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#13915379 Dec 04, 2018 at 04:12 PM · Edited 5 days ago
Kinsman/Kins...
25 Posts
Hello, all. Some of you might remember me from my relatively short time in CH about five years ago. If so, you probably also remember the bizarre, bad behavior that came to be associated with my account / characters in late spring 2014 (around the time I left CH) through 2015. While I wasn’t directly responsible for most of happened, I did make the extremely bad decisions that led to it, and for that reason I accept all of the blame.

Because the situation was very complex and developed over several years, this message will be quite lengthy. I apologize for that. I’ve tried to keep it as short as possible, though, and also to keep facts about specific CHers vague to protect their privacy. If you were around in 2014-15, I hope this post helps to clear up some things – and that you’ll accept my apologies for everything that happened back then.

*takes a deep breath* OK, here goes, from the very beginning (so my / others’ motivations are perfectly clear): CH was the first modern MMO I ever dipped my feet into, and, back in 2014, when I first joined an active version of CH, I was overly concerned with the “correct” way to behave in a kin: how assertive to be with making suggestions, stepping up to run events – even chatting in the kin channel.

The trouble started, strange as this might sound, when my husband tried to convince me I had no reason to worry about being accepted by my kinmates. By the time I’d been in CH for a few weeks or so, he’d watched me play enough to recognize most of the kin’s core / active members. To allay my fears, and to add levity to a situation that made me anxious, my husband started to suggest, teasingly, that several male CHers not only didn’t dislike me, but had actually been flirting with me. I was skeptical, since every conversation I’d had with my kinmates had been patently non-flirtatious – even in the totally innocuous way many MMOers “flirt” with one another pretty regularly. While none of my husband’s teasing convinced me that anyone was flirting with me, specifically, it did get me laughing, at least.

Around this time, my husband and I learned, somehow, one of two facts: that a particular CHer either lived in our local area or worked in my semi-obscure former professional field. In a killing-the-cat sort of way, we googled this person and found something which was frankly none of our business (a fact which I didn’t appreciate enough at the time). In any case, though, the information fit this CHer’s (harmless, as far as I know) reputation in the kin and disconcerted me slightly, since I’d chatted with him once or twice.

This was all my husband needed to hypothesize, only half-jokingly (one of those “you had to be there” sorts of situations), that the CHer in question had ulterior motives in his interactions with certain kinmates. Incidentally, we’d also stumbled upon whichever of the two personal factoids above – i.e., the CHer’s location or occupation – I hadn’t already gleaned through hearsay or random chatter in the game. This made the other info we’d found seem more salient, somehow.

To find out for sure what this person was up to, my husband and I started looking for “clues” in his behavior. For reasons I can’t remember very well at this point, we decided the CHer in question had extra, “secret” characters in the kin, and that one of them had been hanging out on the game at ~2 a.m. (US EST), when I was often the only other CHer logged in.

It was around this time that we told some online friends (one of whom we also knew locally) about my LOTRO adventures, Concerning Hobbits, and, at my husband’s insistence, the CHer who lived in our city.

The group was amused by three things: first, that I, a non-gamer, was playing an MMO like LOTRO so heavily; second, that I was worried about minor social ambiguities found in nearly all clans in online games; and, finally, that there was a local CHer who was up to no good in some vaguely comical way. The group soon established some in-jokes about all of these things. In these jokes, the CHer my husband and I had “doxed” became a serial “stalker” who had dozens of “fake” characters in the game (for spying, maybe?).

This sort of humorous mythologizing went on for about a week or so. In the thick of it, my husband (when I was out of the room – on crutches, since I’d broken my leg in a car/bike wreck a couple months – yes, months – earlier) posted to this website a rude joke that wouldn’t have made sense to anyone but us – and our friends, if they’d seen it. I was extremely embarrassed, of course, and quickly tried to fix what he’d done.

