Overview

Part of the responsibility of reffing is dealing with situations where you need to intervene and make participants change their behaviour - either for safety reasons or because they are not following the rules. These guidelines are intended to achieve the best possible intervention - one that de-emphasizes conflict and allows participants to easily correct their behaviour so that they are compliant with our rules. They also lay out the procedures for reporting an intervention, so that it can be logged and assessed if any follow-up action is required.

The guidelines talk about participants - rather than players. This is deliberate - it is just as possible for a member of crew to be doing something wrong as a player. Part of being a ref is treating all participants the same, regardless of who they are. If you see Matt Pennington in the field - and he is doing it wrong - you should follow exactly the same procedures that you would with any other participant. The rules apply to everyone.

Intervening is difficult - nobody wants to tell a participant that they are doing it wrong. But a visibly proactive intervention policy is essential in a large game if the majority of participants are going to have faith in the organization. Having the confidence to intervene is a crucial part of being an effective Empire referee.

General Approach

  • Remain polite and friendly at all times
  • Avoid using confrontational terms like cheat which require a value judgement

Whether or not a participant is following the rules is a technical judgement that has a correct answer. If someone believes that medium armour stops arrows from causing impale, they are simply wrong. But whether that participant is a cheat - whether they are deliberately breaking the rules to gain a game advantage or simply honestly mistaken - is almost always a value judgement (it is pretty rare for a participant to confirm that they were cheating).

It is not your responsibility to make that value judgement at the point where you are intervening with the participant and doing so will almost always produce a more negative outcome. At the point where you are intervening, the over-riding goal is to get that participant to comply with the safety or game rules that you need them to comply with. Phrasing that refers to mistakes and errors will give the participant a mentally acceptable route by which they can accept the required outcome without needing to public acknowledge that they were cheating. That makes the intervention far less likely to devolve into a confrontation.

The correct time to use your judgement on whether or not a participant was honestly mistaken or was deliberately cheating is when you log the intervention.

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Will you stop this foolishness?

Source of Information

  • The best evidence is your own eye-witness
  • You can intervene on the basis of a first-hand account
  • Do not intervene on the basis of second or third-hand information

The best information is your own eye-witness experience - you should never preclude the possibility that you mistook what you saw - but it is legitimate to be more certain about something you have witnessed yourself. You can still intervene on the basis of a first-hand account that is provided to you. If a player says "I hit that guy 17 times - but he didn't fall over" then that is a legitimate basis for intervention. Do not prejudge the situation - you cannot assume that the testimony is correct - but you have all the information you need to intervene and check the details with other participants.

You should not intervene on the basis of second or third-hand accounts. Every participant who spreads a story adds a minimum of 20% with each telling. If a participant says "My mate hit that guy 17 times and he didn't fall over" then you need to find the mate and speak to them to confirm the facts before you intervene. Either go looking for the mate - or ask the person passing on the information to bring his mate to you.

If a participant provides you with a generic sweeping accusation of cheating "Nobody in Urizen takes their hits" then challenge them to provide a personal testimony of a personal situation where this happened. If they did not see anything themselves, ask them if they can help you find someone who has seen something that can be actioned.

If possible point out to the participant how unlikely it is that nobody in Urizen takes their hits - and also how unlikely it is that everybody in Urizen takes their hits. Be polite and explain that we can only take action where we can identify specific incidents of rules breaking. That we need is to find out who is or is not taking their hits and treat them individually.

Although you should not intervene on the grounds of second-hand complaints or sweeping accusations of cheating - you should still report and log them if you think they have merit.

Intervention

There are three different classes of situation where you may need to intervene. An intervention could be minor, it may involved just catching a player's eye and raising an eyebrow over an unpulled blow. It may be much more serious. Best practice for these categories are laid out below:

Timing

  • Choosing the right moment to intervene is a matter of good judgement
  • The ideal time is when it will cause the least disruption to the game
  • Egregious situations may require an immediate response

At the point where you have identified that an intervention is required, you must use your own judgement to assess the best moment to intervene. If you can resolve the incident with a glance or a quick word, then do so immediately. If you need to have a conversation with the player then you will have to judge when to approach them.

The ideal timing is a compromise - it should be as soon after the point where the incident took place as possible so that people can see the incident is being addressed - but delayed until the immediate roleplaying is complete so that the intervention will cause the least disruption to the game. We trust you to use your judgement as a referee to get the right balance.

In a handful of situations - usually involving safety issues - the situation may be so egregious that it requires immediate intervention. This is fine - the safety of participants is more important than minimizing disruption.

Rules Violations

  • Check all the available facts first
  • Let the participant know what the correct rules are
  • Log any rules infraction that was significant - if it was not minor or appeared deliberate

If you believe that one or more participants are not following the rules then you should intervene. Remember that there are many different ways for characters in Empire to gain extra hits or extra calls - so you shouldn't assume anything - you need to check the facts carefully first.

