Not long ago we asked you to send in questions for an exclusive interview with RDR2.org and The Reaper Lords. The accomplished and renowned Grand Theft Auto Online crew and now Red Dead Online gang agreed to answer them for us. The gang is known for its charitable activity and rigorous recruitment process, and now we get to peek behind the scenes and learn more about one of the most elite "clans" operating in RDO.
LORD_DirtyWorka represented The Reaper Lords for this interview (with a special shout out to LORD_Artorius for his assistance too), and you can find his individual answers to our and your questions in this thread. We've collected them all in this article for your convenience!
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Q: It's obvious R* took a different tack from GTAO when they created RDO. With that in mind, how do you see the Reaper Lord's role differing in the RDO game world than it does in GTA? Now that you're expanding into RDO, how does a members standing in the group change between games or does it? Are you finding a lot of current TR members showing an interest in RDO?
A: A remarkable amount of what worked for us on GTA was very transferable to Red Dead. The primary difference for us has to do with combat rules. On GTA we followed what's referred to as the 1% code. It's essentially a set of combat rules that apply to GTA MCs, which dictate that clubs will use freeaim and only Assault Rifles or less in combat. While there's much debate within the community about the specifics of the 1% code, that's a reasonable distillation. Obviously, these rules do not transfer into a world with auto-aim and magical potions, so we had to adapt our combat rules and approach to combat in general. GTA is a very hostile environment. Whenever we logged on, we were almost assured of a drawn out battle and thus, much of club culture revolved around the defense of the club and preparing for conflict with other crews. In Red Dead it is a much more chill environment and large-scale battles are far less frequent. I think this has allowed us to focus more on peaceful pursuits and it has resulted in a pretty big culture shift within the club.
A LORD is a LORD regardless of platform or gameplay environment. Full members on GTA remain full members on RDO. Membership applies across all games and consoles.
Activity is as high on RDO as it ever was on GTA. The transition was not without strain, but ultimately it has proven to be a great move for us. Many LORDs have been in the club five or more years on GTA, so having a completely new environment to adapt to has, in many ways, reinvigorated the club.
Q: What is the process that takes place when a member chooses to leave the club? Similarly, what is the process for removing/kicking members out of the club?
A: Membership within the club is a privilege that many have worked very hard to earn, however, the work does not end when the patch is earned. For some the burden of maintaining our high standards can be too much, or life simply gets in the way. We've seen many members have children, change jobs, go off to college or military, etc... While some are able to carry on their membership, others simply can not and chose to move on. In those cases, we wish them nothing but the best. Many come back to play with us from time to time. All we ask is that former members remove any reference to the club from their social media and gaming accounts.
We do have processes for removing members that violate our oath. I can not discuss specifics, but will say that it is taken very seriously and never the decision of just one member. This is not like some gaming crews where essentially one person has unlimited power. In Reaper Lords we have a constitution which ensures the rights of the membership and provides a system of checks and balances to ensure that no single LORD has too much power over another.
Q: What is the “origin story” of the Reaper Lords? Were you always aiming this high, or did a regular group of friends end up ballooning into this community?
A: Unlike many role play organizations, we don't really have a story that we follow. Our form of role play is very light. We essentially agree to abide by certain rules, follow a chain of command and treat each other like family. The club was founded by a small group of very driven individuals that enjoyed riding motorcycles in real life, but also had a passion for gaming. They took knowledge of real life motorcycle club hierarchies and bylaws to form something resembling an MC in GTA. Based on what I know of the founding members, I think they always had their sights set high. In particular, the person that conceived of the club and took the first steps toward creating it is a very talented, confident, and driven individual. As in business or other endeavors, it often takes borderline fanatical vision and drive from a very small group of individuals to get something like this off the ground. The passion and do or die attitude at the founding of this club absolutely laid the solid foundation that we've built on in the years since.
Q: Usually organized groups, call them guilds or crews, develop around games with a more involved RP component, like MMOs. Is it more challenging to keep a group organized in GTA Online/Red Dead Online than in traditional MMOs? What unique challenges do you face?
