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 Aldarc View Post
      Though he was preemptively pardoned by Ford, Nixon was never formally convicted of a crime when he resigned, but we had increasing evidence of illegal wrong-doing and acted upon that evidence.
      Did Nixon get stripped of his ex-Presidental status after he resigned?

      I am guessing not since, as you say, he never was convicted of illegal wrong-doings. If you look at the history book it does not say 39th President of the USA vacated.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conan Trustrum View Post
      Do you twirl your oversized moustache and laugh mockingly as you type?
      Lets not make it personal now. The mods dont like it when I get personal.
    1. Alexander Kalinowski's Avatar
      Alexander Kalinowski -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
      Though he was preemptively pardoned by Ford, Nixon was never formally convicted of a crime when he resigned, but we had increasing evidence of illegal wrong-doing and acted upon that evidence.
      I hope you're not implying we should hold anyone to the same standards as a man holding the highest public office in the land.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Lets not make it personal now. The mods dont like it when I get personal.
      Feel free.

      My feelings tend not to get hurt by people who stand up for the sort of things you've been defending in this thread.
    1. redrick's Avatar
      redrick -
      Y'all just going around in circles with the same few people, using increasingly outlandish analogies. I think it's a waste of time. Don't put the pressure on the few customers who proudly proclaim that one's "personal life" (eg, serial harassment, sexual assault and partner abuse) should be kept entirely separate from their art. Put pressure on the people who have the power to stop enabling Zak through giving him access to their marketplace, through granting him awards, through celebrating his work.

      Stripping an abuser of their influence within their community is not just about meting out punishment. It is about taking away one of the weapons that they use to harass, assault and torment countless individuals — their power and standing in a community.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alexander Kalinowski View Post
      I hope you're not implying we should hold anyone to the same standards as a man holding the highest public office in the land.
      Yeah.

      It would just be CRAZY if both the president and Zak S were held up to the standard of not sexually and otherwise assaulting and abusing women.

      Imagine living in such a topsy-turvy world.
    1. Alexander Kalinowski's Avatar
      Alexander Kalinowski -
      What would be the value of an award that can get stripped based on hearsay? It would be nil.

      What's even the value of an award that is, in part, based on personal conduct and not strictly professional excellence? Why would I, as an industry professional, even want an award if that would give some award comittee some leverage about my personal life? To be honest, I'd rather skip the award and be in charge of my own destiny.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alexander Kalinowski View Post
      What's even the value of an award that is, in part, based on personal conduct and not strictly professional excellence? Why would I, as an industry professional, even want an award if that would give some award comittee some leverage about my personal life? To be honest, I'd rather skip the award and be in charge of my own destiny.
      When the "leverage about my personal life" is along the lines of "hmmmmm, did I or didn't I sexually assault anyone?", I don't really see the problem with that sort of person filtering themselves out of the mix.
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alexander Kalinowski View Post
      I hope you're not implying we should hold anyone to the same standards as a man holding the highest public office in the land.
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Did Nixon get stripped of his ex-Presidental status after he resigned?

      I am guessing not since, as you say, he never was convicted of illegal wrong-doings. If you look at the history book it does not say 39th President of the USA vacated.
      You are two are both presenting strawman arguments, though I cannot say for certain whether you are intentionally or unintentionally misreading me. I would certainly like to believe the latter so I will give you another chance to contextualize my statement. But here is a hint: Nixon's POTUS status is not the point.
    1. monsmord's Avatar
      monsmord -
      The word at the fulcrum of this awards back-and-forth has become "merit:" "the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward."

      Like a lot of words, "merit," "good," and "worthy" are subjective. Yunru argues "merit" is a value independent of authorship, others disagree. Neither can be inherently right or wrong. But the dependent clause there is the kicker, especially "reward."

