What the heck is going on with the professional RPG industry in regards to Zak S?

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Are you okay with the industry leader and the biggest online seller of RPG products acting completely inconsistent? Now that they've set the standard on what happens when someone is found by them to be not worthy of inclusion in the professional community, I find it horrifying that they might do so with no consistency and argue through their actions "well we don't believe THOSE victims" or worse "not enough victims have come forward for us to act on someone who has been accused of abuse".

And yet, the idea that one allegation is enough is also quite horrifying. Here we go: I picked two names that I thought were people who had good standing in the RPG industry. Jester David almost came out saying "well it's only a matter of times before THAT person gets accused" against one of those two people. Which shows no-one's safe from being thought the worst of (except apparently Jeremy Crawford? What the heck?)

Acting inconsistent in what way? Changing their stance over time? I don't know if I'd consider that a reasonable metric for inconsistent behavior. Or do you mean why are they acting about Zak, but not about other possible abusers within the industry?

I think your take that everyone knows everything about Zak, and any theoretical abuser, is overstated. For example, I didn't know much about him. I was familiar with some of his work, and I quite liked it. I knew he had a blog, and I had read a couple of posts. But....I'm not on twitter or facebook or most other forms of social media....so my knowledge of Zak was pretty limited. I only learned about his online behavior and all the accusations and the feuds with other industry folks fairly recently.

I would say that this is more likely the default stance of most RPG players. None of the players in my group have any idea who he is, other than that they may know he wrote Vornheim.

For industry folks, plenty of people had issues with Zak. However, mostly it seemed like online arguments and so on. I remember finding out about some of this stuff, and reading forum posts and tweets and so on of people accusing Zak of certain behaviors, and of him accusing others, and everyone defending themselves with "evidence".....and I found it all rather nonsensical. I attributed it to the generally toxic way that people behave online, especially in matters of opinion about topics they are passionate about. I pretty much looked at it as a bunch of people yelling at each other online, and dismissed it all.

I would say that is part of the problem. Veracity of claims can easily be lost in online interactions, especially given the hyperbolic and exaggerated way we tend to deal with each other online. It becomes a signal lost in the noise kind of situation.

So for anyone in the industry who was not aware of what Zak had been accused of, or who was willing to grant him benefit of the doubt, I can kind of understand that. Up to a point. I think the new allegations, combined with everything from the past, should make it very difficult for anyone to side with Zak.

Ultimately, people can and should shift their views as more information is made available to them. If there's someone I work with, who I know well enough to consider them a good person, an accusation of wrongdoing is going to be something I would initially resist. I just think that's human nature. We're going to side with people we know over people we don't, generally speaking. But if more accusations come up, and more evidence of questionable behavior....I have to reevaluate my view.

I feel like you want everyone to have committed to a specific stance on day one, and then never alter that stance, which seems unrealistic and unnecessary. Could WotC have acted quicker? Sure. But I also know that a corporate response takes more time to craft than a tweet from a blogger. It's simply the reality of the situation.

So given the choice of crediting them with responding or blaming them for not responding quicker, I think the former is the more sensible option.
 

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Vexorg

Explorer
This is what George Orwell called becoming an "unperson". It's not enough for WotC to cut ties with him going forward. They have to go back in time and erase all record of his involvement, so they get to pretend he was never a part of their playtest team.

Even if Zak is brought into court and found guilty of abuse or harassment, why can't wizards simply say "yes we worked with him, but that was before we knew what was going on." Why does stripping him of credit for his contributions need to be part of his social punishment?
 

Imaro

Legend
This is what George Orwell called becoming an "unperson". It's not enough for WotC to cut ties with him going forward. They have to go back in time and erase all record of his involvement, so they get to pretend he was never a part of their playtest team.

Even if Zak is brought into court and found guilty of abuse or harassment, why can't wizards simply say "yes we worked with him, but that was before we knew what was going on." Why does stripping him of credit for his contributions need to be part of his social punishment?

