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

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
I suppose everyone will have to decide for themselves whether S&J are sufficiently remorseful and deserve yet another chance. This would be Satine's third chance, by my count, and Jamison's second (for me, he sort of came out of nowhere last year, but I well-remember how she supported Zak S. right up until the last minute and I even have a friend with receipts for the harassment mob she sent toward him).

For me, I want nothing to do with any future projects she's involved in (or him, for that matter... not that anything he's said or done on his own really appeals to me). The bridge has been burnt. I'm too old and grumpy to give people multiple chance to not be jerks. There's plenty of other creators out there I can give my money to.
 

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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".

I think for famous people this may be the case. Most famous people can probably weather a cancelation financially because they will still find an audience even if they are deprived of a larger one. But canceling for people who aren't famous, are just internet famous, or simply using social media to market business or a service that is career ending to people, and can impact future employment, family life, personal life with friends, etc. Social media is a powerful tool and businesses use it when they are hiring. A public canceling of someone who is not famous or who has some minor internet celebrity in a niche area, can easily result in that person not finding employment or having tremendous difficulty finding employment. It certainly can impact their ability to find work in that field, but it can extend to totally unrelated fields because companies don't want to hire someone who has a stain like that on social media (and people have been known to contact employers of regular working folks when a person has a political or cultural opinion they don't like for example). So it can literally mean loss of ability to food and house oneself. I live in the US, where the safety net isn't going to protect you from that kind of loss of employment. So I am not a fan anytime things move in the direction of going after peoples' livelihoods (which cancelation campaigns frequently have the effect of)
 

Retreater

Legend
I never followed her to begin with. I hope only that this fiasco helps the freelancers get paid and treated better (since I'm a freelancer I do have a stake in the industry as a whole.) I also hope this gets the project fulfilled for all the backers (since I also back a lot of things on Kickstarter).
I hope this has a ripple effect on the industry. If two big names can get called out, maybe other designers who aren't as well known will see this as a wake-up call (assuming they need one).
But I agree with others here. Both of these people need to back away and get the help they need. I think some degree of public accountability can be helpful, but let's not go overboard as a community.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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."
It was super over-diagnosed in kids and medication for it was over-prescribed in the 80s and 90s, but it is very much a real thing, which can be very debilitating for some people.
 

Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
This whole mess made me wonder, is there somewhere there is a description for freelancers in the RPG industry to read about what they should expect sort of generally when being employed? I'm not thinking of pay rates or such, just basics about what treatment are you to expect as a mimimun, what are the most common things to look out for and things like that.

That could help people being abused recognise it early on, instead of chalking it up to business practice.
 

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."

That article is from 8 years ago. Do you know how much has changed about our understanding of mental health in general, and ADHD specifically, since then?
 

Because when you think about it... what is "cancelling"? It is people telling someone "We aren't going to let you be famous anymore."
It's also "The book I haven't actually read shouldn't be published" and "You should be fired" and "You should not be allowed to speak on campus" ad nauseum. That's not to say the government should step in and "do something about this" (freedom of association is a thing, too), but internet culture evolved into this and it would be nice if it evolved out of it someday.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
It's also "The book I haven't actually read shouldn't be published" and "You should be fired" and "You should not be allowed to speak on campus" ad nauseum. That's not to say the government should step in and "do something about this" (freedom of association is a thing, too), but internet culture evolved into this and it would be nice if it evolved out of it someday.
That isn't internet culture. That is all stuff that has been going on my entire life. Trying to get people fired for their politics or to protest a public speaker - especially at universities - has been going on in this country for decades - at least back into the 80s if not earlier. And those of us old enough to remember the Satanic Panic around D&D might actually remember some book burnings protesting books that the burners thought "shouldn't be published" - and those were going on before D&D and continued going on after.

