Phoenix Roleplaying was founded in August 2010 by former members of AJJE Games, a Play By Post roleplaying network, after their mass resignation from AJJE in July 2010. In its commitment to fairness and democracy, Phoenix was and is very much a reaction to perceived injustices in AJJE.
The AJJE Schism
The Schism has various names; AJJE calls it “The Great Purge”. Starting in late 2009 and concluding on 11 July 2010, the Schism saw AJJE rent asunder as a group of members stood up against decisions that they felt were unjust. In particular, they were unhappy about Jeannette Giesbrecht, AJJE’s President from October 2009, who they felt was abusing her power.
The Lead Up
In October 2009, a new Star Wars-based sim was launched in Ride The Edge (RTE), one of AJJE’s clubs, called The Triple Zero. The Council of Elders (which contained Jeannette Giesbrecht, also RTE’s Election Coordinator), in charge of making Sim Leader appointments for Ride The Edge, chose someone, Nick Palmer, that the creators – Ash Leighton Plom, Deborah Leighton Plom and Nick Palmer himself didn’t want to lead that particular sim. When the creators asked if they could change the setting of the sim, the Council of Elders delayed answering the question, for private reasons – but then cut the sim for inactivity. They had cut the sim because it hadn’t started… because of something they hadn’t done.
Deeply unhappy with the way that they had been treated by the Council of Elders, the trio called in the Administration Team, including RTE’s Administrator and RPG Development Director Silent Hunter. They tried to negotiate and persuade the Council to change their decision. At no point did they want the rules violated, despite what some would later claim – just the decision reversed. Eventually, Silent Hunter gave the Council a 48-hour ultimatum; reach an acceptable solution or face a motion of censure.
When no solution was reached, Silent proposed a motion censuring the Council of Elders on 26 October 2009. This had to be modified because part of it was illegal. During the course of the motion, a deal was reached; an accelerated approval for the alternative setting with Nick Palmer as SL. The motion was allowed to continue and narrowly passed by eleven votes to ten, although some ten more voted in favour of a censure but their votes were discounted. In the aftermath, Jeannette was privately ordered to resign or be sacked from her Election Coordinator role by Administrator Hunter, who felt her conduct had been completely unbecoming; she choose the former option.
In December 2009, Silent Hunter was sacked as RPG Development Director by Vice President of Development Teddie Dollins for “poor performance”; a reason many felt did not stand up to scrutiny. His two successors were far poorer in the role and he was eventually restored to the position by Vice President of Development Euan Reid.
The whole issue caused a large scale breakdown in trust in AJJE. Factions formed around Ash and Jeannette; the former would be termed the “Ashites” by AJJE. The group never really had a name for itself, or its opposite.
The Banning of Jamie Chamberlain
As Summer 2010 approached, Mike Palmer, Chief Area Leader of Leaf on the Wind (LOTW), was getting increasingly unhappy with a seemingly lacklustre performance as Area Leader of Other Times, Other Places by Jamie Chamberlain, also a member of the AJJE Board of Founders. Mike heavily criticised Jamie’s performance and tried to persuade him to resign. Jamie refused and instead launched a considerable attack on Mike’s character and performance; none of which was true as many AJJE members could have testified – Mike ran Prinz Eugen, a sim that had won the Sim of the Year Award on three occasions and was the busiest in the club.
After consulting with the entire LOTW Administration and Operations Team, along with three separate lawyers, Ash decided to ban Jamie from LOTW for libelling Mike on 31 May.
Jeannette, a close friend of Jamie who had already made her intention to overturn the ban clear, announced a review. It was no surprise when the ban was overturned on 27 June; a 28-page legal justification having been not read by some of the Board of Founders and the sole decision taken by Jeannette without a vote.
Anticipating that this would happen, Ash had gathered together a group of sympathetic players. The group decided that they would launch a 29-day strike in LOTW during July; boycotting the club in a peaceful protest to make their feelings clear by driving down the Sim Strength Rankings. If this did not have the desired effect, they would launch an AJJE-wide strike to coincide with the 5th anniversary celebrations of the club in August.
The petition announcing the strike was submitted on 1 July to the Board of Founders; Alex Verdusco publicly and privately said that he accepted their right to strike.
