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May 9 - Canon Policy Changes

Announcements, Administrator

#25559
Canon Policy Changes
Happy Thursday Vault 713! We've almost made it to the weekend! Grab some butterbeer and kick back and celebrate!

We would like to take some time today to address some of the current discussion surrounding the recent rule changes involving canon characters, as detailed in our season kickoff announcement.

The Vault 713 staff team would like to sincerely apologize if any changes seemed to come "out of nowhere" or if they felt unwarranted. The changes were made based on data and fact, however we recognize that the community has a whole was not aware of these facts used to make our decision, though we would like to clarify that the vast majority of information we used for the basis of discussion was and is currently available on the forums in some capacity. The primary purpose of this new rule change was to improve roleplaying options for the majority of our player base, though we are aware that some players may have felt it restricted their options in the process. We hope that this additional announcement will help clarify some of the choices that were made and the reasoning behind them.

Activity Requirements
Prior to May 1, 2019, the activity requirements for canon characters at Vault 713 required that Main Canon Characters post at least once per month and that Secondary Canon Characters post at least once per season, both tiers requiring that these posts be made in the character's primary era. This rule had been in place since September 1, 2018, but was not regularly enforced due to staff availability. Until May 1, 2019, this rule remain unchanged.

Prior to September 1, 2018, canon characters were required to post during at least three months of a four month season, a rule that was established on September 1, 2015.

Prior to September 1, 2015, canon characters were required to complete one thread per active era, per month, a rule that was established January 1, 2015.

Prior to January 1, 2015, canon characters were required to make at least one post each week in order to remain active. This rule was in place throughout 2014, and though we have data on rule changes prior to 2014 we have chosen to omit them from this announcement for the sake of brevity.

In total, over the course of the past four years we have reduced canon character activity requirements from requiring one post per week per character, which equates to approximately 17 posts per season, to requiring a total of 4 posts minimum per season. Unfortunately, during the past four years we have also experienced a significant lack of volunteers for our Vaultkeeper team, which has limited our ability to enforce these rules regularly. Instead, we have relied largely on the honor system that players will adhere to these posting requirements and have performed checks largely in the middle and end of each season, which has occasionally involved a post announcing our intent to check activity within the next one to four weeks, creating the illusion that activity rules were changing at random when in fact the rules did not change and instead the enforcement was occurring at random. We do regret the fact that we were unable to perform these checks with consistency, but have made an effort to assure that we will be able to perform activity checks more rigorously moving forward, due in part to the new rule changes that allow us to check only one level of activity instead of two.


Current Activity Levels
While the Vault 713 staff team acknowledges that a small selection of main Canon Character players were actively participating in their primary era as the activity requirements outline, at the time of our most recent rule change that made canon characters only available as NPCs we had only four characters out of twenty-four designated Main Characters who were found to have been sufficiently active in their primary era to retain the character. We have included our full list in the spreadsheet below:

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Of those four characters, we found that the activity levels were sufficiently below those of most original characters. Names have been removed, but this data is publicly available to those who wish to examine canon character accounts by visiting the full account list found under the "Forum" menu heading and selecting "Members" from the drop down:
  • Character #1 - 13 Posts in Winter/Spring 2019 Season, 26 Posts in Fall/Winter 2018 Season
  • Character #2 - 27 Posts in Winter/Spring 2019 Season, 27 Posts in Fall/Winter 2018 Season
  • Character #3 - 10 Posts in Winter/Spring 2019 Season, 11 Posts in Fall/Winter 2018 Season
  • Character #4 - 11 Posts in Winter/Spring 2019 Season, 10 Posts in Fall/Winter 2018 Season
In total, our few active Main Canon Characters average just 16 posts per character, per season, or approximately 4 posts per month. At Vault 713, it is required that Fixed Timeline Threads be at least 10 posts to be considered completed, meaning that with our current rates of posting a player wishing to interact with a main character may not have their thread completed or may have it move at a slower pace than desired. Likewise, these numbers reflect only total posts made and are not broken down to reflect the fact that many were in owl post threads or private residences in which ordinary players would not have the opportunity to interact with these canon characters.

In addition to these characters that were retained, three characters were removed due to a lack of sufficient activity in their main era, which was verified prior to closing the forums for end of season downtime. Though one of these three characters did post within one hour of the forum closing, the activity check occurred prior to this time because no time was publicly specified for the check. As well, the conclusion was reached among the staff team that posting within one hour of downtime should not contribute to meeting sufficient activity requirements, as no one else was then able to interact with that canon character in their primary era this month. Five main canon characters were made inactive after the Fall/Winter 2018 season due to not meeting the one-post-per-season requirement. Five removed characters belonged to staff members.

Three canon characters total were created in the Fall/Winter 2018, two of which were Main Characters. No Canon Characters were created between November 2018 and April 2019. For the previous seasons, six canon characters were created between January 2018 and August 2018, none of which were main characters.

