First off, here’s an update for those following the Swords of the Eastsea project. I was off holidaying in Eastern Finland for a bit and spent time with someone who’s going to be running a gametest for me. So far, he’s liked the material he’s seen and his group has liked it too. So I am very much happy.
Wrapup of the project is proceeding at a fairly nice rate, only inhibited by certain publishing-related time table things, so I am working at a fairly leisurely pace right now. A whole lot of drudgework left, but nothing really major.
I’ve also been in touch for the last half month with a bunch of names that might be familiar to some in hopes that whenever the Kickstarter happens, they might contribute a bit. Because it’s always fun to hand off work to someone else and even give them money for it.
I’ve got illustrators lined up and ready to work. Same goes for editing.
And then, once we got this settled, let’s talk a bit about the whole D&D Next issue. For those who have been under a rock elfgame-wise, it came to light with the release of the free version of D&D that Zak Smith, aka Zak Sabbat, was retained as a consultant for Wizards of the Coast for the D&D project. Which rather naturally has raised some ire everywhere because Zak Smith is rather notorious for his ill manner and his tendency to set up harassment of people who speak up against him. Heck, he even e-detectived a former business acquaintance of mine, called him all sorts of bad things and told him to kill himself. Which most of you probably find uncouth considering it was about something as trivial as elfgames.
In my opinion it’s good enough a reason for me to not buy more products by Wizards of the Coast. I’d encourage other people to do the same but if you play D&D, I won’t hold it against you. Though I’d encourage you to get Dungeon World or 13th Age instead because they’re better games.
At the core of the issue there’s something I see as an grossly unprofessional move by Mike Mearls, who I don’t consider a bad person per se: if you’re going to hire consultants, you should do your homework about who you’re hiring. Mearls recently called out for people to contact him if they have evidence of the misdoings of Zak Smith, which is frankly rather ass-backwards when it comes to professional conduct. It’s not like he’s too busy to spend fifteen minutes googling, after all.
There’s also an issue I’m familiar with due to my past work history, which is that various harassment campaigns are extremely easy for the harasser to get going but it’s extremely hard to put the blame on their shoulders. For instance, a familiar tactic used by neo-nazi groups is to publish names of journalists, activists and politicians who are opposed to them. That way, the person doing the publishing part doesn’t need to do anything themselves and can always claim they’re acting in good faith. Rather unsurprisingly, Zak Smith uses the same tactics. He makes lists of people he labels as liars, crazies or whatever and his fans carry out the actual harassment. Meanwhile he can claim he was only acting to bring out the truth about something or the other and no blame can fall on him. Or that’s what he thinks.
So, is it surprising that a fair number of people in the industry consider him a toxic figure? Is it surprising that right now people consider that Mearls seriously dropped the ball on this one? In my opinion, not at all.