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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


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Warpiglet-7

Explorer
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.
The tendency to self immolate is certainly a liability that I don’t wish on anyone.

from their point of view they will be “in poverty” without WOTC and slammed the door on the way out.

Too bad they did Not have a friend to talk them into a tactical withdrawal. I almost walked off a job once and my coworker talked me into deep breaths. Good thing since my new gig got delayed by months—I would have been SOL.

this person is clearly not using good judgment. Hopefully they get some support and find something other than the breadline. But after those posts, it probably won’t be doing rpg work.
 

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.
Tito is also very well liked and popular in the community and if he gets dropped over this, they will piss off a LOT of their streaming show partners and online fandom.

Honestly, as the PR/Comms guy, it's the job of people like him and community managers to make sure if higher-ups are making the company look bad because of ignorance or crappy behavior toward freelancers, as one of the front-facing people, he's exactly who should be telling them what kind of response is coming from their actions from their consumers and community. He deals with the public in a way VPs and higher execs don't. And from the sound of his tweets it seems like this is something he's been frustrated by and trying to advocate for change in.

Greg has always seemed like a sincere and stand-up dude who means what he says so I can imagine stuff like this and the MM situation have been hard for him to deal with because he's caught in the middle.
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
Speaking as a lawyer, this is utterly impractical. Not even lawyers & judges know all the laws..
A Law YouTuber said when the law is on your side, you argue the law. When the facts are on your side, you argue the facts. When neither the law or facts are on your side, you just argue. From that I take that it's not about the law or justice, it's about being the strongest advocate for your client.
 
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A Law YouTuber said when the law is on your side, you argue the law. When the facts are on your side, you argue the facts. When neither the law or facts are on your side, you just argue. From that I take that it's not about the law or justice, it's about being the strongest advocate for your client.
Justice in a lot of cases -> who has the most money. Should not happen at all.
 

MGibster

Legend
this person is clearly not using good judgment. Hopefully they get some support and find something other than the breadline. But after those posts, it probably won’t be doing rpg work.
I hope so too. It's obvious Orion's experience while at WotC was difficult and I hope they're able to find gainful employment that is rewarding both spiritually and monetarily. (I'm not sure a career in role playing games can be both for most people.) I hope they're able to continue working in the field they seem to love so much. I'd wager a guess that some of the people they've worked with in the past would be happy to work with them again.
 

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.
Their Twitter name is DungeonCommandr - I know they wrote some articles on D&D Beyond several months back.
 


If you do not know enough about something. Educate yourself on it.
Or as a lot of people do, they shrug their shoulders and forget all about it in a day or two because there is a lot more going on in this country, like the millions out of work because of the coronavirus, who don't know how they are going to pay their bills or feed their family. Or all the stuff going on over the riots and protests. If this same thing had happened in Jan or Feb, a lot more people would have the time and energy to give a damn about one more possibly wrongful firing. Same thing with the thread about Oriental Adventures. There is just too much else going on right now that is more important than that argument. Again, if that had gotten attention at the beginning of the year, or last year, a lot more people would get involved. And if people think the lack of caring now is bad, just wait a couple more months til the US is in the middle of the Presidential campaigning and the coronavirus is still killing people and police are still killing people. People need to get some perspective when in the middle of multiple crises.
 


Or as a lot of people do, they shrug their shoulders and forget all about it in a day or two because there is a lot more going on in this country, like the millions out of work because of the coronavirus, who don't know how they are going to pay their bills or feed their family. Or all the stuff going on over the riots and protests. If this same thing had happened in Jan or Feb, a lot more people would have the time and energy to give a damn about one more possibly wrongful firing. Same thing with the thread about Oriental Adventures. There is just too much else going on right now that is more important than that argument. Again, if that had gotten attention at the beginning of the year, or last year, a lot more people would get involved. And if people think the lack of caring now is bad, just wait a couple more months til the US is in the middle of the Presidential campaigning and the coronavirus is still killing people and police are still killing people. People need to get some perspective when in the middle of multiple crises.
This should not be an excuse. Should be a catalyst for change. People are suffering. Enact things so people are cared for. And suffer less.
 



we have no idea which of them Cook might have felt alienated from.
I think we can assume Monte did not leave WoTC because he had a "case of the Mondays" and didn't want to do early morning meetings.

