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Two Minutes Hate

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I have written an FAQ to accompany this piece available here [Two Minutes Hate: FAQ] that addresses my thoughts on Zak’s behavior in our community, clarifications on my thoughts on anger and abuse, and more. I encourage you to read it alongside this post.

It’s 2002.

My hair is purple. I’ve got a tongue ring. My band practices outside the dorms every night, lousy Pearl Jam covers echoing off nearby buildings. Each morning, I awake with just enough time to walk across campus to the English building. I’m bored with everything: classes, homework, parties, people.

I’m twenty. Insufferably, obnoxiously twenty.

I’m in a post-Civil War English class with my favorite teaching assistant, Kate. Other TAs don’t challenge me or don’t show up prepared. But not Kate. She teaches. She marks up my papers like she actually reads them. I respect the hell out of her.

One day we’re reading poetry by Rudulfo Anaya, a New Mexican poet. The poem is a ghost story: a young man wants to leave home to go find his love, but his parents warn him not to leave at night. He does anyway. Things don’t go well.

Kate asks us for our thoughts.

I raise my hand; she calls on me first. I say I think the poem is about the duality of Hispanic families: Hispanics rely on family for strength and guidance and support… but also hold their children too close. Family, I say, is a double-edged sword.

“Interesting,” she says. “But maybe you should let a Hispanic student speak to that point.”

I feel time slow. Here’s the beat I say something, right? Maybe that would be brave, to say something clever that establishes me as a “real” Hispanic. And Kate would be embarrassed and laugh it off and we’d all move on with our day.

But I don’t feel like a “real” Hispanic in this moment. I feel like a fraud.

I say nothing. A hot flush of shame spreads across my face. I realize that I’m ashamed of pretending to be who I actually am. But I still feel like I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I let the rest of the class go on and try to make myself small.

I think later about going to Kate’s office and talking to her, but the words never come to me and I never go. She’s a good teacher, I think, and I’m not really Hispanic anyway.


A few weeks ago, I came across a post (on a now deleted thread) by my friend and colleague, Robert Bohl, that shocked me:

Rob Thread

Rob has always struck me as gentle and honest. His game—Misspent Youth—is about standing up for your beliefs in the face of oppression, and we even talked about Magpie acting as his joint publisher when the game is featured on Tabletop. (We were sad when he chose to go with Burning Wheel HQ, but we are excited to see the game thrive!) Rob’s our kind of people.

His post was aimed (unsurprisingly) at Zak S/Smith/Sabbath, a member of the Old School Renaissance (OSR) community who has famously feuded with “story gamers” like Rob in the past. As shocked as I was by the post, I figured that Rob’s temper had just gotten the best of him, given his history with Zak.

But I feel like no one should be treated this way. Not Zak. Not anyone. And the rest of us shouldn’t have to wade through posts like that on public threads, no matter how angry the poster might be. The sheer toxicity of the post made me feel like I should do something.

While I was mulling over how to react, Marissa took the lead. She contacted Rob and let him know that she wasn’t willing to work with him on the upcoming Misspent Youth Kickstarter if he was going to harass people online, that she respected his anger but expected better of him as a community leader. She asked him to retract the post and apologize to Zak.

He stood by the post.

Rob reached out to me. I said I was standing with Marissa, and that I thought the post was beneath him. I told him that until the post came down and he apologized to Zak, that I wasn’t interested in working with him either.

He still stood by the post.

Nothing changed when Brendan talked to Rob about withdrawing from the project as well; Rob’s position had only intensified.

He still stood by the post.

I’m not going to share my private correspondence with Rob, but I broadly understand Rob’s rationale to be:

  • He only talks this way to one person (Zak)
  • His posts don’t threaten to hurt Zak
  • His post was funny
  • Zak deserves this kind of treatment

We don’t find any of those claims sufficient. None of them justify harassment.

So… Magpie won’t be lending a hand to the Misspent Youth Kickstarter. We’d love to work with Rob, but our efforts go to people who want to lead with love and kindness, who reject the easy answers like “I only talk like this to people I hate” or “My jokes at someone else’s expense are righteous and funny.”

We think that everyone deserves basic human respect. Everyone.


In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised by Rob’s post. The story gamer community—my community: a loose coalition of people that hung around the Forge, posted on Story-Games.com, and now linger in private circles on G+—has regularly betrayed our values when dealing with the OSR community.

But Rob’s post made me realize that I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t look the other way when members of our community give people inside our community a free pass for bad behavior and turn their vitriol and hatred on outsiders like Zak. It saddens and pains me to write this post, but there’s a point at which silence—my silence, our silence—begins to look like we’re condoning terrible behavior that harms people.

I’m a member of this community because I felt it professed my values of tolerance and inclusion, but…

I’m sure someone could generate a list of OSR “crimes” that prove that it’s actually James Raggi or Stacy D. or Zak who are responsible for this feud… but at this point, it doesn’t matter. We all have to own these mistakes; we all need to acknowledge that there is real pain here that we’ve caused. Nothing they could have done would justify the things we’ve done.

The truth is that the OSR has become a punching bag for our community. Despite the facts, we’ve imagined the OSR as an inversion of ourselves: if we are just and good and feminist and loving and interested in good game design… then the OSR must be the opposite.

But the OSR is just a community filled with people, folks who are trying to do their own thing in their own way, many of them LGBTQ+ or trans people or women. And for them, we’re a terrible storm that occasionally sweeps over their people to ridicule, degrade, and insult them and their version of the hobby.