What's changed is that it's all very much more public now. And much more "democratized". For example, 35 years ago if there was a student protest over a speaker at some small liberal arts college in Ohio you wouldn't have heard about it even if you lived up the road from them unless it was literally the president of the US that they were protesting. It might have merited a blurb on page 6 of a newspaper on a slow news day. Now it's the number 1 story on a hundred different websites trying to fill a 24 hour news cycle even if it's just some nobody and "everyone" is supposed to have an opinion on it and it all feeds into some ongoing narrative about how the world is going to heck. Instead of protesting just being a thing that college students do because they don't have any power to do anything else.
 

This was 2019, well after the game had exploded and they were hiring up. She left a few weeks after Mearls final social media activity trying to cover his butt over the mishandling of the Zak S. situation. Then, the women accusing Satine of mishandling accusations against an abuser working with WotC takes over rhe position immediately.

Was a one year contract.

Started in 2018 and the company was commonly using 1 year term contracts then.

Contract term ended.

I do not see anything other than the contract ending in the timing of when she left. Next community manager was a one year contract as well.
 

That isn't internet culture. That is all stuff that has been going on my entire life.
No one is saying social shaming is new -- I've said that explicitly. But if you haven't noticed the way it's manifested in internet culture, I don't really know what to tell you. I guess we can agree to disagree.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
No one is saying social shaming is new -- I've said that explicitly. But if you haven't noticed the way it's manifested in internet culture, I don't really know what to tell you. I guess we can agree to disagree.
What's changed is that it's all very much more public now. And much more "democratized". F
I've noticed that it's changed, as I mention in the message you're replaying to. It's changed in that it's now global instead of local and much more democratized. It isn't just a group of rich alumni trying to get a professor fired for their politics - it's "regular" folks with social media accounts trying to do it. Students can't just protest an offensive speaker coming to talk at their university without it becoming national news and everyone having to have an opinion on it. And so on.

Social media takes the local and makes it global. That can be good, but it can also be ugly. Because turning a local mob into a global mob will necessarily make it more visible and harder to ignore. But this stuff was always going on - it's just harder to pretend that it isn't happening than it was 40 years ago.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

I think you're pretty wrong there. It isn't the worst they can think of. It is the one and only punishment that they actually can implement.

The world at large cannot take your money, or send you to prison - those are for the courts. And making you suffer physically would in most forms be highly illegal. The world at large has been handed one tool to work with, so that's what they work with.
 

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.
As someone with fairly severe ADHD (thank god for ritalin!) I'd definitely say ADHD can be debilitating. It's an interesting disability in that the impact on your life is not necessarily purely negative (I suspect people with a lot of disabilities actually feel this way though), but if I didn't have ritalin, I don't think I could hold a job long-term, and my relationships with others would be negatively impacted to (I have enough impulsive stuff that I sometimes say stuff that comes into my mind but that I didn't actually want to, y'know, say, and certainly don't mean - one thing I value about the internet and forums especially is that you can review and edit posts).
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.
Yeah this exactly. I also got a minor benefit before my ADHD was treated in that, unless I was really focused on what someone was saying, I was basically nearly immune to back-handed compliments, cutting remarks, and any put-downs which weren't so direct they were embarrassing to the person saying them, so a lot of high-school nastiness just rolled off me. I remember realizing someone was trying to insult me literally a year after they'd done it, and we'd since become friends, I think in part because they had so dismally failed to put me down lol.
No one is saying social shaming is new -- I've said that explicitly. But if you haven't noticed the way it's manifested in internet culture, I don't really know what to tell you. I guess we can agree to disagree.
Just looking at the internet here is really unhelpful, though.

That's the problem, and that's what people do. They focus entirely on the internet, and they completely ignore the much bigger, much more real stuff going on, which is news media, particularly talk news, opinion columns and the like, which have a much bigger real/long-term impact on both society and the success of individuals than spats on the internet do.

