Done Waiting

Like many of you, I read Orion’s statement about their being let go from Wizards of the Coast and their treatment while they were employed there. And I feel what many of you feel: anger, disappointment, sadness…a mix of feelings that, for me at least, add up to rage. And that’s what I had intended to do when I got up this morning. The previous version of this post was full of rage, lashing out at WotC and Hasbro, their management, at the co-workers who remained complicit in silence. But I deleted that post and started this one.

Because I have worked through rage, to contempt. And that is all Wizards of the Coast deserves from me, and all of us, today and going forward. I could run through a laundry list of reasons why. I feel like I covered enough of them in my previous post so instead I’m going to focus on one thing that stood out for me.

WotC’s most recent statement included the following bullet point:

“We’re proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists. We’ve brought in contributors who reflect the beautiful diversity of the D&D community to work on books coming out in 2021. We’re going to invest even more in this approach and add a broad range of new voices to join the chorus of D&D storytelling.”

And the thing that immediately occurred to me when I read Orion’s post yesterday was, they knew. When WotC made their statement, when they squirted out these beautiful sounding words, WotC already knew what had been done to Orion and the treatment they endured, and not only did they do nothing, they already knew they weren’t going to renew Orion’s contract.

They lied to us. They looked us in the fucking eye, told us everything was going to be okay, and carried on as usual.

meet it is I set it down

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain…”

There is a tactic an abuser will use if it looks like they might get outed as an abuser. They will go to their previous victims, check in, and apologize. It isn’t sincere, the abuser isn’t trying to fix anything with this. They are doing damage control, so when the story of their abuse comes out they can claim they were already working on the problem.

The statement made by Wizards of the Coast in mid-June is the corporate version of that. They made it, not out of contrition, but to control the narrative. So that any stories that came out (and there have been many, Orion’s is sadly just the latest) would be mitigated. “No, our bad, but look, we’re getting help!” Like so many other abusers in out hobby and the industry, WotC has been outed. And not once, it must be said. People I respect have been telling us for years that we are in an abusive relationship with WotC, that they won’t change. Speaking for myself, and as recently as my last post, I held out hope that WotC could change, that they wanted to change. I was wrong.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons on January 21, 1980. It has been a source of joy and creativity for me for forty years. I have found friends I wouldn’t have otherwise because of D&D. I have written innumerable words about and for the game. I have been this game’s champion.

Until today, July 4, 2020.

Wizards of the Coast is another abuser exposed in our hobby. It may be in them to redeem themselves, but frankly I no longer care. Given the size of WotC’s presence it may sound ridiculous, but for the good of the hobby they cannot be allowed to take up space here anymore. I’m sorry I wasn’t fully on board with that before, and I apologize to anyone I hurt by my continued tacit or overt support of D&D and WotC.

Disentangling our hobby from WotC will not be easy. There are any number of freelancers who, because of the market share D&D holds, rely on creating D&D content to pay the bills. This includes not just the DMs Guild, but also your FLGS, folx who make gaming accessories, and streamers. Yes there is an uptick in non-D&D games streaming, but the D&D tag on Twitch remains the most used and watched of the TTRPG tags. So while I hope each of these groups and creators will take a good, hard look at what is going on and make their own decision, I don’t expect there will be a huge switch overnight and I don’t fault anyone for that. Talk to me a year from now, though…

As for me? In my now deleted rage post I had a towering list of ultimatums and demands, promises I was going to make. But all of that boils down to one thing. I will no longer support Wizards of the Coast, or any game they produce. I am winding up any current obligations I have that might touch on the D&D space, and then I am done with it. I will not write another word about D&D, here, at The Rat Hole, or anywhere else. In order to cause the least harm to any creators who still rely on DMs Guild, I will continue to accept editing work for DM’s Guild projects, but will ask that I be paid in a royalty share to be assigned to Extra Life instead; if that can’t happen I will donate my word rate to Extra Life myself. Existing projects for which I currently receive royalties cannot be changed, but I will tally my quarterly earnings from those and also donate that amount to Extra Life. In any case I will not personally profit off of any D&D products, and I look forward to taking on editing work for products in other systems. A few current writing projects will be pivoted to system neutrality or other TTRPGs.

And as I have said before, you’re going to see me talking a lot more about other creators on here. Picture our hobby like an enormous aquarium. Yes, D&D is a whale floating smack in the middle, big and impressive looking. It’s the first thing anyone sees when they first arrive. But it doesn’t actually do much except occasionally inhale and spit out other fish. If you pull your attention off the whale you will see it surrounded by a vibrant, colourful, exciting world of other creatures. Our hobby has so much more to offer than a whale that is taking up space better used by other fish*. It’s time for the whale to go. 

