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.


maasenstodt said...

Fuck. I hate to see such an incredible piece of work be like an anchor around the neck. Sorry, Zak.

Zak Sabbath said...



1. No anonymous comments.

2. No misinformation allowed in the comments.

3. No first-strike personal attacks allowed in the comments.

Simon Tsevelev said...

I think it is a good example of what one of the hatemob's problems is. Whenever they have to face facts, their claims shatter.
And not just when they're harassing Zak. Basically everything I've seen, for example, Olivia Hill do went down the similar way (the genocide support comes to mind first, since it's personal).

Matrox Lusch said...

August 21, 2018 I printed out the backer's draft of Demon City (455 pages with no art, btw). The beforetimes to the Beforetimes.

Benjamin Cusack said...

I have spent about a year compulsively checking in on the Demon City Kickstarter comments - waiting for updates, watching what people said - downloading every single test page or spread I could find and trying to read the low pixel count text.

The amount of unbelievably evil commenters there who repeatedly talked smack was truly horrible - especially since Zak was pretty much the only person making any attempt to curb or curtail the horrible people and their misinformation and lies.

Then once the PDF was done - they all shut up and the people who said nothing, but stay idly by saying nothing have been asking for copies, wondering where their email is, and praising the book.
It's no wonder you think the book is cursed Zak.

After reading every comment multiple times, looking at times and names and long threads in the KS comments, and looking at any and all art you have put out that made it into this book (some from road of knives and obscure blogposts and gallery websites) it truly is a special book, and from what I have read and seen of it, it deserves the praise : but it is truly disheartening that people don't understand that support is what makes things happen, not praise.

When you need help, and want advice, or are overcoming adversity - that's when people should step up and act - not when it is over and done with and they can just say, "good job"

I wish I had been around to back Demon City, I wish I could have been in the comments trying to affect change.
All I can say is that I've been watching and trying to do what I can to help Demon City be less of a burden, and I sincerely hope that after a few weeks, when I am out of school, I can find the time to go out and make things happen, I have places and ideas to go to and make things for.

Good things do not always happen to good people : but good people can make good things happen.

I hope Shawn Cheng is taking some well-deserved rest too.

Jon, Son of the Bon said...

I am not entirely sure what the problem is. people..liked your work?

Zak Sabbath said...

@Jon, Son of the Bon

The problem is shitty people who will very likely be responsible for killing me benefitting from my work.

Do you understand now? (this is not a rhetorical question: please answer)

Jon, Son of the Bon said...

no, because im not sure what you're referring to. is this going to be a lottery situation where you get dragged out into the public square and stoned to death(and I mean literally and factually, slowly bludgeoned to death by fucking sharp and small rocks) or do you mean kill you as in you commit suicide from all the *gestures at your blog* you have to deal with? They wouldn't be held accountable and they'd also get to piss on your grave in that situation

Zak Sabbath said...

@Jon, Son of the Bon

I appreciate the request for clarification, most people are too insecure to ask questions.

Probably best discussed in private: email me if you care-- zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm

If you don't care, then you can say that.

Jon, Son of the Bon said...

idk man just dont kill yourself lmao.

they win if you do that

Zak Sabbath said...

@Jon, Son of the Bon

If you mean that and genuinely care whether I live or die: email me.

If you don't and are just saying that because it feels like what you're supposed to say in this kind of situation: they've already won.

Benjamin Cusack said...

If I may step in and try to say it concisely.
The people who are praising the work did not help when other people were causing problems - so the people praising it are part of the problem.
Even if people say "Wow, this is the best thing since sliced bread" - that does not matter if they were unwilling to accost the people saying "this is the worst book and is done by the worst person."

Richard Pratt said...

@Cusack - This is unfair. (granted, in an even more unfair situation)

I have bought six of Zak’s book (sometime multiple editions … seven including Demon City), I have enjoyed his memoir ”We Did Porn” and his podcast “We Eat Art”. I have purchased his Cube projects 1-36 … Zak is smarter, more creative, and has a better visual sense than 95% of the world. He has been and could be very successful at any number of things.

Zak, that you choose to continue what I see as your righteous fight online is noble, but it is possible to get by without an online presence as many do. Will it be in any way the same as it was, probably not? I’m 50+ year old, I meditate daily, I have no interest in having arguments with people who draw out and prolong feelings of disgust and anger. I boycott social media on principle. That you want to engage is fine, that is you, and I hope you can deal with it better than I can … but that I don’t is also fine. I will support you in my way, and I’m good with this even if others are not.

Is this whole situation fair, hell no … but I’ve also come to terms with that through out life.

Why am I bothering to post this now? Because I actually think the people here are persuadable, while the vast majority of Zak’s critics are not. 

Zak I’m happy to continue this discussion via email. Thank you again for your wonderful book.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Richard Pratt

You don't seem to understand the situation at all.

You refer to "getting by without social media" and "interest" in arguments.

This isn't about that at all in any way:

Social media affects peoples' real lives--for example. you--in real life--are getting a copy of Demon City because someone found out about it online.

You may one day -play- Demon City in real lfe because someone found out about it online.

Things that have been spread on social media about me -are likely going to result in my death-, whether or not I myself am on social media.

As you say:

this isn't fair.

The fact you don't think you'd *enjoy* trying to fix this desperate situation happening to this person whose work you like doesn't change the fact that my choices are to fix things online or die.


You also refer erroneously to "persuasion"--persuasion is not the issue here.

The people who did this are not persuadable--but the better people who did nothing or who have the erroneous ideas you do -are- persuadable: I have seen them move from inaction to action.

They need to act or there won't be a me any more.


Please address these issues.

Don Flamenco said...

