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Gender-inclusive language in D&D 5e raises roleplaying questions
August 9, 2014 10:24 PM   Subscribe

How Dungeons and Dragons is endorsing the darkest parts of the RPG community "Three weeks ago the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons came out. D&D is the iconic tabletop role playing game, so a new edition is a big deal. It’s one of the few times that the small, insular pen and paper community gets noticed by the rest of the world. Many game websites have talked about it, notably Polygon’s piece on gender inclusive language. Yet at the same time as D&D tries to appeal to those outside the gender binary, it has been driving them away by employing two of the most toxic personalities in tabletop gaming."

The text from D&D 5e in question:
You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. You can play as a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture's expectations of sex, gender and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave that society and come to the surface.

More writing on inclusivity in tabletop/pen-and-paper RPGs beyond D&D:
Auntie Pixelante on Apocalypse World (some NSFW language)
Monsterhearts: Queerness and the Supernatural Teen Romance Genre
Game design & problematic aspects of Tenra Bansho Zero: Thoughtful Game Development Does Not Preclude Awesome
How Not to Fail at Writing Inclusive Games and Game Settings (three-part series)
posted by CrystalDave (184 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, employing literally. I read it as employing, figuratively, in the text that followed.
posted by cj_ at 11:09 PM on August 9, 2014


Yeah, I did too, until I read that first link. I was thinking "they've codified toxic personalities as character types? That's peculiar".
posted by hippybear at 11:13 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: "So what were the "two most toxic personalities in tabletop gaming"?"

John “RPG Pundit” Tarnowski and Zak “Zak S” Smith.

I wasn't aware of this controversy previously but it seems a little witch-huntery. According to the article Mike Mearls, designer of D&D 5e, denies Tarnowski or Smith had anything to do with the way the game approaches race, gender or sex. The article doesn't present any evidence or even claim this statement is false. And yet the author wants WotC to stop employing Tarnowski or Smith. Actually on re-read I'm not sure what the goal is; maybe just awareness?

Large organizations employ lots of people and some of those people are going to hold horrible views. But if those views aren't related to their employment it is unfair to have those views impact their employment. This appears, short of further evidence/statements, to be much different than the Mozilla-Eich thing.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 PM on August 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


"He has in the past posted lists of people who he feels have displeased him in some way, complete with their real names. Those people then lists find themselves subjected to sustained campaigns of harassment."

It seems like this quote from the first link could apply to either side here.
posted by pseudonick at 11:24 PM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


To round out the other side of the first link kerfuffle:

How Dungeons And Dragons Is Totally Not Endorsing The Darkest Parts The RPG Community At All Even Though There's Some Tumblr Panic That It Is

On Outrage-Fatigue and The "High Road"

Those two entries, by Zak. S. and RPG Pundit respectively, also of course contain approximately 20d20 further links as deep into teacup tempest as you care to delve. Of those, this entry does a fairly good job at dissecting the framing of much of the "darkest parts" essay.
posted by Drastic at 11:30 PM on August 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


In fairness, I might be unconsciously partial to that last entry by "seebs" because of the epigram of their site of "It's like a blog, only the UI is horrible" and get-off-my-lawn and old-man-shouting-at-clouds personal territory, good lord that's tumblr in a nutshell.
posted by Drastic at 11:33 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Until they show a connection to FATAL or Racial Holy War it's not the darkest parts of the RPG community.
posted by squinty at 11:48 PM on August 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Those new links posted by Drastic are very persuasive that the original complaint is nonsense. thanks for posting
posted by Bwithh at 11:52 PM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Pundit's entire reason for existence has been being a horrible person to half the RPG hobby for the last ten years. He is convinced that the WRONG kind of rpgs are written by SWINE trying to destroy the hobby, and that there are conspiracies to destroy the dungeon-crawling hobby.

http://www.latorra.org/2012/04/05/swine-flew/

Live by the sword, die by the sword.
posted by xiw at 12:07 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


As far as I can tell most of the brouhaha over Zak S comes from a single mod at rpg.net, Ettin, who was a regular on the Somethingawful D&D thread. So goony shitstirring is, if not a given, at least a possibility.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:07 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I understood the story in the links Hasbro/Wizards hired two people as consultants to provide some unspecified services in support of creating 5e. These two consultants are assholes. Thus we should be angry. How dare a company hire some asshole consultant. Pay no attention to.the absurdity that Wizards/Hasbro is now on their 4th attempt (counting 3.5 ed) to entirely rewrite the game just to try to get everyone to buy another set of core rulebooks.
posted by humanfont at 12:29 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I saw this blow up, and it seems to me it's mostly 4E obsolescence backlash, manifesting as ad hominem edition wars.

Though to be sure, Zak S and RPGPundit are argumentative internet jerk types best ignored for the most part. Zak S, at least, has some creative output worth looking at. I was really surprised to hear that RPGPundit was still around much less getting hired for anything.
posted by fleacircus at 12:55 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aggressive and tasteless gaming subgroup A is very angry that aggressive and tasteless gaming subgroup B have been credited.
posted by dvrmmr at 12:59 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thank you for linking to Gaming as Women, Go Make Me a Sandwich, and auntiepixelante. I hadn't seen them before, and I've been reading the linked articles and more with interest.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:10 AM on August 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


Zak S, at least, has some creative output worth looking at.

Vornheim is excellent.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:27 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Girdle of Gender Inclusiveness

This enchanted leather item appears to be a Belt of Blogging +2. This cursed item prevents the DM from applying gender penalties to characters. It cannot be removed, and even a wish to remove it will fail 50% of the time. Players who simultaneaously wear a Girdle of Gender Inclusiveness and a Tiara of Transphobia must make a DC 15 Will save each turn to avoid ranting. Ranting characters lose 1d4 Charisma and have a 10% chance of attracting malevolent fanboys.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:06 AM on August 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


"Additional Consultation". That's their credit.

I would not find it at all hard to believe that WotC ran drafts of the rules by what seems to be a couple of prominent traditionalist fan voices*. This is the fifth edition of a brand with a lot of history; it makes perfect sense to get a sense of how the die-hard rabid fans are going to react to you changes.

Note that one does not necessarily listen to much of what they have to say. Sometimes you just wanna know how loud the people who build their identity around being with the brand since day one are going to scream when you make one of their sacred cows into hamburger. Are they screaming about exactly what you expected them to scream about? In ways that suggest they'll hate-purchase the whole damn set of books just to see how "bad" it is? Good. Ship it.

Also this is kinda me talking out of my ass, I have no connection with the RPG community nowadays beyond having a friend who likes to collect story games, and vaguely missing my old GURPS group from '94 but not enough to seek out a new one.

* at least according to the first link, I haven't dug into the other ones, or ones posted in the comments.
posted by egypturnash at 2:13 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


After reading the first couple of links and some of the links in the thread I have to say I am zero percent closer to understanding what actually happened, or is even alleged to have happened. The second set of links are interesting, though. auntiepixelante, btw, is the author of dys4ia (link is to "previously on MeFi" discussion).
posted by en forme de poire at 2:14 AM on August 10, 2014


Those new links posted by Drastic are very persuasive that the original complaint is nonsense.

Is this something you have to be a long-time member of the RPG community to get? Because for this outsider, the original post seems to have some valid concerns about how the designer handled the feedback he solicited, and the other two reads like a couple of your-shtick-only-works-on-the-internet bros somewhere on the scale from just plain immature to completely unhinged.
posted by effbot at 2:20 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


My friends from jr high and I get together as often as we can and play from the old books.
It's still as fun as the mid-1970's when our parents thought we were summoning real demons...

Maybe more fun. Durable game.
posted by Pudhoho at 2:47 AM on August 10, 2014


Both RPGPundit and ZAk S have done more than "just been assholes". They've harassed, hounded and sicced legions of their fans on people that don't like, and spewed lots of transphobic and misogynistic hate besides.

Oh yeah, the straight white dudes are so harassed and put upon. Gag.
posted by ShawnStruck at 3:39 AM on August 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Both RPGPundit and ZAk S have done more than "just been assholes". They've ... spewed lots of transphobic and misogynistic hate besides.

Any links to an overview? The original post is just a mass of insinuations.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:58 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the problem here, ShawnStruck, is that it's not really clear, from the materials available in the OP or the thread, what is actually alleged. To those of us who care about RPGs as a hobby, but who aren't familiar with the particular background here, the whole thing seems potentially troubling but very vague.
posted by howfar at 4:00 AM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


en forme de poire: "After reading the first couple of links and some of the links in the thread I have to say I am zero percent closer to understanding what actually happened, or is even alleged to have happened."

During the development of the latest edition of D&D, Wizards of the Cost called in a number of prominent figures in the gaming community as (paid?) consultants who would get to see the game in development and provide direct feedback to the designers.

Most of those people invited were known as major game designers with a long history of designing and writing some of the greatest and most influential RPG products of all time.

Zak S and TheRPGPundit, on the other hand, are famous for being loud and incendiary bloggers who define themselves by their hate for a large tranche of modern rpg gaming. And they were given equal prominence as people who have made genuine long-term constructive contributions to the hobby.

Best case scenario it's a publicity stunt. Worst-case it's dog-whistling to a particularly virulent sector of the gaming community that WotC is on their side.

D&D5E has gotten a lot of credit for its progressive approach to sex and gender in the text. In the name of balance, the original post is pointing out the toxic personalities that were invoked for the sake of PR while making it.

I think that's the long and the short of it.
posted by Lorc at 4:11 AM on August 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


RPGPundit is a colossal mouthbreather of the highest order, but consulting with a well-known RPGer when designing a new edition of the biggest RPG, one with the stated aim of appealing to even the most regressive old-school playstyle, is not unusual. In the end, there's little point in being outraged at merely talking to someone if the opinions of theirs you most despise very clearly were not included in the game.

As for the Something Awful connection, Pundit has been a favourite target of their RPG wing for years, because he's terrible and SA's mandate has always been to mock what is terrible. That's what the reference in the article to "grognards.txt" is - it's a collection on the SA forums of random quotes of bad gaming opinions both mechanical ("you know what's awesome? THAC0") and social ("My game is more realistic because I have a random rape table for all female characters").
posted by Palindromedary at 4:20 AM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Nah, see, inclusive (well, clumisly written but inclusive in intent) language has to be backed up with inclusive action.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:34 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Right, but that first post isn't saying "Zak S and TheRPGPundit bicker with people online", it's saying "Zak S and TheRPGPundit are hateful bigots who make sexist and transphobic statements".

And then you dig a bit. And it's vapor.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:37 AM on August 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


I just want to know who was behind Guiding Bolt. A 1st level cleric spell that does 4d6 damage at range? I don't know what to think about that - on one hand, you have (along with Sacred Flame) a damage dealing cleric archetype developing, on the other, ranged spell damage has been something outside the cleric scope since forever.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:20 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


As for Zak and Pundit - I think the former's inclusion is fine and the latter's problematic. For all his personality deficiencies, at least Zak seems to mean well? He does have a background in bringing 'new' people to the hobby and changing perceptions of who plays D&D (even if it's a sort of hurr hurr I'd roll her saving throw stuff), so I can understand WotC courting him.

As for Pundit, there are many, many other Old School types that could have been consulted. I genuinely don't know what his input brings to the table outside of a picture of him hanging up somewhere above the caption Don't Be This Guy.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:25 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Both RPGPundit and ZAk S have done more than "just been assholes". They've harassed, hounded and sicced legions of their fans on people that don't like, and spewed lots of transphobic and misogynistic hate besides.

This has been going around, but the harassment charges are unfounded, as is the idea that Zak is transphobic. This post talks about the witchhunt that's been going on. Substantially I agree with it.

I don't like defending them; I've had nasty arguments with Zak before, and I personally have serious problems with Tarnowski. But my differences with Tarnowski are because he's a troll who calls people "Swine" and "OSR Taliban", not because the accusations against him have had any substantial proof.

The Fail Forward article makes serious accusations but does not back them up. This is a long, disgusting, tiring slog that has been going on for over a month in the RPG community, and I am frankly sick of it there, and disgusted to see it come over here. People making accusations need to back them up, or back down.
posted by graymouser at 5:27 AM on August 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


How did this end up on the front page? It's a poorly sourced hatchet job that's been thoroughly debunked several times over.
posted by chunking express at 6:07 AM on August 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


If I didn't use products every day who had somebody involved in their creation who was some kind of hateful towards some aspect of my existence or identity, I would have nothing left. I heard this and I thought--okay, even if these accusations are 100% true, so? So it turns out some people who've been in gaming a long time are assholes. That's not surprising at all. I don't believe that the current edition's attitudes are just lip service, I think they're a representation of the principles Mike Mearls believes in, and he's the guy in charge right now, and I believe in him. I don't have to believe in every single person who had any input. The result is really a solid game, the first edition I've DMed for and the first I've recommended without reservation to friends who're new to it.

That doesn't mean it isn't legit to critique people who have abhorrent opinions, but there's a difference between drawing someone's attention to why someone is an asshole, and saying that anybody who has ever been peripherally associated with said asshole is "endorsing" those views. Clearly, if either of these people provided feedback which was misogynist, transphobic, or in any other fashion awful, then it wasn't feedback that went into the final game. To call this a "dog whistle" when their names appear in a credits list almost nobody's actually going to read seems like a huge stretch. Mearls had a lot more to do with the game as a whole and his opinions on these issues are not poorly-sourced accusations, so if D&D's going to get painted as black or white depending on who's affiliated with it, why is it two guys who weren't even on the development team?
posted by Sequence at 6:16 AM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Kenneth Hite and Robin D Laws talk about their "additional consultation" on the latest Ask Ken and Robin - they basically received early copies in return for signing an NDA and got to give some late stage feedback that may or may not have gone into the final polish of the released version.
posted by Artw at 6:23 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


And for the curious, here is some backstory for why people would waste their time slandering some random dude who plays D&D with pornstars and more here. Another article debunks this one more or less point by point. This has basically been the topic of discussion in online D&D nerd land since 5e launched.
posted by chunking express at 6:31 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Having perused all this, Zak S's defense does seem to go well beyond "some of my best players are non-white-straight-male-able-etc." I'm sympathetic to relatively privileged people who want some kind of statistical evidence of -ism's effect on others (I once felt the same way). The RPGnet ban language seems to indicate that the last offense was part of a larger pattern.

