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Old school RPG community Tabletop RPGs

It’s not about separating the art from the artist: It’s time to stop tolerating bad actors in the RPG community

In the wake of yesterday’s accusations of harassment, abuse, and sexual assault made by Mandy Morbid and others against game designer Zak S, it’s time to stop separating the art from the artist. I believe and stand with Mandy, Jennifer, and Hannah.

Zak S has been a bad actor in the RPG community for too long. It’s time to refuse to publish or promote his work, or to engage with him in the RPG community — and to do the same with other bad actors in our hobby.

The art/artist argument

I’ve often found that argument, that one should separate creative works from their creators, to be compelling. I’ve made it myself, and in the past I’ve made it about Zak S. (More on that in a moment.) For example, I love H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, but the dude was a virulent racist. He’s been dead for over 80 years, and in my judgment enjoying his work while denouncing its problematic aspects is fine: He doesn’t profit from that.

I’ve struggled with how to apply that to living artists, though. Some calls have been easy: When Orson Scott Card began using his fame to promote bigotry towards LGBTQIA+ people, no amount of past enjoyment of Ender’s Game would convince me to spend money on or recommend his work again.

Others have been more difficult, and for too long Zak S was in that category. Based on interactions I had with him on G+, and on how I watched him interacting with others, it didn’t take me long to figure out that he was an asshole. But where Card is a clear bad actor, Zak S just seemed like an asshole — and liking an asshole’s work didn’t strike me as being problematic. I bought Zak’s books, and I linked to and promoted his work because I found his work interesting.

In the past couple years, I stopped doing that. I saw too much evidence that he was toxic, like RPGPundit, and stopped buying his books or promoting his work. I made sure to block him in every community where I spent time, and thought that ignoring him would be enough.

Ignoring bad actors isn’t enough

But out of sight, out of mind is not enough.

It’s not enough to separate the art from the artist. Like I said up top, it’s time to stop publishing and promoting work by bad actors in the RPG hobby, and to refuse to engage with them in our community.

I’m taking what The Gauntlet said about Zak S and the issue of support, both past and present, to heart:

If you have supported or defended Zak S in the past, you need to step up. The Ken Hites and White Wolfs and LotFPs of the world need to take this opportunity to disavow Zak S.

Zak S already hadn’t gotten my money or support for some time, but I went back through my posts here on Yore and removed all references or links to his work. I also logged back into Gnome Stew to edit or remove my past posts linking to Zak’s work, only to find that the Stew had already proactively removed them (thank you!). Were G+ not dying in six weeks, I’d scrub those posts as well.

As of this writing, the r/osr subreddit has roundly denounced Zak S and banned him from posting. Well-known folks in the OSR community have spoken out about him, including Patrick Stuart, scrap princess, and Rob Monroe. A flood of folks who supported a recent Zak S Kickstarter have asked for refunds, or for their names to be removed from the backer list. The RPGnet thread about the accusations is full of folks who are mad as hell.

Update Feb. 12: Ken Hite has denounced Zak and donated his payment for work on Demon City to charity, and OneBookShelf (DriveThruRPG/RPGNow!) has posted an official response to the situation on their blog. This includes blocking future products featuring Zak S and donating the company’s share of revenue from existing titles to charity. (There’s a longer explanation for why existing titles remain.)

Don’t waste money on shitbags

There are many, many, many designers, authors, artists, and other creative folks producing awesome stuff who aren’t bad actors and aren’t toxic to the RPG community. Those are the folks we should be supporting.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Google+ diaspora: RSS feeds

Like a lot of tabletop gamers, I’ve gotten tons of great mileage out of Google+. I started using it in 2012, and for the past six years it’s been my first stop for all things gaming-related. I met my Seattle gaming group through G+. I’ve made friends via the site. I’ve learned about oodles and oodles of cool and weird stuff I never would have heard of otherwise.

When the shutdown was announced, I was optimistic that a reasonably solid replacement would emerge. It hasn’t yet, for me, but today there was a glimmer of hope: RSS feeds.

For context, here’s why I’m not having much luck with the alternatives I’ve tried so far.

Social media thunderdome

MeWe was my first stop — the first G+ exodus destination to gather some critical mass, and it did so within hours of the shutdown announcement. The functionality was great. But when I asked them a simple question about acting against hate groups and hate speech, they gave a bullshit response. Maybe things will change on that front sometime, but for now MeWe is a hard pass.

diaspora* doesn’t have blocking functionality. In 2018. It has an ignore feature, which isn’t the same thing at all.) No thank you.

Facebook was a shady privacy nightmare years ago, the first time I quit the site, but it eventually got better; I came back. Then they got super shady and gross with the whole Cambridge Analytica thing, and I quit again. Also a hard pass.

I’ve never found Twitter workable for RPG discussion, but I do like Mastodon. The problem is that I can’t seem to get my brain to “think in Twitter.” It also has a small user population (at least in the RPG sphere) and doesn’t seem likely to pick up anytime soon, but being a Twitter-alike is the thing that fits worst for me because G+ is not a Twitter-alike in really any way.

Other options I’ve researched but haven’t tried yet seem even smaller and/or less well-developed than the places I have tried (Hubzilla, Friendica, etc.).

Feed me

But over on G+ there was a glimmer of sunshine: Aaron Griffin pointed out RSS feeds and the option of filling part of the void with a good feed reader. He suggested Feedly and Inoreader, and I checked both of them out (as well as a couple others).

Both have a clean interface and an Android app, but Inoreader has fewer features gated behind fees so I went that route. (Notably, if you want more than 100 feeds with Feedly, you have to pay to subscribe.)

I started by grabbing all the blogs from my own blogroll (in the sidebar). Then I visited every blog on Alex Schroeder’s Old School RPG Planet site and added all the ones that looked interesting to me. Ditto for his Indie RPG Planet. That’s pushed me well over 100 blogs in my feed.

I’ve still got the massive OSR Blog Roll & Social Contacts Google Sheet to go through, too!

And so far, so good. I may have tried an RSS reader a decade ago and forgotten about it, but I really don’t remember ever using one before. It seems like an excellent solution for the “I want to read about cool RPG stuff” side of the G+ equation.

I’m still not sure what to do about the social side, but progress is progress.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs

Back to RPGnet for the first time in five years

I haven’t used my RPGnet account in about five years, but the principled stand they took by banning posting in support of Trump prompted me to dust it off and give the forums another look.

Their ban was carefully considered (including the nuances around it) and clearly and unequivocally presented, and I couldn’t agree more. Supporting Trump is supporting white supremacy and other forms of bigotry.