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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

Retreater

Legend
I'll wish them well and hope whatever toxicity they experienced in the corporation is addressed. I don't understand why anyone would argue about this. But apparently, there are many on this board who feel the need to do so.
I don't know if Orion frequents these boards or may come across this thread in another way, but let's all try to remember that this is a real person and we should be respectful (and empathetic) to their feelings.
 

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Derren

Hero
A big corporate has a corporate culture. What a shock.
And did someone really believe that all those corporates, no matter if they are selling sport shoes, coffee or RPGs which now out of the blue post "We stand with BLM" tweets actually mean it and don't just want publicity (or not being attacked for not showing solidarity with BLM like Valve was)?
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
Speaking as a lawyer, this is utterly impractical. Not even lawyers & judges know all the laws..
When the judges of the Frisian tribes could not cite the laws of their people, the god Forseti took all of them in a rowboat and rowed them out to sea and made them debate without food or water until every damned last one of them could cite the laws to his satisfaction. I might argue that Frisia's Golden Age began when Forseti took the judges away... but at least it continued when he brought them back.
 

jerryrice4949

Explorer
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.
That’s a pretty big leap. You cannot please everyone all the time.

I am not naive and yet I truly believe that WOTC is committed to diversity and inclusiveness. There will be bumps along the way. Everyone is learning how to be better.

Even Orion indicates most of the staff are supportive and kind. Which would seem to support the culture is headed in the right direction though perhaps too slow for most.

There is no indication people fleeing 5th edition.
 

Olrox17

Hero
I didn't know who Orion was before today, but this tweet will definitely be career-damaging. You don't get to make serious accusations like that without presenting proof, and still expect to be hired by other companies.
In any case, until I see something substantial, I'm not going to rally either behind WotC or this former employee.

...that said, in the past weeks, when WotC made its last announcements, I did get the impression that they were doing it mostly for good optics. Some posters here attacked me hard for voicing that opinion. Now this insider seems to be confirming my intuition. Hmm.
Speaking as a lawyer, this is utterly impractical. Not even lawyers & judges know all the laws..
Civil law lawyer here, and boy, do I agree.
 

This is a sad story to read.
Again, as I have always said. Fight the ugliness in the real world. This is where it matters.
Orion should've been shown more respect. Not because he's black or whatever, but because he is a person.
It seems that WotC is doing what has been done from the begining. Says something, but do something else.
 

Warpiglet-7

Explorer
I didn't know who Orion was before today, but this tweet will definitely be career-damaging. You don't get to make serious accusations like that without presenting proof, and still expect to be hired by other companies.
In any case, until I see something substantial, I'm not going to rally either behind WotC or this former employee.

...that said, in the past weeks, when WotC made its last announcements, I did get the impression that they were doing it mostly for good optics. Some posters here attacked me hard for voicing that opinion. Now this insider seems to be confirming my intuition. Hmm.

Civil law lawyer here, and boy, do I agree.
Just wait. Since they made a big deal of it they are now going to get it from both sides.

be careful with that whole innocent until proven guilty thing ;)

it’s not in fashion
 

Just wait. Since they made a big deal of it they are now going to get it from both sides.

be careful with that whole innocent until proven guilty thing ;)

it’s not in fashion
In here, nope. Guilty until proven otherwise. This is the problem of social media. THIS is also why we have moderators. To stop people from accusing and judging people on the spot and saying things that goes too far. So far, our moderators are doing a great job. But when you look at some other media, ishhhhh.
 

Warpiglet-7

Explorer
That’s a pretty big leap. You cannot please everyone all the time.

I am not naive and yet I truly believe that WOTC is committed to diversity and inclusiveness. There will be bumps along the way. Everyone is learning how to be better.

Even Orion indicates most of the staff are supportive and kind. Which would seem to support the culture is headed in the right direction though perhaps too slow for most.