If you go far enough down the rabbit hole, which I just did for at least an hour because goddammit it's Sunday morning and I have my coffee and spent all yesterday at the office, Zak is pretty good at whittling down his critics by insisting on evidence which they won't provide. At that point, they tell him that the problem is that he acts like a bastard. Problem is that's not what he's accused of.
posted by radicalawyer at 6:43 AM on August 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


The most shocking thing to me is that this all seems to be happening on G+.


There are people using G+?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:56 AM on August 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


("My game is more realistic because I have a random rape table for all female characters").

You can roleplay Game of Thrones?

This has basically been the topic of discussion in online D&D nerd land since 5e launched.

As a non-gamer (D&D was fun in middle school, but I haven't touched it since) so all I know are the links and summaries here, this whole thing seems both trivial and indicative of a deeper, more serious problem in which a community is structured such that toxic personalities are given prestige and influence, rather than being told to either stop being toxic or take a hike. Inclusiveness of awkward dudes is great but not at everyone else's expense.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:00 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Both RPGPundit and ZAk S have done more than "just been assholes". They've harassed, hounded and sicced legions of their fans on people that don't like, and spewed lots of transphobic and misogynistic hate besides.

Oh yeah, the straight white dudes are so harassed and put upon. Gag.
posted by ShawnStruck


This is the big problem right here - it's easy enough to make a statement like this but if you go looking for any kind of corroborating evidence, what do you end up with? Nothing compelling, not that I have seen yet anyway.

Opinions are opinions. Some people like Pundit & Zak and some don't. I've interacted with both of them to some degree, and this kerfuffle is one of the most absurd things I've witnessed.
posted by Golem XIV at 7:03 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The RPGnet ban language seems to indicate that the last offense was part of a larger pattern.

Rpg.net has a robust policy on discussion of sexism:

Derailing and suppression of sexism-related discussion

We’ve identified a number of behaviours that we will infract.

- Threadjacking discussion from the female to the male experience of an issue
- Denying the experiences of female posters
- Demanding to be educated on the subject
- Concern trolling (such as "But I'm concerned discussion of sexism will drown out discussion of the good things about $GAME")
- Questioning the validity of sexism as a phenomena or a topic of discussion at RPGnet
- Demanding that the debate be reframed (e.g. "This debate is too emotional"/"This should only be about solutions, not criticisms" etc.)
- Accusing other posters of looking to be offended
- Accusing male posters of "White-Knighting" or otherwise arguing against sexism solely for the approval of women

posted by Sebmojo at 7:06 AM on August 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


This has basically been the topic of discussion in online D&D nerd land since 5e launched.

Well, *a* topic of discussion.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:06 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Since this controversy kicked off, I've spent hours researching the accusations against Zak S. He was accused of discriminating against and harassing people of color, women, homosexuals, transsexuals, and the disabled.

What happened after the accusations? People of color, women, homosexuals, trans folks, and disabled people came forward to tell how Zak had defended and encouraged them. His gaming group is mostly women and people of color. His girlfriend is bi-sexual and needs a wheelchair. This post links to several defenses of Zak; read them and judge for yourself.

Zak is relentless in an argument. He pisses people off. However, he argues in good faith. His relentlessness stems from an almost pathological intellectual rigor, not from malice. It's easy to get the impression that Zak is an asshole, but he's demonstrably NOT homophobic, ableist, misogynistic, transphobic, etc.

Why has Zak been targeted with these allegations? It's not clear. His attackers refuse to substantiate their claims. We have no evidence in support of the accusations to scrutinize. Perhaps, some people interpret his demands for intellectual rigor as personal attacks. Some people don't like the fact that he's a porn star whose friends are porn stars, and that they're very public about their porn and their gaming. Some of his attackers are edition warriors, or don't like D&D at all, and would love to see the new D&D edition fail. Maybe it's leftover hurt feeling from the James Desborough rape treats dust up. I don't know for certain why the accusations were made, but after looking into it I've seen plenty of evidence that the accusations against Zak are false, and zero evidence that they might be true.

The accusations against Zak are lies, baseless, the very opposite of the facts.

I'm not a fan of RPGpundit, but I haven't seen any of the claims substantiated against him either.
posted by paulg at 7:07 AM on August 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


There's a great thread in which Zak interacts with a new audience here: http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/118227

btw, by linking to the Failforward article, you're subject to a formal harassment complaint should you ever work for Paizo or WotC.
posted by Bryant at 7:14 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


My perspective, as somebody who enjoys gaming but who admittedly does not keep up with this wing of it, is that this is the equivalent of movie being produced where Woody Allen was one of several people who had once given the writer some informal input, except it's unclear whether or not Woody's input ever even showed up in the final product, and the things that Woody Allen has done are many times worse than anything these people have been accused of.

It seems like it would be more productive to look at the links below the fold.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:17 AM on August 10, 2014


The most shocking thing to me is that this all seems to be happening on G+.

Yeah, a funny thing happened a few years ago. A whole bunch of gamers figured out that G+ Hangouts are really great for running RPGs online. Then we all set up shop there. We use communities, share things, and run hangout-based games. There is a ton of great stuff there, and all the people I know who actively use it are gamers.
posted by graymouser at 7:17 AM on August 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


How would a curious person like myself become ensconced in the G+ world of gaming?

I remember way back when trying to propagate materials within my group using Google Wave. It kinda worked!
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:20 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had no idea- I'm glad it benefits someone.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:20 AM on August 10, 2014


It seems a good enough place to ask, because I've heard about this previously but not had time/inclination to actually look into it properly before--suggestions about good people to be following and the like for D&D stuff on G+ would be very welcome.
posted by Sequence at 7:23 AM on August 10, 2014


G+ allows interacting with people who aren't your "friends" but has a longer post length than twitter. Normally people would go to forums for that sort of thing, but as you can see from these links, the rpg forums can be highly segregated by the type of game and who the prominent site voices are.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:23 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The backstory chunking express linked to above is really interesting. I have trouble believing wish I had trouble believing that in an environment that is textual and searchable, people can take misquotations so far.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:29 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


G+ RPG Hangouts is good if you're looking for online play.

Story Games is good for funky indie story gaming.

RPGs covers the need for a general community.

Also look for communities for games you play -- most major publishers/games seem to have a community. I'd then follow the people whose posts I like.
posted by Bryant at 7:31 AM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


The backstory chunking express linked to above is really interesting. I have trouble believing wish I had trouble believing that in an environment that is textual and searchable, people can take misquotations so far.

Indeed, right? For example, here's a direct quote from Zak:

Filamena made a statement that was _undeniably an attack_ (i.e. "The women in my group are complicit in something bad for women") and she, undeniably, refused to answer questions about it or back it up.

Here's another one:

Yes, Filamena _in good faith_ is a bigot. Like someone who honestly hates it when gay people kiss. She also _in good faith_ is too cowardly to address the implications of what she says.

But here's what Filamena actually said in the thread Zak is complaining about, over the course of a few posts:

Here's the problem. Many geeky women are told we're only welcome into the hobby if we're hot. This does not fight that problem. It reinforces it.

I'm more than how attractive you do or don't find me. Does that make sense? I'm probably not the only geeky woman to feel this way.

In a bubble, I wouldn't give two dead rats about the site or Maxim or any of it. But we don't live in a bubble. We live in a reality where women are expected to be hot, or desirable, or useful to men or else be unwelcome.

I'm sorry if you feel as if I'm attacking you or the women in your group. I'm not. I'm commenting on an issue. It is very common when talking about woman's issues for people to say 'well, this is just they way it is.' I don't feel as if that's good enough.

I don't think you should stop gaming. I don't think you should stop blogging. I don't think Maxim should stop existing. But I will counter the statement that any exposure is good. There is an issue here for many women, and it's one relevant to this article.


So: Zak quoted her directly as saying something she didn't actually say. That's not arguing in good faith. He went on to accuse her of being homophobic and hating it when gay people kiss. That's not true and it's not supported.

I don't think he's particularly transphobic or homophobic. I do think he's toxic.
posted by Bryant at 7:39 AM on August 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


I care about roleplaying but not about systems, so for much discussion of a D&D nature I am usually interested but uninvolved.

My impression of 5e D&D was that a larger number of people liked that they got given an official recognition in the books of the idea that you could play characters with diverse sexualities and genders, and a much smaller number were too outraged by a couple of dickheads getting an 'Additional Consultation' credit to see that as a good thing, because to them it doesn't matter about the inclusivity, there's still bad people's names in the book, and that's a complete outrage. Not that they wrote it, or had extensive contributions, or are reflected in the rules - but still Wizards of the Coast should not have let this stand.

It's such a typical 'perfect is the enemy of good' moment, it could be framed.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:01 AM on August 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


So: Zak quoted her directly as saying something she didn't actually say. That's not arguing in good faith.

He might really be an asshole in all kinds of ways, but the use of quotation marks around paraphrases is, while something that makes conversations like this kind of difficult, a thing people do all the time on the internet. I don't know how someone could, in good faith, take that as a direct quotation when the word "my" is used to refer to Zak himself. I would say that he's not totally accurately representing her statement, but--"Many geeky women are told we're only welcome into the hobby if we're hot." By the same lights, that's also inaccurate, I've certainly never been told that and I doubt I know anyone who has. Because it's usually implied, not explicit. Wrong in the most literal sense, but we know what she meant. So, by that standard of accuracy, yes, she's saying that the female members of his gaming group are complicit in something that's bad for women, because she knows there are female members of his group and she's saying that what he's doing is bad for women. He's not explicitly saying she hates it when gay people kiss... but he is trying to discredit her by affiliating her with those people. And she's affiliating him with the people who think women are only welcome when they're hot. And none of it has anything to do with the substance of what they're talking about.

That's the problem with arguments like this, I think--discussions get quickly sidetracked by minutiae and rhetorical criticism and personal attacks and a lot of other things and pretty soon it's not a discussion of substantive issues, it's a verbal brawl. Then the brawling itself is being used as evidence for the character of the participants, and that's where things get really questionable. Lots of basically okay people are very tiresome to argue with on the internet.
posted by Sequence at 8:10 AM on August 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


If you're looking to the books to tell you how you can play your character, you are in trouble.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


He went on to accuse her of being homophobic and hating it when gay people kiss.

Worth noting that, although from these quotes he does appear to be arguing in bad faith, he does not actually do what you describe. He makes a comparison (which appears to be invidious) not an accusation.

But now I'm lost as to why I'm talking about this. Some people are dicks, but WOTC employing dicks is not news. This thread still hasn't produced anything I can get hold of that is a specific accusation of anything. So possibly WOTC feel similarly bemused.
posted by howfar at 8:15 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Curiously, in my time, I've owned at least three editions of D&D and I've never looked at the credits pages. I have read paragraphs like the ones described by polygon many times over to discuss the letter and spirit of roleplaying at the table. (Similarly, I rarely look at credits in CD liner notes, and my viewing of movie credits involves watching the pretty typography until they get to the music notes.)

I suspect that most of the people reading D&D 5e are similar.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:16 AM on August 10, 2014


Here's the problem. Many geeky women are told we're only welcome into the hobby if we're hot. This does not fight that problem. It reinforces it. [...] I don't think you should stop gaming. I don't think you should stop blogging. I don't think Maxim should stop existing. But I will counter the statement that any exposure is good. There is an issue here for many women, and it's one relevant to this article.

The "this" and "it" is Zak and his group appearing in a Maxim article, right? The implication of Filamena's statements appear to be that the women in Zak's group should have refused to appear in Maxim because they're hot.

It may be paraphrase rather than a direct quotation, but Filamena accuses the women in Zak's group of being complicit in something bad for women, and that they can stay in the hobby as long as they stay in their ghetto, out of the mainstream spotlight. That seems like silencing bullshit to me.
posted by paulg at 8:20 AM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Let's say, for the sake of argument, that these two guys are guilty of what the front-page link claims.

Their credits in the new edition are more "best boy" than "associate producer," and by all accounts they had zero influence on how 5e treats gender, race, etc.

That the actual substance of the game and the efforts of WotC to make it more inclusive to marginalized people have been swept aside in favor of procedural griping and insinuation says a lot about the priorities of those making the claims.

The full outrage appears to be that two people with whom others have beef are given the most minor of credits, thereby legitimizing them and their toxic views.

This seems to me be the stretchiest and sketchiest of claims.
posted by echocollate at 8:39 AM on August 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


I agree with Bryant. Zak S. is the main reason I basically don't use Google+ anymore (along with the fact that I joined before the establishment of communities and you just had to add a lot of randoms to your circles and I learned way too much about the opinions of members of the "Old School Renaissance").

I was a pretty happy reader of Zak's blog in general, but after adding Zak on Google+, the moment I realized that Zak was a toxic presence with a horrible approach to discussion was when he linked to this thread at story-games.com to indicate how they were assholes and he had won the argument. Zak S will immediately tag people (including women) who disagree with him about inclusivity in RPGs as "Tipper Gores", "prudes" and "conservatives". Moderation (and banning, if necessary, in the end) of people like Zak S. and RPGPundit is part of the reason that discussion at rpg.net continues to function similarly to MetaFilter and not get derailed. A lot of apologists for Zak will note that he doesn't allow his opponents to "dissemble" but it's more that Zak demands proof and rejects evidence people give for their arguments, while continuing to claim that no one has presented the required proof. It really wears people down.

At the same time Zak S. has been central to building the OSR community, putting together some really creative things on his own, and starting up some excellent collaborative content. Even though I wish WOTC hadn't done it, I can understand why they would hire him or pay him an honorarium as a consultant - he represents a younger "alternative/punk/DIY" approach to old school D&D with strong and loud opinions.

