++Conduct Rules Update++

Hi everyone - this is an important update to let you know that we have now completed the review of our conduct procedures. This has resulted in some fundamental changes to the conduct rules as well as some additional guidance on areas such as how to roleplay conflict and romance at events.

We have also updated the reporting process and significantly expanded the range of sanctions that we can apply if we determine that our rules have been broken. Finally, we have updated the rules for the ‘must avoid’ policy to bring them into line with the new procedures.

We began work on these rules in 2020. They were drafted over a two year process by a working group, taking in feedback from a wider group of Empire participants. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has worked on the new rules.

Conduct cases that have been resolved in the last six months have been dealt with using the new system, but if the new rules outline a potential conduct issue that you are aware of then we encourage you to get in touch with our conduct team to discuss it, no matter how long ago it occurred.

===Motivation===

The current conduct rules used for Empire were originally written approximately fifteen years ago. In that time the expectations of what a game should offer and what a game organiser could try to deliver have changed, and our rules failed to reflect those changing values. We had extended the rules and made minor changes over the years, but the principles that underpin them had never been reviewed. To create a set of rules that would serve the Empire community for the next decade, we needed to start again from scratch.

The review has looked at every part of our conduct rules but there were some key issues that we wanted to address.

The first issue was the scope of the conduct rules. The original rules were built to govern behaviour at our events, this was later extended to our online communities. This approach meant that we couldn’t take action when presented with obvious examples of egregious behaviour that took place outside our event. The new rules are founded on the principle that our responsibility is to try to ensure the safety of our participants at events. In simple terms, if one of our community acts to threaten or harm another member then we will take action, regardless of when or where it happened.

The second issue was confidentiality. Our previous framework was designed to maximise the confidentiality of all parties involved. Unfortunately this approach was undermining faith in the conduct process, because people were unaware when action had been taken. The new rules aim to give clear feedback to everyone who makes a report to our conduct team so that they know exactly what steps Profound Decisions have taken to address their concerns.

The third issue was that we wanted to have more tools to address problematic behaviour. We wanted a way to address incidents that didn’t meet the threshold for a formal warning. We also wanted to have steps we could take to provide additional protection for participants. We had been proactively offering a must avoid to both parties in a complaint but this was punitive to both parties. The must avoid process was designed to deal with cases where neither party was at fault. The new framework needed to offer better options than a ‘must avoid’.

===Key Changes===

It is impossible to detail every change that we have made to our conduct policy - we strongly recommend that everyone read it if they can. The rules are long, but they are all on a single page and we have tried to ensure that the bullet points capture all the major issues. Most players will not need to read the rules for reporting a conduct problem, or those governing what sanctions might be imposed, unless they need to make a report.

Some of the key changes are summarised below.

====Conduct====

Remit - the new rules are applicable to everyone who attends Empire events in any capacity. We will take action on behaviour that violates our rules and threatens or harms our participants regardless of when or where it happened.

Consent - the new rules adopt a modern approach to matters of consent. We require everyone to ensure that they have consent before engaging in sex and that that consent is enthusiastic, informed, specific, freely given and reversible.

Grooming - we have implemented additional rules to govern relationships with children and younger players. We have been explicit about the position of authority that our crew have and the additional responsibilities this creates, but the rules also include players who are in positions of authority or prominence in our community, either in-character or out-of-character.

Bullying - the rules are now explicit that we will not tolerate out-of-character bullying at our events. We have added additional guidance for roleplaying conflict between characters that are intended to reduce the possibility for out-of-character bullying.

====Reporting====

Response Times - previously responses took a varied length of time. During the pandemic in particular, our reduced manpower led to participants waiting much longer to hear back from us than was acceptable. We can’t control how long an investigation takes, but we have given commitments for how long a player can expect to wait before hearing back from us at any point in the process. We will aim to do better than these times if we can, but the published times represent what we can guarantee to achieve.

Confidentiality - previously the reporting process described a report as “anonymous” when in fact what was meant was “confidential”. The new process uses better language to describe what happens and provides much clearer information to participants on how the process will work and what options they have.

Sanctioned Events - we are going to implement a new process for Empire sanctioned events after the first event, that will allow us to ensure that banned participants do not attend those events. Details of that system will be published once we overhaul the sanctioned event rules.

====Sanctions====

Caution - our conduct system now includes the possibility for a caution, alongside a formal warning and a ban. This means we can take action where we want a player to change their behaviour, but the issue is not serious enough to warrant a formal warning. It will also allow us to better track behaviour over time, if there are repeated minor transgressions.

Additional Restrictions - we have documented a wide range of additional restrictions that we can impose where we feel they are warranted. For example, if a participant has been harassed by someone, then we can impose a “no interaction” ban, that prevents their harasser from approaching them at events. Or if a participant has demonstrated that they do not know how to meet the requirements for grappling at events, then we may ban them from any grappling in the future.

==Key Wiki Pages==

==Feedback and Response==

Given the importance of these rules and their subject matter, we welcome feedback, but to ensure we receive it we ask that you email it to us. We won’t respond to comments or questions below, but we will respond in full to all emails that we receive with any queries or feedback about the new conduct process.

These rules cover some emotive and disturbing topics such as sexual harassment. Please be mindful of this and of our posting rules if you are discussing this update in comments with other participants.

Thank you.

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