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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

Good grief no! I hate that, it is so insincere.
This is a bit of a non-sequitur, but in my experience, persons from the U.K. disliking forced, perfunctory, politeness in retail settings, is not a quality that is solely limited to Paul Farquhar.

There are numerous U.K. based ENworldians whom can speak to this more directly, if they so chose.

I visited a very good friend of mine in Copenhagen, and she stated, (only somewhat in jest) in Denmark, if someone smiles at you on the street, the Danes either assume the person is mentally ill or an American tourist. The Danes do not smile for strangers.

Culture and Customs, they are legion. 😘
 
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dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
{snip}

I visited a very good friend of mine in Copenhagen, and she stated, (only somewhat in jest) in Denmark, if someone smiles at you on the street, the Danes either assume the person is mentally ill or an American tourist. The Danes do not smile for strangers.

Culture and Customs, they are legion. 😘
Same kind of thinking is common in a lot of countries I've visited abroad. My ex-fiancee was from Eastern Europe, and she never got why I smiled so much and in every photo we took together...
 

Zardnaar

Legend
This is a bit of a non-sequitur, but in my experience, persons from the U.K. disliking forced, perfunctory, politeness in retail settings is not a quality that is solely limited to Paul Farquhar.

There are numerous U.K. based ENworldians whom can speak to this more directly, if they so chose.

I visited a very good friend of mine in Copenhagen, and she stated, (only somewhat in jest) in Denmark, if someone smiles at you on the street, the Danes either assume the person is mentally ill or an American tourist. The Danes do not smile for strangers.

Culture and Customs, they are legion. 😘
Yeah same here. I had Russians ask about NZ service people smiling at them.

Staff aren't forced to do it but northern Europeans are a bit more reserved than say Aussies.

If you smile to much at strangers they think you're an idiot. They have friends and not friends we have friends, mate's and not friends.
 

Yeah same here. I had Russians ask about NZ service people smiling at them.

Staff aren't forced to do it but northern Europeans are a bit more reserved than say Aussies.

If you smile to much at strangers they think you're an idiot. They have friends and not friends we have friends, mate's and not friends.
Or it is a more animalistic thing, since when animals show their teeth, they are usually either afraid of you or about to attack. Plus there is that old stereotype about the English and bad teeth, not smiling so they don't show them off and embarrass themselves.
 



Kaodi

Adventurer
Basically anything you make they own and do what the boss says.

Alot of people these days don't like being told what to do even when they're being paid to do exactly that.

Some jobs no matter how nice the boss is won't be good for your mental health.
Owning your creative output is a far cry from owning you however. If your boss ever says they "own" you I completely endorse giving them five seconds to reword what they said before you beat them senseless.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
You obviously aren't using any definition of plagiarize that I'm familiar with. So, no plagiarism, no double standard. If you'd ever taught elementary or middle school you'd have a very firm idea how ridiculous this idea really is.
Merriam-Webster offers a definition of "use (another's production) without crediting the source". Whether plagiarism is considered a big deal certainly varies from place to place, but the fact that elementary school teachers don't bother crediting who wrote their worksheets does communicate that nobody cares about giving credit to who did the work in many fields.

It's not ridiculous; few would consider using the work of a painter without giving credit, and using the work of a worksheet designed without credit is exactly parallel. It says that worksheet creation is not a valuable or skilled act worthy of credit.
 

Insulting other members
And yet you put a bullseye on him.
And you are too dense to even understand how I wrote the sentence as a question, not an accusation. But I should not be surprised, as you have many questionable posts on this site. I sometimes wonder how you have not been banned already. Goodbye.
 

Azuresun

Explorer
We don't know all the details - just Orion's perspective. This is not to invalidate their perspective, just that I'm hesitant to draw conclusions about the views of Crawford et al, and the D&D team as a whole, from this piece.

What we do know is that this person is suffering, and I'm sorry to hear that. I wish them the best going forward.
That's where I am. I'm naturally inclined to get angry quickly and side with whichever side of a story I hear first, so I always consciously try to slow down and wait for details. It's one thing that makes me very uncomfortable about seeing cultural or social issues discussed online--that wanting both sides of the story is considered the same thing as being a cheerleader for abuse or toxicity.
 

dwayne

Adventurer
Corporations want money, this stopped being about the game with gygax and never really was anything else after, i mean there were some great people and products. But only, as he said it lined their pockets at the time, and was easy to push, if it was about the game 4th edition never would have happened. But we will see how it shakes out, i am done with the endless incarnations of this game and 5th is my end point i refuse to buy any thing else until i see some of the products that the fan base has been wanting. I hear you man and hope you fair better out there on your own.
 

MGibster

Legend
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 think Orion might have had unrealistic expectations what they could accomplish as a contractor and perhaps a misunderstanding on what it means to be a contractor. Was Orion hired to critique WotC's problems? I doubt it. Contractors are typically not agents of change, they are hired to work on specific project(s) for a set period of time according to what the project lead wants done.


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.


There's a good chance Orion's critiques alienated them from some people at the company. A contractor critiquing my company, unless that's what we paid him to do, probably wouldn't last long. And why would they be concerned with Orion's growth? Orion isn't an employee and companies aren't typically concerned about the growth of contractors.

