D&D 5E Orion Black No Longer a D&D Designer [UPDATED!]

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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 naughty word. 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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Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
Using "SJW" as a perjorative or dismissal is not acceptable.
This is very disappointing to hear about.

I love 5e. I love the spark of creativity it has inspired within the wider D&D community.

But to hear about someone being a mere “token diversity hiring”... That is disheartening for me. I would have thought that after everything with Zak, the company would have made a conscious effort to do better on EVERY front.

Regardless, I wish Orion well in their future endeavors.

The whole "Diversity in D&D" post was nothing more than a token gesture from WotC announcing that they are on the "We support BLM bandwagon" that's been happening lately in the rpg industry while not even understanding what's really happening in the world today.

WotC has shifted the entire direction of D&D and Magic the Gathering lately to fit the online narrative being pushed by SJW's. Banning cards in MtG for 'racism', reimagining Orcs and Drow to fit far left interpretations of racism without any regard for actual history or origins in our myths, claiming they are pro-diversity while stripping diversity from these games.

And now this.

D&D needs a new home. One that will honor it for what it is and how important the game is to the history of gaming. Right now WotC is destroying the legacy of D&D.
 

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MGibster

Legend
To be honest I know quite a lot of companies that wouldn’t even consider hiring someone who names themselves « Orion Black »

I've never checked to see if a candidate gave themselves whatever name they're using. If I saw Orion Black's resume on my desk I would just assume that what their parents named them. A former coworker of mine changed her first name to sound more "professional." i.e. She didn't want her first name to sound too black when looking for a job. I think it's horrible how some candidates are rejected base primarily on their name.
 

I've never checked to see if a candidate gave themselves whatever name they're using. If I saw Orion Black's resume on my desk I would just assume that what their parents named them.

Pretty much this. Ever since the early 70s and the hippie movement and communes and all, names have gotten more and more unusual. Judging by a name that is not obviously insulting or negative is just wrong.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
@Parmandur - Claiming Orion "burned" people here shows a deep misunderstanding of how people in corporate structures feel, I would suggest. I saw a not entirely dissimilar situation unfold at a company I worked at once. Had the contractor(s) who left posted about how they were treated in this fashion, I wouldn't have felt "burned", nor, I suspect, would almost anyone there, because they would have known that there was truth and honesty in their words, and seen how Orion when out of their way not to blame individuals.

Greg's post is probably reflective of the feelings of a lot of people at WotC, especially below upper management.

I should clarify that I don't mean Orion attacked anyone specifically, because certainly that's not the case. But bridges to any future opportunities that those recommendations could have opened up in the future are unfortunately burned to the ground: no way anyone in the RPG industry will hire Orion in the future, no matter if things change emotionally, which is sad.

I am cynical, so I don't think this will effect any sort of change per se, other than harming a promising career.
 


Doug McCrae

Legend
the online narrative being pushed by SJW's... without any regard for actual history or origins in our myths
You'd probably consider me to be an "SJW". I think we should pay very careful attention to the origins of the tropes used in D&D such as "primitive tribes", "bloodthirsty savages", "superstitious natives", cannibalism, human sacrifice, devil worship, and the "half-breed". If we do so we'll probably find they have their origins in the colonialist and racist fiction of the 18th->20th centuries, particularly the Western. This was a big influence on Appendix N writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howard.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Whilst I agree with this and have long experience of decency from people with "conservative" outlooks, the idea that treating people as lesser based on their ethnicity/gender/sexuality is okay has been used a lever by politicians who label themselves as "conservative" for decades, if not centuries, so that poster is not pulling it out of nowhere. It's unfortunate but I can think of numerous examples in the history of my own country, going back into the 1930s and earlier. Once you get into the 1800s and 1700s it becomes murkier as such viewpoints are espoused by many parties.

Personally my big takeaway from this is that WotC's big talk on being progressive hasn't translated to real improvements in hiring practices or the like. WotC has been supporting broadly "diverse" approaches since at least 4E and 5E very consciously has (at times), but Orion claimed this hasn't translated into permanent hires, and that seem to be true. Looking at LinkedIn and the like I'm not really seeing many people who aren't white guys.

I'm not planning on boycotting WotC or whatever but I do feel like unless they start improving this situation, I'm certainly going to be looking at other RPG products a bit more. I'm sure I'll still buy big products from WotC, and I'll give them some time to get moving, but they'd better engage in some praxis, not just talk big.



Not only is this rather inappropriate, but it's also certainly not true of any major company in the RPG industry. WotC, White Wolf, Paizo and others have all frequently employed people with names that they weren't born with.

"Conservative" is more of a temperament than a coherent political philosophy ("Liberal" too, for that matter).

I'd define myself as a conservative, bit that means more like Angela Merkel th
Personally my big takeaway from this is that WotC's big talk on being progressive hasn't translated to real improvements in hiring practices or the like. WotC has been supporting broadly "diverse" approaches since at least 4E and 5E very consciously has (at times), but Orion claimed this hasn't translated into permanent hires, and that seem to be true. Looking at LinkedIn and the like I'm not really seeing many people who aren't white guys.

I'm not planning on boycotting WotC or whatever but I do feel like unless they start improving this situation, I'm certainly going to be looking at other RPG products a bit more. I'm sure I'll still buy big products from WotC, and I'll give them some time to get moving, but they'd better engage in some praxis, not just talk big.

I've always assumed that when WotC takes an official moral stance on public that it's largely just talk, like with most corporations.

One way to look at their recent history, though, is that they are making those diversity contract hires to create a cadre of diverse voices with experience at the top TTRPG company. Do that for long enough, they go off and join other companies, start their own companies... eventually there is a diverse pool of talent across the industry, and many come back to WotC as full timers. Dunno if that's the idea they are working off of here, or the best idea.
 


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