We’re the villains in their story, like it or not. And like the best villains, we think we’re the heroes.


In 1984, all citizens are summoned once a day to turn their rage onto a film prepared by the oppressors, a “Two Minutes Hate.” They froth at the mouth and scream at Goldstein, the “monster” that leads the opposition against Big Brother, every bit of themselves consumed by hatred… and loyalty to their oppressors.

This incoherent rage reminds me too much of my home state (New Mexico), a place defined by the Spanish colonialism that brutalized the native people for centuries. Power needs enemies; anger needs an outlet. Who better to turn on than people who don’t look like you, think like you, talk like you?

The internet makes this possible like never before. It gives us people to hate and attack and loathe, shadows that flit in front of our screens begging to be struck down. We convince ourselves that there’s so much information available for the world to see that our fury is totally justified. They deserve what’s coming to them, we think. They deserve our hatred.

It’s a Two Minutes Hate… stretched to infinity. Always on. 24/7. Without end.

The truth is that we know as little about the real Zak or Stacy or James as my TA, Kate, knew about the real me: nothing. The people they are, the things they love, the lives they lead? Those things are beyond knowing through the tiny looking glass that is the internet. All we have is shadows of their real selves.

And yet… the people we hate serve a purpose for our community. As long as we have them, we never need to look closely at ourselves. As long as they exist, we never have to answer tough questions about our values. All we have to do is hate. That’s enough to be “good” people. Hate, hate, hate.


In reality, our status as “good” people has much more to do enacting our values than it does with hating the right people. It’s past time for us to move beyond mere representation in our products—putting black superheroes on the cover and enough women in the interior art—and toward a redefinition of the power dynamics of the community, a change that puts women and people of color and LGBT people at the center of the creative process. Hard work, but necessary for us to live up to our stated values.

From where I’m sitting… we’re not doing very well at moving beyond representation.

How do I know? Well, we have a problem when…

Oh, yeah. The last one was me. Like I said, this shit is hard.

Many of the creators I listed above are trying to build LGBT leadership or recruit more people of color or train more women as designers. But if we can’t name our failures as a community, then we’re doomed to repeat them, destined to turn our frustration and anger outward instead of doing the work. We have to own our mistakes as much as we celebrate our successes.

And at some point, our collective silence on our failures starts to obscure the real problem: the reality of indie game design is that women and minorities get to be editors, illustrators, and layout staff—they don’t often get to be designers, project leads, or main authors.

For those jobs, it helps to be a white dude.


“What,” you might ask, “does diversity in our industry have to do with the OSR?”

I’m glad you asked.

Humanity has a unique ability to turn hard questions into easier questions to make them solvable. If I ask you “How fast does a dolphin swim?” you might say “I think a dolphin swims faster than a human.” That’s a miraculous answer. You substituted an easier question—“Does a dolphin swim faster than a human?”—in order to answer in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, we can also use that same trick to turn a hard question (“How do we build real diversity into an inclusive and loving community?”) into an easier question that distracts us from the work at hand.

In this case, we’ve settled on a particularly ugly “easy” question as a community: “Who are our enemies?”

We have a protest ethic without the ethics of protest: we demand everyone be in agreement about what is problematic without reference to power. None of the OSR folks are responsible for our community’s perpetual whiteness and maleness. None of them caused us to struggle to hire women and minorities. We did all that ourselves.

The real tragedy is that the OSR ought to be our social justice allies. I Hit It With My Axe features an incredibly diverse crew of women gamers—LGBT women, disabled women, women of color. When the Escapist hired an openly transphobic writer, Zak and his crew took a stand and quit doing the show with them despite the financial hit. The OSR features artists like Scrap Princess, Gennifer Bone, and Erin Palette that don’t get nearly enough attention from our community, and good work like Contessarecently nominated for a DJA—thrives off the broad OSR support it receives.

I think it’s time for us to acknowledge that we’re much more comfortable fighting with the OSR than we are holding ourselves accountable—lovingly!—for real progress. They aren’t the enemy. They have never been the enemy.

But it’s easier for us to imagine that Contessa is undermining feminism than it is to publicly ask Evil Hat why so many Fate Worlds are written by white men. It’s easier for us to imagine that the OSR is an army of shadow conservatives than it is to acknowledge that sexism and racism are endemic in our community. It’s easier for us to blame them than to name and own our failures.

There is a particular irony here: we have met the enemy. He is us.


I hope it’s clear that I’m not defending Zak. I understand that members of our community have been wounded and upset by his actions. It’s clear to me that he doesn’t respect our norms of communication, but he seems intent on engaging us in a protracted discourse.

I don’t know how to speak to that, honestly. I do know that continued conflicts with the OSR community aren’t helping us resolve a goddamn thing. Not with Zak, not with Stacy, not with anyone. We betray our own values, avoid doing the real work our community desperately needs, and injure the very people we claim to want to include. Enough.

So here’s my ask, my plea for peace. I want us to get to the point where we can talk to one another, across communities. I want us to be able to have discourse about our differences (and similarities) without one side injuring the other. I want us to be good neighbors, if not collaborators and partners when it suits the work we’re doing.

I don’t know how to get there, but I do know a few steps we could take:

Listen. Take some time to listen to the critiques and complaints of people from the other side of the conflict. It’s so easy for us to demean, diminish, and degrade each other; it’s much harder for us to sit and listen to how the people on the other side of the line view the conflict.

