Friday, May 7, 2021

What Really Happened To Vampire 5e, Chapter Three: Is There An Idiot In Any Village Who Trusts Little Finger?

Chapter One  - Chapter Two - Chapter Three -

 Chapter 3.5 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6



The Village

Is there an idiot in any village who trusts Little Finger?

Yes there is. Without people trusting Little Finger, King Robert's first Hand of the King wouldn't have been poisoned, Brandon wouldn't have been subject to that assassination attempt, the Lannisters wouldn't have been blamed for it, Ned Stark wouldn't have failed to take the throne from Geoffrey and then been decapitated, Sansa wouldn't have married a sadist, there'd have been no wars after the death of King Robert and there'd be no Game of Thrones. 

There are not only idiots in villages who trust Little Finger, you could populate a village with the people who trusted Little Finger.

In the tabletop RPG community, the role of Little Finger--"Grasper from a minor house with a talent for befriending powerful men and women"--is played by Olivia Hill. If you've gotten through Chapter One, you already know better than to trust Olivia Hill, repeatedly proven liar and noted abuser.

Other fingers on the same little hand include Olivia's friends at Something Awful /tg, the trpg-troll subforum of the general-troll site that was responsible for spawning 4chan, which was founded by an alleged abuser. which doesn't have rules against lying, which is decried as a troll playground even by members of the hatemobs associated with it, which automatically changes the word "rape" to "surprise sex" for nomembers, whose members admit they're trolls and call themselves "goons", and whose members sent messages like "get raped and murdered" to me and mine, doxxed gamers in the literal names-and-addresses-sense, and whose tabletop forum moderator Paul Matijevic aka Ettin recently had to give me money and publicly apologize for lying about abuse after getting sued.

It would be hard to find human beings in the entire tabletop RPG community who have openly been caught red-handed lying more often and more egregiously than Olivia and the Something Awful goons.

The village is called RPGnet. 


When Last We Left...

The American contingent of the Vampire 5e team, who were at that point supposed to be the kernel of the creative end of the project, were flying back from Stockholm after meetings at Paradox headquarters. On Friday in Stockholm, we'd been negotiating contracts but by the time we left, they still weren't signed. While the actual next edition of the RPG was as-yet unannounced, in the following week, me and Sarah Horrocks' Vampire video game  (We Eat Blood and All Our Friends Are Dead) was released.

Our corner of the Internet went haywire.

Olivia Hill's major professional connection to the RPG industry was working with Onyx Path, the company that had been sublicensing White Wolf material for the last few decades while the property was out of action (mostly pdfs if I understand correctly). As soon as Olivia Hill heard that...

-the new White Wolf was putting material out,

-they didn't ask her, and

-they did ask me

...she threw a fit. 

My understanding is Onyx Path's licensing deal meant Wolf had veto power over Path's projects. I don't know whether Olivia quit Onyx Path when she heard I was on the game or whether she'd been told via Path that White Wolf wasn't going to ok any of her projects (they didn't like her work, remember) so she might as well stop submitting pitches. What I do know is Little Finger quickly went over to the Onyx Path forums and claimed I had sent death-threats to her kids. Specifically she said I e-mailed a photo of her kid's school to her.

She didn't provide even a redacted, blurred or anonymized image of said email.

She didn't say why she thought it was me.

She didn't say how I'd have any idea where her kids went to school.

She didn't say how this was supposed to help me (after all, if anything happened it's not like her friends in the RPG community would harass me less at that point).

And, most importantly for this story: nobody asked. I could never figure that out. Someone in elfgames is accusing a colleague of a fucking felony. Why are people trusting Little Finger?

But this is the internet: if you lie brazenly for 20 years, you're left with a fanbase of people defined by the fact they never doubt anything, no matter how extreme. In August 2020, Olivia once claimed I used quotes from my "victims" as cover copy on the back of my books. I don't have that many books out, this would've been so easy to check yet none of her fans do, nobody went "Uh, hey...um...". Yeah. The Internet.

It spread from the Onyx Path forums to RPGnet. Within 48 hours I'd received the first of many physical threats...

Hell of a thing to say about a Jew.

...also the first instance of comparing and conflating Jewish people with Nazis, which will weirdly become a motif in later chapters of this White Wolf story.

Meanwhile...