      I'm reminded of Pete Rose (an older-generation major league baseball player, for those of a certain age or not of a certain country). Some feel his outstanding record warrants his inclusion in the Basebell Hall of Fame, others feel his behavior off the field (namely betting on baseball - while a player and manager) sullied the good name of the sport and he should remain disqualified. Depends on where your values lie, and what sort of message one wants to send. The Hall of Fame concluded that Rose's behavior was contrary to the spirit of the game, and for this he was not eligible for the rewards of membership. He'll continue to hold his records until they're broken, and no one disputes his expertise or accomplishments, but he will not be found in Cooperstown (unless he's visiting) because, as determined by the Hall of Fame, accomplishment is not the sole determiner when celebrating the best baseball has to offer. Had his gambling been limited to horses or poker, it wouldn't have been an issue; but betting on the sport (and on his team) while contributing to the sport is at best problematic, and at worst cheating: hence the ban.

      It has been well documented for the past several years that Zak S has engaged in prolonged campaigns of bullying and harassment of gamers, content creators, and industry professionals, both personally and through directed proxies. He has even impersonated at least one industry professional online in an effort to discredit them. Even if you choose to ignore the many claims against him of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, even if you dismiss the credible statements of victims of his personal non-gaming abuse and harassment... the fact that he has and continues to undermine the diversity and creative stable of the industry, and to sully the image of our hobby as an inclusive, welcoming community, should be enough to convince you that he should not be rewarded for his behavior, not by us. It's a black mark on the industry that we continue to say, "It doesn't matter how you treat my fellow gamers or publishers, or how negatively you impact the creative potential of others in my hobby, just write something I like and it'll be okay."

      The gaming hobby and industry benefits, as most things do, from diversity, inclusion, and choice. We won't all agree on, well, pretty much anything, evidenced here. But all should be welcome - and safe - across demographics. To make that possible, the gaming community and content providers must abide by the Popper Paradox: to be tolerant, it must be intolerant of intolerance. Zak S and people like him are cancerous: turning off existing and potential gamers, rattling creators, limiting diversity, and generating divisiveness not because of any artistry, but because of his actions and choices IRL. The recent statement by The Gauntlet is a decisive and - to the point that gaming should be welcoming and safe - positive step in this direction.

      The ENnies have an opportunity to say with force that behaviors contrary to the spirit of gaming can be neither rewarded nor encouraged, that part of being the "best" of anything in gaming is in improving and growing the hobby for all current and future gamers, that -isms and -phobias and harassment and bullying aren't virtues to celebrate or ignore, and will not be sanctioned or rewarded. We can encourage creative excellence AND discourage abhorrent behaviors; these are not mutually exclusive.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Do you have any other imaginary things that Zak S might have done that we should be aware of? Imagine if Zak S was orange and was the President of the USA? Well we would definitely have to strip him of his Ennie awards then.
      Yes, they were “imaginary”. They were hypothetical examples raised in an attempt to get past a potential logical block that many people have regarding sexual assault accusations to get to the crux of the issue: that if someone behaves negatively, they should lose social standing and boons awarded to them.
      That being an “award wining gaming writer” includes some behavioral expectations. That to be able to claim the increases sales and prestige of listing the ENnies among your accolades, you need to refrain from performing societally unacceptable acts. That you need to meet a minimum requirement of “non a-hole” to qualify to win the award, with the bar set at the fairly low “don’t assault people.”

      Because while the two examples I gave were hypothetical and thus imaginary, the three complaints raised in the news article and the many, many other examples of his poor behaviour online are NOT imaginary.

      To do otherwise and let him keep the award is to knowingly and willingly allow a rapists to continue profit from the prestige of having said award. To not speak up and remain silent is to condone his actions, emboldens him and those like him.
      It tells people that the industry is tolerant and accepting of abusers.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
      You are two are both presenting strawman arguments, though I cannot say for certain whether you are intentionally or unintentionally misreading me. I would certainly like to believe the latter so I will give you another chance to contextualize my statement. But here is a hint: Nixon's POTUS status is not the point.
      So if Nixons POTUS status is not the point, what is your point?
    1. Alexander Kalinowski's Avatar
      Alexander Kalinowski -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conan Trustrum View Post
      Yeah.

      It would just be CRAZY if both the president and Zak S were held up to the standard of not sexually and otherwise assaulting and abusing women.

