North Texas RPG Convention Refuses To Listen To Harassment Concerns

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Harassment in gaming is getting more and more attention as gamers are making the stand that they will not support sexual harassment, the harassment of the LGBTQ+ or people of color. In the latest controversy over dealing with harassment at conventions, the North Texas RPG Convention, a self-styled old school gaming convention, has decided to take a stand against those in the tabletop RPG hobby who have been harassed at conventions and other spaces.


After people emailed the convention organizers to voice concern that alleged harassers Frog God Games CEO Bill Webb and former TSR editor and designer Frank Mentzer were being kept on the rolls as special guests at the next North Texas RPG Convention. One of the organizers of the convention made the following public statement in response to these concerns: "So here is my stance on the subject: Everyone is allowed to come to the Con." He then went on to say "I don't care if a member of ISIS or the most wanted person in a [sic] America comes to the Con, as long as they are there to game, and everything is about gaming. I have asked people to leave the Con when I find them debating politics and/or religion at the gaming table. (so what do you think I'd do if I observed any sexual harassment ?) Thus anything not gaming related can get you removed from the Con."

Here are screen shots of post, for those who don't want to click through the above links.


More conventions, gaming and otherwise, are taking a stance to protect those who attend them by crafting policies against harassment. Gen Con's harassment policy, from the Gen Con website, is simple: "Gen Con: The Best Four Days in Gaming! is dedicated to providing a harassment-free Event experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or affiliation. We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. Convention participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled without refund at the discretion of show management." Other conventions have written policies making it an expellable offense to touch other convention goers without their permission.

Pelgrane Press, publisher of games like Trail of Cthulhu and Night's Black Agents has created a harassment policy for officially sanctioned events at conventions or stores. "We want conventions to be safe and inclusive spaces for all gamers. Unfortunately, we know of too many instances where our colleagues, customers and friends have been harassed or made to feel uncomfortable at gaming conventions. We believe strongly that having a policy in place which explicitly censures harassing behaviour, and provides a clear procedure for reporting any such incidents, creates a safer and more welcoming environment for people at the greatest risk of harassment." Their policy goes on to say "As such, Pelgrane Press will not exhibit at, or provide support for, conventions which don’t have a publicly posted and enforced anti-harassment policy." Other publishers are taking this path, in order to make sure that their fans are safe while playing their games at conventions or in stores as well.

There is more to safety at a convention than slips and falls. Making sure that convention attendees are not harassed physically, emotionally or sexually is just as much of a safety issue as any other physical concerns. Not only that, by not making a strong stand against potential harassment sends a message to women, the LGBTQ+ and people of color that their safety is not as important to the convention as that of other people. It makes it hard to state that all people are equally as welcome to a convention, when the convention refuses to make policies that will protect everyone at a convention.
 

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KentDT

Explorer
Anyone who would like to be fair might want to take a look at Frank Mentzer's Facebook page, where he posted a few times about this.
https://www.facebook.com/frank.mentzer
The gist is that he feels he was blindsided (2 years after the fact and after respecting her wishes for no contact). He also supports diversity and inclusiveness in gaming and in life. He apparently took down some overzealous posts from some of his "supporters" who may have gone after Ms. Price, saying that he didn't want victim blaming or insults cast on her.
So yeah, sure, maybe it's just an apology after the fact to try to save face. I've never met him nor Ms. Price. But, he seems sincere and she seems sincere in her feelings as well. If he apologizes (as he did) isn't that enough?
What is it that we want? For him to never be able to attend another CON in his life? For him to never be able to work again in our community?
And now in this case, the guy who wrote to the CON organizer apparently got his facts mixed up and accused Mr. Mentzer of what Mr. Webb allegedly did (I use allegedly in a legalistic sense-it seems to me that there is enough proof of at least the harassment/stalking. Maybe of the injury as well but that's a bit more problematic as Paizo didn't, in fact call the police and didn't apparently make a formal complaint to Frog God Games. Again about the injury.)
Saying there are 2 sides does not equal victim shaming (saying she or he deserved or caused it is victim shaming). If the guy is trying to set things right, I think he also is owed some measure of granted belief.
Mr. Webb, on the other hand. . . Well, let's just say if Frog God Games was only him I would completely stop buying any of his products (although I was kind of looking forward to Rappan Athuk). However, I remember seeing that Gregg Vaughan, among others, was listed as "one of the good guys" even though working for FGG. This by the lady who was victimized (but not a victim) by Mr. Webbs boorish behavior. I don't want to write her name, although easy enough to find, because she expressed a wish for the incident to be over and not talked about. So anyways, I'm a bit torn about whether to support FGG in the future. I also wasn't really impressed by the "apology" posted on their forum.
That all being said, I'm planning on going to GaryCon X next year (first real CON for me). Both of them were guests this year and perhaps will be again next year. I'd still like to meet Mr. Mentzer (although I never played red box-I went straight to AD&D 1e). Mr. Webb . . . Not so much.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip

