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 multiple times for harassment, including switching to make a new account after a permanent ban (then lied about it), 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


Next

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



Friday, May 14, 2021

What Really Happened to Vampire 5e, Chapter 5: Snakes Have Legs

 Chapter One  - Chapter Two - Chapter Three -

 Chapter 3.5 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6

Snakes Have Legs

Maybe you've seen this video. If you haven't and can't be bothered to click "play": A snake confronts a guy who is telling people snakes have legs. The snake doesn't have legs.  The snake asks about the source:

For "Daily Testicle" read "Ettin", moderator on RPGnet and Something Awful /tg.


Previously


It's 2018 and Vampire: The Masquerade, 5th edition--produced by White Wolf games, a division of Swedish video game company Paradox Interactive--is trucking on after weathering a variety of internet hoaxes, including:

Surely. SURELY. The RPG community will not fall for a third conspiracy theory from exactly the same guys who spread these? And, surely, surely, it wouldn't be a conspiracy theory about the same target? And surely, surely surely, if it did, then after what happened to Rob Donoghue at Evil Hat, at least no reputable company would join in? 

Here we go.

So, again, I'm long gone by this point--I didn't write a word of the new Vampire tabletop game.

On November 8th, just a few months after "Jews are Nazis..." some snakes-have-legs-thinking-idiots retweeted yet another Ettin hate-take three-hundred and eighty-nine-times.

Let's unpack:

  • In the Camarilla book, the Vampire team (still operating on the policy: real real real, personal political horror) created this piece of in-game lore that Chechnya's state-sponsored murders of LGBT+ people were actually disguised anti-vampire pogroms.
  • Realistically, really, honestly, in good faith, the actual effect of this on most readers was either they barely noticed it and just kept reading because it's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to read in a book trying to be now now now real real real personal political scab-picking horror or "Oh, there are anti-LGBT+ pogroms in Chechnya? Wow that's a bad thing, I am glad to learn about this real-life issue in a made-up game about vampires".
  • Let's say you thought differently. Would the best way to address that be maybe approach the designers or...a viral harassment campaign?
  • On November 8th, 2018, Paul Matijevic aka Ettin (who is not L or G or B or T or +, so far as anyone knows) dug the paragraph up and launched the idea this Chechnya reference was Social Justice Bad. (Receipts for this whole chain of events.) This was at least the third time he and his goons had aggressively mined the game looking for something to have a bad-faith take on since it was announced.
  • All the usual suspects bought it, hook, line and sinker.
  • His take went viral.
  • It went so viral someone from the actual Chechnyan government found out about it.
  • The Chechnyan government began to put real dictatorship-scale pressure on White Wolf, claiming this White Wolf book was slanderous.
  • Before the month was over White Wolf had to apologize to fucking Chechnya.
Now, there might actually be LGBT+ people of good faith who read the content as disrespectful or, more likely,  just failing to read the room, but, broadly:

Nobody could explain any way the paragraph itself could cause harm--nobody was seriously claiming that people playing would be fooled into thinking vampires were real and homophobes weren't. 

And: If you write a made-up vampire story based on the genuinely monstrous truth about a dictatorship being genuinely monstrous to marginalized people and then it makes that dictatorship mad, that would usually be taken by most people as a sign you're on the good guy team and, if anything, perhaps a tad too zealously so.

Ettin somehow avoided the obvious conclusion he'd just helped a homophobic dictator retaliate against the game pointing out what his regime did:

Once again, a guy who:

  • ...is a Something Awful goon...
  • ...admits repeatedly to being a troll...
  • ...is described by everyone who knows him in the industry as "a troll"...
  • ...lies so often he got quite successfully sued over it...
  • ...literally no-one has ever said isn't a troll...
  • ...is a white straight cis dude...
  • ...got caught twice already doing the same thing to the same victims...

...was believed and shared and treated like something other than The Daily Testicle. This guy:

And, again, exactly like the incident five months before, actual adults with jobs in the mainstream RPG industry inexplicably helped him. 

Cam Banks, formerly of Atlas Games and Margaret Weis productions, author of Marvel Heroic RPG, chipped in the day after Ettin started the ball rolling:

As did Crystal Frasier, of indie RPG giants Green Ronin and Paizo, the company that makes Pathfinder (and now freelancing for WOTC):
As pointed out last chapter with Rob Donoghue, these are people who could have easily dealt with any perceived problems with their colleagues' work in a non-viral-hate way.

