It’s disappointing to have done so much work on the Forgotten Realms at the Candlekeep forums, only to have the site moderator turn it into an unsafe space.
It does not matter if you’re a fellow chubby geek (like me), a combat veteran logging in from overseas, or a self-identified minor, because the moderator doesn’t care; if he suspects he’s being verbally attacked in some way, or if he strongly disagrees with an opinion held by another user, then he will lash out.
Once the moderator’s hackles are raised, he won’t assume good intentions when reading other user’s posts, he won’t deescalate when a white flag is raised, he won’t accept explanations from the people he’s yelling at (seriously, he will get even more mad if you try to clarify your initial statement, and argue with you that what he perceived is what matters, not what you were trying to say), and he won’t set a good example by asking for a user to clarify what they are saying before he decides whether or not to lose his shit on somebody.
If the moderator disagrees with you, then as far as he is concerned the two of you are in a debate to the death.
That’s just how the guy thinks.
And just so we’re clear: I am not free from blame. Set the clock back seven or eight years and you could best describe my job at Candlekeep as “professional shit stirrer.” If you asked other users what the number one problem on the forum space was, they’d just as likely tell you it was me as tell you it was the edition warring that ran rampant when Third Edition D&D was replaced by Fourth Edition.
During that time **I** was the reason other users quit the Candlekeep forums. That fact is something I deeply regret. But I can’t change it. That’s on me. I own it. All I can do is move forward.
A big reason why I chose to stay at Candlekeep was the stern rebuke I received from a fellow forum user. Among other things, he pointed out that I wasn’t contributing anything of lasting use to the forum space. That stuck with me. How could I be such a creative person when DMing the Realms, and be someone completely different online? So I decided to change.
I am proud to say the person who set me straight is now a colleague of mine at Ravenlore Press.
For the last three and a half years I have worked to drive traffic towards the Candlekeep forums. I have written links in my posts on other online forums and media spaces that lead to Candlekeep, and I have encouraged readers to check out its forum space and its impressive collections of Realmslore and gaming material.
And I produced some damn fine content for the Realms, some of it drawn from my home campaign, other material written solely to be posted online, and posted it all to Candlekeep.
When I discovered that other fans of the Realms had graciously linked to my content on Candlekeep from their own fan websites, I really felt like I’d accomplished something.
Fast forward to now, and I still have strong opinions, but those are secondary to contributing to the forum space. Razzing the persistently negative jerks isn’t something I do much of anymore; that’s a moderator’s job (or in the case of Candlekeep, it should be the moderator’s job).
Speaking of forum moderation: it’s a notoriously difficult thing to do. It’s not something you get paid for–most moderators are volunteers. Veteran moderators grow thick skins and have little patience with BS.
But the good ones learn how to differentiate between people being trolls or jerks, and people writing innocuous statements or just plain old sharing their opinion.
Good moderators know how to foster conversation, and how to avoid turning a forum space into an endless series of winner-take-all debates.
So yeah, I have a history with the website and its lone remaining moderator. Thus, there is a greater than average chance he will misinterpret something I write.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that my complaints are set in a milieux of other forum users and their actions, which are largely moderated fairly. And that work is done by one person; yes there are technically three moderators at Candlekeep, but he pretty much deals with all of it, including the griping and yelling sent his way through private forum messages.
Even so, Candlekeep is not a drama-filled place.
I think the moderator and owner are good people.
Much of this is beside the point, because the issues I have go beyond the everyday cut and thrust of forum activity. It’s wrong for me to actively promote a website that occasionally abuses and eats its own, and that won’t work to correct this problem because neither the moderator or the owner view what’s going as wrong.
It’s just not a safe place for me.
It’s time for me to move on.
I have been fortunate to receive kind, supportive comments for my Realms work from the creator of the Forgotten Realms, from professional game designers and authors, and from fans of the Realms.
So I have decided to create my own website to host my material. The work I have done at Candlekeep will remain there (I couldn’t remove it anyway; about 48 hours after I announced my departure they decided to ban me from the forum space), but I will be copying it all over to this website and adding new material as well.
My work speaks for itself.
Postscript: It’s rare for anything on the Candlekeep forums to be deleted. However, the last three posts comprising the exchange between the forum moderator and myself that preceded my departure have all been removed. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.