Monday, November 14, 2022

This Is A Cursed Text

Years ago, they hired me to write the 5th edition of Vampire.

Then a bunch of people harassed the company and I got thrown off the game.

Due to these same peoples' continuing harassment, Vampire 5e died.

I took all the ideas I had when working on Vampire and said fuck it I'm making my own game. I hired a diverse crew of the cream of the OSR crop to help write it. People of different backgrounds from different countries straight queer cis trans but all people I knew had ideas that I'd liked over the years.

We wrote and drew our hearts out.

But it turned out that the woman I love--a victim of mentall illness--progressed to the point where she lost contact with reality, my actual life became a horror game, and my wife, the people who harassed me off Vampire, and most of the cream of the OSR crop I'd hired to make that new game got together and destroyed my life.

Throughout this, me and all the people on the game who actually had been around for the last ten years and seen what had gone down kept working on the game. We had to. 

I had said we were going to produce the greatest horror game in the history of RPGs.

The contributors who remained went through a lot during this time:

One got shot in the eye by the police. One tried to help form a health care worker's union and it didn't work but they wrote about it for the New York Times. One got nominated for a National Book Award. Others got divorced, engaged, got covid, lost pets, medically transitioned, dealt with addiction and dozens of other things people deal with. 

And throughout this the comments section for the Kickstarter was a nightmare: the harassment campaign had spread there, of course, the harassers got really mad when told that if they thought I'd done anything wrong they should say that under oath and help the "victims" they were alleging were out there somewhere, and they complained and complained that the game was late. The graphic designer just did what he was supposed to: he took the time he needed to make the game as good as he could.

They aren't complaining any more.

The Demon City backer PDF was released and now it's just:

"Beautiful book, can't wait for the physical copy."

"This game is incredible. Lots of good ideas and a game design masterclass. Wow! If anyone wants to sell a print pledge, I would like to buy it"

"Slayed it guys. Absolutely slayed it. This books is as much art as it is a game. FKING amazing."

"It's magnificent."

"Here is one for the haters: I backed and bought a lot of RPG stuff over the last couple of years. Today a lot of products are just given you some fancy looking bare bones or rushed and untested game material. Demon City took ages to complete but with over 400 pages a lot more stuff then hoped for. For me it was totally worth the time."

"This book looks absolutely... fabulous. That's what it is. Fabulous. Congrats, Demon City team!"

"Wow, this book looks incredible. It's been a long wait, but I've never seen a better-looking TTRPG book, period. Can't wait to get my hands on a physical copy and keep it out as a coffee table book. Just starting to dig in and I love the idea to use examples of play to demonstrate what each section of the rules is going to talk about. The quick guide for character creation will also be super useful to reference."

"You all utterly, utterly nailed it :-D I've been poring over it for a day or so now and there's so much good stuff. I like how initiative is done, it feels really novel. Killer art and design too."

"This looks amazing. Just taking in the artwork and the page design, it's incredible. Well worth the wait. Looking forward to diving in and getting a game going. Thank you all for what was unquestionably an enormous amount of work."

"omg its F****ing glorious"

I hated a lot about this process. 

What I maybe hate most of all is that this game is really, really, good and I hate that we had no choice but to make it really really good.

Fuck this.

Fuck this cursed book.

Fuck this community.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Dear Fiona Geist,

This is the fourth time I've tried to contact you about getting paid for your work on Demon City.

Our original deal was the standard one I did with contributors: you help write a section or edit some stuff and in exchange you get whatever you want, within reason--I could write, edit or draw something for you or just throw you some cash.

Before telling me what you wanted in return for the work you did, around Februrary 2019, you stopped answering messages or emails and wrote a public blog entry saying what you wanted as compensation was for me to publicly lie about a felony.

Since that's not just morally wrong and illegal but would also make it harder to bring my abusers to justice in order to prevent them from hurting more people, I can't pay you that way. 

I've tried contacting you privately, but no answer (last attempt was 3/3/2021). I think people should get paid for their work so I am making one last effort by posting this in public--since I know you read this blog.

So, email me at zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm.


Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Jeff to Patrick OSR Continuum

  • OSR stands for "Old School Renaissance"--a resurgence in interest in pre-90s RPGs that began around the time blogging became a thing online and influences products to this day by people who want to do something new and creative with RPGs but don't think D&D makes people into Nazis or want to hang out with people who do. A small community, perhaps, but one still capable of running a Kickstarter
  • While some products or creators or commenters that might be considered "OSR" existed before this, the most important person in the early OSR was Jeff Rients of the venerable Jeff's Gameblog. It goes all the way back to 2004. If you read it, you can see OSR ideas clarify themselves one by one in real time.
  • I--much influenced by Jeff--showed up gameblogging years later, in 2009.
  • Patrick Stuart--of the False Machine blog and Veins of the Earth etc.--showed up after me, saying explicitly that he was--in turn--much influenced by me, especially by Vornheim.
  • Since they were both really influential OSR creators with lots of ideas (and ones I liked and got along with), it always seemed odd to me that the two of them didn't talk much.

I have two points to make here:

1. I think of all OSR game products as existing on a continuum from Jeff-ish to Patrick-y.

2. By what is honestly coincidence, it could be fairly claimed that Jeff Rients created the OSR community and Patrick Stuart destroyed it.

The Continuum

The Jeff Rients' End

Jeff is an incredibly experienced DM (example) whose style reflects having run games for strangers and friends at home, in game stores, and at conventions for longer than many of us have been alive.

His blog, GM style, and game products reflect that experience: how to make sure people have fun.

On the other hand, his game products are few in number and relatively modest. His major thing out is Broodmother Sky Fortress, which is half awesome-adventure-with-tips-for-first-time-GMs and half best-of-Jeff's-Gameblog. The adventure's great but it's pretty short and compact.

Though both I and other people have spent lots of time asking Jeff to put out more product he hasn't--and he once told me his very Jeff reason for this: most of the dungeons he runs are composed a lot of old dungeons mashed together. It's the way he runs them that makes them work.

Jeff has lots of really good ideas for weird things to put in a game, but that's not the center of his aesthetic. The center is: make sure it's playable and fun.

I think a good example of the Jeff Rients aesthetic is the random hireling table in Broodmother Skyfortress: it's a d6 table.

Obviously, if this was a Zak table it would have 100 entries and if it only had 20 then I'd make some excuse like I was trying to fit it on the page with 9 other tables. And every entry would tell you like 4 things minimum about the hireling.

...but I also know what Jeff would say when you ask why it only has 6 entries (including pack-apes, which is cool): Jeff has run dungeons over and over and over and over and over and has found that 6 is enough--after that you get diminishing returns.

So that's Jeff's thing: doing a lot with a little to make sure you have fun.

The Patrick Stuart End

Patrick was not only capable of writing magnificent sentences, he really liked to show you that he was. When I created Maze of the Blue Medusa and wanted to save some time by not writing it all myself, I asked him to collaborate. He's good and has lots of esoteric ideas and the things he writes are brimming with exciting concepts.

On the other hand: 

He never rolls.

Last I knew: he lived alone in the middle of nowhere, UK, he's painfully isolated, his best friend is someone he's never met in real life, he's never had--as an adult--a regular RPG group he met with and doesn't even run his own stuff.

He once told me his favorite-ever session of D&D was one he played online. That's fucked up--and it shows in his work.

Patrick Stuart has not a clue how to make a functional game without help from a collaborator.

So that's Patrick's thing: Doing a whole lot with a lot but without a lot of clear ideas about how to make it fun.

Creating on the Continuum

Unsurprisingly, considering the timeline, I've generally tried to make things that are in the middle, or which have the strengths of both:

Esoteric and well-written enough to be interesting and new, but concise and considered enough to be playable. Whether I've succeeded isn't really the point--that's not up to me--it's just often a real thought I have in my head: "This needs more out-the-box playability--this needs a little more inspiring verbiage". 

That idea's in my head.

And It's Weird Because...

...the OSR kinda did begin and then end with these two guys.

Jeff showed up, wrote about playable things, handled shit right, and--to the degree he took responsibility for people or talked about other peoples' business--had a moral compass.

Patrick started out that way, but was fucking terrible at it because he had no real-life experience with real people. Around 2017 or 18 he started lashing out at basic 101-level rules of healthy human interaction like "Talk to people before assuming crazy shit about them" and "Don't lie".

Unfortunately a lot of creators followed his lead--the people he influenced took Patricks repudiation of things like facts and evidence as a cue that standards for how to treat each other were now lower--and they ran with it.

And now the OSR is not really a thing--creators and moneymaking entities are still here but the community is gone, because in a world run by Patrick rules, nobody is ever accountable for their actions and interacting with other creators is fucking dangerous.

The OSR reddit would, for example, rather just take down a critical post than figure out how to constructively criticize a game...

...considering one of the only things the OSR was ever good for was constructively criticizing games, this is pretty fucked up.

