This piece is a repost from TESO-RP by the prolific and talented Jo'vassa, but it applies to all MMO roleplaying communities. In my opinion, it applies to all groups of people, but I think it can be especially useful for us RPers to remember.

~ Floyd

I wanted to discuss something that I've noticed throughout my time in ESO and on TESO-RP in particular. It's quite a strange phenomenon. An anomaly, really. A curiosity, if you will. And it's that... I see so many wonderful events posted both here and in game guilds like The Dominion Accord, Storm's Shelter, The Covenant Collective, right? All these wonderful events. I see guild advertisements all over the place with a cadre of officers and active members. I see guild collaborations, artwork, stories. I see community guild administration and moderation. I see all these wonderful things - big or small - being done to create wonderfully vibrant RP communities with bustling hubs and thrilling stories.

And yet...

And yet I swear they must be just happening on their own. At least that's what I've been told. Supposedly there are no people behind these events. There is no one taking time out of their day to create these events. There's no one staying up late at night writing up the backstory to the villain that's likely going to die by the end of the next evening. There's no one pouring months of work, all their mind's worth of creative will, a bucket load of passion, and perhaps even a bit of real money into creating a guild and keeping it afloat. There is no one tirelessly making connection after social connection to pull everything together at the last moment for a great big event. There is no one moderating the hub guilds so many rely on. There is no one answering a flood of question by new players, directing them to relevant guilds and websites and making them feel welcome. There is no one losing sleep to help a stranger develop their new character, or organize a memorial service for a player who has passed away. There is no one creating RP.

But all these things still happen. Guilds are formed, events run, stories told, forums moderated, websites paid for, respects paid, RP created, and communities built. It really is quite odd, isn't it? But I'm told by many that it's true. There's no one doing this. There's no such thing as a community leader.

Silliness aside, it is a point I have to make. It's something I've held my tongue on for a very long time, and I know from my own experience there are others as well. I find it baffling to not only consider, but reinforce the notion, that there is no such thing as an RP community leader. Truly. I do not understand this train of thought one bit, and frankly I find it rather unappreciative of the dozens, if not hundreds, of community leaders there truly are in ESO.

Here's the point that I think so many get stuck on. People hear the term 'leader' and think of a dictator or self-ascribed prophet or drill sergeant shouting at recruits. And so people want to close their eyes, plug their ears, and sing about how there are no leaders, everyone is the same, no one has an influence stronger than others, everyone is just the same all sunshine and rainbows. In practical experience? This is nothing but pure fantasy. Humans are social creatures, and social circumstances will always see some form of a hierarchy form - be it rigid or loose. There are people with the will, creative mind, social resources, and time to do what others do not. That is not to say that there are true dictators, prophets, and drill sergeants of RP. On the contrary, the kinds of concerns raised by these sorts of images and controlling individuals is not that of leadership, but ownership. Or more specifically, the belief of ownership.

Nobody owns a community, but many people lead it.

This is a distinction that must be made. A community leader is not someone who demands that anyone listen to them, or officially speaks for the community, or dictates the rules of the community, or decides who can take part in what kind of RP, or thinks of themselves as the only one in charge. Those are the machinations of someone who believes they own the RP community - or rather that they own a piece of it. A leader is not someone who seeks to dictate, but rather build.

A proper leader does not choose the best route to take, they find what the best route to take already is and they take it. Finding that best route requires the consideration of more than themselves and their own interests. It requires them to engage with their fellows in the community, gauge interests, watch trends, and ultimately take a risk. A leader is not someone who expects to be viewed as perfect, but rather someone who wants nothing more than to be told just how they are wrong by those around them and how they can do better.

A leader is not someone who engages in a social war to eliminate other leaders in the community. That is something that a would-be owner does, for an owner thinks of themselves as having something to lose to another. A leader sees another fellow looking for the right path to take. A leader encourages more to stand by their side, improve, and find their own ways to lead. And owner wants to always be at the top.

The creation of RP is something that takes consideration, preparation, cooperation, time, creative energy, raw will to get something done, and a little risk of failure. Or perhaps a not-so-little risk of failure. Would you look at someone in any other field - any other situation - who exhibits these qualities and dare to say that there are no leaders in their field? Why is that these individuals then cannot be called what they are - leaders within the community? Why do we lie to ourselves that our communities have magically built themselves when there are hundreds of people who have put in the long nights of writing, careful moments moderating, and daunting hours of administration, organization, and communication needed to create the RP the entire community gets to enjoy? We take no issue with calling people administrators of this very website. We take no issue giving people glittery names for donating real money to the site or giving people exclusive titles for being former moderators. And rightly so, I say to it all! Yet for whatever reason we shy away from saying the same thing about those who just that for our communities in the game itself.

