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5E Mike Mearls is back on the D&D RPG Team

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Three weeks ago, WotC's Jeremy Crawford told us that Mike Mearls was no longer working on the tabletop RPG, and hadn't since some time in 2019. Today, the (newish) D&D head Ray Winninger said on the company's Twitch livestream that Mearls is now back full-time on the tabletop game.

Mike Mearls is back full time on the RPG again. He was splitting his time working on some computer game stuff for us, but he’s back.

He still doesn't appear to be back on social media since his final tweet back in 2019.

mearls2.jpg
 
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Russ Morrissey

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Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
It seems that Mearls is in charge of the Franchise Studio for D&D, and spent a lot of time in Belgium working on BG3, but is now back in Seattle. Effectively, promoted.
That was my (limited) understanding as well, but today I listened to Dragon Talk and got a bit confused, but probably I misunderstood what Winninger meant when he listed the people working with him on D&D.
 


Parmandur

Legend
That was my (limited) understanding as well, but today I listened to Dragon Talk and got a bit confused, but probably I misunderstood what Winninger meant when he listed the people working with him on D&D.
I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but if Mearls is full-time on Franchise development, he's going to still coordinate with the head of the TTRPG which is at the heart of the bigger franchise picture. What did Winninger say, precisely?
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
I appreciate that.


I’ll admit to not knowing the full story, and from what I do know, this may be a possibility. I do know the victim in question, though not well. I’m a fan of her RPG work and had an opportunity to work with her on a freelance basis at one time, but missed out on it due to some other unfortunate circumstances involving Zak S’s harassment of her that I’m not going to discuss here. But there’s my bias disclosed.
And there is the issue - being a fan of someone's work and/or almost working with them isn't knowing them. You know of them. People reading things other people post on the internet gives them a false sense of familiarity.


From my (again, admittedly incomplete) understanding, Mike Mearls was investigating accusations of Zak S’s harassment of several people, including this victim. I don’t know if this was on behalf of WotC or personal. She made this burner account to send Mike Mearls evidence of Zak S’s past harassment against her. That’s all I know.
Unless it involved stuff done in the context of doing business with WoTC, why would you send evidence to them? Is WotC involved in this or were they an unfortunate third party? It's like two drunks fighting in a Waffle House.
 

Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but if Mearls is full-time on Franchise development, he's going to still coordinate with the head of the TTRPG which is at the heart of the bigger franchise picture. What did Winninger say, precisely?
Well, he actually just says that the "team" he is working with is fantastic and then he lists Crawford, Perkins and Mearls. I took it to mean that they were all in the group that reports to him, but he doesn't really say that.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
That would still mean he was sharing emails sent to him in confidence from a harassment victim about her harrasser.
Given the corporate environment he was working in, I think it's entirely understandable if he forwarded it up the managerial chain. Neither of the principals involved worked at WotC, so it's not really an HR issue (who I would absolutely expect to be involved if either of the principals was), but what would anybody expect Mearls to do with a complaint about someone given a credit on D&D as a consultant? To sit on it? What's the point of notifying Mearls if they don't want something done? And what would a reasonable person expect Mearls to do with the accusation?
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
Or Mearls forwarded it to one or more someone else(s) who passed it on to Zak?
Maybe. But it's speculation unless the emails in question can be produced.

I gotta say, it seems strange that someone would email a game designer to complain about HR stuff and the recipient would forward it to the accused. If it's true that Mearls forwarded info from an accuser to an accused in a corporate context, just about every corporate legal dept would decide he's too stupid to keep employed, because there is no ambiguity, and he would have been terminated. That he wasn't leads one to believe he didn't.

Doing so as a private citizen? We've accusations but no proof. There may be proof that would come out in a court case, but the internet isn't that proof.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Well, he actually just says that the "team" he is working with is fantastic and then he lists Crawford, Perkins and Mearls. I took it to mean that they were all in the group that reports to him, but he doesn't really say that.
Yeah, it seems that Mearls is still involved with the game in some capacity, even if he is neither a designer or a face for the company at this time.

At the Gameholecon panel late last year, Mearls and Perkins had talked about what they do at this point, and Perkins was working on books, while Mearls was talking about the overall brand strategy across the board.
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
Given the corporate environment he was working in, I think it's entirely understandable if he forwarded it up the managerial chain. Neither of the principals involved worked at WotC, so it's not really an HR issue (who I would absolutely expect to be involved if either of the principals was), but what would anybody expect Mearls to do with a complaint about someone given a credit on D&D as a consultant? To sit on it? What's the point of notifying Mearls if they don't want something done? And what would a reasonable person expect Mearls to do with the accusation?
A reasonable person (i.e. anyone who actually works in a corporate environment) is contacting their Legal department and doing nothing else to such an email - as it sits there burning up their inbox.

