Monday, May 17, 2021

What Really Happened to Vampire 5e, Chapter 6: You're Eating Maggots, Michael

Chapter One  - Chapter Two - Chapter Three -

 Chapter 3.5 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6

"Shut Up And Take The Pain"

So we talked about the hatemob calling trans creators' work transphobic, and calling Jews Nazis, and siccing dictators on game designers but this chapter contains the worst part. I'm tempted to skip straight to it, but first I want to spend some time with the other people who worked on the game.

So you know what I think and you saw some of what Kenneth Hite had to deal with because of Evil Hat hatemobbing on Vampire--but what about everybody else? While it started with me, Ken and The Art Director, by the end I'd been gone for over a year and there was a whole team of socialist Swedes and other RPG creatives working on the new edition.

Privately they all said a lot about being angry at the mob, but people also talked about depression, mental breakdowns, and destroyed careers. I'm going to stick to quoting the less personal stuff, so none of them get in trouble.

This is during the second wave, when Dog With Dice wrote the Jews-Are-Nazis article:

Someone else, much later, after the damage had been done...

Last month, yet another creator on the project reached out right after I announced I'd do this series...

This is consistent: people are scared to talk, fleeing the industry or to the edges of it, Olivia, Ettin and the rest are "malignant, bottom-feeding-trolls" and the "Pile-On-Club".

Pretty much no-one who ever worked on or even liked any version of Vampire got what they wanted.

The Worst Part

In a world that made any sense, what happened to Vampire should have been a Pizzagate-style cautionary tale about the danger of believing conspiracy theories. And it should've been that immediately. Because--as-noted way at the beginning--sales were ok and more people signed a petition supporting the game than spread the conspiracy theories.

While a diplomatically-worded petition leaving the names of all the bad actors out couldn't save Vampire, the sentiment that spawned it should have at least been enough to prevent the situation generally in RPGs getting worse later--everyone looks at the steaming crater full of troll-takes where once there was a city and goes "Oh wow, what a mess, let's all agree not to do that again"--but it wasn't. By way of explanation, I'm going to zoom in on one example:

Meet Chris Handley, Chris has had a World of Darkness podcast for over ten years, Chris has written World of Darkness stuff for Storytellers Vault, and Chris was also someone who read this blog and liked my work. Years ago he said he wanted to be my friend on social media, so I added him.

One day, before all this, Chris and another WoD fan were talking in a thread casually about having a beer with Olivia Hill. I did literally the only thing any responsible adult seeing this could've done: I warned them and anyone reading the thread that Olivia Hill was a certifiable harasser and to watch the fuck out. Like: where Olivia lived, you could legitimately be arrested for doing the shit Olivia did to her colleagues. I didn't call Chris or Chris' friend names, I didn't act like they should've known already, I didn't say a word in anger. I just told them what I knew because obviously it's not ok to normalize the presence of someone known to be that dishonest and dangerous.

At the time, Handley thought this was just gosh darn rude and so...joined the hatemob. So far, so normal: you tell someone their trollfriend is a troll, they disagree and start smearing you, too. That's a normal day on the internet, but what happened next is what makes this a story:

So years later, after all the things I discuss in this series happened to Chris' beloved Vampire, Chris--being a relatively typical World of Darkness fan--is up in arms, Chris is completely pissed, Chris signs the petition supporting White Wolf, Chris has a phone conversation with the White Wolf guys in May 2017, Chris writes me to say...

  • He now recognizes Olivia Hill's role in all of this and says she and her usual suspect pal Holden Shearer had acted in "God awful ways".
  • He treats Olivia and her circle with "a fairly large barge pole" due to their "pearl-clutching" and says Olivia's "gone off the deep end".
  • He says all of Olivia's accusations against me were "bullshit".
  • He believes Olivia screwed over backers on a Fate-system Kickstarter and used the money to move to Japan. 
  • He says he was on my side me about Olivia's wife attacking us over the Maxim article, Chris calls it "misplaced outrage".
  • He also throws in, for good measure, Olivia and co were also unnecessarily pearl-clutching about Kingdom Death.
  • He likes and buys my work.

And you would now expect this series of emails to end with "Thank you so much for trying to warn us--years before this happened to Vampire--about Olivia Hill because nobody else did. I am so sorry I didn't listen and I'm sorry I gave you any shit about it."

But it doesn't. Chris was actually writing to say he was still mad that I warned him and his friend about Olivia Hill. Here they were trying to talk about drinking beer with the delightful proven hatefactory Olivia Hill and here I had to go and say something unpleasant.

Remember the snakes have legs video?

This is how it ends:

The snake (who, being a snake, clearly has no legs) tells the guy to stop telling people that snakes have legs, so the guy unfriends him. The snake.

The reason nobody took what happened to Vampire to heart in later years is that instead of doing anything about the harassers, people attacked anyone trying to warn them.

And it's somehow worse if you have receipts? In the middle of this, Patrick Stuart, my co-author on Maze of the Blue Medusa, had a mental breakdown and joined the hatemob. He wrote in his hatepost that while, yes, while Olivia Hill had done fucked up things, the fact I had pointed it out and collected evidence to prove what Hill was doing, in the form of her dozens of public posts, was insane and "creepy".

I want to write the next sentence nine-hundred times in letters of fire 300 feet high:

I don't know what kind of world anyone lives in where a creator can just make up a lie that a colleague threatened their children and that's not a Jesus shit, full-court press, all-hands on-deck, holy-fuck, mother-of-all-that-is-holy-and-unholy 100% epic emergency where that creator is recognized as a massive threat to anything they touch that you need to do something about asap. Chris knew Olivia was lying, Patrick knew Olivia was lying. And somehow their reaction was Zak, why are you telling people?

