D&D Celebrity Satine Phoenix & Husband Jamison Stone Accused Of Abuse Towards Freelancers

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D&D influencer Satine Phoenix, and her husband Jamison Stone, who run tabletop gaming company Apotheosis Studios, have been accused of abusive behavior towards freelancers and contracted workers.

Satine Phoenix is a well-known D&D personality and creator, and was the D&D Community Manager for about a year back in 2018. Both she and Stone have appeared in many events and streaming shows, and have worked with WotC, Geek & Sundry, and other companies. Recently their Kickstarter campaign Sirens: Battle of the Bards raised over $300,000. At GaryCon, a US gaming convention, the couple held a public wedding.

sirens.jpg

Accusations were initially leveled last week against Stone by tattooist Chad Rowe, who tweeted about the abusive way in which Stone, as his client at the time, treated him. The artist was "insulted, berated, and talked down to as if I was a lesser person". Other reports started to roll in as people shared similar experiences, with people revealing how they had been bullied by them, and how the pair frequently portrayed themselves as 'better' than those they worked with. At the time of writing there have been many such reports including one from voice actress and designer Liisa Lee who was subjected to underhanded business practices by Phoenix and her then partner Ruty Rutenberg. Others indicated difficulties in getting paid for work done for Stone and Phoenix or their company.

Lysa Penrose reported on problematic interactions while Phoenix worked at WotC, who was the primary point of contact regarding a report of abuse. Penrose reports that Phoenix failed to pass on the reports of abuse, and continued to publicly associate with the abuser.

Jamison Stone has since resigned as CEO of Apotheosis Studios (though the pair do own the company) and issued a long apology which has been widely criticized. Phoenix released a statement about a week later. Screenshots leaked from a private channel indicate that they have adopted a strategy of shifting the blame onto Stone, so that Phoenix's public image remain intact, with Stone writing “I also am ensuring behind the scenes ... we shield Satine as much as physically possible from damage.”

D&D In A Castle, which is an event which hosts D&D games run by professional DMs in a weekend break in a castle, has dropped the pair from its lineup, as has Jasper's Game Day, an organization which works to prevent suicides. Origins Game Fair, at which the couple are celebrity guests, removed Stone from its guest list, but not Phoenix, stating that "staff assessed that there was no immediate risk of physical harm".

According to ComicBook.com. former collaborator of Phoenix, Ruty Rutenberg, is suing Phoenix, alleging misappropriation of $40,000 of stream network Maze Arcana's money.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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mythago

Adventurer
It was "believe Satine's side of the story." Which was wrong. But it's not always easy for people to see clearly when someone they like is positioning someone else they barely know as a villain.

Maybe Tito is a psycho abuser, for all I know, but I see no reason to assume that for certain just because he believed a manipulative narcissist.

Who said anything about Z being a “psycho abuser”? You keep painting this in weird extremes: either the assumptions you are making about Z being a truly good dude unwittingly led astray are true, or he’s an evil abuser who is being tarred simply by “associating” with Satine.

Perhaps it would be better to focus on Z’s behavior rather than on making assumptions about what a good guy he “seems” to be?
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
There's a phrase I read a few years ago that I really liked, "We unintentionally turn away those who are good for us or show healthy relationship traits because they do not allow us to experience love in the way in which we are familiar."

That is very true. If we grow up in a toxic or neglectful atmosphere that was called "love", that's what we know; that's how we define it. So subconsciously that's what we seek, because humans in general seek familiarity. This isn't must my laymen opinion. I grew up in an abusive household, and the relationship between my dad and mom was one of high disfunction and certainty not a healthy relationship. Most of that stuff I realized as I grew to adulthood was not healthy or the way to have a relationship (having seen some of my friends who did have healthy relationships to see firsthand certainly helped). However, I knew there were a lot of subconscious behaviors I had (like being a huge conflict avoider and shutting down rather whenever confronted), so I swallowed my pride and went to see a therapist. Not because I was doing anything abusive or I was having major relationship issues, but because I wanted to be the best partner and parent I can because my family deserves that. Having a 3rd party professional expert who saw things I didn't and could give great advice was a great help*. It's pretty well accepted among professionals that my first statement up there is true. I highly recommend therapists for everyone, and wish they could be part of a standard preventative maintenance healthcare plan so everyone could have access. Communicating effectively is a skill, and must be practiced and coached. Recognizing preconceptions and subconscious traits is hard, and we generally need help addressing them.