RPGPundit, on the other hand, has created stuff too, but a large part of his online presence is as the top dog at theRPGsite, railing against the "swine" who've ruined gaming. There are a lot of other consultants they could have found, especially since being a consultant for 5e made RPGPundit feel vindicated in his behaviour. I also have seen implicitly homophobic or at least very gender normative remarks made by RPGPundit, usually related to "traditional manliness" and being "anti-PC", but I don't have the links handy (they're in the various "evidence" round-ups).

I guess to sum up, while I think you could find stuff in RPGPundit's output, not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, to be evidence for homophobia and transphobia, it always feels like that's not really the point of why people dislike these two figures. A solution to this is to have a well-moderated community like rpg.net, where the mods can simply provide evidence through repeated warnings and suspensions for why users are derailing or otherwise not contributing to a discussion. Google+ will never be that space, especially because it started without any communities at all, and the way of getting into the community was just to add big names or even everyone in the RPG circle of a big name (there's functionality to do that with a click of a button), so it inevitably ends up dominated by these big names in an unmoderated space, especially big names who prize "freedom" above everything else.
posted by Gnatcho at 8:42 AM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Their credits in the new edition are more "best boy" than "associate producer," and by all accounts they had zero influence on how 5e treats gender, race, etc.

Less than that because "best boy" is an on-site foreman. "Additional consultation" could be on the level of "focus group participant." (Similarly, I just got my name published for funding a kickstarter.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:48 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


RPG.net is not the solution and it is not like Metafilter. The moderators are unaccountable, arbitrary and heavyhanded there and hostile to any suggestion that they are wrong on anything.
posted by graymouser at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


At the same time Zak S. has been central to building the OSR community...
"Central" is a bit of an overstatement IMO. There was a lot going on before he started his blog, and there's still a lot going on that has nothing to do with him.

Re: RPG.net vs. G+ & moderated vs. unmoderated
Personally I prefer the emergent groups of G+ - they allow self-moderation. If you agree with the moderation policies of RPG.net (or other forums), then things are fine.
And if not...
posted by Golem XIV at 9:06 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Indeed, minor game credits are increasingly easy to get. I'm somewhere or other in a 13th Age supplement for preordering the thing (which seems a real odd use of pagecount to me; that's an additional page of game material they could have used instead!), and am somewhere in the playtest block in the latest edition of Warhammer Fantasy simply for chatting with the lead designer sometimes.

If you're looking to the books to tell you how you can play your character, you are in trouble.

Yes and no; different sections of RPG books are written for different audiences. (Layout and construction of such things is something of an artform, because they have to serve simultaneous purposes as reference works, instructional manuals, etc.) My own tabletop circles will frequently, the first few times we start a new system or game, have someone who'll give the GM their most earnest solemn wide-eyed affect and ask, "GM? What is a roleplaying game?" since almost every RPG core book ever written has exactly that as an introductory section, whereupon the GM will just as earnestly explain as if to a brand new kid. I figure that's about as common a table joke among middle-aged longtime gamers as metabolizing oxygen. (Or we'll end up reciting the opening monologue to the Dragonstrike video.)

But there are, ideally, new people to the hobby hitting whenever. Friends of players looking into that weird stuff their friend is into; boyfriends and girlfriends and wives and husbands and whatnot get brought in by social contact. That always-there "what is a roleplaying game, how do you play?" section is there for their benefit. Likewise, the inclusive gender language in 5E is there for someone out there who needs it; trans folk just checking out the thing as a new interest probably find it means the world to them to see something so explicitly stating, you're welcome here too. And that's not so much "the book telling you how to play your character" as just a small section for a subset of audience, that serves a purpose beyond its brief wordcount.
posted by Drastic at 9:08 AM on August 10, 2014


And now, after having read links upon links of writing about this, I believe that while the two men mentioned can be abrasive or unpleasant, the RPGPundit especially, this is a classic Tumblrian beat-up based on extra-vague accusations, declarations of bigotry sourced from aggressive misreading, and a heaping of hypocritical attacking in the exact style that they are claiming makes them victims.

With the Forbes article posted earlier on MetaFilter, the contrast between the accusations is notable, and not just because only one is written from the perspective of the actual person enduring the harassment. Also, there's a reason that "the lurkers support me in email" is derided on MetaTalk, and it's not because it's any truer when you swap out lurkers for victims.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:41 AM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


The next time I need to define "tempest in a teapot" for someone I will come straight to this thread. "Additional consultation" credits? Seriously? Look, I'm perfectly willing to believe that Zak S and RPG Pundit are bad people; you don't have to convince me. What you do have to convince me is that there's some reason I should care about these two bad people in particular and there's absolutely nothing here on that front.

All I get from this is that Smith, Tarnowski and Hatfield are all not worth my time and are trying to tie their drama as members of the RPG community to the actual development of the 5th edition rules because it's plainly obvious that nobody outside their social circles would give a crap about this otherwise. Zak and Pundit may well be bullies but Hatfield is clearly well into trying-to-incite-an-internet-lynch-mob territory himself. If his goal was to display the other worst tendencies of the gaming community that Zak and Pundit weren't already displaying I'd say he's succeeding.

My real question is why did Wizards of the Coast feel they needed to actually hire folks as consultants? I mean, it's definitely nice that they're willing to toss a few bones to the die-hards they got to consult for them, but I expect that they easily could've gotten the same level of feedback for free.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I went through a process similar to Gnatcho and generally agree with him. I own Zak's Vornheim book -- it's really good. Zak wasn't all that central to the initial burst of the OSR, but he's certainly done a lot for it.

RPGPundit broke the consultant NDA almost immediately after he was hired; I have no really good answer for who you'd keep employing him in any capacity after he broke his contract. I also have a personal rule against hiring assholes, which works out very well: it doesn't matter if they're right, it matters if they will continue to engage with people they disagree with on a cordial basis.

I don't think any of this has either swept away or negated the gender-inclusive language, for what it's worth. Just because we're talking about Zak and Pundit here doesn't mean nobody's noticed the positive moves WotC has made. Here's an article. Here's a comment thread with a lot of commenters inadvertently demonstrating why that language is so important.
posted by Bryant at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I actually discovered people were gaming on G+ via Zak's blog. People decided to use G+ for gaming online because it had free multi-person video chat, something Skype lacked at the time. All these people started using G+ for online games, and then more or less stuck around to talk about games. It's a very vibrant community.

The easiest way to meet people is to actually follow people with big follower counts, like Zak, ask them to follow you back so you can see their posts, and then start following people you see in their threads. That's what I did. You meet lots of people quite quickly.

For all his foibles, Zak has done a good job building a big DIY D&D community on G+.
posted by chunking express at 10:00 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Whether or not you think Zak S. is an asshole (and inarguably he can be relentlessly argumentative), it galls me to see these accusations of discrimination appear on MetaFilter. The accusations have been debunked, shown to come from suspect motives, and they detract from a good new, inclusive edition of D&D. The presence of Zak S. in the credits doesn't detract from or undercut the inclusivity statement, his presence supports it.
posted by paulg at 10:12 AM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


For those of you who do not think Zak S is a problem, read this post and know that the "Rebellious Artist" is Zak S. If you look at the comment by the Rebellious Artist it is the same as Zak S says here on Google Plus. Zak S has a history of hiding and deleting posts, but this seems to be the exception.

He's also compiling a black list of people he wants to push out of the industry and hobby for the crime of linking to the original article.
posted by Vecna at 10:54 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Lorc: "Zak S and TheRPGPundit, on the other hand, are famous for being loud and incendiary bloggers who define themselves by their hate for a large tranche of modern rpg gaming. And they were given equal prominence as people who have made genuine long-term constructive contributions to the hobby."

They got a credit (already a low bar) in the also ran section of the credits. I'm sure their mothers are very proud but no one else cares (normally). Like Drastic one of my group's members is in the 13th Age credits just because we pre-ordered and play tested. It's not like their names are on the cover.

mstokes650: "My real question is why did Wizards of the Coast feel they needed to actually hire folks as consultants? I mean, it's definitely nice that they're willing to toss a few bones to the die-hards they got to consult for them, but I expect that they easily could've gotten the same level of feedback for free."

Do we know these guys got paid with anything more than a credit and a pre-pub copy of the rules?
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 AM on August 10, 2014


Do we know these guys got paid with anything more than a credit and a pre-pub copy of the rules?

From upthread:

Kenneth Hite and Robin D Laws talk about their "additional consultation" on the latest Ask Ken and Robin - they basically received early copies in return for signing an NDA and got to give some late stage feedback that may or may not have gone into the final polish of the released version.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:11 AM on August 10, 2014


I just want to know who was behind Guiding Bolt. ... ranged spell damage has been something outside the cleric scope since forever.

I think 4E busted that archetype up pretty thoroughly with laser clerics.
posted by fleacircus at 11:12 AM on August 10, 2014


Zak S has a history of hiding and deleting posts...
This statement is just not true, and moreover, has been been the case with other conversations owned by others.
posted by Golem XIV at 11:14 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


He's also compiling a black list of people he wants to push out of the industry

Is there some reason to think that's not tongue-in-cheek? It sure reads that way.
posted by cribcage at 11:17 AM on August 10, 2014


Nope, that's Zak's 100% serious response pattern.

On payment: yes. Zak's on record as saying he's gotten paystubs. Pundit also cites himself as a paid consultant who was paid "some seriously fat cash."
posted by Bryant at 11:31 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Welcome to MetaFilter Vecna. There is more to this site than just one thread. I think the article paulg linked to discusses the content of that Go Make Me a Sandwhich article. The article I linked to earlier does as well.

cribcage I'm sure he is serious. I think this is like week four or five for him of people calling him a bigot. It probably gets tired.
posted by chunking express at 11:34 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Fair enough. It just reads so over the top that I took it as an ironic dose-of-your-own-medicine.
posted by cribcage at 11:42 AM on August 10, 2014


I think one way that Zak rubs people wrong is that he is so direct and precise with how he talks online. If he writes something he means precisely that. When I first started following him on G+ I found it jarring. This blog post, also about this blow up, discusses that side of him: "An abrasive hyper-rational obsessively legalistic mind that never ever gets tired and never ever gives up and seems to grow more obsessive and more narrowly legalistic the deeper the stress and rage of the war. A man who thinks the problem with the battle of Verdun is that neither side really gave it their all."

As an aside, False Machine is an amazing blog, but I know the author from G+ so I haven't made a FPP about it. It's the fucking best. RPG writing as fine art or some such thing.
posted by chunking express at 11:55 AM on August 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Ok, so whether these allegations are true or not (the rabbit hole seems so deep I could spend freaking hours chasing things down and checking wayback machine, though evidence does seem against it), why on earth would you hire two of the most controversial people?

Ok, you want OSR people. That fine: What happened to Matthew Finch (Writer of the Quick Primer for Old School Gaming, the OSR handbook), ChicagoWiz (I think he wrote the OSR Manifesto, but heck if I can find that on Google anymore due to all the other OSR Manifestos), or what about the writers of the OSR books: Goblinoid Games (Actually make OSR games that people play, can't find any specific names), Chris Gonnerman (Basic Fantasy RPG), some of the people that made Adventurer Conqueror King, heck, the people who got the entire thing started via OSRIC are still around. Greywolf wrote Microlite20, which went on to be turned into multiple OSR games. What about some of the people at Mythmere Games, who made a ton of OSR games people play?

And um, oh damn, .right, James Maliszewski (Grognardia) is out of the running, having left RPGs, so that won't work. Too bad, as he was the touchbearer for a long time. (And too bad so many people got screwed as he left).

But yeah, they seem odd choices, given that even if they are actually totally innocent a lot of people don't like them, and their are solid, well known, popular people they could have picked?
posted by Canageek at 1:05 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


When you lie down with Desborough...
posted by kmz at 1:11 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


So - regarding the previous dust up with Zak S and the "blacklist" - can someone tell me if I've got this timeline right?

1. Somebody made a blog post arguing that rape or attempted rape is a great plot point for a game.
2. Some people read that as "rape is awesome," and got permission from the mods at rpg.net to organize a boycott of the blogger's publisher.
3. Zak S thought this was crying-wolf nonsense designed to hurt people who didn't deserve it, so he spoke up, which got him banned at rpg.net (or he had already been banned previously?)
4. Zak S angrily compiled a list of people he deemed guilty of supporting the false allegations against the blogger guy, publishing that list on G+ and demanding that the gaming community blacklist them, on the grounds that people who lie or don't do due diligence on claims like this cannot ever be trusted in any way whatsoever.

Can someone more in the know than I am confirm this, since I've had to gather it from several of the linked sites? If the above is correct, then while I hate to be all "everyone is a bit wrong here," I guess that's how I feel. Was that original blog post about "rape and attempted rape is an awesome plot point for a game" actually supporting or trivializing rape? I have no idea, since I haven't read it. Calling for boycotts seems extreme if it isn't (but not if it is.) Making a public list of people to boycott seems petty and vindictive in the extreme. I don't know. I can see why people might see such behavior as toxic.

Of course, this doesn't mean that it's okay to flatly say that Zak S is a bigot. I'd want to see actual evidence for that claim. Maybe there's evidence somewhere in this kerfuffle - I don't know.
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 PM on August 10, 2014


But yeah, they seem odd choices, given that even if they are actually totally innocent a lot of people don't like them, and their are solid, well known, popular people they could have picked?

Judging by what the Pundit's said, and while I don't like or respect him I understand this, the reason he and Zak were made consultants was basically because WotC wanted people who weren't "friendly" to the game's concept to go through and trash anything they thought was bad about it. Both the Pundit and Zak are known for vocal criticism of things that don't meet their own standards.
posted by graymouser at 1:14 PM on August 10, 2014


(Yeah, now it seems like I'm simplifying, or more likely compressing several Desborough incidents.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on August 10, 2014


A bit on how the RPGPundit has conducted himself:

"It’s easy, though, to laugh off this one incident. However, it comes after weeks of having him, on my posts, call a coward anyone who refuses to argue in his proscribed way. Weeks of him asking me to defend arguments I’ve never made because apparently my side (whatever that means) made them. Of him decrying certain behaviors in one part of his post, only to engage in those same behaviors himself.

