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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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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Generally speaking if I didn't know I wouldn't wish them anything at all. If it was someone I had reason to like I would wish them well, if it was someone I had reason to dislike I would wish them ill.
Hmm. Do you say "have a nice day" or some equivalent when you finish up a retail transaction?
 

You certainly seem to be comfortable with believing that Orion is (to quote you) 'an incompetent set on revenge' and not deserving of well wishes, despite an equal lack of evidence for that hypothesis.
I don't know that that is the case. But it certainly could be. I have heard enough sour grapes in my time to know it happens. What I am certainly not going to do is automatically assume what a random stranger says on the internet is 100% true.
 



TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I don't know that that is the case. But it certainly could be. I have heard enough sour grapes in my time to know it happens. What I am certainly not going to do is automatically assume what a random stranger says on the internet is 100% true.
I agree with this. I'm not going to assume that Orion is saying something untrue and cast aspersions on them, but neither am I going to assume it is true and cast aspersions on WotC. No evidence, no judgment.
 


jerryrice4949

Explorer
Two opposites can in fact be true.

Orion can feel he was mistreated and not valued as a member of the WOTC team.

and

WOTC could genuinely value diversity and be working hard towards inclusivity.

I won’t get into the stealing thing since that is complicated and things developed at work are often the property of my employer even if it was my idea. Without more details it is difficult to address that.
 

MGibster

Legend
If you are crying on the shoulders of your co-workers as they described, that is a telltale sign you are not ready for the corporate world.
I once had an employee come to HR looking to speak with someone and he was in a state of agitation and I could see that he had been crying. At no point did I think to myself he wasn't cut out for the corporate world I was simply concerned for his well being. To make a long story short, he had been very stressed out at work, and, according to one of my HR coworkers, the employee's boss was a real asshole. We worked through some issues and this person is still employed with us and is pretty good at his job. Someone crying on the shoulder of their coworkers is a red flag and an employer would do well to look closely at what the problem might be. It doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong with the work environment as a whole, but it warrants investigation.
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
I'm not really sure that's relevant.
I don't consider a few hundred people on social media platforms engaging in rumor-mongering and outrage to constitute 'hot water' for a company on the scale of WotC. Every sizeable company, especially ones involved in entertainment and culture, routinely has online 'scandals' of the sort cited. They only seem like a big deal to the people like us who spend an unhealthy amount of time immersed in online subcultures.
 

I don't think it's necessarily insincere if you're relatively positive towards humanity
I'm not. I've met humans. They suck.
and actually do hope that the individual has a nice day.
It's usually said without any thought whatsoever. If it wasn't said automatically when it was said it might mean something.
Besides, insincerity is the lubricant of polite society; absolute truthfulness is no absolute virtue.
True, people lie all the time.
 





Parmandur

Legend
A lot of former employees go on to great things. Look at Wolfgang at Kobold Press. There are several others too.
The t
Two opposites can in fact be true.

Orion can feel he was mistreated and not valued as a member of the WOTC team.

and

WOTC could genuinely value diversity and be working hard towards inclusivity.

I won’t get into the stealing thing since that is complicated and things developed at work are often the property of my employer even if it was my idea. Without more details it is difficult to address that.
I think this gets to the heart of the issue.
 




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