Why do I bring this up? Because it shows that comments like "everyone in an abusive relationship should be able to identify abuse easily." That's wholly untrue, and is actually more the opposite, according to the specialists I've actually spoken to. There is a reasons why folks who have been in abusive relationships (like my mom) keep getting in them. Same type of partner over and over.

So it makes complete sense to see how many people who were abused by them continued to take that abuse and didn't say anything, especially in the power dynamic that existed. No one mistreated by them asked for it or deserved it, and none of them should be victim blamed by not recognizing it.


*I came up with a saying years ago, "Relationships are like a boardgame. When you're watching it from the side, you know all the right moves, but when it's you playing it, suddenly things get much more clouded."
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I wonder if this dynamic is specific to dnd as a hobby/business. It seems so many people were afraid to speak out because there are literal gatekeepers--influential people who have access to connections and can blacklist people they don't like. Perhaps because it is so hard to make a living doing freelance dnd stuff, and so many people want to, it increases the chance of exploitation. Then again, you see exploitation across many different industries, so maybe not.

I can't help but wonder if the way wotc operates contributes, even if unwittingly, to this dynamic. It seems that once someone is an 'insider' to some degree, they have a lot of potential power to determine who gets access to opportunities and who does not.
It’s not just D&D, it’s every branch of the entertainment industry.
 

I think that the danger of celebrity, no matter how relatively minor, is when you start trying to use it as currency in and of itself. When you start believing your own hype machine and being more concerned with how people treat you than how you treat people. Back in the day, I knew so many musicians that were absolutely full of themselves, when all they were drawing was a crowd of 100-200 people. Big fish in a small pond and all that.*

*Not that I didn't once ask for a bag of marshmallows in a rider as a lark; those remain the best-tasting marshmallows I've ever had...

What baffles me, is that they would risk their own career and reputation by not paying the people they hire. Sure, it will get one product out quick and cheap by not paying your artist... but then they'll never work for you again. Surely you want to keep producing products?

Apart from just common decency, why would you burn your bridges like that? If you find yourself a good artist, surely you'd like to keep them around for your next project? But instead they just keep burning through new artists, screwing all of them over, and burning that bridge. Eventually word starts getting around.

Even if you are the most unpleasant, selfish influencer, and a rotten person behind the scenes... that just seems rather short sighted.

In all honesty, yeah. Just because a person is good at playing D&D, or has good ideas, that doesn't mean that they have the skills to run a business or manage a project. It's one of the reasons the history of TSR is littered with bad/shady business decisions.

This is just a flaw with point buy character generation. You spend all your points on the fun skills and forget to spend it on the boring skills you actually need.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
What baffles me, is that they would risk their own career and reputation by not paying the people they hire. Sure, it will get one product out quick and cheap by not paying your artist... but then they'll never work for you again. Surely you want to keep producing products?

Apart from just common decency, why would you burn your bridges like that? If you find yourself a good artist, surely you'd like to keep them around for your next project? But instead they just keep burning through new artists, screwing all of them over, and burning that bridge. Eventually word starts getting around.

Even if you are the most unpleasant, selfish influencer, and a rotten person behind the scenes... that just seems rather short sighted.
When you control a lot of bridges, burning one between yourself and a newcomer also cuts that newcomer off from the rest of the industry. That’s a big part of how people are able to get away with stuff like this, no one wants to upset them because they’re a bottleneck to get into the big-leagues. There’s also no shortage of talented young artists hoping to break into the RPG space, so they could afford to be pretty flippant with who they cut out.
 


JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
Let's see is she can live up to her namesake and rise from the ashes.

Based on her response so far, it doesn't seem that way. Perhaps she should change her name to Satine Vulture instead...
How many times do you let someone like that rise, though, before you break out the fire extinguisher and say "No more!"?
 



In all honesty, yeah. Just because a person is good at playing D&D, or has good ideas, that doesn't mean that they have the skills to run a business or manage a project. It's one of the reasons the history of TSR is littered with bad/shady business decisions.

It's why over the years the whole "For gamers, by gamers" tag line has become more a red flag than a sign of quality for me.

Like many other small businesses run by people with a good job skill set, their leadership, communication, and project management skills are learned on the job - which may be the worst place to learn them. Especially when a mistake might cost you your livelihood. And few people are great at all three.