A: I can't really speak to our challenges relative to traditional MMOs, as I've not had experience in those realms. I can say that our form of role play is very light and revolves primarily around how we run the organization. For example we do not act out character roles or storylines. We do all agree to dress like bikers on GTA, or wear a uniform in Red Dead, but we don't talk like bikers or outlaws per se. We do host weekly meetings in which officers report on activities and members can motion for votes on rule changes, but our meetings look more like something you'd expect to see in a corporate board room, than a shadowy backroom at a strip club.
From a role play challenges perspective I think one of our biggest challenges is managing the balance between individual self-expression and maintaining a cohesive theme that identifies us as a unified group. For example, some members may wish to dress in a flamboyant or whimsical way, but if we're representing ourselves as being a badass biker club or outlaw posse, at some point we would lose that identity if individual style drifted too far afield. To strike a balance we have set uniforms for certain occasions or activities, but outside of that members are largely free to dress as they like, within the overall theme. I think most LORDs understand that part of the appeal of the club is the sense of belonging to something special. They know that when 10 or 20 of us ride up on someone and we all have LORD in our gamertags and are all wearing a blue uniform, and moving in a controlled and synchronized fashion, it makes a big impression. For the type of people we like to recruit, the impression we make in lobby will be instantly appealing. I think our members take pride in that and it helps to self-regulate based on our shared values.
Q: How much time do the senior members have to put into managing the Reaper Lords? Are you left with free time to pursue other interests?
A: A ton!!! Seriously. It takes a tremendous amount of work to keep the club running. As National President, I probably spend 15 or more hours per week dedicated to club work. Other positions within the hierarchy may require a little more or a little less, but it is damn near a part time job. The officers of the club often forgo game play time or other leisure activities for meetings, membership administration, conflict resolution, training, club promotion, event coordination and on and on. Serving the club requires a lot of personal effort and sacrifice, which leaves all of us with a high level of satisfaction. There's no pay and you don't usually feel the appreciation until your term is up, but knowing that serving the club requires so much personal sacrifice, even if no one else knows it, provides a great sense of pride and satisfaction.
As for other pursuits, I personally have a family and a job that always come before anything, but I do find time for other pursuits, based largely on the outstanding team of individuals that run the club. We back each other up and cover down on each other's responsibilities when life or leisure calls. I fly 50-100 times per year for work, so nearly every week I'm flying somewhere. That provides me with lots of time in hotels at night to work on club business or get online to play with the LORDs. I also like doing motovlogs riding Harleys in some of the cities I visit.
Q: How does the Red Dead Online branch of the Reaper Lords differ from the GTA Online one? Are members of one automatically members of the other?
A: There's a lot of commonality between RDO & GTA for us. The primary difference, beyond the obvious environmental difference, is related to combat. In GTA we were a strict freeaim only club with a limited weapon wheel based on GTA 1% MC rules. Where Red Dead is an autoaim game with all kinds of potions and ability cards, early on we made the decision not to limit use of in-game content. Our members are free to use any weapons or other features the game has to offer. On GTA we took pride in limiting our weapon wheel and strictly adhering to voluntary standards. In Red Dead we just have fun and the combat aspects of the game have far less significance than on GTA.
Reaper Lords are Reaper Lords no matter what game or console we're on. Membership applies to the individual, not the account or platform.
Q: What qualities do you look for in Reaper Lords hopefuls? How difficult is it to become a member?
