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

Michael Linke

Adventurer
Only if they actually seek professional quality pay. Some people pursue quality (yes, even professional quality) in their hobbies as its own reward, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Many people who engage in hobbies seek compensation to fund further pursuit of that hobby. There's even a whole section of tax code for "hobby income".

For example, if I paint miniatures as a hobby, i can sell stuff i painted, and dump the proceeds into buying more miniatures to paint. There are rules for how much hobby income you can earn, and how/when that hobby income needs to be taxed as business income instead.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Only if they actually seek professional quality pay. Some people pursue quality (yes, even professional quality) in their hobbies as its own reward, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Yeah, sharing some beautiful memories with close friends and family is it's own reward. Though we've always had an informal pay by food, snacks, and beverages system.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The use of the word "debilitating" here seems to push past empathy and merge into degrading.
I mean, it is a disability. We are literally not able to function in the same way as neurotypical people without certain accommodations. “Debilitating” is maybe slightly more extreme wording, but it’s not wrong, and as someone with ADHD myself, I certainly don’t find it offensive.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Many people who engage in hobbies seek compensation to fund further pursuit of that hobby. There's even a whole section of tax code for "hobby income".

For example, if I paint miniatures as a hobby, i can sell stuff i painted, and dump the proceeds into buying more miniatures to paint. There are rules for how much hobby income you can earn, and how/when that hobby income needs to be taxed as business income instead.
Sure, and that’s absolutely your right. It would also be your right to put the same dedication into your miniature painting and not sell them.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I just took a peek. Lots of tears and lots of mean-spirited commentary. I don’t think it was a good idea on her part to do this.
Yeah someone close to her with her best interest at heart really should have advised her to at least turn comments off, or record and then post, or something.

A lot of folks love these moments. Here’s a target they can harass and then get mad if anyone calls them on it because she’s “the bad guy”, not them!

Give some folks an excuse, and the distance of online communication, and they let the absolute worst within themselves run free.
 

AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
That streamed apology was really painful to watch happen.

It is curious to hear she is a contractor at Apotheosis at the moment. Didn’t she just become the CEO with Stone “stepping aside”?
 



MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've seen this so many times, and been this. In my previous career, I was good at my job and ended up in management. I was ill-suited for it and miserable. In my current career I've avoided that path and am quite content and happy.



Yeah, that attention and adulation, even on the smallest scale, can be a heady thing. It's all too easy to go from being thankful for the support to thinking that it is what you are owed.
This makes me think it is not just about celebrity. A certain attitude can creep in when you are in certain positions, such as certain management positions where your compensation is partially based on your (and therefore your team's) performance, and especially if you are a business owner (perhaps even more so in small business). The stress of responsibility, the stress of your success depending on other peoples performance, and the feeling that you are having to work harder than everyone else can taint how you see and interact with people who report to you. If you are lucky enough to also achieve some success and recognition for competence, it can be more difficult to avoid a certain dictatorial attitude. Add a dash of celebrity to this and it can lead to some very unhealthy views of other people who report to you--especially vendors and contractors.

I've been in this situation, minus celebrity, and I've learned how important it is to have competent people who are assertive enough to early on call you out when you when you are making poor decisions or are not treating people right. I remember one instance where I was working with a team on a project where we had to clean up some bad data we received and I made some assumptions based on similar issues I've experienced in the past. The team started complaining about the amount of manual effort required and I snapped, saying something along the lines of yeah, it sucks, but you just have to do it. And I'm sure my tone was exasperated and probably came off as a dismissive. There was an older lady on my team with a strong personality that didn't let me get away with that, and was very clear about why the process was wasting everyone's time and that there must be a better way. It caused me to step back and say I would try to think of a better solution. That evening I spent some time on it and was able to script something that fixed the issues and saved the team--and my company--a great deal of time on low value work that was making everyone unhappy.

Now, this was someone I had worked with for a while and with whom I had a good relationship, and who I knew was competent. I think it can be much harder for some people to listen to such feedback from temp staff and contractors. You can work so hard gaining competence in your field and trying to earn the respect of your clients, managers, or business partners that you can forget that you need to balance that out with humility and listening to advice, ideas, and criticisms from your direct reports and people with less experience than you. I've certainly experienced that attitude from clients as a vendor and consultant.

