The tabletop gaming fandom was recently rocked by accusations made by adult film star Mandy Morbid against her ex-boyfriend, Maze of the Blue Medusa writer and Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition contributor Zak Smith, aka Zak Sabbath. Morbid claims that Smith was extremely abusive during the course of their relationship and engaged in behaviors such as sexual grooming and issuing death threats directed towards Morbid. Morbid’s public allegations, which also included stories from two other women identified only as ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Hannah’, would spark another woman, cosplayer and model Vivka Grey, to also come forward with her own allegations against Smith which include sexual coercion and assault.
Following these statements by Morbid and Grey, Smith posted a statement addressing the accusations to his personal blog proclaiming his innocence. Smith denies the allegations made by the four women, providing his subjective context of the situations in question along with a statement allegedly written in defense of Smith by former I Hit It With My Axe guest Frances Elizabeth. Smith proclaims his innocence, citing alleged reasons such as Morbid’s incredibly high sex drive which lead her to initiating intimate relations and an assault upon his person by Morbid as evidence that the accusations against him are baseless.
In light of these allegations, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP), the English table top role-playing publisher who currently publishes a table top role-playing game of the same name, recently announced that the company would no longer be conducting business with Smith, save for paying him royalties for already completed work. This decision was detailed in a statement published by LotFP creator James Edward Raggi IV to the official LotFP Facebook page:
Jim here. Let’s get this over with.
Do note that I have been advised by legal counsel to not comment about the content of statements released by various parties involved in the current situation.
Similarly, I have been advised by legal counsel that LotFP is responsible for the comments left on our pages, so we will have to be heavy-handed moderating comments about this matter. There’s a whole internet out there for you to express your unfiltered opinions, please respect our situation concerning this matter in our spaces.
(thank f****** christ for lawyers, eh?)
And something I would have thought could go without saying, but I have been advised to go ahead and state: Lamentations of the Flame Princess publications are purely fiction. There are many things our books portray imaginatively that are absolutely unacceptable in reality, including all forms of violence, which also includes sexual harassment and assault. Keep the bad things in make-believe, and the good in reality.
And now on to the business at hand:
1. All of Zak Smith’s upcoming work with LotFP is canceled. We are not destroying stock or erasing things that have already been published (there isn’t anything on this Earth that would make me a book burner), but should current stocks sell out, they will not be reprinted.
Breaking this out, and clarifying the grey areas:
2. Zak’s financial interest is in Vornheim, Red & Pleasant Land, and Frostbitten & Mutilated, and that’s it. He is not and has never been LotFP management and doesn’t make decisions concerning books that he’s not specifically credited on, and he doesn’t have further financial involvement in the company beyond royalties from sales of just these three books.
3. Zak had some time ago received considerable advances for two new books. One was in quite late stages of development and was planned to be released in April, and we had been preparing another printing of Red & Pleasant Land. These of course are not moving forward. Zak’s Ref book contributions will also not be happening. I think that’s all that was on his docket for us, but if I’ve missed mentioning anything here, they’re still canceled.
4. A new printing of Death Frost Doom, that has a considerable amount of Zak’s work, is already at the printer and there’s not much to be done about that. At this point I’m getting charged a near five-figure printing bill whether they deliver the books or send them straight in the landfill, and I’m not sending them to the landfill. His work on this one was done and paid for in early 2014 and he does not receive any royalties from sales of this book.
5. Zak is credited as editor of Veins of the Earth but the writing there is all Patrick. Zak’s involvement in that project ended in 2015 and he was paid his fee at that time, and he does not receive any royalties from sales of this book.
6. We’ve got two full-time (including myself) employees and one part-time employee (who doesn’t have another job), and investments in literally dozens of other Zak-free projects in various stages of completion. Many people are making royalties off of books that have nothing to do with Zak. Some people already have bailed from their upcoming projects. Some might still. But I plan on fulfilling all my current obligations and continuing to release for a long time to come a lot of things that uphold the LotFP standards of quality, intensity, and pure “What the hell were they thinking?”
Raggi would end the initial statement with “a personal note”, calling for the community to beware of those who would actively celebrate and laud Smith’s departure from LotFP for less than amicable purposes:
And now a personal note…
I’ve talked to a lot of people this past week, people with different perspectives, from the deeply affected to my printer representative who doesn’t know anybody involved. People who had all sorts of opinions on the matter, some favoring one side, some favoring the other. People I agreed with, and people I disagreed with.
You know what they all had in common? They were bummed out. They recognized this was a tragedy from top to bottom. Even the people who agreed with my course of action here, hell, even someone that thought I wasn’t going far enough, recognized what we were losing, even while they said we needed to lose it.
But there are other people out there. People who don’t think this is a tragic situation. There are people out there thrilled about how things have turned out. They’re going to tell you they were right all along about things. And they’ll be most helpful suggesting all the things that still need to be done.
You all need to keep your eyes out for these snakes slithering among us, feigning compassion when they once spat only cruelty, loving what this has done to us, ready to take advantage of the situation for themselves and further erode what we’ve all collectively built as a creative community.*
Don’t let them.
And one last thing. I’d like to thank Zak for all the work and support over the years. I am absolutely crushed that we cannot continue to collaborate.**
Raggi would later amend the post to clarify his stance on the issue and lament the ending of the relationship between himself and Smith:
CLARIFICATIONS ADDED AFTER THE ORIGINAL POST:
* Nowhere in my statement should be considered an opinion about the original parties’ statements. I’m not talking about any of the events detailed there.
And I am quite sure that the vast majority of people offering support, and that demanded action be taken, are sincere.
But some aren’t. The people that don’t see this as a tragedy, but rather an opportunity, those are the people I’m talking about, and they’re out there in the middle of all this.
** This is the end of a very longterm relationship for me here (what, you think Zak’s happy I’m cutting him off? I’m guessing not…), and I have to process that as well.
Yes, I am crushed that we can’t continue to collaborate. Am I really supposed to feel otherwise? The whole situation sucks. I wish more than anything that none of it had ever happened. (note that I am NOT saying “I wish that people had just kept quiet.”)
As far as thanking him… yes. We had an extremely productive working relationship, and did things that people found important at the time it was done. And that’s all gone now. But it happened. No matter what else might have been going on, no matter what you want to think of it now, it happened. And part of my processing this whole thing is remembering and acknowledging, even in front of a mass of very angry people, that it did happen.
Everyone else gets to express their feelings about this whole affair (although maybe not so much here), but for a lot of it, crucial parts, I can’t. But the parts I can, I will.
The ending of the partnership between Smith and LotFP is only the most recent termination Smith has encountered since Morbid’s allegations were first brought to public attention. Since then, Smith has been banned from the upcoming GenCon convention, barred from publishing any new work on the online marketplace OneBookShelf, and will see his credits removed from all future editions of the Dungeons & Dragon 5th Edition Player’s Handbook.