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 Zak’s work on this site, in my podcast, or elsewhere, and will not provide him with any kind of platform.
    Comments 282 Comments
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      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 Zak’s Wikipedia page, and giving him accolades as implicitly supporting his behaviour,
      You are joking, right? o_O
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      You are joking, right? o_O
      Why not? It is not like such things are without precedent outside of gaming.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      You are joking, right? o_O
      Why would he be joking?
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      You are joking, right? o_O
      No.

      If someone demonstrates they are an unworthy recipient of an honour or award, it should be rescinded. To do otherwise tarnishes the award.

      When Zak first won in 2015 there was a walk out in response/protest. And the ENnies “responded” by awarding Zak a second time in 2016.

      The ENnies have disqualified products for less.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
      No.

      If someone demonstrates they are an unworthy recipient of an honour or award, it should be rescinded. To do otherwise tarnishes the award.

      When Zak first won in 2015 there was a walk out in response/protest. And the ENnies “responded” by awarding Zak a second time in 2016.

      The ENnies have disqualified products for less.
      Because the Ennies are a product award not a political award.

      That would be a huge mistake to make.
    1. cmad1977's Avatar
      cmad1977 -
      Quote Originally Posted by gyor View Post
      Based on what evidence do you make that claim?
      This can’t be an actual question from a thinking person.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctorbadwolf View Post
      Why would he be joking?
      Because it seems like it is a farcical statement to make.
    1. redrick's Avatar
      redrick -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Because the Ennies are a product award not a political award.

      That would be a huge mistake to make.
      Abuse is not political. In fact, if we've seen anything over the lifetime of the #MeToo movement, it's that abuse cuts across all political boundaries and that every community can house predators.

      --EDIT--
      For some reason, some other things got quoted in that were unintentional.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Because the Ennies are a product award not a political award.

      That would be a huge mistake to make.
      How is this political?!?

      What political party is pro-spousal abuse?
      Which governmental entity supports emotional and physical abuse?
    1. innerdude's Avatar
      innerdude -
      I can only echo the sentiment of @Celebrim, which is that absolutely everything surrounding this fills me with melancholic sadness.
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      I would like to say to the victims of this abuse that I support them and believe them. I’m sorry that you had to suffer what you did and I know that these things can effect one for life. I was sexually abused as a child and it is a very serious matter and it damages people severely and this person cannot be permitted to continue his abuse and must be held to account.

      I know that many will think that one should only make a judgment about this if he has been found guilty by a court of law, and I’m not saying that this position has no merit—it is wise to be cautious in these matters; however, things are complex and many factors have to be considered. Having looked into past accusations, the number of victims willing to come forward and the number of folk collaborating them, as well as those testifying to his tactics and response to accusations, and continuing his abusive behavior in spite of all this—it is quite evident that he is an abusive and manipulative person to say the least. If even half of the reported behaviors are accurate; he is very likely a psychopathic individual who manipulates, uses gaslighting and “grooming” behavior on his victims. It is very, very reasonable to side with the preponderance of evidence and testimony and withdraw support and do everything we can to stop him, and support those that were abused (including giving them enough support, if laws were broken, that they feel confident that people will have their backs if they testify against him, and that there won’t be a backlash).

      Now that I’ve addressed what I perceive to be the main issue: I have a related question. If people think that it will derail the conversation and detract from focusing on the main issue let me know and I will make sure to strike it from my comment. The question has to do with how we as a community respond to instances of abuse by creators.

      What is the proper response when someone has a long documented history of malevolent, unapologetic, abusive behavior, but is also viewed as talented by some? How should we as a community respond to this?

      I did not know the author had this background, and being an obsessive collector of all things with regard to tabletop RPGs, I had purchased one of his products in the past. It goes without saying that I don’t want to support this person financially in the future.

      What would the proper response be for those that would like to use his work, but refuse to support him?

      Would it be to get a share a copy from a friend who already owns the product and tell that friend why you are boycotting the authors products?

      Does one who likes his work—I personally have not read the copy I purchased, so I don’t know whether or not I find him talented—stop using his work altogether (and also condemn his behavior, support his victims and any legal action taken due to any laws he may have broken), OR does one do this and ALSO stop using his work entirely (even if one doesn’t contribute to him financially in doing so)?

      I know that this is a individual matter, but what do the majority of people consider to be the most reasonable and responsible action to take? Thanks.
    1. Gradine's Avatar
      Gradine -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      What would the proper response be for those that would like to use his work, but refuse to support him?

      Would it be to get a share a copy from a friend who already owns the product and tell that friend why you are boycotting the authors products?

      Does one who likes his work—I personally have not read the copy I purchased, so I don’t know whether or not I find him talented—stop using his work altogether (and also condemn his behavior, support his victims and any legal action taken due to any laws he may have broken), OR does one do this and ALSO stop using his work entirely (even if one doesn’t contribute to him financially in doing so)?

