its ok kerghan, i meant past this point :)
ok folks, problem should be 100% fixed.
*takes deep breath*
so basically, when i did the last forum upgrade (~1 month ago), i noticed there was a new beta version of a mod, by the same guy who did the old mod. this new mod combined several of this guy's old mods into one nice package. the mods? subforums, and a few others. all of these were notoriously hard to install and were prone to lots of difficulties with other mods, at least in my experience.
so, this new beta mod also came with neat caching features and such, so i installed it. everything was fine, but i noticed i couldn't set new permissions for people. in particular, vendors mods werent showing up as having rights in the vendors section, and couldnt see mod chat.
so i reinstalled the forum with phpbb 2.0.11, and decided to install the mod fresh, thinking the problem must have been with the old mod (since it had a new version since then). of course, eveything was messed up.
the whole problem ended up being related to me not pushing a button saying "regen". frustrating because nothing in the instructions said you had to do that. then, the permissions were still messed up and i had to reset them for all the mods/users. the new permission system is really powerful but also REALLY confusing, and of course theres no documentation for that either. i recently figured it out and everything SHOULD be fine now.
feeel sorry for me wasting half of one of my only free days out of the week to do this? (in addition to my entire night the other night?)... make recommendations! that always makes me happy ;)