A: We're looking for good human beings. Qualities like honesty, maturity, compassion, and integrity are important to us. It's hard to quantify the precise mix of qualities or adequately describe how we go about evaluating prospective members, but we take it very seriously. We've had thousands of people apply to the club, but only about 1% earn full membership. One of our biggest challenges in recruiting is that most don't understand that all the high ideals we talk about inside the club, are only accessible to members. We expect members to treat each other with the utmost respect at all times. We laugh and clown around endlessly behind closed doors. We are kind and compassionate and value the dignity of others.....however, we are downright degrading to prospective members. We have a complex and grueling prospecting process that allows us to carefully scrutinize individuals prior to allowing them into the club. It's very hard for outsiders to understand the process and not take it personally. We put prospective members in stressful and unreasonable situations to see how they respond. We're watching to see if they work together to solve problems, if they carry on with their duties even when times get tough, and if they can show the utmost respect when dealing with someone acting in an irrational or hostile way....because when you become a member you will be faced with all these challenges. If people quit when times get tough, put themselves before the club in their decision making, or continually escalate when conflicts arise, we would not be able to maintain the beautiful environment the club provides and which has allowed us to go on successfully for as long as we have. We expect members to stay for years, but we only have weeks or months to evaluate someone's character before voting them into the club. For that reason we condense the stresses to suit the time frame and the very large majority of candidates do not hold up. Which is exactly the way we like it. Once membership is earned, there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment and feeling of belonging. Every member can trust and rely on every other member because they know what that person had to do to earn membership.
Q: What motivated you to use your influence for charitable goals in the past? Do you plan to continue in that vein?
A: The charitable work we do is really just a natural extension of our values. As much as we like acting like badasses on the video games, our members are great people from all walks of life. As we have gained some minor recognition within the gaming community it just seemed natural to try to do some good with it. Benefits to the club are immeasurable. It provides an incredible sense of pride within the membership. Gaming is viewed by some as a waste of time or a self-indulgent activity. By using the time we've invested to help people facing challenges in the real world helps give membership in the club a little more meaning and significance. We will absolutely do more of this in the future.
Q: What kind of hierarchical structure do you use to manage the group?
A: We follow a traditional Motorcycle Club hierarchy. National President sits over all charters of the club. Within each charter we have:
- Vice President
- SGT at Arms
- Road Captain
- Tail Gunner
We have a constitution that ensures the rights of members and accountability of officers as well. All major club decisions are put to a vote and any full member can motion a vote on any subject they wish. Members are also free to run for elected positions within the hierarchy. This structure provides the authority necessary for officers to lead the club, without the ability to run roughshod over it.
Q: Do Reaper Lords members interact beyond the bounds of GTAO/RDO? Are you active in other games, or in real life?
A: We do. We play lots of different games together. Many of us have multiple consoles and PCs, so we can slide back and forth between the various charters to play with each other. In addition we do watch parties and other online activities together. Outside the game we have members that are blood relatives or live nearby to each other so they interact frequently offline as well. Each year we also host club events in real life that we call ReaperCons. These events are hosted in the US and EU. The last ReaperCon event was in Los Angeles where a bunch of us got together for partying, riding motorcycles, & visiting sites that are featured within the game. We attended E3 where we met some of the actors from Red Dead as well. During that event a film crew was present. They followed us around and conducted interviews for an upcoming documentary on the club.
Q: Are any of you bikers in real life as well?
A: We do have some "bikers" and a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts. Many of us have gotten together to ride in real life. While we are most active on Red Dead lately, at our core this was a club founded to build fellowship between individuals with a passion for gaming and motorcycles.
Q: The next console generation is around the corner. If Rockstar retires the current version of GTAO in the years to come, will you migrate to the successor?
A: We're all very much looking forward to GTA6 and whatever else may be on the horizon. Red Dead was a major change for our club, but as GTA evolved from a petty crime simulator, to some kind of futuristic battlefield, it became unconducive to our game play style. It's not reasonable to role play as a biker club, gathering for bike shows and doing large formation rides, in a universe where flying bikes with homing rockets indiscriminately kill any unarmored moving vehicle, or an entire gathering can be destroyed with one orbital cannon strike. One of the great joys of playing GTA as a motorcycle club is seeing all the bikes together snaking around the map and then gathering in large groups for nonscripted activities. For us, the open world in GTA and what we love about the game was ruined.
