RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour
  • RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour


    RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.



    Photo from Wikipedia


    Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player's Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. As yet, he hasn't made any public response to the accusations.

    Since then, another ex-partner of Zak Smith, Vivka Grey, has publicly come forward with a further account of his conduct.

    This isn't the first time that Zak Smith has been accused of inappropriate behaviour (language warning in that link). The Facebook post, which was posted overnight, has been shared widely on social media, and takes the form of an open letter (linked above; it makes for unpleasant reading, so please be aware of that if you choose to read it).

    The industry has been reacting to the news. Amongst many others:


    I believe Mandy, Jennifer, Hannah, and Vivka. It must be terrifying to come forward like this. They have been put through horrible ordeals. I will not cover Zakís work on this site, in my podcast, or elsewhere, and will not provide him with any kind of platform.
    Comments 282 Comments
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      At the risk of calling someone out, I would ask that @Morrus consider rescinding the ENnies awarded to Zak Sabbath.
      They are mentioned prominently on Zakís Wikipedia page, and giving him accolades is implicitly supporting his behaviour,
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      Quote Originally Posted by hoshisabi View Post
      Wait wait wait guys.

      You guys are saying things that aren't conflicting. Calm down and let's not derail the thread.

      First off, if you had said "this is the challenge" instead of "this is the problem" then you might not have set people off. It is indeed a challenge for people in these relationships to navigate waters that the rest of us might avoid. But as adults they wish to travel there and we can wish them luck.

      BUT. It is irrelevant to this thread. Mandy says "I was young" and part of being young is trying things out, making mistakes, and finding out what you want to keep doing or stop doing.

      The problem arises when someone takes advantage of that. And that is the crux of the problem she's talking about.

      So while you may not have intended to shift blame onto her, that is a thing that does happen in these discussions and he's not being a "self-righteous jerk" as much as he's trying to avoid the discussion shifting. If that wasn't your intention, then we are all good. No one is blaming Mandy and she is as free as any of us to make decisions about her life, and we can empathize with her problems even when she makes decisions that we wouldn't have.

      I mean... Living in Los Angeles. Who does that?!
      He isolated and interpreted my words in order to try to make them say something reprehensible. He didnít ask me what my comment meant; he told me what it meant. He was not acting in good-faith and Iím not going to let someone portray me as something Iím not.
    1. monsmord's Avatar
      monsmord -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
      At the risk of calling someone out, I would ask that @Morrus consider rescinding the ENnies awarded to Zak Sabbath.
      They are mentioned prominently on Zakís Wikipedia page, and giving him accolades as implicitly supporting his behaviour,
      I concur, especially given his publicly-recognized treatment of industry figures and vocal gamers. Whatever the quality of his work, there are many talented folks doing great stuff and who aren't poisonous to the hobby. Even if retraction isn't pragmatic, I hope a ban on future consideration of products with his name in the credits will be on the table.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      And yeah, this thread is going exactly where I expected it would go when I decided there was nothing more to say than, "I'm sad."
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      Considering that Mike Mearls's response to criticisms about Zak Smith awhile back was to summarily dismiss them, defend him, and then forward those emails to Zak Smith (who has been known for target harassing critics), I will be curious to hear anything from Mike Mearls about this now. Otherwise this will be a pretty big black mark on his record.
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      Quote Originally Posted by redrick View Post
      Hi Jeff, I'm really not judging your character. I don't know you and I have only one instance of your speech to go on. Well, now 3. I'm not trying to be self-righteous; I'm looking to temper the desire to be righteous in these situations instead of being compassionate. I'm speaking only to that one instance of what you said.

      Zak is polyamorous. He was (is?) a porn actor. He espouses a sexually liberal viewpoint. The 3 women who came forward are also polyamorous. Some of them may also have been porn actors. By my understanding they also espoused a sexually liberal viewpoint. So when you say, "sexual freedom and emotional safety aren't compatible," you are, intentionally or not, suggesting that the women put themselves in this position. That this would not have happened to them if they had a more traditional sexuality. Maybe that was not your intention. I don't know what's in your heart. But that's what I heard when I read your words.

