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5E Orion Black No Longer a D&D Designer [UPDATED!]

WotC employee Orion Black announced yesterday that they were no longer working for the company or on D&D, citing the corporate culture at the company.

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"It's July 3th and I no longer work for Wizards of the Coast. I no longer work on D&D, the little that I did. This is going to be a long thread and my last for quite a while, so bear with me.

I took the job for two reasons. The first was for the dream. To escape poverty doing what I love, writing and making games. The second was to make D&D welcoming to the millions who are scorned by it.

A lot of people had hope for D&D that they carried with me. While some people were upset to see me work for a corporation that overshadows indie, others hoped that I would be able to make real change. I tried. I failed. And I lost a lot.

Liking a tweet or post, RTing, or even following people who speak ill of WotC can lose you your job in an instant. That's why you never see it happen. @Zbeg is 100% correct. It's a silencing tool. I can say more now.

Kindness doesn't replace respect. Working within your comfort zone doesnt support change. Most people in that group were not ready for me to be there, a nonbinary Black person who would actually critique their problems. Idk what they expected.

I worked hard for a very long time. I got a lot of smiles and vocal support, but it was followed by inaction and being ignored. My coworkers were frustrated for me, and still are now. I confided in them often, cried on shoulders on a few occasions.

I realized at one point that leadership had given me 2 assignments over about 5 months. It was mostly me asking project leads for work, searching out opportunities. Leadership didnt really care about me or my growth. I had to.

I firmly believe that I was a diversity hire. There was no expectation for me to do much of anything. I probably disrupted them by being vocal and following up. It didnt matter if I was supported by seniors and positive.

I think genuine people proposed me as an option and it was accepted because it would look like a radical positive change. It would help quiet vocal outrage. And because I had to stay silent, it was a safe bet.

I started to lose all of my confidence. I started to lose trust in myself. After finding out that I wasnt getting an extension or FTE, I resolved to just finish things out and take care of myself. To stop fighting and to just survive, quietly. But it just kept getting worse.

They would talk about how they're going to start working on treating staff better, retaining contractors, actually answering questions. How much they were invested in diversity and change even though they hired two cis white dudes into two big leadership positions during this. One of whom claimed that he doesnt know what he's doing. No shit. I never want to hear "maybe they just hire the best person for the job" again.

I found out that some of my work was stolen, which destroyed me. It lined up with a project they were going to do and I had sent it in to someone in leadership months ago. The project was announced and this person who contributed "forgot" that we had a meeting where I gave them my ideas, and then a follow up document the day after. I knew nothing was going to be done about it. Someone else told me that the person said sorry that they forgot. That's it.

I was really losing my ability to do much of anything. I have depression and anxiety and ADHD, all of which I manage pretty well. But those parts of me were under the pressure of being ignored, disrespected, "forgotten", and not being able to say a word to the world.

Then, as social unrest continued global due to BLM, the D&D team comes out with their statement. It was like a slap in the face. How much they care about people of color, how much changing things (that I and others had been pushing for months, if not longer) was just going to happen now. It took weeks of protesting across the globe to get D&D to do what people they hired have been already telling them to fix. You cannot, CANNOT say Black lives matter when you cannot respect the Black people who you exploit at 1/3rd your pay, for progressive ideas you pick apart until it's comfortable, for your millions of profit year over year. People of color can make art and freelance, but are never hired. D&D takes what they want from marginalized people, give them scraps, and claim progress.

I spent my time in that building worrying about how much people hated me for working there. I spent a lot of time thinking about how much it hurt to work there. I had and still have supporters, and many. Thanks to you all for being my voice and speaking out when I could not. But I felt so isolated and alone. If not for some coworkers who checked in on me, who were going through the same things? I would've quit. Every angry statement about D&D felt personal because I couldn't fix it. Because I failed, whether it was my fault or not. I felt like I was being trashed by everyone because I could not disconnect what I set as a personal responsibility from the state of the game. That part IS my fault.

But I wound up as I am now because of all of this and much, much more. I am depressed. I am unable to write. I constantly question if anything I create is worth anything. I feel like I let everyone down, and no matter how much people tell me I didnt, that doesnt change. I feel guilty for not being what y'all needed me to be, what I wanted to be, and betrayed for how I was treated at that company. It's an exceptionally kind place on the D&D team. People are very nice to each other in a very genuine way that I truly enjoyed. However, that doesnt replace respect. That doesnt delete how I was treated. It doesnt change the fact that I honestly never want to play a trpg again and am definitely not working in that field anymore.