It's also known as the Peter Principle for creatives who work in a corporate environment. A person who is a great writer or artists may not have great people skills. Yet to keep getting raises to stay ahead of inflation or get promoted, they have to transition out of the "grunt" work and into management positions - which are not their skill set or the or their focus.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
It's also known as the Peter Principle for creatives who work in a corporate environment. A person who is a great writer or artists may not have great people skills. Yet to keep getting raises to stay ahead of inflation or get promoted, they have to transition out of the "grunt" work and into management positions - which are not their skill set or the or their focus.
Critically, the second aspect of the Peter Principle is that because they are so inept at middle management, they never get promoted out of those positions, and their past excellence keeps them from being fired or demoted. They just stay stuck in positions they are bad at.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Critically, the second aspect of the Peter Principle is that because they are so inept at middle management, they never get promoted out of those positions, and their past excellence keeps them from being fired or demoted. They just stay stuck in positions they are bad at.
Yep, the system seems built specifically to funnel people into their position of least competence.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Maybe we just expect the behavior more from men? I'm certainly that way - to the point I didn't recognize my wife's abuse in my first marriage until the end.
Yes. Absolutely true. For good reason, too. I mean, for every Satine, there is a Stone and a Zac S, as it were.
After all, a guy should be able to take being bullied and hit by a woman, right?
Oof. I'm sorry man. No one should have to live like that. I'm glad you got out.
In fairness, I had the exact same impression of them.
Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of it. I think Satine projects both inviting warmth and nerdy try-hard energy, on top of being more circumspect with who and how she does this stuff, whereas Zac and Stone lash out much more freely.
I first saw Koebel in a DM roundtable he did with Mercer, Colville and Mearls, and I had thought that he had an attitude of "holier-than-thou" towards the rest of the panel when it came to doing representation well in RPGs. Like, he was making reasonable points, but the way he presented them was aggressive and off-putting. He was the co-creator of Dungeon World who could do no wrong, after all. In hindsight I think he was projecting overconfidence to compensate for the abusive behaviour he had in private.
Yeah, even his whole look screamed performative progressiveness to me.
Listening to him talk...I couldn't watch more than 10 minutes of that panel you're talking about, because of him.
I think it's generally weird to turn RPGs into a performance.

Or to go even broader artists making a public performance outside of their work. Of course a musician on a stage or actor in a film is a performance. But when people are turning public appearances into a performance, that's just really weird to me.

The corner of the RPG world that I usually roam are usually "I got this idea/discovery that might interest you" or "I have made this product that you might like". With the creators themselves not being part of the discussion of the work, or making the presentation of their new work about themselves.
The two notable exceptions in the past having been Zak and Raggi. They were courting personal attention and that didn't turn out well for anyone involved.
It could well be that these two bad impressions have colored the whole perception of creators marketing themselves, but my instinct is more towards the practice being most appealing to unpleasant individuals.
Nah. The Vast majority of people in the TTRPG spotlight are good people. This take is reductive and vastly overbroad.
 


Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of it. I think Satine projects both inviting warmth and nerdy try-hard energy, on top of being more circumspect with who and how she does this stuff, whereas Zac and Stone lash out much more freely.
In fairness, there's a number of people in the 'D&D Famous' space who feel kind of try-hard to me: I've never payed it much mind; I just assumed they were excited about what they were doing and trying extra hard not to jinx it, which I completely understand. I haven't followed Satine terribly closely - I mainly remember her for appearing on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop and playing a setite in LA by Night - but I hadn't noticed any indication of negative behavior, while the others you mentioned felt like they might be jerks off the bat.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
*Not that I didn't once ask for a bag of marshmallows in a rider as a lark; those remain the best-tasting marshmallows I've ever had...
I ran some library mini-comic-con DnD, using an adventure I wrote to take 1 hour to run, just for that event, alongside two other DMs also running my adventure (three times with new players each time), and I can't even tell ya how intoxicating it was to be the king of that moment, for it all to go perfectly, (1-hour adventure with a satisfying arc! I still dunno how I managed it!), and when someone helped my wife get me an energy drink and some nachos between games, i felt like a rock star, just for a moment.

It's pretty easy to see how people can get caught up. My focus, as always, was on serving others and seeing other people have a good time and be happier leaving the room than entering it, but I can't say I wouldn't lose that eventually if i were truly famous, not just in the world's smallest spotlight for a day.
 

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