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Harassment At PaizoCon 2017

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In our post-Harvey Weinstein world, more and more people in the various entertainment industries are coming forward with allegations of abuse and harassment, both sexual and psychological. The tabletop gaming industry isn't isolated from this wave of revelation as incidents surface, and will likely continue to surface about professionals, and fans, within the gaming communities.


Stories of harassment within tabletop gaming, at conventions and stores, and even in local gaming groups are nothing new. That is probably the saddest fact of this whole thing: that despite stories being brought to light, not only does harassment continue to happen but the existence of it continues to be denied by some. This denial is one of the factors that allows abuse and harassment to continue within tabletop RPGs.

Allegations of improper behavior at the 2017 PaizoCon by Frog God Games CEO Bill Webb were brought to life by Pathfinder content creator Robert Brookes. Brookes was attending PaizoCon and has written for Paizo and Legendary Games, among others. In an incident involving alcohol, Webb allegedly sexually harassed another guest at the convention and when a staffer attempted to intervene and injury occurred with the staffer.

In a thread about harassment and abuse on gaming forum RPGNet, Frog God Games partner Matt Finch, creator of the Swords & Wizardry retroclone, confirmed that the incident with Webb occurred, and revealed some details about an internal investigation that the partners of Frog God Games conducted into the incident:

"I am Matt Finch, the partner of Frog God Games appointed by the partners to investigate a sexual harassment complaint filed against Mr. Webb at PaizoCon 2017. Mr. Webb was not consulted by the partners on this decision. Due to recent accusations made on Twitter by a third party, I will outline the aspects of the situation to the extent that they do not compromise the confidentiality of the person who filed the report, I will describe the nature of our internal investigation, and will also address the recently-raised tweets by Robert Brookes on his twitter feed. This report will not necessarily be updated; it stands for itself at the time of posting, based on the knowledge I currently have.

"First, it is correct that a complaint was filed with Paizo at PaizoCon against Bill. I was made aware of this by phone on the day it happened (I was not present at the convention). Frog God is aware of the identity of the person who made the complaint, because they spoke to three of our partners at the convention after the event. We have not been invited to share that person’s identity, and although we are not under legal obligation to protect that confidentiality we have elected to respect that person’s desire not to have the event brought into the spotlight.

"Gathering information in a situation like this is necessarily limited due to Paizo’s own confidentiality obligations. To assemble information, I spoke to the three partners who had talked with the person who filed the complaint, and obtained their accounts of what they were told. Secondhand accounts are not perfect, and I had to weigh that against the fact that an attorney making direct contact with someone who has filed such a report can be seen as a threat or intimidation, and weighing those two issues, I chose to rely on a comparison of the conversations between the individual and our partners, plus Paizo’s own resolution of the matter at the time, plus a necessarily-cautious review of Bill’s account. There has been contact between the person who filed the complaint and Frog God partners since the event, and I will provide a screenshot of one such communication with the name redacted. I believe the screenshot provides a great deal of clarification.

"Reducing the event to a level that will maintain confidentiality, my understanding based on my investigation was that Bill Webb took an action and engaged in speech that could be construed as a sexual advance or as gender-dismissive.

"In consequence of this finding, I and another senior partner of the company had a meeting with Mr. Webb about expectations, standards of behavior, and future protocol. We addressed that one’s lack of bad intentions does not excuse problematic behavior.

"Some people have asked that Mr. Webb acknowledge and apologize for the situation. Bill does deeply regret his actions, and understands that they were inappropriate and upsetting. I have told Mr. Webb not to contact the person directly, for the same reason that I have not done so myself: the potential for that contact to appear intimidating or threatening. However, at whatever time the person lets us know that a direct apology from Mr. Webb would be welcomed, that apology will be immediately forthcoming. Mr. Webb is also under instruction not to discuss this matter in public, in case peripheral details were to be inadvertently disclosed that might allow the identification of the person by another party. This is also the reason we chose to have me, as the investigating partner, write the public report, given that a report has become necessary in response to a recent description of the event on Twitter."


We reached out to Webb for comment upon this incident, and we were directed to the RPGNet post by Finch. This is the company's official statement on what happened at PaizoCon. Whether or not there will be further repercussions within Frog God Games due to this incident and Webb's actions remain to be seen.

Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens has released an official statement on the incident on the Paizo forums. When EN World reached out to Paizo for official comment, we were directed to this statement:

"My name is Lisa Stevens and I am the CEO and owner of Paizo Inc. Events of the past few weeks have compelled me to make this statement.

