In October 1997, whilst I was playing as "Manwe" on the battle.net RPG game Diablo, an idea struck me.....
I realised that there were many Gandalf's, Sauron's and Frodo's chatting in the various channels who seemed to have an obvious affinity which they had not exploited.
Out of sheer curiosity, I advertised in the Guild Recruitment channel for anyone wishing to join an intellectual Tolkien-based guild. The response was immediate and quite overwhelming to say the least. Several people expressed a desire to know more, and soon I was having to ad-lib a set of guidelines and rules for the new "Valar Guild".
The First Theme:
Initially, I envisaged the guild to be not one, but many smaller guilds combined under a single banner. I recruited people to fill all of the male Valar characters (for some reason, I had a great deal of trouble finding Tolkien-loving women at that point) and soon had outlined the structure that the guild would take. Unfortunately, everyone immediately went their separate ways and began recruiting people who had little or no knowledge of the books or the theme of the guild. This was unacceptable and so I expelled all of the Valar bar the arch-recruiter Melkor and the most enthusiastic Sauron. This was the end of the First Theme.
The Second Theme:
Following this first unsuccessful attempt, I decided to introduce an entrance test of five Lord Of The Rings based questions, of which the applicant had to pass four. I also reduced the guild to a single entity, with myself as leader, the Valar characters as the second level and Maiar as the third. This proved a much more viable structure, and soon Melkor and Sauron were recruiting many fans of the genre who were tired of the many pk and childish guilds out there. Unfortunately around this time, Melkor lost contact with us and was never heard from again.
Meanwhile, Sauron was prolific in his tireless recruiting and at this time, many of the highest ranking members in the guild were recruited - Varda, Ulmo, Aule, Orome, Namo and a new Melkor - though they were known by lesser names initially.
Shortly after this, I suffered a severe PC breakdown and was absent for
a number of weeks. During this time, the good people listed above formed
a Council to keep the guild running. This worked very well, and upon
my return I formally incorporated it into the guild structure. That
was a very exciting night, as I promoted many people to the lofty heights
they now occupy. Sauron became Manwe (Chairman of the Council) and I
This was the end of the Second Theme.
The Third Theme:
Now that the guild had a new administrative structure, I happily delegated many of my tasks to the Council members (web page, recruiting, chat sessions, quiz etc.), and they worked extremely hard to turn the fledgling guild into a working organisation.
All progressed well for several months into 1998, and membership numbers rose to the fifty mark around the summer of that year.
Shortly after the summer, I purchased the domain name of valar.org and everyone was very pleased to have a high-visibility, easy-to-find web location for the guild.
Then, completely out of the blue, cracks began to form in several relationships
- not least between myself and some of the Council members.
This was brought about by rumour and counter rumour and a basic lack of communication. A Ring Of Doom (our crisis meeting) was called time and time again, until eventually one Council member left and others were on the verge of doing so. Blame for this crisis cannot be easily apportioned and many including myself were guilty.
It appeared to me that the Council was not efficient or proactive enough
to deal with a crisis such as the one which we had encountered, and so (in
error I realise now), I dissolved it to form a less bureaucratic body.
Unfortunately, this blew the cracks wide open and the guild was very close to total collapse.
I was dismayed, not only at the impending collapse, but at the complete loss of trust between high-ranking members. Subsequently, I felt that I had failed to uphold the values of leadership and honour which I had founded the guild upon. So it was, in the autumn of 1998, not long after our first anniversary, I resigned from my position as leader, intending to form a small, quiet, Tolkien chat group.
I asked the Council members to continue the Vision in my stead, which they did, with Ulmo and Varda assuming co-chair of the guild.
This could be classed as the end of the Third Theme, but I don't think that anything official was done.
The chat group (The Valar) was the last incarnation of this (www.valar.org - editor's note) page until now.
Unfortunately for the chat group, real life commitments began to intrude and so after only a couple of months it began to dwindle away.
Around this time, I resumed some tentative contact with Varda and eventually re-joined the guild which I founded, not in a leading role but in a Tolkien focused lore role. I still assume the guise of Eru, and have re-kindled the friendships which it was so difficult to see slipping away.
So here we are now, and valar.org has resurfaced, with a main link to the Valar Guild, which has it's own team of dedicated, hard-working web designers.
It's a strange, exciting, trepidation-filled feeling to have sixty people from many countries following your leadership, especially in today's world and for no pay. :)
I only hope that I can earn once more the respect I felt from the members during the heady days of the summer of 1998.
Long live the Vision.
Eru Iluvatar, 30th April 1999.
page maintained by Varda