It has been our goal with offering canon characters to allow players as equal an opportunity to interact with them as possible, and a common outcry upon our removing these canons from play has been that players will be able to interact with them even less. On the contrary, we stand by the belief that removing main canon characters from play now allows them to be inserted into threads as NPCs. Without having to wait to rely on Helga Hufflepuff to dote on the students of her house, players in Founders Era can now insert Helga Hufflepuff into their threads as needed. Main Canon Characters can make appearances where and when they are needed without infringing on the rights of canon players to determine when and where characters interact. This was the intent from the very beginning of this proposition, and we believe that based on current activity levels and the small variety of players participating in threads with our few active Main Characters, that this approach will open up more opportunities for the majority of players overall.

Additionally, one criticism we have received was that players "cannot participate in the Golden Era plot due to the lack of primary canons." As we see this as a valid concern, the staff team made an effort to examine threads taking place in the Golden Era, both completed and unfinished, both before making our decision and after this was brought up again by several players. In our research we found that no posts featuring any of the "Golden Trio" that were both directly related to the plot of Golden Era and written in a way that nearly any character could interact with occurred in the Winter/Spring 2019 season.

Finally, we would like to share an example of some of the survey data collected over the past year regarding how active people believe that Canon Characters should be in general:

Community Reaction
Having addressed the data and the logic behind our new canon character rules, we would like to touch briefly on the feedback we have received from a small handful of members over the past few days regarding the changes that have been made. An overall theme in these messages has been a desire for transparency regarding the motivations for our decision, and though we have attempted to provide some of that transparency above, we believe it is important for the community to hear what others are saying. Some comments have been edited to ensure anonymity.
“I do know that some of the activity from other canon characters has been low and/or rather ooc, but I think taking the option away to play them from everyone seems more like punishing the majority for the actions of the minority.”
“What you’ve done alters the site completely and makes it just another site with seemingly power-hungry people at the helm...I would love to be wrong and for you to prove me otherwise because I like it here. I really do… What better way to trick someone into breaking the rules by constantly changing them with little communication?”
"It probably doesn't matter what I think, but I personally adore the NPC mains and the ability to play those mains guilt-free"
“there are 2 more books in Golden, the driving force behind that era is kind of gone, it doesn’t mean the era is ruined but I think a Harry-less war might not be as motivating”
“The requirements were pretty low, post once a month in main era right? Maybe the standards could have been put higher before taking the mains away? ...Maybe people should only be allowed one main? Then if there are problematic patterns at least we don’t feel like they are hogging all the mains?”
“I mostly ignore canons because I don’t like seeing people take characters I know and turn them into characters I don’t know any more”


While we respect and appreciate input from all members and all perspectives, including criticism of actions taken by the staff team, the manner in which we have received some of this feedback has been highly inappropriate. Members of our team have been harassed via social media that is not connected to the Vault, sent aggressive messages on Discord and the forums, and have been called names and compared with dictators. Additionally, non-staff members who voiced agreement with our latest changes have been subjected to aggressive comments in Vault 713 Discord channels. We do not condone this behavior in any way, especially given that our Rules & Guidelines take a very particular stance on harassment and otherwise negative behavior. We invite all members of the Vault to share their opinions and feedback but will not in any way accept this kind of verbal abuse or attacks toward ourselves nor any member of our community, and such behavior moving forward may result in a temporary or permanent ban from the Vault 713 Discord server or forums without warning.

Moving Forward
Though we had already planned on issuing surveys as we usually do at the beginning of the season, the response to not only our canon character rules changes but also the commentary regarding preferred roleplaying styles and which sections have "meaning" over others, we have decided to release two surveys to help us gauge current, up-to-date member opinions. They are as follows:




These two surveys will remain open for at least two weeks, as is the standard with season kickoff surveys.

Additionally, we do acknowledge that we could have provided some more adjustment time for our existing main canon character players who did not lose characters due to inactivity. For these players we will happily allow the creation of a new Secondary Canon Character without undergoing the cost of paying Quills or using a Free Season Character.

While we recognize that this change has caused something of a rift among some members of our community, the Vault 713 staff team does firmly stand by the changes we have made and the fact that we believe it will ultimately be a positive change for our community and the forums. As with most major changes this change will remain in place at least through August 2019, until the end of the season, at which point we will be re-evaluating all of our rules and guidelines as we do on an annual basis for Start of Term. Please note, however, that any changes made moving forward will follow a similar pattern of examining player feedback, survey responses, actual activity levels, and broad feedback regarding what players are looking for out of their roleplaying experience here at Vault 713. Each and every decision we make is based on research and feedback and not at short notice, which will continue to be the case into the future as long as Vault 713 remains open.

Thank you for your time,
The Vault 713 Staff Team
Admins Izzy, Manda, Nick, & Vy
Vaultkeepers Arsene, Jason, Sam, Susan, TyrellRose
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Re: May 9 - Canon Policy Changes

Aidan, Active Player

#25591
Thanks for this, I appriciate it. No matter what you do someone will be unhappy, but I still think laying it all out like this is the right thing to do. At least we all know the reasons.