Sending it to his private email and expecting them to do something from a corporate perspective?

Again - if it happened, why doesn't anyone know which email address the accusation was sent to?
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
For me, it’s pretty obvious Zak S is a bad person. The defense of him by people who say “nothing has been proved in court” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence; it’s the usual defense of evil we see all the time. Much evil is simply not provable in court, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The evidence against Zak S is from multiple people, is consistent and, to me, believable.

Which is why last year I canceled my ongoing campaign using materials created by him. I cannot have fun playing a game where the creator was abusing people and is unrepentant about it. Which was very annoying because the materials were excellent and everyone was having a great time playing. Sigh.

For the same reason, knowing that 5E is now embracing Mearls, who as far as I know has not apologized for supporting Zak S (please correct me if I am missing some info and being unfair to him) makes it hard for me to play 5E. It‘s more degrees of separation, but with so many good games I could play, why would I play one where the creators tolerate abusers?
 

Parmandur

Legend
For me, it’s pretty obvious Zak S is a bad person. The defense of him by people who say “nothing has been proved in court” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence; it’s the usual defense of evil we see all the time. Much evil is simply not provable in court, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The evidence against Zak S is from multiple people, is consistent and, to me, believable.

Which is why last year I canceled my ongoing campaign using materials created by him. I cannot have fun playing a game where the creator was abusing people and is unrepentant about it. Which was very annoying because the materials were excellent and everyone was having a great time playing. Sigh.

For the same reason, knowing that 5E is now embracing Mearls, who as far as I know has not apologized for supporting Zak S (please correct me if I am missing some info and being unfair to him) makes it hard for me to play 5E. It‘s more degrees of separation, but with so many good games I could play, why would I play one where the creators tolerate abusers?
He did apologize, but it wasn't the most satisfactory apology to Zak's victims. Zak was removed from the PHB credits, along with all other consultants, due to the problems there, which is a fairly potent apology and what people had been asking for before the fiasco.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
And there is the issue - being a fan of someone's work and/or almost working with them isn't knowing them. You know of them. People reading things other people post on the internet gives them a false sense of familiarity.
First of all, you’re assuming that me being a fan of her work is the extent of my relationship with her. It’s not. Second of all, I’m under no illusions about the extent of my relationship with her. That’s why I said I don’t know her well. I don’t. We’ve talked a few times, I think she’s pretty cool, she liked my work and wanted to hire me before circumstances changed. We’re not friends, but this is not a case of some fan thinking she knows a creator because she reads said creators twitter.

Unless it involved stuff done in the context of doing business with WoTC, why would you send evidence to them? Is WotC involved in this or were they an unfortunate third party? It's like two drunks fighting in a Waffle House.
It’s clear you really don’t know the situation at all.

Ok. Zak S. does a fair bit of RPG work, usually on a freelance basis. He also engages in a lot of online harassment against people in the RPG industry. Years back, a lot of this harassment started coming to light. Some publishers stopped hiring him, others didn’t. During the development of 5e (after all this stuff came to light), Zak S. did some work for WotC (I think playtesting, but I’m not sure) and credited him. They got a lot of critique for that. They claimed they hadn’t been aware of the allegations against Zak when they hired him. Mike Mearls did some digging to try to get to the bottom of the situation - I don’t know if it was in an official capacity or something he was doing personally. A bunch of Zak’s victims confidentially sent Mearls evidence of that harassment. Mike Mearls emailed Zak about all this with his oppinion (the snippet of which was in Olivia’s tweet.) One or more of the victims who came forward to Mike including the one we’ve been vaguely referring to received harassing Emails from Zak S. As Paramandur pointed out, most likely Mearls didn’t scrub the metadata of the emails he sent to Zak S.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Zak didn't even do that much work, from my understanding. Mearls approached a number of indie designers who were social media influencers, and asked them to do in-depth analysis of the at-the-time most current playtest rules, well beyond the five-scale survey input. Zak was one of those. He didn't actually make anything for the game itself, even.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
For me, it’s pretty obvious Zak S is a bad person. The defense of him by people who say “nothing has been proved in court” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence; it’s the usual defense of evil we see all the time. Much evil is simply not provable in court, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The evidence against Zak S is from multiple people, is consistent and, to me, believable.