Let's leave out all the things I've reported and only talk about complaints other people have about her: Olivia's been thrown off twitter for harassment, Kickstarter backers on several projects have said Olivia ripped them off, she was thrown off RPGnet for doxxing, behind-the-scenes every full-time developer I've met calls her a piece of shit, Shoe Skogen says she sexually harassed her, and her girlfriend/employee Francita said she was an abuser. What does Olivia Hill have to do for it to be ok to call her out? Dynamite the Eiffel Tower? Hijack a schoolbus and eat the kids? Shoot your mom down in a public street and drop her corpse in lime? 


And then on top of that: all the other stuff Olivia did. And then all the stuff Ettin did. And all the people from all the other forums and game companies. The most sympathetic and well-informed people decided it was not only better for them to do nothing, but that it was also bad to do something.

Since then:

Paradox basically closed White Wolf down.

Robin Laws, probably the most respected voice in the game industry, has kept right on podcasting regularly with his friend Kenneth Hite--and still has publicly said nothing.

The Vampire team, despite being privately pissed-off and supportive of each other, has said nothing. 

Olivia Hill smeared more people and grew her Twitter following to over 10k until her girlfriend called her out for abuse, at which point a few RPG people complained and then, well, nothing. She's suffered no consequences. She also said her "views have changed" since she first began her harassment campign.

Ettin kept on and smeared more people until I sued him.

Rob Donoghue at Evil Hat has seen zero consequences.

Crystal Frasier has seen less than zero consquences. WOTC hired her on the new Ravenloft.

And pretty much everyone else has either kept quiet, joined the hatemob or themselves been cancelled. A few have freaked out at their own behavior and left the game scene.

Literally no-one now publicly defends any of the accusations made against the game in any detail. 

The end.

I designed this and wish I hadn't


You might have heard I was involved in a secret email conspiracy with Mike Mearls, longtime creative head of Dungeons & Dragons. You might've heard I sued him. You might've heard a lot of not-terribly-informed things spread by a lot of people already featured in the story you just read.

Next up, if anyone reading genuinely cares, I will tell the whole story, soup-to-nuts, with receipts, about what happened with Mike Mearls. I'll get you the details tomorrow (EDIT: Within the week. I'm travelling.).

Chapter One
  - Chapter Two - 
Chapter Three -

 Chapter 3.5 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6

*Ooh, edit: Earlier I wrote she got permanently banned and made a new account, but I just realized (9:43pm Pacific 18 May) it's possible that Olivia changed her @ name on twitter to the new one, then some troll took her old @ name and got themself banned, thus resulting in her old twitter name having a ban notice due to no fault of her own. I have no way of knowing which, so I am defaulting to caution. She may be simply a lying abuser and not a lying abuser who has been permabanned from twitter.


remial said...

is THAT what happened with ADX? damnit. I backed that. I only got a pdf copy because someone, who bought it off of DTRPG gave me a copy when I said I was interested in running a mecha fate game.

Zak Sabbath said...


Why would you EVER back an Olivia Hill game?

Why would you EVER back a Fate game?

Who the hell trusts Little Finger?

trentb said...

Thanks for writing and sharing all that.

I understand why indie RPG people don't say anything - they don't have the power, alone, to overcome the waves of misery, and they don't want to risk their work getting buried and them getting cancelled. And they are disinclined to organise.

But why do WOTC and White Wolf let weasels dictate their business decisions? Do they think they speak for a silent majority or something? Surely if White Wolf had, say, just ignored the whole thing and stuck with their guns, the weasel-team would have just been yelling weasel sounds at each other while everyone else ignored them?

Do they also fear that Weaseltowne control the online conversation through their forum monopoly? But like... presumably they have their own people moderating e.g. D&D and Vampire forums on reddit and such?

Apologies if i've just missed this somewhere.

Zak Sabbath said...


If you legitimately think if the companies had ignored a smear campaign that nothing bad would have happened you aren't payng any attention, not just to this but for the last 10 years of this blog and I'm not sure anythig I could ever write could get through to you ever.

I mean: that is the most depressing example of miss-the-point I have ever seen.

trentb said...

Sorry, I don't think I was clear. I'm not saying nothing bad would have happened - obviously that's not how it works. I'm saying maybe the games would have been good and successful, despite all the other bad outcomes.

I'm not trying to suggest ignoring it is a good idea, I'm just wondering
a) why those big powerful companies didn't do something to resist it? And then
b) even if they'd ignored it, maybe it would have turned out better than how it did, for them?

Like.. the games they did release (both 5e, and Vampire) were decently (or very) successful, even after they
i) did nothing successful to resist the smear publicy, and
ii) sacrificied their plans for the game to appease the smearers (unsuccessfully).

Why did they choose (ii) instead of trying harder at (i)? Or choosing neither?

Floatyboats said...

