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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

Parmandur

Legend
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.
Yeah, mostly I feel sorry for Orion: the experience with WotC seems to have been grueling and disappointing, but now any future good careerwise that could have been salvaged is dead. :(
 

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Libramarian

Adventurer
2) WotC treat their BIPOC staff in a discriminatory manner.
I'm sure they treat high-profile diversity hires like Orion in a discriminatory manner. It's simply too dangerous for other WotC employees to openly challenge and criticize their ideas. Imagine if Orion had called out specific people -- there would be a mob calling for them to be fired. So their only option is to passive-aggressively ignore and freeze them out.
 

Derren

Hero
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.

Tito is, if I am right, also working for the communication team so it is his job to make WotC look as good as possible.
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
"When a ttRPG professional makes a statement that is unpopular with a segment of fans there is always a group who, with no evidence, begin discussions to claim A: The pro is incompetent, B: the pro is lying to gain attention or sympathy, or C: all of the above."
Some of us are simply skeptics by nature. I don't take anyone's assertions at face value when it comes to how they were treated by their former employer, who was at fault in a marriage breaking down, or any other contentious personal issue. Not even my close friends and family, let alone a stranger on social media.
 




FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
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.
They're not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, saying they're going to work for more inclusion sounds an awful lot like they're trying to make a better product that they believe in and are proud to stand behind.

And still we have but one side of the story. Any official quote from WotC?
Any official quote from WotC is going to be in the form of: "we were glad to have worked with Orion Black, we're sorry they feel that way about their time with us, and we wish them all the best on their future endeavors." If Wizards were running a tight ship, Greg Tito would have an appointment in the Mearls Room and his next Tweet would be "... do it to Julia!"

Part of the reason that public displays like this are such poor form-- though I'm not criticizing Orion for airing the laundry-- is that the accused, for legal and PR reasons, can't really respond to them.
 

EthanSental

Adventurer
Tito’s tweet posted above will probably have him in “the office” Monday when he gets back. Maybe a virtual office if they aren’t working at HQ location due to the virus.
 


raphaelus

Explorer
I think this post lacks the weight the writer think it has. From just what is here presented, I see someone disillusioned with its experience at not being part of the game design team like they imagined when they got the job. This except for the shady credit issue which perhaps required being more disruptive inside, not outside.
 

All I will say about this is that a lot of people either forget, or never knew, that Jeremy Crawford is gay, and if Orion uses non-gender pronouns, Crawford would not treat another member of the LGBT community poorly. I also do not think I have ever seen any hint of anti-black in anything he has ever posted online, so I would expect to see at least him come out in defense of Orion. Plus I do not think dealing with freelance contracts is part of his job In a company like WotC. Who even is in charge of that stuff there? Is it some no-name in HR? Is it the new man in charge, Ray Winninger? Ray has been in the business for a long time too, but what do we know about his biases? Does he need to go already?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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.
Most of the reformed racists I know of take the public image hit, embrace it and move forward. They don’t bury their pasts, but rather, highlight their errors and say “If I can change, so can you.”

It reinforces the notion of reform and rehabilitation, and American society loves that kind of narrative.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
All I will say about this is that a lot of people either forget, or never knew, that Jeremy Crawford is gay, and if Orion uses non-gender pronouns, Crawford would not treat another member of the LGBT community poorly.
Sadly, that is NOT a given. I don’t know Jack about Jeremy, so don’t take this as an accusation/allegation. But understand, history is replete with examples of people actively harming members of their own subcultures and “minority” groups.

Most of the examples I’d use to illustrate this clearly are VERY political, but one that isn’t and is fairly well documented (though not uncontroversial) is “Queen Bee Syndrome”.
 

Matrix Sorcica

Adventurer
Challenging moderation...while quoting the site owner about not challenging moderation. You have an issue with moderation, take it to PMs- that’s the rule.
You're clearly in a self-destructive mood today. Don't post again in this thread. Don't challenge moderation in-thread. Since you clearly literally just came from reading the rules, you should remember that bit.
Where should this discussion be had. Without agreeing to the opinion of the moderated post, it does seem to me that he gets moderated in retrospective. The banned words come from a finite list, and he actually didn't use any of them.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
Ok, that doesn’t work. Racism is not a rational ideology, you can’t fix it with logic. Many people have tried and failed.
 


Xethreau

Josh Gentry - Author, Minister in Training
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.
Extremely illuminating. I'm devastated.

On a personal note, I'm so sorry Orion. We don't know each other I don't think, but as a fellow queer person I also want to make TTRPGs a better place for us. It is unacceptable for you to be chewed up and spat out like that. I am certain your work is amazing and I would be happy to have you as a friend / collaborator on a project sometime.
 

Ok, that doesn’t work. Racism is not a rational ideology, you can’t fix it with logic. Many people have tried and failed.
Many people come to rational understandings of irrational ideologies. Think of how many people leave cults. Sure, it won't work on everyone. But I wonder if the reason so many previous attempts have failed out of fear of recourse at and loss of status from admitting racist tendencies in the first place.
 

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