If you care about understanding and compassion, then you have to extend it to those who don’t think like you, act like you, or look like you… even if it tests your patience.

Apologize. Reach out to someone on the other side of this conflict and offer a direct, sincere apology. It costs you nothing, and it’s a sign of good faith that’s hard to match. You don’t need to do it publicly, but it helps us all to see leaders in our community taking steps to honestly and genuinely make amends.

If you care about fighting for justice, then the first step is to get right with the people you’ve wronged… even if they deserved your anger.

Collaborate. Take time in your next project or event to work with someone new—preferably a woman or a person of color. We’re not going to build Rome in a day, but there are real connections that need to be made within and between our communities to build the inclusive, diverse spaces that we want to have.

If you care about building a loving community, then open up your projects to new people and build new relationships that matter… even when it costs you.

These seem like small steps—and we need to do much more—but we have to start somewhere. And if we stop antagonizing each other—stop with the clumsy protests, stop with the shitty G+ threads, stop with the slander that the OSR is a conservative, grognard, neckbeard movement—then maybe in a few months or years we can find some way to talk to one another as equals, to learn from each other’s communities.

Maybe we can have peace.


I’ve come to regret not reaching out to Kate both more and less. I’ve forgiven myself for not saying something to recapture the space… but I’ve also forgiven Kate for overzealously enforcing the identity politics of the classroom. She was trying to do the right thing.

But I regret not talking to her now because I missed an opportunity to help her see that “Latino-ness” isn’t about looking brown. It’s not about being from a particular kind of neighborhood or having an accent or speaking Spanish.

Yo soy Latino.

For all my contradictions and doubts. For all my excuses and avoidance. I am Latino. Maybe if I had talked to Kate, her idea of who gets to be Latino would be broadened, even just a little.

Our idea of the OSR ought to be similarly broadened. And if we can own our role in this conflict, if we can resist the urge to settle on cheap answers, if we can be our best selves… then I think we can do the work of building the community we claim we want.

And if we fail to do that, then we better stop claiming that we want that community at all.

If your response to this post is to write a comment explaining how Zak’s behavior is so uniquely terrible that it demands the kind of behavior I’ve described, please reread the post and reflect on what I’ve said here more fully. This post isn’t about Zak; it’s about us and how we treat people who engage with our community broadly.

Please don’t use this post as an excuse to harass anyone listed above or boycott their work. My goal is to move the conversation forward, not to drag us back to the past or start a new set of flame wars. Please take your time to think through your posts and comments on this subject before you contribute to the conversation.

69 thoughts on “Two Minutes Hate

  1. Mark!

    Thanks for the post and the insight. You’ve given me a bigger perspective and made my heart bigger today. I’m going to try and be a better human today and play this forward.

    Thank you, man

  2. Yes! Finally, somebody takes a step towards reconciliation and collaboration to help move the community forward! As much as we want to “win”, the path of conflict only leads to greater conflict. There are no real bad people in the hobby, just a very wide spectrum of philosophies. But instead of focusing on the extremes, let’s go back to that massive area where we can all agree and work on growing the community to become more vibrant and welcoming and diverse than it already is.

  3. Hi Mark, thank you for writing this article and for all the thought and work you’ve put into it. Since I have a direct hand in two of the links you referenced (Evil Hat and my interview with Luke on Narrative Control) I want to address both of those in terms of what we’re doing now in an effort to do better:

    Fate World & Adventures, which is our training grounds for new talent is also the place where we started our diversity initiative by working with writers that might or might not have great familiarity with Fate but did have the passion to write. Unfortunately two of those projects did not reach fruition, but two of them did and because of that we have Deep Dark Blue by Lore Graham and Nitrate City by Doselle Young. These projects are slow going, typically taking 9-12 months to complete. So, we can’t turn recruitment into names on finished products quickly, but we are continuing our drive to recruit more women, more people of color, more disabled people, and more queer creators to work on our teems. Coming up in the next year we’ll be seeing Blood on the Trail by Shoshana Kessock, Loose Threads and Prism by Tara Zuber, Til Dawn by Kira Magrann, and Iron Street Combat by James Mendez Hodes.

    We’ve also got Adventure Seeds for the Dinocalypse Trilogy that are nearly finished (last one is in layout now) written by Carrie Harris, Jahmal Brown, Kristin Firth, and Kira Magrann. In our main product lines we just released Bubblegumshoe, which while Kenneth Hite worked on it, the other two primary authors were Emily Care Boss, Lisa Steele and our contributing authors were James Mendez Hodes, Kat Jones, Shoshana Kessock, Kevin Kulp, Kira Magrann, and Brie Sheldon. Other recent releases were Do: Fate of the Flying Temple written by someone you know and Young Centurions written by Carrie Harris and Clark Valentine.

    Currently in development are the Fate Toolkits including the Fate Accessibility Toolkit with primary writer and creative director Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and the Fate Horror Toolkit with primary writer and creative director Richard Bellingham. The writing teams on both of these projects are diverse groups that are making amazing products. We’re also just about to release the beta playtest for The Dystopian Universe RPG written by Brian Engard and Anna Meade.