I know that I'm probably losing a ton of opportunities writing elsewhere because of what I've said here, as well as what I've sent in internally. It may mean that I will return to poverty, which makes me feel like a failure to my race, my family, and my partner who I want to provide the world. But under all these things, I have my integrity. I worked my ass off. I did my best for as long as I could. And I didnt let them treat me like that without telling the world what needs to be said.

Trust actions, not words. Not "look at how much we freelance so and so", because freelancing is exploitation of diversity with no support for the freelancer. Not "here we finally did what we KNOW we should've done a long time ago", because they only care about how optics turn to dollars. EVERYTHING involving D&D will continue to farm marginalized people for the looks and never put them in leadership. They wont be put on staff. They will be held at arms length. I hope they prove me wrong.

A lot of BIPOC and other marginalized people are trying to make their way by using D&D. Dont shame them for that. Think about how much, and when you wield your anger, that it is done righteously.

That said, I dont recommend to anyone, working for the D&D department of Wizards of the Coast."


Orion's Tweet about this. They also cite this statement, The Wizards I Know, by Zaiem Beg.

WotC's PR person, Greg Tito, commented publicly on the issue.

This should not have happened the way it did & I'll continue to fight so it does not happen again. I'm sorry if I let you down, Orion. You deserve better.


In response to an observation that this required more than just a PR statement or donation, and that it required diversity at the executive level he continued:

I have said almost these exact words for years, and more recently to executives put in charge of a community they don't understand. I am in the awful position of saying things I believe without the company making even a single, simple action of real change.


UPDATE! WotC has issued a short statement:

We sincerely apologize to Orion Black for the negative experiences they had as a contractor with the D&D franchise team. Their statement is being taken seriously and is an opportunity for us to improve the experiences of all those who contribute to our company and community. We're not perfect and we know there is more work to do. The ongoing dialogue with our community is critical to make meaningful change. We remain committed to making D&D a more inclusive community by supporting voices from people of all backgrounds.
 
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Comments

Corrosive

Adventurer
Supporter
Is it me or is WotC managing to find itself embroiled in a lot of hot water these days? This is just the latest in a stream, of things. There'e ConsultantGate (Pundit and ZakS), MearlsGate, SexyDMsGuildGate, ProJaredGate, now this.

And that's not even counting the MtG stuff. A lot of it seems to be poor choices of who to work with.

What's going on there?
 



TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Is it me or is WotC managing to find itself embroiled in a lot of hot water these days? This is just the latest in a stream, of things. There'e ConsultantGate (Pundit and ZakS), MearlsGate, SexyDMsGuildGate, ProJaredGate, now this.

And that's not even counting the MtG stuff. A lot of it seems to be poor choices of who to work with.

What's going on there?
Honestly, I'm having trouble sorting through the post and finding a particular example of WotC's actual malfeasance, other than possibly not retaining the individual in question. I mean, I don't doubt freelancers get crapped on (including stuff like getting your work stolen), but game publishing is a money-tight, competitive industry; those are the conditions that lead to entry-level workers getting a bunch of crap to deal with.
 



Jack Hooligan

Explorer
My understanding is that the full-time D&D staff within WotC is very small and most of the work done is freelance. I also don't know this individual or their work at all, but maybe there just weren't any projects that aligned with their skillset, or they just weren't a good fit? Happens all the time. Individuals leave work places because one side or the other simply doesn't line up. Nothing ill intended behind it. I'm also not sure about disregarding people who say they "don't know what they're doing". Imposter syndrome is also a real thing. I certainly have it and despite being awarded Teacher of the Year on my campus and students improving really well, I would still Tell people I don't feel like I knew what I'm doing. Anyway, again sorry to hear this employment didn't work out, but it seems like it could be as anecdotal case and not a blanket treatment that happens to all people.

Somewhat related because it appears part of this conversation is identity, but I posted the following in another thread, but may be more relevant here.

It seems RPGs in general are on shaky ground if we, as a society, decide to keep going down this path where identity is our defining trait. I mean, by nature RPGs are games where the participants play with identities. How identities are used by the players is drawn from the players' experience and imagination. This is all going to vary widely from table to table and player to player. It seems almost impossible to assign any sort of definitive rules or settings to operate under this cloud with so much variety in expectations. Everything will need to be optional. I don't envy RPG companies in the coming years, but hopefully my read on all this is wrong.
 