The other Something Awful goons were backing up Hill and busy trotting out their anti-old school gamer conspiracy theories, the new one was from a straight, cis-, white Something Awful goon named Jay Allen aka @a_man_in_black (aka I think "Winson Paine" on Something Awful) and he said the mobile game was transphobic. The game that I got Sarah Horrocks a job co-writing and co-drawing, that had a friend character based on Bailey Jay with her blessing, that had a second friend who was trans based on Morgana Ignis, and a game whose final draft I sent in to White Wolf from Scrap Princess' living room...


...that game. Sarah's and my game. Was transphobic. There are GDC panels on lgbt representation with less trans input than this fucking game.  Here's definitely-also-trans Natalie Reed on it, talking in my DMs....


It was the stupidest and most transparent goon lie in the history of goons lying.

And it was spread by people who had repeatedly openly admitted to being dishonest. On the internet. Publicly. Over and over. For a decade

You couldn't even justify these claims via Olivia Hill since this was long before her transition or any public discussion of it. Later on Olivia Hill would get thrown off RPGnet (for doxxing, which is a bit like Al Capone getting arrested for tax evasion--by Tony Soprano) and over the years most of the more prominent people who spread these conspiracy theories have admitted they knew they weren't true. And of course Ettin got successfully sued for shit like this.

But none of the mattered at the time.



So Anyway...

When a piece of intellectual property is in limbo for 20 years, anyone wanting to revive it would do well to be very sensitive to the temperature of whatever remaining fanbase that IP has.

Because of the timing of the White Wolf explosion in the '90s, many of the folks who worked with the World of Darkness would go on to form the gatekeeping backbone of the online RPG scene as it coalesced a decade later when everyone was getting on the internet. RPGnet has strong White Wolf ties, Steve Wieck of DrivethruRPG had been a White Wolf guy, Nicole Lindroos of Green Ronin used to work on WoD, Allen Varney of the indie-RPG charity bundle/moneycow Bundle of Holding was a White Wolf guy, etc. Even James Maliszewski of Grognardia used to work for the Wolf. White Wolf cared what the relatively small online diaspora thought because they were the only people whom the company was sure still cared about the tabletop version of Vampire--this base had to form the launchpad for their next move into the tabletop or video game space.

At the beginning of the weekend after Olivia Hill launched her smear campaign WW publicly issued a statement reminding the public they'd done an investigation of me long before (which was very easy, because all theses accusations were about online stuff) and knew they were bullshit and at the end of the weekend White Wolf privately let me know there was just too much online harassment and I was being taken off the Vampire 5e team. I hadn't yet drawn a line or typed a word.

Little Finger and the hatemob had completely derailed Head Creative Swede's plans for Vampire 5e and didn't even know it.

Interesting ironies here: just when Olivia Hill was at her most alienated from the online game scene and complaining hardest about how WW had implied in their statement that Olivia and co were lying (because they were) Olivia had, totally unknowingly, actually scored the greatest victory of her career.  A further irony is that since she'd always been better at getting people to dogpile on to her acts of destruction than support her acts of creation...

...this secret career apex was a negative one.

The Wolf were worried that the online conversation on launch would be too much about Zak and not enough about the game and that would kneecap it. While you can see the logic, it didn't work.

Sarah Horrocks, for her part, decided to never work in games again, I said Fuck it I'll make my own game! With blackjack! And tarot cards! and started Demon City...

...and White Wolf went about discovering their problems were far from over.


Take Two

Now many fine tabletop role-playing games have been written without the participation of me personally, that's not the point. What's important here is WW had planned to have a certain core creative team for at least five months and were now a year from publication (D&D 5e--with which they'd hoped to compete--had a multi-year development cycle) and the car was now missing a wheel. And it was a wheel that not only wrote and designed but also drew pictures, and with a World of Darkness game pictures are kind of a big deal

The project needed some new juice--they eventually hired Mark Rein-Hagen, the original creator of Vampire: The Masquerade, the World of Darkness, and the Storyteller system. Not a bad idea, really, but clearly the whole "new team new new new everything new" thing was out the window. White Wolf would have to get Mark up to speed, then re-appraise and re-tool.

But, hey: Ken Hite! Mark Rein-Hagen! Video game money! Everything was going to be fine, right? Stick around for Chapter Four: The Thanksgiving Uncles...