I remember the Fate 2.0 kickstarter.
My memory is probably off a bit, but I remember it running not that long after Dwimmermount. Or maybe a little before. Either way, early 2012-ish.
Even by then, I should have known not to trust Littlefinger. It had been several years since Fred Hicks had made it known that 'never say anything bad about the things I like' was the unspoken official policy on his blog - because he just didn't have 'the energy' for it. I just stopped paying attention to him, because I was ignorant enough to think that just because a man has this kind of behavior regarding stuff on his 'personal time', it doesn't mean he wasn't otherwise a professional. But Fate was just interesting enough to me to warrant paying more attention to, so I contributed.
I also contributed to Dwimmermount. I didn't see Story Games and OSR as a rivalry - I saw them as different schools of thought. (I wouldn't know a damn thing about Something Awful for years to come.)
And then, of course, Dwimmermount 'cracked'. It got late. And then, James had a breakdown when his dad died, and DARED be out of contact for 72 hours. There'd already been a lot of negative reactions to the Kickstarter by then, and I'm going to be honest, it was mostly just saner versions of the story told here - any little nitpick, any little accusation, was treated as true by people who wanted an excuse to not like the project. And even though the project was back on track not long later, it was still regarded as a failure. To this day, there are people who won't let it go, who will go on unprovoked, unhinged rants about Grognardia that can easily be disproven, but when you take the time to push back, people insist that *you're* the unhinged one. (Hell, Tenkar, who loves to pretend he's the fair and balanced arbiter of the OSR, will take the occassional potshot as well.)
Now, what's funny about all that to me is this. I've got Dwimmermount on my shelf. And the map booklet. And the little illustration booklet. It came out. Late, yes, but even when it came out, I'd already backed other projects that had taken longer past the due date. Fate 2.0, on the other hand? I'm pretty sure the last of it showed up during the Trump administration. Evil Hat had spent so much time showing their ass over the years, that I'd forgotten that it had never really finished. Within a year or two of that Kickstarter, they had proven - not just on one incident, like Maliszewski's meltdown, but over and over again - how untrustworthy and unprofessional they were.
But one Kickstarter is a cautionary tale and a joke, and the other Kickstarter doesn't matter at all.
The rules are bullshit.

Zak Sabbath said...


The same reason as everyone else Trent:

-Resistance is hard and requires changing behavior and doesn't come naturally for most people
-Ignoring it completely inevitably makes it worse. Money or no money, hundreds (and then thousands, and then tens of thousands) of people on the internet claiming you hold uncontested allegiance to Social Justice Crime will destroy the life of everyone connected to it.

Zak Sabbath said...


And the Fate fans and people who hope to get a job with Fred because they retweet the same memes as him -do things- on the internet. And the people disappointed with him and just wanted to buy a book don't.

So it goes on forever.

Trent B said...

re the first:
Yeah that makes sense re resistance. But to sacrifice their game quality is a really significant decision to make - they sacrificed their own interests by watering down the game and restructuring; why not make a similar sacrifice in terms of effort to resist the smear instead? The price of effort and stress is being paid either way...

Can probably offer an answer to that myself I suppose - because conflict with those people is really hard to participate in. The path the companies chose meant they could keep dealing with +/- sensible people. So the sacrifice they chose was easier for the them to effect, albeit perhaps of greater magnitude to their game interests? Maybe? A human, rather than rational choice?

re the second:
But as you suggested in the post - once the conversation becomes public enough (once it reaches the thousands, or tens of thousands) won't normal people just not buy into the story, because it's insane? Like the number won't keep growing once it hits the mainstream, right?

It's different in your case because you can't fix the Wikipedia or Google entries. Reasonably people don't see the truth, just the lies, and they accept them in the absence of counter-argument.

But if the lies re WOTC (e.g.) get big enough, they can just say the truth publicly and then reasonable people will reach reasonable conclusions? They could have protected their employees/you rather than throwing them to the wolves.

But I guess that's not ignoring it anymore, that's now resistance again... GoTo 1.

So I guess it just comes down to: White Wolf and WotC are composed of people who don't want to engage with insane weasel conflict, and it turns out that's a problem.

So they're like us, except they do have power but are unwilling to use it. But I guess part of this is that we also have power, but we're unwilling to work hard enough to wield it. Shame that WotC etc have the power more easily available but untapped, but I understand.

That seem close to the heart of it?

Thanks for helping - just trying to get my head around it all. Hoping this is useful for others.

Zak Sabbath said...


"But as you suggested in the post - once the conversation becomes public enough (once it reaches the thousands, or tens of thousands) won't normal people just not buy into the story, because it's insane? Like the number won't keep growing once it hits the mainstream, right?"

What planet do you live on?

TB said...

Planet optimism?

That comment was contingent on: "But if the lies re WOTC (e.g.) get big enough, they can just say the truth publicly and then reasonable people will reach reasonable conclusions? They could have protected their employees/you rather than throwing them to the wolves."

Zak Sabbath said...


Well, move.

trentb said...

First bit:
Yeah, fair. I hate that that principle is real. And even if normal people accept the truth they don't typically share it. OK.

But surely the weight of, say, a WOTC public denouncement is worth the word of a thousand people? (Still clinging to planet optimism for a bit...)

Other bit (part of me pondering the idea - why did the big companies do what they did?):
But as you said, nothing WOTC or WW did had an effect on the smear anyway, but the games were still +/- successful.
- People love 5E. Your name is/was on 5E, and tens of thousands of people may believe that you're a monster (if they care to google you), but they bought it anyway.
- Vampire was tepid in sales because they sacrificed the game quality to the hatemob, not because customers were compelled by the lies of the hatemob.

So the smear doesn't seem to have had significant effects for 5E's sales, despite all the other effects.

White Wolf could have looked at D&D's success (despite having paid a "monster"), and just made the game they were planning rather than sacrificing it and you etc. But they didn't - they restructured their product in response to the smear.

WW gave Weaseltowne that power in a way that WotC didn't, right? And lost money/credibility in the bargain. Why? Conflict/resistance aversion, sure, but it looks like _they_ could have had success without that sacrifice. Perhaps in the moment it looked more catastrophic?

Zak Sabbath said...


No, the smear didn't affect 5e's sales, it just mutilated the lives of several people who worked on it. Including Mearls.

Trent B said...

Oh yeah, 100%. I don't want to understate the significance of that at all - it is a tragedy and I hate it.

You think WW saw that, and that's why they did what they did? To protect their people?
That seems sensible. But like... if they acted to try and protect their people then... well, you were their people at that time, no? It didn't work. They had the power to protect their people, but they sacrificed at least one of them instead.