Because associating with him could cost them money and honestly his name being on it probably doesn't bring in enough extra money to offset that risk. He performed a job, got paid for it and unless it was stipulated in his contract that he be listed in the book... what would be the advantage for WotC in keeping his name on it?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
They have to go back in time and erase all record of his involvement, so they get to pretend he was never a part of their playtest team.

That's one interpretation. Another is that we should not do honor to those who are not good people.

Even if Zak is brought into court and found guilty of abuse or harassment, why can't wizards simply say "yes we worked with him, but that was before we knew what was going on."

Because the credits page of a book is not the place for that kind of notification.

Why does stripping him of credit for his contributions need to be part of his social punishment?

Because social punishment is *supposed* to hit him in the pride. It is supposed to make others look at their own behavior, and consider what they value, and how they want to be remembered, and behave accordingly. The simple message here: if you want to be remembered for your work, don't be a class-A jerk.
 
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This is what George Orwell called becoming an "unperson".
They’re having him secretly murdered??

It's not enough for WotC to cut ties with him going forward. They have to go back in time and erase all record of his involvement, so they get to pretend he was never a part of their playtest team.

Even if Zak is brought into court and found guilty of abuse or harassment, why can't wizards simply say "yes we worked with him, but that was before we knew what was going on." Why does stripping him of credit for his contributions need to be part of his social punishment?
It’s a symbol that WotC doesn’t want to support or advertise such a person. It doesn’t change anything but is a gesture of support for the victims and an acknowledgement of their mistakes.

He’s been cast out of the gaming community. He is being shown the door and told he is no longer welcome. He is uninvited to the party.
Stripping him of a prime accolade (a credit in the Core Rulebook of the predominant game in the market) is important.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
If they are acting on more than the allegation, and are in fact reacting to known behaviour of Zak S or so strongly suspected behaviour that they feel confident in their current reaction: What the heck was the RPG industry doing up until now? If Zak S is so bad that he should have every mention of him removed from the RPG industry, why didn't they do something before now? I certainly wasn't surprised to see the most recent allegation. So why the heck are they pretending to be surprised? And if they didn't have any suspicions, why are they taking such drastic action against someone without any legal proceedings occurring?

There's a phrase you probably want to know: missing stair - "a person within a social group who many people know is untrustworthy or otherwise has to be "managed", but who they work around by trying to quietly warn others rather than deal with openly. The analogy is to a dangerous structural fault such as a missing stair in a home, which residents have become used to and accepting of, and which is not fixed or signposted, but which (some or most) newcomers are warned about. "

It takes significant work and pain to really deal with individuals who are problems, but have come to hold sway and influence. A great many people prefer to avoid or "manage" such problems, rather than confront them, and that means our communities have inertia. Frequently, change does not happen until events unfold that overcome that inertia, and then the ball rolls with dramatic speed.

So, in this case - Apparently many people inside the gaming community were aware of issues surrounding him. Some folks covered for him, or dismissed complaints or defended him because they thought Zak S. was too valuable to lose, or the effort of trying to confront the issue would have blowback, because his work and his public persona were popular. He used his own popularity and abrasive style as a weapon to keep things quiet. This kind of arrangement can last a long time, until someone gets fed up and is loud and persuasive enough for larger numbers to become aware and take notice and look sternly at the community leaders and ask, "What in blue blazes have you been doing about this person?!?" That moment has come for Zak S.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
What decision did Gen Con make? I haven't been able to find any response from them other than a non-committal tweet.
And that's all we will find, until they decide to tell us more. (I wouldn't hold my breath, though. They just said their Policy Team decisions are private.) GenCon is a different type of entity than, say, WotC or DriveThruRPG.

When I said that I support GenCon's decision, I meant it broadly: not because I know what their decision is, but because it is their decision to make, and I support them. I'm satisfied knowing they aren't ignoring this.
 
