Monday, March 4, 2019

What's the opposite of humble?

I had intended to stay quiet about everything I know, but this post here on Tenkar's Tavern was, I suppose, the straw that broke the camel's back.

Or maybe because it's almost St. Paddy's Day and the Irish in me just won't let it go.

As much as anything, this blog post is a warning against centralized power, its corrupting nature, cults of personality, and the slippery slope of authoritarianism (yet I hope to keep this apolitical).

Now that I re-read this, it's really long, but I wanted to provide as much as possible so people wouldn't respond with "But, but sour grapes and stuff..."  Yes, some of my interactions left me with bitter feelings, but this is not retaliation for a few slights.  Rather, I want to shine a light on a very public figure before he becomes "too big to fail."  This is to open discussion while it's still feasible to critique the Tenkar Empire without disastrous reprisal.

A little backstory, I've known Erik Tenkar for years, since I started blogging and writing OSR stuff back in 2014.  He was a prolific and well known blogger in those days and his power and recognition has steadily grown since then.

For awhile, Erik and I didn't get along.  But then we kind of got over that and became the kind of friends that's really more like online acquaintances.  He helped me out with promoting various projects, and I tried to show him the same consideration and loyalty (like defending him against Facebook attacks from Stacey and company).

There were isolated moments, like when someone would mention Erik's name in a g+ thread, saying it would be nice if he'd blog about whatever they were kickstarting or selling, but didn't tag him, and he'd find out about it and angrily blog about people who think they're owed.

Looking back, that kind of thing was a trademark of Zak S.  You'd mention his name in passing, and if it was anything but a glowing endorsement, he'd find out about it and criticize you or defend himself by clutching his "tavern keeper beyond reproach" pearls. 

Or when I commented on his blog post with less than complimentary remarks, like Frog God Games virtually giving their old Pathfinder compatible stock away at a convention... those comments either never made their way to his blog or were deleted without comment.

Not too long ago, I asked if I could guest post on his blog, which he regularly encouraged.  He said sure, but when I sent him the content, there was zero response and it never appeared.  That I can sort of understand, because it was a little risque, having to do with Alpha Blue and legalized brothels in Nevada.  Nevertheless, an email saying, "Sorry, that's too much." would have been nice.

And then there's the proposed OSR answer to the ENnies. Erik brought me into discussion and even asked me to be one of three judges.  It was going to be Erik, one of the Spahn guys (I think) and myself.  The OSR was going to have its own annual award.  After several back and forth emails, it was suddenly dropped.  I have no idea why.  I asked, and got no reply.  I assume it was because several OSR products were actually up for an ENnie award that year and a separate OSR award would seem redundant, but I'm still in the dark about those details.

As many of you know, Erik expanded his empire from blogging to podcasting and becoming a Discord fan.  He and his helper, Pex, asked me to join.  They created a channel or sub-section or whatever for Kort'thalis Publishing even before I could say yes.  That kind of reminded me of the whole U2 and itunes debacle, but I didn't want to make a fuss.  Ok, fine, I said.

Pex in particular would gently remind me on a regular basis to keep posting into the Discord void, so I did, even though it seemed no one was listening and I just didn't like the Discord format.  In fact, I was so impressed with Pex's constant encouragement (eventually, it probably would have seemed like nagging, but maybe that's because I've been married for 7 years), that I asked if he'd be interested in working for Kort'thalis Publishing.  He said yes after we negotiated compensation.

A short while later, I released my transhumanist blog post.  It was a day or two before I could respond to anything because of my usual busy family life. 

Basically, I was booted from Tenkar's Discord machine and Pex told me he wanted nothing more to do with me.

I received an email from Tenkar. The subject line was "Man did you step in it."  In the email he states that he wasn't sure what my intent was, but that "flames were spreading" and there was a decision made to remove my publisher's channel."

Despite a few people coming to my defense and calling Erik "transphobic," I attempted to inform Erik on what was going on, why I posted it, etc.

He derisively responded with "Thanks for your concern. If I have something to say, You know where to read it".

I mentioned what had been happening on Twitter, and again one of Erik's spies reported the news back to him where he passive-aggressively responded in an email the following...

Twice on Twitter you claimed you were "kicked off" or expelled from The Tavern's Discord Server. Both times you were incorrect. Your Publisher's Channel was removed (as you were informed of) but you were still a member of the server. Since you desire to be removed from the server (based upon your own claims) we have now removed your membership from the server as you have indirectly requested.

Erik Tenkar

I responded by asking why I'd want to stay somewhere I was clearly unwelcome?  And that he was effectively exiling me from the Tenkar Empire.  I haven't spoken to him since (but seeing him at GaryCon might be awkward).

Before the whole transhuman blog post, Tenkar had mentioned his support of my upcoming Cha'alt project.  Said that he looked forward to seeing more and talking about it on the various places where he discusses RPG matters.

I never bothered to ask for his support when the kickstarter went live, weeks after the za'akier post.  Partly because I was confident he'd refuse, but also because I didn't want the backing of someone like that, someone who turns his back on a friend because of some ruffled internet feathers, someone who purports to be an ivory pillar of virtue and integrity, but when it really comes down to it is no better or worse than the rest of us. 