I hate it all and I want to die very badly.





Thursday, October 6, 2022

A Clue Sandbox

I put together a horror adventure for the Demon City backers and I'm making it available to y'all if you want it.

It's a "clue sandbox", meaning that there's some trouble and clues and people to ask about the trouble in every direction. There are dozens of NPCs fleshed out, along with their daily movements around the city and their (every-shifting) connection to The Horror. The idea being: the PCs can start anywhere and find their way (by hundreds of possible routes) into solving the murder--or becoming the next victim.

It's for Demon City, of course, but it's not a mechanics-heavy adventure so would be pretty easy to run in any horror system.

So far I haven't had any complaints from the backers, so...if you want one, email me: zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm. 20 Bucks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Less Boring Gods Make Better Clerics

 There are the first 5 random gods I made using the new God Generator, now available in the Store.


Worshipped under various names in the Eastern half of the Cube, the Sister of Infinite Punishments is assigned the task of disciplining liars and oathbreakers. She is a patron to assassins, executioners, torturers and all who employ them in the name of justice.

The sacred frieze of ice sculptures  known as the Cold Jataka tells the tale of how she executed the Emperor who plucked out her left eye by infiltrating his palace with the aid of a magic cloak and hammering an icicle into his brain as he slept. In temples devoted to her in warmer climes, porcelain figures of the goddess with one artificial eye of pale sapphire and nipples of lapis lazulil hold wooden hammers, icicles carved of diamond or crysta, and cloaks of patterned silk.

She is said to devour any who do not worship her and her fearsome  devotees sacrifice night birds in her name. However, they must always be kind to children, as only an adult may break an oath.

Clerics doing her work in the world may choose Unseen Servant, Sleep. Cause Light Wounds, or a limited Detect Lie (only works on the last 10 minutes)  as a bonus spell at first level.


It is said that The Preposterous Grandparent sits on a black egg atop the highest peak in every mountain range in the Imperial Lands (no-one has ever climbed two disparate mountains simultaneously to check) and that anyone who can make the Grandparent laugh hard enough to fall off the egg will be granted the ability to raise one friend from the dead.

The Grandparent despises ogres, oni, and ogre-mages as they have no sense of humor and often insult the wood-spirits with whom he prefers to spend his time. The Grandparent battles these monsters with a pick-axe and will occasionally use his ability to possess worshippers to warn villagers if such a creature is nearby. In return, the Grandparent demands that these followers amuse him in various way ( they can only eat food if it is baked into pies and must spend at least one day a week intoxicated by mushrooms) as well as  sacrifices of mined gems. He has no time for anyone who does not appreciate him and his clerics cannot aid such infidels with their magic.

His followers may gain Charm Person, Command or Cure Light Wounds as bonus spell at first level.

Nyaa of the Two Temperaments

Sea Elves and Elves of the Drownesian Isles who wish to sail must seek the favor of Nyaa of the Two Temperaments, though she is deaf to all entreaty and will always do as she pleases. She is both toothsome and terrible, half-woman-half-scorpion, wreathed in a net that cannot hold her, with a toothed maw like a scar across her belly into which she feeds sailors who have drowned as she crawls the sea-floor, after stinging any who survive to death with her poison tail. All fish do her bidding and a cloud of scavenging flies follows her at all times. She carries a stoppered vial containing the tears of fisherman’s widows.

Clerics devoted to can gain Purify Food and Drink as a bonus spell or else gain the ability to become amphibious but in return they must never mention the sea without bowing in its direction, must always touch anything blue in sight (save the sky, a false god), must always cover their mouths with fabric marinated in salt water and, as befits a sailors’ god, can only travel, fight or work in heterogeneous groups (no two members may have both the same species and gender).

Strike Overlord

Typically depicted by the Elves of Broceliande as a displacing panther with a cestus in one forelimb, a decanter of wine in the other, and riding a living cloud (called Arhad-Riin) , this urbane god receives the prayers of those who would spite all quiet order and live instead by wit and steel. In the stories of the epic Threll Din Dydnyadd (usually translated in Broceliandaise as “Morally Complex But Largely Entertaining Exploits of a Feline Personage Who Insists On Being Called Strike Overlord”) this patron of both duellists and liars baffles the Goblin King, tricks the elder gods, drinks the Wine of Ceaseless Tumult, and defeats the first lion, tiger, lynx and leopard in single combat.

