RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour

RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.

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RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.


Photo from Wikipedia​

Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player's Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. As yet, he hasn't made any public response to the accusations.

Since then, another ex-partner of Zak Smith, Vivka Grey, has publicly come forward with a further account of his conduct.

This isn't the first time that Zak Smith has been accused of inappropriate behaviour (language warning in that link). The Facebook post, which was posted overnight, has been shared widely on social media, and takes the form of an open letter (linked above; it makes for unpleasant reading, so please be aware of that if you choose to read it).

The industry has been reacting to the news. Amongst many others:

I believe Mandy, Jennifer, Hannah, and Vivka. It must be terrifying to come forward like this. They have been put through horrible ordeals. I will not cover Zak’s work on this site, in my podcast, or elsewhere, and will not provide him with any kind of platform.

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First Post
Accused <> guilty. I seems to me that the person writing the 2nd list linked to has their own agenda and their own politeness issues. Something rather ironic about accusing someone of using the Internet to harass someone by using the Internet to harass someone by compiling a list of allegations against the person.

Didn't read the 1st link as I avoid Spybook as much as possible.

Zak S's long list of RPG credits says something about his skill in the craft. Until someone convinces a Prosecutor to file charges and a court finds him guilty, this whole thing is basically a Person 1 said, Person 2 said, IMO.


I'm sad to hear that.

I'm usually someone with lots of thoughts about everything and long composed essays that have been rolling around in the back of my brain for a long time, but I don't know how to tastefully convey everything I'd want to say here.

Yeah, lots I could say but nothing I could say that wouldn't be misinterpreted by someone, or which wouldn't turn into an exercise in condemnation by a bunch of people (including myself) who have no right to be involved in or discussing these lives. I am however sad. I'm sure that even that is going to be misinterpreted, but I wanted to say it.


High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing
Accused <> guilty. I seems to me that the person writing the 2nd list linked to has their own agenda and their own politeness issues. Something rather ironic about accusing someone of using the Internet to harass someone by using the Internet to harass someone by compiling a list of allegations against the person.

Didn't read the 1st link as I avoid Spybook as much as possible.

Zak S's long list of RPG credits says something about his skill in the craft. Until someone convinces a Prosecutor to file charges and a court finds him guilty, this whole thing is basically a Person 1 said, Person 2 said, IMO.

I agree that due process is important. However, I haven't heard if Zak S. has confirmed or denied any of these allegations yet.

No one is going to file charges or go to court for being a terrible boyfriend or disrespecting women. Especially, years later.

Actual harassment is unwarranted and probably illegal (depending on circumstances). The women accusing Zak S. are revealing their own personal interactions with him. I don't believe the accusers' motivation was to hurt his career. If that were the case, then releasing this a month or two ago when he was seeking funding for his Demon City kickstarter would have been a hundred times more advantageous.

Regardless, some of the allegations have been corroborated by Zak S' former partner, Patrick Stuart, here: http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2019/02/you-should-read-this.html

Many in the RPG community/hobby/industry have run afoul of Zak S. (myself included), and I think it's extremely easy for some of us to believe that behavior occurred beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Lastly, to not even read the accuser's public statement before commenting because you "avoid Spybook as much as possible". Well... that just doesn't sound very smart, Koloth. It leaves your argument, and your credibility in this matter, looking rather flimsy.



Didn't read the 1st link as I avoid Spybook as much as possible.

For anybody else that feels this way, here's the facebook post text (I edited my initial post to put Mandy's content warning outside the block)

Mandy Morbid's facebook post said:
Please feel free to share this widely, on
any platform you have.

Dear Zak Smith, aka Zak Sabbath

I know posting anything about you or this publicly will get me labeled “angry”, “crazy” or a “liar”. Despite that, I still need to speak. As a warning, there will be potentially triggering descriptions of abuse, violence and sexual assault to follow.
What I want to convey is my grief. And my shame. There is so much of it. I think when women come forward to talk about their abusers people strip them of their grief. And I am not okay. And I should be angry but I can’t be because the shame is too great. Because the abuse had me taking responsibility for everything and it’s very difficult to stop that after all these years. Everything was always my fault, the problem was me--but it wasn’t.

Eleven years is a long time. I was twenty one when we met in person the first time, and a month later, 22 when I moved in with you. It’s difficult to organize my thoughts about everything that happened, everything that went wrong over a decade.The abuse came in cycles where there were times you seemed to idolize me (in hindsight there was a twisted, sexist, infantilizing angle to the "idolizing" because it was always about my body and not me as a person). There were other times when you tore me down, made lectures that went in circles of manipulation, or fits of rage where you’d scream that I was useless and worthless and slam doors or throw things at the walls. You tore me down to manipulate me, and to get your way.