A bit counterintuitively, my husband’s action functioned as a sort of “point of no return” in my attempts to fit in with a group that frequently had me baffled. (“Counterintuitively” because I should have seen my husband’s post as a warning not to let his and our friends’ involvement with my LOTRO playing get out of hand.) Also, to some degree, I was actually convinced that there was some truth to my husband and our friends’ semi-facetious insistence that the CHer we’d “doxed” was misusing the game. I also felt he was getting a “pass” for this behavior from the kin’s leadership – the same people who didn’t like it when other (newer? more socially anxious?) members of the kin showed up late to a party, for instance.

One evening I rashly shared my concerns with a CH officer in either the kinship or hobbits chat (without naming any characters, of course), who I assume passed them on to both the CHer in question and the person I regularly saw online at 2 or 3 a.m. (At the time, remember, I believed there was some chance these two were one and the same person.)

Shortly after this incident, at my request for moral support, my husband restarted playing LOTRO, which he’d tried and hadn’t liked a year or two earlier. He wanted to focus on crafting, but he also agreed to quest and deed with me. About half the time we were both logged in (and some of the time when just one of us was), we’d use each other’s accounts, so that I’d be playing one of his characters and he one of mine. We even attended a CH party this way. I realize now how utterly unconscionable this practice was, but, in an environment where I still felt like an outsider, I was especially susceptible to social pressure from more familiar quarters: having fun with my husband in a way he’d suggested outranked being honest with my kinmates.
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks."
-- Gandalf, to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)
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#13915380 Dec 04, 2018 at 04:15 PM · Edited 5 days ago
Kinsman/Kins...
25 Posts
And this led to something even crazier.

Our friends (remember them?) weren’t RPGers, but some of them were very curious about the game. In a decision that seems absolutely insane to me now, we ended up letting these friends log in to our accounts, so that they could explore the game world with us – including higher-level areas new characters couldn’t access – and, more importantly, from their point of view, at least, get a taste of a culture they’d heard about for months. Also, we hoped they would get some use out of all the valuable stuff we’d acquired in the game, since I was getting burned out on LOTRO, and my husband was only there because of me.

One note on handing over our LOTRO accounts to friends: my husband had sold characters before, and says he viewed this transaction in the same light – but without the expectation of payment in return, since our characters wouldn’t have been worth much and were going to friends. Sadly, our friends never did seem to care about actually playing the game, which meant that my husband’s and my hoards of non-cosmetic valuables never did end up with much of a purpose.

When my husband and I decided to give our friends access to our accounts, we weren’t completely ignorant of their propensity to troll. In fact, by ~May 2014, when we’d handed over the accounts, I wasn’t terribly concerned that they would probably engage in some “light” trolling with our characters. (By this I mean what I’d seen them do on reddit and elsewhere, focused more on esoteric in-jokes than attacking anyone outright or causing any major disruptions.)

First, I knew my husband and I would probably be leaving LOTRO soon – most likely for an online text RPG that LOTRO had made him want to play again – so it wouldn’t affect us. Second, it was more important to me to avoid nagging my friends than to ensure that no one would ever find their behavior the slightest bit offensive. (Sadly, these people are now all in their 30s and 40s, and they’re still trolling. In other respects, though, they're not bad people. In fact, one of them is still a close friend and officiated at my husband's and my wedding.)

My husband and I did eventually stop playing LOTRO, but there were several weeks or so when my I, my husband, and our friends were using all the characters in both accounts. During this time, CH gained several new members. By this point, the “stalking” talk my husband and our friends had once found so hilarious was getting stale, especially since I wasn’t playing along by taking it seriously, and the supposed “stalker” didn’t seem to be playing LOTRO at all anymore. To remedy this, our friends decided that the new CHers were all manifestations of the missing “stalker.” It wasn’t easy to tell if they genuinely believed this or were joking – especially since my husband, who had by that point met most of the active CHers and liked them all, had scaled back his participation in their in-joking.