      I feel we should focus not on the incidentals of Zak's, Mandy's, Jennifer's, Hannah's sexuality, but solely on Zak's toxic behavior. That, and that alone, is what caused this pain. We won't stop people like Zak by warning our youth away from sexual promiscuity. But maybe we can stop people like Zak by working to see, target and prevent abusive behavior. And Zak's abusive behavior has been on display for a very long time.
      Fair enough, but it wasnít a charitable reading on your part.

      I clearly said that he had developed a cult of personality around him. My point was, given this context, was not to blame the victims but to warn young people.

      In the victimsí accounts they say he played the ultra-liberal in order to manipulated them, so my point was relevant.

      I agree that it could be misconstrued. But I would ask that you think about communicating with someone a little more before you decide they are saying something reprehensible, and portray them that way.
      And, Iíll be more careful in my speech.

      I agree, that itís important to show solidarity and not get off in to tangential discussions.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
      Considering that Mike Mearls's response to criticisms about Zak Smith awhile back was to summarily dismiss them, defend him, and then forward those emails to Zak Smith (who has been known for target harassing critics), I will be curious to hear anything from Mike Mearls about this now. Otherwise this will be a pretty big black mark on his record.
      Plus, since they already include errata in future printings of the PHB, maybe we should ask WotC to consider removing his name from the credits as well going forward.
    1. billd91's Avatar
      billd91 -
      Quote Originally Posted by kenmarable View Post
      Plus, since they already include errata in future printings of the PHB, maybe we should ask WotC to consider removing his name from the credits as well going forward.
      I'm not sure I agree with that without removing the things he had influence on. Credit where credit is due, regardless of the odiousness of the individual who came up with it, should be something we should hold all corporations to.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      You are a pathetic key-board, virtue warrior. Look at your own moral character before you judge mine.
      You are done. Don't post in this thread again.

      For everyone else, let me remind you of the Rules. Including:

      Keep it inclusive:
      EN World is an inclusive community, and we encourage and welcome all people here. To that end, we strive to make it a welcoming place where nobody feels alienated because of who they are. You MAY NOT use the terms "agenda", "ideology", "politics", or "propaganda" in relation to the inclusion of people slightly different to you in gaming products or other media, use pejorative terms such as "social justice warrior" or "virtue signalling" to dismiss the opinions of those you disagree with, or post any message which is discriminatory towards those who differ to you in terms of skin colour, gender, gender identification, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, or any other personal attribute. We do not subscribe to the argument that tolerance means that we need to tolerate intolerance or that inclusivity means that we need to include non-inclusiveness.
    1. Chaderick -
      Disregard.
    1. redrick's Avatar
      redrick -
      There are lots of meaningful and needed conversations happening on indie RPG Twitter. People who had already been hurt by and come forward about Zak, people who saw the way the industry protected him, and, in many cases, pushed them to the side. I recommend giving it a read. This is painful, hurtful stuff for a lot of people.

      The Gauntlet, an online gaming community that also produces a number of podcasts, including an OSR podcast called Fear of a Black Dragon, posted this in response to the latest news about Zak S, and it is the kind of response I'd like to see elsewhere:

      https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/blog/th...ement-on-zak-s
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      • Received Infraction
      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      You are done. Don't post in this thread again.
      Post
    1. monsmord's Avatar
      monsmord -
      Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
      I'm not sure I agree with that without removing the things he had influence on. Credit where credit is due, regardless of the odiousness of the individual who came up with it, should be something we should hold all corporations to.
      I was totally behind Kenmarable's post, but ya know, you're right. If the material is to be included, it should be appropriately accredited. Here, the what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it rule would determine whether it's a product I'd support. Not sure how I'd be able to verify that without directing querying the publisher -- and I might, at this point -- but if a new product cites him, or if an updated product doesn't specify and won't clarify why his name is included, I'd give it a pass just to be sure.