As time went on you learned you could threaten me in various ways. Killing me if I ever got pregnant and didn’t have an abortion started as a joke but you repeated it so frequently it was clearly a warning. Kick me out if I didn’t want to have as much sex, or lesser reasons.

When we would go out, you would rate the women you were watching, making sure I could hear it. You would see a woman and comment that she was attractive, until you saw she had "small" breasts. Then you would say to me “why do they even make them like that? What’s the point?” As though I automatically would agree with you about a woman’s worth being dictated by the size of her breasts. And how was that supposed to make me feel about myself? You would know that I would not want to start an argument on a nice evening out--finally I was feeling well enough to be out with you and I would ruin it? No. Even in the face of rude or disgusting comments about other women I would stay silent.

I am ashamed. I was often silent because I wanted to keep the peace. To keep you happy. You see, I did know how to make you happy. I am ashamed I did it because I rationalized that was love. You pressured me to find and groom other women sexually. As I grew sicker, and my physical limitations grew, you were more concerned with your own needs than my illness. Eventually, even, you took my doing this for you, and me, for granted.

I saw you mistreat women we were with together, and again I was silent. I choose you over them and I am deeply ashamed. And when it was me who was being mistreated I often didn’t even register it as such because the first time it happened was so traumatic. You told me I wasn’t allowed to stop or say no to sex or fooling around if we’d already initiated it.

I was young and this was during the first few weeks we lived together and no one had ever taught me about consent. You were extraordinarily angry I had stopped, your hands were clenched into fists and they were shaking. I was programmed to accept it, and you always just kept telling me you loved me even if your behaviour never really proved it.

Then you started with the online gaming arguments nonsense, and that put a real crack in our bond. In the beginning I felt genuinely protective of you, my provider, and of course that was my very strong trauma bond. I didn't know better, and I just thought I was caring for the person I loved. Callously, you exposed me to death and rape threats and you then never took the distress this caused me seriously, you were in no way sympathetic to the very real stress these disagreements caused. You enjoyed it. And you gloated over the harm you caused other people. (It was extremely unattractive.) You just used those threats we received as an excuse, used me and my marginalized identities as shields in your continuing misbehaviour online.

That Tumblr post defending you was posted in my name, but you were the one who wrote it. The long one you always referred people to. I feel more shame that I let you use my name, my identity in that way. I feel shame that when people noticed it probably wasn't written by me, we called them sexist. After that Tumblr post I told you I was done being involved in any of your arguments online. You really didn’t like that. You forever afterwards accused me of “never saying anything” when you were dealing with the :):):):) you’d stirred up.

I am so ashamed you let me get dragged into your awful trolling behaviour. One time you had a screaming/throwing fit at me (“useless,” “worthless,” “no one cares about me”) because I didn’t want to retweet something to a big gaming company you were mad at. This was all abuse. That you continue to behave so badly online disgusts me, and I am ashamed that I helped you to hurt or damage others online. I am sorry that I have contributed to the abuse, and I am ashamed that your abuse pushed me to think that it was okay to do.

This behavior is what created the cracks in the narcissistic façade that you built up for me. Seeing the behavior that you normally directed towards me being directed towards others started to open my eyes towards what you were doing to me.

It was then that I slowly began to reassess how you treated me. This process started very slowly as I was extremely ill. And needed to focus on my health and I couldn’t shake my life up too dramatically.

Over the next two or three years my faith and trust in you completely failed. You let me down over and over. And I came to terms with the fact that I had been a trophy wife all along, an object that was owned, not a respected or loved partner. Towards the end you weren’t even trying to keep that mask you wore in the beginning on you were just straight up cruel and cold and abusive and there were no reprieves of loving or sweet acts, it was all gaslighting and narcissism gone unchecked. And there was a lot of my grief and shame at that time. Because I tried so hard to make it work anyway.

I thought if I loved harder, if I loved more I could save us but it was futile because you were already done with someone who wasn’t spending all their energy on living to please you as I’d formerly done.
I’ve grown up. I want to live my life for me. My values and morales don’t align with yours--I’m ashamed I was complicit in your misogyny and supportive of your online abuse (whatever my reasons).

I only began to register the pain and damage done to me by this relationship in the last year we were together and in the year and half since I’ve left. I have PTSD. I am doing my best to focus on healing, and since leaving both my mental and physical health have improved. I’m not okay yet, but I am improved. People can see the difference in photos. Rebuilding a life after a decade of trauma takes time but I will get there.