27 comments:

Em Vrsek said...

jesus, this rabbithole just keeps getting deeper and more and more bizarre. like... holy shit, wow. this whole thing sounds so nightmarish

Zak Sabbath said...

@Em Vrsek

The worst part was this:

I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to stop painting and work on Vampire full-time for a year, so losing the job wasn't murder by any means.

The WORST part, of all of this, is that when I talked to gamers I knew about it, they didn't see any of this as urgent.

Patrick Stuart was like "Well when you wrote that article about Hill it made her look crazy but the fact you bothered to google them and check what they said over the years made you look crazy too" and it's like: who -cares- how I look? This is a criminal harasser willing to do anything out to get your writing partner and they're not at all being recognized as a threat, it's not being taken seriously, they're still getting work and retweets and have a whole forum behind them. What part of this isn't seeming like a 4-alarm fire.

The community showed it could get together and do things and yet when the abuse is clear as day on paper they didn't do shit. And got angry at me for pointing it out.

TabelleCasuali said...

I still find it absurd that the "army of the internet", which I believe - perhaps wrongly - is only a fraction of the players, can influence the industry so much.

Zak Sabbath said...

@TabelleCasuali

You are right it is a small group of people--

remember in Chapter one the number of people who joined in the harassment campaign was maybe 600 people, and the folks who signed the petition in favor of the game were over 2000 and -sales were fine-

The problem is: Haters organize. Fans don't.

TabelleCasuali said...

Ok. So in your opinion, if a certain number of people had responded to the accusations immediately, the industry would have made a different decision and not kicked you out? Which, if I'm not mistaken, is what you have been clamoring for for a very long time.

Zak Sabbath said...

@TabelleCasuali

A lot of specific gates that were closed would not have been.

That's not an opinion: that's a fact. People cited unopposed online attacks as their reason for doing bad things.

Gatekeepers make decisions because -the public is not enforcing consequences on them for doing otherwise- .

If the path of least resistance is hurting an innocent person, they hurt them. People online are that resistance.

TabelleCasuali said...

Ok. If the internet can get you fired, it should actually have the opposite effect.
However, I admit it is not really my world since my presence on the internet is very limited. I follow a few blogs and attend only one forum (Italian moreover) and I'm not used to reading direct attacks. It happened to me only a couple of times (Raggi accused of Nazism and you of being a bad person) and in both cases I had my say: in the first everything was resolved well, in the second a little less. I admit, however, that I have not particularly insisted. Why? Bho, maybe laziness and / or lack of desire to argue. You're right: not only do the fans not organize themselves, they don't even really want to stay behind the bullshit of those who hate (although this obviously has terrible consequences for the victims, as even these last articles of yours demonstrate).

Zak Sabbath said...

@TabelleCasuali

That is what all fans say:
"my presence on the internet is very limited"

Either you change that or things you like from the internet goes away.

It's very simple.

Zak Sabbath said...

@anon

sorry, no anonymos comments allowed

Simon Tsevelev said...

I think there's a glitch or something, the link from the word "doxxed" leads to the whole April of 2016 collection of your posts, and though I was pleased to re-read about Lovecraft (I have a Lovecraftian disgust of all things game-of-throney) and about Casablanca (I disagree with a lot of things that you wrote there and I love Casablanca and I can talk about it for hours), but I think you meant to link to some proof of SA members being bad people.
Back to reading.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Simon

Ah, thank you for catching that.

I wanted to linkt o a specific post that April, not april in general

Simon Tsevelev said...

There seem to be some more problems with the links.
"who were at that point supposed to be the kernel of the creative end of the project" - broken link, ends up in my own blogger account)
"(they didn't like her work, remember)" - broken link
"have" " admitted they knew they weren't true" - two identical links, maybe were supposed to be like that?

It's kind of technical stuff I just wanted to point out to you, so you can leave this comment hidden if you like.

Zak Sabbath said...

@simon

Nah appreciated. I think they should work now

Simon Tsevelev said...

re:Hill:
I did a little digging some time ago. I was impressed by the explanation Hill gave on "why I know it was Zak": "Zak asked people not to attack my kids. This means Zak wants people to attack me personally".