"My company will never condone any sexual harassment or assault against any of our employees, male or female. We will never condone any sexual harassment or assault against any of our customers on paizo.com or at sanctioned organized play activities. Whenever I hear any allegations of sexual harassment or assault related to Paizo’s activities, I always immediately drop whatever I'm doing and I make getting to the bottom of these issues my top priority. We have banned people from paizo.com. We have banned people from participating in our organized play activities. We have stopped doing business with individuals. And we will continue to do so.
"As a woman and a survivor of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of these attacks. I know what it is like to feel the shame, the terror, how it changes your life forever. And because of this, I will never stand for my company to condone this behavior.

"Paizo’s employees are encouraged to come forward with any allegations of sexual harassment or assault and let a manager know as soon as possible. If criminal activities have taken place, they are encouraged to report it to the police and take legal action against the perpetrator. We have asked our employees to not engage in explosive and angry dialogue on paizo.com. We want our website to be a place where our customers feel safe and among friends. If there is problem on paizo.com, then our community team will handle it and, where appropriate, ban the perpetrator.

"In closing, you have my word that I have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and assault, and the same is true of Paizo. Please be aware that we treat these issues with tremendous sensitivity, and only disclose the specifics and resolutions of any such incidents on a need-to-know basis, even within Paizo or with our legal counsel. We do not and will not discuss these matters publicly. Every instance that I am aware of has been thoroughly investigated, and appropriate actions have been taken or are in the process of being taken. You have my word on this."


Unrelated to the PaizoCon incident, Brookes also revealed an incident of harassment within the Pathfinder Society organized play program. When a volunteer staffer reported this incident, their supervisor informed them that an NDA they had signed to be part of the program would not allow her to discuss this incident. Paizo has not officially commented on this incident or commented on whether or not there is an investigation into it.

If tabletop role-playing games are truly going to be an inclusive, we have to be better about not just reporting incidents of abuse and harassment but being dedicated to creating spaces that are safe and free of harassment of our fellow gamers. We also need to shine a spotlight onto the incidents of harassment that occur, it is the responsibility of journalists, bloggers and gamers to do this and let people know that their actions will come to light and that they will be held responsible. It is also important to not just talk about those parts of the gaming communities that we don't agree with, but to also bring to light the improper actions of those companies and communities with whom we do agree, because unless every act of harassment is revealed there will be no change within our communities.

Remember that EN World is an inclusive community.
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MackMcMacky

First Post
"Witch hunt" ... yeah, funny how often that term gets brought up to defend people caught sexually harassing others. Almost like it's a favourite excuse used by people who don't truly understand what sexual harassment does to a person because they're not in the demographic most likely to be victimized by it.

Funny, that.

And redemption? Again, it's always funny how we have to give them a second chance when the only reason we know about the first chance is because they got caught THIS time. With Bill Webb, it's an example of repeated conduct that is apparently an open secret at cons with only the most recent incident being apologized for after he was investigated by his own company. Mentzer, on the other hand, is still in full on denial mode while still doing his best to keep digging the hole he's standing in deeper. So how does someone get redeemed when they aren't even able to admit their own fault?

Now consider that the person Webb harassed considers it resolved isn't the same as she forgives Webb and wants to be alone with him in a game room at a convention. It means she understands the steps taken and accepts them. Again, believing that "resolved" is victim-speak for "we're all peachy keen over here!" is an example of someone who doesn't understand sexual harassment very well, from just about every possible angle.

(BTW, I'm Canadian, so go wave that "America used to protect misogyny!" flag elsewhere, cowboy.)
You come off very poorly here with obvious ad hominem attacks. Where was Bill Webb when he got drunk and staggeringly and boorishly made advances to someone? Was it Canada? Where was Mentzer when he told someone they were stunningly beautiful and brilliant? Was it Canada?

I get it. You think anyone who disagrees with you about how to assess and deal with sexual harassment is a bad person who is ignorant.

And the "cowboy" thing, really? Please calm down before you write.
 

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You come off very poorly here with obvious ad hominem attacks. Where was Bill Webb when he got drunk and staggeringly and boorishly made advances to someone? Was it Canada? Where was Mentzer when he told someone they were stunningly beautiful and brilliant? Was it Canada?

I get it. You think anyone who disagrees with you about how to assess and deal with sexual harassment is a bad person who is ignorant.

