Saturday, February 16, 2019


I believe Mandy.  

If you're reading this blog, you're probably already familiar with the people that have come forward in condemned Zak, but just in case, here's Vikva, Patrick, Scrap, Cavegirl, Skerples, Fiona, Kiel, and Kenneth Hite.  

Add me to the list, I guess.  I'm cutting ties with Zak, and I encourage you to do the same.  

I've dragged my feet because Zak was one of the first people to welcome me to the OSR, and because of all of the good discussions that evolved around him.

Those are good traits, but it's possible to have a few good traits and many shitty ones.

Zak is a manipulator and a narcissist.  He is very good at arguing people down.  I'm not referring to anyone else's allegations--I'm saying this based on my personal experiences, and nothing else.

After Patrick's Fuck All of You post, I wrote a few thousand words condemning Zak's behavior.  I also talked to Zak about it, hearing his side of it, and he eventually talked me out of posting it.

So here's a quick recap of that unpublished post:

Zak likes to divide people into a binary of rational creatives and insane people who don't contribute anything useful.  This is ridiculous and reductive.

It's good to hold people accountable for their words, but Zak has taken that instinct to the extreme by demanding that everyone answers all his questions to his satisfaction, or else admit that you were trolling all along.  Also ridiculous.  

And lastly, he always insisted that rational speakers paid no attention to tone (since definitions of tone were variable), even when it dipped into arrogance and abuse.  Anyone who argued otherwise was doing so in bad faith.

He strives to turn conversations into a strict dialectic, with rules defined by himself.

Zak also wins many debates by sheer attrition.  At a certain point, you realize that it's just not worth sinking another hour into an internet argument.

. . . anyway.

What to do now?

If you believe Mandy (and the other victims): support them.  Say something.

If you want to hear Zak's side of it: here it is.  I don't believe it holds up, but you should still read it as part of the truth-seeking process.

If you want to talk to Zak directly, I don't recommend it.  Debate is his preferred battleground.  I'm not advocating that you don't seek out the full story--just recognize that Zak will distort and spin things.

If you are one of the gleeful trolls looking for an opportunity to shit on Zak: hold your fucking tongue.

If you are Zak: I dunno, man.  You've got a lot of good ideas in your head.  Stop viewing everything as a combat to be won.  There was a time when you were less aggressive, less controlling, and I think a lot of that online harm can be rectified someday.  (I can't speak about the offline actions.)

If you want to know more: click those links up in the second paragraph.

If you want to build a better OSR community: 
  • This week's lesson is to never tolerate abusers.  More broadly, don't tolerate shitty people who are making your community worse.  The shittiness very quickly outweighs past actions and contributions.
  • Hold people accountable for their statements.  Ask for sources.  Research your own claims.
  • Cite sources.  Give people credit.  Especially artists.
  • Post something.  Even if you don't think it's that good, I guarantee that it will be of use to *someone*.  Don't denigrate reviews or remixes--those are also extremely useful things.
  • Talk to people that are writing stuff you are interesting.  Bang ideas together.  Collaborate on something.
  • If you see something that sparks joy, reshare it.
  • If an online comrade hasn't posted in a while, check in on them.  It helps keep the community alive, and even if it doesn't, everyone appreciates a friendly voice.  I'm not just a name at the bottom of a blog post--I'm a human.  And so is everyone else on your blogroll, on G+, and on Reddit.
I know G+ is dying soon, but we aren't.

And whatever strange form the OSR takes in the future, I know I want to be a part of it.


  1. "I've dragged my feet because Zak was one of the first people to welcome me to the OSR, and because of all of the good discussions that evolved around him."

    This comment keeps being made by so many people I follow. Its very telling in how he kept the status quo for as long as he did.

    Either way, glad you've come out and said all of this.

  2. Good post Arnold and as always a great blog. I stepped away from all social media other than bliss. Maybe I'll return one day, but loving focusing more on blogs that I'd never done in the past.

  3. Bliss = blogs. Curse you autocorrect!

  4. Yup.

    Funny enough this blog has been a balm this week, I started using Arnold here a long time ago as a coping mechanism. Let all your posts build up until I have someone in the hospital or waiting for a test to come back.

    Caught up as of this week, yeesh.

  5. Once again, you put letters to my thoughts. I could hardly agree more with ya.

  6. This gives me hope that OSR will continue after the G+ apocalypse. Towards a better community.

  7. Glad you posted this Arnold, I haven't been sure where you stood or where I and others stood with you since that last brief comment exchange about Zak, good to see this positive statement.

  8. I feel saying that he won arguments through attrition is a framing we should avoid. As someone who eventually tagged him in in the rpg subreddit as "THIS WON'T GO ANYWHERE" and who tried to have a few private conversations with him... a lot of arguments with him ENDED through sheer attrition but I don't feel that anyone but him ever though that he'd won them? Like... I don't think that anyone who watched him engage online ever saw his conversation partner walking away as a sign Zak had won as much as a sign they made the realization that everyone eventually made when arguing with Zak over most issues that he was either incapable of understanding other peoples' points or intentionally arguing in bad faith. For all of Zak's strengths as a game writer, I have never seen him actually win an argument because he fundamentally never understood what the other person's point was or knew how to address it. Someone walking away from you isn't actually a sign you won an argument and I think believing it is was part of Zak's problem.

  9. "Talk to people that are writing stuff you are interesting. Bang ideas together. Collaborate on something."

    "If you see something that sparks joy, reshare it."

    ^^ These two things, a million times. Thanks Arnold.

  10. After reading both sides it really sounds like everyone involved has pretty serious issues, and it reminds me why you never get involved in other peoples relationship drama, because its usually impossible to judge from the outside.

  11. I'm a bit late to the discussion, but I wanted to say that I've looked up to you for a while now and this post really made me respect you all that much more. Thank you, both for this and for everything else you've done here on GoblinPunch.