If you add celebrity to that, where even the big fish in the industry are spoiling you with praise, and where you have a fan base pumping up your ego, it can lead to toxic relationships. Certainly many people remain decent even at the height of their success, but few if anyone are totally immune from this.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
See, this is what I was driving at. DMing didn’t used to be thought of as labor. It was, at best, a hobby. But in the attention economy, it inarguably is labor. Professional DMs, while a weird concept, are doing work and have every right to charge for that work. But it’s a messed up system that pressures people to turn their hobbies into work in order to get paid. Also there’s nothing wrong with preferring not to hire paid DMs, whoever said this to you is completely wrongheaded about it. If you hired someone to DM for pay and then didn’t pay them that would be one thing, but just choosing not to hire anyone to DM for pay is perfectly valid.
That's quite a stretch. It is just indicative of the growing popularity of the hobby. The fact that there are professional golfers, fishers, bowlers, cooks, etc. doesn't decrease the number of people who golf, fish, bowl, cook, etc. for leisure. It just means that you have a large enough mass of people interested in the hobby that they are interested in watching and learning from professionals and--if busy and have some money--paying a professional occasionally to enjoy their work. I fish on my own time, without any desire to stream it or make money from it, but I've also paid for guides. I like to cook but also like to go to restaurants. I DM 8-16 hours a month, not including prep time, and have no interest in charging for it or streaming it. But I also enjoy live play pod casts, enjoy watching certain people talk about gaming on You Tube, and have paid DMs for a gaming session.

I started playing D&D in the early-mid 80s. Even with the supposedly deleterious commodification of this hobby, it has never been easier to find free gaming opportunities. Its a virtuous cycle. How many people has Critical Role alone brought into the hobby? Let's not let a few toxic narcissists who glom on to the hobby cast aspersions on all gamers who try to make a career out running or discussing games.
 

teitan

Legend
I saw something similar with a good friend's job in charity which supported a movement. They got a new person in who fancied themselves an influencer (and certainly this person did have fairly nutso numbers of Insta followers and the like). Said new person proceeded to immediately massively misspend the charity's budget (or such was the view of about 50% of the charity, the other 50% thought the person was "influencing" and going to win new converts and so on - but no converts were forthcoming - they did upset and lose a lot of the older people who donated to the charity though!), then generally try and make the entire charity and to some extent even the entire movement be about themselves (the "influencer"), specifically. The "influencer" really went out of their way to smash up anything the organisation would do which might give publicity to other people in the charity - for example, a world-famous fashion designer wanted to help them out and do a photoshoot with everyone from the charity. The "influencer" wanted the photoshoot to only be them and their two buds. The designer wasn't down with that, and the "influencer" ended up just destroying the entire opportunity and the charity's long relationship with the fashion designer over it. Over time, this really wrecked the charity. More than half the staff quit over a fairly short period, because they didn't want to be support for an egocentric "influencer", they wanted to work on their issue, and the "influencer" behaved worse and worse. Actually they behaved in a way very like that of Satine/Jamison in terms of their utterly contemptuous and sneering language towards people they worked with, in and out of the charity, people in the movement, and just ordinary supporters. Eventually even the "influencer" quit because they didn't think people were being sufficiently nice/servile to them, but demanded that the charity keep paying them as a "freelancer", only now they didn't have to do any work. Which the charity agreed to. Said charity has now been "dead in the water" for years as a result of the damage this person did. Just horrifying.

I had forgotten all about this until you mentioned that, but yeah, it seems like this is an "influencer" way of operating.
In this case they started becoming one about 2009-2010 with a podcast and having success in their local communities creating some celebrity primarily and secondarily through countering a popular yet controversial writer. This guy published through lulu, while his target was being published through a major publisher, and touted by the head of the charitable organization as important. The influencer helped promote that there were ideas in the more successful author’s books that weren’t using sock puppet accounts. He was also using sock puppets and his buddies to prop himself up as some sort of major new voice. He would have sock puppets that argued with him and then turn and be like oh my gosh you’re so right, thank you Mr. Influencer. A few times he screwed up and got caught doing it but deleted it. Some of us knew what was up.

Fast forward and he had changed his tune and “become a team player”. He was talking about the above mentioned writer positively Etc and it turned sour when they had a disagreement with a friend of the writer. The influencer went out attacking all the writer’s friends, the writer, calling them Nazis, racists etc. he befriended and used people to push his story. Eventually he was removed and his dishonesty has been exposed reducing his influence in the community at large after he tried to gas light everyone on an event he partook in and tried to say “I didn’t do it, this other guy did it”, one of his sock puppet accounts, but the receipts showed it was his real account. Plus we all knew the “other guy” was him. As in he had openly admitted it was him on various occasions as a pseudonym.

Before all that though he almost cost several people their jobs include law firm partners, politicians, journalists etc. exposed some others to stalkers (it’s a niche community but some of the people attracted to it are unhinged and think they are vastly more important than they really are or have connections they don’t have, think Illuminati stuff) such as me and my family. We had to call the police because someone living close to us saw our names on a website in connection with someone he had crafted a false relationship with and was also stalking. It was just insane.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
If someone wants to do professional quality work, they deserve professional quality pay. I think most DMs deserve a bit of compensation, even if they don't plan to make careers of it.
Deserve? That's for the market to decide. If there is no demand for it, doesn't matter how good you are, you are not going to get "professional pay", whatever that means.

I've paid professional DMs because I wanted what they were offering — a good experience, scheduled at a time convenient for me.