And the "cowboy" thing, really? Please calm down before you write.
Let's just start with the fact that I don't get too bent out of shape when guys like you, who argue for the forgiveness of guys who sexually harass women and for whom the women victims are some kind of tangential afterthought, say I "come off poorly." It warms my heart cockles and confirms I'm on the right side of the point at hand.

But it sure is reassuring that you want to couch how sexual harassment should be treated and forgiven based on geography rather than empathy for the victims. Real cogent stance to take there, bud. You see, because my point was that because I'm Canadian I'm immune to that whole blindly patriotic angle you were trotting out there. You actually went back to it for a second dip because you think it's a valid point! Yikes.

And yes, "cowboy" -- for the guy who practically planted hand on heart and said "Damn, I remember when 'Merica used ta give a feller a sec'n chance after he chased a woman around the room, all drunk'n like!" That was the most appropriate word for you given the forum's censors.

So now consider that your use of the term "witch hunt" necessarily has to mean something different than you intended since it actually end up FINDING ACTUAL WITCHES (metaphorically speaking)!

Maybe that will make you realize how deeply invested you are in your need to forgive these two guys rather than do what is appropriate. I mean ... wow ... a couple of weeks of public shaming on the Internet should be enough for what they dun gone and did, right? Because just what would women think of this situation if guys like you weren't around to tell them when the time came for everyone to just move on so these poor dudes can get on with their lives in peace?

So, short answer? No, I don't think everyone who disagrees with me -- ever -- is a bad person or ignorant. But people who disagree with me because doing so means they are actually standing up to sideways wink at sexual harassment like it's just a couple of boys being boys and we should all move on? Oh yeah, that's something else entirely.
 
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prosfilaes

Adventurer
We used to believe in redemption in this country. A whole host of reforms were implemented based on the notion of charity, mercy, and rehabilitation. I guess a lot of people are over that.

Yep. We got a little tired of "charity" and "mercy" as applied to give certain people infinite opportunities to change, which they won't, because why will they if they have infinite opportunities. The idea of "charity" and "mercy" never seemed to apply to many other people, but if you were part of the in-crowd, oh brother, could you get away with stuff.
 

MackMcMacky

First Post
Let's just start with the fact that I don't get too bent out of shape when guys like you, who argue for the forgiveness of guys who sexually harass women and for whom the women victims are some kind of tangential afterthought, say I "come off poorly." It warms my heart cockles and confirms I'm on the right side of the point at hand.

But it sure is reassuring that you want to couch how sexual harassment should be treated and forgiven based on geography rather than empathy for the victims. Real cogent stance to take there, bud. You see, because my point was that because I'm Canadian I'm immune to that whole blindly patriotic angle you were trotting out there. You actually went back to it for a second dip because you think it's a valid point! Yikes.

And yes, "cowboy" -- for the guy who practically planted hand on heart and said "Damn, I remember when 'Merica used ta give a feller a sec'n chance after he chased a woman around the room, all drunk'n like!" That was the most appropriate word for you given the forum's censors.

So now consider that your use of the term "witch hunt" necessarily has to mean something different than you intended since it actually end up FINDING ACTUAL WITCHES (metaphorically speaking)!

Maybe that will make you realize how deeply invested you are in your need to forgive these two guys rather than do what is appropriate. I mean ... wow ... a couple of weeks of public shaming on the Internet should be enough for what they dun gone and did, right? Because just what would women think of this situation if guys like you weren't around to tell them when the time came for everyone to just move on so these poor dudes can get on with their lives in peace?

So, short answer? No, I don't think everyone who disagrees with me -- ever -- is a bad person or ignorant. But people who disagree with me because doing so means they are actually standing up to sideways wink at sexual harassment like it's just a couple of boys being boys and we should all move on? Oh yeah, that's something else entirely.
Build that scarecrow so you can tear it down. You are trolling.
 


neobolts

Explorer
The con organizer for NTRPGCon has updated his statement on his website.

Some additional info:

We have been contacted by an attorney, who has offered to write a policy for us.

We appreciate the support and will make the policy public as soon as possible.

So this policy will be without my personal comments on "common sense" and "idiots" that can't read etc. I prefer to piss of the trolls, but I'll let the attorney handle the policy this time.

What a class act. At the end of the day he's begrudgingly agreeing to address the issue via a lawyer, but would rather "piss of[sic] the trolls."

Source: http://ntrpgcon.com/forum/generaldiscussion-2018/222-policy-concerning-attendees-behavior
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
The con organizer for NTRPGCon has updated his statement on his website.



