Judge Code of Conduct

Judges are an integral part of any TCG community. They hold a special position of trust within the community as rules and policy experts, while also holding a position of authority with the ability to hand out penalties.

It is vitally important that these powers be exercised appropriately, in a manner that demonstrates to the community that they are worthy of the high regard they are held in, and that judges act in a way that exemplifies the values of the Flesh and Blood community.

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Overview

The ‘Three Pillars’ of the Flesh and Blood TCG Judge Code (‘Code’) are Integrity, Communication, and Empathy. These are the core principles of the Judge Program (‘Program’) that Legend Story Studios (LSS) expects judges to guide their actions and conduct at all events.

Judges are expected to treat others respectfully, answer rules queries, assist with running tournaments, and enforce tournament integrity. LSS places a very strong emphasis on the ‘customer service’ aspect of judging. If you enjoy being a judge because it allows you to be the ‘star of the show’ (looking at you, Bravo), then this is not the role for you. The role of judges at an event when responding to judge calls is primarily to facilitate correct and fair gameplay, not to overly penalize players for honest mistakes. As a general principle, judges should assume goodwill and reasonable intent on behalf of players as a starting point for any interactions that they have.

The intention of this document is not to provide an exhaustive list of specific judge expectations or forms of misconduct. We have faith in the judging community to understand that basic principles such as fairness and respect will always be foundational concepts of the Program. Instead, we wish to provide judges with an understanding of the judge culture that LSS would like to foster and encourage, as well the standards of behaviour we generally expect from the judge community.

The Judge Code of Conduct should be viewed as a ‘living document’ that will be updated from time to time when necessary, based on our experience with the Program as well as feedback from the wider Flesh and Blood TCG community (including judges, Tournament Organizers (TOs), and players).

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Principles

Facilitation, not sanction

The intention during any judge call should be to facilitate correct gameplay or game state, not to issue a penalty as a first course of action.

This is one of the fundamental guiding principles of our Judge Philosophy and is particularly important at Tier 1 events such as Armory, Pre-Releases and Skirmish. If a situation can be resolved through clarification and education without resorting to a penalty, we view this as a successful judge call. LSS aims to foster a welcoming environment at all events, and these events in particular tend to have a higher percentage of newer or more casual-minded players.

We appreciate that this is not always possible. Higher standards will be expected at Professional-level events such as Callings and National Championships. If a player accidentally draws an extra card for example, the appropriate fix and penalty must be applied to ensure tournament integrity. Despite this, we still strongly encourage judges to assume a player has acted with honest intentions unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. Discretionary penalties and upgradable penalties should always be approached with this principle in mind.

Create a welcoming environment

  • Judges must work together with the Tournament Organiser (TO) to create a welcoming environment for all players at their events.
  • Judges must avoid behaviour that could reasonably be viewed as bullying, threatening, or amounting to harassment.
  • This is a positive obligation. Judges should not, through omission, allow other judges/spectators/players/TOs to create an unwelcome environment at an event.
    • NB: The personal safety of judges in paramount. If a judge is concerned for their personal safety then this obligation does not apply. If the behaviour of another individual is deemed sufficiently serious, please contact local law enforcement.

Fairness

  • A judge must treat everyone fairly and equally. They should exercise their authority impartially, and with reference to official documents such as the Tournament Rules and Policy and Penalty Guidelines.
  • Judges must not issue a penalty to a player due to a personal issue with that player, or avoid issuing a penalty due to an existing relationship with a player.

Responsibility, Accountability and Presentation

  • Judges should present themselves in a clean and tidy manner when judging an event.
    • Official judge attire should always be worn if available, and must be worn at Tier 3 and above events.
    • Judge attire should only be worn when acting in an official capacity as a judge (eg it should not be worn when playing at events, or as casual wear generally).
  • Judges should never attempt to discourage community members from making a misconduct report. Implicit or explicit threats of retaliation are completely unacceptable. If asked, they should provide information on how to make a report.
  • Judges should be honest and admit their mistakes if they realise they have made one. In this situation, players are expected to act respectfully towards the judge, recognising that mistakes happen from time to time in the adjudication of all forms of competitive endeavour.
  • Judges must not improperly use their position for personal gain.
  • Judges must not commit theft or any other dishonest acts.

Player misconduct = Judge misconduct

  • Judges are subject to the same rules of conduct as players.
  • In addition, misconduct by judges when they are playing events that amounts to Unsporting Conduct - Major / Rules Sharking - Major / Cheating (or other similar offences) will lead to sanctions under the Judge Program as well as in their capacity as a player.

Stonewall Confidence © 2019 Legend Story Studios. Illustrated by Alexander Mokhov.

Misconduct

Reporting Misconduct

Important: Reporting misconduct is not a substitute for law enforcement. If the misconduct involves potentially criminal acts, this should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Community members are welcome to report potential instances of judge misconduct.