Same thing with a blanket "harassment" (or even "sexual harassment, hate speech, racism" and the like). Is saying "Wow! You're looking sexy as hell in that Witcher costume!" considered sexual harassment? Or would someone have to say that, then follow it up with a crotch grab or a slap on the behind? Or something in between? Would a guy who's gaze lingers a little bit too much at the buxom cosplayer be guilty of sexual harassment, or not? And then we get into the non-existent "hate speech" (no, I don't believe there is such a thing...at least nothing that should be illegal, imho). Is someone saying "Ugh...I got stuck in a group of 6 players...ALL were unwashed white dudes!"...is that 'hate speech'? Some would actually argue that yes, it is...and some would say no, it isn't.
/snip

By this day and age, if you still don't know what constitutes harassment and cannot be bothered to educate yourself, no amount of lists is possibly going to even remotely put a dent in the ignorance displayed by this post.
 


KentDT

Explorer
+3, and I'm disgusted by ENWorld for promoting this clickbait.

I have to agree. The CON organizer definitely did not say that they have "decided to take a stand against those in the tabletop RPG hobby who have been harassed at conventions and other spaces".
Although I agree with other posters that the CON organizer could have just written a short policy making clear what the CON wouldn't tolerate, after reading the poorly written, factually lacking and accusatory e-mail that the activist wrote him to start all this, I get where he's coming from.
I wonder how inclusive of a place EnWorld really is, in order to approve and publish such a misleading headline and article.
The organizer didn't say "I don't care what my invited guests do or have done and anyone who accuses them is wrong".
That is the type of attitude I would expect to deserve the article title and the sentence I quoted above.
 

Harzel

Adventurer
Maybe because he's a Texan, running a con in Texas, for mostly Texans? Sounds to me like a no-tolerance policy for troublemakers of all types, including sexual harassers.

Sounds to me like you, like Mr. Rhea, don't understand how sexual harassment can be very different from other sorts of "troublemaking".

Wanna bet Webb stays sober at this particular con?

Um, no.

Not good enough because you don't like Texas culture.

Either you are imputing thoughts to the poster you are responding to without any evidence, or you have reduced all of Texas culture to "People will do what I say because I'm in charge and I have a gun!"

Not sure how "inclusive" I'd find your table.

Since you are not sure, and you haven't been invited to join his table, why bring it up? Tossing innuendo around really doesn't elevate the conversation.

Not Texan myself, btw. What's with the all-out attack from this article and thread on people that are handling the problem in their own neighborhood, just not in the precise way and with the precise words you would use?

*Sigh* Really? Pooping out this sort of hyperbole just doesn't get us anywhere, and sort of makes it look like you are more interested in attempting to cast opinions that you don't happen to agree with as extreme than in having a reasoned discussion, which in turn makes you look a bit rhetorically inept. But to point out the obvious: no one has demanded any particular precise behavior or precise words. There were a jillion ways that Mr. Rhea could have responded that would have indicated that he at least understood the problem being raised, even in the context of deciding not to alter his guest list. Instead he chose to issue two rants that, among other things, strongly indicated that he was either clueless or just didn't care.
 

Evenglare

Adventurer
WTF, I agree with everyone here that the title is clickbait BS.

