Splitting…

It is not possible to write a history of Hogwarts Roleplay without acknowledging that along the way, not all of the drama was in character! Indeed, we have had more than a little out of character drama. Although it would be easier to just forget about most of it, it is not possible to tell the story of how we got to where we are without acknowledging the splits and the reconciliations.

Hogwarts Reborn was a group of Harry Potter fans that came into the ownership of Darcy Rutledge, who wished to have a SecondLife role-play experience that JK Rowling would be proud of, and harry Prefect, who wished to make the sim build just as awe inspiring. Neither had role-play experience which is why they recruited Danton Thirroul to lead the role-play. It was his idea to have character sheets, and drama directors, and sim wide plots, and role-play classes, and actual Quidditch matches.

However Harry Potter was, of course, hugely popular, and from day one Danton had hundreds of character sheets to keep in order, and hundreds of role-players of varying levels of experience, attempting to role-play in SecondLife where people could TP into a scene, or where the sim might suddenly crash, or griefers might try to disrupt roleplay, or where a whole class would experience that special SecondLife effect of feeling like you are swimming through treacle.

There were problems from day one sadly. Heads of house were appointed, but the Ravenclaw head of house was never found on sim, and when she was replaced there was, shall we say, something of a public argument.

Some players blatently metagamed, or godmodded scenes. One was found to be underage and Danton had no option but to report him. Some players were made not to feel welcome (including Aberystwyth Lane, who designed our first website but felt she had to leave as soon as the website was created because of the way people were behaving). One player decided she would just kill her character one day, which led to Danton stepping in with our first role-play void.

This was not mayhem, but it was rough and ready. There were some clear strong points in the role-play too. Two of the drama directors deserve special mention: Theodore DuCasse, who created the scariest and most perfect Slytherin character you could imagine, and went out of his way to include new players into his role-play, and also Piper Erato, an endearing hufflepuff boy who took his role as drama director seriously. If you wanted hints about what was going on, or to follow clues to uncover some mystery, or such like, then you needed to find Piper and watch. His role-play was awesome.

Some teachers, too, were always found on sim, and really drove the role-play forward. Wylder Pan sticks in my memory for that reason, but the real legend of the staff at that time was Slytherin head of house, Shalinoth Kitsune who later became headmaster at World of Hogwarts. Let’s be quite clear then: Hogwarts Reborn was truly wonderful. It had many problems but an amazing group of players that made those first days very special.

Some people were not happy with the warts though. That was fair enough. Indeed, it is likely that everyone hated something or other. One issue came to light when a uniform standard was issued. You could lease shops in Wizard Alley and elsewhere to sell your SL wares then as now, but one of the clothing makers created uniforms that he felt were then proscribed for being against the standard. He saw it as an attack on his business by the more established suppliers. Was he right? Well uniform standards were actually not dissimilar from actual uniform standards in many British schools, and at that time in SL, and perhaps still now, people were wary of having a sim in which any clothing for children might appear sexualised. It is doubtful this was a deliberate attack on the business therefore, but it bred discontent.

That has to be mentioned because that person began to agitate and be disruptive to such an extent that Harry Prefect banned him. On a couple of other occasions Harry Prefect summarily banned people who were being highly disruptive. The clothing maker, Justify Darkstone, was popular with many and so too were some others who were banned. There was perhaps some angst that people could put a lot of effort into role-play at Hogwarts Reborn and then simply be dismissed by the group owner.

That then led to the seeds of rebellion when we acquired some new players who had very clear ideas about how a good role-play should be run. Venturi Murumaki came with experience from other role-plays, and took others under her tutelage, including the new-to-everything Armen Bingyi.

At some point in the summer of 2007 a plot was hatched. This group had seen the banning of disruptive players and had taken from that a feeling that the direction of the sim was wrong and needed correction. Armen admitted to me at a later date in 2008 that this was the case. He told me that they could “see the way things were going” and thus the plot was to entirely replace Hogwarts reborn with a new role-play that would be player led. A frustration of players was that Harry Prefect was entirely focused on building (although he never got around to texturing the castle towers) and did not role-play but would then ban role-players. Darcy did role-play a little, but more experienced role-players did not seem content with that.

Some people decided to make it their job to police the role-play. Text speak was banned, which was fair enough, although the ban on use of smileys was less obvious (I made the point then that in a medium like SL, the use of a smiley is exactly the same visual clue to emotion as an actual smile. Add a smiley to your text and all you are saying is that you are smiling!)

Another ban (like the previous) was placed on people logging out in a scene or TPing in to class. That rule was proposed by Armen, Libbie and Venturi (the gang of three) because it was clearly not possible for people to apperate, and so we should all log in to a secret spot and then walk to where we needed to go.