There is no indication people fleeing 5th edition.
Of course not. Yet. It’s just an educated guess that there will be fallout. If I am wrong about this stuff blowing up I am sure WOTC will be pleased.

as to their intentions, they don’t matter. Not going far enough will not be tolerated once they started talking about it and responding to social media and making sure everyone knows about it.
 


Azuresun

Explorer
Volunteering information in public, and then having the public see that information, is not the same thing as a surveillance state.

Don't want your boss finding out what you said on Facebook? Don't use Facebook, or don't say anything you don't mind your boss hearing.
Stuff like this is why I'll never use Twitter. I'm most aware of it as "that place where mobs form" and "that thing that famous people commit career suicide on out of nowhere".
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
...that said, in the past weeks, when WotC made its last announcements, I did get the impression that they were doing it mostly for good optics. Some posters here attacked me hard for voicing that opinion. Now this insider seems to be confirming my intuition. Hmm.
Are you sure what they were attacking you for was just the assertion that their recent announcements were just for optics? Because I think most people would agree with that. Where opinions tend to be divided is on whether to take that small victory and keep pushing, or to dismiss it as not meaningful.
 


Sunsword

Adventurer
As someone who has been dealing with a close relative with anxiety issues for nearly twenty years now, at some point I had to accept that there was very little I could do to alleviate that anxiety. Maybe they did try to help Orion and got to the point where they just didn't know what more they could do.
That is absolutely a possibility, however, when you have Anxiety you have to stop assuming you are the problem. If you don't you will constantly defend toxic people.

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.
 

jerryrice4949

Explorer
Are you sure what they were attacking you for was just the assertion that their recent announcements were just for optics? Because I think most people would agree with that. Where opinions tend to be divided is on whether to take that small victory and keep pushing, or to dismiss it as not meaningful.
I would push back on this. I did not know you and most the people on this board were privy to WOTC’s private thoughts and motivations. Also ignoring the company is made up of many people, representing likely numerous thoughts and opinions.

I am not usually a WOTC apologist but feel like many people seem to think it is all an act. It may be but we don’t know that. I am sure it is likely more complicated than most on this board get.
 

Olrox17

Hero
Are you sure what they were attacking you for was just the assertion that their recent announcements were just for optics? Because I think most people would agree with that. Where opinions tend to be divided is on whether to take that small victory and keep pushing, or to dismiss it as not meaningful.
I would have to dig through thousands of posts to find the exact quotes. I don't think it's worth it just for "being right" on the internet.
However, i distinctly remember saying that I wasn't sure about WotC's sincerity about the whole "fantasy races depictions and racism" thread, but that, given current events, their announcement was the wise thing to do from a business perspective.
I got attacked pretty hard for that opinion, specifically. Now I think my gut feeling might've been right all along.
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
Are you sure what they were attacking you for was just the assertion that their recent announcements were just for optics? Because I think most people would agree with that. Where opinions tend to be divided is on whether to take that small victory and keep pushing, or to dismiss it as not meaningful.
And that attitude is why systemic racism has been the norm in the U.S. for 100 years. If people are getting murdered in the street still then whatever "solution" is meaningless. People of color have tried everything and they are still dying.
 

Are you sure what they were attacking you for was just the assertion that their recent announcements were just for optics? Because I think most people would agree with that. Where opinions tend to be divided is on whether to take that small victory and keep pushing, or to dismiss it as not meaningful.
re read the post. Orlox17 was getting no love for his opinion. It was not an all out attack, but close.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I would have to dig through thousands of posts to find the exact quotes. I don't think it's worth it just for "being right" on the internet.
However, i distinctly remember saying that I wasn't sure about WotC's sincerity about the whole "fantasy races depictions and racism" thread, but that, given current events, their announcement was the wise thing to do from a business perspective.
I got attacked pretty hard for that opinion, specifically. Now I think my gut feeling might've been right all along.
That’s fair. I asked because I was curious, not as a rhetorical technique.
 

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