Not Living Up to His Bizarre and Crummy Principles: Update on Lamentations of the Flame Princess

While I’m reading this 650-page book for my next review, I might as well discuss the latest RPG controversy that surrounds one of my favorite games, Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

So, you might remember (read here) that I had decided some time ago, in light of James Raggi’s poor handling of its decision not to work with Zak S., to purchase no further products from Lamentations until they took steps to protect their employees in the future with a policy on dealing with sexual harassment.

The situation has developed in ways I hadn’t anticipated. After some silence from Lamentations, they released Zak Had Nothing To Do With This Book, a short adventure followed by an essay, at GenCon. Zak later took out the essay out and marketed the PDF on DriveThru. He changed the title, then DriveThru pulled it, then Raggi made the book private… It’s quite the saga. (No links for buying any of this.)

In the kerfuffle, I managed to get a used copy of the original print publication, temporarily suspending my “no-Lamentations” rule to get a better sense of the situation based on a piece that wasn’t seeing much circulation. Since then, Brent Jans has posted a good analysis quoting some of the key items from it – including Raggi’s assertions that he himself has been repeatedly accused of violence by women – so you don’t need to seek it out. I did want to concentrate on a few aspects of the piece that I think are crucial.

Here’s one statement of his that stood out for me:

Nevermind that it is a publisher’s job, one of their most important duties, to protect their talent and their work from attack, even if it is offensive to their personal sensibilities

This is certainly an odd statement. I’d certainly hope that the publishers I work with would defend the accessibility of my books, provided I adhered to the requirements of the contracts to ensure the integrity of the work, but I wouldn’t expect them to go beyond that, especially when it comes to wrongdoing – and especially when that wrongdoing impacts their work environment.

Further, Raggi leaves it unclear as to what happens when some of your creatives are running into problems created by another, which is very much a part of this situation.

Later, we come to Raggi’s defense of his principles. I want to quote some segments of what follows, because it’s an amazing act of mental gymnastics:

None of this is an attempt to persuade you to change your mind about Zak or convince you to ignore things you don’t want to ignore. Nobody is telling you to socialize with the man, online or off, or buy things from people you’d rather not buy from…

Oh who am I kidding? Yes, I am. Get over your damn selves[…]

Your opinion about Zak, and how your view of him affects your view of his work, is only personal. You have no right to enforce that personal opinion on other people, or to judge them if they have another opinion. You have no right to wipe the work of another human being, past, present, or future. You have no right to deny someone else their choice to engage with that work.

As a librarian, I care very much about censorship. As an author, I can say that it is an issue that has had some effect on my own writing. I also think that conflating censorship with not buying someone’s work, or telling others not to do so, or making judgments about other people, is intellectually dishonest and trivializes the very principles James claims to defend for his own purposes.

As the RPG community tries to adjust to a series of scandals, I’ve seen some bizarre statements, such as “you don’t have to buy the product, but it’s wrong to tell others to boycott it” or “deleting your PDFs is the same as censorship.” Yet in this day and age, the vast array of information resources available to us mean that you can publish their work easily and make it widely available. Sure, not being allowed to participate in a platform such as Amazon or Drivethru may certainly affect whether you can make money off it. People are thereafter free to buy or not buy your work, save it, delete it, or review it. They can even tell others to buy it, or not to buy it, or not to buy the works of people associated with it, because they disagree with your behavior or your politics.

Does that last piece seem wrong to you? It certainly can – but in a hobby in which people proclaim they don’t buy a book because “it has playable anthropomorphic ducks” or “I don’t like ascending/descending Armor Class”, it’s hard to fault them for not doing so over concerns about how that person treats other people, or how their politics may impact others.

Let’s get back to the present situation. How did Raggi’s principles play out?

I had just a few months before taken on my first actual employees, one full-time, and the same week the allegations went public I’d been approved for the last of a series of large loans intended to be used to expand the company. I was responsible for other peoples’ lives and I was leveraged to hell and back. I was in no position to make my own decisions, let alone put up any sort of fight over it. So, I had to announce that I would no longer work with Zak.