Also, those sources tell you to only think about the internet, and never to think about them, they tell you they're normal and okay, and the internet stuff is wrong. To the point where a talking head on a TV channel (not even Fox, btw) is disparaging a literal child, essentially doxxing them, trying to come up with anything negative at all they can find about them, and essentially sic'ing people on them, and reaching millions or tens of millions of people, but when confronted on the issue, insists that's not "cancel culture". Whereas a post with 80k likes on it, that was probably only seen by a few hundred k people, that is "cancel culture".

My point is that to focus on the internet here is delusional nonsense, that's entirely self-serving and a bit of a generational problem.

Yes would it be nice to see less pile-ons and so on - sure, but we already have - they have already declined. They're way less fashionable than they were. But no-one reports on that. That's not a story. Instead someone millionaire or even billionaire in a couple of hilarious cases, whines that they've been "cancelled" because people decided they sucked, and said so, even though it has had no material impact on them. A month later the same millionaire can be seen telling their viewers/readers/followers how dastardly some individual is, and saying that those viewers/readers/followers might want to contact the employer of the individual, and demand they be fired. Worrying about hypocrisy is for poor people.

The issue started to become an actual problem with the 24-hour news cycle, and the rise of opinion-based shows to fill airtime, and later the realization by newspapers that opinion columns, no matter how dumb and vile, got more clicks than well-written, well-researched, well-considered articles.

That's your real problem. "Cancel culture" stuff is an attempt by those people - the ones perpetrating this issue - to distract from their own behaviour. Ignore how I, Opinion Show Host, told 12.5m people that this 15-year-old kid is a bad person who needs to be dealt with, and be really worried that about a minor internet celeb who said rape was funny and then got upset when people told him it wasn't and un-followed him. That latter, they tell you, is the "real problem". Sheesh.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This thread seems to have a lot of difficulty staying near its nominal topic. First sex shaming, then slurs, now ADHD. The latter, at least, is a worthy enough topic overall, but not for this thread.

That suggests to me that the nominal topic has largely played out.

Bring it back around to relevance, please.
 


My point is that to focus on the internet here is delusional nonsense, that's entirely self-serving and a bit of a generational problem.

I think this is still relevant to the topic, but I apologize if that's a misjudgment on my part.

But anyway, not a big fan of whataboutism. Yes, our televised media is rotten, too, and yes, I'm thinking of the same outlets you are when I say that, but that does nothing to freshen up the culture of mobbing and dogpiling on social media. And to circle back to the point, the outcome of that rottenness is not just "you can't be famous anymore." Just as the rottenness of televised media isn't just "grandma has something new to be mad about" -- it's "the school board has a new pretense to pull books out of the library or select history textbooks that don't teach history."

In short, both suck.
 

I think this is still relevant to the topic, but I apologize if that's a misjudgment on my part.

But anyway, not a big fan of whataboutism. Yes, our televised media is rotten, too, and yes, I'm thinking of the same outlets you are when I say that, but that does nothing to freshen up the culture of mobbing and dogpiling on social media. And to circle back to the point, the outcome of that rottenness is not just "you can't be famous anymore." Just as the rottenness of televised media isn't just "grandma has something new to be mad about" -- it's "the school board has a new pretense to pull books out of the library or select history textbooks that don't teach history."

In short, both suck.
I'm not sure if you understand where the "whataboutism" is, here. The televised media is engaging in whataboutism to distract from their own behaviour, which is far more egregious and reaches many times more people. To talk about "cancel culture" as a product of the internet is to engage in whataboutism. You're being vague enough that I'm unsure if you get this or not though.

And equating mobbing and dogpiling to "cancel culture" is confusing, at best. We have a number of different phenomenons here, and slapping them all together feels intentionally muddying the waters - something televised media is extremely keen to do, because of the "Look over there!!!" factor. When we look at the real impact of internet arguments on the kind of people who talk about being "cancelled", who have enough of a platform to even use that term, it's usually very little.