Or, to quote it,
"And, once it came out how his fans were threatening my kids, he put up a sarcastic, joking post to his fans telling them to stop threatening my children. I'll note, he told them to stop threatening my children. Which as far as I'm concerned is a direct admission that he endorses the attacks against me. Just not my kids".
Proof:
http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/general/off-topic/1050412-white-wolf-hires-zak-smith-im-out/page4#post1051226

Zak Sabbath said...

@simon

Nothing remotely sarcastic or joking:
https://armsinthewronghands.tumblr.com/post/650593097267429377/olivia-hill-frequently-claims-i-threatened-her

WHY DO PEOPLE TRUST LITTLE FINGER???

Matrox Lusch said...

The Vampire 5e timeline looks also to be during 2016-17 extensive OSR migration to Google+. I know by around those years I ceased participating in older, established gaming forums or Reddit/Facebook groups.
A bad omen for what lay ahead when Google+ shut down and Discord OSR (which seemed to scoop up Google+ users) was uniformly moderated by anti-Zaxxers. But I digress.

Zak Sabbath said...

@floppa

Erased. Misinformation is not allowed on this site. Criticizing bad actors is not harassment and is, in fact, necessary and good.

If you believed you received this message in error, email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm and give proof.

Kyle T said...

I remember having a very long debate with another person about what Simon mentioned above re: "Because the text focused on my kids and not me he is clearly omitting me and wants you to attack me."

First, I don't think there's any way any such post would have been construed as a good-faith rejection of defense on your part when the interpretation was coming from a bad actor.

Second, why do people assume public figures on the internet have any real measure of control over their followers?

Zak Sabbath said...

@kyle T

She was lying. The post explicitly decried all threats:

https://armsinthewronghands.tumblr.com/post/650593097267429377/olivia-hill-frequently-claims-i-threatened-her

Zak Sabbath said...

@kyle T

Also the idea that "never call out bad actors because the bad actor might be harassed" would lead to situations literally nobody (including Olivia Hill) wants:

Olivia calls people out all the time.

That would make all journalism basically impossible.

Plus all communication about anything important.

----

Some people try to escape that by going "don't call anyone out if your fanbase is known to harass people". Again: that would lead to the same outcomes as everyone with any platform gets harassed all the time. It would again make journalism or conversation about anything important impossible.

-----

Some people try to escape that by saying "don't call out bad actors with smaller followings" but:

-Again that's nto a rule they follw, and

-They don't call out larger accounts for breaking it if they agree with them, and

-That creates a situation where no-one can use their large platform to help people.

---

It's all a dodge though: Olivia says these things to distract from what started the conversation--she is a liar, it's been proved repeatedly and conclusively and she just doesn't want to be called out on it

Simon Tsevelev said...

@Kyle T

Not to mention it is absurd and cannot possibly be taken seriously by a reasonable person. "He didn't ask people to stop doing this" just does not equal "he wants people to do this". I fail to understand how there is anything to debate about the issue. Even if you don't know that Hill is a liar and makes lots of irrational statements. Even if you don't know that Zak is a normal person and wouldn't threaten someone.
It just doesn't make any sense.

Zak Sabbath said...

@simon

and I DID say if anyone was doing it they should stop.

Like: it's recorded in the screenshot

https://armsinthewronghands.tumblr.com/post/650593097267429377/olivia-hill-frequently-claims-i-threatened-her

mike M said...

Hey there zak,

some assholes are talking shit about you on facebook - would you like their information emailed to you? Seems useful. Spreading the same lies as always.

Zak Sabbath said...

@mike M

Screencap the lying, fact-check it if you can, with links and screenshots of anything they got wrong.

If they don't apologize and change their mistake, screencap again, then email me everything you know to: zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm.

mike M said...

they blocked me. Oh well. just the usual, someone was selling ARandPL on Facebook Marketplace and people were doing the "don't buy this book the guy is a nazi" bullshit spiel. called me a f*g and blocked me when i told them to knock it off and stop lying

Zak Sabbath said...

@mike

that's why you always screencap first

but thanks for trying mike

Simon Tsevelev said...

Also Robert Bohl et al basically doxxed Mandy, publishing the court documents that mention her real name (though they also linked to her gofundme with the same name - don't know if she wants people to know it? From what I heard, it's dangerous for a sex worker).