His clerics receive a boon of either a permanent +1 to hit with a melee weapon or Charm Person as a bonus spell, and in exchange the Lord of Duels asks that they wear a pattern of shifting stripes, offer kindness to children (who are too easy to fool or kill, and so represent no challenge), avoid music (bards suck), and dip all their food in the blood of a defeated foe before eating it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

A Fun Development

So there was this site called KiwiFarms.

I am not 100% sure how to describe it but it's easy to google everyone's takes. It seems to be mostly anonymous, like 4chan, so people just say bananas shit and troll and say things that basically aren't true.

The main thing, though, for me, is that a lot of people who harassed me were on there--and it recently got hacked and all their data was leaked. 

The second the news came out someone who was repeatedly--in real time online--harassing me, abruptly stopped.

So, basically:

If you know a game designer, or someone on twitter or on Reddit who has been claiming I did something wrong--check to see if they're still on the internet as this whole leak plays out.

If you think I did something wrong and you're reading this:

Ask that person again whether I did anything wrong and--if so--what exactly. There's a good chance they won't feel comfortable telling you any more.

For me, this is a huge break and improves my situation immensely. There was some vile right-wing shit on that site, and--as I hope you know by now--most of the people who signed on to my ex's attack weren't in earnest about it and often adopted fake personas in order to press their case.


Also: I am working on game stuff right now, so keep an eye out.




Monday, August 29, 2022

I'll Call Him Ed Because I Can't Tell You His Name

I can't tell you his name because 3 years experience shows people--people reading this--will harass his family. I'll call him Ed.

Twelve years ago I had business in...a cold city. I didn't know anyone but Ed's boyfriend.

I stayed at their house. We hung out and watched TV, watched the snow fall. Talked about art, the midwest--which I knew nothing about then. Ed had a collection of cookie jars.

They were nice was the point. Intelligent, incredibly generous, willing to think about things you put in front of them and to put things in front of you so you'd think about them. He wasn't the funny one (the boyfriend was the funny one) but you got the feeling he knew it, which was funny.


Ed liked my work--he eventually had a stained-glass window made from one of my paintings. I hadn't seen him in years--maybe ten?--when I found out he had one year left to live.

I visited. He wasn't the kind of guy who wanted pity or to talk about the chemo or biopsies or the remaining viable cells. He had lived a life of being the reliable guy and wanted to keep being that guy. The cancer had accelerated his decision to retire but he'd been a very successful lawyer.

So as soon as he's shown me around the apartment--and the new cookie jars. He says "I hear you're dealing with something of a legal situation. I can take a look for you if you like?"

He wanted to do something besides sit around the house and talk to his kids on the phone and wait to die. He said it--plus you could just tell. He read every document, he asked every question, he listened to tapes of hearings, he threw himself into my case(s) whenever his health permitted.

There are things that a lawyer that you're paying might not tell you--because it might involve them getting paid less. Also, just, he'd worked on some of the biggest defamation cases in the country. So, for two years, whenever I was dealing with any big legal decision I'd send it to him and get a second (often third or fifth) opinion. "A judge won't care about that" or "If they said that in that state it's open-and-shut."

He kept not dying. He also kept not wanting to talk about the cancer (I tried because I felt bad he was spending the effort on me) and talk about my case instead.


He called some months back and asked how all the legal stuff was progressing. It was a little bit of a surprise because up until then he'd waited for me to call him (legal stuff involves a lot of waiting for the court to decide to set a deadline to do a thing). I told him. We're waiting, as usual.

A few weeks later Ed's boyfriend (now ex-) got in touch to tell me Ed had died. Ed had gotten sick of the chemo and decided to just end it--after tying up his loose ends.

Looking at the dates, I realized that call was one of those loose ends.

He'd decided to die and one of the last things to do on this planet was get in touch, check in with me, and help however he could--and not tell me he was about to die. He didn't want pity about cancer, he wanted to do what he could to make sure I was ok, that I wasn't being taken advantage of, that my lawyers were taking the tack that made the most sense, that I was suing the right people, that he called all his people to find out what he could about any judge any of them knew anything about.


I don't know why I'm telling you this but the reason I'm still here, the reason I'm still alive is because of about two dozen people like Ed in my life. There was only one Ed but there are a lot of Eds: People who have been going through all the shit that life, Covid and the world throw at people and still had time to stop and go "Holy fuck, Zak, this is fucked up" and buy me lunch or give me the number of a guy they know or just show up and type a thing on the internet and let the other Eds know they're not alone.

I will never be able to repay them because either I die or I will live and owe them my life. I'm not a doctor, I'm not an EMT, I'm not a shrink, I don't have any life-saving skills. I can't do what they've done for me.

