This art by Kannah Casler was going to be applied to a subclass for 5e’s paladin this week. However, I don’t think that I could, in good conscience, ascribe my wife’s art to something for 5e until further notice. Every time we at the Mage College create something for 5e, it is magnifying the base game further. However, in light of the renewed controversy surrounding Wizards of the Coast and the creative director for Dungeons & Dragons, Mike Mearls, my and the rest of TMC’s stance regarding this issue takes precedence.
As the lead writer and designer of a small 3rd party developer, you might expect that I feel compelled to make a statement regarding the recently revived controversy surrounding Wizards of the Coast and Mike Mearls. However, I feel even more compelled to because Mike Mearls had a fairly direct impact on me as a designer. We weren’t friends, but more like friendly acquaintances, as he originally became familiar with me through my presence in chat during the Twitch stream he ran over a year ago. He was often kind and supportive of me after following me on Twitter, and I was thrilled that someone so integral to the creation of the game that inspired me to start this journey had an eye on me and showed interest. We didn’t communicate very much other than a single direct message on my part showing gratitude for his presence and his influence in my work by way of his stream.
When Mike’s part in Zak S.’s series of abuses came to light, I was torn. I wanted to believe that a personal hero of mine didn’t really play a role in the harming of others. I stayed silent. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. 5e has, like for many others, been the bedrock of my identity as a creator in the TTRPG community. I don’t want to stay quiet any longer because I want to see positive change. Wizards of the Coast is controlled by an even larger corporation, and of course, WotC’s RPG department would be allowed so much in terms of action. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to a number of different members of that team. Some whom I’m mutuals with on Twitter, and my stance, the Mage College’s stance on how this has been handled doesn’t reflect those individuals or our respect for them.
Our official stance is that Wizards of the Coast should most certainly address this beyond the veil of silence that they have used to try to dampen the issue. Undoubtedly, they are keeping a close eye on the public reaction that has been summarized with the hashtag #fireMikeMearls. At the very least, we hope that Mike himself will finally speak on this topic, to give an honest statement of his own beyond the robotic and calculated statement issued a year ago. As someone who once looked up to him, I hope that he can address this with humility, honesty, and a desire to help mend the damage done. D&D 5e and WotC at large have played a part in the representation of those they insist to care about through the themes and subject matter of their product. Though, we now have a large discrepancy in this failing to address the issue. That care for their audience no longer is evident as this dismissive approach has suggested the opposite.
We at the Mage College do not have the means of passing judgment or forcing an outcome, but we can turn down our role in magnifying 5e. “The World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game” is only one of many, and we can create our own, lift up the works of others, and support the smaller voices in the cacophony that is this crowded industry. Until Wizards of the Coast addresses the situation in a more transparent way that acknowledges the concerns and pain this issue has caused, 5e material will cease being created under the Mage College’s banner. As individuals we acknowledge some of us are in the midst of commitments that require our engagement with 5e. While those will not halt, in this sphere that we have absolute control in, we will be applying our efforts further elsewhere. Once those external commitments are fulfilled, we will not be magnifying 5e further until this issue is addressed properly.
Our hearts go out to the victims of harassment, abuse, and trauma, and we are dedicated to doing our part to remove influence from the hands of the abusive, and supporting those whose voices have been silenced by pain, grief, and injury. We want to create for everyone that needs that extra light in their life. For many, these games are an escape, a means of reconnecting, and a place where they can once again regain control. For you, we continue to create, hope to offer some respite from grief and pain, and to empower you to tell the stories that will help you rise, just like the phoenix knight that headlines this article. While I won’t use Kannah’s art to magnify 5e for the time being, we will use it to symbolize the strength and recovery that awaits us all. For you, our friends, the Mage College will help rekindle the flame of hope, light the way, and help you burn bright.