Cam Banks and Kenneth Hite--head writer on Vampire--know each other. I don't know if Frasier and Hite do, but Hite was on good terms with Crystal Frasier's direct superior at Green Ronin, Nicole Lindroos. There is absolutely no reason either of them had to follow Ettin's lemming-pile.

This was more Thanksgiving Uncling in action--full-time creators with reputations and prestige in the industry stabbing colleagues in the back by supporting bad-faith troll takes.


"Moral Masturbation at Somebody Else's Expense"

So that's how, but doesn't cover the why. Part of it is, as-discussed earlier, the hatemob had been obsessively looking for imaginary flaws in this game ever since White Wolf put out a video game with my name on it.

But as for why they're a hatemob in the first place, Crystal Frasier herself helpfully explained in a thread just this year:









The weirdest part of this is the end, where she goes "We've all fallen into this trap". No, Crystal, it's just you and your friends who do that. Most people don't actually serially join viral hate campaigns around fake issues because they trusted the same lying dudes over and over. Like it's pretty common to understand that "When your moralizing doesn't fix anything or protect anyone, it's just moral masturbation at someone else's expense". That's a really normal thing to know.

Unsurprisingly, despite having just enough self-awareness to write that thread, Crystal hasn't apologized to anyone involved, neither did Cam, neither did Ettin, neither did any of the hundreds of gamers who fell for it. They didn't even unfollow Ettin.

And what about when moralizing goes beyond "not fixing anything or helping anyone"? When it ratchets up to full-on hurting people?

Find out next time in What Really Happened to Vampire 5e, Chapter 6: You're Eating Maggots, Michael.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

What Really Happened to Vampire 5e, Chapter 4: Thanksgiving Uncles (or: Evil Hat gets involved)

Chapter One  - Chapter Two - Chapter Three -

 Chapter 3.5 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6

Thanksgiving Uncles


So in the US, every Thanksgiving on Twitter, we're all reminded that when we go, on our holiday, to our turkey table, we must confront our racist uncle. We are encouraged to squint over the peas from the far end of the table, and call out his Trumpy, overtanned ass.

You've heard this one?

In the story, it's not the whole family who is racist--it's just this one uncle. But the rest of the family doesn't bring it up. The idea is: we all have convictions and know the right thing to do, but acting on it is a whole other thing.

Seldom discussed is why the job of calling out the Uncle falls only to the activist or the terrible teenager: it's because there are other motivations in the world besides doing the right thing--other loyalties.

Your progressive mom does not call out the racist uncle because he saved her from drowning in that lake when she was 12 and he was 14.

Your liberal dad does not call out the racist uncle because he owns a three-qurter share in their grocery store.

Your aunt does not call out the racist uncle because she hates arguments.

Your cousins don't call out the uncle because they're angling for the inheritance.

etc.

In the RPG community, Thanksgiving is GenCon, and the most consistent core of the family are those designers and publishers who've been coming back year after year after year for decades. They know central Indianapolis' bars and steak houses, they know whose table is usually where on the floor, they have lost dice beneath hotel couches in every state of the union. They are familiar names, people like Mike Mearls, Monte Cook and his handful of designers at MCG, Chris Pramas and Nicole Lindroos and Steve Kenson at Green Ronin, Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue at Evil Hat, Robin Laws and his Pelgrane folks, and Kenneth Hite--who wins an Ennie every year for best podcast (at minimum) along with Laws and is seen posing centerfold-style above with several other family members at the Ennies in the picture above--there are a few others.

Unlike many younger designers, these people are definitely not going anywhere. They made some choices a long time ago: they are sticking with this career forever.

They have a family-like relationship, and "family" does not mean "They all like each other" family means "Every one of them has a little bit of a relationship to every other one of them whether they want to or not." Family means: they're in a boat, the kind that can be rocked.

The major Thanksgiving Uncles here are Rob Donoghue and Fred Hicks at Evil Hat. The folks discussed in previous chapters--Olivia Hill, the Something Awful /tg goons and the RPGnetters who copy them--are their Donald Trump. They may not agree with everything Mr Trump does, but they donate to the cause and support him when it counts.

Most of these other designers and publishers, for the most part, want nothing to do with bottom-scraping trolls--often for the very selfish reason that they themselves have been targeted by RPGnet and company's omnidirectional rage at anyone with enough name recognition to score lolpoints off of.