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Shasarak

Banned
Banned
Yup. Pretty much.
Heck, the second Facebook post is pretty much superfluous. You just need one.
The criteria is:
a) Accusation from a victim
b) History of abuse rather than a one-time incident

What else would I need?
Written affidavits? Salacious photos? Incriminating video? The battered body of his wife, beaten to death?

There was a period of time where you only needed one accusation to get a Mob riled up enough to go out and Lynch some poor fool. Maybe they did not even bother to wear their hoods.

It is really interesting to see someone look back on those times as the good old days.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Even if Zak is brought into court and found guilty of abuse or harassment, why can't wizards simply say "yes we worked with him, but that was before we knew what was going on." Why does stripping him of credit for his contributions need to be part of his social punishment?
Because then they would be lying. Wizards may not have known about the rape, sexual assault, or "in meat life" abuse, but they knew about a good chunk of the rest (up to 2014). Again, this is part of why people are still upset with Round 2 of tepid responses from Wizards of the Coast. During the development of D&D Next, Mike Mearls knew people found his inclusion upsetting. Victims voiced their concerns, stories, and problems with Zak S. Mike Mearls then gave Zak S a list of his accusers, which he used as a blacklist for future harassment campaigns. Mike Mearls defended him. Mike Mearls dismissed the victims of his harassment. Mike Mearls gaslighted these victims. And nowhere in Wizards of the Coast's statements do they actually acknowledge or apologize for this level of active involvement in facilitating and enabling that harassment.

As to why his credit is being stripped, a big part of that has to do with being able to bank on your place in the credits to bolster your position in a community, writing, or making money. RPG Pundit, for example, does point to his credits in the PHB to bolster his brand.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
People are becoming less tolerant of disagreement which, for me, is a bad thing.

I'd like to respond to this a bit: There is tolerance of disagreement, and then there's tolerance of bad behavior. These are not the same.

If you are a troll, or otherwise not in the dialogue in good faith, we don't need to tolerate your position. If you are in denial of facts for your own benefit, we don't need to tolerate your disagreement.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
As to why his credit is being stripped, a big part of that has to do with being able to bank on your place in the credits to bolster your position in a community, writing, or making money. RPG Pundit, for example, does point to his credits in the PHB to bolster his brand.
And, for better or worse, still can if they want to. All they need is a photo of the credits page from one of the many 5e books already out there with his name in it.

Removing those credits won't have much if any impact right now other than symbolic. Even the unsold books on the shelf or in the distribution pipeline still have those names in - unless WotC decides to recall and destroy them all; *that* would be an action that would make a statement.

I'm not holding my breath.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There was a period of time where you only needed one accusation to get a Mob riled up enough to go out and Lynch some poor fool.


Shasarak will no longer be a part of this conversation, or any other on EN World. Ever.

Please consider this as you post. As has already been noted - bad behavior does not have to be tolerated
.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I really... really try not to block people, but sometimes people go so far beyond the pale to prove they're not worth the time of day. I think comparing women disclosing the years of abuse and suffering they've been put through to the :):):):)ing KKK certainly qualifies.

Reported. Blocked.

I've largely just let this thread run it's own course without comment, but since you're making a big show of how you are reporting and blocking people...

I don't think that comparison was remotely fair. While his comparison may have been an exaggeration, it certainly wasn't comparing those two things you've claimed at all. He wasn't comparing the actions of women reporting accusations, but the actions of the mob responding to them and I think the justifications provided for calling upon mob action. I'm not a big fan of analogies, because I find that they obfuscate the truth rather than disclose it, but his point - however tastelessly made - is not one whose merit is automatically dismissible. Heck, it's not even one that is automatically dismissible as a matter of social justice, as the number of court cases in recent years by black males who've one law suits against colleges because colleges were willing to "believe all women" and #metoo as long as the alleged perp was a black male provides an example for.