It’s tiring. It’s toxic. It’s made people afraid to share their concerns and their experiences in public. It’s why the people who are anonymous in the Fail Forward blog don’t want to be named. I’m not asking you to agree with them. I am asking you to understand their point of view."

I have seen both RPGPundit and Zak S engage in a a lot harassment, bit direct and by proxy, of people I care about, and then later delete, or conduct through back-channels or try and keep it in less available G+ circles. Like hell am I going to share anything specific that will get them targets again or open up me to more coordinated attacks.

"btw, by linking to the Failforward article, you're subject to a formal harassment complaint should you ever work for Paizo or WotC."

I know that's just Bryant's summing up of Zak's position, but still: tee-hee.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:16 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have seen both RPGPundit and Zak S engage in a a lot harassment, bit direct and by proxy, of people I care about, and then later delete, or conduct through back-channels or try and keep it in less available G+ circles. Like hell am I going to share anything specific that will get them targets again or open up me to more coordinated attacks.

So: you claim to know about harassment, but you refuse to prove it in any substantive way?

I am not a "fan" of John Tarnowski/RPGPundit. I think he's an awful troll. I do think Zak's done good work but I don't like the way he argues online. I don't particularly want to be defending these people, but I think that the unspecified allegations of harassment and various phobias are things that should be opposed, full stop. I am not willing to believe anything about either of them that is not documented. I am sick of this shit polluting the RPG community and disgusted that it's getting blown into Metafilter as well.
posted by graymouser at 1:30 PM on August 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


A whole bunch of gamers figured out that G+ Hangouts are really great for running RPGs online.

So was Google Wave, and we all know what happened to that. And now that it looks like Google is abandoning their quest to topple Facebook and the big Google+ guy has left, its future is looking more doubtful.

I agree with Bryant. Zak S. is the main reason I basically don't use Google+ anymore (along with the fact that I joined before the establishment of communities and you just had to add a lot of randoms to your circles and I learned way too much about the opinions of members of the "Old School Renaissance").

Hey now, I don't think it's fair to lump them all into that boat. I find myself agreeing with many things about it gameplay-wise (that style of play is, after all, ultimately the foundation of roguelikes). Of course there are problems with some of the content of older books, which those who defend old-school attitudes towards women tend to latch onto. But there's also good stuff there that isn't problematic. It's possible to like the good and hate the bad.

My real question is why did Wizards of the Coast feel they needed to actually hire folks as consultants? I mean, it's definitely nice that they're willing to toss a few bones to the die-hards they got to consult for them, but I expect that they easily could've gotten the same level of feedback for free.

Actually they did. They ran a very inclusive, frequently-updated public beta test for over a year. I don't know what these guys got out of it that the general public didn't, but I suspect it couldn't have been a lot.
posted by JHarris at 1:35 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


For those of you who do not think Zak S is a problem, read this post and know that the "Rebellious Artist" is Zak S. If you look at the comment by the Rebellious Artist it is the same as Zak S says here on Google Plus. Zak S has a history of hiding and deleting posts, but this seems to be the exception.

He's also compiling a black list of people he wants to push out of the industry and hobby for the crime of linking to the original article.


From the FPP:

These are Zak and Pundit as I knew them when the news broke. It’s the image most were already familiar with: angry nerdboys who spent all their time trying to gatekeep the hobby. To me that was reason enough that they should never work in a game as influential as Dungeons and Dragons.

This seems like a list of two people the author wants to push out of the industry.
posted by justkevin at 1:37 PM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


koeselitz, you should check out the link to the Alexandrian I posted above. It talks about that whole Desborough blow up:
The origins of the current witch hunt lie with an earlier one: A couple years ago, Ben Lehman accused James Desborough of threatening to rape people who criticized him. Zak S. called him out and demanded that Lehman provide proof that this had happened. Lehman refused and a line-up of the usual suspects appeared to support him. Another guy, by the name of John Stavropolous, spent 10 months researching the claim and eventually posted his conclusion that Lehman had simply lied. (UPDATE: Mr. Stavropolous clarifies the exact wording of his refutation of Lehman in the comments below.) Zak S. linked to Stavropolous’ research and also copy-pasted the list of people who had publicly supported Lehman’s lie asking them to rescind it. People were outraged that Zak S. had called people out for lying. One notable example was Paul Ettin, an RPGNet moderator, who said that people should both support and spread Lehman’s original lie “for solidarity” and “also, giggles!”
posted by chunking express at 1:40 PM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've been watching this since its inception and so here is a helpful summary.

Referendum on a Narcissist (choose only one)

____ The narcissist wins

____ The narcissist wins
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Hey now, I don't think it's fair to lump them all into that boat. I find myself agreeing with many things about it gameplay-wise (that style of play is, after all, ultimately the foundation of roguelikes). Of course there are problems with some of the content of older books, which those who defend old-school attitudes towards women tend to latch onto. But there's also good stuff there that isn't problematic. It's possible to like the good and hate the bad.

Yeah, just to be clear, a huge part of my reading from around at least 2007 was "OSR" stuff and it influences a lot of how I think about games. It was more that I somehow had managed to ignore (or not see) the stuff that was angry at "feminism" or "political correctness" or whatever entering the games and more of the anger that got non-OSR people ticked off about Matt Finch's Quick Primer for Old School Gaming, which I don't mind. I still like the good.

Admittedly, in regards to the modding of rpg.net that I praised above, I realize that one thing that rpg.net mods pretty heavily is when the tone of the Quick Primer gets used in "edition wars", often with people who seem to vocally like a very different type of D&D in preference to what the OSR preaches seeming to get to keep on posting. I can't speak for mod decisions, especially on topics where I think people can civilly disagree (like their favourite edition of D&D or Book of Common Prayer), but I think the point is to avoid the board burning down in rage and giving people timeouts. For example, there's an at least temporary ban on discussing the topic we're talking about in this thread over at rpg.net at the moment. However, I mostly lurk and most of the "red text" of moderation I see over there seems to keep things in line. I need to participate more and see if my "thoughtful" contributions seem unjustly modded.
posted by Gnatcho at 1:58 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: you're compressing some, yeah. This post has links to primary sources.
posted by Bryant at 2:02 PM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, I want to thank chunking express for one of the best ways to quickly introduce people to old-school D&D: the D&D character generator with keywords for the character's appearance that seem to constantly amuse new players and no item shopping time
posted by Gnatcho at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks! I am working on a 5e version right now, when I have spare time.
posted by chunking express at 2:12 PM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the link, Bryant. That's a lot better than the apparently pretty one-sided Alexandrian article.
posted by koeselitz at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Zak S does hide posts by privately sharing them with select people via Google + instead of making public posts.
posted by Vecna at 2:15 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's how G+ works best: You share stuff with specific circles. Posting everything publicly is noisy for anyone following you.
posted by chunking express at 2:23 PM on August 10, 2014


I don't know, and I don't especially care about the virtues or failings of two people in communities I don't participate in. I do think that demanding a response from WOTC on the blogging habits of big-name fans asked to review/playtest a game is a big stretch.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:39 PM on August 10, 2014


Probably what Wizards of the Coast is planning to do is release a series of "Inclusivity Handbooks", 100 pages each at $30 a pop.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


graymouser: RPG.net is not the solution and it is not like Metafilter. The moderators are unaccountable, arbitrary and heavyhanded there and hostile to any suggestion that they are wrong on anything.

rpg.net moderators are more accountable than any other discussion forum I am on, *including* metafilter. There is a forum that is solely dedicated to (via automation) showing every single moderation warning and ban, with reason and links to posts. There is a second forum where all such decisions can be discussed.

It is the only gaming-related forum I have been where I don't have to deal with a constant background radiation of sexism and dismissal of women's concerns. A lot of people regard not being allowed to perform their usual microaggressions to be 'heavy-handed'. I say, screw them.
posted by tavella at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Probably what Wizards of the Coast is planning to do is release a series of "Inclusivity Handbooks", 100 pages each at $30 a pop.

Ha! You know, my honest reaction to the inclusive language was, the Green Devil Face doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. You stick your head in it and you get annihilated, no questions asked.
posted by graymouser at 4:03 PM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


rpg.net moderators are more accountable than any other discussion forum I am on, *including* metafilter. There is a forum that is solely dedicated to (via automation) showing every single moderation warning and ban, with reason and links to posts. There is a second forum where all such decisions can be discussed.

It is the only gaming-related forum I have been where I don't have to deal with a constant background radiation of sexism and dismissal of women's concerns. A lot of people regard not being allowed to perform their usual microaggressions to be 'heavy-handed'. I say, screw them.


That's not my experience at all. What I've seen in RPG.Net - I was an active member back before the current forum software was implemented - was the rise of a culture, gradually over the last several years, where threads deemed contentious are subject to constant and severe moderator interference. Even asking for clarification is shouted down. It's actively hostile to posters in a way that makes a lot of people not want to be a part of it.

I've been part of other forums that went to hell in similar ways. RPG.Net is not creating a positive, healthy space. It's essentially become one where people not in the in-group aren't contributing.
posted by graymouser at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


chunking express: "koeselitz, you should check out the link to the Alexandrian I posted above. It talks about that whole Desborough blow up..."

Yeah, I had looked at that briefly, but it seemed suspiciously incomplete to me and still sort of does. The main problem, I think, is the framing - that article is immediately dismissive of any case on the side of people who have a problem with these folks and unwilling to countenance any opposing viewpoint. ("The problem? There’s no evidence than any of it is true... Why should we take that seriously? The answer, of course, is that we shouldn’t.") I don't really need someone telling me what to think before they've even presented the facts, and I sure as hell don't need them telling me to brush off a whole contingent of people just because they say so. Also, the Alexandrian article seems to leave out some pretty essential points - for one thing, the fact that Lehman realized he was wrong and apologized promptly, which is kind of an important thing to mention - unless you're out to make the whole thing sound like it was just angry Tumblr activists vs good, even-handed gamer people like Zak S, which appears to be the Alexandrian's goal.

For another thing, the Alexandrian article sort of dances past James Desborough's old article arguing in favor of rape as a plot point in games, which is skeptical that there is such a thing as rape culture and which is actually called, in a turn of phrase which the author himself admits is "link bait" in the very first sentence, "In Defence of Rape." I don't think it's "link bait;" it's open trolling, itching for a response, knowing he isn't actually defending rape but begging people to accuse him of doing so in order to discredit them. That's weird and pretty dumb, honestly, and even though the essay itself doesn't literally condone rape I can see why people might want to boycott the guy.
posted by koeselitz at 4:37 PM on August 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Here's a link to the Infraction Forum, which I think gives a good picture of how moderation works on rpg.net by listing every instance of moderation. It is somewhat difficult to contest one's moderation, but you will notice reversed decisions (the point of making it difficult is that these mods are volunteers, I believe, and that would be an additional workload). I really applaud the heavy-handed moderation when it comes to the policies regarding "sexism-related discussion" (linked by Sebmojo above) and when I come across threads from before those policies, the difference really is stark. So many of the derailments and insults that might get tolerated elsewhere now get stopped as they happen.

However, regarding graymouser's comments, in the context of the "Old School Renaissance" and even its good side, the D&D/Fantasy D20 subforum, which ended up being put in its own section, has an additional mandate to prevent "edition wars" by basically any moderator means necessary. So a lot of things that people outside of the D&D subculture wouldn't even recognize as "edition warring" gets redflagged very quickly. I don't know if they should loosen up or not, but right now the mods are claiming a period of "heavy moderation" with the release of a new edition. That was part of the justification of temporarily banning discussion of the consultants after a huge thread about the topic, so that as 5th Edition comes out, people can talk about anything else about the game.
posted by Gnatcho at 4:43 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've followed this whole thing for a while, and ultimately I'd agree with those who say that as abrasive as the two consultants under discussion can be, the substance of the accusations against them pretty much seems to be vapor. I don't have much to add on that front, but I've lurked at RPG.net for a while (if less so these days), where a lot of this had its genesis, and I think I have some idea of what sort of things led to this.

On the topic of RPG.net and their moderation- the anti-sexism policy looks good on paper, but I was thoroughly put off by their moderation when there was a very credible accusation of rape against one poster who was popular and very vocally pro-feminist (all this came out when that poster was Kickstarting a "feminist" RPG, the hypocrisy of which disgusted the victim enough that they come forward) and the moderators responded to this by forbidding it as a topic of discussion, deleting any posts that mentioned it, and allowing the accused to change their handle and go right on posting. Considering that they are not in the least inhibited about handing out bans there, and will ban people for simply not being a good fit for the boards, I thought their response was utterly appalling and also said a great deal about the reality of their anti-sexism policies- essentially, that it was and is really more about image and who's part of the in-group than the actual principles they're ostensibly trying to uphold. (I think this particular dynamic is a major problem afflicting social justice-oriented spaces online in general, to be honest.) I am absolutely certain that they would have banned a less popular/less verbally feminist poster similarly accused. I don't think it's that they're consciously insincere, but (in some ways worse) I think they've basically made an in-group = feminist association which means that people who talk the right way and hold the right opinions (many of which have don't actually have anything to do with issues of sexism or feminism, but more on that later), are seen as good feminists by definition (even if they're credibly accused of rape), while those who've run afoul of the in-group are very likely to end up banned, with some justification often being found in the anti-sexism policy to do so- this is pretty much what Zak S. ran into, from what I saw of the arguments he got into and his ultimate banning.

Also, this is admittedly much more subjective, but from what I've seen there is a strong bias towards 4E there and (from what I gather) at SA, and though the moderation officially forbids edition warring, one has far more leeway in that regard if one is championing 4E and bashing other editions than the other way around. The above-mentioned Ettin is, from all I've seen, both very much a 4E partisan and one who has no qualms at all about shit-stirring in service of that, and often using both his powers as a moderator and social justice-y rhetoric to do so. (And again, I think that rhetoric is more about image than actual principles- not sure where I saw it now, but I think one of the posts by Zak or defending him mentions some flagrant sexism directed at Zak's girlfriend by the SA goons he argued with at one point.)