The first step is to explain that it is possible a mistake has been made and you need to check what happened. When you question the participant on their actions - the ideal tone to use is one that makes clear that you are trying to establish what they believe took place. Questions like "How many hits does your character have? Are you wearing any heavy armour? How many times can your character call shatter?" are acceptable questions.

Questions like "Why didn't you take your hits? Why did you ignore that strikedown?" are confrontational questions that risk turning an intervention into a confrontation. Keep your tone polite and your words neutral. You are checking the facts, not making accusations.

The response of the participant is likely to have two parts - one will be an explanation of what they think the rules are - this may or may not be mistaken. If it is mistaken - then you can issue them with a technical ruling that corrects their misunderstanding and politely ask them to make sure they are careful on this point in future. If the participant queries your technical ruling - for instance if they "“Are you sure, because the rules say I can use unstoppable to get back up” - then you should check the ruling you've just made, on the wiki, or via radio to the ref desk. If this is not possible, then you should rule in favour of the participant unless you are 100% certain that you are in the right - but take their character name or real name and their CID if they know it and let them know that the ref team will verify the situation as soon as possible.

The other part will be their explanation of what they believe just happened - this will often not match with your report. The best way to handle this is to respond to the participant in a way that calls them mistaken rather than duplicitous. Saying "No you didn't - you took 20 hits" is less likely to produce a successful intervention. The better approach is to say "I saw you take more hits than that - so I think you must have missed some. It's really important to be self-aware in combat - both for safety reasons and to ensure the game is fair for everyone. Please try and make sure you are more careful when counting your hits in future - otherwise it can look like you are not taking your hits."

If you have any concerns that the rules infraction was significant - either because it was not minor in nature, may have been deliberate rather than a mistake - or represents a systemic ignorance of the rules across the game - then you should log the incident afterwards. In most cases this will mean you need to take a note of the participant's name or character name and their CID if they know it.

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Safety Grounds

  • Intervene at the point where a situation has become dangerous
  • Log any intervention on safety grounds that required you to stop play
  • Log any intervention with a player whose actions were deliberate or particularly dangerous

Blows to the face or neck or unpulled blows are explicitly against our rules and do require intervention appropriate to the situation. In addition as a referee you will be expected to be assessing any combat you are observing to ensure that it has not become dangerous.

Live roleplaying is a physical hobby with an inherent degree or risk - part of the job of the referee team is to help us balance that risk with the enjoyment of the game. Our goal is to reduce and control risks - not to try to eliminate them. The correct time to intervene on safety grounds is before a participant has been hurt but when the situation has degenerated to the point where it is clear that it is dangerous and the risk of harm is high. You do not need to make a proactive intervention You do not need to intervene when a situation could become dangerous - only if you believe that the situation is dangerous.

If you are intervening because the combat has become unsafe - then the best way to do this is to call TIME FREEZE to stop play in the local area. Once you have stopped play, shout "safety call" to let the players know what is happening and then instruct the participants to change position or formation. Once you are satisfied that the situation is safe, you can restart play.

Please make sure you log every intervention on safety grounds that caused you to stop play - this will allow us to monitor the safety levels on an ongoing basis. If you have any concerns that an intervention with an individual player was significant - either because it was not minor in nature, may have been deliberate rather than a mistake - or represent a systemic problem affecting the game - then you should also log that afterwards.

Social Contract

  • The explicit social contract is a part of our game rules
  • Intervene at the point where it causes the least embarrassment to the participant
  • Log any intervention where you believe the rules breech was deliberate or your ruling was not accepted

Empire has an explicit social contract that makes clear that language and behaviour that differentiates between characters on the grounds of race, gender or sexuality is not appropriate in Empire. Language in particular can be difficult - and the use of gendered language in particular is habitual. Crucially we ask participants to avoid publicly disrupting the game by correcting the mistakes of others - in the same way that we ask participants to avoid making public accusations of cheating. You should treat any breeches of our social contract exactly as you would any other game rule - and intervene as appropriate to the situation.

It is important to appreciate that the overwhelming majority of participants will find the experience of having their language or behaviour corrected to be mortifying. Our goal is to help all participants follow the social contract for the game - and to avoid making them feel like they have been told off. Consequently, it is important to intervene at the moment that will cause the least embarrassment to the participant and to phrase your feedback as a reminder of the rules that they have forgotten. Ideally you should wait until you have a chance to have a private friendly word with the participant.

You only need to log an intervention for the social contract if you believe it was deliberate or the participant indicated that they do not intend to try to follow the social contract in future.

Immediate Action

  • If the situation requires it then you may take immediate action to remove a participant from the game to improve safety or rules compliance

If you have intervened, either for safety or rules compliance, but you are confident that the participants behaviour will not improve as a result of their response - or the situation was so egregious that it is clear that there is a need for an immediate visible reprimand by Profound Decisions then you may take immediate action. Reasons we imagine you might need to take immediate action are that a participant is too intoxicated to take part safely, or they have been abusive or refused to accept a ref ruling.