Because even if they fixed everything tomorrow, it wouldn’t be contrition or remorse. It would be fear. Fear of losing their place of power in our hobby. Fear of losing us. Because that’s what WotC hopes you and I won’t notice in all this: they need us, more than we have ever needed them.

*Just to head off the comments, yes, I know a whale isn’t a fish. You know what I meant so just don’t.

Waiting for the Roar

The round of atrocities which have led to wide-spread protests in support of #BlackLivesMatter and defunding police, also caused the TTRPG industry to take a hard look at its history of systemic anti-Black racism. Many companies, streamers, and other hobby notables were quick to show their support, helping to raise funds and outlining tangible ways in which they were going to move forward in support of Black people in the industry. But one voice was conspicuous in its absence.

Finally, on June 1, weeks after the protests began, Wizards of the Coast tweeted out their response from the D&D account. For anyone expecting full-throated support in line with so many other, earlier, TTRPG industry messages, the post seemed more like a, “Oh, by the way…” No where did it actually say Black Lives Matter, instead landing closer to All Lives Matter in it’s blandness. It was a statement long on sentiment and short on specifics, disappointing given how long it took for WotC to release a response in the first place. (In order to be fair, WotC did send a linked tweet with the BLM hashtag…twenty minutes after the initial tweet went out. So at least somebody though that was important, if only as an afterthought.)

Since then WotC has done a few things that seem to show active support; they hosted a fundraising stream featuring Black creators, charity bundles were pulled together on DM’s Guild, and their twitter account was RTing a number of other BLM events and initiatives. Still, this was all facilitating other folx actions; helpful, but amongst all the promotion for D&D Live and various Magic: the Gathering events, I waited to see some direct action from the company itself. I mean, in this same amount of time Itch and the TTRPG community were able to raise over $8 Million dollars. Surely WotC, backed by a major corporation like Hasbro, could manage something of a similar scale?

Fast forward to June 17, when WotC tweeted out another statement. While it might have appeared they were doing little, that was because they had been listening. Okay, not a bad thing, listening is the first step to learning. And in a linked page on their website, WotC laid out what they learned and what they were going to do about it. I’ll let you read it yourself.

My overall impression is that, while it gives the appearance of being much longer on actions than sentiment, it’s a lot of stuff the community has been asking for since well before the current protests. Criticisms of the biological determinism embedded in D&D go back years and decades, and when WotC is finally stirred to action? They’re going to do better in future books, fix problem areas in specific current books when they reprint them, and will release a supplement to fix the core character build process. The first one should be a given, and is arguably the lowest bar to clear given their track record. The second is great, and has apparently already been done for a few books, but no mention of what they’re doing for folks who already purchased the books (apparently there is something happening for those folx, but it should be on the statement page, don’t make people hunt to find it).

The last one, however, raises red flags for me. Why a supplement? Why not just update the core rulebooks in the same way you are doing with other sourcebooks? If they truly believe this is the path forward, why create a “separate but equal” set of rules that will inevitably cause issues in the community going forward. Any long time gamer can tell you, “supplemental” rules are optional rules. If they aren’t wholeheartedly adopted by WotC and incorporated into the DM’s Guild and Adventurer’s League, then this is just performative and WotC is trying to have their cake (that they didn’t even bake) and eat it too.

Now, let me take a moment to extend legitimate praise to WotC for hiring sensitivity readers for their upcoming work. That is an excellent step, and while it should have been done much sooner, the fact that they have done it is a positive sign. Hopefully it is something which continues once attentions wain.

The statement ends on a seeming commitment to hiring more diversely, which on its face would seem like a positive thing. And certainly a more diverse freelancer and staff pool is a good step. But there has been no mention of dealing with any of the systemic issues inside WotC/Hasbro’s office culture, issues which have led directly to some of the problems WotC is arguably trying to fix. As well, WotC and Hasbro continue to be silent in the face of calls to fire Mike Mearls and fix their harassment problems. So any diverse folx hired are coming into an environment which does not appear to value them enough to protect them, or support them with an equally diverse management.