What a class act. At the end of the day he's begrudgingly agreeing to address the issue via a lawyer, but would rather "piss of[sic] the trolls."

Source: http://ntrpgcon.com/forum/generaldiscussion-2018/222-policy-concerning-attendees-behavior


This language interests me:
We have been contacted by an attorney, who has offered to write a policy for us.

If they were “contacted” instead of seeking out a lawyer, I wonder how my colleague got wind of the issue. Almost gotta be a gamer, because I haven’t seen a peep about this in the mainstream news.
 

evileeyore

Mrrrph
Late to the post on the first two... but its' something i wanted to address...

No, it doesn’t make many of us feel any better. Sure, they aren’t going to get burned at the stake, but most people aren’t satisfied with a bar set that low. “Better than history” is not the best we can do.
Actually, "better than history" is the best we can ever do. All we can do is strive to be better than we were yesterday.


Yup, that's why I made sure to point out Paizo was ready to call the cops.
Neither here nor there, but I've been in altercations were someone was ready to call the cops because their feelings were hurt. So... that's not a useful metric.

Granted in this case it may actually have been necessary, but I doubt we'll ever know.



Have you...I mean...I don't know...have you missed the last couple of years??

READ ME
The US isn't a 'rape culture'. For that i suggest you visit the middle east. Where, you know, women get raped by tribal councils as punishjment for having already been raped. You know, a culture that actually says "Yes, rape is okay!"

Not the US where even the accusation of sexual misconduct results in job loss, social stigmatization, hounding by the 'news', etc...




And finally... some thing recent...
"Witch hunt" ... yeah, funny how often that term gets brought up to defend people caught sexually harassing others.
MackMcMacky used the term "witch hunt" in connotation with Mentzer, who did not actually harass anyone.

Did Mentzer get into a stupid slapfight on Facebook with people where he was in the wrong? Yes. Old people who fail to adapt to the times often do act foolishly.

And note, Mentzer never once said "the victim deserved what happened". He simply refused to understand that no, you can't always 'fight back' like he believes. Is this a wrong-headed attitude? Yes.

Would you feel better if someone pushed him down a set of stairs? Or should he just never write again? Do let us know your level of outrage.
 

And finally... some thing recent...

MackMcMacky used the term "witch hunt" in connotation with Mentzer, who did not actually harass anyone.

Did Mentzer get into a stupid slapfight on Facebook with people where he was in the wrong? Yes. Old people who fail to adapt to the times often do act foolishly.

And note, Mentzer never once said "the victim deserved what happened". He simply refused to understand that no, you can't always 'fight back' like he believes. Is this a wrong-headed attitude? Yes.

Would you feel better if someone pushed him down a set of stairs? Or should he just never write again? Do let us know your level of outrage.
Oh, look! Someone else who is going to illustrate how poorly they understand what sexual harassment is!

Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention. Period. It doesn't require physical contact. The messages he was sending the recipient? Out of line and, yes, sexual harassment. Clearly not as bad as what Webb did, but something that was certainly out of line and unwanted, and yes, sexual in nature.

And Mentzer did not use the words "the victim deserved what happened," but that's not the sum total of what victim blaming is. In his defense, Mentzer tried shifting the blame of the incident on to other people, including the woman he sent the messages to. "Oh, I'm just being misunderstood by her, so it's her fault, really, for not getting my creepy, inappropriate old uncle routine" (and yes, to be clear, I'm paraphrasing here.) THAT sort of crap is also victim blaming, and Mentzer deployed it aplenty.

As for pushing him down the stairs or preventing him from writing again because you ... what? ... are trying to shame me for pointing out it's inappropriate to have Mentzer at a con as a special guest where the con runner doesn't seem to understand what's wrong with his "don't worry, I've got a gun if anyone gets out of line" sexual harassment policy? Wow. Have you been taking lessons from Mentzer? Nice attempt, but kind of heavy handed and clunky, though. I can only give it a 5 out of 10 because you stumbled on the dismount.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You already allowed it on page one of this thread.
For the life of me I cannot understand why you let the post where Victim is in quotation marks stay on the page. I believe it should have been removed and the person warned and in it's place you stating in red why it was removed not a warning that you will remove such posts in the future. That is a paper tiger.
Sorry I have no time for people who threaten. Either you tolerate it or you don't. If you don't then remove the post and get out the ban hammer if your TOS or EULA is violated. If you are not going to do that stop posing!

1. Don’t argue with mods in-thread. The rules are very clear about this.

2. Don’t post in this thread again, please.
 


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