On battlefield, you can instruct a participant that they must withdraw from the field and return to Anvil. Try to get backup from a colleague before you do this - if you can - as it may help prevent the situation becoming a confrontation. If you are unsure if they will comply with this ruling, you must be prepared to escort them off the field. If it is not possible to get backup then radio the other referees on the battlefield radio channel if possible to make them aware of your action.

If the situation takes place on Anvil then you may instruct a participant to avoid all combat or avoid taking any action against another character. If you are not satisfied that that will render the immediate situation acceptable - then you may instruct the participant to go to GOD and wait there for further instruction. In either case, please ensure that you have agreed the decision with the ref desk first.

If a participant refuses to accept the direction provided, then you should treat the incident as a security situation and escalate to Profound Decisions management or the security team as quickly as possible.

We hope that none of these situations occur, but these rules exist as a last resort if they are needed. We expect you to have spoken with the participant at length before taking this decision. Ultimately though we are relying on your judgement to decide when to intervene and report an incident after and what to take immediate action.

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Isn't it lovely? Yeah. Too bad they're gonna spoil it with a pig.

Participant Response

  • Abuse or refusal to accept a ruling are not acceptable
  • Your safety and comfort is our priority

The ideal response from the participant is to politely acknowledge their mistake and affirm that they will ensure that it does not happen again. Provided you have remained polite and avoided accusations then there is no reason why any reasonable participant should not accept your ruling. If this does not happen then we want you to report the incident so that we can follow it up.

Your safety and comfort is our primary concern in any situation in which a participant becomes confrontational. Try to get a participants real name or character name and a CID if possible - either directly from the offender, or from those around them. Once you have that let the participant know that you are leaving the matter there - that Profound Decisions will be in touch with them - and that they should direct any concerns to Matthew Pennington directly. You must log any incident where you tell the participant that Profound Decisions will contact them.

We take a dim view of participants refusing to accept a ruling by a referee and an especially dim view of any abuse of our crew. Our event rules require all our participants remain civil at all times when dealing with members of our volunteer team. Being rude or abusive to our crew is the single most likely reason to get banned from a Profound Decisions event.

Reporting

  • Reporting interventions is an essential stage in helping us to referee the event
  • If humanly possible, please log your intervention yourself

It is vital to report any significant intervention, otherwise all incidents end up being treated individually and it is impossible for any of us to use our judgement to assess when cheating is happening. If possible, then it helps if you can log the intervention yourself - otherwise you will need to provide your report to another member of the admin or ref team to log for you.

You can log any incident using the crew area of the Profound Decisions website. If you are logging an incident that involves a specific participant then use the View Player/Search Player to find the entry for that participant. Select the Notes tab - and add a new note. Make sure the type of note is set to "Ref Note" - otherwise it will not be identified. In the body text for the note please make sure that you include the following.

  • Type of Intervention (Safety or Rules Violation)
  • Description of situation
  • Description of action taken including any ruling issued to the participation
  • Any other notes appropriate

If you are logging an intervention that was more general in nature and did not concern the misbehavior of a specific participant then please log this report as above - but log it against Graeme Jamieson's player record - PID 927.

Immediate Escalation

  • You should report any egregious situation to PD as quickly as possible

If you are convinced that a situation is sufficiently egregious that it requires an immediate response then please escalate it to Nick Taylor, Graeme Jamieson or Matthew Pennington at the earliest available opportunity. Abuse reports are the most obvious situation where this is appropriate - but also individual behaviour that is wildly or willfully unsafe. If possible please write down all pertinent details as soon after the event as possible, as it can sometimes be difficult to obtain the required person for escalation quickly.

Backing

  • All human beings make mistakes - a professional organization is one that admits when it has got something wrong
  • We will always back our crew - but our confidence in you is not diminished by a single mistake

No individual is capable of making the perfect call in every situation - all human beings make mistakes. The ethos of Profound Decisions is that probity and good faith rely on being honest about mistakes - not concealing them. We will assess the decisions made during an event and if the balance of evidence favours a different judgement then we will be honest about that with all our participants. If appropriate we will contact an affected participant and let them know what call would be given in an equivalent situation in the future.

Making the occasional mistake is normal and is not something that any referee should be unduly concerned about. Empire is a complex game with many moving parts - a few mistakes are unfortunate but inevitable. We'll always try to let you know if we need to fix a mistake, but making a single mistake does not affect our confidence in you as a referee - and we will be clear about that in any communication we have with other participants.

In most situations we will not retcon the in-character consequences of a mistaken call and no member of crew should ever give a participant the impression that they feel that that option is appropriate for them. However we try to avoid being dogmatic and we will assess each situation individually - with a view to adopting an IC response that causes the least disruption possible to the roleplaying of all participants.

I want to stress again that getting a call wrong is not a problem. The important thing is that we don't have to live with bad calls, that we correct them for the future.