and have experiences that have shaped their views on how the world works or should work. We might not always agree, but the value of dialogue to solve our problems and make the club a better place cannot be underestimated. Sarin/Pravus 2.0 is a much kindler and gentler GM compared to 1.0. That is because I'm older, because I've grown as a person, and because of the great interactions I have had with our members over the years. I've learned a ton from everyone and hopefully that has made me a better GM.
I'd also like to highlight the few leadership qualities we really value in our members right now. We want resilient leaders capable of handling adversity, capable of building teams, capable of identifying problems and fixing them, and having a desire to improve the club daily. Those are the traits we look for when selecting Consuls or DC members. One of the biggest things I have learned is that we might have members who are machines at content creation and activity, but if they can't work as a team....then they aren't right for the DC/Leadership. We aren't a real empire and we can't order anyone to do anything (even though a lot of our 14-18 year old past selves might have tried that in this club or similar clubs), so having the ability to team build is paramount.
Okay, that was a lot. I hope it was informational and provided some insight into our plans for the future. I know the GJW decision was a bummer, but I believe it was truly the right thing to do.
I'll be around most of this week, with a lot of G Hangouts up, to talk if anyone has follow on questions (or post them here). If I didn't answer your Ask the GM question, please engage me privately one more time and we will chat about it.
Grand Master Pravus