Anyway, as for the thread itself, it's the usual. I happen to believe the accusation, but I don't think believing the accusation makes me virtuous or is in any fashion helpful or a better person. I don't actually know these people, despite occasional interaction with Zak (some positive, some negative). Their private lives grieve me, and the pain that these women have suffered pains me (which it did when I only knew they were porn stars, but the more so as the veil of fantasy is torn off the concept and the persona of Zak or the falsehood of Zak+Mandy in particular), but I don't expect that my pity or my compassion - much less my outrage - does anyone any good. I don't plan to buy anything from Zak S, but then I never planned to do so anyway, so this is no threat. To say that I wasn't his target audience in the first place is an understatement. I didn't approve of the life of a male porn star even before I knew that his abuse and denigration of women went beyond the normal stereotype for that profession. I didn't approve of how his morality colored the products and art he produced. I don't disapprove of a decision to not patronize his works because you don't want to financially support someone whose behavior is like Zak S, but I also am very uncomfortable with the idea of 'social punishment' and collective action against persons that fall outside the criminal justice system. That is a slippery slope I don't want to go down, and I'm old enough to remember when the left spoke glowingly of artistic works that discussed the risks of black lists, shunning, and collective social punishment and demonized those that engaged in that behavior. Not surprisingly, it appears that the objection was only being targeted by the majority opinion, and that now that the left has power it's feeling like those things it formerly despised seem like reasonable tools of social control all of the sudden. I can very much understand not wanting to bestow honors on Zak now that his character is publically disclosed, but I never bestowed honors on him in the first place so its not my problem. Now that those honors are bestowed, since they weren't bestowed with any obvious comment on his personal character, but only on the perceived artistic merit of his works, I'm uncomfortable with acts of publically rescinding those honors, because I don't think you can unwrite history (or the economic benefit and social standing he's hitherto received from the honors), but even more so because my suspicion is that people rescind honors more for their own sake than out of any real desire for things to be better. I don't think anyone would ever mistake winning an Ennie for a humanitarian award. I don't see how it actually heals anything to take them away but maybe your own self-respect. (If your self-respect worries you, consider you will never ever have done anything as embarrassing as a standing ovation for Roman Polanski at the Oscars after his history as a child rapist was known, and during which the audience was congratulating itself on its courage for standing up on his behalf.) I don't know either his victims or Zak well enough to actually help or heal in this situation. I am actually a small person, not important to this affair at all. There is absolutely nothing I can do to applaud myself for even if I wanted to.

In short, I don't agree with any of you and I find pretty much all this talk from just about everyone embarrassing, dangerous, and decidedly anti-social. If this conversation was occurring in a physical space, I wouldn't want to be in the room with you. I don't agree. I don't 'believe all women' because I don't consider women more a collective than individuals. I believe these women. I don't think we are actually turning some social corner. I think mostly #metoo is advanced for self-centered reasons and I see no sign things are going to get better. I don't think taking a stand is going to make abusers less likely to be abusive. I think real progress and change is made one person at a time, through personal and meaningful relationships.

I am scared, deeply and actually scared, by how much we seem to be trying to reinvent the struggle session and a bunch of other ugly things. I am deeply disturbed by the complete collapse of morality I see in all corners. I don't see white hats and black hats. I see two groups with the same morality and the same convictions, fighting only that their tribe has the power to put the boot on the other one. I am not scared for myself. I am scared for the world my children will inherit.

Could we please just go back to talking about game mechanics and the art and science of RPGs? Because none of these political threads as it applies to RPGs is nearly as becoming or important as it's lately been considered to be. People just work themselves up into a tower of rage.

I'm still sad.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Reported. Blocked.


In the future, if you are going to use the ignore list, please don't announce it in public. It is there to help you enforce self-discipline in avoiding posters who rub you the wrong way, not for inclusion in public dramas.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
okay really don't want to get into this miserable quagmire of a topic (not in the sense of "forum topic", in the sense of "topic of discussion") but here goes:

* Zak S was a hero of mine. Now I'd be pleased if he accidentally tripped and fell into an industrial blender. I was one of Zak's fans. He hated the same people I hated. That was hugely important to me from 2014-2016. But I believe Mandy and the others. And I think that the idea that they, for any reason, made up their allegations is ludicrous as well as offensive.