On GTA we adhere to the old MC 1% code which requires us to play freeaim with ARs or lessor weapons against dismounted players (no holds barred on vehicles). In the early days of GTA the game was fairly well balanced. Tanks could be killed easily with some sticky bombs and RPGs, and jets were relatively difficult to obtain and a challenge to kill, but could be shot down with well-timed RPGs. Today, the game has drifted into something highly unbalanced, which requires use of increasingly fantastical weaponry that just isn't fun for us or consistent with playing as a biker.
My personal hope is that R* will bring back hardcore lobbies in the future so that we can enjoy immersing ourselves in an environment as near to reality as possible.
From a club perspective, we will continually evaluate activity and how much fun we're having on whatever game we're engaged with. If something better than GTA or Red Dead comes along, we'll certainly consider moving. At the end of the day, we just need a platform for gathering our members. Maintaining the brotherhood is our primary focus. The gameplay environment is secondary.
Q: What kind of a future do you envision for Red Dead Online/GTA Online?
A: They are both products at the end of the day, so like any other product people will buy them until something better comes along, and R* will keep selling them as long as they are profitable. I suspect the franchises will continue on separate, but related paths, with GTAOnline seeing many more updates between now and the release of GTA6. The game is still wildly popular and earns great profits for R*. I see no reason for them to do anything but support the heck out of that game for years to come. Same thing with Red Dead. If they follow a similar development cycle as they've done with GTA, we can expect much evolution and many updates until they develop something better. I would personally love to see Red Dead begin to evolve over a timeline from where it is now up to something like the early 1920's. Dirt roads get paved. Lanterns become electric lights. Wagons become model Ts etc etc... I think that would be a lot of fun, is technologically possible, and would keep players coming back for years to come.
Q: Who are the founding fathers of the group? Does the club promote honorable gameplay or a griefer style mentality? What purpose does a club such as the RL's serve?
A: The founding fathers were people that had a passion for video gaming and motorcycle club culture in real life. They wanted to recreate club life online and find like-minded individuals from around the world to form close bonds of friendship with.
The purpose of Reaper Lords is all about fellowship. As online gamers many of us spending many hours of our lives online. That time is made better when you have truly good people to spend it with. I have no doubt that many of us have formed life-long friendships that go well beyond gaming. I personally have met up with many LORDs in real life and what has struck me the most is just how comfortable it is. There is none of the initial awkwardness you associate with meeting someone for the first time. We become so close through our online interactions, that it just feels completely normal and natural for us to carry on in the same fashion offline.
As for gameplay style we have always prided ourselves on playing with honor. We engage in a lot of fights, but do not grief other players. We have a "shoot back" policy for our rules of engagement, meaning we do not fire first. We love meeting other players online and will help guard deliveries and stuff like that for randoms, but if someone fires on us, we will swarm them until they disengage. With members from around the world we have no problem sustaining battles with fresh blood for many hours straight. While we don't like doing that all the time, it's nice to know we can when we choose to. I've been in some epic battles on GTA that go for 10 or more hours with other big crews and it's a lot of fun. The problem for us is that with some of the recognition we've received in gaming publications and from R*, we've attracted a lot of trolls and silly as it sounds a lot of other crews that are envious of the attention we've received. It's probably not hard to imagine how annoying it can be at times. For that reason we work to maintain a balance between combat and peaceful club activities. Lord knows we could fight around the clock every day if we chose to engage with every group of kids that wants to shoot with us.
Q: Why did you decide to cease recruitment in GTAO, and move forward in RDO only?
A: It's just a matter of focus. We're still very active on GTA, but to make the move to Red Dead successfully we needed the full attention and energy of the club behind it. Our recruiting process is extensive and requires a lot of club resources to support. If we split those resources I'm not sure we would do a great job on either game. As such, we decided to invest in making Red Dead a success and ultimately I think it was a good move. Individuals that earn club membership on Red Dead also earn the privilege of wearing the patch on GTA. Ultimately a Reaper Lord is a Reaper Lord no matter what game or console they are playing on. We recruit people, not accounts.
