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. billd91's Avatar
      billd91 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      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.
      Considering it was a fan vote, it already was a popularity contest. The panel of judges only gets it to the nomination stage our of all submitted work. And nobody believes your gaslighting.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
      Considering it was a fan vote, it already was a popularity contest. The panel of judges only gets it to the nomination stage our of all submitted work. And nobody believes your gaslighting.
      So it is not harrassment when you like what they are saying?
    1. Gradine's Avatar
      Gradine -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      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.
      I don't think any of this is even remotely true. Not even a little bit.

      1) The ENnies are, in a way, a popularity contest. Sure the nominees are ultimately chosen by the Judges, but the winners are voted in by fans. If the winners were picked by the Judges, I think it would be much easier to rescind the awards, because the Judges can decide the past winner's actions and behaviors no longer (or in this case, never did) represent the ideals that this organization and these awards stand for. I think, anyway, that overriding a fan vote is a considerably trickier process (though not altogether unwarranted).
      2) There is no way any of this consists of harassment. Sure he @'ed Morrus but that's a far leap from harassment. Everything else has been comments about somebody's behavior within the public record (behavior reported by and within a thread created by Morrus, for what it's worth, which I think in this case is a lot) and not really directed at anyone specifically. You kind of need a target for something to qualify as harassment.
    1. Gradine's Avatar
      Gradine -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      So it is not harrassment when you like what they are saying?
      It's not harassment because literally nobody is being harassed.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
      I don't think any of this is even remotely true. Not even a little bit.

      1) The ENnies are, in a way, a popularity contest. Sure the nominees are ultimately chosen by the Judges, but the winners are voted in by fans. If the winners were picked by the Judges, I think it would be much easier to rescind the awards, because the Judges can decide the past winner's actions and behaviors no longer (or in this case, never did) represent the ideals that this organization and these awards stand for. I think, anyway, that overriding a fan vote is a considerably trickier process (though not altogether unwarranted).
      2) There is no way any of this consists of harassment. Sure he @'ed Morrus but that's a far leap from harassment. Everything else has been comments about somebody's behavior within the public record (behavior reported by and within a thread created by Morrus, for what it's worth, which I think in this case is a lot) and not really directed at anyone specifically. You kind of need a target for something to qualify as harassment.
      How is calling for someones award to be retroactively stripped from them not harrassment?
    1. dwayne's Avatar
      dwayne -
      I choose not to judge ether way, if it goes to court and a then the judge will decide that's what they are for. As with all things the issues are colored by the glasses that are worn by all looking at the issue. We each bring our own bias to everything and that is why I do not take a side in this, let a more qualified person like a judge do it.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
      It's not harassment because literally nobody is being harassed.
      Is your frame so tight that you think "literally" nobody is being targeted. o_O
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Its political because you are trying to turn the award into a popularity contest.
      You mean the award handed out based on who receives the most public votes?

      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      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.
      Ummm… no. That's not how the ENnies work.
      Have you never voted on them??

      Judges choose which product make the short list for the public vote, pulled from the list of submitted products. The public then votes, ranking their choices, which determine who recieves the gold and who recieves the silver.

      And something like knowing one of the writers of a product might easily have swayed them not to include a product for the list for the public vote.

      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      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.
      Then you should stop engaging, report my post, and let the moderators decide.

      But let me take another crack at explaining this:
      Okay, the #MeToo movement is very topical and is a hot button issue. Which makes something like this needlessly controversial. So let's try separating that issue from Zak and looking at it again.

      Imagine if Zak S had instead caused regular fights at a convention and beaten the tar out of multiple convention goers?
      Would that be someone who should be lauded with an industry award?
      Should he keep the award and continue to be able to use it as a reference to get future work?

      What if instead he was seen at several white power rallies wearing a white hood and proudly showing off Klu Klux Klan tattoos?
      Should he retain an award given to him?
      Should he be allowed to continue advertising his products as "ENnie award winning" and potentially making money off their sale?