The boycott proceeded relatively calmly until 6 July. On that day, Jeannette posted, in knowing violation of written LOTW policy, a message in the RPEs of the striking COs without asking their permission. This inflamed matters and what AJJE describes as a “flame war” broke out in the RPing environments. This hardened the Jeannette faction’s stance considerably and they began to make preparations for a mass banning of the strikers. Events were to prevent that.
Mike Palmer, who was not actually striking as he was away having an eye operation, was livid with rage at Jeannette’s posting. He posted a thundering resignation in LOTW and this opened the floodgates; three other LOTW players went with him. They would not be the last.
On 9 July, LOTW went down for the publically announced reason of “maintenance”. This was a lie. Alex had closed the site to contain the situation. Other members started to follow Mike out of the door, including Silent Hunter and Chris (last name removed at request of Chris), as they realised how bad the situation had become. As players left, their accounts were scrambled to prevent their return.
On the evening of 11 July, the day of the World Cup Final, Alex sent a message to the strikers; they could either accept the overturn of Jamie’s banning in exchange for a full pardon or they would have their accounts scrambled. People chose to resign before this could take full effect. Deb Leighton Plom resigned from AJJE, Ash was blacklisted before he could do so.
In all, over a dozen players would resign from AJJE as a direct result of all this during July. They included 50% of the COs of LOTW; Jeannette would later be given powers to appoint replacement COs in the club because of the large number of vacancies that emerged. SGU’s Operations Team remains incomplete to this day. Several AJJE players came out of retirement due to the situation.
Making the decision to leave AJJE was made easier for many by Chris and Daniel (last name removed at request of Chris), who had opened their own club: DDC Games. Following the Exodus of 11 July, DDC became the planned new home of those who had left.
The site used the NOVA posting system, but Chris and Dan were working on a new system to be named MARS.
The site was initially set up with two sims – a Stargate-based sim and the renamed Prinz Eugen. RPing was just getting started on these sites when something very bad happened.
On 5 August, DDC’s hosting company went bankrupt. The site went down and did not come back up for a while. Chris and Dan said that they were unable to carry on working on MARS due to RL commitments.
Three days later, after a meet-up of members, Euan Reid set up a temporary PHP forum for Phoenix Roleplaying. That evening, Ash made Phoenix’s Mission Statement and announced the set-up for a temporary period of martial law. He would be General Coordinator for the period and proceeded to make a number of other appointments.
A good number of sim concepts were planned, with a number of AJJE “concepts” moving over to the site with some being renamed, as well as some “original” concepts, including Silent Hunter’s Sierra Charlie Four (a policing sim) and ‘Lex Pendragon’s The Hollows-based sim, After The Turn.
The Battle of MARS
A member of DDC had given the MARS code over to Euan Reid and Phoenix Roleplaying to work on. But
Euan and his team’s development of MARS was soon interrupted. Chris and Dan told them to cease development as they were reclaiming the product with the intent to sell it commercially from a new repurposed DDC Games (focussing on software). They offered the members a choice: a free lease but without full access to the base code – or pay for full access.
Ash decided to put the issue to a 14-day long vote of the members on 20 August, with three options:
*1. Accept the lease
*2. Develop their own system
*3. Accept the lease on a temporary basis
Chris and Daniel made clear 3 would be deemed by DDC to be insulting.
The voting commenced with members expressing their concerns over reliance on a third party – after all Chris and Dan could disappear again.
Then Chris and Dan started to violate the first rule of business – don’t annoy your customers.
With five days gone, a majority were in favour of option 2. Chris and Dan said that they were considering leaving because Phoenix clearly did not need their help. At the same time, they stated that the free offer would expire a day after the vote – so if there was a re-vote, MARS would cease being free. Ash made clear his opposition to paying for MARS during his term as General Coordinator and asked them to clarify the position, as the “goalposts” had kept moving.
A revised offer with the ability to add the base code and a free system was put down; this persuaded some members to change their vote to Option 1, with this heading for an absolute majority. Then Chris and Daniel made their biggest mistake.
Ash had been having a strongly-tempered email discussion with Chris and Dan over the issue. Chris and Dan accused Phoenix of messing them about and suggested that “democracy wasn’t always the answer” – implying that they would preferred a direct decision from Ash. Ash said “I've half a mind to share your accusations and rude email with the forum, you're being so offensive. Shape up”.
Chris and Dan took this as a threat to publish their emails… so published them first. Unfortunately for them, the emails did not present the two in a good light and only served to make people very unhappy with them.