The first avenue of reporting judge misconduct is to approach the Tournament Organizer. The TO is responsible for ensuring that the judges are performing their duties adequately and have the power to overrule them and report the behaviour.

If approaching the Tournament Organizer is not appropriate, such as when the the misconduct occurs outside the event, or the Tournament Organizer has a conflict of interest in handling the misconduct, then it should be reported to op@fabtcg.com. The report should lay out why the misconduct has been escalated to the level of the studio. If no such explanation provided, then the studio may consult with the complainant and the matter may be referred to the Tournament Organiser for them to consider and resolve in the first instance.

Please note that judges are capable of making mistakes, and making incorrect rulings does NOT constitute misconduct.

Examples of Misconduct

NB: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of types of misconduct. It instead is provided to give broad categories of what constitutes misconduct. As stated above - mistaken rulings or honest mistakes are NOT considered misconduct.

Undermining event integrity

A judge intentionally undermines the integrity of an event through a dishonest or malicious act. Examples may include if a judge:

  • Manually changes the pairings to assist a certain player.
  • Improperly gives access to a player’s deck list to another player.
  • Solicits or receives a bribe to treat a player favourably (or another player unfavourably).

Creating an unwelcome environment

A judge creates an unwelcoming environment at an event through their actions. Examples may include:

  • Harassment of any type
  • Rude and/or bullying behaviour
  • The use of any form of hate speech/slurs/derogatory language
  • Intentionally running a Casual event at Professional level rules enforcement
  • Being noticeably under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

This type of misconduct will be particularly frowned upon if it involves younger members of the community or newer players.

Conflict Escalation

Judges are expected to act with empathy and humility, and communicate in a clear and calm manner. The goal for any judge interaction should be to resolve the situation respectfully and to de-escalate any potential conflict. Conflict escalation can lead to disruption of players attempting to focus on their games and creates a negative perception of the Program.

Conflict Escalation may occur when a judge:

  • Gets into a heated argument with any player/spectator/judge/TO where voices are clearly and noticeably raised above an acceptable level.
  • Creates a spectacle that reflects poorly on the judge and the Program as a whole.
  • Needlessly agitates a player (“You’ve only got yourself to blame for this penalty so there’s no point in complaining about it” etc).
  • Physically takes a player’s belongings in an aggressive manner (such as their deck for a ‘deck check’) during a judge call without first asking their permission.
    • Please note this will not amount to misconduct if it is merely accidental. It refers more to physically grabbing a player’s belongings if the player appears reluctant to hand over their deck/accessories.

This type of behaviour may sometimes also be captured by the above category.

Impersonating a judge

A community member incorrectly advises a TO that they are a certified judge, or a judge overstates their current certification level (i.e stating they are Level 2 when they are actually Level 1).

Misconduct Outcomes

Reports of serious misconduct will be assessed by the LSS Judge Committee (‘Committee’). The judge in question will be asked for their story if necessary (unless due to exceptional circumstances this may be inappropriate). If a report of misconduct is substantiated, the Committee will take appropriate action based on the severity of the infraction. This may include a:

  • Warning
  • Demotion
  • Suspension
  • Removal

Or other action as deemed appropriate by the Committee.

If the report is not substantiated, no action will be taken.

When does the Code apply?

Judges hold a position of trust and as such are a reflection of both the Judge Program and the wider Flesh and Blood TCG (FAB) community. The context in which the judge is presenting themselves as a judge is relevant to the application of the Code.

The Code will:

  • Always apply to circumstances involving direct representation
  • Sometimes apply to indirect or partial representation
  • Almost never apply in instances of no representation.

Direct representation

The Code will always apply in circumstances involving direct representation.

Direct representation can include:

  • Acting as a judge at an official event.
  • Actions taken while wearing judge attire or representing themselves as a judge.
  • Participating in official judge discussions (either online or in person).

The judge uniform is intrinsically linked to judge’s role and the Program as a whole. Uniformed judges directly represent the Program and the Flesh and Blood TCG community.

Indirect or partial representation

The Code will sometimes apply in circumstances involving indirect or partial representation.

Indirect or partial representation can include:

  • Attending Flesh and Blood events, but not as a judge.
  • Playing, trading, or some other involvement with Flesh and Blood products.
  • Public communication related to Flesh and Blood, such as online forums or chat rooms.

Where there is a connection to FAB, any form of misconduct has the potential to reflect poorly on the Program. Unbecoming behaviour of a judge in the FAB community generally, such as when playing a tournament or participating in online discussions, can negatively influence the community’s view of both the judge in question and the Program generally.

No representation

If a judge is not representing the Flesh and Blood game, then the misconduct will generally not fall under the Code. Only in very serious cases or in exceptional circumstances will misconduct that falls under this category be reviewed by the Committee.