    I know I’ve provided a long one-sided report card. We also have projects like the ones you cited that only (or predominantly) have white men working on them. We’re proud of those projects too, they are going to make for some great games, but we’re savvy that they could and should be more diverse. We’re watching very closely as we go forward that we continue to recruit from a broader pool now and in the future. As you said, it’s tough work. We’ve made plenty of mistakes and missed many opportunities. Thank you for pointing out these failures to make us evaluate how much (or how little) we’ve done so far and as a reminder for us to do better.

    With regards to Narrative Control, I don’t think you were specifically siting my show as much the interview, but I did recently look at my interview roster and realize just how many white men were on it. In fact, the same goes for my co-hosts and guests. This is something I’m cognizant of and will improve as the show goes forward.

    Once again, thanks for you insight and your encouragement to do better.

    1. As always, brother. You all are doing good work and working with great people. Looking forward to a more diverse Hat in the next five to ten years.

      As for Narrative Control, I was definitely talking about the particular interview… but I’m excited to see the general interview calendar getting more diverse too!

  4. Thank you.

    I love all games. I am heartily sick of being considered with suspicion or as a second class citizen because I like D&D, or other rules crunchy games, or that for me, Fate is too wishy washy, or I can’t bring myself to LARP. I am sick of having the X card rules read to me like an infant, and having to sign that I understand the X card rules before I can DM at a con. I have always held the line in my games against sexist, racist or other offensive topics and comments. I was doing this before people “woke”, and I find it irritating that I have to justify myself to a bunch of people who weren’t even born when I was fighting race, gender and preference inclusion battles in my school, university and work places.

    I suspect that it isn’t convenient for the “woke” to imagine that there are true allies amongst people who clearly “play the wrong games”.

  5. Your thoughts here are well-written, timely, and important. They also sum up why I’ve blocked or muted so many people from both sides of the ongoing dumpster fire. You’re suggestions on moving forward are the best I’ve seen.

  6. Dominic –
    Do you really think that comment was both helpful and in the spirit of this Mark’s post?

  7. Instead of patting ourselves on the back for all the “good work” we’ve done, how about we acknowledge the fact that there is still a ton of stuff that we need to do. I can be better and I need to work toward making not only games but the world I live in a better place.

    This is not just a Hobby game’s issue but a societal one that spans all sorts of media and everyone reading Mark’s post has a responsibility to do something whether you like it or not. Its not enough for me to read this and agree with it, I now have to act on those beliefs.

    Again, thank you Mark

  8. I’m part of the OSR. I’m not in need of outreach or understanding from the story game community, because I have no beef with them.

    What I need is for alla y’all to stop tacitly accepting Zak’s self-appointed status as face of the OSR, because none of us fucking voted for him.

  9. Thank you, Mark. Excellent post. Everything I hear from you lately really resonates with and impresses me. Good on ya.

  10. I am a continually evolving human and over time I’m more and more understanding of what status I have in the community, whether I asked for it or not. I always appreciate you holding my head to the fire and calling me out for my behavior, even if my intentions have been to speak up for marginalized or wounded voices. I didn’t walk out of the Ennies for me, but in doing so I ended up making it about me, and that’s kind of the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it?

    1. Yes, I think so. I’m all for peaceful protest, but it’s got to be clear and pointed and address power. I don’t believe that Zak has power, not like Mike Mearls or you or me. You’re one of our leaders, and I (and others) look to you for real guidance on how to live these values we share. <3

      1. I’m going to politely disagree with you about the particulars of the power dynamics here and in all of the cases you’re citing above.

  11. I think you made some important points in here, which is why I think it is a crying shame that you chose to hitch it to a post calling a grab-bag of people out for a grab-bag of different things. You’ve effectively conflated our need to promote and represent and hire diverse creators (important issue, sad if we’re failing to do it) with other, more controversial stuff which is only tangentially related.

    There is no doubt there’s an ongoing feud between elements of the indie community and elements of the OSR community. There is no doubt it could be more civil and some people have behaved badly (duh, it’s a feud). I think it’s a great idea to try and build bridges between the two communities and I suspect they have a lot more in common than is recognised. But these are separate issues, and it doesn’t serve your cause well to treat it like they are connected.

    Most importantly, you have listed a bunch of individuals’ behaviour and effectively conflated it all under the heading of “bad behaviour towards outsiders by the indie community”. These examples are unconnected, they are complicated and in some cases (I can’t speak to them all) they’re perfectly defensible. I am not going to get into defending individual cases because it’s beside the point. But I will say that linking this to someone who has driven many members of our community to hide behind private shares so they can avoid the aggro of his horrendous behaviour, was a particularly bad plan. You don’t get out of it by saying “this post isn’t about Zak”, either. You made it about him when you put it in your article.

  12. Thank you for mentioning me and linking my open letter.

    After being attacked by Anna Krieder, then having her take my open letter and use it as an excuse to plug her store and her friends’ stores without ever apologizing publicly or mentioning me or the other LGBT people who took umbrage with her post in the first place, I had basically written off this community at large as just another bunch of false LGBT allies who talk about us but never do anything concrete to help us or help us be heard.

    This post is incredibly gratifying to see, and it reassures me a lot. Thank you for speaking out. I also want to say that while we (the OSR/DIY D&D community) are diverse, we too should work harder on championing the best games and books written by non-white, non-cis, non-male people in the TRPG industry at large.

  13. Thank you, Mark, for saying all of this. I don’t have a stake in either community, IMO. I play a bit of everything but a thriving game community needs all varieties of games. We shouldn’t be attacking one or the other. We should focus on what makes the best game experience for whatever audience.

