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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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jerryrice4949

Explorer
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.
Huh? WoTC has continued to expand their base of players If you look at their sales and expanded demographics such as more younger and female players.

Nearly opposite to you, I have not Purchased one of their books since 2018 but plan to buy their September release.

I question your assumptions altogether. We don’t really know what went down with Orion. Orion’s allegations aside, it appears WoTC intends to try and grow their base. Maybe they will be successful and maybe they’re won’t... but a lot of people are jumping to conclusions.
 

MGibster

Legend
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.
From what evidence I can gather, it appears as though 5th edition is highly successful so I don't think WotC has to worry about alienating their player base. I think the vast majority of D&D's player base just wants good products and I bet they don't pay close attention to the relationship between Monte Cook or Orion Black with WotC. I have never looked at a D&D product and been bothered by more diverse representation in how people are presented. Maybe WotC has alienated you, but attracting others who aren't like you seems to be working as a business model.
 

variant

Adventurer
They expanded their player base overall with 5e, but that was from the simple nature of grabbing lightning in a bottle when streaming became popular. They can't rely on past sales to stay profitable. They need new sales of their current books. My last book was Tomb of Annihilation.
 

MGibster

Legend
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.
You said being driven by emotion is a good thing. I gave you three examples were being driven by emotion was a bad thing. I didn't argue in favor of ignoring emotions, if you feel something you're feeling it for a reason, but to me, being driven by your emotions is to be controlled by them. And I don't think that's a good thing.

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.
I agree. But you'll note that I specifically went out of my to talk about a bad relationship that wasn't abusive.

Being emotionally driven is our greatest strength.
Except when it's a weakness.
 



jerryrice4949

Explorer
They expanded their player base overall with 5e, but that was from the simple nature of grabbing lightning in a bottle when streaming became popular. They can't rely on past sales to stay profitable. They need new sales of their current books. My last book was Tomb of Annihilation.
As much as I dislike your view on attempts at more inclusiveness, you do illustrate WoTC conundrum.

If and when they hire more diverse staff, even if they are primarily contractors, some people get upset, disliking that direction.

Then if they turn around and move on from those staff member(s), whether it be due to a difference of opinion, ending of a contract or reallly any other reason, some people get upset.

There is an expectation that they get everything perfect, each time. I do not envy trying to thread that needle.
 


I've been medicated for over 20 years and while that helps it would be great if insurance could provide Therapy and if the U.S. wouldn't shun Mental Illness.
Mental health is the same thing as human happiness. I cant imagine anything more important.

Also, I think of counseling as preventative medicine that everyone should do whether they feel distressed or not. So as to stay mentally well.
 

Rygar

Explorer
Religion/politics
Huh? WoTC has continued to expand their base of players If you look at their sales and expanded demographics such as more younger and female players.

Nearly opposite to you, I have not Purchased one of their books since 2018 but plan to buy their September release.

I question your assumptions altogether. We don’t really know what went down with Orion. Orion’s allegations aside, it appears WoTC intends to try and grow their base. Maybe they will be successful and maybe they’re won’t... but a lot of people are jumping to conclusions.
The person you're replying to is right.

There's absolutely no evidence WOTC has expanded its demographics significantly. WOTC released a bunch of completely fabricated numbers to claim that they're capturing particular demographics, but it's trivial to tell that the numbers are disinformation. No WOTC product comes with a requirement to self identify, and no WOTC product has the ability to track and report how many different people use it. So WOTC has no way of knowing its demographics, all it can know is units sold, and it has no idea how many people that represents or anything about their demographics.

That said, D&D has definitely improved its market penetration, but no one knows who those players are.

On the topic of the person you've responded to, he's right. WOTC has two fairly major problems.

1. You cannot sell left wing politics to conservatives and the further left you go, the fewer moderates you can sell it to. As WOTC uses their product lines to push their politics on their consumers, they alienate and lose more and more customers.
2. They're being targeted for outrage culture now, people are looking for anything they can find to attack WOTC for non-compliance with left wing politics. Which causes some number of left wingers to stop being customers as well with each new outrage. I mean seriously, early this week the WOTC campaign was to ban 1st and 3rd edition Oriental Adventures for being racist. Ban a pair of books that've been out of print for decades. They're under a microscope.

To put it another way, this is another Edition War. Across both of its product lines, Magic and D&D. They're making the exact same mistakes they made in the last edition war. They're focusing on one particular group, catering to everything they want to see WOTC produce, and operating under the assumption that the out-groups (Conservatives, most Moderates) are few in number.

They're going to walk off the same cliff they did with 4th edition. They're going to release some product, and it'll massively undersell because the out-groups left, and they're going to be stuck with an unrecoverable situation.
 

whimsychris123

Explorer
They can't rely on past sales to stay profitable. They need new sales of their current books.
They sold their most popular book since the core books this year. And their core books, at least on Amazon, show no signs of slowing down.

