Monday 18 February 2019

Mistakes and Community Expectations

I'm afraid this is another post completely devoid of game content, but a rare post on the state of the RPG online community. In particular, this relates to the current situation around Zak S, which has been written about in great detail by Emmy, Patrick, Arnold, and Skerples among countless others.


The accounts written by Mandy, Hanna, Jennifer, and Vivka sound genuine to me. I see no reason why they would fabricate their experiences and put themselves through this experience. 
Zak's response and those of some of his close friends haven't addressed the accusations, instead focusing on discrediting Mandy and painting Zak in a positive light.  

Since the accusations we've seen an almost unanimous renouncement of Zak, severing of contact, and re-thinking previous support of him. When the accusations came to light he was banned from the OSR Discord server.

More interestingly, this has been followed by a stream of people saying that they had avoided engaging with the community while Zak was such a central part of it, and now feel comfortable joining in. 

This post is written in the context of being admin of the OSR Discord channel (see link in the sidebar). I'm not looking to examine evidence or suggest a legal sentence to be applied. I'm posting about the mistakes I've made as a server moderator, the lessons I'm taking from this, and the actions I'll be carrying out in future.


I didn’t fully appreciate the amount to which somebody can be technically correct, but still make the community a worse place.

I didn’t trust my judgement of character. Like so many others I knew Zak behaved like a jerk but gave him far too much leeway.

I was overly hung up on the fear of Zak having his own OSR Discord channel, and the danger of him being sole moderator of the main channel of OSR communication. This made me overly cautious in my treatment of him.

I'm sorry for the harm that the above mistakes caused to other users of the server.


  • The way rules are presented can influence the perceived culture of the server.
  • Some people will push their behaviour right up to the boundaries of any rules.
  • You never know how many people are holding their voices back.

The Future

Now my focus on creating a community with positive, respectful culture rather than living by hard rules. People will still be accountable, but we will live within human limits. 


  1. Well said.

    Also, you can't stop making bulletpoint trios.

    1. When archaeologists are recovering lost Google Plus posts in a thousand years' time they'll use them to identify my work.

  2. Even now I'm already seeing people, particularly on Reddit, start defending Zak S by insinuating that anyone who thought he was an asshole before these allegations only believes the allegations because they have a personal vendetta against him.

    And yet, as you've stated above, it's clear that his actions drove people away. It's almost as if someone acting like an asshole isn't just a superficial thing people should look past, and has a direct impact on the world around them.

    Good on you for moving forward with this post. It's very well written.

  3. It is also a positive and constructive step forward. That sort of response is also, I believe, what will attract people back and maybe also stop some people leaving anyway because they’ve become disenchanted with the whole scene.

  4. Not at all connected to the message of Chris' post, but wanted to share: I am running Into the Odd tonight for a couple of gamers who have never experienced ItO before. Going to run 'The Iron Corral' out of the ItO rule-book. They've had some experience with D&D but one of the two has expressed a bit of bemusement at all of the page-flipping to find spells n' such. ItO runs on rails, so I'm hoping they delight in its clean lines and implied themes. I find myself reaching for ItO more and more often, despite decades of gaming experience with many systems.
    - Brian C.