I just don't quite understand the WW decisions. I guess it was just a clumsy irrational response to a complex situation. Which I don't blame them for - I can accept that - it's just the outcome sucks and I wish there were a different one. So I'm trying to figure out what they could have done.

Zak Sabbath said...


This is a new landscape and people are not prepared.

Trent B said...


Well, hopefully this blog series has prepared them.


Zak Sabbath said...


Knowing is half the battle.

But doing something is the other half.

amogus said...

ignore the problem? Let's say, I dunno. Games Workshop hires Zak to do a thing.

Olivia: "Games Workshop hires rapists, and they promote Nazi-ism, why not. I will say this every day on every platform I can."

Google: "This person says that Games Workshop hires rapists and promotes Nazi-ism every single day."

Parent: "Wow, I thought this would be a good hobby for little timmy as it's creative, but if a quick google search means they're RAPIST NAZIS, then I guess I'll buy him a playstation instead."

Matrox Lusch said...

Pizzagate-style cautionary tale is that the conspiracy produced Q-anon, a corrupt president, a fake election claims, and basically has subjugated the Republican half of our two-party system of government. I remember I once commented on the verifiable bullshit number that 800,000 children disappear every year in the united states as part of a global trafficking ring (basically about 400,000 are reported missing, the vast majority are located, and only about 1% go missing under signs they were abducted) and had a dogpile on my Twitter feed of literally 100s of Q-anon comments blasting me. The only time I ever muted comments on a tweet. (Har, I don't get out much...)

That is very similar to what happened (smaller numbers) saying anything to defend Zak on OSR Discord (and Reddit too I heard, just I was late to that game). Basically the negative comments just suck up all the oxygen so anyone popping in who didn't know anything would be like "Jeeze, see all these people against this dude. He must really suck." I remember it was woah, thank god, when just even one other person would join me trying to present some facts on a Zak subject.

So I think in the modern age of social media comments a person has to speak up at the time, and the more folks speak up it at least breaks up the continuity of mob comments. Zak's Google+ forum was a good way to alert folks (of course in the process becoming another line of attack against him). But there really seems to be no other way than to organize and push back quickly and in numbers.

What is truly fucked (this happened to me on Reddit) is that I can be straightforward, informative, polite while haters are "sack of shit" "scum" etc., then #1 gets turned around that Zak's supporters are causing arguments, being rude, etc. then #2 too much trouble, all discussion on topic is banned. (Yes, still a "No Zak Content" rule on Reddit/OSR.)

What I never figured out, and maybe should do some tinkering on this, is that OSR Reddit dude says "This is my site and I'll do what I want" which is similar in Discord Servers, etc. But Dude doesn't own Reddit, dude just happened to setup the subreddit called "OSR" before anyone else did. I started looking into it, but got diverted, whether the "owners" of subreddits, Discord servers, etc. don't have to follow some higher rules from the platform. Kind of like local laws are sometimes subjugated to the constitution.

Twitter started pushing back on fake stuff, can't Reddit? Perhaps there should be an incremental (not Trumpian) update to section 230 of the CDA to force hosts to take a look when provably false or threatening speech is being propagated - something a step higher than the mods and sub-owners. Get mobs kicked off the networks for cause rather than folks commenting politely.

Or bots, we can just make bots. ( Russian trolls trolled Star Wars: Last Jedi. Maybe we're up against a bigger enemy...?)

Simon Tsevelev said...

So, the way I see the situation.
Horrible people are a problem, always.
Horrible people become a bigger problem when the community refuses to bring out the fact that horrible people are, indeed, horrible and a problem.
One of the reasons for this, as I see it, is "well, maybe those people are not quite all right, but if we tell them that, they'll leave, and we won't have enough people in our littly hobby to keep us all happy".
Which is wrong because a) you cannot be happy in a community with horrible people, even if you're a horrible person, and b) it's easier to get people interested in your little hobby when they see there are normal people around, and that they're safe from attacks by horrible people.
And if we cannot possibly do what we like to do without horrible people, then I say let's not do it at all. Let's find another hobby.

Vanilla said...

Man, I don't know why I keep following this rabbit hole deeper and deeper, because everything that's turning up is just a cesspool of base human behaviour and people of arguably limited merit within the industry using their respective platform to do harm. For what purpose? That isn't entirely clear to me. Except that once given some attention, some people like to hurl abuse to make them feel some sense of power or somehow feel more important by 'fighting the good fight.' It always seems to be more about them than anything else though.

It also seems to be an extension of the wider ideological hardening of public discourse. The purity tests are becoming harder and harder to pass (and it seems they are not really meant to be passed intentionally), the endgame never seems to be apology and an improved outcome, but cancellation and destruction as the only desirable result. Internet death threats is not the 10th level of escalation, it's become the opening move.

Regardless, I don't think Vampire could have regained the cultural prominence or business success with V5 that it enjoyed with earlier iterations. It was the perfect game for the 90s and was always more style than substance (same with Cyberpunk as a genre). I still bought it. More out of nostalgia and seeing what fresh hands would do with it than any real desire to return to actively playing it. I was also blissfully ignorant of most of the controversy. Simply because the hate machine operates in a sub-sub section of the gaming culture. I mean, I think it's for the better the Abrek Blight chapter got removed, because it's just not that great writing and much of the material comes across as somewhat clumsy edginess in serving their aim of personal and political horror. Well, after the last 4 years, I'm kind of tapped out on desire for political horror. That angle worked much better in a time when the world seemed a whole lot more safe (even though it really wasn't then either).