      EDIT: I just read the link redrick provided (https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/blog/th...ement-on-zak-s). Yes, this. I hope all gaming communities, events, and forums adopt such a policy. Next - online and FLGS sales not carrying his products.
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      No it isnít, you self-righteous jerk. This is a warning to young people, both male and female. Donít tell me what Iím doing in my comment, jerk. Take your self-satisfied, smug, moral posturing somewhere else.

      I said that Zach was making a cult of personality around him. I donít know him, but it looks like extremely psychopathic behavior. I donít blame the victims one bit. So shove your black and white thinking up your you know where.
      Jeff, what you wrote could be viewed as victim blaming, despite it not being your intent. That is an issue with interaction that is limited by the medium we are using here. I had similar thoughts when I read your post, but I assumed that was not your intent. Not everyone makes the same assumptions, that is OK and normal. When someone questions your intentions I find it is best to politely clarify and move on.

      EDIT: I should have read the whole thread first. I see you two had a more reasoned interaction letter on, but your "post" comment seem to undermine it a bit. Life on the internet I guess
    1. Gradine's Avatar
      Gradine -
      Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
      I'm not sure I agree with that without removing the things he had influence on. Credit where credit is due, regardless of the odiousness of the individual who came up with it, should be something we should hold all corporations to.
      Yeah, I think this would be a step too far. That said, I will add my voice to the calls to at least consider rescinding his ENnies, at least after the dust starts to clear. If these accusations are true, and there is honestly every reason to believe they are (multiple accusers, greater risk to the accusers, accusers were once among his most significant defenders, there is absolutely nothing out of character regarding their stories), then I would hope we would have that conversation.

      On the one hand, who an organization chooses to award reflects, in some ways, the values of the organization that presents them. Rescinding past awards would neither be unprecedented nor unwarranted (considering the behavior in question was ongoing at the time the awards were given). On the other hand, the ENnies are awarded based on a public fan vote, and unilaterally overturning such a thing can be troubling, even for the best of reasons. One would hope after such credible accusations the fan community writ large would have little trouble turning their backs on him. One could also consider, given recent history, such idealism to border on laughably and depressingly naive.

      That said, it's refreshing to see such little "b-b-but court of law!" nonsense cluttering this thread.
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      Jeff, what you wrote could be viewed as victim blaming, despite it not being your intent. That is an issue with interaction that is limited by the medium we are using here. I had similar thoughts when I read your post, but I assumed that was not your intent. Not everyone makes the same assumptions, that is OK and normal. When someone questions your intentions I find it is best to politely clarify and move on.
      Fair enough, but itís a bit difficult to stay level headed when something you said is being re-contextulized to say something deplorable. Ones initial instinct is to defend oneself. Iíll make sure to express my ideas more precisely and respond with a cooler head in the future.

      Redrick and I spoke and I think we both know where we were each coming from and know that neither of us intended harm or were acting in bad faith.
    1. gyor's Avatar
      gyor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seule View Post
      Generally, when someone more powerful is accused of abuse by someone less powerful it's usually true. The accuser almost never gains by the accusation and usually loses overall, and victims are aware of this. If it's something that seems very out of character and there's no other sign of problems then maybe I'll wait but that does not seem to be the case here. I'm sad, because I was happy that people like Zak were stretching the boundaries of what the people in the hobby look like, but that doesn't mean that I won't believe the victim(s) here.
      Based on what evidence do you make that claim?
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      Quote Originally Posted by gyor View Post
      Based on what evidence do you make that claim?
      Based upon some of your past posts on similar topics, I am skeptical that you are asking this question in good faith and it is challenging for me to give you the benefit of the doubt now. But if you were asking this in good faith, and even if you are not, then this question seems unwise since it so readily veers the topic away from the issue at hand in the thread.
    1. dragoner's Avatar
      dragoner -
      Zak ripped into to me online, and a IL'd him long ago; nevertheless I feel bad for Mandy, she is disabled and shouldn't have to go through this.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Not sure what happened, but what I clicked reply on wasn't what got quoted, and I didn't notice until I'd submited the post.
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