    As you pointed out, the real problem is labeling someone or a community as “the other” regardless of what that “other” is. I don’t have to like a given game to appreciate that it makes its followers happy. And maybe OSR and story games can learn something from each other.

    It all starts with communication and that means not attacking each other.

    And yeah, diversity. I’m invested in it. One reason why I’ll be publishing my RPG through my own company (I’ve had offers to publish through existing companies) is because of what you states about women’s roles in the game industry. I want to pave the way for other people and that includes a mix of gender, races and tastes to do the same and, if all goes well, hiring them, too.

    And one of the commentators above makes a good point about the OSR community not voting a specific person as their leader. All sides need to be careful not to take the bait of anyone (I don’t know the people cited so I’m talking in general) who is pushing their own agenda and claiming community authority they don’t have to do it.

    We got into this business because we wanted to have and create fun. Let’s get back to that and not create enemies that aren’t there.

    1. Good luck with your RPG! And please check out the Indie Game Developer Network for more resources for people who are publishing their own games. We’d love to talk to you.

  14. In the time since leaving my original comment, I’ve since learned of a larger…world, I suppose…surrounding issues outlined in this post. A world I that I was not a part of and had no stake in and, honestly, went unnoticed by me during my first reading of the post. So let me clarify that I support what I see as the message of this post, that everything would be better if we were all more understanding, inclusive, patient, and nice to each other. Seems non-controversial enough. 🙂 I remain impressed with and admiring of you.

  15. “But maybe you should let a Hispanic student speak to that point.”


    “I’ve also forgiven Kate for overzealously enforcing the identity politics of the classroom. She was trying to do the right thing.”

    Am I the only one who thinks Kate was absolutely **not** trying to do the right thing here? Your reply, regarding the Hispanic view of family, seemed thoughtful, informed, and sympathetic. Are only people of Hispanic heritage allowed to have this information, or share it with others? To me that seems wrong on a number of levels; not least of which is the implication that your opinions do not matter because you are not the right skin tone. That’s an argument that sounds familiar, no?

    I am not at all familiar with the situation between OSR and Story Games, but I absolutely agree with the sentiment and I hope this post makes a real difference and goes some way to heal the wounds that are obviously there. Best of luck.

  16. You say lots of things here, but at its core you say two things I question

    First, you say that Robert is out of line with what he says, on a personal level but he has been subject to similar verbal harassment from not only Zak but “associates” of Zak who follow his lead to attack. What you see from Rob is the kid who is being bullied finally standing up for himself.

    My question is, what should he do? Zak goes out of his way to pick on Rob. He attacks anyone who dares discuss the mechanics of games. And Zak has no intersection with reason or compassion. This is bullying and what action is Rob allowed to take? Rob is not attacking OSR, he is reacting to a bully.

    The next issue, no one dislikes people who play OSR. In fact people who play story games often play OSR. I, for example, like OSR games just fine. The thing that modern gamers have a problem with is a few loathsome people and their hangers on. This has nothing to do with OSR. Most people I know who identify as OSR complain more about these people than people outside the community. But when you as an outsider lump OSR players with these toxic personalities, you create a situation where you are asking people to reach out to the people who bully them.

    There is lots more I could say, but this covers the most important bits.

    1. Please present evidence, if you are accusing Zak of behaving in a similar manner. Also, if you are accusing him of picking on Rob.

      As to what he should do, I dunno, maybe not behave with a shocking level of vitriolic rage, and maybe not request that Zak stop enjoying the hobbies he enjoys? The spirit of the post is an appeal to better natures, rather than submitting to anger and allowing it to make one a flaming asshole.

      Also, there is substantial evidence that OSR folks, and very notably Zak and his group, have faced stunning amounts of hate for playing games differently than other people (evidence here: http://mandymorbid.tumblr.com/post/106857162470/im-a-chainmail-bikini-feminist-and-im-fucking).

      1. Well, the picking on Rob bit might come from the fact that the only reason they interacted at all in the instance cited is this: Rob +1’d a reasonable post where someone very politely disagreed with a post by Zak (Zak and Tony even went on to do a whole discussion together that came across as very calm discussion), and Zak tagged Rob (and at least one other person) in a post demanding they explain why.

        Unfortunately, because Zak edited and deleted many posts in that discussion (and later the other discussion between he and Tony), there’s no evidence of it other than the screencap taken of Rob’s post… which Zak turned around and used as evidence that Rob was harassing him (IIRC implying he did so out of jealousy over Zak’s award nominations?).

      2. Zak has several times in the past attacked me personally and sent his henchmen after me. In one case for trying to explain this website http://8kindsoffun.com/ and how it could apply to role playing games.

        I watched him attack Rob on two occasions and have seen him go after other people as well. Most for absolutely nothing. Like +1 ing a post. And then they go around erasing or altering the evidence.

        So I don’t have a simple link I can show you. If it was that easy, this would be long over.

        And, I’m not surprised that lots of people hate Zak. He is a thug and a bully, but they mostly hate him for his behavior, not because he plays OSR games.

        PS – as a side note, not to derail the discussion, OSR plays games the way the majority of people historically played and even currently play. Even if they dont call it OSR. To imply that they are a rebel minority is incorrect. People reacting against OSR are reacting against the established, conservative, majority. And the people who speak for this majority (like Zak) are openly disdainful of anyone who thinks differently than they do.