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ChaosOS

Hero
Supporter
Is it me or is WotC managing to find itself embroiled in a lot of hot water these days? This is just the latest in a stream, of things. There'e ConsultantGate (Pundit and ZakS), MearlsGate, SexyDMsGuildGate, ProJaredGate, now this.

And that's not even counting the MtG stuff. A lot of it seems to be poor choices of who to work with.

What's going on there?
Small industry with little to no real competition enables nepotistic corporate structures more than usual - why try to hire for merit when you'll still be top dog hiring your friends? As for why this is coming out now, it's clear a lot of people feel this is a time of social upheaval and think moving for change now is more likely to be effective (an assessment I'm inclined to agree with)
 

jerryrice4949

Explorer
A culture war
One never knows. I hate these type of threads because It is one person’s perspective. Everything this person says may be true. Which would be awful.

On the other hand, they/them could have been a terrible employee or a distraction for co-workers (which this person’s post seems to imply). We just don’t know.

Regardless, no one here will know the truth. Left to speculate, some will disparage WOTC, other people the poster. What a waste of energy. Nothing constructive will occur.
 
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Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
This is very disappointing to hear about.

I love 5e. I love the spark of creativity it has inspired within the wider D&D community.

But to hear about someone being a mere “token diversity hiring”... That is disheartening for me. I would have thought that after everything with Zak, the company would have made a conscious effort to do better on EVERY front.

Regardless, I wish Orion well in their future endeavors.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Thrall of Coot.
I hope things work out, but in reading the post, it seems like a really bad fit, but nothing ... well, with the possible exception of a co-worker / fellow contractor stealing their IP, Orion Black has a lot, and some might also just be part of the issue that they are acknowledging (depression, anxiety, ADHD).

My general advise is that while these types of things, and twitter in general, might feel good to get off your chest, it's usually best not to burn bridges. Employers always do social media searches now, and they tend to frown on someone who took a scorched-earth approach to their last employer.

If there is something truly toxic at WoTC, then they should tell us.
 

jerryrice4949

Explorer
My general advise is that while these types of things, and twitter in general, might feel good to get off your chest, it's usually best not to burn bridges. Employers always do social media searches now, and they tend to frown on someone who took a scorched-earth approach to their last employer.
Very sage advice. As an employer and someone who does hiring, people who unload on social media are an easy pass for me. It raises concerns about personality and psychological factors. Not saying that is the case with they/them. But it is not a wise career decision.
 

This is very disappointing to hear about.

I love 5e. I love the spark of creativity it has inspired within the wider D&D community.

But to hear about someone being a mere “token diversity hiring”... That is disheartening for me. I would have thought that after everything with Zak, the company would have made a conscious effort to do better on EVERY front.

Regardless, I wish Orion well in their future endeavors.
Doesn't being "token diversity hiring" mean someone who is hired despite having no skill for the job? Not something I would admit to. I see no evidence this person is not an incompetent out for revenge. I would only wish someone well if I actually knew they deserved well.

I once worked for an employer who was sued by someone form a minority group for not being interviewed for a job. The real reason they where not interviewed was they did not have the legally required qualifications.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I see no evidence this person is not an incompetent out for revenge. I would only wish someone well if I actually knew they deserved well.
You wouldn't wish somebody well by default? Only if you had evidence they deserved it?

Not that you wouldn't wish them well if you had evidence they didn't deserve it, but you wouldn't wish them well unless you had evidence they did deserve it?

I see no evidence this person is not an incompetent out for revenge.
I mean, I see no evidence you're not a serial killer.

You're sounding like an evil supervillain (I could use a stronger term, but this is a family friendly site).
 



This is a pretty big leap. Are you familiar with confirmation bias?
To quote from the OP:

Then, as social unrest continued global due to BLM, the D&D team comes out with their statement. It was like a slap in the face. How much they care about people of color, how much changing things (that I and others had been pushing for months, if not longer) was just going to happen now. It took weeks of protesting across the globe to get D&D to do what people they hired have been already telling them to fix. You cannot, CANNOT say Black lives matter when you cannot respect the Black people who you exploit at 1/3rd your pay, for progressive ideas you pick apart until it's comfortable, for your millions of profit year over year. People of color can make art and freelance, but are never hired. D&D takes what they want from marginalized people, give them scraps, and claim progress.
 


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