GM Report: August Edition
Welcome to my latest report, where we will recognize the exceptional work of our Social Media Tribune and discuss some important topics related to Elder promotions, the next Vendetta, touch on some major DB news, and visit the happenings in my office related to the Rollmaster position. I'll close with some thoughts on random join retention, and how we're working to improve it, and how the path system may be adjusted in the future.
Maximus awarded an Amethyst Kukri!
First and foremost, congratulations to our Social Media Tribune, Maximus Alvinius (Landon to many of us), on his fancy new Amethyst Kukri, earned for his excellent work as Social Media Tribune and as an extremely prolific member of the Herald's office. Landon is an exceptionally talented member that has really given it his all to improve the Brotherhood's social media standing, the results of which are easy for all of us to see on a regular basis, with so many new random joins finding our club. Although we know most random joins don't stick around (but see below), we've been lucky to convert many of the random joins from the social media campaigns in May into productive members, and we're looking forward to Maximus' future efforts in this area. Moreover, Landon's an incredibly talented artist that has contributed hundreds of images to our club. To many of us that is particularly impressive, because we had no idea the kind of talent Maximus had until recently. As a side note, it has been really enjoyable to see Maximus' skills really grow as he worked harder and harder at his art.
Congratulations, Maximus - your AK is well deserved!
Thoughts on Elder promotions
When I became Grand Master, many members questioned whether I would loosen the requirements for Elder. The answer was, and still remains, no - however, I thought it was worth clarifying my thoughts on the matter. I have often said that in order to reach Elder, members must make substantial and long term contributions that impact the entire Brotherhood. Many members interpreted this to me saying members must be on the Dark Council to get Elder (or Consuls serving an extended period of time), but this interpretation was not my intent, although I can see why that is how it may have come across.
While I believe that long-term Consuls and the DC often have the most opportunities to impact the Brotherhood as a whole, such opportunities are not exclusive to these positions, and nor is it only through serving in those capacities can a member better our organization. In fact, I firmly believe that very long term contributions within a Clan - when punctuated with assisting on projects at the Brotherhood-wide level (even if not as the primary individual running the project), along with regular participation in large scale club events - can, over time, bring an individual to sufficient level that a promotion to Elder is possible. A hallmark achievement is typical of Elders, but it is not a requirement, and there is no 'Elder clock' that resets when a member leaves a position. Of course, there are other requirements of Elders, including how the member is perceived leaders in our club and the like.
This does not mean that every EQ4 will have the activity or influence to reach Elder, but there have been Elders whose marks upon the Brotherhood came virtually entirely from the level of commitment they showed within a unit (and without being Consul). In practice, Elders are among our most respected and best-known members, both for their levels of activity and their contributions to our club - and not individuals that fit the Elder mold will have served on the Dark Council or had long stints on Clan Summits. I know this is all very vague - but that is because every Elder has a different path to the rank, and generalizations don't fit how the rank is handled. Regardless, I'm happy to discuss with anyone in greater detail my thoughts on Elder promotions.
The next major Brotherhood-wide event will be a Vendetta in the Fall, and as previously announced, it will be a Rite of Supremacy. The key difference between this Vendetta type and a Great Jedi War is that the GJW is meant to showcase, most of all, examples of membership skill, and to rank units based on this skill. In comparison, Rite of Supremacies have a long and varied history in our club as being diverse Vendetta events; in this particular case, the relative unit rankings at the end will have a much greater weight to participation relative to placement.
You can still expect a large variety of competition types to participate in, and we expect the event to last (right now) 5 weeks. In addition, we are hoping to use a slightly different format from the past, and our current goal is to enable member decisions made during the event to influence the direction that the story and related competition prompts between phases. As with any preliminary discussions and announcements, this is all subject to change.
Evaluating the Rollmaster Position
Rollmaster is a position that we intend to adjust, because the usage of the position varies enormously between units and often in ways completely different from the current documentation related to the position. In many ways, Rollmaster is a holdover from the days before the site performed as many functions as it does. As the site absorbed most of the functions of the position, units found new - and highly variable - ways to utilize the position. Together, this has made the position difficult to handle, to perform well as, and reward. Many members feel very strongly about the future of the Rollmaster position, but I have wanted to evaluate the position with a bit more of an eye towards how it is being used today across all of our units.
Members currently serving on summits recently received a survey regarding their perceptions / usage of the Rollmaster position, and my Magistrate, Aurora, will be releasing a general membership survey to Clanned members soon regarding their perceptions and interactions with Rollmasters. I would ask every member to take the time to look over and answer the survey over the next two weeks.