On top of that, no where does this statement mention the faint bit of action present in the June 1 statement, the promised donations to three agencies.  By now someone in the Finance area at WotC/Hasbro should have been able to blow the dust off a calculator, figure out a number and a sufficiency of zeroes to follow it, and be able to announce it. That they haven’t at this point, while instead pushing third party initiatives through DM’s Guild and DnD Beyond, concerns me.

I have tried to be optimistic when it comes to WotC/Hasbro. In the face of everything I hoped they might actually take some sort of action befitting an industry leader. They were so proud of all those survey numbers they talked about a few months back, after all; all those folx playing their game, how wide their impact is spread. I’ve been waiting for a roar befitting a dragon.  But in this time of crisis, with people in the community they so proudly tout facing bigotry, hatred, and in some cases, death…well, we get this.

But hey, it’s a start. At least they’re still listening, right?

Where I’m at with #FireMikeMearls

I was going to write another #FireMikeMearls tweet but I felt like I needed a bit more room today, so you get a post instead.

I’m not going to spend time summarizing the situation. By now you are either familiar with what’s going on or you aren’t. If you are a summary is wasted space and if you aren’t, searching the hashtag on Twitter will get you up to speed. If you need to do that before reading further, go ahead. This post will be here when you get back.

This may not be a very cohesive post; I’m going to talk about things as I think of them. To start, I am 100% in support of firing Mike Mearls from his position at Hasbro/WotC, as a first step in cleaning up their corporate culture. If it can be cleaned up, and we’ll touch on that in a bit. And firing Mearls is the minimum the company has to do right now. He should have been fired years ago when the harm actually occurred, but Hasbro/WotC shat the bed on that situation, alerting anyone paying attention to their obvious lack of any sort of harassment policy or procedures.

Before we go further, let me establish that I have some experience with harassment policies and procedures through my job. I work for my municipal government, and we have a clearly defined policy and several procedures in place to deal with workplace harassment and misconduct. Every employee is aware of what their rights are and what they can do if it occurs or if they witness it happening.  Through my position I have sat on committees reviewing our procedures, so I am probably more familiar with the details than most of my co-workers. In addition, I am a shop steward for my union, and it is my responsibility to understand and carry out my union’s policies and procedures around workplace harassment. That means helping the victims of, but also identifying and penalizing the perpetrators of.

So when I tell you that, as an outside observer, it appears that Hasbro/WotC either doesn’t have policies/procedure in place, has them but didn’t bother to follow them, or has ones so bad they aren’t worth the stale bagels and coffee consumed at the meeting that crapped out the policy document, I have a bit of experience in that area.

When I send a tweet with #FireMikeMearls in it, I don’t think that’s the end goal. Not even close. Because Mearls is just the most egregious symptom of a larger problem. He doesn’t work in a vacuum, there are higher ups and co-workers who have allowed him to retain a place in the industry and our hobby. The fact that his actions around Zak S are simply one example of Mearls’ poor judgement (at best) and active support of abusers (at worst), makes the tacit support of his peers disappointing.

But that’s actually all the time I’m going to spend talking about Hasbro/WotC’s corporate culture. If I thought they could be saved, if I thought they were worth saving at this point, I could look at my own workplace policies and make some suggestions around fixes they might try. But if you’ve built an unsafe house, you don’t try to repair it. You tear it down and build a better house. Frankly, I don’t see anyone at Hasbro/WotC having the guts to do that.  Believe me, I’d love to be proven wrong.

So if I’m not going to talk about that, what are we doing here? I want to spend some time talking about what I plan to do going forward in the hobby. Because while I maybe should have come to this sooner, it’s come to the point where I can’t put it off: I can’t support Dungeons & Dragons anymore. Which is sad. Dungeons & Dragons was the game that got me into the TTRPG hobby, it was my first and my most often played, through forty years of gaming. But as long as Hasbro/WotC demonstrate their complete lack of connection to or concern for their player base, I can’t support them.

“But Brent,” I hear you say, “You can still play D&D and never give the company another dime.” And you are right. But monetary support is only part of the picture. I am a big believer in modelling the behaviour you want to see. If I talk about Hasbro/WotC needing to face consequences for their lack of action, then turn around and shout, “Roll for initiative!”, that doesn’t model good behaviour in my eyes. Rather, it shows that I am willing to justify folx being hurt as long as I get to remain comfortable playing my games.