A lot of my opinions on this are neutral as I have no cannons and my stories were not really affected by them being here or not, but I did take issues from a sympathetic view that it was just sort of sprung on the people that did play them with out a season to prepare and that the reasons for such a dramatic change were not fully layed out. So again I thank you all for this.

Also thank you for acknowledging things may have not been handled well on both ends.
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Re: May 9 - Canon Policy Changes

Silus, Active Player

#25618
So some questions I have regarding this (logistics mostly):

1) Certain canon characters may interact in threads as NPCs. On the surface, pretty cut and dry. However, how is this going to be, or has been implemented? Are we talking like NPCs under the control of those in the thread like say Generic Student #23 in a given thread or more akin to, say, how events and such happen during events where the Staff (or a Staff affiliated account) comes in and interjects as said NPC? The aspect I worry about, and feel is more likely what with the discourse surrounding canon characters and how they are or have been portrayed (and the apparent dissatisfaction therein), is the, for lack of a better term, Staff NPCs. Assuming that's the course of action to be taken, then we run into the issue of the staff becoming further thinned between their official duties, their private duties, and putting in as the NPCs to keep their presence felt. If the NPCs are via control of the players in a thread then you run the risk of the characters acting even more wildly out of character as multiple people are inputting their opinions on how the canon characters should act to, likely, very non-canon happenings. In that regard a Staff NPC would be better, but then you run into the issue of overtaxing the staff, as stated above.

2) Regarding canon character interactions, would it not be more fair to make all canon characters NPCs and simply do away with keeping track of activity levels for the sake of cutting down on bookkeeping for the staff?

3) Regarding those players that had canon mains, you mentioned that they would receive a free character slot at no cost of quills. However, I am curious, with the...liquidation of their canon character account, were any other aspects, such as Quills, transferred over to their OOC account? A reimbursement, I feel, would and should be in order for effectively deleting one of their characters as part of rules changes as opposed to disciplinary action (assuming of course that no reimbursement was given).

4) Regarding one of the facets of why the canon....changes were implemented, I understand part of it is because some people felt uncomfortable playing already claimed characters in the Sandbox. Understandable, of course. However a question I have is this: If there is no notable uptick in canon character play in the Sandbox over this new season, then what? Will this ruling be upheld, reversed, or changed?

I ask because I feel that these aspects were either not addressed or poorly addressed and some clarification could (and should) ease some worry and confusion on behalf of some members.
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Re: May 9 - Canon Policy Changes

*Admin Izzy, Administrator

#25622
Hi Silus!

To answer your questions:

1) We've always allowed canons that were not claimed by others/currently in play to be NPC'd in threads. This is really no different, other that we are making sure all players can interact with the main heroes and villains in each era by including them in their posts at their own discretion. There is a possibility that staff may use the Random Event account to post as one of the NPC Canons during events related to the plot of the era, but players will not need to ask for/wait for one of these posts in order to interact with an NPC. A quick example for you:
Mark was excited to try out for the quidditch team. His brother had been a seeker for Hufflepuff before he graduated, and now it was Mark's turn to show he had talent too. It would be extra fun to be on Harry Potter's team as well. He took his place, followed Harry's instructions, and completed the exercise with the rest of beaters.

"Great job," said Harry.

Mark smiled. Even if he didn't make the team, he at least got to hear from Harry Potter himself that he was a good player.
As with any use of NPC in a thread, in the event that someone feels another player is inappropriately using the NPC Canons in a thread, players can use the report feature to make staff aware of the situation.

2) This is an option that has been considered, but at this time it is not going to be implemented. The current policy will stay in place at least until the end of this roleplaying season. We ask that everyone fill out the Canon Survey linked in the announcement so that we can get a better idea of what people think about Canons and Canon activity.

3) This was answered in the original announcement posted on May 5th.

4) Again, the current policy will remain in place until the end of the current season. No decisions on current policies or features will be made until then. We ask members to take both the Canon Survey and the Sandbox Survey that are linked in this announcement so we can get player feedback to help staff understand member preferences and feelings.

Let us know if you have any more questions!

Admin Izzy
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Re: May 9 - Canon Policy Changes

Silus, Active Player

#25627
One last question related to the end of season decision, and I understand if you are unable to answer at the moment: if the decision is reversed, would the players that lost their canon character accounts have said accounts restored, or would said character simply be back open for the taking? And if they simply revert to being open for the taking, would the previous players have priority on said characters should they desire to continue playing them?
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Re: May 9 - Canon Policy Changes

*Admin Vy, Administrator

#25629
Hi Silus!

Unfortunately, we have not yet made this decision yet. However, we will be sure to let people know of any updates regarding rules and processes for next season.

Thanks!

Admin Vy