      Because you're not just giving an award to the product, to the art, but to the artist. You're recognising them over other artists. He received Gold and Silver ENnies over other highly popular products that weren't created by a wife beater and online troll. You're costing those products sales and those artists work.

      So the award should be rescinded. Ideally, it should retroactively be awarded to the next runner up.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Because it seems like it is a farcical statement to make.
      It was a perfectly reasonable suggestion to make.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      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.
      Even the fact that he consulted on the PHB has bothered me for a while. Luckily I've never purchased anything he's made himself, but if I had, I daresay I'd throw it in the trash and move on. I also don't use any of the Frog God Games products I acquired in the course of getting my hands on a ton of Kobold Press products via humble bundle, knowing their reluctance to properly address a harasser in their company.

      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      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.
      Suggestion that an accolade be revoked from a rapist isn't harassment. What you're doing here is manipulative behavior, and you need to stop.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      Post

      Someone just earned themselves a week-long vacation from the site.

      Anyone else who wants to test the limits of the rules, or whether we mean it when we ask you to walk away, or cool off, should not expect much patience. Please be better than that.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      How is calling for someones award to be retroactively stripped from them not harrassment?
      And now I have to wonder if you're joking.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      How is calling for someones award to be retroactively stripped from them not harrassment?
      Because "consequences" and "harassment" aren't synonyms in the context.

      Would the police be "harassing" Zak S for arresting him for domestic abuse after the fact?
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      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.
      I feel I'm always in the minority in every opinion. But, I personally think that it is dangerous to conflate a person's public and private life too much.

      I've never approved of Zak S's lifestyle, but I never considered boycotting him because his private affairs weren't something I approved of. To do that would have felt a bit to 17th century to me, and it tended work too well back then either. I don't approve of shunning. I don't think there needs to be any organized campaign, or that we need to put a letter upon his head. I don't really think there is a right or wrong in buying one of his Pdf's, for example. I can't see how it does anyone any good either way. Not publically not buy one is a show of virtue, and I don't approve of shows of virtue. I certainly don't approve of redacting the historical record, or rescinding awards for artistic merit that were never endorsements of a person's moral character or personal behavior in the first place.

      I think each person should do what they think is right. If you don't feel you can buy stuff from a person who is that troubled and that abusive of others, then don't. If you feel that it is a bit ridiculous to think that buying something from someone constitutes endorsement of their personal life, then I'm also Ok with that. I'm not sure I'd ever judge anyone by who they brought a product from. One would hope that a person who decides not to buy something from a person whose behavior they can't approve, makes every effort to be pure and righteous in all their behavior that really matters. One would hope that a person who decides that this doesn't matter, is not a person who simply finds morally convenient excuses to do what they want whenever they want to do it. But, those vices - if they are present - are the actual things of substance to me, and not whether they bought a product.

      Zak S is I think an immensely talented person, who is I think obviously immensely troubled, and sadly despite the best of my hopes otherwise, seems to have behaved terribly toward the people in his life. I never boycotted him because he was a porn star. I won't boycott him because he's an abusive jerk. I don' t feel the need to punish anyone, and I don't feel the need for anyone's approval.

      But, as a point of fact, I've never bought anything from him either. And the reason for that is pretty simple. Regardless of who made it, the actual content of the work he produced never appealed to me. It was dark, violent, nihilistic and obviously came from a place of pain, violence, and brokenness that in your face wore those things as a badge of honor and defiance. It crossed a line for me. And well, I just couldn't make that relate to my life or the stories I wanted to tell. I came really close a couple of times, only to watch a video review from some of the work's biggest fans and to be completely turned off by the sort of things that they praised about it. It's just not to my taste.

      I'm sad that the life fit the stereotype, and that the art did come from demons unexorcised. I'm sad that someone as talented as he is, finds himself only breaking things and not creating things. I'm sad that dark and nihilistic as it is, the creative work he produced may be the one good thing of worth he's doing with his life. I am sad at all the pain and waste and brokenness. And I'm sad that most responses are likely to be voyeurism, gossiping, moral preening, wrath and outrage, and nothing that will ever do anyone any good. I am sad that I can't make anything better. I am sad I can't wash the wounds. I am sad that whatever I say will just goad someone on. I'm sad even that I care when none of my caring matters.