Q: Will Reaper Lords abandon GTAO in the near future? Does the level of activity the game sees affect this decision?
A: I don't see us abandoning GTA. For many of us GTA remains our favorite game and we'll always go back to it. The problem is simply that the game isn't what it was when we started. All the crazy weapons and vehicles have made it kind of absurd for a motorcycle club. Additionally, the free aim MC community in GTA is very small compared to the overall player base. Most individuals that have a shot at earning membership in Reaper Lords have either tried out and not made it, or made the decision it's simply not for them. As with any organization new blood is vital to sustainment. We need new ideas, new energy, and new personalities to help keep pushing us forward. In a longstanding club like ours it's easy to fall into the trap of saying "that's the way we've always done things" and assuming it's right. We need that new patch energy to fuel us and the GTA pond was largely fished-out. So for today we're on Red Dead, but we've always got our eyes open for new opportunities. We'll always make whatever moves are necessary to keep the club strong and vibrant.
Q: Does The Reaper Lords engage in any rivalry, be it serious or just for fun, with other major crews?
A: We certainly have lots of club that consider themselves our rivals, but we really try to just focus on ourselves. At the end of the day there's really no way to win wars in video games. We maintain the same name, same player accounts, and same standards for years. Others don't carry that burden the same way. We've had many many many clubs make runs at us over the years, only to shut down, change names, and pop up as other crews to start shooting at us again. As such, we've learned not to take game beefs too seriously. That said, I've certainly been in many club wars over the years and they can be great fun. It's just important to maintain balance. Our club is full of mature gamers and individuals that like to participate in all kinds of gameplay activities, like racing or taking photos, so as a club we need to be conscientious of that fact. If all we do is fight continuously online it would not be much fun for our more casual members.
Q: Were there ever any tough moments or crises since the foundation of the crew that threatened it’s dissolution?
A: Yeah. A bunch. Like any group we have lots of different personalities and many stressors both internal and external. We've had our share of ups and downs but one of the great things about being a Reaper Lord is this sense of obligation to the club. We really do try to put the club first. It's hard to fully explain just how much work has gone into building the club. From the outside people only see the tip of the iceberg. Internally we have a massive operation that administers club business. Many LORDs are shocked at what they find after earning membership. What from the outside looks like any other gaming clan, on the inside operates more like a miniature government or corporation. It's too much for me to even go into. The point is, it's this underlying foundation that has allowed us to weather the storms. We have robust protocols in place for dealing with many situations and a collective sense of duty to the work done by those before us. Another significant factor is our culture. We have very well established ways of communicating, resolving issues and most importantly respecting each other. We certainly have arguments between members within the club, but it just doesn't get out of hand. When things start to get too hot, other members start jumping in to cool things off. I can't stress enough how important it is to just focus on family as well. We are very judicious in how much external drama we allow into our club. We focus on our friendships and what's best for us at all times. We pay very little mind to what other clubs think of us or our relationships with them. We certainly maintain friendships with like-minded clubs, but for others that seem to thrive on drama and conflict, we just ignore them.
Q: Where do you see The Reaper Lords in 5 years?
A: Celebrating our 11 year anniversary!!! I can only say that with great confidence because I know the challenges we've overcome and I know how committed our members are to carrying on our traditions. As a club we have many goals and plans for the future that wouldn't be appropriate to share here, but have no doubt we are stronger than ever and focused on a bright future.
Q: In what ways has being part of The Reaper Lords changed your life?
A: For me personally it opened up a whole world of friendships. If you had asked me 10 years ago if some of my best friends in the world would be people I have never seen in real life, I'd say you were crazy. I now have a completely new appreciation for how much love you can have for people without sharing the same physical space. I have met many Reaper Lords in the real world, but the close bonds of friendship were there long before that. I am truly thankful to be part of this family.
Many thanks to LORD_DirtyWorka for taking the time to answer these questions! We're sure you'll agree this has been a fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of the top Red Dead Online posses.