On Principled Profit, The Con Man and the Fraud

I normally stay pretty positive over here. Today, we're putting that aside for a bit of social responsibility.

I think it would be fair to say I idolize several members of the gaming industry: Russ Nicholson, Larry Elmore, Gary Gygax; that's part of the fun of being a fan.

So I think Jolly Blackburn is pretty damn great. Not only is he the first publisher of a retroclone (authorized no less), it also happens to be one of the best tabletop games I've ever played. He's also an artist and has been publishing Knights of the Dinner Table, which has been making many, many, thousands of gamers laugh for years.

Jolly Blackburn aligned himself with d20 entertainment run by Ken Whitman to produce live action versions of his Knights of the Dinner Table strip. I was thrilled by this, but did not back it.

Why?

Let's talk about Ken Whitman for a minute.

Ken Whitman has a history of starting a new company (Historically Print on Demand, but lately film production), over promising results, and then either delivering sub-par product late, or not at all. During the period where the product is overdue, he does not respond to investors or backers, writes long posts on social media about how everyone else is sabotaging him, and exhibits other strange behavior.

He's been doing this same thing for over 20 years.

Proof (the rabbit hole)
Books for traveller not materializing - 1996
Books paid for don't materialize at Gencon, and those that do fall apart - 2005
Testimonials from that thread linked below:
Unfulfilled Knights Quest Family Card Game (Comments)
Rapid POD sales pitch (Ken offers big purple publishing opportunities in broken english) 2006
Ken looking to borrow 22+k for ink on Prosper which listed him as "High Risk" with an 84% debt to income ratio -2006
Ken steals from Postmortem Studios - 2007
ENWorld thread about RapidPOD problems at Gencon - 2007
Ken's appearance on the Biggest RPG Villains Thread on the RPGsite
Ken Witman spams backers of projects with new projects 2014
Ken Whitman deletes Jolly Blackburn (Ken removes Jolly from the Live Action Series Kickstarter Groups on Facebook and posts elsewhere calling him a "Concern Troll" to sabotage his work) -2015 
Tales of woe from the Semi-fulfilled Knights of the Dinner Table Live Action Series -2015
Ken Whitman's blog that just says "Ken Whitman"
A blog devoted to memes discussing Ken Whitman
There's more. But how much over how long do you need?

So why today?

Because Gen-Con is this weekend and there is a supposed premier of more episodes of the Knights of the Dinner Table Live Action Series along with an after party. Will this happen? I don't know. What I do know is this (Via Jolly Blackburn):

  • Ken will not talk about the premiere
  • No invitations have been sent out
  • None of the actors were invited or had arrangements made
  • The Episodes haven't been seen in finished form
  • He's deleted people from the facebook group who are making inquiries into the status of their rewards.


Does Ken always fail to meet his obligations? No. Sometimes he refunds money. Sometimes he delivers product. People who have worked with him, such as Jolly, were aware of his reputation. They were giving him a second chance. So why is this an issue?

Because this is about the principle of profit. We are a small section of a small hobby. Ken among others have been running cons now for years, burning both customers, creators, and publishers again and again.

Sadly, there's only one way to combat this inequity, and that's to be informed. So, not in the purpose of being negative, but instead in the hopes of being productive, this page contains an extensive collection of information about the personal experiences of people who've worked with Ken. The best of which is, "He gave me back my money, so I can't call him a thief any more." We have to be active and be informed. The next time you back a project or pick someone to work with, see who's involved. Post links to pages like this. Spread the word and keep people informed.

This isn't principled. Someone produces content that's dull and charges for it? Eh. Someone throws together interesting random 100 item lists and throws them up on rpgnow? Eh. Someone with a blog or youtube channel starts a patreon so they can devote more time to their hobby? Eh. They did some work; if people want to pay them for it, great!

Ken Whitman just steals from people. He does whatever the minimum is that he must to keep the hottest fires from burning him and ignores the rest. And having worked with thousands of degenerate gamblers, drug addicts, and other people driven by poor judgement, I've never seen any change in the behavior as long as it continues to be enabled. Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, Indiegogo and others have given scammers and get rich quick schemers a new lease on scams. If we want to continue to use them to produce beautiful on-time products like The Book of Giants, Bones, and Divinity:Original Sin we have to be vigilant against con-men.

What's my motivation in all this? Who's got the balls to call one of the funniest, best spirited, most creative people in our industry a troll? If there's ever an award for best gamer, Jolly is up for it. I've got a voice, I'm going to use it.

I eagerly await rave reviews of episodes 2 & 3 from the Gencon premier. Only time will tell.



Back to the normal programming soon.

Hack & Slash 

11 comments:

  1. "He gave me back my money, so I can't call him a thief any more."

    That isn't really true. Just because a thief makes restitution doesn't change the fact that he stole in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Correct. After the burglar was caught, the court ordered him to pay restitution to me. I received maybe a couple hundred bucks over a long period. Doesn't make him not a convicted burglar.

      Delete
  2. Here's a fun video....and some good background as to Ken's latest promises:
    http://dontfundkenwhitman.blogspot.com/2015/07/ken-whitman-faces-lie-detector-in-his.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. What gets me - how come folks keep on hopping in to do business with Whitman? As you say, this guy's been establishing his (awful) rep for twenty years, whith what looks (at a super quick glance) like very little actual content created. And it looks like '06-07, there was a lot of publicity about his failures.

    So how does this guy keep getting folks to work with him? What am I missing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ken is convincing in person, the word wasn't spread enough, Jolly Blackburn is a trusting guy, and this was proposed after Jolly got to attend a successful production run of Brothers Barbarian. If you are going to give a guy a second chance you do it after you see some measure of success.....

      Delete
  4. He looks like one of those motivational coach/Ameriprise douchebags in that photo.
    My condolences for anyone who gave that guy cash.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for saying what needed being said. Remember, the agitator is the part of the washing machine that does the work.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ken Whitman has ignored several attempts by me to contact him. I've tried many email address, as well as Twitter and Facebook. After posting his lack of response - and the fact he has $125.00 of my money - he has blocked me on Facebook.

    Yes, Ken Whitman would rather block a customer than respond to his messages.

    Remember this when you see him asking for *anything*.

    ReplyDelete
  7. here is a web site with information on contacting various government and non-government agencies that handle internet fraud
    http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/governments.php

    ReplyDelete
  8. I predict Ken Whitman will be involuntarily playing an exciting new live-action roleplaying game called LAGGARDS AND [CLASS-ACTION] LAWSUITS.

    ReplyDelete

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