I also will probably never be able to publicly say their names and, probably, vice versa. Even if I survive, the people who did this will never stop trying to find ways to harm them. But I wanted to say that I appreciate you, not just to Michelle, Kimberly, Charlotte, Sara, and all the people who can speak out publicly, but to all the Ed's out there who can't. My house owes your house a debt it can never repay but I'll do my best to come as close as I can.




Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Caught Lying Again (Video Evidence Part 4)

So, in the past few days I posted clips(here, here, here) of Mandy being something other than who she's pretending to be while filming I Hit It With My Axe. Mandy and her goon squad immediately began concocting excuses for her behavior in the clips:

...but she actually comes out and says why she's in a bad mood right there in the footage:

Maybe that's a fluke? Nah, she returns to it over and over. She explains her own behavior very clearly in real time. Mandy--the girl who had no filter--says straight up she's "pissed off" we're not having sex enough because she's too sick, completely contradicting the narrative she gave later. And she complains we're not shooting enough porn:

...and says it again:

Mandy Morbid clearly had no problem telling anyone what was on her mind. She did it day and night. We believed her, we did what we could to keep her happy.

You think maybe she was the world's greatest actress and was saying this all because she knew the cameras were rolling? Then why was she writing the same thing to herself:

I think it probably goes without saying that you can't accuse someone of abuse for doing what you told them to do or for describing you how you describe yourself. But Mandy may no longer be rational enough to understand that.

If this keeps going, this is what we're looking at: Mandy yelling at a judge that me and all her friends--if we were good people--should've ignored what she was telling us about what she wanted, about what she wanted from us. and about the state of her mental health and we should've instead treated her like the person she would pretend to be a decade later.

Even if we could've known she'd turn into this new person, the clips show that doing anything other than what Mandy said she wanted in the moment would've been scary.

So, complete catch-22.

More footage soon,

Friday, August 12, 2022

Yikes (Video evidence part 3)

 So, as shown before (1, 2), Mandy lashing out at people for no real reason was common.

Again a few short clips showing more of it:

Now, again, like many times before, we were able to talk to Mandy about all this and she was in therapy regularly enough to realize this was wrong.

She apologized for the above behavior in an email she sent to her friends and she described this behavior in terms of the disorder she always said she'd been diagnosed with (proof here): Borderline Personality Disorder.

Mandy now claims it was "gaslighting" to agree with her: she claims it was "gaslighting" her to describe her as having BPD and everyone was "gaslighting" her to say she was acting crazy.


This was all footage from our games, but there's a lot more from other sources and in many ways it's a lot more serious. Next time I'll post more video and we'll get into that.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

More Video Evidence (pt 2)

As promised yesterday, here is more video evidence.

If you watched I Hit It With My Axe, some of you may remember a plot twist:

The group's first quest was to hunt down Eshrigel the medusa's daughter. They found someone in a mask (a guest star) on their way and then, int he middle of a desperate fight, she took off the mask and revealed herself to be the medusa's daughter by partially turning the bad guys to stone.

Here's how my ex- dealt with that. The clips are short but it helps to watch all three because it escalates very quickly:

Obviously I don't post this to show Mandy not appreciating the plot twist (or me) but it's an example of how completely out of proportion she took things--one surprise and she decides, in the middle of a shooting day, to quit the show.

As you may know-the show did go on--Mandy changed her mind because, as demonstrated yesterday and in this post before, she used to have self-awareness about her mental health issues and how they could hurt other people.

Afterwards, when we talked about it, she admitted the real reason she freaked out was that she felt like the guest was getting more attention than her. Literally.

We were scared of Mandy, as Frankie and KK point out in this during-game-interview from the same time period when Frankie's asked about a moment in a game where her character temporarily got ensorcelled and had to attack the nearest person:

"...I tried to remain neutral so as not to conflict any real life relationships."

Anyway, more video tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Real Mandy Morbid (Video)

During this whole legal thing I knew sooner or later that, if Mandy didn't get therapy and instead dragged this out, sooner or later I'd have to go through all the footage we'd all shot over the years.

I resisted doing it basically because, well, we were together for over a decade and there's a lot of it and watching all the footage is painful and when it isn't painful its really boring. But it also shows that Mandy wasn't in any way the person she's pretending to be, so, here we go.

These 4 clips are short.

Here's Mandy and I shooting a session recap for I Hit It With My Axe.