So going forward, I am going to be writing about other games in the hobby, and framing my player/GM posts to relate to these other systems. I’ve been guilty of writing posts where I assume the Dungeons & Dragons style of play as the baseline, and have talked about campaign creation and game mastering from that standpoint. But something my #ReadIndieRPGs videos demonstrated quite clearly to me, was that D&D is not our hobby’s baseline, and hasn’t been for some time. I mean, I knew that (and indie creators have certainly been yelling it at me for a while), I just hadn’t thought about it consciously before. So expect me to better live up to the site’s name going forward.

I’m also going to stop running/playing D&D, though that will take a bit more time to transition. One campaign has been on hold, and won’t be an issue to just stop. The other is active, however, and since I haven’t even discussed this with my players yet, it isn’t going to stop on a dime. Luckily we have a session tonight, so I can start that conversation and hopefully find us another system that suits our needs. I have no doubt we will.

Update: We had that discussion. This group of players does not follow the goings on in the TTRPG industry, and so were unaware of any of the issues surrounding Zak S/Mike Mearls/et al, so I had to fill in some background. Gratifyingly, however, once I did there was unanimous agreement that we should drop D&D like a moldy apple and switch to another game. For those curious, we have settled on The Black Hack for now, and are excited to see where these new, much simpler mechanics take us.

Because guess what? Did you know our hobby and industry has other games besides D&D? I know, it blew my mind as well! Not only are there other games now, there have always been other games! Growing up in the hobby I played a decent percentage of all of them, and I look forward to getting back to some of them, trying out their updated versions, or diving into newly designed games. This is the perfect time for me to get a Ryuutama, #iHunt, or Flying Circus campaign going, for instance.

What I don’t plan to do is dog pile anyone who still plays D&D, or independent creators who still publish for the game. You’re all adults, you all get to make your own decisions about these things. Not all indie creators, especially those in marginalized communities within our hobby, have the luxury of being able to just stop. Many creators have commitments in the pipe and can’t just cancel an entire project. I get that, and I have no beef with you. That said, if you come after me or anyone I know because of our decisions around this game and the hobby; if you try to brigade me or anyone else for using the #FireMikeMearls tag; if you’re just generally a shitty person about the whole thing, regardless of the “side” you support, I will call you out on it, report you, and block you. I have no time for any of that, and my Block Party has unlimited seating and all the warm Diet Fanta you can drink.

That’s where my head is at right now. I’m still reading threads and listening to various people in the hobby and industry to get their takes. But I wanted to take a moment to get some stuff out of my own head, maybe help me think a little clearer around the subject. Because this current situation is a) not a new one in our hobby, and b) something that is a source of and caused by the history of bigotry and colonialism that has long been present in the hobby and industry. There are better qualified people than I talking about that subject, so for right now I am listening. But I will have more to say by and by.

As always, feel free to shout at me here or on Twitter. We’ll talk more soon.

#ReadIndieRPGs Master Post

I was cross posting my #ReadIndieRPGs videos here up until about Day Twelve. I stopped because I knew I was going to do a master post, listing everything I read with links to the videos and the games. It seemed to me a master post with everything in one place would be more useful to anyone coming by the site, even if it meant less daily traffic.

I’ll talk about my thoughts on #ReadIndieRPGs in another video and post that on the site as well. For now, I wanted to get this listed in one spot because I feel that if you are new to indie RPGs and want to explore what’s out there, this list is a good place to start. Not entirely unintentionally I managed to give a good cross-section of types of games, solo vs. group games, and so on. And many of these creators have other games as well, which I encourage you to check out.

A quick guide to the links below. If you click on the Day you’ll go to the video I recorded. If you click on the game title you’ll go to whatever page has more information on the game and a way to purchase it (where this is multiple locations I have opted to link the location which gets the creator more money). If you click the creator name you’ll go to whatever page best shows them off, usually their website or Twitter page. Specific entries might have other information. Enjoy!

Day One: #iHunt – by Olivia Hill and Filamena Young

Day Two: savior – by Kate Bullock

Day Three: Succulent Sorcerers – by Diwata ng Manila

Day Four: Hot off the Press – by Margaret Catter

Day Five: TTRPG Safety Toolkit – by Kienna Shaw and Lauren Bryant-Monk

Day Six: A Hero’s Journey – by Jessica Marcrum

Day Seven: Session Zero by Meghan Cross

Day Eight: Purplest Prose by Pamela Punzalan

Day Nine: Station Hunt by Graeme “POCGamer” Barber

Day Ten: Breakfast Cult by Ettin

Day Eleven: Solar Convention by Will Sobel (published by Gallant Knight Games)

Day Twelve: Camp Xander by Raven Norris (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Thirteen: you will die alone out here in the black by Ben Roswell