How does the title "North Texas RPG Convention Refuses To Listen To Harassment Concerns" have any kind of truth to it when the event runner says...

"I have asked the people to leave the con when I've observed them debating politics and/or religion at the gaming table. (So what do you think I'd do when I observe any sexual harassment") .

Its pretty damn clear that he's saying if there's sexual harassment he's going to make them leave the con.

Enworld articles have taken a dip in quality lately.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
. So for people running a convention, if they invite someone and then the rumors and accusations start coming out, the convention can get into legal trouble with the accused guest, depending on how the contract with the guest is written. At the very least, the convention will not get out of paying the guest whatever was promised.


Yes, plus hotel and transportation expenses etc. I am sure he's invited the two problematic guests long before at least Bill's problems came to light. To remove them from his guest list now would be a very difficult thing.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
He's also really, really terrible at putting together an official statement. This is where some basic skill in composition or public relations would come in handy. It shouldn't be hard to craft a statement like that.

Between the two statements, he goes off on so many odd tangents...
-His guns/police/military self-identity.
-His proclaimed disinterest in politics...which later comes off as disingenuous as he references issues like flag protests and airport security.
-His de-legitimizing of the concerns with statements like "you guys like drama". I can see him rolling his eyes.
-His calling out of an email that annoyed him rather than elevating the discourse.

.

For the whole "convention rules" and stuff, you know some people just don't like or even detest all of this formal babble, which I can understand. In theory, everyone should understand his simple policy of "only gaming" at his con. And I missed where he says he has no interest in politics. He's clearly referring to the convention, not his personal opinions on anything. He won't discuss politics at the convention and doesn't allow anyone else to do it either, and considering the anger such topics raise I can very well understand that.

And he's unfortunately right, people like drama, including in this thread which is evident by the misleading title. And yeah, he should roll his eyes because it feels like so many people seem to just want to be in on being against harassment but as we see can't even bother to get their facts right. This really worries me as it may lead to less people taking complaints serious, because of a few weirdos barking up the wrong tree (or starting a urinating contest at it).

If someone writes you a factually incorrect letter about a proven but still unclear as to the exact facts harassment case and you check and find the target of the misbehavior has since asked to drop the matter... Seriously, what would you do, especially if you have already invested money in this particular guest? And this is probably the first time you hear about misbehavior from the guy and never had an issue with him at any of your previous events? Plus people who don't care or haven't heard about the issue are coming to play at his table?

So the Texan gunslinger (not meant in a negative way) organizing this con is not the best communicator. I still think he made it clear he's stepping in if anything comes to his attention, and he sounds like such things would come to his attention. Especially now that he's had warning. And please don't say he's ignoring the warning, he's clearly not. He's just making it clear it is his con, his policy, and if you disagree just stay the random Texan curse word away from it.

Which is all fine in my eyes.
 

+1 on the click bait - terrible title.

oddly the email from Kent to Doug and the Con organizers, Kent states it was Mentzer that recently physically injured a staff member but wasn't it actually Webb? Seems like Kent didn't do much of a review and just lumped it together and fired off the email from an emotional stand point.

Just seems like many people fire off stuff with little review and just adds few to the fire and resulting confusion on the issue.
 

Dualazi

First Post
As I understand the term to be used in this sort of context, "listening" generally means making a concerted effort to put yourself in the speaker's place and understand what they are trying to communicate at more than a superficial level. And if you want to be given credit for listening, since we can't see inside your head, you have to demonstrate that understanding in your response. So when people say he didn't listen, I think they mean he failed in his response to demonstrate an understanding of the concerns of the people to whom he was responding. Moreover, in this case, beyond failing to demonstrate that he did understand, he also gave notable evidence that he did not understand.

This is a disgustingly manipulative trick that gets played out all too often these days, and essentially boils down to “do what I say or you didn’t listen”, when that is not even remotely close to being true. As I believe Mistwell remarked earlier, you can listen to someone’s grievances and still either disagree with their premise or the actions they wish taken, and still have listened. Plus, the organizer already qualified that harassment wouldn’t be tolerated, which essentially makes your complaint a hyperbolic response to him not saying it in the exact phrasing that you desire.