Can a community leader dictate the rules of RP? No.
Can a community leader tell you what to RP and who to RP with? No.
Can a community leader speak for the whole community? No.
Can a community leader be perfect? No.
Can a community leader be immune from criticism? No.
Can a community leader hold official power? No.
Can a community leader force you to follow them? No.
Can a community leader create RP? Yes; and they do all the time.
Can a community leader be called a leader? I don't see any reason for them not to be.

Fact of the matter is, if you want to be a community leader there is no one stopping you from becoming one. There is no one, single, supreme community leader. That's why they're a community leader and not a community owner - because they're one of many working to give everyone else something to enjoy with no official power but what people are willing to give them. It isn't a self-appointed position. It isn't something you just decide to be. It's something you work for, you put time into, you sink yout creative energies into, you spend late nights writing for, you may even pour real money into. And the two things that bring a smile to your face are seeing the community enjoy what you've created and seeing others do the same at your side.

I am sorry. You have every right to your opinion. You have every right to say it. But if you do not think that someone who exhibits the qualities of a leader, puts in the effort and work of a leader, and seeks only to watch the community benefit should be called a community leader then I find you unappreciative of the countless individuals who have done just that. This kind of community needs more leaders, not less. And telling people again and again that if they make this effort - if they work hard and pour their time, creative energy, and will into something - that they're just like everyone else who sits on the sideline and makes grabby hands at their silver platter of RP does nothing to help. It does nothing to motivate. Why work for your RP when you can get it handed to you by other people who you don't even have to call community leaders?

I was not someone who built the RP community I am a part of. I joined it a bit late, after launch and a month or so in. Many connections were already established, hub guilds bustling, websites in use, events planned. I cannot and never would want to take the credit for it. I have, however, tried to do what I can to keep the community they built going in their stead for the North American Aldmeri Dominion faction. I'm not perfect. I haven't always succeeded. I've made mistakes great and small. But to give up would be to shame those who were the true community leaders, the ones who built it up from nothing. I know barely any of them will even see this here, and some I absolutely know will never see it.

People like Dareth of the Emerald Empire, Ro'Shanna and Tel'rena of the Twin Tails, Pidgeons, Dyna, Varlynd, Galien, Faerveren, Sarinteal, Khord, Tamm'lin, Aazla, Kuri-Do, Neroventus... These are the people I look up to as community leaders and builders. Have I agreed with all of them at all times? No. Most certainly not. And that's what makes community leaders great. You can appreciate their work without letting them govern you - but you damn well feel it when you lose them. And there are so many more I could point to. So many more. Even now I know of several people who may grow to become promising community leaders in the days that follow. Larima, Garaveine, Ashiivel, Aziraya. While the others give me inspiration, they give me hope for a better community in the coming days with fresh ideas and new events. To be frank, I'd find it insulting to deny any of these names the title of community leader, or one promising to become such.

There's a stigma of authority in RP, and with good reason. But it's a fool's error to let it cloud those who genuinely take the roles of leaders in the community without seeking to own said community. Eventually, those who you come to rely upon for RP will become drained - mentally, emotionally, creatively. When a community of roleplayers loses its leaders, its creators, and all that remains are those who would rather be given RP than make it themselves there is only one thing to be heard across the guild chats and Discord servers: "Where's the RP...?" So long as we have community leaders, we can always answer "On the backs and in the hearts of those who willing to create and lead."

Thank you, TESO-RP, for an amazing couple of years here. And thank you, NA-AD and all those who both lead it and make it worth leading, for giving me a hobby I can call a genuine passion. Thank you for the thousands of stories told and late nights gushing over our idiot characters like the weirdos we all are. I wanted my 1000th post here to mean something more than just a meme or .gif, more than a retort in a debate or inane question (though I could easily come up with plenty of those, I'm sure). I wanted it to be something that I found meaningful, that I think might mean something to someone and most certainly means a lot to me.

Hopefully everyone can take a look at the long lists of guilds and events, or even their lists of guildies who've gone that extra mile to make RP, tell a story, and help with a character sheet, and give the community leaders we not only take for granted but need for our communities a bit of thanks. And hopefully someone out there who's discovering that passion, drive, and creativity in themselves won't be so afraid to step up and lead. Whoever that may be, know that I salute you, a community leader - one of many yet indispensable in your own right.

And for all those I named above? Thank you. Thank you for being the community leaders ESO Roleplay needed when it was nothing more than a promise of ZOS and a spark of imagination in each of you, when it was growing, and as it continues to grow.

Thank you, all of you.

As always, we like to give back to those who allow us to repost their work here on RPHQ. Jo'vassa has decided to share the love even further by using her 'promo spot' to link you to the breath-taking artwork of Renestia. Take a look at her thread here!