We were talking about Jorp, who Satine and Jamison are fans of, earlier. He recently cancelled himself (quitting Twitter entirely of his own volition) because he made a take so bad, his own followers were like "What the heck dude?!" (he suggested an er, moderately full-figured woman was ugly and her being on a magazine cover was the end of society, not apparently realizing/considering that the vast majority of his fans have SOs who are more in the full-figured range than the "athletic" range, and that it also doesn't mesh well with his general "reject modernity, embrace tradition" vibe).

As I've said, this behaviour has already become less fashionable on the internet (in part because people have realized that the internet is no longer Something Awful writ large, and horrible opinions expressed without circumspection might not get the laughs they once did). But various talking heads on TV are apparently only becoming more popular, as are opinion channels in general, and opinion columnists, in the US at least.

And on-topic, how would you describe what is happening to Satine/Jamison? According to TV opinion types, they're definitely getting "cancelled", aren't they? Victims of "cancel culture" for sure, because, 30 years ago, no-one would ever have heard about this. Maybe a specialist magazine would have published an article critical of them, and a few hundred people would have read it. Is that a bad thing? It seems like it's maybe not a bad thing that they're getting "cancelled" to me. And don't give me some double-standards - you can't only call it cancellation when it's "not justified".
 
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Given the topic of this thread and particularly the spectacle of this live-stream, it seems to have some legs.

Other than that, I have no comment on your "Whatabout their whataboutism?" bit.
So let's be really clear on this, you're saying that's happening to Satine/Jamison is bad and unfair "cancel culture"?

Not that it's the consequences of their own actions naturally coming back to bite them?

This is another point I just made, but after you started responding, I think - either it's "cancel culture" when you like and when you don't like it, and you need to accept "cancel culture" isn't a dirty word, or there's no such thing as "cancel culture" and that "consequences culture" is a valid term, or I guess the third alternative is, you think people should escape the consequences for their actions (this isn't an unheard-of view - several celebs complaining about being "cancelled" have expressed the idea that it's deeply unfair that the bad behaviour they engaged in should say, impact their book sales). As I said, thirty years ago, people behaving like Satine/Jamison would have faced no consequences beyond maybe an oblique and mildly critical article in a specialist publication. They might slowly and eventually have acquired a "bad rep" with freelancers and the like, but would have taken a very long time and never exploded.

Do you think that they'd have gotten away with it is a good thing? You seem to be suggesting that.

EDIT - Just to expand on the "no-one should face any consequences for non-criminal behaviour, no matter how bad" point, we're now starting to get politicians and their surrogates suggesting that politicians who do bad but not technically criminal things shouldn't be penalized by the public for those things. I.e. politician is a bully, unpleasant to people, runs business that could be regarded as scams, is incompetent, is a known repeated liar in their personal and business life, should not suffer consequences for that. And that people who don't vote for them, or campaign against them on those grounds are being "unfair".

I'd say that is pretty novel.
 
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As an aside, I absolutely love How to Drink! I've made a bunch of the drinks he's created.

My good friend Greg, from How to Drink, was on the official podcast a while back (possibly years back now, as the whole COVID era has shattered my ability to understand time). I don't think there's anything contraversial about people who promote responsible alcohol consumption also being tapped to promote D&D.

The problem with Satine isn't that she's a porn star, it's that she's a toxic and abusive human being.

Definitely. It's probably that celebrity acts as an exponential modifier, especially when people don't have the skills, training, or disposition for management. Managing people well is a skill. I did not have it when I was in that position, not at all.

As you said, it's also important to be able to listen to people, to be able to recognize when they're telling you that you're in the wrong.

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.

I caught a bit of Satine Phoenix's livestream. She seemed to feel real regret and pain, but like I said before, whether this is accompanied by action will be the telling factor. Or whether it ends up just being blamed on Jamison Stone.

However, yeesh, the comments were pretty ugly. I don't get behaving that way online, and for that I suppose I should be thankful.

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.
 

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