Seemingly-benign roleplay gave way to enforcing its own rules on other players, with something more sinister potentially lurking beneath.
A major Fallout 76 roleplay group, the Enclave Armed Forces, has deleted its social media presence and holed up in its digital bunkers after pressing too far in its roleplay and drawing a backlash from the rest of the community. The EAF formerly collaborated with other factions in the Fallout 76 RP scene to produce events and machinima with an immersive, in-universe style of play, but these roleplayers grew more and more detached from reality, policing servers to enact their own vision of in-game justice, surveilling and supervising their own members’ online relationships in a pantomime of real life military discipline, and seemingly acting out noxious real world beliefs in the guise of these fictional villains.
Fallout 76’s roleplay community is a small but high-profile portion of the game’s fanbase, committed to character and storyline crafting above and beyond what’s offered and encouraged by the base game. These players often coalesce into factions reflecting those in the Fallout lore, like the Brotherhood of Steel or the Enclave, as well as original organizations with fan-written fiction like The Outriders (opens in new tab) or Five-0 New Responders (opens in new tab). The Enclave Armed Forces first emerged in 2020, and long before its downfall last week, the group had featured in Polygon’s (opens in new tab) reporting of the passionate RP community that had developed in Bethesda’s once embattled, now redeemed Fallout MMO.
During the week of January 2, accounts of EAF harassment began to circulate on social media, spurred on partially by the dissemination of a passage from its official website describing the extent to which it would police other players. The group deputized itself to enforce certain rules against “toxicity” where members were active. The EAF’s now defunct website took a high-handed tone, asserting it made the game “safer,” but in practice unknowing players would just find themselves on this group’s bad side, griefed out of servers or cut off from RP events.
“In the EAF, we strongly believe in proper behaviour,” the EAF stated on its now-deleted website. “This belief stems from the military philosophy of excellence that drives us to do the right thing.”
The group seems to have most aggressively targeted players who used “legacy weapons” and “trap camps.” The former are discontinued weapons that still remain in users’ inventories, often regarded as unbalanced or unfair by the community, and the latter are user-made honeypot snares crafted to lure in and troll hapless players with Fallout 76’s base building mechanics. Both behaviors are controversial in the Fallout 76 community, but neither are in violation of Bethesda’s terms of service.
I’ve been roleplaying in various online communities since 2012 and I have never witnessed anything like this.
Part of the group’s identity was centered on countering what it deemed bad behavior in Fallout 76. But it went to drastic lengths enforcing this idea of how the game should be played. In now-deleted tweets from the group, the EAF bragged about forcing players out of the game, both with coordinated in-game griefing and by making reports to Bethesda support. “As your valued Government we will use the lawful tools at our disposal to maintain peace and prosperity,” the group tweeted in response to another player’s critiques.
(Image credit: EAF’s now-deleted website)
An anonymous player active in the RP community explained that they witnessed EAF members enforcing its rules on an unaffiliated low-level player, seemingly incensed that the player was engaging in Fallout 76’s lockpicking minigame. Meanwhile, a former member, Daniel “Zero” Jackson, told PC Gamer how they witnessed the beginning of a “griefing session,” with an angered EAF member threatening to follow a target across multiple servers. On the subject of the group’s intensity, organization, and commitment to remaining in-character, Zero told PC Gamer, “I’ve been roleplaying in various online communities since 2012 and I have never witnessed anything like this.”
Are we the baddies?
In an open letter (opens in new tab) covering their time in the EAF, Zero described being bullied by the group’s leader, who goes by the handle “General Grey Fox” and claims to be a former member of the Canadian armed forces and law enforcement. Zero further elaborates on the group’s commitment to a facsimile of military rank, discipline, and communication, with members assigned officers to report to and required to adhere to a code of conduct and minimum level of playtime with the group.
Not only were prospective members put through a series of interviews, they were required to submit to an examination of their PlayStation Network friends lists. New members had to delete any contacts the group found undesirable before moving forward, and the EAF expressed on its website and to members that it reserved the right to check their social media accounts for discouraged contacts or rhetoric.
they made him delete me. I lost him as a friend completely because of it.
“It was somewhere around 10 people [for me],” Zero told us. “These were all people I’d played 76 with before and in the days after I received messages from them asking why we weren’t friends anymore or why I’d left their group chats.” Describing a longtime friend they parted ways with, Zero said, “I felt like I was stabbing them in the back.”
The anonymous F76 roleplayer we spoke to found themselves cut off with no explanation when a friend joined the EAF. “I was put on their ban list and was never told why. When a friend of mine joined the EAF a short time after, they made him delete me. I lost him as a friend completely because of it.”
Holly Green (opens in new tab), community editorial coordinator at media outlet Game Developer, described how the group attempted to push her out of the RP community. Green began contributing to Fallout 76 RP storylines in the role of an independent journalist character, writing an in-universe New Charleston Herald chronicling the factions’ various storylines.
“EAF went to (at least) four (that I know of) major faction leaders and told them not to work with me or trust me,” Green wrote on Twitter. Green also told PC Gamer that the group’s leadership seemed to take issue with its portrayal in roleplaying storylines, arguing that their detonation of a nuclear warhead, described here by Polygon (opens in new tab) in December 2020, should not have been presented as an objectionable act, and that the Enclave, Fallout’s traditional villains, should be portrayed as a more heroic faction.
(Image credit: Bethesda)
Aqua (opens in new tab), a Fallout 76 roleplayer who has been at the helm of several groups over the years, attested to being pressured by the EAF to abide by its rules and exclude certain players, including Green. “Hearing that the EAF and Grey Fox forcefully curated their members’ friends lists is unsurprising,” Aqua explained, “given my own personal experiences with him trying to dictate who others played with.”
[The Fallout 76 RP community] is kind, welcoming, inclusive, and creative. It is filled with wonderful people, from all over the world, and from all walks of life.
Further, while the group’s website condemned intolerance and asserted allyship with the LGBTQ+ community, Aqua noticed some EAF members letting slip disturbing ideological commitments that dovetail with the group’s fantasy. Aqua describes lamenting to a group of EAF players how some Fallout roleplay groups attract a white supremacist element, with an EAF officer replying: “Well, what’s wrong with white supremacists?”
Zero, the former EAF member who spoke to us, said that group leader Grey Fox and other members expressed an uncomfortable interest in the military of Rhodesia. Rhodesia was a white apartheid state in what is now Zimbabwe, and fought a bloody war from 1964 to 1979 in an effort to suppress democratic rule by the country’s majority black population. It has a similar “Lost Cause” mystique to white supremacists as the American Confederacy. The anonymous Fallout roleplayer we spoke to said they didn’t observe right-wing or white supremacist rhetoric, but were repeatedly called a homophobic slur by an officer in the group.
During the initial wave of public scrutiny, the EAF’s official accounts attempted to remain in-character, conversely arguing with critics or proceeding as if nothing had happened. On January 7, however, the group deleted its website, Twitter, and Instagram, with only a private Discord and bare RedBubble (opens in new tab) store remaining to mark its passing.
It’s unclear how many members remain devoted to the group, but the members of the Fallout 76 roleplay community we spoke to seem optimistic about the scene’s future, now that the EAF has left. Groups like The Outriders and Five-0 New Responders condemned the EAF and its actions, while Aqua stressed to me that “[The EAF] do not represent the vast majority of Fallout 76’s player base or RP groups… [The Fallout 76 RP community] is kind, welcoming, inclusive, and creative. It is filled with wonderful people, from all over the world, and from all walks of life.”