The Winding Road to a Cesspool

On November 7th, TotalyMoo, the head of the Salem forum moderation team and the Paradox Community Developer, announced officially a change in how the forums are moderated.

  • transparency; re-wording the rules of the forum
  • generalization on how they do warnings and bans
  • the matter of moderator behavior, i.e. mods will always act maturely and at their best.

The first two are understandable, but the third gives me some concern. Have our mods been acting so immaturely that this rule had to be made? This is the theory for some of the community members who were very vocal about it and convinced it was what made TotalyMoo enough to write this down.

by TotalyMoo » Thu Nov 07, 2012
We tried the rough style of H&H forums but as many noticed it did not work out in the end. I take full blame for this ordeal as I told the mods that they are users firsthand and mods secondly, a flawed decision in retrospect.

TotalyMoo and some forumers felt some moderator’s posts were as aggressive as those in the days of Haven and Hearth, Seatribe’s previous game, and from a “Business Perspective”, Moo seems to have felt it was not professional enough for Salem. He called it “mods vs the community” as if mods and those who agreed with them were not the part of the community.

With this new direction, Salem forums looked as though they were going to become a friendlier place; where all are equally welcomed as customers and given a safe place to communicate. Although I would love to see idiots taken down, this is a very welcome change.

“Salem is business after all, and Haven is art,” said Potjeh, a well-known moderator and veteran of both Salem and H&H.

Recent events on the forums indicate that these forums have not become friendly enough for all to have a safe time on them.

One infamous incident was when scypheroth put in a claim for reimbursement for a pioneer’s pack he lost in Boston, which is supposed to be a safe zone, due to a bear a griefer brought in town. A moderator who was following Moo’s rules moved this thread from Help section, where no trolling or sharking is allowed, to House of Burgesses, where posters are given more room in posting style.

He said that he did so because “he [scypheroth] refused to acknowledge that I did indeed help him, and continue to rant,” staxjax said.

In the previous Courant Issue, I had written that jwhitehorn aka Chief Poop was perma-banned from the forums for trolling a new player he killed on Planters & Pilgrim thread. However, the ban was lifted and he is on the forums again.

TotalyMoo, speaking as the head of the moderation team, said that the ban was unwarranted because it was “an actual recruitment attempt”, when jwhitehorn posted a picture of “Cage” where he invites new players in to kill them. Moo seems to expect players to know all the politics going on in this game and expects someone would rather just warn personally than an official action being taken there, when new members do not even know whom to trust.

TotalyMoo said:

Yet, it will be all the new player’s fault if he or she falls for such traps and loses his items bought with real money.

Jwhitehorn had his ban lifted previously to this when he was trolling another new player, because the thread was in City Upon a Hill, where people are allowed to troll.

“We can’t take the blame for a player posting in the wrong forum”, said TotalyMoo in IRC private chat.

On November 22nd, jwhitehorn received a 7-day ban, for “offering ranger service” outside City Upon a Hill/House of Burgesses section and for trolling multiple other threads.

While he was banned, there were two rule-breaking threads posted by new players who claimed to have met him in game. Arietty said (s)he was under duress and had to post a message from jwhitehorn to TotalyMoo, in order to avoid getting killed by him. Feartheflames posted an image of what jwhitehorn compiled from what happened with Arietty and said that this was another trade agreement.

Both members were warned and their threads were locked since they broke the forum rules, probably for their first time here. It does not seem jwhitehorn received any punishments as a result from these incidents.

The other side to this could be that jwhitehorn might not have asked them to do these. He could always appeal and say it was not him but someone else pretending to be him.

While It is their fault no matter what happens in-game and no others should be blamed no matter what they have done in-game, there is no reporting function in the game. The options these new players have are either to follow the rules and die, losing characters and items in process, or to be pressured the griefers and end up breaking rules in the process.

I do not know how moderators saw these cases, but seeing how they were missing him on his thread may give you an idea. This seems to have set a very bad precedent for potential player abuse in the future.

To sum it up, the  issue here is that official Paradox staff or the moderators cannot help new players when they post outside Help section. But when they do post in Help section, they are free to move those threads out of Help section so that they can let helpless players get trolled and flamed and even let notorious griefers shark them.

Mods praise the humorous and racist posters because they see them as funny, and defending false “free speech” is more important than trying to protect new comers who have not become familiar with the forums. It is their own fault for being trolled because you are supposed to “Not trust anyone” in Salem.

This kind of behavior encourages sharks to prey on newbs who come into the game with goodies, because of the PvP elements.


Another issue is the rule against racism and discrimination part only applies when people actually decide to make a case out of it. Otherwise, it seems that users are free to be racists and make racism-filled posts in these forums, except for Nazi related actions which may land them in legal trouble. It’s also perfectly fine if they find this behavior funny and humorous.

When mods tell you not to use certain words, then you are able to replace them with other words. What they enforce is only removing racial slurs, but not racism itself, as you can see from jwhiterhon’s posts on the forums and how they appreciate his native american minstrel act as being “funny”.

For those who do not know what H&H is, it is Haven and Hearth, the predecessor game of Salem, developed by the same team, Seatribe, a complete free experimental MMO with the same style on 2D without cash-shops. Its forums are known to be harsh and scared away some people who are too lazy to bother reading stickies or doing a bit of homework before posting critiques or rants or suggestions, or those too unintelligent to bother keeping some basic manners on internet.

In a way, the forums chose posters and prospered with many interesting and smart threads – when devs were still working on the game. Unintelligent posts were shot by multiple forumers and were discouraged. A place where the law of the jungle prevails, but not by swords but by keyboards. Moderators there were the leading predators, but not for the weak, but for the stupid, and they often showed their gems with their smart replies to snipe or friendly replies to help.