So, reading all this now (and then following through to the sources like the dogwithdice article), just goes to show how different the moral panic, virtue signalling and calls for destruction have become. I mean DnD has probably been subjected to much grander and wide sweeping attacks in the span of its existence. For an anaemic list see

But the difference here is that the assault does not come from outside of the culture (like it did for DnD with worried parents and general media) which led to the community banding together and the game's success actually increasing. Instead, these are very much inside of the community with individuals inciting their respective tribes to go to war.

And that it's not so much directed at companies and their properties but the attacks are intentionally very personal, 'swedish edgelords' is just the tip of the bile pile here. If specific people can be smeared it is done without exception and with a disturbing, obvious personal satisfaction of the perpetrators.

Looks like GamerGate did give people a pretty successful playbook to follow.

What can be done, though? This is such a twisted knot. Laying things out like this is a start. I think better standards of moderation of public forums would be a viable (if difficult) move. Turns out that replacing the old gatekeepers with amateurs is really starting to tear shit down.

Zak Sabbath said...


What can be done?

Name names. Hold people accountable.

A Wandering Historian said...


Never apologize. The moment you do, they come for your head.

Vanilla said...

@A Wandering Historian
Yeah, I'm not so sure that leads to better outcomes. Just to more entrenched positions. I mean WotC recently reacted to some similar complaints to the Curse of Strahd module, and I think they handled that quite well. They labeled their back catalog without revision of it, made some changes to the module and took those new stances to their new material.

Isn't that how it's supposed to be? Complaints get raised, they get evaluated, changes are made, if warranted, and we get a better outcome? Nobody gets hurt?

Well arguably, none of their stuff is quite as provocative as what new WW are putting out. Ravenloft is hardly edgy, and therefore folk horror tropes are easier to adjust than 'personal, political horror'. And the rest of DnD is so generic it hardly leaves edges to be offended by. Not that the usual suspects don't have their hands ever close to the pearls, I'm sure though.

Sure. But there isn't exactly a community court where you could state your case. I'm sure the companies try to stay out of it (and have mostly discontinued their own forums) unless it starts to harm their brand. Other creators stay out of it, for similar reasons (and real fear of being cancelled). Regular players are unaware.

How do you police any of it? The only place where that's borderline feasible is on the big forums. And those need to be a) willing (not so sure) and b) able (I think they could, but who would want to be a moderator standing in the eye of that storm? I suspect mostly people who personally enjoy the tragedy.) But yeah, starts with each of us, unless we start caring nothing will change.

amogus said...

"Looks like GamerGate did give people a pretty successful playbook to follow."
the difference is that gamergators never did the harm to anyone's career that the much smaller ttrpg crowd did on a regular basis

and more importantly, disgraced former industry insiders like Notch and Mark Grummz did not have the leverage to affect that actual industry targeted by gamergate. They fucked themselves by allying with the gaters, Olivia hill has only grown her clout

gamergate, more than anything else, went after video game journalists, who were their most hated enemy.

olivia hill, ettin, that crowd was maybe 1/100th the size of gg and they specifically targeted professionals and upcoming releases. The pool is way way smaller and video game companies can shrug and eat the cost of people shitting on them: assassins creed games are allegedly terrible and the last couple games moved 20 million copies.

TTRPGs might reach that number of players, but paying customers is way way lower. If Zak had been writing VtMB2 and it wasnt a complete shitshow of a development hell olivia hill wouldn't have been able to affect jack shit. Hell, Olivia hill famously had a public fucking meltdown regarding cyberpunk 2077 AND the game released as an overpromised, under-delivered, glitchy, shitty mess and it STILL sold 15 million copies and pulled in enormous profits despite everything.

Do not compare the two. The tactics, goals and targets were completely different. There are people who have been saying Nintendo is a pedo ring dead dying company and they're too popular to be affected. "tg" tabletop games cannot weather that level of horse shit. Zak would probably be fine if he was a billionaire too, but he's not, and so unemployable schizos can burn his life to the ground, laugh about it, admit they dont believe a word they say and get away with it.

Trent B said...


Right, in theory, but that didn't happen with WOTC D&D 5E, and I can't think of a big company that has had that happen to them. And they failed to squash the smear, so those nazi rapist stories are still prevalent. Individuals and smaller companies, sure, but nothing that size.

Trent B said...


I share pretty much all of your experiences and feelings re reddit conversations etc.

Zak Sabbath said...


If a critical mass of people on the internet can create enough pressure to do bad things then a critical mass of people on the internet can create enough pressure to do good things.

If you really can't think of anything people could do to improve this situation, email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm

Zak Sabbath said...


If y'all want to argue about what gamergate did or didn't do, do it somewhere else.

If the analogy of Olivia and Ettin to Gamergate doesn't work for you, then ignore it and move on to something relevant.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Matrox Lusch

If you guys think you had a tough time on reddit, remember how the actual witnesses were treated:

Women who had long ago decided they wanted nothing to do with the online rpg discussion showed up, told the truth and pointed out they knew more than anyone commenting.

At which point some anon would go "Ok, but what about all the bad things Zak did online?"

And instead of people popping up and going "You're lying about those things and if you're not: give proof," all the gamers just sat back or joined in.

That's why y'all gotta talk to each other before you engage.

A Freelance Historian said...

That's the weird thing about Hill and Co. Her online clout seems to be inversely proportional to her career trajectory. Six years or so ago, she was the lead designer on V:tDA20 and that's a great book. A Few years later, she's getting fired as Lead Writer from the Changeling: The Lost second edition with a team doing a full rewrite. Since then, she's been banished to the self-published/indie sphere and ripping people off on kickstarter.

Yet she kicks and screams and a hurricane is the result. Looking at from the outside, it's bizarre.

Zak Sabbath said...

@A Freelance Historian

I can't imagine any circumstances where that's a great book. iirc Ash Kreider was on it and the art is completely ordinary.