And from there the talk about “stalking” became (equally unfunny) talk about male players rolling female characters. This (and the reverse) is, of course, hardly even noteworthy (in fact, I’ve rolled quite a few male RPG characters, myself), but several of our friends (and even my husband) seemed to find the topic amusing, in a very juvenile sort of way: first, my husband used my shivtr account to post a link to the song ‘Lola’ because he thought it would annoy me but wouldn’t make sense, as a reference, to anyone else. Next, our friends, on a night when my husband and I couldn’t attend one of the weekly CH parties, showed up with my husband’s and my main characters and purportedly created a minor scene, PMing several people about a male CHer rolling female characters and pretending to be a woman in real life.

Hearing about the above, I decided it would be best to remove my and my husband’s characters from CH. (I didn't have to ask my husband first, since he wouldn't have cared; his interests in the game were keeping me company and blasting through crafting training.) I would have tried to explain the situation to a kin officer, but I thought that I (and my husband and our friends) had burned enough bridges that admitting my husband and his friends had been controlling my characters a lot of the time didn’t seem to be the best idea. Also, for the first time, I confronted our friends about their behavior and ordered them to stop trolling with my and my husband’s characters. We created the kinship “Auction House Mafia” and made our focus in the game acquiring money through the auction house. (The origin of this arrangement was our friends’ mock-demanding that large amounts of gold be left in the two accounts after my husband and I stopped playing.)

This, I think, is when our friends started to troll on World Chat – and less so, they’ve said, in PMs to a handful of people. I did assume some trolling would occur after my husband and I left the game, but I thought it couldn’t be worse than what happened the night I withdrew our characters from CH. It turned out I was wrong. Very wrong, from what I finally learned from our wedding-officiant friend in 2016.
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks."
-- Gandalf, to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)
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#13915381 Dec 04, 2018 at 04:18 PM · Edited 1 month ago
Kinsman/Kins...
25 Posts
At that time (2016), I was still logging in to the game, but very infrequently – twice a year, maybe – to use my old account to play with cosmetics or mine and chop wood. Early on (at the end of 2014, say), I’d noticed that some of my characters’ items had been rearranged or removed, which, of course, I’d expected. Later on, some of my outfits had been replaced by horrible ones with the “hot pants” cosmetic armor from Lalia’s store (for instance). By late 2015, this seemed to have stopped.

A few months later, I happened to mention LOTRO to one of our reddit friends, and that nobody seemed to be hijacking my outfits anymore – or even using my old account at all. She said that I should change the passwords for the accounts, since she’d heard they had been used for several drunken trolling sprees over the past year or two. (Oddly, though our wedding-officiant friend had been to my and my husband’s home many times in 2014 and ’15 to game and hang out, he hadn’t mentioned any drunken trolling sprees on LOTRO. He had said the game was boring once when it was brought up, though.)

My frustration (not quite anger) was moderated by the knowledge that I’d brought the situation on myself – and the fact that I didn’t play the game anymore. I had asked our friends not to troll with my and my husband’s characters, but if such a thing really bothered me, I should have locked them out of the accounts the first time I saw it happen.

The emotion I felt more than frustration, though, was fear of embarrassment. It was true that I didn’t know any of the CHers I’d played / chatted with in the first half of 2014 very well (even in an online context). However, I’d found them far nicer and more approachable than the players I encountered in a couple other, newer MMOs my husband and I tried around the same time. The CHers I’d chatted with for several months didn’t deserve to be trolled, and they did deserve to know that I (and my husband) weren’t responsible for whatever weird behavior our friends had carried out in our guise.

I confronted our wedding-officiant friend about drunken trolling sprees on LOTRO carried out with my husband’s and my old accounts. He admitted that such “drunken trolling sprees” had happened, but that he and the others had used new accounts to do the worst of it. He reminded me of the time he’d once impersonated me (rather skillfully) on a subreddit for several months before I’d found out and put a stop to it. I dodged this attempt to suggest I had partial blame for the trolling and demanded to know exactly what it had involved.

