Where Do We Go From Here?

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 23 May 2020

I don't know if this is going to harm or help. I don't know if it's going to mean anything. I'm probably going to mess it up. I may end up being hated by a whole new group in gaming. All I know is I will try. I will try to do something right, knowing I may fail.

July 3

For those who don't know, back in 2014, I made these two tweets

These came after me expressing a bunch of pleasure regarding the inclusion of gender identity, sexual orientation, and a variety of skin tones in the art and text of the basic rules of the new edition.

July 5

I wasn't the first person to mention concern over the consultants list nor was I the last. But I was one of two people Mike Mearls mentioned on July 5th, presumably to Zak.

No worries - I did some digging and everything you cite squares with what I've read.

Basically, I keep getting "Zak hates gays and women" and when I ask for proof, people suddenly shut the fuck up.

Here's what I think is happening: Dudes like Hill or Sarah Darkmagic get really emotional about this stuff. A few people online know that they can bait these folks into forming a lynch mob, so they do. I've had people cite the blog post you linked to, and when I pressed them to actually read it they were like, "Oh, well, I was told he said something nasty, maybe not."

It's been eye opening for a few people.

So leaving that aside for a moment, one of the things we often do when there is an incident in my primary occupation (software development) is a thing called a blameless post mortem. That's where we get the folks involved in an incident and get together, with some rules, to understand what happened. So as I write this, this is about detailing what happened and what could have happened, so hopefully we can do better next time. So try to keep that in mind as I write. I'm not trying to blame folks.

July 3 - August 1

A bunch of discussion happens, mainly on G+ and mostly with RPG Pundit.

August 1

I write a post about what has been happening since I tried to talk to RPG Pundit https://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/what-happens-when-you-engage

August 4


August 5


August 16

Lunch at Gen Con with Mike Mearls (as detailed here: https://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/power-speaking)

So why make this timeline?

Things aren't often what they appear. Since 2014, a few people have come forward and said things about Zak. People that used to be pretty close to him. People who used to say I was lying about him. We know a lot more approximately 6 years later.

But even without knowing all of that, we went from the often referenced remark about how I was just manipulated into saying what I did to having lunch with Mike at Gen Con and discussing D&D and industry stuff. He was the only person I wasn't friends with who extended me that courtesy.

Does that absolve him? Absolutely not. Should that be good enough for other folks? Well, no. I honestly don't know what to do about the situation in that way.

But folks are asking me about what I want, and I don't know how to feel about the whole Fire Mearls thing. And I think when it comes down to it, it's because firing an individual doesn't fix a failed system. And it's the system that failed. In my line of work, when systems fail, they don't get fixed by getting rid of the human but instead by building a better system. That's part of what I thought I was doing at that lunch with Mearls.

Some ideas:

Protections for Freelancers and others

I have no idea how to actually get this done. One of the largest issues is that freelancers have no protection in an industry where fans are often fanatics. I've been asked to be considered part of a larger group where one of the other people in the group had called me a "pretentious bitch" because I had gotten an honorable mention for my blog on 4e. That person was going through some stuff, sure, and we talked through things much later, but at the time, I was still getting harassment from them.

Likewise, I had to watch as someone I admire, Rob Schwalb, kept being brought up as someone to axe so I could get more writing opportunities (like, it doesn't even work that way).

And there's no support for this. There's no paid time off to deal with these incidents. No HR to direct them to (not that that is a panacea). No one cares if you can't make deadlines because of the toll of this even though they want you to keep being in public because it increases the exposure of the company you are working for. (A lot of freelancers are hired because they already have an audience, not just because of their ability to write or draw or edit)

No wonder everyone was scared of reaching out to me and helping me. One of the people we're discussing apparently has Hollywood ties and let's be honest, a good portion of gaming is pretty much the entertainment industry, especially when you consider how many companies are either licensing IP to make games from or licensing IP from games to make movies and tv.

Focus on those harmed

Part of the issue with writing this is that it's going to come across as self-serving and I don't mean it this way. But part of what really hurts me is that folks still believe the lies Zak spread about the situation and about the people involved. Those people still have a hard time getting work. They have had a lot of people turn their backs when things were super dark. They need a path out of oblivion. One that isn't only about retribution and revenge.

Ask Wizards of the Coast how they've changed

They likely won't be able to comment on the situation directly any more than they have. But they might be able to talk about what training they have available for employees. Any policies they might have for working with consultants and the like. If you happen to work in fields with expert knowledge in these areas, it would be wonderful if you were willing to share your insights with the broader community/industry because this isn't just an issue with Wizards of the Coast.

I've seen some folks call for changes in how this community works and I'm definitely in favor of that. Not just relying on informal social networks for hiring or freelancers. Finding ways to give folks who get attacked like I did for years the ability to earn back trust and maybe freelance again.

Otherwise, what we'll see is a continuation of people being scared professionally to say something. And we'll see folks from marginalized groups saying its not worth it and burning out those who try to speak up.

I don't know if any of this will help anyone. I just know that I've never been a scorched earth person and, honestly, it feels too much like what Zak wanted to do to me for me to be comfortable with it. But I honestly mean this. Other people will feel differently and those views are valid as well. What's super important to me is that people listen to one another and find ways to try to move forward. Say what you feel and why you feel that way and maybe, just maybe, some healing will occur.

Part of the mermaid was done using a stamp by Jane Davenport.https://janedavenport.com/shop/supplies/stamps/jdmm-new-acrylic-stamps-mermaid/

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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