But Evil Hat keeps inviting them over. 

Anyone with a hate take (other than "Why does Evil Hat pay such low rates? And where are the people of color in your organization?") they invite them in. Evil Hat literally recruited off of Something Awful. Like someone who worked at Evil Hat literally waded on the /tg forum and said that if anyone wanted to get started in the RPGs they should totally contact them.

Rob Donoghue, the more-talkative face of Evil Hat, deals with questions about why Evil Hat does this exactly how a racist uncle responds to you asking about that whole Build A Wall thing. "Well, you know, it's to get a reaction, I just think..." Any words he can hang on to in order to maintain a facade of respectful distance from the hate he's signed on to.

So...the family doesn't talk about it. They read threads, they know gossip, they have people they don't respect, but they still have to drink together, eat together, be on panels together, have turkey together, get medals together.  It's undiscussed.


The Dog and the Dice

So, if you remember back to Chapter Three, Olivia Hill, the hatemob had heard I was working at White Wolf on account of the Vampire video game I'd done with Sarah Horrocks. I'd been thrown off Vampire's 5th edition, but they had no idea--three more chapters to go and nothing in the story from here forward is about me--but they don't know that., which meant in their mind the game was still Tainted By Zakness.

This meant that when Vampire 5e was announced, the hatemob spent the next year raking over press releases, interviews, beta rules, and any other shred of Vampire news looking for excuses to attack it.

Remember: I was long gone. I didn't write a word of the new tabletop game.

People who still hung out on RPGnet--many of whom had no idea I'd ever been involved (or even who I was) followed the loudest and squeakiest wheels--Olivia Hill, Paul "Ettin" Matijevic, etc.--who had an axe to grind. Vampire 5e had to be problematic. Somehow. They were like those Japanese soldiers on the island of Lubang who kept fighting because they didn't know the war was over--except they were on the winning side.



Nobody can manage to just say "This made me uncomfortable because of my issues, I guess I need a content warning". The tone would soon collapse into total underwear-on-headery but in the beginning it was like a spaghetti-o-stained YouTuber explaining how Actually, 2001 is a bad movie because it lacks a basic grasp of...

There was baby-eating (like in Dracula by that total edgelord Bram Stoker), there was a smattering of Old School Renaissance-style mechanics, but the thing that finally got them pulling off their pants to drape them over their faces was that someone found a paragraph where the writer was trying to describe how a loss of humanity would trigger the angry-type vampire characters to get mad and they used the word..."trigger".

Rather than thinking this was maybe Ken or one of a handful of other middle-aged game designers using a word that meant less to them than it did to the Extremely Online, Ettin and company decided that White Wolf was deliberately attempting to mock the mentally ill

There are hundreds of simple examples of this kind of motivated reasoning around Vampire. Martin Ericsson, one of the Important Swedes at White Wolf, is a big nerd, of course,  so he calls himself "Martin Elricson" like, y'know, Elric. And he signs his emails "Blood and souls" like, y'know, in the extremely well-known-especially-in-RPG-circles fantasy classic Elric series. And Something Awful goons were like "Blood and souls? That sounds like Blood and Soil! Nazis! Nazis!" It's not like they google him. And when he explained it, it's not like they apologized or did any introspection.

It got worse when White Wolf put out something which had, among other things, a picture of some dice. The dice had a 1 a 4 and an 8 and another 8. Most people were like ok, sure those are dice, and turned the page--but the mob decided THATS A NAZI DOGWHISTLE!!!! In responce to said whistle, a dog duly appeared.

Specifically, this invited a long post by a teenage-vampire-erotica-writing furry known only (then) as "Dog With Dice". Dog With Dice had an elaborate multipage conspiracy theory that Vampire 5e was designed by and aimed at Nazis. Dog With Dice is not famous or influential and the post was riddled with mistakes that were (altogether now) easy to check. But that never stopped the Something Awful goons.

The post went so viral White Wolf actually had to do a press release and an official video to address fan uproar. Most fans didn't care--if the chat during the video was anything to go on--but as discussed in Chapter One, normal fans who just want a game don't do things.

None of it was in good faith. Anyone in-the-know enough to care what the acronym "VTM5e" even meant knew enough to be able to figure out this made no sense. Yet somehow not one of them remembered to mention: I'm fucking Jewish. 

Now, at first this all may sound like a repeat of last chapter, because mostly it is. Goons lying and doing bad faith readings again.