You can see their point, but I have always argued that this was really just a failure of imagination. Suppose I TP into class as everyone is arriving, all I need do is type “/me rushes into the class, breathless, his shirt untucked, his hair wild and full of twigs, looking over his shoulder with wild eyes”

No one was forced to role-play seeing people emerge out of thin air. There were all kinds of things in SL where we accepted the limitations of the medium and ignored them, so why make a big deal about where someone logged in or out? But the rule was imposed, and such rules caused dissent. Venturi argued that this was poor role-players grumbling. Sadly that caused the start of an inner circle of role-players who conformed to a particular style and thought that they were better than the others.

Guys, at this point I have to abandon my attempts at neutrality in this article to tell you that not one of you ever came anywhere close to Piper in your ability to carry off a convincing character. Piper whose teacher alt of damarsus Broome was second only to Shalinoth Kitsune in sheer awesomeness.

Still it was this elite group that really did begin their plotting, and whose schemes reached the ears of Harry Prefect.

Although the plot was hatched just a couple of months after role-play started, it took longer for it to come to fruition, and ti understand the cause of the split, we go back to how busy Danton was: because he had all those character sheets to read through and they kept on coming.

Danton thus appointed Luthien Biziou, another experienced player who had played in other RP sims, to supervise the new player admissions. One of the first things she had done was to create mandatory role-play classes that all new players must attend before being admitted.

I remember being in two minds about those classes. On the one hand it was clearly an important and valiant attempt to deal with some of the worst excesses of bad role-play we were seeing, but on the other hand it forced people to log in at times that suited the admissions department to attend the classes, and that actually prevented many people from joining as there are many reasons why people might not be able to make the set times.

A particularly controversial reform that Luthien brought in was a demand to know the alts of players. If a player plays one approved character on one account and a different approved character on another account, she felt it important that the drama department know about this in case there were metagaming or favouritism. Teachers awarding their alts hundreds of house points would clearly frustrate the game experience. Thus if you wanted to play an alt you were meant to confess or face sanctions or a ban.

No-one can fault, however, Luthien’s commitment to the role-play and her attempts to improve things. You can see that in Danton’s own words when he describes the split.

Danton describes the split better than I ever could, and I have included his take on it in my history below, but suffice it to say for now that the split came when Harry Prefect moved against Luthien, dismissing her from her role, and reducing her privileges in the group. He did so because he knew there was a plot (and there was one – that was admitted as described above). He knew people were trying to take over the role-play and run it as they saw fit, and Harry and Darcy rightly felt that they were the group owners, and Danton was the one they had hired to run the role-play. They did not want anyone else coming in and taking over.

But Harry’s enormous mistake was to assume Luthien was one of the plotters. She was not. Again, this was admitted by the “gang of three” at a later date. Luthien was Danton’s appointee and any control she was exercising over character creation was at Danton’s behest. It should also have been for Danton to deal with any issues, not Harry.

Harry admitted his error later, and was clearly upset about it, but we should bear in mind that he was acting on wrong information about a real plot, and he did always want what was best for the role-play as we will see later.

Despite any remorse, however, the die was cast, the damage was done. In dismissing Luthien, Danton’s position became untenable and he resigned. With Danton resigning, many of his best supporters also resigned including Theodore Ducasse and Shalinoth Kitsune. Others, like Piper, were so distressed by what was going on that they just quit. Molly Alexander, Luthien’s assistant attempted to stay on, but many of the character sheets were only in Luthien’s possession, and no one wanted to ask for them back. Hogwarts Reborn was badly damaged and had to find new teachers, new admissions support, new drama directors, and a new role play lead.

Wendy Snook put a lot into the sim at this point, and Remus Lupino, andother key player with a great teacher alt, tried initially to keep things flowing although he eventually left in sadness at what had happened.

Meanwhile the gang of three approached Luthien with a fully formed plan for a new player led role-play and World of Hogwarts was born. Luthien managed to get us a sim, and after a month or so, with some very hasty building, the new World of Hogwarts was born as a brand new roleplay, with Danton Thirroul as its first roleplay lead.

Some notable names in the building of World of Hogwarts that I have not mentioned were Angus Mesmer, Riko Kamachi, Miranda Milestone, Sidonie Carlberg, and Lecompte Chemistry. They spent a great deal of time helping in the planning and the builds of the World of Hogwarts. Riko and Lecompte joined Venturi, Libbie Bonetto, Luthien and Theodore on the World of Hogwarts GMC, a new body that would govern the players by the players and for the players.