To sum up, I think some of the players involved in pushing this controversy were, in reality, primarily motivated by edition warring (specifically, 4E partisans wanting to see 5E fail) as well as personal grudges (Zak and Ettin had a few bitter arguments long before this all happened) and petty in-group/out-group stuff, with accusations of sexism being used as the angle of attack because that's a lot more likely to get people on your side than personal grudges, cliquishness, and 4E partisanship are. And I think the abuse of a good cause in this way is completely disgusting.
posted by a louis wain cat at 4:51 PM on August 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


On the topic of RPG.net and their moderation- the anti-sexism policy looks good on paper, but I was thoroughly put off by their moderation when there was a very credible accusation of rape against one poster who was popular and very vocally pro-feminist (all this came out when that poster was Kickstarting a "feminist" RPG, the hypocrisy of which disgusted the victim enough that they come forward) and the moderators responded to this by forbidding it as a topic of discussion, deleting any posts that mentioned it, and allowing the accused to change their handle and go right on posting.

I hadn't heard about this (really horrible and disappointing), but here is the relevant accusation (with the warning that it is the accusation). The woman accused in that post does continue to post at rpg.net to this day. My partner, who was active on livejournal at the time, knew exactly who I was talking about when I described the general outline of the situation, and said that the accused woman was ostracized from the livejournal communities she participated in as a result of those accusations.
posted by Gnatcho at 5:23 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not a gamer (anymore, it's been decades) so I know nothing of the history behind this. But in this thread, I am susprised by how people are just willing to defend the Just and Right Zak. S. He may be an asshole, but he's our asshole. He maybe a rules lawyer, but he's our rules lawyer. It reeks of sycophancy. I may be wrong; I would cautiously say that I probably am. However, the point in my favor is that I've been through my share of Internet Dramas and there are definitely the sort of toxic persons who are abusive and yet appeal to Reason. They cover their tracks well, and never say anything that is directly bad, but instead bully and harass those that disagree. Long-winded commentary that no single point can be taken as record of their bad behavior. Instead, it's interwoven in everything they say and in their relentless attacks on those they see as Wrong. Because they are always Right.

I'm not sure if that's enough to call in the pitchfork brigade. Then again, the type I have described tend to be more poisonous than 100 overt bigots.

So that's my non-invested, random stranger read of the situation.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:48 PM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


But in this thread, I am susprised by how people are just willing to defend the Just and Right Zak. S.

Because it's a deliberately cooked up witchhunt. And in a witchhunt you sometimes have to defend people who you don't necessarily like. They may not be great people, they may even have personal qualities you object to. But you can't just stand aside while it's going on.
posted by graymouser at 6:00 PM on August 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


koeselitz, yep, the other link is better, but the Alexandrian one was the only one I was aware of before that summed up the whole story neatly and wasn't a sea of links to random forum threads.
posted by chunking express at 6:01 PM on August 10, 2014


It reeks of sycophancy. I may be wrong; I would cautiously say that I probably am.

You're probably wrong, but you just want to make sure everyone knows you think these people are worse than the accusations levelled against them ("the type I have described tend to be more poisonous than 100 overt bigots") and if you don't agree you're a sycophant? The mild version of what I want to say is that this is an extremely unproductive comment.

I will say that this whole thing has definitively proven to me just how easily and effectively the smearing of people can be if you just attach a few key terms to them. It doesn't matter what they or their friends say in defense of themselves - they're going to be labelled bigots and worse, and nothing they can say, no lack of evidence or even any sort of proof matters, because. Just? Because. And if you don't agree, why, you're just as bad as they are.

But then, the classic 'when you do it it's hateful, when I do it I'm being right' is a classic aspect of these fights, with everything wrong your side does being innocent mistakes, but the other side is always malicious and secretly plotting. Funny how that works out.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:24 PM on August 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


insert clever name here, I am defending the guy because—like I said above—I know him and don't think he is sexist/homophobic/etc. Accusations like that should be a big deal, not something you trot out to stick it to someone on the Internet. This linked article is gossip and hearsay. It's a straight up hatchet job. It doesn't belong on MetaFilter. We are just helping smear some guys name.
posted by chunking express at 6:26 PM on August 10, 2014


I will say that this whole thing has definitively proven to me just how easily and effectively the smearing of people can be if you just attach a few key terms to them. It doesn't matter what they or their friends say in defense of themselves - they're going to be labelled bigots and worse, and nothing they can say, no lack of evidence or even any sort of proof matters, because. Just? Because. And if you don't agree, why, you're just as bad as they are.

Wait, effective? Are Zak or Pundit losing work because of this? Did WotC decide to pull the credits?
posted by Bryant at 6:31 PM on August 10, 2014


I'm of two minds here. I went on a real OSR kick in the latter months of last year, and Zak's blog was one of the ones I enjoyed. Certainly wasn't one of my favorites, but I read it. He has some creative ideas. He seems to have a lot of support from the sort of people he is supposedly persecuting. And I have a hard time believing the worst of anyone who has the support of Molly Crabapple, who is one of the best people.

On the other hand, I'm very uncomfortable with Zak's associations with the guy who writes and publishes Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I would have sworn that Lamentations of the Flame Princess has been on the blue before, but I can't find it anywhere. It is an old school D&D clone game, and accompanying game publisher, that seems determined to champion all the worst things about old D&D, with sexist, misogynist artwork and content, the primary example of which is the seeming obsession with killing a woman who is presumably the titular Flame Princess in a weird, gruesome way in the artwork for nearly every one of their publications.

They also seem to champion most of the worst attitudes toward running games. I would be surprised if anyone has ever had a Flame Princess module run for them and afterward said, "That was an experience I enjoyed and would like to have again." I'm half convinced that the LotFP fandom is made entirely up of game masters who have driven off all their players. Nearly everything they publish seems to be based around tormenting and fucking over the player characters, or going for the worst sort of early nineties shock-schlock sort of tone. One of their modules is called "Fuck for Satan." Here's some commentary, not really a full review.

As far as I can tell, the only things that the LotFP company publishes that aren't terrible are by Zak. So... like I said. I'm of two minds.

This Pundit guy, I have no idea who he is. If he genuinely calls other human being swine, I don't have much use for him, but it's not going to affect whether I decide to pick up 5th Edition. I also don't have much use for anyone who self describes as a pundit, but I'm not sure that's super relevant.
posted by Caduceus at 6:33 PM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's a straight up hatchet job. It doesn't belong on MetaFilter.

That's at least the second time someone has said this shouldn't be on MetaFilter, and not to get inappropriately MeTa but I'm wondering how many people flagged it. I did when it appeared last night, but I suspected few people would.
posted by cribcage at 6:35 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's no real question that Pundit and Zak are both stubborn abrasive dicks. But that's not really what they're being accused of (I don't think? It's sort of hard to tell exactly what they're being meaningfully accused of).
posted by Sebmojo at 6:38 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, effective? Are Zak or Pundit losing work because of this? Did WotC decide to pull the credits?

Not that I know of, but people who know nothing about the circumstances or people involved are happy to believe it, and even propagate the idea that it's true, simply because the accusations have been made.

And now, there will always be people who respond to anything they do with 'why do you want to deal with that bigot? He's transphobic, amongst other things'. They are now directly described as being bigots with not a shred of evidence, in fact with some supporting evidence to suggest they're not - but the accusation is made, so there we have it. Dark suggestions of them guiding feverish hordes of internet commenters to silence and attack any LGBT or trans or disabled or (insert group here) they disagree with, but they can't just have a disagreement, no, it must be because they're bigoted against these groups.

Any link to actual written material doesn't show what they are being accused of. The WotC guy who asked for evidence to be confidentially emailed to him later declared that there wasn't any proof such statements were made. All of it is a whipped-up frenzy, which could be true and so is considered true, even though it technically is based on nothing factual whatsoever.

That's effective.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:46 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, effective? Are Zak or Pundit losing work because of this? Did WotC decide to pull the credits?

Zak Smith is an artist. (He did the painting per page of gravity rainbow thing that was linked here a while ago.) I don't think he RPG stuff is paying his rent. That doesn't mean this isn't an effective smear, no? We are talking about his they might be bigots right now. This story is a month old but keeps getting play. Isn't that how you smear someone's name?
posted by chunking express at 6:46 PM on August 10, 2014


Moving the goalposts seems to be part of the fun. It goes from a false accusation that a twit made rape threats to a false accusation that Zak et.al. harassed trans*folk when calling out a list of people who slandered said twit to a false statement that the game designer who solicited testimony from the allegedly harassed trans*folk then mishandled the private testimonies, and this was terribly menacing for the allegedly harassed trans*folk.

I imagine this is a lot of fun for Zak to deal with while taking care of a partner who's in and out of hospital.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:53 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


If the bar is "someone somewhere might wind up believing it," then yes, it's really easy to effectively smear people.
posted by Bryant at 6:54 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Caduceus: James Raggi (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) publishes what is basically D&D as a horror game. The art shows nasty horrible things because that's what the game is about. It's really gruesome, but it happens to women primarily because they're the default protagonists in any given art piece that is commissioned, and the illustrations of them tend to be as non-exploitative as possible given the content. A central theme is that monsters and violence are horrifying things, and the art reflects this.

(He also happens to put out top-notch products in terms of editing, layout and illustration. They're just very much NSFW because they depict gruesome horrible ultraviolence.)
posted by graymouser at 7:00 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I encountered this thread on Metafilter I believed the smear until I skimmed down to Drastic's writeup. Part of the fun is that it's not a single concrete accusation, but something that keeps mutating and propagating.

I imagine many of the accusers in the witch hunt may have social media trolls harassing them using Zak et. al.'s rebuttals as fuel and justification for saying hateful things in the accusers' forum threads and stuff, and the trolls' misbehavior is used as more evidence of Zak et. al.'s malfaesance.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:02 PM on August 10, 2014


If the bar is "someone somewhere might wind up believing it," then yes, it's really easy to effectively smear people.

Or 'people in their hobby, something they also do professionally and also clearly love enough to make a featured part of their lives, will declare them hateful bigots without any evidence, just accusations, and this includes trying to get them removed from work they've already done and indicate that any future work or contributions they make will be similarly slandered and boycotted. Not to mention in totally unrelated contexts they will be associated with being bigots by people who have little context otherwise, such as in this very thread, which isn't a great thing.'

But your dismissive reading is good too.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:10 PM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


graymouser: Caduceus: James Raggi (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) publishes what is basically D&D as a horror game. The art shows nasty horrible things because that's what the game is about. It's really gruesome, but it happens to women primarily because they're the default protagonists in any given art piece that is commissioned, and the illustrations of them tend to be as non-exploitative as possible given the content. A central theme is that monsters and violence are horrifying things, and the art reflects this.

Yeah, I know. I picked up Better Than Any Man when it was available at Free RPG Day a few years back, and I have a few other of their releases as well, including more than one edition of the base game. While it's a problem that a good GM could compensate for, as written, the design of their modules suffers pretty severely from "bad thing happens to players without any chance they could have figured out it was coming" syndrome. In my opinion. My desire to actively dig through the ones I own to find examples is not super high, so your mileage may vary.

As for the artwork, I'm having a hard time finding the examples I remember seeing the last time I investigated this at all. There aren't as many publicly available images of her being brutally murdered as I thought I'd seen in the past, and I can't find any of the posts about them that helped inform my opinion. So I'm going to need to revisit that opinion and retract my statements, I guess. I really thought I remembered seeing a lot more female deaths in the artwork, but I seem to have had a selective memory. I remembered LotFP being on the blue, too, and that doesn't seem to be the case.

My apologies to Mr. Raggi. Many of his modules, as written, still don't allow for player agency in avoiding gruesome fates, and I don't think that's super great game design. And this is kind of a derail, so I apologize for that, too.
posted by Caduceus at 8:23 PM on August 10, 2014


But in this thread, I am susprised by how people are just willing to defend the Just and Right Zak. S. He may be an asshole, but he's our asshole. He maybe a rules lawyer, but he's our rules lawyer. It reeks of sycophancy.

I'd never heard of Zak S. before this thread.

Also, being an overrational Internet prick on myriad occasions does not aggregate to [your favorite social justice bugbear]. That's the entire criticism in a nutshell. If you or anyone has any actual evidence to the contrary, please share it.

Violence and hatred against women, gay persons, transgendered persons, etc., is a real and serious enough issue to ask that people not use them to pitchfork people they simply do not like because. That's not concern trolling, that's basic decency.
posted by echocollate at 7:09 AM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I explained my thoughts on the matter poorly, and for that I apologize. I'll try to articulate better.

I have been involved with or witnessed many types of drama regarding internet social groups (they also happen in real life, but the internet is the special sauce that makes these events that much worse).

They seem to follow a pattern with a person or persons who are charismatic and at the same time divisive. I'll call them c/d person for clarity, and in an attempt to keep from sounding too biased. If you do not agree with the c/d, they have a scorched earth policy and will use any means necessary to silence the opposition. They act as if it is some sort of virtue, but the only way the person with the opposing view point might have a chance of making their point is if they can dedicate countless hours to debating not only the person in question, but that person's legion of followers. Eventually the person or persons who oppose the c/d give up, retreat to another area or find some way of continuing their existence without ever interacting with c/d.

This c/d person is usually intelligent, and eloquent. They often attract a number of loyal fans. Those fans are often used as a way to dispatch the opposition and to make inflammatory points the c/d won't, or to take action on behalf of the c/d. Non are explicitly asked for, but they are praised for taking those steps. Except when they officially cross the line, in which case c/d both defends them and denounces them in a non-permanent way "he shouldn't have taken it that far but did it for the right reasons."

C/d is a master at not saying what they're saying. The gist of their long winded response will have elements of what they are accused of, but no single point will be enough to pin on the c/d. As I said, they are intelligent; and because of that, they have a vast array of tools for hiding their bad behavior. If something more overt does slip out, they are masters of covering. This can be hiding the offending information or befriending someone to keep them quiet. It can and does escalate to threats.