        1. Josh writes: “And, I’m not surprised that lots of people hate Zak. He is a thug and a bully, but they mostly hate him for his behavior, not because he plays OSR games.”

          ^^^ This. Honestly, 99.999999% of the gaming community has no idea about a feud between “story gamers” and “OSR” proponents… or even if they do, don’t give 2 shits because they will play whatever they like.

          People hate Zak, not because he plays a certain kind of D&D or “OSR” game… People hate Zak because he’s an asshole.

        2. “And the people who speak for this majority (like Zak)”

          I’m one of the many rpg players who was not informed of the election. Please stop assuming this assertion is true until we’ve all had a chance to vote on our leaders.

          By the way, who represents the majority of storygamers on the internet?

          What faction am I in? I’ve been running Moldvay but I’ve also given Fiasco a shot a few times. I’m pretty sure I’m with Celtic rather than the Glasgow Rangers but I’m new to the online rpg scene.

          This is exactly the kind of counterproductive in- grouping and out- grouping that this thoughtful post is trying to discourage.

          I salute the original poster for taking a principled stand. Members of all types of internet communities beyond just rpgs could benefit from reading this.

          1. I was unclear in my assertion. Zak and other OSR players act like they are a minority or outsiders in the roleplaying world. When they are in fact part of the conservative majority.

            You hit upon why this is problematic. Part of the issue is that OSR considers itself such a strong division, while the majority of people who are “story gamers” don’t even use that word.

            Your point is well worth considering, divisive grouping is problematic.

          2. The people who are referred to as story gamers are members of a community of people who share some interests and exchange material and ideas. That’s the case whether or not you use a name. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that either. It’s also the case with old school gamers, poodle lovers, etc. It’s necessary to make generalizations in order to have a conversation about anything, but oversimplifying can lead to the factionalism I wrote about. And we naturally oversimplify what we know less about.

            Your taxonomy isn’t wrong but it’s incomplete. The difference between story games and traditional games is greater than the difference between old school and new school traditional games. So in that sense, the OSR is part of a majority. That doesn’t mean the differences between “old school” and “new school” are trivial. Old school is tiny within that majority and is mostly ignored and occasionally mocked by the majority of mainstream gamers (on the internet anyway). If old school players seem to act like a persecuted minority, consider how often they are accused of being motivated solely by nostalgia.

            Aside: Just realized something old school players have in common with the “story game” community. We probably have trouble finding players because the assumptions inherent in the games are different than what people are used to. (Tricky thing about “old school” is that enough things are the same that it’s easy to assume everything’s the same.)

          3. There’s a lot of old school players. Some played with Gygax. Some were born long after the rules they’re using were written. Some like Zak. Some hate him. Some consider the OSR a movement. (Perhaps a minority actually.) Some don’t want to be associated with it at all. Some (gasp!) also play a lot of other kinds of games. Some are obnoxious. Most aren’t. Consider that people are still happy to disagree about the relative merits of Moldvay and Mentzer before making assumptions. Naturally we need to generalize to discuss anything. But oversimplification can be a real problem, especially if you’re equating shared approaches to rpgs to shared viewpoints about frankly much more important matters. And let me be clear. I suggest this approach to every community, and don’t intend to point fingers at anyone.

            I’m not running for public office. I suppose this just hit a nerve. tehehehe

  17. “Rob has always struck me as gentle and honest. His game—Misspent Youth—is about standing up for your beliefs in the face of oppression”

    I don’t see how you can laud him for making this game, and then immediately criticize him for doing just that.

  18. Thank you Mark. You don’t know me, but I’ve been a lurker since the hey days of the Forge, and saw the beginning of the contention between the pre-OSR and pre-storygamers. I was often confused by the vehement flame-wars thrown at each other and how it has grown over the years. It has stopped me participating online as much as I used to, and focus more exclusively on play alone. The raw hatred being spread about was extremely disheartening. So again, a thank you for your post – your words of peace, love, and compassion brought tears to my eyes. Here’s to moving forward for diversity and compassion.

  19. There is no cruelty greater than that thoughtlessly committed in the cause of righteousness, no worse persecutors than those who think themselves champions. Anyone who’s about to throw punches, real or metaphorical, in the name of progress needs to stop and wonder if they’ll still look heroic to anyone who doesn’t already assume they’re in the right.

  20. I think you really undermined your point by picking Zak as your example. People don’t like, just go after him because he likes B/X D&D, he has had a lot of beef with people for actual reasons, agree with them or not. Maybe you should have focused on your other points and left Zak out?

    1. No… People don’t like him because he’s a complete dick. I love B/X D&D. I love all kinds of D&D.

      But Zak is still a complete dick. It has nothing to do with D&D.

  21. I think the point of umbrage I take with this post is that you *say* you’re not defending Zak, but you’re explicitly making it about him via a very carefully curated list of things he is and does. About his show, about some of his actions, about his victim status.

    I’m not saying his bullshit antics need equal play here alongside them – that’s not the point of the post as far as I can tell. I could write a small novel in the comments about the venom he’s spit and had spit – but what’s the point? The main thrust of this post wasn’t about him, so why does yet another conversation need to be made entirely about him? That’s what he thrives on. No, we should be focusing on behavior. It’s incorrect behavior against *anyone*. It doesn’t matter if they’ve done good or bad, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard – even if they are objectively wrong, it only enables them.