But the twitter clout thing is simple:

People who are fans of people like Olivia like hatemobbing--her hatemob posts are her most popular, she admitted it:

hatemobbing is easier when you have nothing to lose.

Anonymous fans have nothing to lose by hatemobbing but also are anonymous fans with a smaller base of people who think they have something to gain by following them. Creators who are willing whip up hatemobs against other creators therefore are in a relatively unusual position.

For a very recent example. Here's Olivia's fellow harasser Dennis Detwiller makes a snarky joke about his friends:

Olivia then, rather than doing the right thing and engaging Dennis (that's what you do, kids--talk to people if you disagree), writes a troll post that is nearly identical to 4chan /Something Awful posts from 10 years ago:

And, people buy it

For example, Daniel Swensen, Dennis fellow game designer, long-time storygamer, someone who supposedly is all about "beliving victims"--he apparently doesn't believe any of Olivia's victims:

Zak Sabbath said...

@A freelance historian

Important note:

Olivia Hill quote-tweeting Dennis Detwiller means -she is not blocked by him- which means that she could've engaged the tweet she didn't like from her colleague and chose to troll instead.

If she had engaged--nobody would've applauded that. People don't applaud people doing the right thing, they applaud people sharing their same opinion agressively.

Zak Sabbath said...

Like, here's another hatemob member with a whoooooole developed critique of Detwiller, etc but, again, instead of just -engaging the person- they go for a dunk:

especially relevant since their critique starts with "you're better than this"--if you think the person's better than that, why not @Dennis instead of trying to quote tweet dunk.

Because they're not in it to fix anything, they're in it for the blood sport.

Zak Sabbath said...



Please do not reply to a polite request to stop talking about something because it's debatably related by _keeping on talking about it and asserting things about it_. You are only creating a situation where you make people who disagree about this tangential issue find more things to disagree with.

If you feel that what you have to say -requires- this analogy, then you are free to make your case.

Vanilla said...

Fair enough. I felt mentioning it was worthwhile because it shows a pattern, a deliberate tactic, or playbook employed by people who enjoy these sort of bad faith attacks. And I think this pattern is seeing more and more use in all sorts of exchanges. It seems chillingly effective, if amplified. Maybe this was already obvious. Frankly, I'm not used to the intensity nor coordination of the attacks. Apparently, the Euro scene is behind the curve. Moving on.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Ace Jukebox


In your post where you're tone-policing and ask for civility, you namecall / first-strike-personal-attack your victim.

First-strike personal attacks are against the rules and obviously you tripped over your own shoes there calling for civility -while namecalling-.

You need to apologize for that, and then we can talk about all the pther issues you tried to raise, many of which have pretty simple answers other people might benefit from hearing about.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Ace Jukebox

Hi Ace.

In your first post you called your victim an "asshole".

That's called a "personal attack" it's also called "namecalling".

We don't do that here. It's a pretty normal, common rule in forums, classrooms, courtrooms, scientific papers, journalistic outlets and pretty much anywhere where the conversation is meant to be about seeking maximum accuracy.

I'm sorry this rule was "opaque" to you.

Once you apologize for namecalling your victim during your pleas for civility, I'd be happy to discuss your other points, as I suspect they are worth addressing.

Zak Sabbath said...

(Also, it was a -first strike- personal attack: you attacked a victim who hadn't done anythign wrong. You can call Donald Trump an asshole all you want here.)

Ace Jukebox said...

I apologize for calling you an asshole. That was out of line and is not a good way to communicate.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Ace Jukebox

Thanks, Ace! I appreciate it. Now let's take a look at the rest of your comment....

Zak Sabbath said...

This is Ace's comment:

If you legitimately think if the companies had ignored a smear campaign that nothing bad would have happened you aren't payng any attention, not just to this but for the last 10 years of this blog and I'm not sure anythig I could ever write could get through to you ever.

I mean: that is the most depressing example of miss-the-point I have ever seen.

Zak, in my opinion, this type of shit is why I imagine you don't see more people standing up for you online. Even when people are on your side, when they don't see your point immediately you respond to them in a condescending manner to let them know that you think they're stupid and, if they misunderstood you, that just means they need to read what you wrote again - if there was any miscommunication it's entirely the fault of the reader, because obviously what you wrote was 100% clear and couldn't be communicated any other way.

That's been my opinion in this whole mess. The idea of "All of these accusations against Zak seem to be bullshit, but it's very difficult to refute bullshit, and even if I try, there's a good chance that Zak himself would be an (PERSONAL ATTACK ACE APOLOGIZED FOR) to me if I screwed up or somehow misrepresented him, so good luck to that guy but it's his fight and not mine."

I say this as a guy who interviewed you in the past, because I was a fan of yours, and you made it clear during the interview (and when you linked to it afterward) that you thought that 1) At least some of the questions were stupid and maybe 2) the entire interview was stupid. So I felt stupid for, as a fan, having reached out to interview you and feeling like I had "done it wrong".

I imagine that everything that you've written in this series is 100% honest and correct. But if you want to create actual change, as opposed to just signaling that you're right and everything that happens to you is an injustice caused entirely by the stupidity and laziness of other people, then you need to start with the understanding that your online persona is abrasive and you are choosing not to change that, and that's the root of many of your online issues.

amogus said...

yeah i wasnt really interested in a whole thing about gg, i was just making an assertion. and I do believe if Zak was writing mediocre crap for Assassin's Creed he'd be generally uncancellable because he'd have written 3-4 other games by the time it came to light he had worked on Asscreed: middle ages germany or whatever

Zak Sabbath said...