      I'm not sad that I was skeptical of turning Zak into a celebrity - skepticism that no matter how mild I made it occasionally made people upset. There would be less need for people to publically walk back what they did or said before if they'd simply bought, or not bought, what he was selling and left it at that. Now we are going to make a big community wide issue of it? Count me out. I walked the other way the community was going when he became a star. I'll probably walk the other way they are walking now.

      UPDATE: Please don't respond to this point if you are thinking to. My better judgment was almost certainly to stay silent, but grief has a way of boiling out and I made the mistake of reading further in the thread. The last thing I want is an excuse to drag myself to an argument.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conan Trustrum View Post
      Because "consequences" and "harassment" aren't synonyms in the context.

      Would the police be "harassing" Zak S for arresting him for domestic abuse after the fact?
      Was the award for his behaviour, or his work?
      If it's not for his behaviour, why should it be stripped because of it?

      The writer of the core Cthulhu Mythos was a rampant racist and xenophobe, but that doesn't affect the merit of his work.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Is your frame so tight that you think "literally" nobody is being targeted. o_O

      Don't make it personal, or you will be asked to leave the thread.
    1. DQDesign's Avatar
      DQDesign -
      @Jester David

      please don't compare private crimes with Nazism.
      abusing multiple people is disgusting, no doubt about it.
      but here there are people whose relatives were in concentration camps, and private crimes are not even far comparable with Nazi approach to evilness.
      please use something else for examples.
      thanks.
    1. Gradine's Avatar
      Gradine -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      How is calling for someones award to be retroactively stripped from them not harrassment?
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Is your frame so tight that you think "literally" nobody is being targeted. o_O
      I didn't write the definition. Nobody here is getting in Zak S's face, DMing him, belittling or demeaning him directly. That's what harassment is. Simply speaking unkindly about a public figure is not harassment.

      Plenty of figures have had rewards/awards rescinded for very similar types of behavior. This is not some out-of-nowhere unprecedented attack.

      I'm really not sure where the indignation and hostility to the idea is even coming from.
    1. billd91's Avatar
      billd91 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      How is calling for someones award to be retroactively stripped from them not harrassment?
      Zak S is not being pressured or bullied. He is being judged for the crap he's pulled and that's very different, and given the weight of the accusations leveled against him, appropriate.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      Was the award for his behaviour, or his work?
      If it's not for his behaviour, why should it be stripped because of it?
      Honestly, it's a combination of both. The ENnies certainly have a popularity aspect to them, given they are a fan vote. Someone can create something with very little actual creative merit, creativity, or technical skill, but it can still win if enough people like it (or don't like the products it's running against. Also see: Sad Puppies.)

      Do you think that if this had all been known about Zak S beforehand (well, to be fair, if certain people took to heart the things so many other people already accepted about him) that his products would have even been accepted as a viable voting option?

      Awards should also reflect more than the work. They should stand for the person receiving them being a reflection of the community and fans for which they are being made. To continue to reward their participation in said community despite what we know about them is to normalize their behaviour.

      In other words: rapists shouldn't get to keep their rewards.

      The writer of the core Cthulhu Mythos was a rampant racist and xenophobe, but that doesn't affect the merit of his work.
      You may want to do more research into this topic before you use HP Lovecraft as an example for your point. I suggest you start with the World Fantasy Award.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by DQDesign View Post
      @Jester David

      please don't compare private crimes with Nazism.
      abusing multiple people is disgusting, no doubt about it.
      but here there are people whose relatives were in concentration camps, and private crimes are not even far comparable with Nazi approach to evilness.
      please use something else for examples.
      thanks.
      If you can suggest a comparable (but non-criminal*) but equally unacceptable behaviour I will happily edit my post.

      * Not that what the Nazis did wasn’t criminal. But belonging to a neonazi organization and marching isn’t in itself illegal.
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