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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

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
You're arguing that plagiarism is a bad thing, we aren't doing bad things, therefore we aren't doing plagiarism. That's not a strong argument.

When you copy worksheets without giving credit to the original author, you're engaging in plagiarism. In some fields, this copying would be a big deal. In others, it's not. I'd note that RPGs aren't really careful about credit; authors will get their name on the credits page, but in larger books, you'll get a bunch of names with no notes about what they did. In other fields, co-authors take full credit for the entire work or are credited directly for their section. In yet other fields, no one gets credit for their work; my father had his name removed from his work, and when it's declassified, it will be an anonymous work. It's different field-by-field, but let's not deny you're doing things that in other fields would be very major issues.
If you aren't going to read my posts I'm not going to repeat myself. That's fair, right? I covered the plagiarism bases for you already - it isn't an issue in most cases anyway, regardless of what an individual teacher remembers to do or not. Attribution is either included or not expected in most cases. Not a strong argument. Yeesh. :rolleyes:
 

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Derren

Hero
Those higher people aren't going to be affected either way, and it's just 'higher people' not anyone specific. They get to look 'active' by not firing or chastising Tito, and can pretty much ignore Orion. This probably isn't the case anyway.
If Tito was a designer that might happen, but he is their PR guy and having your PR talk bad about the company he is supposed to promote is a big no.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
If Tito was a designer that might happen, but he is their PR guy and having your PR talk bad about the company he is supposed to promote is a big no.
Or not. It all depends on how you spin it. I just posited a way that this could be spun to WotCs advantage, either as a preplanned thing, or even after the fact. I wasn't saying that PR people talking out of school is fine.
 

Olrox17

Hero
Those higher people aren't going to be affected either way, and it's just 'higher people' not anyone specific. They get to look 'active' by not firing or chastising Tito, and can pretty much ignore Orion. This probably isn't the case anyway.
Dunno, Fenris. I don't think Tito's words are part of a corporate strategy. I think that enough people at WotC openly agree with Tito, so he feels safe speaking his mind. He probably thinks enough people will stand with him in a possible upcoming confrontation.
I sense some internal factionalism at work.
 

Could also be Hasbro. Stopping anything meaningful. Seem to be stuck in time capsule they are. Not saying Wizards does not say empty words. This could really high up in the structure.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Dunno, Fenris. I don't think Tito's words are part of a corporate strategy. I think that enough people at WotC openly agree with Tito, so he feels safe speaking his mind. He probably thinks enough people will stand with him in a possible upcoming confrontation.
I sense some internal factionalism at work.
Either that or he is ticked off enough that he doesn't care if he gets fired if the people higher up don't take Orion and his concerns seriously. If Greg has truly been trying to get things changed over the past years with little to no results, maybe he figures he needs to step up now that Orion has in order to help try and force WotC's hand. And if WotC still doesn't do anything, then he doesn't want to work there anymore anyway.

If trying to make change happen quietly behind closed doors hasn't been successful... throwing the doors open might be the only way to air things out.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I didn't say it was a corporate strategy, only that if I were planning one it might look just like this. Plus that it could be spun to WotCs advantage even if it isn't. I don't love the realpolitik of PR, but that won't make it disappear.
 


Why would either Hasbro or WotC change anything currently? They are currently more successful than they have been in decades.
Point is. Toxicity could come from the very top. Means what Wizards does is worth nothing. Because the very top do not want change. Or their mandates overrule anything Wizards does.

Just because they are successful. Does not mean they could not treat people better.
 

Olrox17

Hero
Either that or he is ticked off enough that he doesn't care if he gets fired if the people higher up don't take Orion and his concerns seriously. If Greg has truly been trying to get things changed over the past years with little to no results, maybe he figures he needs to step up now that Orion has in order to help try and force WotC's hand. And if WotC still doesn't do anything, then he doesn't want to work there anymore anyway.

If trying to make change happen quietly behind closed doors hasn't been successful... throwing the doors open might be the only way to air things out.
Also possible, of course. Could be an all or nothing desperate move.

One thing's for certain: before Tito's tweets, WotC would have been able to shrug this whole thing as an ex employee being bitter and move on. After Tito's words, there will be consequences.
 
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EthanSental

Adventurer
Maybe WoTC could use Gallup’s Q12 system to help define the employee engagement and culture.
Takes time but even in my large corporation 2 years into using it, it has started to see benefits as more people understand how it can benefit them and the company they work for.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Posting on Twitter when angry, sad, upset, or otherwise emotional is rarely a good idea. But humans are flawed creatures driven by emotion. And sometimes, your desire to call out injustice or bullshit outweighs your concerns about future employment within any given industry. Orion Black sounds tired and exhausted from working within the RPG field, and seemingly has, at least in part, given up on a career in RPG writing. I'm not gonna judge them.

And twitter has reach. If you want people to hear your message, tweet it. Orion's post has gone viral and gathered a lot of attention. Hopefully this will help move the needle for change at WotC and within the RPG industry. And it's even possible that sympathetic publishers might be willing to give Orion work due to his bravery in posting his frustrations with WotC, when before they might have not known who they were.
We are certainly flawed creatures.

Being driven by emotion isn’t a flaw.
 


Robert Adducci says he "was let go from AL because they (Lindsay/Mearls) were worried he would leak info". Worked as a contractor. For Wizards.
@Raddu76. In response to tweets by Tito.
Named the employees at the heart of his concern.
 

I don't even know who Orion Black is, so this news also served to make me aware that there are a ton of people working on D&D that I was not aware of. (I seriously went "who is Adam Lee? when I saw him being interviewed about Descent into Avernus).

Is this going to turn into another Mearls-style conspiracy thread?
 


MGibster

Legend
We are certainly flawed creatures.

Being driven by emotion isn’t a flaw.
Never? I've seen people remain in bad relationships (not necessarily abusive) because they were in "lurve," I've seen people lose their job because they couldn't get their temper in check, and I've seen people remain in unhappy situations because they were too scared to attempt to make changes. When you're driven by your emotions into unhealthy situations I think that's a flaw.
 

I don't even know who Orion Black is, so this news also served to make me aware that there are a ton of people working on D&D that I was not aware of. (I seriously went "who is Adam Lee? when I saw him being interviewed about Descent into Avernus).

Is this going to turn into another Mearls-style conspiracy thread?
If you do not know enough about something. Educate yourself on it.
 

jerryrice4949

Explorer
Most searches for Orion Black being up references to the Harry Potter character. There does not appear to be a ton of info online, outside of this controversy. I found a couple mentions on obscure rpg sites thought those were sparse on details especially about previous works.
 

Most searches for Orion Black being up references to the Harry Potter character. There does not appear to be a ton of info online, outside of this controversy. I found a couple mentions on obscure rpg sites thought those were sparse on details especially about previous works.
Google Orion Black D&D. Clearly this is to do with D&D.
 

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