On a Dramatic Saga

I don't want to make this post.

I don't want to talk about things like this. I want to talk about gaming stuff. I have like a bunch of cool posts lined up this week. I'd prefer to have one today.

Here is what I hold to be true.

  • All people are created equal with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  • Being an adult by definition means someone of the age of majority who is independent, self-sufficient, and responsible for their actions and behavior. 
  • That these ideals (Liberty and Freedom) are interrelated. 
    • Libertas: Unbounded, unrestricted or released from constraint.
    • Frei: A member of a tribe, along with the rights that go with belonging.
  • And that: Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
    • For those of you who don't speak Latin: the burden of proof is on he who declares, not on he who denies. You are innocent until proven guilty.
Look, these rules are arbitrary. But I believe them, because in actual practice when other systems are implemented, horrible enormities occur. 

I believe this analysis is trivial and un-debatable. Name societies where certain people have more value than others. Name societies where accusations make you guilty and you must prove innocence. Would you be happier there as the accused or person with less value?

The Rub

I think most everyone in the world would agree with what I have said so far. I also believe that many people who would have not thought about what that actually means.

It means if you inundate yourself in henti porn. watch videos of women being brutally degraded, read Maxim, buy Frazetta posters, play Kingdom Death, and hang out in men's rights groups that no matter how much research has shown that this influences behavior -- adults are still responsible for their behavior and the people producing such material still have the liberty to do so!

It means if you accuse someone of a crime, that the burden on you is to provide proof. If you support an accusation someone makes then that is a choice you have made, which you are to be held responsible for as an adult. If there is no proof and it harms the reputation of the accused, then it is legally Defamation, which is a crime.

When you take such actions, you can be held responsible for them. That means, say, I could gather a list, with proof of course -- say a link to the post where it occurred, and state, these adults who have freedom and liberty have made, supported, or approved of these false claims.

You see, if you are a free adult, then you are responsible for your actions, especially public actions. If you publicly take action you can be held accountable for that action. Being held accountable is not harassment, it is the responsibility of freedom.

If you were held accountable for an action and someone used that opportunity to threaten you -- in the legal sense -- then they would be committing a crime and could be held accountable. All you have to do is provide proof.

What I think

I haven't said a single thing about what I think in this entire article. I've simply discussed some of my core beliefs and provided some examples. As a departure from the usual actual useful material this blog posts, I'm going to talk about some personal things. This isn't something successful publishers and writers do because it alienates some portion of their audience. I'm going to do it because my success is less important to me than my beliefs.

I think if you're going to say or write something, you should say or write exactly what you mean and back it up with proof. It's not like we're working in a spoken forum. You have as long as you need to phrase something or look something up.

That doesn't have to be public. If Zak or Pundit exhibited anti-LGBT behavior in private, then channels are available for that to be addressed. People who say "If I provided proof you wouldn't believe me." or "I'd send the proof in, but it'll just be swept under the rug." come across, in my perception as if they are lying. I'm not saying they are. I'm saying that's the way someone who doesn't have proof acts in my experience.

I recently spent 7 days in the hospital. I almost died. It was a pretty miserable experience. Zak loves a girl who has a chronic illness called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Donate here). How much time does he spend sitting in hospitals every year?

Do you know what you sound like when you accuse a prominent gallery painter with a disabled girlfriend and a substantially non-white, non-male, gaming group sexist and ablist?

I've seen all the "problematic" links posted about Zak. Because he linked the tumbler where they are being collected! He stands behind what he says publicly -- as an adult he takes responsibility for his public actions. I see a lot of people who really don't like a lot of the things he has to say. Good on you. You don't have to like anything he says. But there isn't anything there that A) harasses anyone or  B) exhibits any anti-LGBT statements.

Personally? I think Zak is one of the most creative and intelligent people I know. I can also trust he will get right in my proverbial face when he thinks I'm saying something shitty or producing something that isn't my best work. He is always honest and means exactly what he says.

What's more meaningful to me is he reads what I write and responds to the things I actually write, not anything he imagines it might imply. He will continue to respond until we either come to consensus or understanding of our differences.

Oh, and here's the thing. I've talked to him as a human being before. One day we were talking, in the normal intense way that Zak and I have conversations online and one of us said, "I'm busy and today's a rough day. Can we not do this right now?" And we didn't. Because he's not interested in attacking or hurting anyone. He's interested in the truth. That's rare.

The tangential fact that he's produced some of the most engaging and fantastic rpg material produced since the genesis of the hobby as a side project to his actual job is a bit relevant also. That's awesome. Who doesn't want more awesome in their life?