It has never crossed my mind, however, that I deserve to have my friends compensate me for my time running running my D&D campaigns. I'm just enjoying time with friends. Doing it for pay would ruin it for me because of the expectations that come with being paid. I have a job. Gaming is my hobby.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I mean, it is a disability. We are literally not able to function in the same way as neurotypical people without certain accommodations. “Debilitating” is maybe slightly more extreme wording, but it’s not wrong, and as someone with ADHD myself, I certainly don’t find it offensive.
Yeah, refusing to recognize that it can be debilitating can be the greater offensive. I was diagnosed as in the early 80s and put on Ritalin when the field was new and Ritalin was over prescribed. A lot of drugging up of difficult kids in over-crowded schools and all that. Even though I have mild ADHD, the experience in 6th and 7th grade was very negative. I felt rather zombified by Ritalin, though my teachers were happy with the result. For me, mild ADHD is a bit of a super-power in that the same impulse that can distract me from paying attention to what I'm supposed to, also allows me to focus intensely on one thing for long periods of time to the point of forgoing sleep. Computerized calendars, task, and project-management systems help make up for my weaknesses.

But my experience in middle school put a big chip on my shoulder when it came to talk about ADHD, especially medicines to treat it. My armchair theorizing based on some reading I did was that what we call a debility in our industrialized and post-industrial society was, in fact, and evolutionary advantage for most of human history. The same thing that makes someone with ADHD perform poorly in our modern school system, makes them a good hunter (really, go hiking with someone with ADHD, they always seem to notice things that most people don't). I was strongly against medicating people with something I didn't think should be treated as an illness.

It took me a while to accept that some people really do need medicine to treat severe ADHD and it be a life-changing improvement to many people's well being. The science has come a long way since the 80s and dismissing the fact that for some people it can be really debilitating can be quite harmful to people who whose lives would be greatly improved by proper medical care.
 

Jahydin

Explorer
I didn't think ADHD could be so bad.

Reading articles like this has downplayed the severity for me :
"Of the 6.4 million kids who have been given diagnoses of A.D.H.D., a large percentage are unlikely to have any kind of physiological difference that would make them more distractible than the average non-A.D.H.D. kid. It’s also doubtful that biological or environmental changes are making physiological differences more prevalent. Instead, the rapid increase in people with A.D.H.D. probably has more to do with sociological factors — changes in the way we school our children, in the way we interact with doctors and in what we expect from our kids."
 
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Azuresun

Adventurer
Times like these remind me of the short story “the lottery.”

Someone has to get stoned but who? We don’t know, but we all take our turn picking a paper, hoping we don’t draw the black dot. We know someone is gonna get it…if they choose poorly.

Now we might say they chose poorly. And we would be right. But what disturbs me is the circling around jeering.

Of course she has problems. There are lots of indicators she had issues but we make her a D&D “influencer/personality” and then torch her when she proves common sense is right.

I am not happy she was a jerk to others but somehow it does not bring any satisfaction to see her get torched.

Of course the next step is to critique her sorrow and decide whether or not she is genuine.

It’s all gross, man. People disappoint. I hope she recovers, learns new ways of relating to others and any of us rubbing our hands together think about why that is so.

Yeah. People who whine about "cancel culture" are obnoxious and wrong, but there's still something deeply disturbing about the dogpiles that social media encourages, no matter how virtuous their cassus belli might have started out as. It's almost literally an Orwellian Five Minutes Hate.
 



DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Yeah someone close to her with her best interest at heart really should have advised her to at least turn comments off, or record and then post, or something.

A lot of folks love these moments. Here’s a target they can harass and then get mad if anyone calls them on it because she’s “the bad guy”, not them!

Give some folks an excuse, and the distance of online communication, and they let the absolute worst within themselves run free.
And this is exactly why I personally think making "public apologies" to the general populace on stuff like this is more or less a waste of time. You are apologizing to a lot of people who have nothing to do with the actual situation and who are just looking to get a self-congratulatory pat on the back after acting the jerk to the person by demanding restitution for something they had nothing to do with.

Apologize to the actual people who your hurt? Absolutely. Apologize to the mass of humanity out in social media-land who are demanding a pound of flesh because they need their public-facing online presence to seem holier-than-thou? No thanks.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Yeah. People who whine about "cancel culture" are obnoxious and wrong, but there's still something deeply disturbing about the dogpiles that social media encourages, no matter how virtuous their cassus belli might have started out as. It's almost literally an Orwellian Five Minutes Hate.
The thing I just shrug about "cancel culture" is that it really seems to me to highlight the difference between those of us who didn't grow up with social media, and the ones that do. Because when you think about it... what is "cancelling"? It is people telling someone "We aren't going to let you be famous anymore."

That's it. That's the punishment. They don't want to see or hear about you online. There's no other forfeiture-- the person doesn't lose any of their money, the person doesn't go to prison, the person doesn't suffer anything physically... nothing like any of that. All it is is "you can't be famous".

And I think that says a lot that that's the worst punishment our younger generations can think of to dish out to someone-- wish them to be anonymous. It makes me think that people like JK Rowling and Louie CK are just crying all the way to the bank.
 

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