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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

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.
Again, this is why I always said figth the ugliness in the real world. Not what is perceived in a book. IF WotC really acted only on what Orion said, they have lost a lot more of my respect than they can think. Of course they don't know me. But if enough are frustrated, they will get nervous.
 

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ZeshinX

Adventurer
Sucks they felt the need to walk away from work they enjoyed (if not the environment of said work)....but yeesh, 'nuking the site from orbit' like that...that's gonna make things even more difficult for them, at least in the short-to-medium term. Satisfying to say, of that I have no doubt, but yikes.

That stuff you typically vent to close friends and family, not publicly. Still, if they're prepared for whatever consequences result from the choice to vent publicly will bring (which they seem to suggest they are), then power to them.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
WotC is indeed made of many people with different thoughts and motivations, which is why it isn’t helpful to look at what the people who make it up think or are motivated by. What motivates the actions that WotC as a corporate entity takes is profit. Regardless of what the people who make it up think of the actions of the company, the company’s motivations are not altruistic.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
...What? I think you’ve misunderstood me, friend.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
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.
These can both be true:
1) WotC's recent announcement on racism reflected genuinely held beliefs.
2) WotC treat their BIPOC staff in a discriminatory manner.
 

This is a romantic yet dangerous notion. What if their genuine thoughts were more Mel Gibson or Harvey Weinstein than what you have in mind?
Then we would all know and be able to deal with them openly. If everyone were more open about racism and everyone was willing to have an honest conversation about how to deal with it as a society, we would actually be able to move forward. Instead, everyone is constantly afraid of being attacked from both sides. Thus no one is honest and the problem never gets solved.

So I would prefer them to express the opinions of Mel Gibson or Harvey Weinstein if it were genuine. But that would require everyone to ensure a mature, understanding, compassionate outlook - even towards the racists. The first step to recovery is free and open admittance, but that requires honest support.

Once again, never going to happen.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
And still we have but one side of the story. Any official quote from WotC?
I can't see WoTC commenting in any public capacity or allowing anyone with true knowledge (under their employ) to do so. That very rarely goes well for a company and very often goes badly.
 

WotC is indeed made of many people with different thoughts and motivations, which is why it isn’t helpful to look at what the people who make it up think or are motivated by. What motivates the actions that WotC as a corporate entity takes is profit. Regardless of what the people who make it up think of the actions of the company, the company’s motivations are not altruistic.
In fact, they're legally required not to be.
 

jerryrice4949

Explorer
Is that the kind of thing that usually goes through HR and legal, and is hard on a holiday weekend?
And most companies are more cautious with what they can and do say about a separated employee than an employee is in these situations. So the truth is rarely apparent.

i cannot remember the last time a company said the employee was incompetent or arrived late every day, etc.
 



Olrox17

Hero
These can both be true:
1) WotC's recent announcement on racism reflected genuinely held beliefs.
2) WotC treat their BIPOC staff in a discriminatory manner.
Could be, but this insider's position does seem to align with my previous, unrelated gut feeling, so I'm more inclined to believe what they're saying on this specific matter. I'm human :)
About everything else, I would have to wait for a response from WotC and possibly some proof.
 

And how exactly do you propose they be dealt with?
I'm no expert, but think asking people what racist beliefs they hold, asking them why they hold them, and then showing them why, through clear evidence, they are wrong. Then showing how human interaction and economies excel in environments where levels public trust are higher (a claim which the scientific literature supports quite strongly).

Then, after true progress is made, allowing racists to rejoin society with no hit to their public image.
 

MGibster

Legend
And still we have but one side of the story. Any official quote from WotC?
It's unlikely you'll see WotC put anything out that directly addresses Orion's complaints. Maybe something along the lines of regretting the animosity but that's about it.
 


ccs

40th lv DM
It's actually completely standard law. Any work you do whilst employed by a company is the property of the company (unless you can negotiate a contract that says otherwise). If I design a worksheet whilst employed by a school the worksheet design is legally the property of the school.

Who should do the explaining is the question. It's it the responsibility of the employer to explain the law, or is it the responsibility of the employee to know what the situation is?
The answer is to that is both parties.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
Is this official? And the wording is very specific. Sorry about the way it happened does not equal it should not have happened, perhaps just handled differently. Very specific language from a member of the communication team.
It's Greg Tito saying he is doing things about it. He is a member of the D&D team. He's says it has been brought up to higher ups in the company, but that he does not know what will come of it.

It's not an official thing it appears to just be Tito.

 

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