In case you think this is just her lashing out at me, here's how Mandy treated the other girls while playing D&D:

This kind of thing from Mandy was common and most of the women in the Axe group testified to that fact.  Here's one going into extensive detail with me if you haven't seen it.

Why did we all put up with this?

Well back then Mandy was self-aware about her mental illness and how it affected people, and she was once capable of seeing how she's acting and apologizing:

...she isn't any more.

After a decade as a model and stripper and porn actress and whatever, she left all the people in those worlds behind--mostly because they knew she was lying about me.

Apparently her only friends now are gamers or people she's cultivated mostly online relationships with. Last I knew, she was even dating one of the dudes who used to harass us, a former gamer guy who worked at Onyx Path.

She's now completely insulated from reality--as are the folks whose main source of information on this stuff is Mandy herself. She lies a lot and there's a lot of conclusive proof of that. She even admitted to perjury in court.

There's a lot more where this comes from and a lot of it directly contradicts claims she's made under oath. I'll post more video tomorrow.

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Proof.

Here in year three of legal purgatory, new evidence keeps coming in and turning up and it proves what I've been saying is true. I'll be posting more whenever I have time.

This first one is pretty simple.

Mandy has repeatedly claimed she has never been given a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Those exact words.

A pretty simple claim and not too hard to check:

Here's a letter from one of the many mental health professionals Mandy has seen over the years, you can click to enlarge it or just read the excerpt below:

The doctor says Mandy was diagnosed and was treated for Borderline Personality Disorder (aka BPD) for "more than a year".  

And how did Mandy describe her own mental health and diagnosis back in the day, before she decided to make up all these accusations? Here's every page of a handwritten journal entry from her sketchbook:

In case you missed it:

And what did the people who knew her best think? Here's Mandy's closest confidant, her sister, in text messages with me from April 19, 2019--happily texting me two months after Mandy made her accusations online--click to enlarge:

Was she misdiagnosed? Maybe, I'm not a doctor, I didn't even know what BPD was until she told me she had it--when we met. The point is:
  • Mandy had severe mental health problems since long before she met me.
  • Her close friends and family all knew this.
  • Mandy doesn't tell the truth. Even under oath.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

DriveThruRPG basically has banned every RPG book

 Here are the guidelines for DTRPG, the most important online RPG book store:

Neither your Work, description, nor any promotional material, including blog posts or press releases, may contain racist, homophobic, discriminatory, or other repugnant views; overt political agendas or views; depictions or descriptions of criminal violence against children; rape or other acts of criminal perversion; or other obscene material without the express written permission of OneBookShelf.

Racist and homophobic views are bad, there are lots of arguments against obscene content in various private commercial contexts, but what's super wildcat here is this:

...overt political agendas or views...

According to their own guidelines, DriveThruRPG says you cannot have your work on the site if you have blog posts with your overt political views on them.

Now since all public social media communications by RPG creators is (as many have admitted) de facto promotion of their work and Facebook, Twitter et al are blogging/microblogging platforms and basically every single RPG creator has expressed at least one overt political opinion on one of said platforms and, so far as I know, none of them have asked for the "express written permission" of DTRPG, that means pretty much every single RPG book on their is banned.

Please begin reporting creators to DTRPG.




Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Joker, World's Greatest Art Critic

I listen to a lot of comics podcasts--here's a paradox you're always hearing on there, from the savvy comics-reading grown-ups.

Them: "So tired of the same shit on a different day. Why isn't anything new? We want something new! So excited when someone's trying something new!"

Also them: "So I picked up so-and-so's new (Spider-Man/Superman/X-Men/None of those) and, come onnn, who wants to read this? I mean, on page one (something that seems maybe weird but benign to me happens). Lol. They don't have a handle on the character at all!"


Do people really want the same thing over and over? Or do they want something different?

Whenever something is popular we always see one of these two completely opposite explanations: people like it because its the same old shit and people are idiots, or people like it because its showing them something they never saw before and they want something new.


While the question goes far beyond comics, I found the most cogent answer in an issue of Batman.

Writer James Tynion IV has given The Joker (who is still, 70 years on, fighting Batman) a daringly oblique scheme to fuck with the Caped Crusader's head:

He will make the citizens of Gotham City all watch The Mark of Zorro, the movie the Wayne family was on its way out of when Bruce Wayne's parents were killed.

Afterwards he makes them into nano-zombies or something I can't remember but Jorge Jimenez drew it so it's all lovely and I don't care that I can't remember but at one point halfway through some hapless NPC says something about the movie and the Joker answers:

And that's it right there.