    You talk about how we don’t know anything about them – but what do you know about the people you so confidently call villains in the same breath? What do you know about how harassment like or worse than this has changed them, warped them, and in some cases forced them to leave the scene – or the *internet* – behind entirely? As you say – nothing. Is this, too, fair? Is this, too, just?

    Consider what you perpetrate by making this about *people*, and the power you may unwittingly be giving them – even when you say it is no such thing. Consider if it is really vital to the point you’re trying to make.

  22. Zak has beefs for many reasons. He blocked me on social media years ago for having the audacity to disagree with him and make my point in a coherent manner.

    Zak is NOT the leader of the OSR. Like many circles of common interest, there is no leader.

    There is no such thing as BadWrongFun

  23. In zak i see an iconoclast. Thats gonna rub some people the wrong way. When you get rubbed the wrong way should you a) ask why they would do that to you or b) sling insults and attempt a character assassination. Honest question, no rancor intended.

  24. A lot of the problems that Mark Diaz Truman is talking about here seem to stem from the same behavior. A lot of people really trust their friends judgement so when a good friend tells them “Sam is an asshole” they believe their friend and start shunning Sam without any evidence or even having to know the details about what Sam did wrong.

    That’s lazy behavior but “trust your friends” is a fast shortcut when you don’t have time to dig through the evidence yourself. The problem is that this sort of behavior can turn really cancerous on the internet. If I get pissed off at Kim and tell all of my friends (and internet acquaintances) that Kim is a flaming asshole without providing any real proof or even specific accusations of what precisely Kim did and then all of my friends (and internet acquaintances) start sharing what I said about Kim then it can spread far and wide.

    This means that if you have a tight internet community that really trusts each other then you can often have the WHOLE community decide that someone is poisonous on the say so of any one member. That’s very bad because a community is only as accurate as its least accurate member. You only need one person who’s spreading slander for the entire internet community to be an unwitting (but intellectually lazy) engine of some pretty nasty slander.

    I’ve ended up with arguments like this on the internet:

    Them: Alex is a terrible person, you should shun them for what they’ve done.
    Me: What did they do?
    Them: They harassed many people!
    Me: Who?
    Them: I can’t tell you.
    Me: Um, OK, what specifically did they do then.
    Them: I can’t tell you.
    Me: Do you have any specific links or anything?
    Them: No, but people who I trust completely have told me?
    Me: Anyone I know and trust?
    Them: I wouldn’t think so.
    Me: OK, then just some vague rumors then, I’m going to ignore what you said about Alex.
    Me: *sigh*

    Don’t expect random people on the internet to believe that someone else is a horrible person unless you can provide specifics. It’s really freaking annoying.

  25. Well thought out piece. Thanks Mark. I think we all need to consider those points, regardless of where we come from.

    Whatever your feelings are about someone, act civil or keep mum. Zak can be abrasive, but it’s no reason to be an asshole. Nothing is.

    Also, worth iterating that Zak is Zak and does not speak for “the OSR”. It’s not cohesive enough to have one voice.

  26. It’s not just the OSR that gets the Two Minutes Hate without bothering to ask people what they really think or where they really stand. I just has an hour and a half recorded conversation with a white nationalist where they were more respectful and open-minded than game designers on my own wing of the political spectrum. How sad is that?

    1. Y’know those Nazis: always so tolerant of other ideologies and willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.

  27. Thank you for the attention you bring to this issue. I’ve seen too many people in the last few years who believe that the virtue of their views gives them carte blanche to insult, degrade, or lie about those who disagree with them. This behavior builds up walls of resentment and anger that drive people apart.

    I may disagree with some of your views, but with reasoned, courteous discussion we can hope to achieve improved understanding.

  28. Just wanted to chime in, as another “OSR” person, that I appreciate your post. I have thus far avoided getting involved in any fighting, and intend to keep it that way, but it saddens me to see it happening.

    I appreciate that your article focuses on what “your” community can do first (as opposed to demanding changes from another community). We can’t change other people, only the way we respond to them, and changing that response itself has a powerful impact.

  29. Honest question here (and bear in mind I really don’t know why Bohl is so pissed at Zak): Is there any point when it’s best to stop listening, apologizing, and collaborating?

    Don’t get me wrong! I agree with that. Lately, I’ve noticed my anger directed at racist and sexist asshats was hurting me directly. I’m trying to cultivate a “Zen Disagreement” mentality where I go further than walking a mile in their shoes — I try to remember I can disagree without being rude.

    A cousin of mine posted a response to the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. He said the officers in question deserve medals for killing black people. (Yes, literally that.) To me, that’s absolutely horrible! Trophies for killing people? How can I continue to listen and collaborate with that cousin after hearing that?

    1. An excellent point. But deciding to ignore someone because engaging isn’t worth it is a lot different than continuing to keep the focus on how terrible they are.

  30. I’m neither a “story gamer” nor a “OSR Advocate”. I play all types of games. I don’t know who Robert Bohl is… but I know who Zak S is.

    And he is an asshole. Does he deserve this? Honestly, with the amount of dickishness he displays to others on a daily basis, Yes.. He is a pox on the whole gaming community and he stirs the anger pot more than anyone other than perhaps RPG Pundit… but even Pundit’s rants are amusing in their tin-foil-hatted-ness. Zak is just an awful person.

    I don’t know Robert Bohl. But having interacted with Zak, I completely understand his reaction, and I’m not surprised he would not retract his words.

    1. I’m deleting the replies to this comment as off-topic and inflammatory. Just a reminder to please keep it civil and on topic.