But this wave of harassment was different because an actual almost-full-time game guy, a family member--Rob Donoghue, co-founder of indie-mainstay Evil Hat--retweeted it--and then said it was "damning". 


Again: Evil Hat, who makes the Fate RPG and Thirsty Sword Lesbians and puts out Blades in the Dark. One of the biggest names in indie tabletop RPGs.

It's one thing for the racist uncle to like Donald Trump. It's another thing for him to point his fork across the cranberry sauce and tell your boyfriend to go back to Mexico.



Food Fight

This may be a subtle point but this is where the story goes from being "yeah the internet is trash" to "the entire RPG scene is trash".

Up until now this has been a story about people who could fairly be called "trolls"--commenters whose main place in the RPG constellation will be as, at most, people who complained about something.  The entry of Rob Donoghue onto the stage signals the entry into the Vampire hatemob of RPG people who have had a sizable impact on the current game scene via things they actually created.

It also signals the entry of someone who not only had privilege and structural power but had every human reason to know better. Rob may have not liked me, since I was constantly pointing out how his company promoted conspiracy theories and paid starvation wages, but he knew Kenneth Hite. Like as a face every year at the Thanksgiving table and a guy to talk to.

So, of course, I wrote a post about it:
This was Evil Hat's first public response, from Rob's co-founder, Fred Hicks:
This means Fred read my blog, which is something his people call "stalking"

Down in the little "likes" bar for this piece of hatespeech you can see who endorsed it, including perennial Evil Hat mainstay Sophie Lagace (first avatar), Cam Banks, author of Marvel Heroic RPG and formerly of Atlas Games and Margaret Weis Productions (6th avatar down), and Lowell Francis of storygames/OSR crossover podcast/discussions site/general indie RPG enterprise The Gauntlet. These aren't anonymous names hiding behind anime avatars, they're game industry people with resumes.

That's a lot of Uncles who have a problem with a Jew asking not to be called a Nazi.

Here are some bits from the texts I had back and forth with Kenneth Hite at that time. I haven't included his end because this was private, but including my end should be enough to show the tenor of the conversation...


After three days, Ken did eventually manage to get Rob to apologize. I don't know if it was with Robin Laws' help or not:


My "handling" of it. Where I typed on my blog that you shouldn't call your friend Ken a Nazi when you know he isn't. When I said maybe linking your colleague to the promotion of worldwide genocide isn't a great example of adult conflict resolution. What a horrible and unnecessary burr I am beneath the great and shiny saddles of mighty captains of indiegaming.

Anyway so this was a crowning moment of shame, right? The indie RPG scene's most aggressively compromised Uncles are called out at the table for their longstanding habit of retweeting frantic troll backwash and privileging their connection to the darkest depths of the RPG scene over the lives and careers of peers they know and claim to respect, right? Obviously putting Ken Hite in a position where you Google him and get "Nazi" was clownshoes stupidity right?

Surely at that point Evil Hat heads Rob Donoghue and Fred Hicks stop following Ettin and other folks from his scene on Twitter, and Ettin then goes on and apologizes, then all the other Something Awful goons too, then their RPGnet clones do, too, and Olivia Hill apologizes for escalating things to this point, and surely someone actually realizes I don't work at White Wolf (maybe by asking them?) and tells everyone to calm down, and everyone realizes Rob and Fred are, at best, really stupid and stops paying any attention to them and they begin boycotting Evil Hat and John Harper decides he doesn't want to be associated with them and leaves, and the entire scene has an agonizing reappraisal of why it's so vulnerable to viral conspiracy theories. Right?

Of course not, before the year was up they did it all over again, only more and sillier. But that's for Chapter Five: Snakes Have Legs.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

What Really Happened to Vampire 5e, Chapter 3.5: Interesting Feedback

 Chapter One  - Chapter Two - Chapter Three -

 Chapter 3.5 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6

So if you've been reading along, you know that most of the problems Vampire: The Masquerade 5e faced began with a small group of haters, most prominently former World of Darkness author Olvia Hill. She's responded to this unfinished series on her Twitter account, which, despite her being outed as an alleged abuser by her girlfriend, people still apparently follow:

Dear Olivia Hill,

I had no idea your all-caps views have changed. I'm glad to hear it.