@Ace Jukebox

1. For many years people tried to critique the online RPG scene in different ways than me. RPGpundit tried to do it the way you did: by making personal attacks. It didn't work and nobody respects him. Vincent Baker tried to do it by being vague and indirect and polite: It didn't work but people respect him. I tried a different way, because those ways didn't work: I was honest and direct and specific. It did work and I lost a lot of respect.

If someone says something you think is stupid and you say anything other than "I think that is stupid" you are being dishonest--which means you are being a massive asshole.

2. I understand directness upsets people. There's no nice way to say some things and still be honest and effective. IF THERE WERE, THE RPG COMMUNITY WOULD'VE FIXED ITSELF LONG AGO. There's no shortage of people who can evasively preach sanity to a closed choir of people who already agree and think they aren't the problem. And there are even people who genuinely aren't:

Jeff Gameblog has basically taken the same stances as me on basically everything since OSR blogging started. But he would never say you asked a stupid question even if he thought you did--and though Jeff has helped make parts of the space better, he hasn't managed to change that many things for victims.

3. If you had an issue with something I said on your podcast (I don't know who you are so I can't say I know what happened there) and you did something -other than- contact the person you had an issue with and explain the problem then -you are doing what all the people who fucked with Vampire did-. You have to be direct and give people an opportunity to explain themselves when they piss you off.

If not, even if you think I'm telling the truth, you're part of the problem.

4. Bigger context to my conversation with Trent B is he's someone I know has been following all this stuff closely for a very long time and who I've had a lot of face-time with and who I genuinely, in his case, would expect to know better.

5. More context: Trent responded and clarified. So whatever I said worked.

6. If someone's take is "Well on one side there's injustice and on the other side there's a tone I don't like so I do nothing" that's pretty normal but still wrong.

7. People being more concerned with tone than right or wrong are objectively a huge part of the problem. So saying that there are lots of them isn't a surprise or a revelation.

8. If someone in the online RPG space has managed to be both -honest- and -effective- and did things a different way, please let me know their name. If I have to choose--and it sucks if I do--I will choose honest.

remial said...

I backed the game before I knew any of this Olivia Hill stuff, and Fate was new back then.
I like giant stompy robots. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have backed it.

Zak Sabbath said...


Then I'm glad I said something and I wish I wasn't the only one who did.

Brendan said...

CGP Grey proposed a sneaky way of undermining the Electoral College, to effectively force the presidency to go to the candidate with the most votes in the country, by voting for that candidate instead of for the one their state elected. The key to the sneakiness is that the states involved would sign an agreement saying that they would vote for the candidate with the most votes, but would only do so once enough signatories were gathered to effect the outcome desired. In essence, states could pledge their support without having to do anything until enough support was gathered.

So, how many respectable people would be required to deal with this thing you're involved in? To bring you back to r/osr and publishing, etc.? Could there be a petition that people would sign that wouldn't see the light of day unless there were 300 signatories (or some other number)?

Like, Jim the Blogger of the Weird (made up), signs, and no one hears about Jim's opinion, until there are 299 others on board. It's an interesting thought, anyways.

zz said...

so post the shit she was suspended for you cant

Zak Sabbath said...


Of course I can't, all the tweets from that account are gone now

It was obviously a real account though because:

Zak Sabbath said...


It just occurred to me there's an off-chance a third scenario is possible--so I updated to account for that.

zz said...

If you take a look at this account, the person is responding to the @davidahilljr account and it's being counted as a reply to machineiv

so your wrong

nice try, fbi. great conspiracy theory though

Zak Sabbath said...


I don't know what you're trying to say.

Did you read my update from 9 minutes ago?

I don't know if you're cris-crossing with me or not.

Zak Sabbath said...


Edited because see the Asterisk on the entry....

Unfortunately there's no clean, comfortable solution like that.

As I said: more Vampire fans signed a petition supporting the game and -even more- bough the game than ever attacked it. It did nothing.

You aren't dealing with democratic institutions.

You have to do things that put skin in the game.

For example, right here, Olivia is claiming I lied about her on twitter. It would be so easy to burst that bubble with screenshots and questions.

Yet -nobody- is bringing that up in her @s or countering her narrative.

That's because lots of nerds will sign a petition but all of them are uncomfortable of confrontation. This is why petitions mean nothing: they say what people without much conviction or desire for change will do.

What matters is what people who -will do things- will do.

Simon Tsevelev said...

"7. People being more concerned with tone than right or wrong are objectively a huge part of the problem".

Goodness, YES. There are times where the tone is more important, like when people discuss if Nero Wolfe's cheese sauce is delicious or just nice. But when people talk about big things, like ruining lives, breaking the laws, supporting horrible people - the tone is not that important, okay?!

"For example, right here, Olivia is claiming I lied about her on twitter. It would be so easy to burst that bubble with screenshots and questions.

Yet -nobody- is bringing that up in her @s or countering her narrative."

Well, I did publicly ask twice to provide any proof that Hill allegedly has.

Zak Sabbath said...


Good--more people should do that.

EoN said...

A huge part of this problem is that social media mostly consists of people from the hatemob, which is why places like Twitter are a toxic cesspool. "Normal" people are vastly in the minority on such places. That's why I think there's literally almost no point in calling those people out, because you just get overwhelmed by the mob and eventually just get denied or expelled from any such place. It's literally just screaming into the void. The only alternative I see is gathering on different places and forming social circles there. If there is a need to organize, it's easier on home turf away from the vortex of nonsense and senseless screaming.
This is just my opinion though, I can hardly imagine how it is to be the target of the hate and cancellation and I guess our viewpoints are vastly different.

Zak Sabbath said...


changing things requires changing things.

Jeff Rients said...