He's totally right--that's what all this is about isn't it?

You read something, see something, play something as a child and it's compelling. And it keeps being compelling, even when you grow older and think you can see right through it and don't want it to be compelling.

And when you go back to it you want to strip back a layer and learn why it was compelling--and you want to be able to experience it all over again without it feeling repetitive because that peeling back and learning makes it new. It ceases to be nostalgic at that point.

This is what all the D&D bloggers and RPG bloggers and alternate-take RPGs were always doing: trying to do it all over again, but this time with a layer peeled back, to keep the grown-ups interested.

Consider each variation on the theme of Gary and Dave's game you see in the indie RPG sphere as that: as trying to do it again with a layer stripped away, with something previously immanent now made explicit, with some part of the subtext made text.

These games are compelling: you shouldn't be playing them, it's hard to get people together to play, every classic game is dripping with countermodern impulses, WOTC has an unbreakable monopoly on the game stores, the game community itself is shit, the games take far too much time and yet and yet...

People are compelled, all in different ways.

Next time you see someone propose yet another hip new spin on the what-RPGs-could-be wheel, ask yourself what part were they trying to pull back and look beneath?

Friday, April 29, 2022

Your Pick

I'll be finishing up the series about the goons soon.

As for what's next on here, it's up to you, I'm giving you three options--

  • A) More of the research about the Goons.
  • B) The research on the Old School gamers who joined the mob.
  • C) Fuck the mob, I want more Cube World
  • D) Wait I was hoping you would write about  ___(fill in theblank)___, tell me
Whichever gets the most votes wins. If D wins then I will pick from the responses.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Freyja Erlings (Goons on Trial pt 4)

 Part one here - Part two here - Part three here

If you want more in this series don't forget to vote by leaving a comment up there in Part One.


Freyja Erlings (aka Freyja Katra aka Freyja Catra aka Freyja Erlingsdottir aka other names back in the day) is the most aggressive harasser and conspiracy theorist in the online tabletop world period. She spreads antisemitic propaganda, she's racist as fuck, and--unusually for a goon--she's so shitty that major industry figures have actually shouted her out specifically. They remember her name.

There’s probably no better example of the double-standard at play in goon thinking that Freyja gets to be part of their club despite all the harm she's done to the community. 

  • Monte Cook called her a “real sad example of humanity”.
  • Bleeding Cool called her statements about other gamers “slanderous” and “libellous”.
  • Ryan Dancey, former president of D&D, sent a cease-and-desist letter threatening to sue her (which worked—she backed off) for trademark infringement.
  • On top of all that, Freyja singlehandedly started the Mike Mearls conspiracy theory literally only because after years of trolling Mike Mearls blocked her on Twitter:

Freyja needs me, a blogger, being in a position to "order" the creative head of D&D around to explain why someone would block her on Twitter?

Given all she's done, why would anyone, anywhere in any position, with any politics, with anything resembling a functioning value system, much less the head of the game she's constantly trashing not block Freyja on Twitter?

I don’t know, but there are a lot of people (unless they’re Nora Reed’s bots) who not only don’t block her but actually like and retweet her.


All those bullet-pointed things happened long before Freyja transitioned or expressed any desire to do so publicly (so you can't say Monte, Ryan, Bleeding Cool, etc are just being transphobic) and they also happened before Freyja went full-tilt and explicitly racist:

In addition to apparently being the patient-zero antisemite who invented the conspiracy theory that I have a trust fund*, Freyja has been complaining about flaws in D&D up-to-and-including crimes the game has supposedly committed against humanity itself for over a decade. Unlike the majority of the civilized world, she can’t bring herself to just not play it

It's one thing to come across a niche cultural product that you feel, rightly or wrongly, powerfully conflicts with your values, talk about it and move on. It's quite another to do that and then hang around in the niche for ten years afterward.

Freyja, an Icelandic woman as white as you'd expect, is basically the center of another hobby within the niche hobby dedicated to inventing conspiracy theories that D&D is bad for people of color, despite:

...many D&D players of color giving thoughtful interviews and writing eloquent essays about how D&D might interact with race which contradict every word of what Freyja says,

...Freyja having been online during the same time the original creators of D&D posted on forums in the zeroes, and therefore in a position to have engaged the creators in a conversation about this,

...Freyja sharing the online space with massive numbers of D&D players of color who she therefore could have engaged in a serious conversation about this,

...Freyja herself steadily harassing women of color in the hobby for years, very much including Michelle Ford (aka Connie) of D&D With Pornstars,

...Freyja never having had a real-life conversation with any player of color about D&D,

...and Freyja never having even played a real-life game with anyone who wasn’t white, so far as I am aware.