I know the views you must be referring to because your anti-sex worker views were the only views I'm aware of you expressing 12 years ago.  Twelve years ago your wife Filamena Young and her friend Tracy Hurley smeared the women in my game group (receipts) saying that doing their job hurt women, then you and Filamena cooked up a fiction (receipts) that said the only reason I (privately) asked her to stop doing that to them was (bafflingly) to drive traffic to this RPG blog. I am so glad to hear your views have changed.

You never had anything else to say about me other than these views until 2014 or '15 when you decided to join in and encourage a harassment campaign, spearheaded by Hurley, due to my work as a consultant on D&D 5e, all due to anger at me protesting the attacks y'all made due to these now-abandoned views. After peppering me with dozens of smaller instances of harassment--due to the same views (which I hear have now changed) --you popped up again when Vampire: The Masquerade 5e was announced to protest my involvement.

In other words, you, your wife and your friend Tracy unleashed multiple harassment shitstorms online against me, my family, my friends, any game I worked on, any company I worked with, and any fanbase those games had, based on views you don't have anymore.

What's important now is what you do when you realize your views have changed. Rather than listen to me, I figured you'd more likely trust the authority of people who were your allies--who joined you in your internet smear campaigns. What do they say? What is the appropriate thing to do next?

They say this:










There appears to be a consensus.

So let's take a look at what you can do to apologize and make amends for the harm you've done.

First, you should publicly apologize to the women whose choices you attacked, (including several women of color--Michelle Ford, Frankie,  and Satine Phoenix). You should also privately apologize to them, so they know you did it--if you need contact info, please let me know. zakzsmith AT hawtmayle


Michelle, third from the left, has probably suffered the most from your harassment, for reasons I'm sure she'll explain when you get in touch with her. She's now withdrawn from public life and is just a waitress. Do try to be sensitive. Her email is missfiend AT gmail dawt calm.

Second, publicly apologize to Cosplay Deviants and all the women who worked in their booth over the years that you were attacking. The company itself probably wasn't harmed too much, but the women get harassed a lot by people who had the views you had before your views changed. They'll be easy to get in touch with since they all have Twitter.

Third, contact Tracy Hurley, aka Sarah Darkmagic. and tell her that you no longer hold the views that you once did when she joined you and Filamena in harassing us lo those 12 years ago and tell her that you have come around to the belief that it was wrong to insist on these harmful views. Naturally, you should also tell her she should also apologize, since she did the same thing you did and backed you up. Which you now realize was wrong.

Fourth, you'd want to tell Tracy that because you've changed your views about the validity of your 2011 attack, that my subsequent response--to call you out and say you should stop saying these bigoted things--was wholly valid and not any form of harassment. And that, therefore when I was announced as a consultant on D&D, it was a bad idea for you both (and Filamena) to claim I was a harasser.

Fifth, you'd want to contact Mike Mearls and everyone at D&D and say, retroactively, that the claims you made at that time about my response to your now changed views, were wrong and in actuality I had a good and valid response.

Sixth, you'd want to contact the literal thousands of people on RPGnet, Tumblr, and Twitter who joined in that harassment campaign, citing your claims and Tracy's claims as if they meant something and tell them, retroactively, that they shouldn't have done that and a major part of that is your fault for lying.

Seventh, you'll want to contact all of them again (it'll be easy, you follow a lot of them on Twitter) and say that the conspiracy theory you passed around...

(...the theory that D&D head Mike Mearls, by accident or design, secretly gave your name and Tracy's to me in 2015 as people who had made complaints about me) and tell them that makes no sense because not only were your 2015 complaints about me totally public, but I knew you'd been repeatedly harassing me since 2011. So what was there to pass on here? "Olivia Hill hates you!" No shit.

Eighth, you'll want to contact every single person who shared this conspiracy theory on reddit, on Twitter with the hashtag #FireMikeMearls, on RPGnet and on their blogs and tell them that you, yourself, personally know this conspiracy theory makes no sense since you and Tracy had been attacking me openly since 2011. An that you regret those attacks as your views have changed.

Ninth, you'll want to contact Mike Mearls and his wife, again, to apologize for your role in promoting the conspiracy theory that caused his duties at his job to be drastically curtailed and for the company to forbid him to make any public statements.

Tenth, you'll want to contact some people who might not be in your circles. The guys Old School Renaissance gamers call the "Troika Trolls", Skerples (an OSR dude from 4chan) and a few Something Awful goons who hang out on the OSR Discord--Erika Muse / IceQueenErika and Nickoten--and tell them that this conspiracy theory is not true and all of them should stop spreading it.