Usually, the c/d's followers feel the need to defend them, as if they're not capable of fighting their own fights (even though that is what they're known for). There is always an excuse that the c/d's followers give as to why they can both be gigantic assholes who write was of text about the slightest slight AND unable to deal with criticism themselves.

I do not know enough about this particular situation to say that my assessment is correct. However, it fits into a pattern I clearly recognize, making me think that Zak S. is the problem and that the complaints leveled against him are probably accurate, even if difficult to pin down.

I am sharing this not to enable a witch hunt, but to perhaps suggest to those of you who side with Zak S. to reevaluate your position precisely because I have no interest in either party, and this is how it appeared to me. If an earnest reevaluation still comes back squeaky clean, then I am wrong and the pattern I saw doesn't really apply here. However, a number of people do seen convinced that they can't possibly be wrong, which is always a worrying position to be in.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:25 AM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm having a hard time comprehending what's going on here. GM's and players aren't necessarily part of a democracy in the running of games nor are they bound by mystical powers to use the rules as written. There are rules that should not be used, rules that don't allow for the GM's narrative (or the players adventure-sequence, however the campaign is set up) to progress, rules that need fixing as they don't work as intended (or as the GM intended which is the same goddamn thing). Take shears to the book to remove elements you think are wrong, its your book and your game and your story as a GM. If a player (particularly in an online scenario) gives you grief for it? Then do something along the admonish-them to burn-them-from-the-group spectrum of responses. Because fuck'em, its your game and your time and they can go piss up a rope if their desires for their character's nonsense wombo-combo clash with your and the group's story. Doubly so if its not a rules issue but more a politics-of-any-stripe issue. The Glorious Dwarven Kakistocracy of NoFuckston is a paradise for people of any orientation because I as the GM (whom you may think of as kakistocrat supreme) said so.

If you are a player and the GM is bad in a 'failing your basic standards of decency' manner you need to turn-and-burn until you find a good GM and group. Especially online. And even more so when it comes to rules discussions with random people online. If the person arguing with you is doing so because the RAW is a sacred text, alternate interpretations of the RAW interfere with his or her character 'winning', or that somehow such-and-such a thing can't exist in a goddamn fantasy because reasons... fuck 'em. There isn't a person on EARTH who is invested with the powers to be the grand arbiter of fantasy land and fuck everyone (and my seven year past self) who thinks that they are. If the rules clash with the thing people enjoy continuing to be enjoyable, the rules get thrown under a bus before being launched into the sun. They're almost all fantasy games with a more or less fleshed out skeleton of rules attached that make it such that we don't all go around the table saying "your shot!" "No your shot, I shot first!" "No, your all shot because I now have a machine gun and shot firstest!".

Though maybe you aren't in the game to specifically have fun and bond with a real social group in a fantasy setting through a digital connection, in which case the above isn't relevant to your case. Also, maybe groups of people traditionally sidelined by society have trouble with the turn and burn technique for finding groups, I wouldn't know. Perhaps the G+ business is particularly helpful now with that.

That got a little ranty.

And on preview: the above would apply doubly so to a c/d person. In the giant mass of people forming, disbanding, and reforming groups there will be one that you find without a c/d personality. Or at least without one that you clash with.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:34 AM on August 11, 2014


I'm still surprised that we got so much brouhaha over some credits and people with slight internet fame. And while I'm somewhat active in the online RPG world, I barely touch either the story gaming stuff (not my bag) nor the OSR scene (too much nostalgia and bad taste). And apart from some "let's not mention the war" tidbits, this really has passed me by. I read the essay and some linked references (and counterpoints), but still don't quite get what this is all about.

Okay, if you're in the immediate vicinity of Robin Laws and Ken Hite, that seems to suggest a modicum of respect, which one might argue about. Probably enough to create some really long threads in the respective fora. But the source of launching a thousand livejournal/tumblr posts? Wow. At times it seems like we're almost approaching Ender's Game territory here…
posted by pseudocode at 9:28 AM on August 11, 2014


Kenneth Hite and Robin Laws do the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast, which is pretty great for tabletop gamers, plus fans of eclectic movies, alternate history, occult silliness, etc. (It's very much "stuff" as opposed to just games stuff.)

I started listening to it early on of course, because I'd dug their output in general prior to that, but I think the moment that really cemented me as a fan was some point where the episode's stuff wandered into something political in some spy-tradecrafty way, and Ken mentioned that he and Robin have vastly different political views (they certainly do) and yet were able to discuss them calmly and affably "because we're grownups" and you could just hear the amused-but-baffled in his voice that that trait was so rare.

Quite a lot of the heat and the background to the whole situation keeps reminding me of that.
posted by Drastic at 9:41 AM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh and as proof of Zak deleting posts, he wrote a blog called The Dongion to attack his critics, but it is now deleted.

For those of you who want more proof of Zak S's misdoings, this post explains them in more detail as well as takes down Seeb's defense of him.

So, in summary. The two people linked as evidence against Zak’s transphobic actions have themselves exhibited transphobic behavior. Zak has publicly denied the transness of an individual, harassed people, and called for others to harass people in what he himself referred to as a “witch hunt”. Among other things; these are just some examples of his behavior.

Does this qualify as enough research for you?


In other Zak S news, he is currently demanding that his critics answer certain questions about him. If they answer the questions to *his* sanctification, he will donate $10 to charity per question answered. Of course, the questions are along the lines of "Did you beat your wife?" i.e. So: do you care about not admitting you're wrong or do you care about the marginalized people in the community?

Several critics have apparently taken him up on his offer and answered on G+ but Zak has apparently not accepted their answers. The post is not public, so we can't see the debate. Here's a screenshot and a follow up.
posted by Vecna at 9:56 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the Metafilter community, even its RPG element, largely don't care whether we should be cross with a bunch of people we have never heard of. We want to know if we should be concerned with WotC for endorsing or employing them. These things require different standards of evidence, of different misdeeds. I can see that these guys appear to be dicks. I don't care that they're dicks. I don't care about your community, I care about RPGs.

I therefore do care whether these people are active bigots, but no amount of links to people who clearly hate them will help me see that. I don't know who these people are, I don't know their agendas. What I need, in order to have evidence that I should care, is a link to some sort of direct evidence. A screencap of something overtly hateful, the firsthand testimony of someone who has been harassed. Or at least, at the very least, a clear, apparently impartial, account of what is actually supposed to have happened.

Because these people actually might be harmful to credit, I might actually have a reason to be angry with WotC, but the invested people here are so caught up with being angry with people in their own social circles, that they seem to have lost track of why people outside of those circles might care about that anger.

This isn't to dismiss the accusations, it's to try to clarify what actually needs to be said to substantiate them to, and make them relevant to, an outsider.
posted by howfar at 10:23 AM on August 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Here's direct proof taken from here

One of Zak's closest acquaintances, Mandy Morbid, outed one of Zak's favorite targets as transgender in a blog post in June by posting her prior and current names in conjunction. Though the individual had referenced thinking about her gender identity in the past, I'm not aware of any statements she made confirming transgender status, and I seriously doubt she wanted her names linked, as very few transgender people do.

The transgender game designer in question had initially got into a confrontation with Zak over Zak's "ironic" use of an anti-trans/anti-intersex slur on another website. While I'm willing to believe Zak meant it ironically, it was in poor taste at best.

Zak has repeatedly and publically attacked this individual, resulting in some others doing the same.

Zak has denied her transgender status here, which is unacceptable. Link

This individual alleges offline harassment related to transgender status after said attacks.

A rather spiteful "parody" blog (now removed) called The Dongion had repeatedly attacked this individual with slurs that would be particularly offensive if applied to a trans person.

The Dongion regularly attacked people that Zak had attacked.

The Dongion writer uses a pseudonym, but incorrectly spelled the transgender individual's name a particular way. Using a Google search, the only other individuals to ever spell the name that way are Zak S and Mandy Morbid.


Bonus: Zak being classy, as ever.

Even if you dislike or do not trust Zak's many accusers, this shows he is not an innocent victim who is being unjustly persecuted. At *best*, he is a troll and instigator who enjoys provoking other people. At worst, he is a bully who harasses and stalks people and encourages his fans to do the same. He is not someone who should be associated with the flagship tabletop RPG.
posted by Vecna at 10:49 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I haven't been following this, because I gave up on WotC when they forked the kernel in the jump to 4e. Thankfully, Paizo—who took over Dungeon and Dragon magazines until WotC yanked the licenses back—was there to carry the ball with their "3.75e": Pathfinder RPG. I grabbed the new free 5e Basic from WotC's website, but didn't see anything in it worth jumping back to them.

> The text from D&D 5e in question:
> You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender....


This is nice to finally see, especially coming from WotC, but they're a more than bit late to the party. Paizo has been quietly including LGBT characters and story hooks across their product lines since the gay paladin and his hubbie in their first Adventure Path volume, Burnt Offerings, in 2007. A couple weeks ago, their Editor-in-Chief, Wes Schneider, compiled a list for the curious.

They also create Iconics—adventuring characters with backstories to represent their various game classes—that constantly reappear throughout their products. Last year, the Iconic rogue (Merisiel) and cleric (Kyra) were matter-of-factly revealed as bi and lesbian, respectively, in one of the recent comic issues. Last week, they just debuted a new Iconic, Shardra... a dwarven transwoman shaman (even written by an openly transwoman developer). Paizo also has several LGBT employees and freelancers.

(And Wes and the Paizo staff are pretty awesome in general.)
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Zak has denied her transgender status here, which is unacceptable. Link

Uh, as far as I can tell there, he seems to be responding to someone who is not the trans woman in question, so I can't in good faith read that "actual" as referring to the third party instead of the person he was actually talking to without substantial context that backs up this interpretation. So now we're past "I don't care enough about this for it to color my opinion of WotC" into "I don't actually trust that you're arguing in good faith anymore". And I am a LGBT person who spends a lot of time on the social justice side of Tumblr, if this isn't even living up to my standards of at least getting cranky about it's really thin.

Seriously, if you don't like this guy, stop paying attention to him.
posted by Sequence at 11:09 AM on August 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


He is not someone who should be associated with the flagship tabletop RPG.

The reason I am so adamantly against this witchhunt is that this is precisely what is unproven. The one tweet that Zak actually made (as opposed to a blog called the Dongion that you're alleging he was behind) was about the attempts made to remove the voice of his bisexual girlfriend from the debate, not about the trans status of anyone else. That's literally the best you've got, here.

We are not debating whether or not individual people should like Zak S. I don't care whether or not you like or respect him. But the hue and cry about his name and the Pundit's being on 5e D&D are totally out of line, based on innuendo and suggestion by people who do not like them. Well you know what? I don't like the Pundit either. But I'm not campaigning to get his name cut out of 5e. And I think it's inappropriate, and indecent, to do so.
posted by graymouser at 11:24 AM on August 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Did you read any of the earlier articles I posted? Let me repost an article in which a person describes how Zak S harassed her. I posted proof that "Rebellious Artist" is Zak S. Why is this direct account not good enough?

There are of course, other articles linked by other people in this thread that describe the same pattern. So, you have to conclude that all of these people have had the same experience or they're all lying, as part of some conspiracy to discredit Zak S.

Aside from Occam's Razor, you have this post that describes the difficulty in finding a smoking gun that will satisfy everyone.

Calling out harassment is not harassment in of itself.

I notice none of you have commented on how Zak antagonizes others by insulting them, which I have shown with screenshots. Again, even being charitable to him, he is not an innocent victim when he engages in behavior like that.
posted by Vecna at 12:54 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just my personal perspective: I had a big old falling out with some of the people on my research projects. We still share co-author credit on those projects, because credit isn't a referendum on whether a person is a nice guy or not, it's acknowledging who did the work.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:58 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even if you dislike or do not trust Zak's many accusers, this shows he is not an innocent victim who is being unjustly persecuted. At *best*, he is a troll and instigator who enjoys provoking other people. At worst, he is a bully who harasses and stalks people and encourages his fans to do the same. He is not someone who should be associated with the flagship tabletop RPG.

vecna, you joined this community specifically in order to ill-speak a sex worker who's reached a position of prominence in the gaming community specifically because of his work on a blog dedicated to humanizing sex workers.

(A perspective I got from an essay Marginalized people don’t exist for you to weaponize.)

Your primary smoking gun is an essay by someone who's deeply uncomfortable at being mentioned on a list of folk who falsely accused a twit of making rape threats.

Yeah. Um.

Thinking a bit about Zak's partner's point that his critics consistently ignore the voice of LGBT folk about all this, I think it is really quite unfortunate that people are very passionately using the tools and rhetoric of the social justice movement to attack an LGBT ally.

Rather than working to make the world a better place.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:35 PM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I notice none of you have commented on how Zak antagonizes others by insulting them

That's because it's a qualitatively different discussion. Due respect, you're fortunate no one has picked up that tack and you aren't doing yourself any favors by raising dust about it. If someone is doing hateful and harmful things, then talk about that. Put the evidence on the table and grown-ups will address it. (As they have.) That discussion is qualitatively different from whether a person is being a boor or a boob or a dingus or whatever else. It is a major flag when someone conflates the two, because it indicates that person doesn't understand the difference and is therefore not a reliable source. Maybe Zak Smith isn't classy, but I'd suggest his critics set that concern aside if they have a more substantive complaint they want taken seriously.
posted by cribcage at 1:46 PM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Vecna,

I don't think anyone here thinks Zak S is a fragile flower, receiving abuse out of nowhere.

But to people coming from outside, even from very liberal places, it doesn't look like he's the clearly at fault here either. And it seems like the very worst crimes he's even accused of are violating a subset of social justice warrior norms.

He's a guy with strong opinions who can be kind of an asshole online. That describes lots of people online, including, it seems to me, many of the people going after him in this particular case.