Third, he expressed empathy for a number of categories of offenders, but none for their victims, another circumstance that would generally make it more difficult to understand concerns about sexual harassment. Finally, he seems to lump sexual harassment in with various criminal offenses. This belies either ignorance or dismissal of the ways in which these things marked differ in our society currently. We have not made sexual harassment in general a crime.

I want to single out this section in particular for being pure, unadulterated, societal poison. As far as I’ve read up on the allegations against the men in question, they have admitted wrongdoing, the companies involved have taken action or are in the process of doing so, and even the victim simply wants it dropped and to move on. This beggars the question of when, and by whose order, do these men get to attend conventions or tabletop business? The fact that sexual harassment is not charged in some cases is not and never will be a carte blanche invitation for online mobs to run someone out of society until someone else raises their ire. Frankly I’m quite pleased that the con organizer hasn’t backed down, doubly so since this is by all rights a small con that most of these protesters weren’t going to attend anyway.


Lastly, I’d like to echo the complaints of many others that this is tabloid-tier clickbait designed to make a mountain out of a molehill, over an issue that has really been resolved on both fronts. I don’t know if the Morrus and crew need to have a submission period or something where they screen for this, but in the time I’ve browsed this site I’ve usually found the articles to be of a higher caliber than this.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Umm, as someone running a public convention, don't they have some responsibility in vetting those they specifically invite (as opposed to people who just show up - you can't vet them) as guests?

Not necessarily. The very act of vetting or declaring that you are vetting attendees can be construed as assuming liability. By vetting attendees, you are saying that everyone that attends has your approval. Denying that you are vetting the attendees of a public event, could be a way of avoiding legal responsibility. Moreover, even if he had the resources to 'vet' his attendees, the very act of vetting opens him up to legal liability if for some reason the people denied access feel they've been discriminated against.

It would appear to me that this is a tempest in a tea pot sort of thing with a "journalist" creating a click bait story for the purpose of stirring up yet more outrage. I mean, how would we know who is virtuous if we didn't see people displaying their outrage all the time?

Wildly indignant all the time about everything.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
When someone is paying for harassers and assaulters to attend their con, that shows where their sympathies lie.

Just a question, not specifically towards you, but your post made me think...


I agree with zero tolerance for harassment....how long before someone who did the wrong can learn from their mistake and then, as an example, attend conventions?

(I imagine it depends on the severity of the crime and the honesty of atonement, assuming guilt for discussion).
 




Venley

First Post
Just a question, not specifically towards you, but your post made me think...


I agree with zero tolerance for harassment....how long before someone who did the wrong can learn from their mistake and then, as an example, attend conventions?

(I imagine it depends on the severity of the crime and the honesty of atonement, assuming guilt for discussion).


I do not have an answer as yet, nor likely does anyone. So far we do not seem to have progressed to these (mostly) men actually expressing regret or atoning; nor does that seem likely while so many men seem to support them. Fortunately, I think the tide is slowly changing but it seems it will take a good long while yet.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
I think there's an important distinction to be made here which makes the allegedly 'misleading' headline absolutely on-point.

People with concerns about harassment, and who look for policies related to harassment, are primarily concerned with making sure harassment doesn't occur -- that's the point in not inviting those who've been known to engage in harassing behavior, in having a 'zero-tolerance' policy, etc. The idea is that the con organizers make clear that such behavior isn't going to be tolerated in the belief that people who primarily go to cons to engage in such behavior won't find that con a place they feel comfortable or welcome, and thus the harassing behavior won't happen.

In this case, though, the organizer is satisfied with explaining that he knows what harassment is when he sees it and he can deal with it and everybody should just stay focused on the gaming. That's significantly worrisome to those who might be harassed, because the message it sends is not 'don't come here to harass', but 'if you do come here to harass, don't get caught'.

If the con organizer wants a small con run for a bunch of good-ol'-boy old-school RPG gamers, that's all well and good. But I don't see that headline as misleading -- 'I'm in charge and I won't tolerate harassment' isn't really listening to those with concerns, especially given that the con organizer has explicitly said that those asked to leave the con for harassment won't automatically be refused entry to subsequent cons.