Eleventh, you'll want to--now that your views have changed--reconsider inventing the lie about me threatening your kids or that I somehow encouraged it rather than, y'know, doing the complete opposite of that:



Now that your views have changed maybe these lies aren't necessary?

Twelfth, you might want to revisit the idea that it was necessary to accuse me of being social justice bad in ways you know and have admitted I'm not, since you now acknowledge your reason for starting this hate campaign was a set of views which you subsequently have changed.

Thirteenth, you might want to contact everyone on the Onyx Path forums and tell them you lied about me threatening your kids because of a hate-on because of views you now have changed.

Fourteenth, you might want to contact every single freelancer who worked on Vampire 5e for White Wolf, art director, writers and artists, production staff in Finland, the US, Sweden, and elsewhere and apologize to them for ginning up a hate campaign against their game based on views you now feel have changed. You might want to give them all the money you have, since they lost so much work due to you, both due to Vampire being cut short and due to that line on their resume being permanently tainted by your hate campaign.

Fifteenth, you should contact all the Vampire fans who had hoped that Vampire would be a full-court-press product and be worked on and supported by the best Paradox could muster and not rolled out on a bed of broken bones due to a smear campaign lead by you, an ex-World of Darkness freelancer who hated someone involved in it because of views you admit you've now changed.

Sixteenth, you might reconsider the whole "Zak harassed me for not liking Star Wars" lie you told since the reason you decided to lie in the first place was due to views you've changed.

Seventeenth, you might want to contact my former co-author on Maze of the Blue Medusa, Patrick Stuart, and tell him that his estimation that I was out of line for calling you out was wrong, because you should have been called out because the views that you expressed were wrong and gross which is why they now have changed.

Eighteenth, you might want to apologize to the RPG community broadly for generally promoting the idea I'm a harasser or abuser and then lying about doing it since you started doing that because I asked your wife not to harass and abuse me in defense of views you now know are wrong.

Nineteenth, maybe apologize to James Edward Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess for lying about him being pro-Nazi because you were so mad that he published me (a Jew) since your anger derives from being called out--correctly--for views you claim to have changed.

Twentieth, likewise you might want to apologize to Jews in general for promoting the antisemitic conspiracy theory that I'm not actually a painter and so have some secret rich Jew kid trust fund since you probably only decided to endorse it based on views you say you've changed.

Twenty-First, you might want to apologize to Zoe Quinn for lying to her and claiming I'd done something wrong in calling you out for the views you've changed and thus drawing Zoe into your harassment campaigns.
If being angry that porn stars do their job isn't being a prude literally what is?


Twenty-Second, you might want to re-think categorizing me reading your public posts as "stalking" since not only have your views allegedly changed, but you had to read my public posts to make any of the public claims you've ever made against me. Since I've, like, never spoken to you.

Twenty-Third, you should apologize to the entire RPG community for promoting people who agreed with you and helped you in these endeavors. Since they were based on views you've since changed you now know that all of these companies and designers--from Green Ronin to Evil Hat to RPGnet to Something Awful to Onyx Path, to a wide variety of story-gamers, including all the biggest names --took part in a massive decade-plus smear you started based on views you've since changed.

Twenty-Fourth, you should public apologize to your ex-girlfriend for abusing her, or, if you're saying your views have changed and not all accusations of abuse are always true: apologize to all the people you've dogpiled over the years in similar situations.

Twenty-Fifth, since your views have changed about the thing that made you decide to lie about me in the first place, you should apologize to me personally for claiming I was generally so dishonest and awful that any new attack on me, unrelated to you,  just had to be spread, believed, and acted on.

You want me to move on? I'll move on when you do your part to untwist the social, moral and political pretzel the tiny little indie RPG community has had to twist itself into over the years because your friends and your friends' friends and the people they hired and the people they LARPed with and the people they had moderating their forums and drawing their book covers and manning their convention tables all had to think up reasons it was somehow "trolling"or "harassing" or "abusive" to occasionally ask you to please stop lying in support of your evil, shitty, bigoted, thoughtless, fearmongering, ignorant, half-baked, compassionless, puritanical, vintage-Reagan-Era pearl-clutching right-wing SWERF bullshit.

Let me know when you'd like to get started.

Sincerely,
-Z


For everybody else following on the story of what happened to Vampire--Chapter Four tomorrow. No Olivia in that chapter, just her friends.
So apologize.


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...