This doesn't even ping my outrage meter, much less my torches and pitchforks meter. Indeed the seemingly disproportionate campaign to get him fired makes me more sympathetic to him than I would otherwise be, although as I said, he seems like he's at least a bit of a jerk.
posted by pseudonick at 1:48 PM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Venca, I have now read a few things including the retread of the rebellious artist incident. And I thought it funny. When I wrote my two earlier comments, especially the second, I hemmed and hawed over including an additional thought I had, that the behavior is described was most frequently unleashed upon women by men. But I thought that would muddy the waters too much.

For any still reading this, I wrote the first two comments only reading mefi comments and the tone I got from them. I was gob-smacked with how on the noise I felt my analysis fell once I read the linked articles because I wouldn't have described it any differently, other than adding the gender observation.

I think I get it, and I hope I explain it right. In short, Zak S. appears to be using his privilege to decide how that part of the internet/RPGs community acts, behaves and thinks. Whether this is from his maleness or just from being louder than everyone isn't clear, but it seems to be a bit of both. Of course people are frustrated; he's decided he's the arbiter of what the "right" kind of feminism and lgbt activism is, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. He has a legion of followers on his side, so he can't be wrong!

But that's not healthy. Even in places where people generally agree, disagreement needs to flourish to continue growing new ideas. And in this situation, that can't happen except for the few places he's been blocked. However, those sites are then marginalized and boycotted.

That's my read. I suspect the charges of specific harassment and discrimination will never be pinned down because in truth, he probably isn't a bigot in the way most people use the term. From what I can see, he uses peoples vulnerabilities, which amount to bigoted actions. But only towards those he harasses.

There is plenty of evidence, but it's like many thing where you really have to dig and understand the issue in context, so most casual readers won't care. Most non-casual readers already fall into a camp and their mind won't be changed.

For those of you suggesting the people who suggest those that don't like Zak S. to go elsewhere; that's really not understanding the problem. From what I can tell, he's a fairly prominent figure. He invades any part of that social group he can. So someone who disagrees can't respectfully disagree. They must agree with him, keep their moth shut, or voluntarily cut of access to a large part of the social part of their area of interest.

This is an interesting discussion in itself. I've mentioned I've seen this many times. But what do you do if you're on the "losing side"? Cede your interests and social group? I'm sure the reason I've seen it before is because in the Wild West of the internet, there isn't any rules to stop the person with the loudest voice from squashing discussion if they have the right social skills.

(I haven't mentioned the pundit because he's unquestionably terrible.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:18 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, Vecna, what I "have to conclude" is that someone has been a jerk on the internet, which has happened before and since, including people who have been credited on many creative works. There doesn't need to be a smoking gun to satisfy me that he's a jerk. I don't even need to agree with you that he's a jerk. Maybe I think he's wonderful, maybe I think he's an asshole, the burden of proof here isn't just that he did a thing, it's why that thing is relevant. The reason nobody's content with what's been produced so far is that for it to be relevant, it would have to be a really massive breach of ordinary social norms, and WotC would have to have been aware of said massive breach of ordinary social norms when they decided to ask him what he thought about some game mechanics. We're not talking "he made comments that could be construed as problematic", because millions of people who are perfectly supportive of diversity still make problematic comments and if those people couldn't get jobs unemployment would be massive. We're not talking about him being a jerk, because it's not relevant to what he was doing. The original allegations implied that there was something that was going to be, like, Mel Gibson or Paula Deen kind of bad. Nothing since then has actually backed this up.

And there are people in this hobby who are really that bad. I remember playing on a non-D&D game online at one point where an OOC argument broke out and one side immediately started slinging extremely gendered insults at the one woman involved. Like, "whore" wasn't even the worst of it, detailed allegations about her sexual proclivities as though they were relevant to her making fair calls about houserules. Another time, someone who I perceived as being ordinarily reasonable said they didn't like having a certain female player around because she was a "fat bitch". Yeeah, nobody ever said anything like that about the guys. Homophobia was rampant, I can't even imagine how that community would have handled a trans person. The kind of consulting that happened here, I don't even think the involvement of one of those assholes would have stopped me from buying 5E, but I might have at least written a strongly-worded letter to WotC. This... is not that. And it seems to diminish the experiences that many of us have really had with people like that to say that this is just as bad for women/LGBT people in the hobby as a whole.
posted by Sequence at 2:20 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


[insert clever name here], he might be prominent, but the online RPG community is clearly not that monolithic, because I play and I'd never heard of him. I mean, I play 5E and happily, that's clearly not really his bag, but there are tons of places to go to talk about D&D on the internet. A friend of mine (our usual DM, before I took over) is way more into the mechanical discussions and he only peripherally had any idea who this was. He's a big enough deal for the R&D people at WotC to value his opinion, which is certainly something, but it's not such a something that you can't have a serious gaming discussion with smart people on the internet without running into him.
posted by Sequence at 2:46 PM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ditto Sequence. These guys are not even remotely as powerful or ubiquitous as you apparently imagine them to be. Before this foofaraw, I had only been dimly aware of Zak, and I'd never heard of Pundit.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:10 PM on August 11, 2014


In short, Zak S. appears to be using his privilege to decide how that part of the internet/RPGs community acts, behaves and thinks.

Yeah, no, that's just wrong.

Zak gets a certain amount of respect, on account of a book he wrote that is generally considered to be of high quality, a video series he's done, and a blog he writes. None of the people in the same communities as Zak act, behave or think like we do because of Zak, for any reason whatsoever. He isn't a gatekeeper for anything. There's no community that you'd get kicked out of for not being on Zak's good side, including the Lamentations of the Flame Princess community which is run by James Raggi, who publishes some of Zak's stuff.

I don't think you understand Google +. I literally have the Pundit blocked on G+. We sometimes post to the same communities, even comment on the same posts. But all I see are reactions to him. I don't deal with him at all. Proper G+ management can literally make someone disappear if you don't want to have anything to do with them.

Frankly, Zak probably got asked to be a 5e consultant for just the things that people are deriding him for: he is unapologetic about his opinion and will let you know exactly what he thinks is good or bad about something. That's not always a pleasant thing; most people tend to sugarcoat things at least a touch, but Zak is not a sugarcoater.

And to be honest, what you said is fucking insulting. I know a lot of the people you're accusing of being controlled by Zak, in addition to being one of them. I've spent the last seven years talking with some of these people online. We make up our own minds based on what we see and hear (and not just from Zak), and your flat statement that the D&D With Porn Stars guy is controlling us is just disgusting.
posted by graymouser at 3:19 PM on August 11, 2014 [8 favorites]




Vecna: your Metafilter profile shows six comments on the Blue. All six are in this thread. Several people (myself, chunking express, and others) here are actually long-standing MetaFilter users who are also gamers in OSR circles and are disgusted by this thread. What about you? Who are you? You just showed up and started dumping the same shit about Zak that the clique orchestrating this witchhunt has been spreading around the internet.

Zak wanted this thread deleted because it is one-sided and based solely on an article that makes vicious accusations against him. He asked the mods here to take the thread down; they said no. We can take anything further about the site to MetaTalk if you want; that's how MetaFilter works.
posted by graymouser at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


HELLO VECNA
posted by chunking express at 4:43 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is at least a way better place to run into the story than Tumblr, I'm glad it stood because it was way more informative than any other way I was likely to get exposed to this information.

But seriously, Vecna. The first image there is the guy suggesting that people, heaven forbid, tweet at a person who already had a public following and engage in discussion? I'm hoping you aren't going to go so far as to suggest that the follower whose comment you screencapped really was thinking about eating him. The more evidence you present that can't possibly be taken seriously, the more inclined I am to think he can't be that bad. Is this some kind of weird reverse psychology campaign?
posted by Sequence at 6:04 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do suddenly feel inclined to buy 5E materials.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:08 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


graymouser: "Vecna: your Metafilter profile shows six comments on the Blue. All six are in this thread. Several people (myself, chunking express, and others) here are actually long-standing MetaFilter users who are also gamers in OSR circles and are disgusted by this thread. What about you? Who are you? You just showed up and started dumping the same shit about Zak that the clique orchestrating this witchhunt has been spreading around the internet.

Zak wanted this thread deleted because it is one-sided and based solely on an article that makes vicious accusations against him. He asked the mods here to take the thread down; they said no. We can take anything further about the site to MetaTalk if you want; that's how MetaFilter works.
"

Graymouser, I know that it upsets you to be confronted with someone you seem to be close to has been doing hurtful and abusive things, but if you're going to pull out the posting e-peen meter to decide whter someone shold be having a disussion, I've been here at metafilter almost as long as you, several members have pointed out what rpgpundit and Zak S have been doing and what they've been doing is messed up, and trying to shout someone down is pretty low. I've been here a long while and I feel this is a useful discussion too.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:25 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, but is this the place for people to move their nerd fights? I am pretty sure Zak and whomever Vecna is are having a similar argument on G+ right now. (I guess this thread was already weird because a surprising number of people know the actors involved in the article, though.)
posted by chunking express at 6:41 PM on August 11, 2014


Sticherbeast, 5e is pretty great, and the basic rules are free.
posted by chunking express at 6:44 PM on August 11, 2014


ShawnStruck, if you want to call me out, there's MetaTalk. I believe that Vecna was trying to engage in well-poisoning and felt that they needed to be called out for it.
posted by graymouser at 6:46 PM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Zak wanted this thread deleted because it is one-sided and based solely on an article that makes vicious accusations against him. He asked the mods here to take the thread down; they said no.

When/where did this happen? Not doubting it at all, I just don't remember reading any such request in-thread here and I don't see an open Meta. Someplace off-site?
posted by cjelli at 6:47 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Comment nixed, let's not go down the "hey I bet this is the G+ account of someone to harass" route and maybe just cool it in general with the metadrama stuff either way. People want to discuss here, fine, but try and keep it to that.]
posted by cortex at 6:49 PM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Good lord. Look, I have to reiterate, again, that nobody here has done the right thing. Zak could have fixed this crap just by being honest and straightforward. That doesn't mean that this entire thing is his fault. It does mean he bears some blame for the fact that it's still fucking going on. I mean come on - this is such insanely minor stuff; why spin up an internet war over it, as he seems intent on doing at every single turn?
posted by koeselitz at 6:57 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Short version: the fact that you're an asshole online doesn't make you transphobic, sexist, etc. But at the end of the day, even if you're none of those things, you're still an asshole.
posted by koeselitz at 7:00 PM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


why spin up an internet war over it, as he seems intent on doing at every single turn

Wouldn't it suck if someone wrote some article about how you're transphobic, sexist, etc, and it ends up linked all over the place. It ended up here presumably because CrystalDave thought it was legit, right. The article isn't about how Zak is an asshole.

Anyway, I don't think he's an asshole. I know him: not sure my presence here is that useful. Probably colours all my posts.
posted by chunking express at 7:04 PM on August 11, 2014


As a MetaFilter reader I would much rather hear from people who have firsthand knowledge than just random folks who have Internet Opinions™. Having said that, I've also been on the other side and deliberately kept quiet when I had firsthand knowledge of something MetaFilter was discussing because MetaFilter wasn't discussing it very well, so no judgment either way.
posted by cribcage at 7:21 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


what did you say cribcage you wanted my Internet Opinions™??! here you go!

I have a sort of hierarchy of outrage. Let's take Orson Scott Card - I liked his earlier pieces, his writing went to hell, and now he seems like a jerk. But the quality of jerkiness gets diluted with distance. Behold:

1) O S Card - he's a jerk!
2) Publishers that commission him to write a story: maybe they're dumb, maybe they're jerks too.
3) An editor who edits a collection with a story by him: well, I don't think that was a great choice.
4) Someone who asks Card to read over their story and says thanks in small print: very slight bump on my outrage-o-meter, like a truck carrying non-separated domestic waste went past my house on the way to the tip.

What we're talking about here is a small text box that says "Additional consultation provided by Blah, Whoever, Thingy, and Zak S". Even stipulating that Zak himself is a jerk, I am totally incapable of caring that his name appears in a text box.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:25 PM on August 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


If nothing else, I'm much more inclined to trust the people who say 'They're arseholes, sure, but not in the way you claim.' If the original complaint had been 'these people are dicks on the internet!' there would have probably been much wider agreement, but also those people will think you can't remove names from the rulebook just because they're people who are mean online.

So, of course, for everyone to hate them as much as you hate them, they have to have done something like been bigots. Very notably, to me, while when asked to provide any evidence that these guys are arseholes online, there's links - but when asked to provide evidence of bigotry, there is only links to things that have to be aggressively read for outrage to find even a hint.

So when someone like [insert clever name here] makes grand pronouncements about the character of these people while simultaneously saying he hadn't read any of the links, or someone registers an account for MetaFilter and only posts in the one thread about how horrible specific people are, I contrast them with the people who are saying 'sure they're not nice, but I've been around these scenes for awhile and the serious accusations are baseless', and pick who I believe accordingly.

I mean, I don't know who these guys are, besides (now) a couple of hours reading the links surrounding this whole thing, but it makes me annoyed because it means I'm defending people I don't even particularly like, because I think it's shameful to attach bigotry to someone who doesn't show any, moreso when wrapped in a mantle of social justice rights.

Well, also annoyed that there's an internet drama that succeeded in distracting me. Because I in no way care enough about D&D to even notice what sort of shitfest its fans can work up.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:20 PM on August 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I feel like this thread is just an attempt to use MeFi as a tool hater campaign against a couple of online personalities. I don't know either of the two guys attacked here. I don't find the evidence presented very compelling. Now someone calling themselves Vecna has shown up to support the accusations. This is just too absurd.
posted by humanfont at 9:48 PM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: like a truck carrying non-separated domestic waste went past my house on the way to the tip
posted by Mitheral at 10:42 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did everyone miss the posts where he's instructing his followers to harass and "destroy" others, mefi included? Along with some pretty horrific smearing. And no one has a problem with that? Many of you are right. it's also not proof of the harassment claimed in the initial article (though links to that have been provided, and I'm surprise I'm the only one that sees some pretty glaring attempts to silence minority groups) his call to arms is an attempt at bullying, pure and simple.