There’s a name for white people who propose elaborate ideas about what is and isn’t good for other people without meaningfully asking said people what they might have to say about it: racists.

This is all, of course, in addition to promoting the big conspiracy theory about me--a conspiracy theory which assumes that when a white woman disagrees with multiple women of color about basic facts then the women of color must be lying. Morever, this is a conspiracy theory which I successfully sued Freyja's RPG writing partner Ettin / Paul Matijevic over.

This didn't stop Freyja. The case proves she's wrong, the case proves there are real consequences to being wrong, and yet she just can't stop herself.


Many years ago Freyja was spewing some racist shit and I pointed out it was racist and, lord knows why, Freyja agreed to have a private conversation with me about the messages she was putting out in the game-o-sphere.

So we're going back and forth for a while (brusquely, but talking) and I asked an obvious and very basic question that literally any white person who might think of themselves as a social justice advocate should have considered long before ever opening their mouths:

What position do you, a white wannabe activist, take when the exact same piece of media is held up as being important, good, progressive and helpful by a large group of marginalized people and the exact same piece of media is simultaneously held up as being pernicious, evil, and retrograde by another large group from the same marginalized identity? For the same reasons?

Needless to say, Freyja dodged the question.

But the way Freyja dodged it was super weird: she wrote in ALL CAPS that I needed to google intersectionality theory and not bother her with such questions. I pointed out googling doesn't give me her answer to the question I asked. She said the same thing again and then she asked what my other questions were.

If this were on Twitter, that performance might not seem so bizarre, but remember: this was a private conversation that she agreed to have. There was nobody watching, there was no gallery of goons to impress with the force of her rage.

Why would someone voluntarily get into a conversation just to say something that the only person who can hear them could not possibly receive as persuasive?

It was like that scene in Kundun where Mao takes the Dalai Lama aside to quickly explain that Buddhism isn't a real thing. And seems sincerely to think: that'll just about do it. 

Even as an atheist, you just walk away going "Chairman are you ok?"

When the psychologist helping with this project looked over this (and everything else we've collected about Freyja so far) they said...

Nowadays, when patients, members of the general public, or even some students call someone else a "narcissist" it's just a fancier way of saying "crazy"--it's a catch-all for claiming that the other person did something they disapprove of. In cases like this I might ask a student: is there any kind of negative thing this "narcissist" would not do? Are there behaviors the label can't explain? When a non-mental-health professional uses the word that answer is usually "No" so it's a fairly unhelpful and dismissive way to use the label. Everyone has some kind of motive, even a narcissist, and empathy requires being able to describe motives and be curious about motives even it you can't agree with them.

In Freyja's case, though, there are signs that might indicate genuine Narcissistic Personality Disorder, even if we ignore the several DSM criteria for NPD that could be implied by statements Freyja might make just to try to sell her work online.

Specifically, narcissists often behave as if they've authentically forgot the person they're talking to has their own needs, point-of-view, or motives that differ from their own. They can be impatient with explaining themselves because they're not fully convinced of the others' need for explanation is based in anything real. In contrast to someone with anxiety, your insistence on interacting rather than just listening to her talking wouldn't necessarily even make her upset, it might not even occur to her that it meant anything. Narcissists are typically not curious about why anyone might differ from them. An important thing to remember is the narcissist is not only imposing their will on others, they often don't seem to remember that others they interact with even have a will. 

Some kinds of mental health problems make it hard for a patient to recognize rules or norms, but a key trait of a narcissist is acknowledging--and possibly even approving of--rules but somehow not realizing the rules apply to them. Criterion 5 in the DSM is "an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment".

NPD would account for many of Freyja's specific quirks including the expectation (if it's sincere) that Mike Mearls would treat her differently than other trolls after all her public bad behavior, Freyja engaging in activist behavior while failing to seek guidance from the communities she's trying to represent, her apparently sincere assumption of automatic compliance, Freyja's continuing to engage in a behavior long after a close business partner was successfully sued for identical behavior, her inability to take questions as read, as well as her other reactions in that private conversation.


*Though I am not sure if she's responsible for the additional antisemitic lie that my dad's a lawyer--which detail is extra weird because both of these tend to be spread by people who also claim my legal briefs were not prepared by, like, lawyers. But then internet conspiracy theorists are not exactly known for logical consistency and the game community isn't exactly known for asking for it.