Our goal from these surveys is to evaluate what functions Rollmasters perform in various units, particularly relative to our written expectations for the position and the Dark Council's perception of how the position is used most often. Following the completion of both surveys, Aurora and I will discuss the results with the Dark Council and Clan summits before I make a decision on the position.
Force Disciples: Neither Jedi nor Sith
As I was gearing up to begin the Order rank name discussion threads, the Dark Council started to debate some of our Order names - particularly for the Gray and Dark Jedi Orders. These orders were meant to classify Force users that didn't ascribe to Sith or Jedi teachings, but they were not meant to necessarily imply fallen / wayward Jedi.
As the terms have moved out of canon, they have become somewhat misleading. To that end, we are renaming the Gray and Dark Jedi Orders to Force Disciples. While we discussed many Order names internally, we ultimately have decided to rename these orders to Force Disciple. These Orders already share all but one rank name and so the change will be relatively seamless. Once this change gets more further in the pipeline, I'll reach out to folks interested in rank renames and we'll get that up and moving.
When this change goes through, we will create a Gray Jedi and a Dark Jedi tradition that members can utilize, as well.
Occasionally I feel it is important to address or bring up current discussions the Dark Council is having, even if they are at a preliminary stage before we can share specific actions we will take. Below are two such cases.
Random Join Retention
Lately, the Dark Council has been discussing ways we can help improve retention of random joins. Historically, the random join retention rate is extremely low. The majority don't make it to clans, and even those that do, more than 90% rogue out in the first month or two; even more are gone within a year. This has been true of all random joins the last few years, whether they occur during a large influx from a movie or other Star Wars event, or find us more organically. Interestingly, our retention of recruited members is better, but not by leaps and bounds, making it quite clear we can do better with member retention in early ranks. So while we received more than 150 new members into Clans over the last few months, we have seen (and expected to see) the large majority to not stick around. While we have made considerable progress at improving the new join experience (such as the implementation of a small character creator in the Test of Identity), we are always looking for new strategies to help engage new members.
Due to the massive influx of new random joins in a short period, a few units were able to contact members losing interest in the club before they left or went inactive regarding their early Brotherhood experiences, and they've conveyed them to me. In many cases, it is simply a matter of the Dark Brotherhood being something other than what they expected (often from folks that think the DB is something akin to an online game); but in other circumstances, members that liked the idea of the club became discouraged by the difficulty in jumping in to activities other than "taking tests." We have also heard complaints or confusion about the site/finding important and relevant information.
While we do not want to discourage or downplay the Shadow Academy for our new members, we do want to make other facets of our club as easy to jump into and interact with immediately as the SA, especially competitions. as well as better ways to integrate members into Telegram. We are also looking into how the news page looks to folks logged in as well as those not logged in to the site. We will have more details about how we plan to improve these areas of our new member experience in the coming weeks, and of course, we welcome feedback from existing members (especially those of you that have joined relatively recently) on how we can improve new join experience in particular.
Thoughts on the Paths System
When we implemented the Paths system, we hoped it would ameliorate issues with the random join process in terms of membership distribution, while also enabling us to maintain members joining units that matched their expectations. In that regard, we think the Path system has been largely a success.
However, there has been an unintended side-effect of this in that characters are often heavily defined by their Path. In some ways, I see this as the unintended outcome wherein additional "membership choices" on the dossier unintentionally restricts membership choice and flexibility in their writing and character development. Additionally, a great many new joins (and even some veteran members) are under the impression that Gray is the only option for individuals that are not comically evil (or ridiculously, selflessly 'good'). The reality is that Star Wars has always been a tale of light and dark, but through it all there was always internal conflict within characters, with varying degrees of adherence to any one path at different points in the character's growth. Rarely do our favorite characters wear an obvious badge declaring their allegiance so plainly.
With that thought in mind, the Dark Council has started to consider ways that we can de-emphasize path once individuals are in units. Paths won't be disappearing from units exactly, but are likely to change in a format we've not yet determined. We will have some detailed discussions with our Summits well prior to any such change, but I wanted to mention this particularly due to a recent discussion in Fiction Chat regarding paths and characters. The end goal is to have a system where our members can play characters as complex as those featured in the movies and stories we love.
That's it for this report. As always, I'm happy to answer any questions or concerns on Telegram or here.