Players started to change their minds back again. At this point, Election Coordinator Robert Longtin decided that enough was enough and declared the vote null and void due to the many changes. If a new agreement was negotiated between the leadership and Chris and Dan, this would be put to a vote.
No agreement was reached; talks ultimately collapsed over fundamental disagreements in the nature of the relationship. Phoenix would commence work on its own system, to be called Phoenix 2.0.
Phoenix's first elections took place from 24 November to 7 December 2010, with five candidates for three position. Robert Longtin run unopposed for the role of Elections and Voting Coordinator, while Euan Reid beat Kevin Diamond for Technical Coordinator.
The main contest was for the first General Coordinator. Ash was challenged by Jason Andersen. The Roles and Responsibilities document provided for a Contender position - the candidate gaining second place would become a sort of "Leader of the Opposition" for Phoenix Roleplaying.
Ash won in a landslide vote, with Jason becoming Contender.
The First Leighton Plom Administration
Ash was now elected to a three-month term as General Coordinator of Phoenix Roleplaying. His first term saw a lot of codification of key policies, including canon characters (which required an alteration to allow a "new" version of Romana to be present in The Triple First), AWOL policies and the full ratification of the Roles and Responsibilities document that formed the club's constitution.
A large number of new sims were created, although a couple had to be mothballed due to inactivity. Starbase 222 was mothballed due to inactivity and an agreement to focus all the efforts of the Star Trek area on USS Repulse
The period also saw the birth of Alfred, Ash and Deborah's son.
The Emergency Landing
On 6 April 2011, Phoenix's hosts pulled the site without warning or proper explanation. Phoenixians found themselves liaising by email as the issue was being sorted out. Euan's need to revise for his exams precluded him doing much work on this until those were complete.
The club also faced the issue of a lack of a back-up within a couple of days of the site going down - it became clear that the site, when it returned, would have lost about two weeks worth of archives.
The temporary forums
On 28 April, concerned that every day that Phoenixians stayed without a forum lessened the chances of the club staying viable, Robert Longtin established a set of temporary forums that in some aspects were actually better than Phoenix 1.0.
However, without access to the other forums, many RPs were stalled in the middle of plotlines. Ash and Silent both suspended all of their sims bar Kvant, which operated a flashback plot.
Eventually, as the delay became protracted due to Euan Reid's RL committments, other sims did start up again and a new one, Fighter Ops, was opened up as well.
Return to normality
The main forums were restored on 20 August, with the archives only available to 18 March.
Onwards and upwards
Once various threads had been copied over from the old forum where the games had continued, further progress continued. A banner design contest was held, won by Amanda Bond who designed the banner that now covers the top of the forum and the wiki.
Ash had to take an extended LOA and Silent Hunter became Acting General Coordinator, helping move various legislation that would form the constitution of the site towards an eventual vote.
Various new sims started and others closed due to lack of activity.
The second full year of Phoenix saw further growth and expansion, with a number of new sims in universes as yet untapped on the site. New arrivals included D'ni: Infinite Ages and Wing Commander: From The Ashes, in addition to original sims like AW75. However, it was not all good news, as the final Star Trek sim closed down and Stargate went down to only one sim, SGB-2.
There was also a change of leadership, with Ash stepping down and Silent Hunter becoming General Coordinator in an unopposed race; there would be no contender. He appointed Kevin Diamond as his deputy and set about renaming a number of positions to make them sound more British, a move not everyone agreed with.
In March, Silent Hunter created @phoenix_rp, the site's Twitter account, which had gained 30 followers by year's end.
In October, the very first issue of the newsletter was published.
New legislation on house rules, election campaigning and sim categories was passed in December 2012, on the third attempt after confusion due to amendments in the first two that led to the votes being deemed void.
The year opened in great style for Phoenix, when it took five awards at the Simulation Cup; this was topped by Kvant taking Best Firefly Sim and The West Star taking Best Star Wars Sim. A number of highly active new members joined the site from hearing about Phoenix on other sites and via word of mouth, most notably Osprey, ksabers and RavenSkycatcher.
Silent Hunter stood for re-election and was opposed by Jason Andersen; the vote ended with the incumbent winning by the tiny margin of 13 votes to 12. A four-way contest for Technical Coordinator ended in Euan Reid retaining his position. Silent then proceeded to form his second (and final) administration, deliberately giving some posts to new members who had impressed him.