  31. This post is not what I expected, having read about it 2nd hand. I’m glad I read it myself.

    It’s not often you see someone willing to say “friends, I think we crossed the line, let’s put it right”.

    The ‘mob’ as a collective will always sink lower than any individual would by themselves. It takes courage to call a mob to heal, to try and break the ‘mob’ mentality, to splinter the unity (and simplicity) of ‘mob’ thinking back into free thinking individuals.

    I’ll say it – well done.

    It’s not clear to me why that seems hard to say. Maybe it because I don’t really know the history behind these ‘spats’, and saying anything implies I’m on a ‘side’.

    I’m sure both ‘communities’ can learn from each other, but I think this will only happen when people stop thinking in terms of ‘sides’, and accept that there is no right or better way of having fun.

    I recall when the ‘Spice Girls’ first hit the scene, I was asked which ‘Spice’ I liked – that then rapidly evolved into which ‘Spice’ I didn’t like. Artificial divides promotes tribalism, perhaps that’s the root of the problem to tackle.

    Zig-a-zig-ah anyone?

  32. Hey Mark! I can definitely get behind this, but maybe for different reasons? On your side, I definitely think that no one should be treated in the manner Rob was treating Zak. It’s not healthy or productive, it’s malicious, and it’s beneath Rob.

    I think that one of the main reasons that Zak and his ilk in particular ought not be berated in this manner is that they frankly don’t give a shit what a “swine” thinks of them in the first place, and in the second place, it brings to mind the old Mark Twain quote about arguments, stupid people, and beating you with experience. It just isn’t worth the bad karma, backlash from within one’s own community, and anger within oneself that it takes to carry on with any version of a Two Minutes’ Hate.

    1. RPGPundit says “swine” not Zak.
      Pundit is a conservative, Zak is an anarchist–and they don’t get along.

      1. For Pundy more libertarian than conservative, more pragmatic and less argle-bargle than your standard American libertarian but still pretty far from the mainstream.

    2. Once again. Mr. Pundit represents Mr. Pundit. Zak represents Zak. They don’t represent each other. They don’t necessarily represent anyone else at any given time either. Seriously, Mr. Pundit has attacked other old school gamers with at least as much vitriol. “Those indie types all think we’re brain damaged.” is just as wrong. Consider that statement when you see expressions of frustration.

  33. An excellent post. I was an extremely angry liberal when I was younger – exactly the sort of person you describe here. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see the conservative point of view. A lot of what they say, I’ve found, comes down to “stop telling me how bad I am! I’m trying to live my life here!” And I can’t help but sympathise with that.

    That’s not to say that I’ve turned 180 and started to see them as the poor abused victims of the piece. Far from it. It’s more that I’ve started to see how very similar both sides are, how everyone is sure that they were attacked first and that therefore their anger and retaliation is justified. The rhetoric you hear in either camp is almost identical to the rhetoric in the other, and so is the habit of using the most vitriolic and aggressive members of the other side as evidence that Those People are driven solely by the vilest of hatred and evil, while either making excuses for the equally vitriolic and aggressive members of your own side (“of course they didn’t actually mean it when they said that all their enemies should be drowned in burning oil! It was just hyperbole, anyone can see that! Unlike when so-and-so from the other side said the same thing about us, because they were clearly being 100% serious!”) or just dismissing them as a few bad apples who in no way represents the true members of your side.

    The hypocrisy gets tiresome.

    I try not to be like that. It’s not always easy, because anger clouds the mind, and no matter where you stand you’ve got plenty to be angry about. But I think that if we all quieted down a bit and thought a bit more about what we wanted to personally accomplish a little less about who we wanted to spite and defeat, we might actually find that our agendas aren’t as mutually exclusive as all that.

    1. Agreed. The hate and the anger just aren’t worth it in the end. I think people mistake rage for passion. It’s not the same thing. One is despair, the other is hope.

  34. Mike, you threw Robert–someone you called a friend–under the bus with this post, just to display your own sense of self-righteousness. In a very public avenue you blamed him for letting down the industry by showing show solidarity with friends and victims of harassment by lashing out against a known harasser, dragged him through the mud for everyone to see and then try and claim that we all “need to get along.” It completely trivializes people’s reasons for being so angry at certain toxic elements of the hobby, and the fact that you closed the G+ thread just as people were stepping out to talk about their fears shows that you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

    That’s cowardly. This whole post is cowardly. Good goddamn job driving a bigger wedge between people in the hobby and silencing people with legitimate concerns and fears. That may not have been your intention but it sure as hell is what’s going to happen, so I hope you’re happy with yourself. After seeing what you did to Rob publicly, I can’t imagine anyone will want to be your friend since you’ve shown how much THAT is worth to people.

    1. I’m sorry you’re so angry. Genuinely. Not being sarcastic. I hope you find a way to work through your anger.

      1. Yeah, the world would’ve been a better place if people just stopped being angry at harassers and started to be more civil with them. It’s definitely the tone that’s the primary problem here.

        1. No one said you should tolerate being harassed. It’s obviously affected you in a deep way. I hope that it’s no longer happening to you; if it is I hope you get help to stop it. Then one day, I hope it doesn’t hurt you like this anymore.

  35. Hey all!

    We’re shutting down comments here so we can focus on prepping for Gen Con. We will continue to listen to the conversation as it takes place on other forums. Thanks!

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