* It is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG for WotC to remove Zak's credits from the products he consulted on, and I've told them so directly, not that they listen to a nobody like me. No matter how repugnant a person is or how badly you want to distance yourself from them for PR reasons, retroactively un-crediting a contributor is the same thing as stealing their work and claiming it for your own. It is NOT OKAY and as a professional maker-upper-of-stuff I strongly feel Wizards should NOT do it. Also and I hope by typing this sentence I won't be torpedoing my chance for working for WotC in the future, but I really don't see how removing Zak's name from the products he worked on helps the victims in any way, while it's very clear how it helps WotC, by disassociating themselves from a sexual predator and revising history to pretend they never hired him.

*
If Ed Greenwood or Mike Mearls get similar allegations made against them, will they be treated the same as Zak S? And if not, then why not?

Clearly the answer is YES. Have you been following the tragic flaming end of D&D legend Frank Mentzer's career? He was also a rapey :):):):):):):) and is paying the price.

* Finally, remember that mention I made about Zak of Zak hating the same people that I did from '14-'16? Well it turns out, those people are also harboring :):):):)ing child rapists, and the story is getting completely lost in the face of Sabbathgate and Mentzergate. Insufferable jerkass Matt McFarland (formerly BlackHat_Matt on RPG.net) is also literally a CHILD RAPIST, and the list of allegations against him is still growing but is already a disgusting litany of creepery. His wife, Michelle Lyons-McFarland, received reports of her husband's inappropriate behavior in her official capacity and proceeded to cover for him. Matt has not denied the allegations, has made a public statement effectively admitting them, and has stepped down from RPG.net, the IGDN, and closed his company, all things you don't do if you're not very, very, (probably) guilty. I've been talking to people on Twitter who have witnessed this kind of predatory behavior from Matt since 2003!! What's particularly galling is that Matt McFarland has been one of those shrieking SJW male feminist allies, smugly holier than thou about how progressive he is and how much he wants to help marginalized groups. All while he has been getting away with nearly two decades of predating upon underaged or very young girls. Sickening.

At the time this broke, Matt McFarland (who has, with some truly sickening irony, written for "The Good Men Project") was the IGDN's CONVENTION COORDINATOR (his duties included making sure conventions were safe spaces for people) and Michelle was the organization's PRESIDENT. With sexual predators holding such crucial positions in the IGDN, I strongly suspect that the other management were also complicit, enablers, or at the least turning a blind eye, including long time close friend of Matt and Michelle, Mark Diaz Truman of Magpie Games, who held the position of President before Michelle. The IGDN as an organization should be dissolved outright. Considering that the IGDN leadership and the RPG.net moderation team are about 70% the same people, I am very suspicious that higher-ups at the Big Purple might have covered for Matt as well.

tl;dr :):):):) Zak S he's a monster, it's still wrong for WotC to remove his credits, Frank Mentzer is also in a lot of trouble for bad behavior, against women at Paizo and in general, and appears to be going out in flames, and in the midst of this, please don't forget that Matt McFarland and Michelle Lyons-McFarland of Growling Door games are alleged by at least half a dozen victims, maybe more, to be a serial child rapist and an enabler of serial child abuse respectively. They will never be as important or as famous as Frank Mentzer or even Zak Sabbath, but they are the kind of rats I can see trying to just hide until this #MeToo moment in the industry passes, hoping that everyone will forget that they were perhaps the worst offenders.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Clearly the answer is YES. Have you been following the tragic flaming end of D&D legend Frank Mentzer's career? He was also a rapey :):):):):):):) and is paying the price.


I understand the emotional content here, but I am forced to ask you to please watch your language. I know that may seem silly, in this context, but those are the rules we ask everyone to work with.
 

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