If this was the case, Monte would have just said "I love D&D, but I need a more flexible position then what being a WoTC designer allows".

Instead Monte said " I love D&D, I had issues with Hasbro/WoTC Management, and I cant say more due to the NDA I signed".
all companies have a culture of some kind, and there's no culture everyone will be happy with.
The Los Angeles Fire Dept has lost multiple hostile workplace lawsuits costing the taxpayers millions of dollars. Top Fire Dept officials have issued responses close to what you wrote.

1 person complaining publicly can be an aberration. Monte Cook, Orion Black, and Greg Tito all now have made some degree of public statements expressing concerns over Hasbro/WoTC Management decision over a timespan of 5 years.....isn't by definition, a series of events, correlated over a discrete period of time.....a pattern.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Why would either Hasbro or WotC change anything currently? They are currently more successful than they have been in decades.
Because there seem to be some changes on the horizon, and it it better to be ahead of them than behind them?

Success does not continue to fall in your lap forever with no action on your part - the best way to lose out is complacency. So, better question might be, why wouldn't they change?
 


variant

Adventurer
WOTC has played a dangerous game. Instead of putting out a good product they believe in (with whatever that entails) they have talked a big game about inclusion, removing “problematic”upsetting content and so forth.

it is hard to sate people’s appetite for addressing grievances without going all in. No good deed goes unpunished.

They are gonna get from all sides now.

Traditionalists are not there to change the world. They want the product they developed a taste for.

Those who want social change promoted in all things will not think it’s enough.

The idea that the traditionalists don’t matter financially is short sighted. They’re paying customers and probably have much more buying power. This incident will not be isolated.

that being said, this incident could be as simple as a worker getting screwed due to company greed, bias issues or just ‘cuz.

Watch for much much more of these incidents. The floodgates are going to open.
WotC is just going to continue to purity spiral, alienating all their consumer base. My gaming group have all stopped buying WotC products. We don't need them to continue to play. Those like us aren't exactly loud, nor do we post in the echo chamber that is Twitter, but we bought a lot of merchandise. How will such a company that is so narrowly focused on targeting a specific subsection of gamers ever be able to function? I predict it will just continue to spiral into insignificance until Hasbro decides it is no longer profitable.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
You’re stretching the concept of being emotional animals beyond what is reasonable. (Note, I didn’t say rational. Reasonable action is often emotional, or based on an emotional understanding of a situation.)
Being emotional is a good thing. Being exclusively emotional or exclusively logical is a flaw. Being incapable of bringing either type of thought into your understanding of a situation is a flaw.

But abuse victims aren’t staying because they’re emotional, and don’t leave as a result of applying logic to their understanding of the situation. In fact, logic pretty much never convinces someone to leave such a situation. Abuse is much more complex and difficult than that.

Rather, people leave because they find a better and more healthy emotional understanding of what is being done to them, or because anger, pain, or desire (for freedom, for peace, for something else) become stronger enough to clear their mind of the fog of manipulation.

Being emotionally driven is our greatest strength.
this person is clearly not using good judgment. Hopefully they get some support and find something other than the breadline. But after those posts, it probably won’t be doing rpg work.
did you read their post?

They literally stated that they’ve no further interest in working in TTRPGs anymore after this experience, and are willing to accept that blowing up wotc on twitter over it may lead them back into poverty, because they believe that they need to speak out.

That isn’t bad judgement. Its
Welcome to reality.
That’s a needlessly dismissive response that seeks to imply that the person you’ve replied to doesn’t understand reality.
 

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