After this I am including statements about Zak from Jennifer, a long time friend and lover of Zak’s and mine and Hannah who was also involved with us and lived with us briefly. Jennifer was spending time with Zak before Zak and I met, and Hannah was assaulted by Zak.

CW description of sexual assualt

Jennifer’s post was originally posted to her facebook and she’s given me permission to reshare it here:

Hey guys, this is a heads up for anyone who is friends with Zak Smith or likes his page. This is somewhat out of the blue but he's been posting more in the past year or so and I keep seeing some of you interact with him or just liking his posts, and thinking: You wouldn't be doing that if you knew him better.

To get to the point: While he comes across as a fun person who is super cool with everything and leads such a compelling and interesting life, and I considered him a good friend for a significant amount of time, he's also someone who has habitually abused and assaulted women. He talks negatively about them when they're not around, and also says really degrading things to their faces. He will aggressively pursue sex and rely on the fact that most women are hesitant to reject a man in a quasi-sexual situation due to safety concerns and social conditioning. Especially when he has presented himself as caring and trustworthy. But I've also seen him physically take women and start :):):):)ing them, ignoring their lack of enthusiasm or freeze of shock. He will navigate kink spaces and take someone's presence there, of general involvement in bdsm as implied consent to assualt them. And he is fully aware of what he does, he has described a sexual encounter to me as, I quote, "raping a 12-year-old". The person in question was not underage, but so massively uncomfortable that this was his most apt description. It didn't make him stop.

He's really good at being so blasé about everthing that you doubt what happened or compartmentalize it, then move on. He's also good at talking the talk and walking the walk of being the progressive liberal artist and author who is just so open about having done porn and living his sexuality uninhibited by social norms or whatever. He can be pretty manipulative and resorts to gaslighting.

This post might seem unnecessary at best, and like slander at worst. Especially considering I haven't even personally seen him since god knows when. It's based on my own experiences with him, some dating as far back as 2005, and the fact that almost every mutual female friend has similar experiences, up to this day. Ultimately I've seen him do so much :):):):)ed up :):):):) that when I hear anything by another woman I immediately believe them without a shadow of a doubt. And yes, I'm ashamed I didn't speak up sooner. Often things only start falling into place after time passes and you see things for what they are, and when they are confirmed by others who have had similar experiences. By the time I really fully grasped the magnitude, being vocal would have meant intruding on and hurting people who didn't deserve it, with little discernable good to come out of it.

Basically if you know me and trust me, believe me and maybe reconsider your support of him and his art. Besides that I'm not asking you to do anything. And I don't benefit from any sort of outcome in any way.

I'm posting this to a curated audience; if you see this I trust you to at least not create drama. If you don't believe me, I guess just ignore this post? Although I'd prefer if you removed yourself from my list then too. I don't want this to reach him because I don't want to deal with the fallout. I want people to know this to make a better informed decision about who they associate with. The last I heard of him was a few months ago, after he saw that a friend had confided in me about him, and he slid into my inbox with some disingenious :):):):):):):):) about how sad he was about that situation, trying to influence my opinion. I ignored it. If something like that happens again I will obviously know that someone on this list blabbed and will pretty much delete and block anyone it could have been. Please don't make me deal with all that trouble. Thank you.

And here is Hannah’s account:

Back when I first knew them, I lauded Manda and Zak as a perfect couple. I would see them only once every few years, and when I was with them, they seemed happy. It wasn't until I was with them for an extended period of time that I thought things seemed off. I used to take Zak's general demeanor towards women as joking. Eg, "if I talk to my girlfriend and her friend about their feelings, will I get a threesome out of it?" But now I think that's how Zak actually feels. At first when I kept hearing him say the phrase "chin up" to Manda, I thought he was just telling her to stay positive, but in actuality he didn't like it when she had a tiny double chin when looking down. (Like all humans at that angle.) He also told her things like "You don't need glasses, its more important for you to be pretty than it is to see" and "If you can't even have sex, what good are you?" It was not a joke. For a long time I tried to see the good in him, and hoped that he would change his behaviours once Manda confronted him about them, but he didn't seem to understand that he had done anything wrong. She told him she felt more like a doll than a human, outlined what things had upset her, and wanted to work towards a better relationship. He acted ignorant about things he had said or done, and then threatened people when anyone talked about him. (Which is why I was afraid to write this for a long time. I still am.) There was also a strange incident when we were first hanging out together during which he asked if I was into kinky stuff, to which I replied yes. He proceeded to slap me and choke me against a wall, in public. Now, in a bedroom setting, with clear boundaries and consent, it would have been fine, but out of the blue and in public, it was not okay at all. Years later, I mentioned this to a mutual friend as something that made my uncomfortable, and when Zak found out he made a half-hearted apology attempt. I don't think he actually felt bad, I think he just didn't want me to tell anyone else. I tried to stay friends with both of them for a little while, but after hearing more about what he said/did to Manda, I couldn't keep him in my life anymore. She is one of my best friends and one of the sweetest people I know. I don't understand people who say they "can't take sides" on something like this.[/sblock]
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This isn't out of nowhere, unfortunately. He's been regularly in the middle of multiple controversies, and Mandy has often been his shield from that criticism. She's posted in his defense, and her medical troubles have often been a humanizing factor for his persona. (But this has been YEARS, he's been embroiled in controversy since before D&D 5e was released, because the "Thank You" to him in the credits was even pulled into the controversy.)