Oh, and Pundit? It's almost like no one has heard of North America. He's a shock jock. Posts all his articles in 17 different forums and places. He says inflammatory things. Sometimes, in the distant past, he's said things he wouldn't say today. Of course as an adult he's owned up to it. People like this -- shock jocks -- are very important for freedom and liberty. If you don't understand why, audit a free speech class at a nearby college. Also, I have a hard time believing anyone who in their heart is anti-LGBT would put a transgendered person on the cover of their published RPG.

More honesty here. I can't relate to claims of sexism in role-playing games. I'm sure it happens. I'm a white hetrosexual male. I work in a female dominated field. I don't know any women who make less money than me. I'm the only man in my house. Half my IRL group is female. One DM of my games is female. Another game I play in has a gay DM. My wife demands to play 18 strength half-naked fighters as she idolizes their power and sexuality. (She's the model for the cover of On the Non-Player Character) Our local gaming store is run by a LGBT person. I've played with women, POC, people from different countries, and LGBT people online. Just this week I've played D&D with over 15 different people and it has been that way for years. I have no idea what it would be like to sit at a table with only straight white males. So maybe I'm missing out on some secret world of terrible oppression, but it's all fun, positive, gaming over here. I'm not complaining about inequality. I'm participating in the gaming hobby in an inclusive way to combat it!

Nothing I've said invalidates someone's negative experience. Nothing I've said means you have to like some dude you don't like. But if you're not going to buy D&D because of who they consulted and you're using a cell phone/wearing clothes bought in a store/buying gas/etc. then I don't understand your values or how you reconcile your hypocrisy. If you dislike someone and then publicly defame them, then you're the one in the wrong. Unlike say, if you dislike someone and then provide proof of what they did that was wrong. Then you're just holding someone accountable.

I'm getting back to playing and writing about D&D, and hope you spend your time gaming and having fun. From over here it looks like a some people are more interested in other things than playing Dungeons and Dragons. Me? I've got to go roll 4d6 to make my character for my my third game this week.

* Yes. I know that liberty and freedom come into conflict. That's why we have a Byzantine legal system. However, for the things we are talking about here (Threats, Defamation) there are very clear guidelines about what constitutes such. Our system isn't perfect, but this is well-trod ground.

Hack & Slash 
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  1. I don't think it will come as a surprise to you that there is a large population that does not want liberty or accountability, but rather to punish people who don't toe the line and keep them at heel.

    That is what this comes from. That's why Brendan Eich is collecting unemployment. It's why Mitt Romney isn't president. It's why a lot of things.

    Do not believe you don't have the right to speak about your own oppression because someone made up a rule that you have to be in a certain demographic to be allowed. Everybody gets oppressed and shit on because of their intransigent demographics or personal choices, although to different degrees.

    The first step toward ending the influence of these bullies is to call them out, name them, shame them (if possible) and laugh at them. The devil cannot abide mockery.

  2. C, agree with your comments about responsibility on all sides, especially the burden of proof as well as how general conduct matters, whether in a gaming setting or not.

    I don't know any of the people involved here, personally, and I can relate that I don't experience any of this stuff first-hand: I'm a white guy, too. My D&D groups at home and organized play are diverse and friendly.

    I have, however, seen anti-lbgt and sexist behavior in gaming settings, even from reasonable people. The fact that the paragraph in D&D basic rules mentioning diversity in gender identity unleashed a shitstorm of furious neckbeards just by *mentioning* that characters could be lbgt shows that there is something gross and real out there.

    Maybe not particular to rpg or gaming, but definitely real.

  3. Hey Courtney! Thanks, just fact-checking:
    My group has 3-4 POC in it, and is mostly LGBT and women, but it _is_ pretty cisgendered. My online game group has one prominent non-cisgendered OSR game person.

    1. Removed the incorrect text from the article. Thanks for pointing it out!

  4. I'm a white heterosexual male. All of the people I game with are white heterosexual males. Who's welcome at my table? Everyone who wants to play Dungeons & Dragons. The fact that all of the people that are currently at my table happen to be WHM is completely coincidental. I've been keeping up with this particular drama in a mostly tertiary way, but I have to say that at least when Gary Gygax had to put up with this crap it was coming from OUTSIDE the RPG community. Sheesh.

  5. I don't know a lot about Zak. I don't think he and I have ever had a conversation. But after the recent flood of sternly worded blog/g+ posts, I'm fairly certain he doesn't have a problem with LGBT people.


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