I play the game with high school students where I teach. The majority fit somewhere in the LGBTQI demographic. Of all my gaming groups, it’s about 45% male, 45% female, 10% non-binary. I believe part of this diversity derived from avoiding sexist language and objectifying imagery. The game is no longer about teenage boys fulfilling their fantasies of power (kill the things, take the things) and seduction of women in bikini armor. It’s about diverse characters working together toward a common goal.

WotC now needs to address the issues of race as presented in the game to help its increasingly diverse and idealistic fan base feel welcome. This means more diversity among its content creators and more sensitivity to the needs of players of color. It’s not liberal Puritanism. It’s inclusiveness.

I don’t know anything about Orion Black and their experience with WotC other than what Orion is telling us. I’m not here to judge one way or another on that issue but to say that I’m sorry for Orion’s experience. But I do know that the fan base has changed and the game must change with it.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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.
I ignored nothing.

It is unquestionably true that the wired world in which we live makes digging up certain skeletons much easier to do, but the fact remains that the essential options for reacting to such discoveries are unchanged: nothing, wrist slaps, cover ups, demotion/career stagnation, firing, blackballing, etc. Which path is chosen has a lot to do with societal norms and the internal corporate culture.

Using your example, GE’s HR department would look at the applicant’s resume and initiate an investigation into his or her references. The thoroughness of an investigation would depend on the position applied for. Groundskeeper? Probably not much of an investigation. Legal department, they’re going to talk to everyone on your resume...and everyone those people say HR should talk to. One of the executive positions, security, R&D or patents might get a full on private investigator/police/FBI write up, focusing on things like your finances and associations. Hell, there are certain jobs at GE that actually require a government security clearance.

Even back then, some jobs required investigations into your background before you could be cleared for TRAINING. for the job. (My FBI file dates back to 1990.)

Why?

Because the liability laws that businesses listen to- like negligent entrustment- go back many decades. And PR disasters have a similarly long history.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You said being driven by emotion is a good thing. I gave you three examples were being driven by emotion was a bad thing. I didn't argue in favor of ignoring emotions, if you feel something you're feeling it for a reason, but to me, being driven by your emotions is to be controlled by them. And I don't think that's a good thing.

Except when it's a weakness.
I think that we view the phrase “emotionally driven” differently.

IMO, it doesn’t mean the same thing as “exclusively emotionally driven”. It just means that your decisions are strongly driven by emotion and emotional understanding, which is always healthy and good. It is never healthy or good to abandon emotion or to try to sublimate it and attempt to operate as an entirely logical being.

I would also go so far as to say that Logical understanding is only of any great importance in matter of science and when understanding mechanistic systems, and in all matters directly involving humans, Pathos, or emotional intelligence, is vastly more important.

Take, again, the bad relationship. Logic will not convince people to split when they want to stay together. Not even if “want” simply means “they used to eachother and are afraid of change and uncertainty” or the like. However, a better emotional understanding of their own feelings and fears and desires, and those of their partner, will.

The logical mind is, unless you train yourself against it being so, the servant of your emotional desires and fears and biases. It will create for you constructs of whatever complexity you are capable of understanding that will allow you to beleive it is “rational” to stay in a bad relationship, a bad job, a bad town, a bad church, etc. People convince themselves all the time that their desire for change is “irrational”, as if that even matters.
 

Parmandur

Legend
The person you're replying to is right.

There's absolutely no evidence WOTC has expanded its demographics significantly. WOTC released a bunch of completely fabricated numbers to claim that they're capturing particular demographics, but it's trivial to tell that the numbers are disinformation. No WOTC product comes with a requirement to self identify, and no WOTC product has the ability to track and report how many different people use it. So WOTC has no way of knowing its demographics, all it can know is units sold, and it has no idea how many people that represents or anything about their demographics.

That said, D&D has definitely improved its market penetration, but no one knows who those players are.

On the topic of the person you've responded to, he's right. WOTC has two fairly major problems.

1. You cannot sell left wing politics to conservatives and the further left you go, the fewer moderates you can sell it to. As WOTC uses their product lines to push their politics on their consumers, they alienate and lose more and more customers.
2. They're being targeted for outrage culture now, people are looking for anything they can find to attack WOTC for non-compliance with left wing politics. Which causes some number of left wingers to stop being customers as well with each new outrage. I mean seriously, early this week the WOTC campaign was to ban 1st and 3rd edition Oriental Adventures for being racist. Ban a pair of books that've been out of print for decades. They're under a microscope.

To put it another way, this is another Edition War. Across both of its product lines, Magic and D&D. They're making the exact same mistakes they made in the last edition war. They're focusing on one particular group, catering to everything they want to see WOTC produce, and operating under the assumption that the out-groups (Conservatives, most Moderates) are few in number.

They're going to walk off the same cliff they did with 4th edition. They're going to release some product, and it'll massively undersell because the out-groups left, and they're going to be stuck with an unrecoverable situation.
The sales will fall off a cliff aaaaaaanyyyy daaaay now...
 

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