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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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kenmarable

Adventurer
Guy gets drunk and acts stupid and people lose their minds, this happens all the time, it's happening right now, somewhere.

No one was physically hurt, no one was raped, the "victim" needs to develop a thicker skin and learn to forgive and forget this should never have been made an issue of.


This new social justice politically correct atmosphere plaguing society is only going to get worse if we don't draw the line somewhere soon. People shouldn't get persecuted on the internet, hounded on social media, and possibly lose employment over something like this. There is a good reason the cops were not called, it's because they wouldn't have done a damn thing besides talk to him for a bit and calm the situation down because nothing criminal happened.

Were you a witness to the incident? Do you have information that every other witness who has spoken up does not have? That would be good to know. Because all of the people who were actually there disagree with every single thing you claim here.

Personally, I believe the people who were actually there over Random Internet Commenter.
 

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Paraxis

Explorer
Were you a witness to the incident? Do you have information that every other witness who has spoken up does not have? That would be good to know. Because all of the people who were actually there disagree with every single thing you claim here.

Personally, I believe the people who were actually there over Random Internet Commenter.

So your saying someone was physically hurt or raped?
 

DM Howard

Explorer
Guy gets drunk and acts stupid and people lose their minds, this happens all the time, it's happening right now, somewhere.

So, because people get drunk and do stupid things all the time means that it's OK and everyone should get a pas because "I was drunk. *tee-hee*"?

No one was physically hurt, no one was raped, the "victim" needs to develop a thicker skin and learn to forgive and forget this should never have been made an issue of.

You will actually find, if you care to read the Paizo thread linked up-thread, that the victim was not clamoring for attention and simply wanted to resolve the situation and move on. This did not occur and steps had to be taken to ensure her safety. The fact that you don't see her as a victim and how you choose to put that word in quotations is troubling at best.


This new social justice politically correct atmosphere plaguing society is only going to get worse if we don't draw the line somewhere soon. People shouldn't get persecuted on the internet, hounded on social media, and possibly lose employment over something like this. There is a good reason the cops were not called, it's because they wouldn't have done a damn thing besides talk to him for a bit and calm the situation down because nothing criminal happened.

This has absolutely nothing to do with social justice, I am far from a social justice warrior, but no one deserves to be harassed, stave off unwanted advances (verbal and physical), and be stalked through a hotel. Honestly, if you ask me, Bill Webb should lose his position over this, then maybe people would take this stuff seriously and see it for the anti-social act that it is. The police were not called per the the woman's request, as she did not want to harm Mr. Webb's family who was at the convention as well. The United States Uniform Code of Military Justice considers sexual harrassment a punishable offense (thus criminal) under article 120 and that's good enough for me.
 


Paraxis

Explorer
Yes.

Read the article above (or any of the witness accounts). One Paizo staffer was injured trying to stop Bill.

So yes.

So some guy white knighted and probably got punched for his interference sounds like more stuff to be chalked up to a few to much to drink and something that happens all the time and isn't a big deal.

The girl didn't get hurt, is my point, the people there should have handled it better. It should have never been made into a thing and we should have never heard about it.
 

kenmarable

Adventurer
So some guy white knighted and probably got punched for his interference sounds like more stuff to be chalked up to a few to much to drink and something that happens all the time and isn't a big deal.

The girl didn't get hurt, is my point, the people there should have handled it better. It should have never been made into a thing and we should have never heard about it.

So some guy probably got in a knife fight with Bill and almost died but the [-]girl[/-] grown adult woman had to beat him unconscious with a fire extinguisher to barely escape with her life.

I mean, if we are going to just invent imaginary versions of the incident that conflict with actual reports, why don’t we at least make it interesting?
 

Sphynxian

First Post
Paraxis wasn't there, doesn't know now what he's talking about, and is just looking for lulz. You're more likely to convince the moon that it's a gigantic grape over a nice cup of tea than get him to stop self-owning. Your time is better spent elsewhere.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
So some guy white knighted and probably got punched for his interference sounds like more stuff to be chalked up to a few to much to drink and something that happens all the time and isn't a big deal.

The girl didn't get hurt, is my point, the people there should have handled it better. It should have never been made into a thing and we should have never heard about it.

This was "a thing" because a drunk :):):):):):):) made it a thing. And the idea that this happens all the time, while probably true, is a major aspect of the problem. My wife and daughter aren't as safe as I am in this world because of people like Bill Webb and people like you who normalize and excuse what he did.
 

Shasarak

First Post
So some guy probably got in a knife fight with Bill and almost died but the [-]girl[/-] grown adult woman had to beat him unconscious with a fire extinguisher to barely escape with her life.

So that was why James Sutter had to quit and move to Canada because the fat cats at Paizo would not cover his medical bills!

That is ridiculous, just how many gold-plated hot tubs do they need?
 

Shasarak

First Post
This was "a thing" because a drunk :):):):):):):) made it a thing. And the idea that this happens all the time, while probably true, is a major aspect of the problem. My wife and daughter aren't as safe as I am in this world because of people like Bill Webb and people like you who normalize and excuse what he did.

If it makes you feel any better your wife and daughter are safer now then they ever were at any other time in history.
 

Rygar

Explorer
I visit ENWorld for RPG news and reviews, because ENWorld is advertised as an RPG new and review site. This article is not RPG news or reviews. Nor were a number of other articles this past year. The articles were very clearly political articles. If I wish to read political articles I will visit political websites.

I would like to take a moment to remind the owners and moderators that when your site is driven by political content you gain a reputation of being a political website and you will be treated as a political website by everyone from visitors to advertisers. You can be sure that every company in the RPG industry, from WOTC to the small studios, are presently reading these articles that are being posted here and evaluating whether or not they want their products to be associated with the political content and commentary that results.