Which is why last year I canceled my ongoing campaign using materials created by him. I cannot have fun playing a game where the creator was abusing people and is unrepentant about it. Which was very annoying because the materials were excellent and everyone was having a great time playing. Sigh.

For the same reason, knowing that 5E is now embracing Mearls, who as far as I know has not apologized for supporting Zak S (please correct me if I am missing some info and being unfair to him) makes it hard for me to play 5E. It‘s more degrees of separation, but with so many good games I could play, why would I play one where the creators tolerate abusers?
Unfortunately, most of the big-name RPG companies have similar stories. Zak S. is all over the industry, he’s worked with White Wolf, WotC, Paizo, and plenty of others. Most large developers are content to claim ignorance until directly confronted, conduct a cursory investigation, and try to sweep it under the rug with noncommittal statements like Mearls’ tweet, though internally pretty much everyone agrees Zak’s a horrible piece of work. At this point a lot of companies have finally cut ties with Zak thanks to the business with his ex-wife making it impossible to keep feigning ignorance. But he’s a symptom of a bigger problem in the industry as a whole.
 

Parmandur

Legend
First of all, you’re assuming that me being a fan of her work is the extent of my relationship with her. It’s not. Second of all, I’m under no illusions about the extent of my relationship with her. That’s why I said I don’t know her well. I don’t. We’ve talked a few times, I think she’s pretty cool, she liked my work and wanted to hire me before circumstances changed. We’re not friends, but this is not a case of some fan thinking she knows a creator because she reads said creators twitter.


It’s clear you really don’t know the situation at all.

Ok. Zak S. does a fair bit of RPG work, usually on a freelance basis. He also engages in a lot of online harassment against people in the RPG industry. Years back, a lot of this harassment started coming to light. Some publishers stopped hiring him, others didn’t. During the development of 5e (after all this stuff came to light), Zak S. did some work for WotC (I think playtesting, but I’m not sure) and credited him. They got a lot of critique for that. They claimed they hadn’t been aware of the allegations against Zak when they hired him. Mike Mearls did some digging to try to get to the bottom of the situation - I don’t know if it was in an official capacity or something he was doing personally. A bunch of Zak’s victims confidentially sent Mearls evidence of that harassment. Mike Mearls emailed Zak about all this with his oppinion (the snippet of which was in Olivia’s tweet.) One or more of the victims who came forward to Mike including the one we’ve been vaguely referring to received harassing Emails from Zak S. As Paramandur pointed out, most likely Mearls didn’t scrub the metadata of the emails he sent to Zak S.
Part of the context, from my memory of following the Twitter conversation at the time, was that there was a concerted effort to raise awareness of Zak's issues with people like Mearls, and Mearls then asked for more info. Zak seems to have parlayed the fact that his victims had organized this awareness campaign as part of his own victimhood narrative, which from his social media at the time was volumnious and detailed. A pretty strong sign if a dumpster-fire sociopath, really.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Zak didn't even do that much work, from my understanding. Mearls approached a number of indie designers who were social media influencers, and asked them to do in-depth analysis of the at-the-time most current playtest rules, well beyond the five-scale survey input. Zak was one of those. He didn't actually make anything for the game itself, even.
On 5e? Yeah, he was barely involved. He’s done a fair bit of work around the industry in general though. I mean his main source of income is porn, but he does a lot of RPG work on the side.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
You mean he's a symptom of a bigger problem in the human race as a whole. This kind of stuff is in every industry and in politics and religion and schools, even the Press, which is supposed to be unbiased and impartial in their reporting.
He’s a symptom of a bigger problem in something alright, but I’m not going to get into that because we’re supposed to steer clear of talking politics.
 

Rygar

Explorer
Given the corporate environment he was working in, I think it's entirely understandable if he forwarded it up the managerial chain. Neither of the principals involved worked at WotC, so it's not really an HR issue (who I would absolutely expect to be involved if either of the principals was), but what would anybody expect Mearls to do with a complaint about someone given a credit on D&D as a consultant? To sit on it? What's the point of notifying Mearls if they don't want something done? And what would a reasonable person expect Mearls to do with the accusation?
The better question is, why did this person not lodge a complaint with a lawyer (For a civil suit) or Law Enforcement if it met the legal definition of harasssment. Emailing WOTC is fairly pointless, unless the goal was to bank on outrage culture.

I'm also intensely interested, is there one or more court filings documenting what happened, or did we learn nothing from the "Harassment at Paizocon" incident about taking RPG news sources at face value? Because based on this thread and the last one, it looks like we didn't learn that RPG news sources aren't terribly interested in reporting full stories.
 

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