Day Fourteen: Wu De The Five Powers

Day Fifteen: Wishing Well by Riley Hopkins

Day Sixteen: all we know are the things we have learned by Blake Stone

Day Seventeen: Paleo Party by Dyer Rose (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Eighteen: Oathbreakers by Jamila R. Nedjadi of Sword Queen Games

Day Nineteen: Yule Army by Secrets of the Masquerade (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Twenty: Keeping the Lights On by Hekla Björk Unnardóttir (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Twenty-one: Flying Circus by Erika Chappell (published by Newstand Press)

Day Twenty-two: Los Arboles by Mercedes Acosta

Day Twenty-three: Sandwich County by Flowers

Day Twenty-four: Banquo at the Feast by Marn S.

Day Twenty-five: The Steadfast & the Rebellious by WH Arthur

Day Twenty-six: 99 cent Chamber of Death by Christian Guanzon

Day Twenty-seven: Stewpot by Takuma Okada

Day Twenty-eight: Ego by Sandy Pug Games

Day Twenty-nine: Troika! by the Melsonian Arts Council

Day Thirty: Ryuutama by Atsuhiro Okada

#ReadIndieRPGs – Catching Up

I took a few days away to relax and regroup, get my bad brain back in order. But I am back, and here are videos for Days Ten to Twelve to catch me back up. Day Thirteen resumes our normal one-a-day schedule.

Day Ten

Day Ten is here! As foretold in The Prophecy we are reading from Breakfast Cult by Ettin. Breakfast Cult is played using the FATE Accelerated rules, and each player takes the role of a student at Occultar Academy, Earth’s finest occult school. Hilarity ensues.

If you you would like to play more from Ettin, check out their Itch page and give them a follow on Twitter. I recommend Retrocausality or Oh, Dang! Bigfoot Stole My Car With My Friend’s Birthday Present Inside.

Day Eleven

Day Eleven is here, Ambassadors, and it is time to attend the Solar Convention. In this one-pageRPG by Will Sobel, published by Gallant Knight Games, you will argue and cajole your fellow players to advance your government’s agenda at an intergalactic conference. Good luck, Ambassador! You can keep track of what Will Sobel is up to on Twitter and find more from Gallant Knight Games on DriveThruRPG.

Day Twelve

It’s Day Twelve! Get your bunks squared away and head to the mess hall, we’re having breakfast at Camp Xander, by Raven Norris. You play camp counselors at a camp for monstrous children, with all the hilarity and pathos that ensues. If you would like to find more from Raven Norris you can follow then on Twitter and check out the San Jenaro Co-op compilations. Volume One has another game by Raven, Eggsecutive Powers, and Volume Two contains On Loan and Deathseekers.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPGs – Day Seven: Session Zero

Day Seven! We made it through the first week, which means twenty-three more days of Indie goodness to go! Today I read and talk about Session Zero by Meghan Cross, one of the best character story generators I have come across. If you would like to see more excellent games by Meghan Cross please check out her Itch page or follow her on Twitter. I highly recommend The Silent Garden and GayMerGirls, both brilliant games.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPGs – Day Five: TTRPG Safety Toolkit

Welcome to Day Five! Today we deviate a bit and read from an indie TTRPG resource, if not an actual game. But since it helps make your games safer and therefore better, it’s on my list!

The TTRPG Safety Toolkit is a resource created by Kienna Shaw  and Lauren Bryant-Monk. The TTRPG Safety Toolkit is a compilation of safety tools that have been designed by members of the tabletop roleplaying games community for use by players and GMs at the table. You can find it at

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndirRPGs – Day Four: Hot off the Press

Day Four dawns! Grab your books and feed your algebra homework to the dog, we’re going back to high school with Margaret Catter’s Hot off the Press! You can check out more of Margaret Catter’s work on their Itch page ( or on Twitter ( I particularly enjoy “It’s Dangerous to go Alone, Take This” which is a micro RPG using whatever the GM has in their bag or pockets at the time.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPGs – Day Three: Succulent Sorcerers

Welcome to Day Three! I was hoping by this point to be celebrating Spring by reading from Diwata ng Manila’s Succulent Sorcerers, but since it’s -20C here on the Canadian Prairies maybe I’m trying to conjure it instead. You can check out more of Diwata ng Manila’s work on their Itch page or on Twitter. Besides other games set in the “succulent” universe, like Bonsai Brawlers and Petal Paladins, you can find excellent games about relationships and mechs.

If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!