Generally when people think there is a real possibility that they are going to die and want to prevent this, they seek the help of a professional (medical or psychological), not strangers online.

zak said...

@don flamenco

unfortunately this is not “usually”.
the problem is not psychological.
the problem is that strangers online created the situation where suicide is a better option than my current life and only strangers online can fix it. Because they are the ones who watched it happen.

Zak Sabbath said...

@don flamenco

If you want to comment, you have to engage the person who talks to you--whoever that is.

You wrote that most people talk to medical professionals about suicide.

I -answered you and addressed your comment- by explaining why only online strangers can fix the current problem.

You then have to -answer that- or you don't get to comment.

Engage in a linear conversation.


Do you understand the only online strangers can fix the current problem?

If you do, type "Yes" in your next comment and apologize for your mistake.

If you don't, then type "No I disagree with that..." and then write the reasons you disagree.

If you don't want to do that, then don't comment here.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Don Flamenco

You have to read and respond to the comment you're responding to, not just say unrelated things.

Your reference to anti-depressants shows you're not doing that:

The problem here is _not psychological_. I don't have depression.

Your solution is not rational and I already pointed that out in my comment.

Please type a comment that -responds to the person you're talking to- or do not comment.

Richard said...

@ Zak

“The fact you don't think you'd *enjoy* trying to fix this desperate situation happening to this person whose work you like doesn't change the fact that my choices are to fix things online or die.


You also refer erroneously to "persuasion"--persuasion is not the issue here.

The people who did this are not persuadable--but the better people who did nothing or who have the erroneous ideas you do -are- persuadable: I have seen them move from inaction to action.”

– Then what is the ask here? Countering erroneous and hateful comments on Kickstarter appears to be about either persuading the commenter, persuading the generic audience, or to communicate support to the wronged individual. I assume the later is done by actually purchasing the work?


“You don't seem to understand the situation at all.”

– I agree, I can only see what happens in the online space, if this is making your life suicidely miserable then other things must be going on … for example, I don’t know your financial situation which can be a major inhibitor to any change.

If you had the money to move, to “start over” then … while a drastic life change … it is better than suicide. You have the objective intelligence, and creativity to do a multitude of things. People change careers as part of life all the time and people often have to do things they don’t want to … and there are careers out there that would be much less influenced by the online world.

But this all gets into me not being able to know everything that is going on … and what limitations you have personally and professionally. … (and I’m very aware of how callous this can come across not knowing these things)

Zak Sabbath said...


-"Then what is the ask here?"

To contact me: zakzsmith AT hotmail dawt calm if you actually want to be helpful instead of posting comments here.

-"Countering erroneous and hateful comments on Kickstarter appears to be about either persuading the commenter, persuading the generic audience, or to communicate support to the wronged individual."

Not at all in any way.

It's about _preventing the spread of misinformation_ both by countering it immediately in the venue where it appears.

- I assume the later is done by actually purchasing the work?"

Not at all in any way.

Sending some money does not do anything to prevent the spread of misinformation. That is worth 1000 times more than money.

Again: I could win the lottery tomorrow and the problem would not change.


“You don't seem to understand the situation at all.”

– I agree"

Then email and ask how you can help then instead of posting comments here.


If you had the money to move, to “start over” then … while a drastic life change … it is better than suicide."

Not in any way I can see.

It may be better -for the aggressors- because then they don't have to address any culpability for having destroyed a life int he most literal sense, but it still leaves me with a life not worth living.

" People change careers..."

If you think the problem here is mainly about _careers_ then you haven't sat and thought about what happens to a person who's been publicly smeared at all. Not even for a second.

So, please, for the fourth time:

If you are concerned, use email to communicate about this.

If you are not, please stop talking.

Zak Sabbath said...



Misinformation is not allowed in the comments.

Zak Sabbath said...


You can't comment until you apologize for attempting to spread misinformation.

If you believe your claim was erroneously identified as misinformation, then email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm .

Zak Sabbath said...

@Anthony Rayearth

Sorry, trolling comments get deleted.

Anthony Rayearth said...

How is any of this "trolling"? And why did you delete your post? What is happening?

Zak Sabbath said...

@Anthony Rayearth

"Good luck with whatever this is" is something only a troll would say.

It indicates:

1. You can't read the post, didn't read the post, or are pretending you didn't -- _yet still responded to it_ . If you did then there would be no "whatever this is"-you'd know what this is.

2. If you were still honestly confused after reading the post--then -you'd ask a question to clarify- . Which you did not do.

3. If you were confused but didn't care that much then there's no non-troll reason to be responding to a post whose author you don't care about

4. On top of all that, ending with "good luck" suggests another layer of do-not-give-a-fuck about the human beings involved.


If you don't care about what the post is about--please do not leave comments.

If you do care: there has been a great miscommunication and that care has not been expressed. Email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm and I'll happily speak with you in order to sort out that problem and fix my mistake.

BorgBorg said...

You think there's any chance of you and Mandy getting back together? I loved you guys together UwU

Zak Sabbath said...



When did you decide you loved us together?

BorgBorg said...

In those "I hit it with my Axe" videos you guys were so cute together ^_^

Zak Sabbath said...


And where did you first see them?

BorgBorg said...

On the Escapist. They got taken down tho lmao :'(

Zak Sabbath said...


Yeah I ended our relationship with the Escapist when they hired some gamergate transphobe

Rob said...

Is this cursèd text available to buy in print form, or are the Kickstarter copies going to be the only ones?

Zak Sabbath said...


The Kickstarter said there's gonna be a print book so there's gonna be a print book.

I'm not in charge of that, though--the person to ask is Mike Evans over at DIY RPG.

Rob said...