User Right-to-Leave

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Facilitator: Roshanara Rahman

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User Right-to-Leave
Author: Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf

Right-to-Leave is a concept whereby community members can leave at any given time, without outright personal consequences.

An example of a community which does not have this would be a fraternity or sorority. Members are considered such for life barring forceful removal. The costs for entry are also high, including time and possibly even money. Many online communities have a low cost of entry, and it is quite easy to leave.

How it affects our RPG

For a group like ours, the right-to-leave is one of the primary reasons why many "fair" processes arise. Our group relies ultimately on the participation of members, which means that we're responsible for ensuring our members are happy. Thus, although the staff can serve their own purposes if they wish, should they take this too far, right-to-leave emboldens members to go elsewhere.

There are caveats to this, however. First, our group has a high cost of joining. One must write an essay and participate in training. This takes time and effort, which invests the user in our group. Although the user still has the option to leave when they wish, they will be losing their investment.

(On the flip side, one can ruminate on whether the cost of joining is too high. If it is, people don't join at all.)

Nonetheless, the investment insulates the community somewhat against the right-to-leave. Members are more likely to stick it out through thinner, or more stressful times because of their investment. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in our group throughout its 10 year history. Users who have found themselves in situations they do not enjoy have stayed with the group simply because their emotional attachment is so high. They cannot consider throwing away the time they spent investing themselves.

There is also a downside to this, though. Too high of an investment can be a liability for the group -- and this has also been demonstrated. Users with a high emotional investment can cause damage to a community when things go awry. Because they are so attached, they will do almost whatever it takes to ensure that their status-quo remains, even if it is against the greater good. This has resulted in flame wars and public disputes which would have been easily deflated had the offending member simply cut ties. Our group should remember that it doesn't need to be the Star Trek RPG, just a good Star Trek RPG. So we shouldn't hesitate to allow easy departure of our members simply because it ensures that those who stay are committed and interested in the success of the community.

Niches and Alternatives

As mentioned above, internet communities generally have a low cost of leaving, as there are so many other places where one can take their "business" or participation. But sometimes this doesn't hold entirely true. While there may be hundreds of Star Trek RPGs on the internet, are the experiences in them the same as UFOP: StarBase 118? This is debatable. We've heard from dozens of members who attest they have played in other RPGs and found them lacking. Some reasons they've cited:

  • No staying power: Many groups start on a "whim," as someone gets excited about the idea of running an RPG. But if the founder doesn't have enough time or motivation to keep up with the group, it may fizzle.
  • Disorganization: Some groups lack central organization to keep them running. In groups with multiple ships, if a ship flounders it may fail simply because there is no process or oversight.
  • Poor quality: Some groups let "anyone" in, even if they lack the skills to write or communicate freely. This leads to low participation by the good members, who get bored or disillusioned.

So our group has a niche, in that we attempt to provide a stable, organized, high quality group. Although some may find SB118 not optimal for them, we have generally found that members invest highly in the group and tend to stay for long periods of time. This makes it difficult to leave, even though a member is "allowed" to at any time.

SB118 provides a mechanism to prevent departure from the general group, which is transfer between ships. This also insulates us against the right-to-leave, as members can find a similar playing experience under different leadership on another ship. If the member has disputes which extend beyond their ship, however (which they often do), this mechanism fails.


Right-to-leave a good or bad thing? It's bad, because we sometimes can't encourage a high enough investment for some members to keep them with us. It's good, though, because it "prunes" the community.

Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf
Founder of UFOP: StarBase 118
3 Dec 2004

Department of Veterans Affairs