It's not ENWorld's job to help the con organizer white-wash his convention policies or to convince those who might fear harassment (and I'm sure there are folks even in North Texas who might fear harassment) that they'd be just as safe at this convention as at GenCon, ChupacabraCon, or CONvergence, to name a few cons with explicit anti-harassment policies.

Sometimes, journalists need to call a spade a spade. Good on ya, ENWorld.

--
Pauper
 

Lord_Blacksteel

Adventurer
Oh good lord - this is definitely a misleading title:

"North Texas RPG Convention Refuses To Listen To Harassment Concerns"

He did listen. He posted a response - by definition requiring some form of "listening". Some, presumably including the author of the article don't like that response. This is a distinct thing from "listening" - "listening" does not imply nor does it require agreement.

Is the writer (and some of the posters too) actually implying that the convention runner is in favor of harassment? I mean he "has decided to take a stand against those in the tabletop RPG hobby who have been harassed at conventions and other spaces" according to the article. Is that where we are now?
 

neobolts

Explorer
For the whole "convention rules" and stuff, you know some people just don't like or even detest all of this formal babble, which I can understand. In theory, everyone should understand his simple policy of "only gaming" at his con. And I missed where he says he has no interest in politics. He's clearly referring to the convention, not his personal opinions on anything. He won't discuss politics at the convention and doesn't allow anyone else to do it either, and considering the anger such topics raise I can very well understand that.

I get not liking the public relations aspect (or "formal babble" :D) of running a small event. It's a distraction from the enjoyment of the event itself. But sometimes it is unavoidable. If you have customers, then at some point you'll be dealing with a customer complaint.

Regarding "politics"...He said...
"I don't vote, never have (except once in 1984 when in the USMC, and our captain passed a yellow card to everyone, advised everyone to mark Republican and pass them back to the front). I couldn't tell you who the VP of the country is, nor who any were in any past years, much less who was President when... I really don't care who runs the country, it's all been down hill since Washington (this is all my opinion of course, and start another hate post based on this if you like)"
...which indicates to me a disinterest in politics. My point in that bullet list was not to take a stand on those issues, but to point out that his responses lacked focus. I mean really, nothing in the quote has a damn thing to do with the complaint. He's painfully way off topic and seriously blowing a diplomacy check.

And he's unfortunately right, people like drama, including in this thread which is evident by the misleading title. And yeah, he should roll his eyes because it feels like so many people seem to just want to be in on being against harassment but as we see can't even bother to get their facts right. This really worries me as it may lead to less people taking complaints serious, because of a few weirdos barking up the wrong tree (or starting a urinating contest at it).

If someone writes you a factually incorrect letter about a proven but still unclear as to the exact facts harassment case and you check and find the target of the misbehavior has since asked to drop the matter... Seriously, what would you do, especially if you have already invested money in this particular guest? And this is probably the first time you hear about misbehavior from the guy and never had an issue with him at any of your previous events? Plus people who don't care or haven't heard about the issue are coming to play at his table?

Yeah, this is a heated topic. And yeah, public complaints are often misinformed and deserving of an eye roll (in private). But he increased the amount of drama with his responses, rather than taking the high road. The facts of the individual cases or accuracy of individual complaints aren't what he should wade into.

So the Texan gunslinger (not meant in a negative way) organizing this con is not the best communicator. I still think he made it clear he's stepping in if anything comes to his attention, and he sounds like such things would come to his attention. Especially now that he's had warning. And please don't say he's ignoring the warning, he's clearly not. He's just making it clear it is his con, his policy, and if you disagree just stay the random Texan curse word away from it.

We are generally in agreement here. Saying he is "not the best communicator" is putting it politely. Howvere, the ENWorld OP position that he decided to "take a stand against those in the tabletop RPG hobby who have been harassed at conventions and other spaces" seems unfair and harsh. He is clearly not pro-harassment. He is just bad at expressing himself and needlessly confrontational in a way that exacerbates the complaint rather than constructively address it.
 

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