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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

GreyLord

Hero
A pretty generic corporate statement from Wotc, doesn’t really change anything one way or the other. I’m not that surprised, Orion didn’t show any concrete proof after all.

On the other hand, after Tito’s tweets, I’m pretty sure some serious internal discussion is ongoing. They just won’t speak to us about it.
Probably, and I would not be surprised if there are those in Hasbro also engaging them in how this and other situations have been handled (of course, all going on behind the scenes).

Some of this stuff (not this with Orion...at least not fully as of yet) has hit some articles on the national scene, which impacts Hasbro harder than some may imagine.
 

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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Companies are in an impossible situation with social media. It is an endless ocean of opinion and a great deal is extreme. People will always be willing to type things they wouldn’t say in person. And oft times regret it. If companies respond they get dragged off message and into the long grass. When they do comment officially it usually means a lot of thought has gone into it. Particularly if self critical or contentious.

I take heart that Orion said WOC was kind. There are many many companies that are very unkind and don’t treat people kindly at all. If WOC has a culture of kindness to each other then that is a good start.

Orion seems primarily concerned with a lack of respect, voice in the company and ability to get things actioned that they believe in. Also that a colleague would have so little respect that they would take their ideas uncredited. Hardly rare in the corporate world but a valid problem that they should be able to talk about.

We will only have Orion’s side of things because WOC aren’t going to discuss a private individual with the internet at large, it would be a huge breach of privacy... not only of that freelancer but of the others.

Orion’s account stands as it’s own piece of evidence, like most forms of evidence has strengths and weaknesses. We can assume that it is a genuine reflection of their feelings as they certainly have little to gain personally to posting this way. Though this perspective may not be the only perspective out there.

It sounds like they have the goodwill of many staff and odyssey of the dragon lords is an excellent product so I wish them the best. I hope the experiences of freelancers can be improved going forward for all rpg companies but particularly for the team making the product I love.

[Corrected pronouns after seeing other thread]
 
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Tyler, you joined ENworld two years ago and have 14 posts. So based off the principle, you evinced in the post quoted above, can anyone with more posts then you, just dismiss whatever you write, out of hand, a priori?

I think it looks mighty suspicious that these ENworld members, with low post counts, never post in threads about D&D that deal with rules, products, game ideas, or game history, but now, Only Quite Recently, show up in droves to opine in any thread that might deal with race or politics.

Indeed, these folks, who can't be bothered to post about quotidien D&D matters, swarm these threads like hungry ghosts, yearning for goats blood in Hades, as depicted in the Odyssey.

Out of principle, I presume people are earnest in what they write, I do not doubt the intentions of the poster. Enough evidence has mounted over the last few weeks, I think, that amply demonstrates, these are not good faith posters. (It pains me to write this).

These low count posters are acting like the monster on page 291 of the 5e Monster Manual.
They are proving they operate on this board, betwixt the Troglodyte and the Umber Hulk.

edited word choice to be more inclusive. All persons posting on this forum, have a right to exist, a right to their views, and the right to have their posted views examined by their fellow posters and humans
Sorry that I don't read as much as I should or participate as much as I could. I play Pathfinder 2E not DnD so I don't have the knowledge of DnD to talk about the system with any opinion or expertise.

It is always been my opinion that everyone should be paid and compensated for their work based on a fair scale and without bias. The game company I support "Paizo" is a very inclusive company which I love.

You judged me based on a post that I fully stand by and I feel you judged me wrongly but that's ok because you are entitled to whatever opinion you want to have.
 

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