And he's regularly launched similar accusations against other game developers, and basically sent legions of people out to report/harass the folks that he had claimed had harassed him.

He's launched crusades against Evil Hat, Shannon Applecline, Dave Hill, and ... well, a long list of people. His reasons are often "they attacked me first" and I've gone to read the "attacks against him" and often seen very mild criticisms, followed by very reasonable reactions. I really respect Fred Hicks, and when Zak started to attack HIM, I started to believe that I couldn't trust him to be an objective source of truth, that it would be worth reading more before I trusted his opinion.

I once hit +1 on a Google+ comment that read, "I don't understand why story gamers and OSR gamers have a beef, they're both fun games" or something similar. I loved the sentiment, so I just hit +1. Zak privately messaged me to take it back, how dare I stand with someone who supports harassment and that he would out me for having done this. He also asked me to post a public apology, which ... What?!

And ... I had followed Zak Google+ because I liked reading his blog posts, and I didn't know this other person that had commented at all, I had just thought, "good sentiment."

So... Here I am, some no one without a single writing credit to my name, and I have no exposure to any of these people other than words on a monitor. Yet, I somehow managed to become worth "personal attention?" I retracted my +1 and I'm still not sure if I remember if I apologized, if I did it was half-hearted and VERY counterproductive to whatever Zak S intended, because... that was the moment I started to think that perhaps he was as toxic as others claimed he was. (I still followed him, because at this point I was interested in his views but no longer on his opinions about other designers.)

So yes, no proof, just accusations. He may write awesome things, and I liked his blog, but ... I mean, here is the community on google+ he devotes to creating an army of people to report his enemies:
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FYI - This is certainly the worst we've heard, but not the first. There have been accusations going back year after year after year of harassment including allegedly using sock puppet accounts - and even an entire sock puppet blog - to attack anyone he disagreed with. It's one thing to be skeptical of one or two people speaking out, but dozens and dozens, year after year after year - all alleging the same patterns of abusive behavior over and over again - when there's that much smoke it's irrational to think there's likely no fire. There's just the two links in this article, but take a few minutes with Google and you will find years of these sorts of accusations.

Personally, I started blocking him everywhere I could years ago when, on top of other reputable accusations, he had the creepy behavior of often using Mandy's health problems as a shield against any criticism. Now, hearing how her side was so much worse than I thought, it's gut wrenching but, sadly, not surprising.

The RPG community needs to be safe from abuse regardless of whether apparent serial harassers and abusers have a nice list of credits.


First Post
I believe Mandy.

I believe Jennifer.

I believe Hannah.

I believe the many, many others who have come forward before this to tell us about Zak S's patterns of severely abusive behaviors.



I don’t know Zac but when I watched his last Kickstarter video it was very obvious that there was a cult of personality going on. He was selling an image that may have seemed cool to me when I was his age: his players were mostly attractive young woman and everyone and everything was highly stylized and doing everything it could to say: “I’m cool, free and creative.”

The problem with an extremely liberal attitude towards sex is that it wants two things that aren’t compatible: it wants complete sexual freedom and complete emotional safety. We have norms in sex for a reason. Not many people are emotionally set up to be polyamorous, etc. It turns out that causal sex is problematic and often hurts people, who would have guessed? And stopping every minute to say “I consent” doesn’t change that.


Generally, when someone more powerful is accused of abuse by someone less powerful it's usually true. The accuser almost never gains by the accusation and usually loses overall, and victims are aware of this. If it's something that seems very out of character and there's no other sign of problems then maybe I'll wait but that does not seem to be the case here. I'm sad, because I was happy that people like Zak were stretching the boundaries of what the people in the hobby look like, but that doesn't mean that I won't believe the victim(s) here.

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