      Imagine living in such a topsy-turvy world.
      I would kindly request that you refrain from putting words into my mouth and then arguing against the strawman, thank you very much.

      At no point did I suggest Zak Smith, if(!) he had been sexually harrassing/abusing anyone, should not be legally held accountable for it. And I would kindly ask you to refrain from making any statements that even could be read as implying such.
      What I am saying is that determining the truth of such accusations usually involves a fairly elaborate process commonly called "trial" which is beyond the scope of my means and interest. And I suspect it's beyond at least beyond the means of anyone else in here as well.

      My only interest here is the public reaction, specifically by anyone who lacks complete information and comes down on either side of the fence. It is both inappropriate and unbecoming.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
      Yes, they were “imaginary”. They were hypothetical examples raised in an attempt to get past a potential logical block that many people have regarding sexual assault accusations to get to the crux of the issue: that if someone behaves negatively, they should lose social standing and boons awarded to them.
      That being an “award wining gaming writer” includes some behavioral expectations. That to be able to claim the increases sales and prestige of listing the ENnies among your accolades, you need to refrain from performing societally unacceptable acts. That you need to meet a minimum requirement of “non a-hole” to qualify to win the award, with the bar set at the fairly low “don’t assault people.”

      Because while the two examples I gave were hypothetical and thus imaginary, the three complaints raised in the news article and the many, many other examples of his poor behaviour online are NOT imaginary.

      To do otherwise and let him keep the award is to knowingly and willingly allow a rapists to continue profit from the prestige of having said award. To not speak up and remain silent is to condone his actions, emboldens him and those like him.
      It tells people that the industry is tolerant and accepting of abusers.
      It is a false dictomy to say that a lck of active denail is a sign of tacit approval, and a sign of arguing in bad faith.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alexander Kalinowski View Post
      I would kindly request that you refrain from putting words into my mouth and then arguing against the strawman, thank you very much.
      I wasn't putting words in your mouth. I was taking your statement regarding standards people should be held to and extending it's logic into the point at hand.

      Funny how the scenario was appropriate to both parties, no?
    1. Alexander Kalinowski's Avatar
      Alexander Kalinowski -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
      You are two are both presenting strawman arguments, though I cannot say for certain whether you are intentionally or unintentionally misreading me. I would certainly like to believe the latter so I will give you another chance to contextualize my statement. But here is a hint: Nixon's POTUS status is not the point.
      You're right. The main point in all of this is that absent of clear evidence, it's impossible to come down on either side.
    1. S'mon -
      I don't think public-vote awards should be rescinded, no matter how scuzzy the person. If Vox Day or Varg Vikernes wins an ENnie, it should stand IMO. It says nothing about their moral character.

      As for the OP, I feel sorry for Mandy, and I expect she had good reasons for posting when she did. I appreciate that she feels bad about having facilitated the abuse of others. I don't plan to buy any more of Zak's stuff.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      It is a false dictomy to say that a lck of active denail is a sign of tacit approval, and a sign of arguing in bad faith.
      Nope.

      Not at all.

      Not remotely.

      Because the party that Jester David is talking about is the party responsible for handing out the award in the first place, not you, I, or anyone else. What they say (or don't say) has a very specific, relevant context.

      And any reasonable person would not have even bothered arguing otherwise because this fact should be obvious to people who, you know, interact with other people.
    1. S'mon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alexander Kalinowski View Post
      You're right. The main point in all of this is that absent of clear evidence, it's impossible to come down on either side.
      Well you have three people making a claim. They could all be lying due to some unrelated and unknown matter, but probably they're not. You don't have to apply criminal court standards of beyond
      reasonable doubt in forming an opinion whether something is probably true.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shasarak View Post
      Well, lets imagine that kenmarble was part of the KKK. How many people do you think he would have killed?

      Do you not see the problem with this?
      No, I don’t. Imagine whatever you want. If it’s obviously making a hypothetical point like you are, then I’m not worried.

      Are you worried about Zak’s reputation? I thought “literally no one” was showing sympathy for him?
    Comments Leave Comment