Despite all the finger-pointing and blame, the person who is most responsible for Raggi’s decision not to work with Zak is… Raggi. And his actions thereafter are baffling. There’s no moral calculus I can’t think of that leads to the statement, “I fired someone unfairly and violated my principles, but publishing a GenCon exclusive scenario will definitely make up for it.”

To be clear, I don’t think that Raggi not living up to his bizarre and crummy principles in this case is a problem. Perhaps it would be better for him to adopt a principle that employees and freelancers being treated appropriately is a key value, as it allows them to to their best work, and that dealing with concerns about such treatment in a fair and equitable way is important for a good working environment. At any rate, it’s too late now.

Based on what Raggi has written, I feel it’s time to change my stance on whether I’ll buy the game. Even the best sexual harassment policy would be pointless after a company CEO published a fictionalized defense of Zak and discussed his own supposed history with claims of false sexual harassment while dodging responsibility for any of this. So I’ll be looking for other talented creators to support.

Published in: on October 11, 2019 at 11:48 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Raggi is, of course, right. I’ve had it with viryue signalling and hypermoralism in the so-called “RPG community”.

  2. I am quite certain I am free to support (or not) those creators i wish to and share my opinions on said creators as I have done since I started gaming. Raggi’s reasoning is absurd. Admittedly my only exposure to him was an interview on the Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast – possibly the only episode I didn’t finish as he seemed like someone whose company I would actively avoid.

  3. Brent Jans not James.
    I have long supported LotFP, and personally enjoyed it for the adolescent schlock that it usually was. I even defended Raggi’s response to the whole Zak thing, as underwhelming but still acceptable. I’m not sure I can justify continueing to support their work any longer.

  4. […] For another perspective, check out this post over at Papers Falling from an Attic Window, who was kind enough to mention this […]

  5. It’s not virtue signalling if you then stop buying products by Raggi or Snyder.

  6. I normally don’t respond to these things as most find my viewpoints annoying, absurd, or unsettling. Being a woman I have had the opportunities to experience some of this kind of behavior. Certainly it is disturbing, but I am quick with a comeback or a venomous comment. People who offend me quickly realize that they have made a poor life choice. With all that sabre rattling aside, please allow me to state my opinion of this entire thing. I personally believe it is really a non-issue. If this guy, Zak, sexually harassed some woman, that is largely between he and the object of his inappropriate behavior. If she was paralyzed by this, then she has a fail as well. And before you start with the victim blaming garbage, don’t bother. Your opinions are your own and you have every right to them. My opinion is my own and I am unlikely to change it. This other guy, Raggi (?), let him go but has stated a circuitous opinion that in the end amounts to “get over it.” He, like you, and like me, is entitled to his opinion, as oddly reasoned as it might be. Mr. Harms has expressed his again, and that is also fine.
    Where I am headed in this pedantic rambling, is that my opinion is that some creators have unusual tastes and disturbing behaviors. Is their creative project guilty of the same thing? Does it advertise their unusual opinion? Does it really matter? People have written their belief systems down since, well, there were stone plates to engrave or papyrus to write one. Sometimes it is philosophy, sometimes it is a novel with a message, sometimes it is an editorial. Boycotting someone’s efforts is just silly. Lovecraft was a racist, seriously, yet I still read him because I like the Yog-Sothothery. I think, in our day, we have become thin skinned. Women used to deal with the “secual harassment” and respond in their own unique way to let the jerk know that his attention was not wanted. They did not run off to the authority figures and cry like babies. My response to them is, “get a backbone” and let the creep know he is wrong and his behavior is unacceptable yourself. I am older. People in my generation handled this crap themselves. They didn’t run off to authority figures and whine. Anyway, sorry about the meandering, and if you finished this post, then I thank you for reading.

    • Sorry about the spelling error. The keys on my laptop are worn. It is usually my habit to read my work over, but the secual harassment got by me. The “c” key is right next to the “x” key and I missed that. Sorry.

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