This is my final visit to ENWorld, it is clear that the political content is increasing in volume. I expect I am not the first and will not be the last.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Paraxis wasn't there, doesn't know now what he's talking about, and is just looking for lulz. You're more likely to convince the moon that it's a gigantic grape over a nice cup of tea than get him to stop self-owning. Your time is better spent elsewhere.

Hey, Paraxis did me a favor. He got me to realize I needed to add another horrible poster to my ignore list.

Dismissing acts of sexual harassment as no big deal and victim blaming, especially when all actually involved pretty much agree on every point and spelled things out pretty clearly . . . the acts of small-minded people with no empathy or compassion.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I'm sorry to hear about more sexual harrassment in our community, and my heart goes out to BJ and others who have dealt with this type of awful behavior. There is no excuse for what Webb did, none. I don't think the guy needs to lose his job or be crucified on the internet (unless he already has a history of this type of behavior), but now I'll be thinking thrice before purchasing anything with his name on it.

I think BJ, Robert, Paizo, and Frog God all handled this very well. BJ wanted the incident to be reported and dealt with, but had sympathy for Webb and his family. Robert wanted to make sure the incident was known and dealt with properly, to help stop this type of behavior in our community and society. Paizo was on top of it and reacted very well, Frog God also seems to be taking this seriously and appropriately.

I do think it would be wise if Webb did make a public apology, but if it seems even an iota insincere, he'll remain on my "no-buy" list. Being drunk is no excuse for behaving so heinously, and it's not like Webb could be excused as ignorant of the impact his action could have.
 

Obryn

Hero
I visit ENWorld for RPG news and reviews, because ENWorld is advertised as an RPG new and review site. This article is not RPG news or reviews. Nor were a number of other articles this past year. The articles were very clearly political articles. If I wish to read political articles I will visit political websites.

I would like to take a moment to remind the owners and moderators that when your site is driven by political content you gain a reputation of being a political website and you will be treated as a political website by everyone from visitors to advertisers. You can be sure that every company in the RPG industry, from WOTC to the small studios, are presently reading these articles that are being posted here and evaluating whether or not they want their products to be associated with the political content and commentary that results.

This is my final visit to ENWorld, it is clear that the political content is increasing in volume. I expect I am not the first and will not be the last.
Holy crap, dude. "Don't harass women. Harassment is a serious issue, and here are some examples where people in the industry did it" is not political content. That's absurd.

Unless demeaning women is key to your political ideology? I can't imagine that's the case - it's not a core tenet of any reasonable political ideology I'm aware of. But then again, you calling it political implies that it is, maybe?
 

Kelewandar

Explorer
I visit ENWorld for RPG news and reviews, because ENWorld is advertised as an RPG new and review site. This article is not RPG news or reviews. Nor were a number of other articles this past year. The articles were very clearly political articles. If I wish to read political articles I will visit political websites.

I would like to take a moment to remind the owners and moderators that when your site is driven by political content you gain a reputation of being a political website and you will be treated as a political website by everyone from visitors to advertisers. You can be sure that every company in the RPG industry, from WOTC to the small studios, are presently reading these articles that are being posted here and evaluating whether or not they want their products to be associated with the political content and commentary that results.

This is my final visit to ENWorld, it is clear that the political content is increasing in volume. I expect I am not the first and will not be the last.

I for myself will keep coming to this web site. And yes, 99% of the time for RPG news. But you know what, I am happy that they take upon themselves of reporting such events when they happen in the community. These stories need to be told for things to change. I’m pretty sure I am not the only one that think so and I’m definitely not the last to express myself on that topic.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I visit ENWorld for RPG news and reviews, because ENWorld is advertised as an RPG new and review site. This article is not RPG news or reviews. Nor were a number of other articles this past year. The articles were very clearly political articles. If I wish to read political articles I will visit political websites.

I would like to take a moment to remind the owners and moderators that when your site is driven by political content you gain a reputation of being a political website and you will be treated as a political website by everyone from visitors to advertisers. You can be sure that every company in the RPG industry, from WOTC to the small studios, are presently reading these articles that are being posted here and evaluating whether or not they want their products to be associated with the political content and commentary that results.

This is my final visit to ENWorld, it is clear that the political content is increasing in volume. I expect I am not the first and will not be the last.

I'm sorry this is where you choose to make your final stand.

But this IS gaming news: Paizo, Frog God Games. Ring bells? These are gaming companies, run by people who are part of our community.

Oh yeah...and they're human beings. :erm:
 


Guang

Explorer
Were you a witness to the incident? Do you have information that every other witness who has spoken up does not have? That would be good to know. Because all of the people who were actually there disagree with every single thing you claim here.

Personally, I believe the people who were actually there over Random Internet Commenter.

I think this brings up a good point that no one has mentioned yet.
It makes a huge difference if he was following her around for half a minute or half an hour.
It makes a huge difference if he was sort of following her when he saw her at a distance, or following directly behind her.
It makes a huge difference whether or not he kept his hands to himself.
It makes a huge difference if the injury mentioned was a scrape from keeping from being restrained, or if he broke somebody's arm.

I've seen many people comment on boycotting the company or worse. I have no problem with destroying a rapist's livelihood. I do have a problem with destroying someone's livelihood because he was rude and uncouth. The trouble for me with this whole discussion is I have no idea which one this is. There is a huge range of things that could have happened, and it my mind, it does make a difference what specifically happened before life-changing consequences are imposed.
 


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