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.


Maybe this is the anxiety and depression talking, I'm guessing the company looked at Orion's body of work and liked what they saw. Very few companies are going to hire someone to score diversity points if they don't think that person can do the job. Orion, you earned that hire by dint of of your abilities.


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.


It's always best to address something like this quickly and directly rather than doing nothing or relying on second hand information. Maybe Orion is right that they wouldn't have done anything but it's a certainty that nothing will be done if they don't speak up. But, again, this could be the anxiety and depression getting the better of them.
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
Mike Mearls essentially attributed Monte's leaving WoTC to Monte having
become de-acclimated to WoTC corporate culture.
Corporate culture can mean a lot of different things, including:

Flexible work hours or fixed
Expectations around overtime and availability after regular hours
The frequency of meetings
How work is tracked and logged
Whether social events are boozy or sober
How candidly people can speak to their managers
Difficulty of internal advancement
Vertical or flat organization chart
How welcoming or resistant it is to innovation

Since all of those elements, and many others, fall under corporate culture, we have no idea which of them Cook might have felt alienated from. And since many of them are trade-offs with no obvious right answer, and workers themselves have different preferences, there's only so far you can go in reforming corporate culture; all companies have a culture of some kind, and there's no culture everyone will be happy with.
 

Anarchclown

Explorer
This is a bit of a non-sequitur, but in my experience, persons from the U.K. disliking forced, perfunctory, politeness in retail settings, is not a quality that is solely limited to Paul Farquhar.

There are numerous U.K. based ENworldians whom can speak to this more directly, if they so chose.

I visited a very good friend of mine in Copenhagen, and she stated, (only somewhat in jest) in Denmark, if someone smiles at you on the street, the Danes either assume the person is mentally ill or an American tourist. The Danes do not smile for strangers.

Culture and Customs, they are legion. 😘
Yes. As a Swede I can confirm this. Why would you smile at a stranger? What are you selling you insincere con man?
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Merriam-Webster offers a definition of "use (another's production) without crediting the source". Whether plagiarism is considered a big deal certainly varies from place to place, but the fact that elementary school teachers don't bother crediting who wrote their worksheets does communicate that nobody cares about giving credit to who did the work in many fields.

It's not ridiculous; few would consider using the work of a painter without giving credit, and using the work of a worksheet designed without credit is exactly parallel. It says that worksheet creation is not a valuable or skilled act worthy of credit.
Says someone who's obviously never been a teacher. Worksheets are commonly available online both paid and free and usually have the source right on them, so that isnt an issue. If youre writing your own worksheet and using, say, historical material from a variety of sources they often wont be sourced. Who does citations for an elementary worksheet? No one. Why, because theres no need mostly. It has zero to do with attribution though. If you want students to learn more, sure, give them a website link.

Not only is citation mostly unnecessary, it's also a waste of time. A teacher in North America typically gets about 2.5 hours a week to prep about 30 hours of classes, so it pays to spend that time on getting the best lesson together, not pretending that you're writing a university paper.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
Yes. As a Swede I can confirm this. Why would you smile at a stranger? What are you selling you insincere con man?
I had a friend with a Norwegian wife.

She thought he had lots of friends as he would talk to people on the street etc.

He was talking to strangers though lol.

Things are very informal here. Barefeet in shops, go to the supermarket in your underwear levels of informal.

Very chilled out as such. You might go to a beach and someone offers you food off a BBQ.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
This has nothing to do with “surveillance states”. This predates electricity. This predates written language.

You don’t want someone to use your public statements and actions, keep them private.
I think that ignores the reality of the situation. Pre-Internet, a well-known figure in the RPG community looks for a job with GE. Do they look at the fanzine he edited and largely wrote? No. Do they look at his letters and writings in Dragon Magazine? No. Do they even look at the major publications for TSR or White Wolf he wrote? Maybe, but plausibly not. Everything he said to the RPG community is basically private. Today, everything posted here is viewable by GE without digging out print sources, even though this is more akin to the fanzine that would be nigh impossible to find copies of than even the stuff published in Dragon Magazine.

Likewise, Facebook posts aren't nearly as edited as Christmas letters to family, but are much more easily accessible. It's like every argument in a private social club or bar was preserved and made available to just about everyone. There's really no comparison.
 

Curmudjinn

Explorer
Publicly burning a bridge of the magnitude Orion has done, in an already small industry, was probably the worst decision for finding more freelance work or landing a permanent position.

Regardless of who is in the wrong or how truly wrong anyone's actions were, he definitely didn't think of the future impact on his career.

Such is the effect of acting on emotion rather than logic.

I'd like to say things to bosses that would get me fired. Most of us would. If we already have lost our job, there's nothing stopping you. Except if you're in an industry within a vacuum, and your explosive behavior is immediately known by everyone within that group.
I'd need a new career.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Guess he won't keep his job for long once this issue has blown over.
What he is doing is basically the exact opposite of what his job is. No way WotC will overlook that.
He is a good part of the small hope they come out of this okay. If they listen to him.
 

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