It seems the focus of the trolling had been me, as a paranoid woman who believed she was being “stalked” (this was never true – not even in the slightest – and he would have been well aware of this), the CHer we’d once thought (half-facetiously) had ulterior motives for being in CH, other members of CH, and stuff that had nothing to do with LOTRO or anyone in CH.

After scolding our friend, I changed the passwords on both accounts (and vowed never to let anyone else, not even my husband, log in to any of my MMO accounts ever again -- yes, it's true that I had control of my husband's account, but he was completely unconcerned about that for a handful of reasons). Next, I logged into LOTRO and checked “/who” to see which CH officers had had been on recently. Skoch was the only one (I remembered) who had logged in lately. I used in-game mail to send him a short version of this post and asked him to pass it on, if he could, to others who were around in 2014 and ’15. I never got a reply, but I didn’t exactly expect one, either. In his shoes, I doubt I would have replied to my message.

Between that time and now, my husband and I haven’t had as much to do with our reddit friends (or reddit itself – something that was actually already happening around the time we invited the former to check out LOTRO). The wedding -officiant friend (who has apologized, of course) has been our friend for too long for us to cut off our relationship with him over something like the LOTRO trolling, as awful as it was.
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks."
-- Gandalf, to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)
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#13915382 Dec 04, 2018 at 04:18 PM · Edited 2 months ago
Kinsman/Kins...
25 Posts
The reason I decided to finally share this story here is that for the past six months or so, I’ve been doing festival quests, and I’ve realized anew just how amazing LOTRO is. I was a Tolkien fan years before I was much of a gamer (if I could even be considered one now), and I’m still gob-smacked, as Lyndall might say, that there exists on the internet a gigantic, virtual Middle-Earth to explore and RP in – for free! Last Thursday, I found myself in Michel Delving at around 8 p.m. and got the crazy idea to attend a Concerning Hobbits party – partly at my husband’s urging. I was worried, though, about what might have happened in late 2014 and 2015 – how bad it might have been, and whether anyone at the party would know about it.

Long story short: I survived last week’s party but learned there are CHers who do remember the trolling (or at least know about it). I decided it was time to apologize and tell the whole story.

One final note on the trolling: while I didn’t see most of it, I'm now very much aware of how bad it was. If you want to tell me about anything you saw, please do. I’d also welcome any questions you might have. If anyone wants me to leave the kinship, I understand and am willing to do so.

Again, I apologize for everything that happened back in 2014 and ’15.

If these posts have no other purpose, I hope they'll serve as a warning *never* to let anyone (even close family) log in to your gaming accounts for any reason (even just to "check out" the game). It can easily spiral out of control and have serious consequences -- even ones that seep into RL in the form of hurt feelings and sabotaged hobbies.

I'll try to attend a CH party or two. If it's too awkward, or people seem not to want me there, I'll duck out. Again, if anyone has any questions about what happened back in 2014 and '15, feel free to ask here or in the game.
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks."
-- Gandalf, to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)
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#13916936 Dec 06, 2018 at 09:54 PM
Chief
27 Posts
That's a lot of words!
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#13917321 Dec 07, 2018 at 01:24 PM · Edited 1 month ago
Kinsman/Kins...
25 Posts
#13916936 Mugwumper wrote:

That's a lot of words!



Yeah -- ugh. At least the details are out there now, for anyone who cares to know them.

Hopefully the whole situation will soon fade into the forgotten past, where it belongs.
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks."
-- Gandalf, to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)
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#13927449 Dec 23, 2018 at 08:18 AM
Voluntary As...
12 Posts
Long post, indeed!

My impressions are based on how peeps play now, not 4 or 5 years ago.
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#13936845 Jan 07, 2019 at 11:44 AM
Kinsman/Kins...
25 Posts
#13927449 Frodaswinda wrote:

Long post, indeed!

My impressions are based on how peeps play now, not 4 or 5 years ago.



Thanks for your understanding, Froda. :)
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks."
-- Gandalf, to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)
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