Please keep in mind that I give exactly two shits over Zak S. I don't RPG anymore, but I'm really disappointed that no one seems to see what he's doing. He's declaring war on anyone who disagrees with his worldview. And because he has some progressive opinions on societal issues, doesn't appear to consider he might be really, deeply wrong and hurting people.

Venca is new. We frequently have people join metafilter when it's something that someone has insider knowledge on. Let's not shit on the new person because you disagree. Metafilter is better than that. Yes, it's true there is no money shot or other single item to show the accusations leveled, but plenty of the harassed have come forward. Plenty of the conversations provided do actually show his targeting of women and lgbt individuals.

But instead, I'm seeing a bunch of people denying those experiences, some of those experiences with significant evidence.

He does wrap himself in a cloak of social justice, but that doesn't mean much. Or maybe it does, but he still bullies others. Bullying and harassing others isn't okay even if you're preaching the right gospel to some people.

I feel a bit like I'm in bizarro world metafilter. Where shouting down people is seen as perfectly acceptable way to win an argument. and because much of it appears to be pointed at gays and women, it is especially problematic.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:18 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


chunking express: "Wouldn't it suck if someone wrote some article about how you're transphobic, sexist, etc, and it ends up linked all over the place. It ended up here presumably because CrystalDave thought it was legit, right. The article isn't about how Zak is an asshole."

I know, and honestly I totally respect you, which has really been holding me back here. And I appreciate that the lead article is really going way too far in silly accusations that are not remotely justified by the facts. And, though this may sound odd, the one thing I'm grateful to CrystalDave for is the fact that Zak is not actually mentioned in the post text here at all; though that caused some confusion, I know, anybody who wants to know who it's all about has to either read the linked article or read the comments here, which makes it increasingly likely that they'll be aware that the accusation is somewhat flimsy.

But you know what would have killed this thing dead in the water, full stop? A simple post from Zak S saying 'hey folks, I know you're really upset, but I didn't say or do anything that you're accusing me of saying or doing.' Seriously, a conciliatory but firm statement that these accusations are false was exactly what was called for. And you know what's awesome about conciliatory but firm statements like that? There is almost nothing that anyone but the most unhinged opponent can do with them. They're self-proving.

But all we've seen from Zak is the same thing: make semi-private semi-public posts on G+ that he must know will be seen by everybody in the world telling people to "destroy" this very thread, whatever the hell that means, and yes I'm well aware that it's probably a colloquial way of saying "destroy with knowledge" or something but good god it's a terrible way to frame it. Doesn't he know that?

I just get a tiny bit tired of watching people shoot themselves in the foot by making themselves look like jerks. Maybe I see too much of myself in all this; who knows. I just know it's really annoying. Posting lists of people who should be blacklisted, even if those lists are just copy-pasted from the list of people who plussed a post? That's not just jerkish - it's really, really stupid, because it allows a whole bunch of people a great excuse to call you a fascist prick. Let it go, breathe, and respond rationally. If I'm the one telling you this, you know you've got problems.
posted by koeselitz at 11:38 PM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


insert clever name here: Did everyone miss the posts where he's instructing his followers to harass and "destroy" others, mefi included?

Along with Vecna, you're reading everything incredibly literally in a way that does not actually match how people interact on the internet. We are not talking about Drax the Destroyer here, who would only use the word "destroy" if he actually intended to destroy something, which he would because that's clearly why he's called Drax the Destroyer. I see no more reason to assume that he meant to inspire destruction than to assume that feminists actually drink male tears even when they do in fact sometimes say outright that they drink male tears.

In case you needed it clarified, also, people on the internet saying we should kill all the men don't really mean they want to commit murder, people on the internet saying they hate white people don't actually hate all white people individually and collectively, and generally anybody who uses the phrase "die cis scum" actually counts many cis people among their loved ones. Which is to say, I'm not sure this is well-advised, but of all the assumptions you can make about people who pride themselves on their interest in social justice, I would think that it should be acceptable to assume we all understand what hyperbole is. If this guy intended to call for his followers to do bad things, and his followers are actually the sort to do bad things just because he said so, where are they?
posted by Sequence at 12:59 AM on August 12, 2014


Vecna: your Metafilter profile shows six comments on the Blue. All six are in this thread. Several people (myself, chunking express, and others) here are actually long-standing MetaFilter users who are also gamers in OSR circles and are disgusted by this thread.

Yeah, what on earth could motivate someone to use a separate account to actively engage with this thread, given how mature and well-behaved everyone involved in the RPG community clearly is.
posted by effbot at 3:07 AM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did everyone miss the posts where he's instructing his followers to harass and "destroy" others, mefi included?

And clearly, a horde of Zak S.'s mindless "followers" immediately signed up for MetaFilter to destroy it, right? Well, no; everybody defending him is a long-standing member of this community, and we saw and reacted to this thread independently of anything Zak has said. (Personally I was disgusted to see this thread pop up on my G+ feed at all.) I pointed this out because Vecna's attempt at well-poisoning was clearly aimed at discrediting anyone not joining in on the witchhunt.

I don't RPG anymore, but I'm really disappointed that no one seems to see what he's doing. He's declaring war on anyone who disagrees with his worldview.

This is very much not the case. Zak has had war declared on him by people using social justice as cover for their attacks, and is fighting back. He's literally spent the last five or six weeks as the target of non-stop charges of homophobia, transphobia, harassment and stalking, none of which is founded in anything other than the fact that he was in a couple of internet fights. While he is taking care of his partner who has spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. I'm not saying Zak is a saint, but he's not what you are accusing him of being. And to be blunt, you really should stop joining witchhunts when you admit that you don't really know what's going on.
posted by graymouser at 4:36 AM on August 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


A simple post from Zak S saying 'hey folks, I know you're really upset, but I didn't say or do anything that you're accusing me of saying or doing.' ...

I completely agree Zak's tone is off putting, but i'm not sure the net result for him would be different if he was nicer or used flowery language or was less argumentative. I have had conversations (arguments?) with Zak about how he talks to people online because I felt exactly the same way as you. Now I don’t think it’s so simple.

In the D&D community, there was another big blogger, a nice mild mannered Canadian, who more or less represented this particular RPG community. He doesn't anymore because he was harassed non-stop till he quit writing in 2012. Here he is nicely asking people to stop harassing his children—because he talks about old-school D&D. That's from 2008! He has said the harassment never stopped the entire time he was writing, and he always “took the highroad”. That's often not enough.

People deal with this stuff in different ways. Zak has been the target of much ire probably since he started his blog. No doubt the way he talks online doesn't help, but his blog is popular enough it's going to attract trolls no matter what.

This particular blow up has been going on for 5 weeks now. (Back when it started he wrote about what he thinks are the key take aways on his blog. Of course, being Zak he also wrote a post about how people who lie about him are pig fuckers fucking pigs.) I think it's very hard to not go all Hit 'Em Up after a while.

That False Machine article I linked above is long, but it really does a good job of summing up Zak and where he is coming from, I think. It's very much how I feel about this whole thing, anyway.

I think you could probably make a good FPP about how the online D&D community is so crazy: I’ve heard this whole thing described as the narcism of small differences.
posted by chunking express at 7:54 AM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


... it's going to attract trolls no matter what ...

Not to suggest everyone angry at Zak is a troll. No doubt most people are quite earnest in how they feel.

posted by chunking express at 8:14 AM on August 12, 2014


In the D&D community, there was another big blogger, a nice mild mannered Canadian, who more or less represented this particular RPG community. He doesn't anymore because he was harassed non-stop till he quit writing in 2012.

That's not the story of why he left as I understand it. In March/April 2012 the blogger you're talking about took money for the Dwimmermount kickstarter. Kickstarter closed in April, delivery date for PDFs was in June. That's a "We just need to do layout" timescale. Anyway, Dwimmermount wasn't released in June - and he didn't communicate about it, blowing deadlines hard even before issues about his fathers' health came out. In the end he tried to turn from hobbyist into game designer, failed completely and walked away because of that. (Dwimmermount finally came out earlier this year with Autarch having turned it over to a third team as the second failed as well).

That said, harassing his kids? Ick! Ack! Urgh! Some people need to stop and go away.

I'm ... interested ... that this thread has been almost entirely about ZakS and almost ignored the RPG Pundit (that said if I had to defend one of the two it would be Zak - for one thing, both Vornheim and the collaborative hexcrawl idea that made Hexenbracken are excellent work).

For people still reading here's the RPG Pundit writing an open letter to the head of the D&D design team about another member of the D&D design team that left shortly afterwards. "Highlights" include breaking Godwin's Law, and suggesting disconnecting the vocal cords of one of the most high profile RPG designers going. In public. I wasn't going to buy 5e if he was credited for that little post alone.

(And before there's any spiral off this, no he didn't pull the post as far as I know - Xanga decided to ransom its existing blog content, and the Pundit quite rightly refused to pay to get his posts back, instead moving his blog - hence the archive.org link).
posted by Francis at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think you could probably make a good FPP about how the online D&D community is so crazy: I’ve heard this whole thing described as the narcism of small differences.

Sayre's Law refers to what I first ran across phrased as "the smaller the stakes, the pettier the politics." (I'm sure there has to be some group of people viciously angry at the self-evident travesty of Sayre getting a whole Law named after him about one of the ugly bugs in human nature, just for completeness' sake.)
posted by Drastic at 12:16 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Francis, the Kickstarter probably didn't help things, yes. He was also harassed about it being late, being dumb, etc. Anyway, my main point was that being nice isn't going to stop people from trolling you. He was dealing with this stuff for years prior to that Kickstarter.

The Hexenbracken idea was great. There are actually 2 more, The Kraal and The Colossal Wastes of Zhaar. (Not sure if you noticed, but save.vs.totalpartykill.ca is my site. I helped turn all those projects into web pages.) Zak also got people to come up with crazy dungeon descriptions and I turned those into a random dungeon key. He's good at organizing these big group projects.
posted by chunking express at 1:05 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Francis:
I'm ... interested ... that this thread has been almost entirely about ZakS and almost ignored the RPG Pundit
Probably because Zak at the least has some redeeming qualities. RPG Pundit is straight-up 100% douchenozzle.
posted by charred husk at 1:09 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


RPGPundit is super obnoxious, but he's also not a homophobe, transphobic, etc. The fail forward article wasn't about whether he's an asshole, right? If people want to write articles about how he's terrible and acts crazy why not write that article? It'd be way easier to find actual facts to back it up, too.
posted by chunking express at 1:14 PM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wasn't going to buy 5e if he was credited for that little post alone.

I don't think there's anything wrong with making that decision, but I'm curious, just how into 5e were you beforehand? I think that probably works out to a pretty big deal here, too. If you were only ever going to buy it out of mild curiosity and had no concrete plans to play, that makes sense enough. I've had my copies preordered since they were available to preorder, I might have cancelled it if they were printing them all using puppy blood, but clearly not everybody likes it as well as I do.
posted by Sequence at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Vecna isn't a troll. Lich/demigod of evil with a secret cult following committed to chaotic evil sure, but not a troll.
posted by humanfont at 3:56 PM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Give the man a hand.
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on August 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


Hmm... on re-reading the FailForward link, I can't help but notice Operation Distraction From Shittiness appears to have worked. The accusations made by FailForward are generally about harrassment - and those were the ones that had bite. It only turned into arguing about homophobia and transphobia according to both the article and my understanding of events when Mike Mearls, after complaints of harrassment asked for "direct evidence of racism or sexism or any other form of discrimination" - thus moving the goalposts. This goalpost shift appears to have been successful.

There are actually 2 more, The Kraal and The Colossal Wastes of Zhaar. (Not sure if you noticed, but save.vs.totalpartykill.ca is my site. I helped turn all those projects into web pages.

Thanks :) I knew about The Kraal but had forgotten its name. And they are interesting projects.

I don't think there's anything wrong with making that decision, but I'm curious, just how into 5e were you beforehand? I think that probably works out to a pretty big deal here, too.

Possibly :)

I ran the first playtest twice and played in it once and was deeply unimpressed, and ran several of the other ones and thought they were an improvement but didn't do anything I couldn't do better with the Rules Cyclopaedia or 4e depending on what sort of game I wanted to run.
posted by Francis at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]




This goalpost shift appears to have been successful.

The original post is being called a witch-hunt for a reason, and part of that is the way it was phrased.

... the choice of victim that is the most telling. These attacks nearly always target women and LGTBQ individuals,
and
The RPG community is small enough that almost every woman, person of colour or LGTBQ individual seems to have had a run in with Zak or Pundit.

It might not be exactly, precisely saying 'they're homophobic, transphobic and misogynist', but that's damned sure the conclusion you're meant to draw.
And, of course, the alleged outing of the trans author, which wasn't even done by either of them but by Zak's girlfriend, but still is his fault because of course it is. That's the big gotcha, the one link that props up all the others, and not only does it not necessarily say, or ever said, what they describe it as saying, it wasn't even done by either of these guys.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:07 AM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think it was even an outing in any meaningful way.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:16 AM on August 13, 2014


The free rules for D&D 5e were updated today. There is now a document for DMs with monsters and some other advice on running the game.

I like the Red Dragon's Lair Actions - makes for a good set piece climax.

Also, the Consultant credits have been removed in the DMG basic rules. Dunno if that means WotC listened to this or that the folks mentioned didn't look over the monsters.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:17 AM on August 13, 2014


Dunno if that means WotC listened to this or that the folks mentioned didn't look over the monsters.

The latter, I think, insofar as the revised free rules for players (PDF) still have the "Additional Consultation" credit.
posted by cjelli at 7:16 AM on August 13, 2014


And, of course, the alleged outing of the trans author, which wasn't even done by either of them but by Zak's girlfriend, but still is his fault because of course it is.

Yeah. Treating a woman as if her actions are simply the extensions of the man she's in a relationship with and not her own actions that she's responsible for herself is, to put it mildly, a bit of a problematic framing of agency at best.
posted by Drastic at 8:49 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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