      I know that this is a individual matter, but what do the majority of people consider to be the most reasonable and responsible action to take? Thanks.
      The Gauntlet article posted upthread has a pretty excellent answer to this concern:

      "We understand that many people, some of our organizers and members alike, feel that Zak has created some compelling game content. Unfortunately, he’s a toxic, abusive person and we should not be giving him aid and comfort with our dollars. There are plenty of OSR publishers out there who are making amazing content that is equal to or surpasses Zak’s work, and who are not abusers. We have listed a few below and you can find even more in our Fear of a Black Dragon podcast feed.

      The Melsonian Arts Council
      The Hydra Cooperative
      Tuesday Knight Games "
    1. timbannock's Avatar
      timbannock -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      Does one who likes his work—I personally have not read the copy I purchased, so I don’t know whether or not I find him talented—stop using his work altogether (and also condemn his behavior, support his victims and any legal action taken due to any laws he may have broken), OR does one do this and ALSO stop using his work entirely (even if one doesn’t contribute to him financially in doing so)?

      I know that this is a individual matter, but what do the majority of people consider to be the most reasonable and responsible action to take? Thanks.
      The only thing I've supported of his (that I know of) is Vornheim, and I added the pertinent pages that I used often in my urbancrawl games to my personal GM's Binder. I will definitely remove them, stop using anything related to them and develop my own tools or find other ones to use. I will also be removing anything I can find that I've ever posted anywhere that promotes or recommends them.

      My reasoning is much as the Gauntlet's (above): he might have put out neat stuff. He might have said useful things. But there's so many others who have done the same and aren't garbage people. I can spend 10 minutes of my time removing his crap from my toolbox and another 15-20 finding substitutions.

      That's my stance, at least.
    1. Eltab's Avatar
      Eltab -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      I'm usually someone with lots of thoughts about everything and long composed essays that have been rolling around in the back of my brain for a long time, but I don't know how to tastefully convey everything I'd want to say here.
      a very public +1
      I was thinking the same thing.
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
      The Gauntlet article posted upthread has a pretty excellent answer to this concern:

      "We understand that many people, some of our organizers and members alike, feel that Zak has created some compelling game content. Unfortunately, he’s a toxic, abusive person and we should not be giving him aid and comfort with our dollars. There are plenty of OSR publishers out there who are making amazing content that is equal to or surpasses Zak’s work, and who are not abusers. We have listed a few below and you can find even more in our Fear of a Black Dragon podcast feed.

      The Melsonian Arts Council
      The Hydra Cooperative
      Tuesday Knight Games "
      I’ve very much agree and said that at a minimum we should not support him financially and should condemn his actions.

      My question was whether or not—in addition to not contributing to him financially and condemning his actions—we should stop using the products he has, in the past, created? For example, should someone who likes his work, but not him, use a friend’s borrowed copy of his work to run a dungeon, or should they stop using his past work, even if they don’t contribute to him financially.

      I hope I made my question clear. What do you think?
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      Quote Originally Posted by timbannock View Post
      The only thing I've supported of his (that I know of) is Vornheim, and I added the pertinent pages that I used often in my urbancrawl games to my personal GM's Binder. I will definitely remove them, stop using anything related to them and develop my own tools or find other ones to use. I will also be removing anything I can find that I've ever posted anywhere that promotes or recommends them.

      My reasoning is much as the Gauntlet's (above): he might have put out neat stuff. He might have said useful things. But there's so many others who have done the same and aren't garbage people. I can spend 10 minutes of my time removing his crap from my toolbox and another 15-20 finding substitutions.

      That's my stance, at least.
      Thanks for your detailed and well thought out answer.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      There's a line I saw in Reddit that struck me: "downplaying crummy things that our favorite creators have done is how Zak has survived in the industry so long."

      I'm still considering what to do with the Zak S stuff I've got on my shelves. I don't know that I can use it anymore, without feeling like whatever I create using it is tainted.

      As for his Ennies, he wouldn’t be the first person to have been stripped of an award for stuff he’s done. Far larger awards have been taken away from people for their words and actions.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
      How is this political?!?

      What political party is pro-spousal abuse?
      Which governmental entity supports emotional and physical abuse?
      Its political because you are trying to turn the award into a popularity contest. Maybe we could name it the Jester David party for appropriate Ennie award presentation. The award is not given to the product that wins the most votes, it is given to the best product as decided by the Judges.

      And it is in my opinion harrassment speech for which you should be kicked from this thread. You and your supporters should be ashamed of yourselves.
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      Nevermind.
    1. GMless's Avatar
      GMless -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ralif Redhammer View Post
      There's a line I saw in Reddit that struck me: "downplaying crummy things that our favorite creators have done is how Zak has survived in the industry so long."

      I'm still considering what to do with the Zak S stuff I've got on my shelves. I don't know that I can use it anymore, without feeling like whatever I create using it is tainted.

      As for his Ennies, he wouldn’t be the first person to have been stripped of an award for stuff he’s done. Far larger awards have been taken away from people for their words and actions.
      Thanks for your detailed answer. I understand how you feel; it’s hard for me to get enjoyment out of a creators work if they have done something very evil, especially if they are unrepentant. I don’t think it’s easy to separate it.
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