"Jeff Gameblog has basically taken the same stances as me on basically everything since OSR blogging started. But he would never say you asked a stupid question even if he thought you did--and though Jeff has helped make parts of the space better, he hasn't managed to change that many things for victims."

Turns out that trying to be nice all the time only works when every has agreed to engage in rational, adult discourse. When you have bad faith actors in the room, that's not enough. I think Karl Popper tried to warn us about that once.

Zak Sabbath said...


Whats seldom noted about Popper's Paradox of Tolerance is that there -isn't- a Paradox of Discourse.

The Paradox of Tolerance's claim that if you tolerate everyone, then you end up losing some people because you've tolerated the intolerant makes sense if you're, like, just having a barbecue or a water balloon fight.

However, if you;re having rational, adult, discourse then the intolerant can't function. It never works, they always trip over their feet because their positions are always self-contradictory and they self-select out.


So while the Paradox of Tolerance is often used perversely to pre-emptively head-off rational, adult discourse because someone's claiming Those Intolerant People (variously defined) allegedly need to be left out so can't be discoursed with, the fact is everyone could really just go ahead and have the discourse and the intolerant would actually be weeded out.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Ace Jukebox

Your points were addressed in a comment above.

You need to respond to that:

Either "Ok, I understand, you're right and I was wrong"


"I disagree, here's why..."

If you don't your comments will be erased and you'll be banned. You've had 2 days, you have 24 more hours.

Zak Sabbath said...


Erased. Last time you left a comment got asked a question and didn't answer. You have to engage if you want to talk here.

You're banned until you address that.

Zak Sabbath said...



1. No anonymous comments. I am accountable for what I say, so you should be, too. This is not an unusual rule for any forum.

2. Misinformation is not allowed. This is not an unusual rule for any source of information where accuracy is desired and not "arbitrary". It's not in any way unusual to not want to publish inaccurate information.

3. Discussions over what's fact vs subjective and proof are completely ordinary things necessary to fulfil condition 2.

4. Posting clear sentences largely devoid of traditional markers of colloqial speech is necessary because many readers (such as yourself) don't understand simple ideas and so need them explained in an unambiguous way.

If you believe any of this is in error, email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm.

I'll be both happy and obligated to address your concerns.

If you don't email, that's solid proof that you aren't actually invested in what you're saying and were not saying it in pursuit of any earnest goal.

Zak Sabbath said...


Erased. See comment above.

Aura said...

Good lord, I'm gonna be crucified in my country for posting in this place but I was doxxed over ttrpg so I dont fucking care anymore...

How I do start?

Anyways, when all this happened I followed this very closely, but never got the other side(yours) version, it was impossible anyways because of the lies and the witch's hunts, so now that I have discovered your site, have the complete picture and nothing to fear and loose anymore I want to talk, about stuff.

NOTE: Everything I'm going to write about are my users perspective.

When I was an users on OP forums I really disliked Olivia, or David because he wasn't transitioned by then.

I really disliked the tone she used in his posts, all of the condescendency, all the prepotence, as if the IP she was writing about in that moment was her property...

I left the forums for a while because of it, I was mostly a lurker, yes, but I wanted to read about the lore or the game, not about unrelated shit and a ton of incorrect RL and mythological facts and being indoctrinated into shit, and who likes to be treated like a retard?

I remember the waifu controversy, that shit was fun, but I cannot say were it was in the timeline, I have a lot of my memories scrambled.

I stoped buying OP books because of her and starting pirating them, I didn't want to give her money.
(The lines I bough were the one she worked on.)

Then Beast happened and that game is really wrong, but everyone who talked bad about it was called names and was annoying.

It was hell and dont want to talk about it, bad stuff.

Then New WW happened and I was really happy, then your stuff happened then New WW went to the shitter and the shit hit the fan so strong that in the happy place I was after the Beast shit got hit and it became hell.
Then Olivias got fired from OP.

And then I became an horrible piece of shit, because for the first time in a while, I felt happiness, I felt happy about her being fired, because what I lived during those time was hell and was her fault and I was happy.

I stopped being a OP fan because of it, I stopped buying OP books because of it, I was told that I were stuff that I'm not gonna say here, I have to start hating you and WW and vampire 5e because of it, because of course I have to do it because potato, and then became a piece of shit of a person for rejoicing in her firing.

And of course, all that comes with this: the fucking witch's hunt, the fear of buying stuff you liked because social pressure and fear of being cancelled, enemies everywhere, being forced to be on the side of the hate mob or being hated instead, losing friends... it hurts, but, what can I tell you that you dont now yet?

And this is my experience as a user with all of this.

Then I was cancelled for unrelated ttrpg stuff, abandoned the internet and the hobby altogether.

The people close to me told that if I left the bad people won, so I came back, and discovered this, and vented, sorry for all this shit, but I lived through it and wanted to rant.

I started to buy games recently again, OP books even, and returning to GM and play, I'm free and feels great.

I wish I could be more clear with stuff but can't for reasons and I'm a fucking nobody, imagine if I were someone important.

Thanks for telling us about all that stuff under the curtain, I was wise to not bought V5 when it was released.

I could give you some proof but I deleted my social media for reasons.

Zak Sabbath said...


Judging by your profile, you're not AuraTwilight, the abuser that Chris McDowall put in charge of the OSR discord.

I'd like to hear the rest of your story:

zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm

Aura said...

Probably because our nicknames born for the same place and the same fictional character, if that AuraTwilight is the same I believe it is... the case is I think I know 3 people with the same nickname so I'm not sure if it's a nickname or a real handle, and are the same person.

My memory on those events are a little bit hazy, but yeah, I'll do, but today I'm DMing after a two week pause, so I'll write you tomorrow morning or after breakfast.

Zak Sabbath said...


Erased. No anonymous comments allowed.