Erik, if you had taken money in exchange for mentioning products, that would be a lot less shady than what I've seen from you thus far. 

At least I admit that I'm just an old school smut-peddler who's just as easy to corrupt as the next guy. Sure, I can be a dick sometimes.  I also like to poke fun at sacred cows.  Hell, that's why I've taken Satanis as part of my name.  I'm down here in the dirt - below the dirt, actually; where the dungeons are... bedrock.  Hell itself!  I don't fire back at gamers with "How dare you, sir? I'm a humble bartender and have the utmost reputation!" pretentious twaddle. 

Erik, get over yourself.  The majority of people who've claimed that you have harassed them, most likely deserve it (deadbeat KS people, Stacey, etc.).  But also know that you're presence is intimidating to regular folks, too.  I, myself, hesitated before writing this because of who you are (OSR Emperor, Frog God representative, ex-cop, etc.), but I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I stayed silent.

To Erik's audience, I say this: Be careful of idolatry.  The neutral ground of today may become the golden calf of tomorrow...


p.s.  If anyone wants to get something off their chest or get sensitive information into the right hands, feel free to email me.  If you'd prefer to remain off the record, I have no problem quoting you anonymously. 


  1. I honestly never understood the popularity of the Tavern. Personally I find it more of an advertisement/gossip board than useful gaming content. YMMV but yeah, weird..

    1. The constant shilling for product turned me off years ago. It's a blatant "send me free stuff and I'll call it the greatest thing since sliced bread." He's as phony as they come.

  2. Wow. Now I'm thinking that GaryCon should not be missed this year.

    1. Missing an awesome event because of one influential person? No, you shouldn't let that stop you. :)

  3. Well, two things strike me about this post and things in general.
    First, what is your stance on your 'trans-human post'? Is this position still standing, are you still a 'non-human'?

    Second, when you call people in public that pass along public info, "spies" it's very divisive and causes more issues down the road. Not sure if that is intended here, but it sure sounds like you are trying to make gamers pick sides. Are you?

    1. Good questions!

      #1: Yes, I still consider myself za'akier, transhuman, but still very much humanoid or human-like, not necessarily an entirely different species... maybe like the difference between the various races on Earth?

      #2: When Zak S. did it, I and many others considered the informants, "spies." Does that also make them "spies" in Erik's case? Probably not, because Zak's informants must have realized he was using them to harass people. I do not believe those reporting to Erik believed they were putting the people being informed upon at risk of angry rants, exclusion, or potential harassment.

      Does that make sense?

  4. Alright,

    I rarely speak out publicly regarding conflicts of this nature, but there are a handful of people whom I respect deeply and regard as personal friends. In short, I will speak to my understanding of the situation presented in the blog post above.

    Let's begin with Erik Tenkar and humility. Erik Tenkar has always been, first and foremost (in my opinion), an OSR journalist. He discusses projects, both those newly released and those that have fallen into as he coins them "Wayward Kickstarters." While he does not shy away from expressing his own observations regarding various controversial situations he presents that impact the OSR, he never once implies that his opinion is somehow more valid than anyone else nor that his opinion should be taken as fact. The man's articles are written with a firm separation of his own ego and the facts presented -- which are provided with sources, links, and screencaps.

    Erik Tenkar's blog is his own. His. He owes blog space or the opportunity to write for it to no one. He's offered to a few folks over the years (myself included). I have accepted at times and declined at times, as have others. Erik Tenkar's platform is not your platform.

    In regards to Erik's OSR-centric awards idea, you fail to mention that these discussions occurred between the three of us -- not just you and he. And in fact, it was I who walked away. I did so because in the end awards are, though nice, validation from strangers and not really true to the DIY sense of community that is (to my mind) at the heart of the OSR. He probably never informed you of this because he didn't want to throw ME under the bus. This, along with your other remarks about Erik's silence, has a presumption of arrogance or superiority and not the fact that may be you don't have all the facts and Erik is choosing to play his cards close to the chest to protect the integrity of all involved.

    In regards to the Discord issue, your publisher channel was removed, yes. But I'm going to say what we all know to be true: Your content, your OSR persona, and your brand ideology is one built around sleaze-shock. That's fine. That's one route to go, and you have every right to do so. You also have a cadre of folks who enjoy your products, and that's fantastic for everyone involved.

    But, publicly claim that you identify as a space alien during Trans-Awareness Week is an act of shock jocking that is designed to provoke a reaction and get attention. Well, congrats. You got it. Even if you were to plead ignorance to your awareness of the grave insult this presents -- especially given the timing of your "announcement" -- falls flat when, following the backlash and pervasively negative reaction, you chose to double-down (again publicly) on your assertion.

    It does all smell of sour grapes and its a damn shame. Because by all accounts, you are a skilled content creator. But instead of relying solely on the quality of your content and allowing it to speak for itself, you have repeatedly attempted to attract attention through juvenile stunts, claims, and gags. When some people have continued to support your work because they enjoy your content, many in the OSR community have turned you into a pariah for these stunts and it feels that because of this, once again, poor Darrick is screaming "Why is no one paying attention to me?"

    1. Thanks for the comment, James. My response follows...

      I'm fine with Erik's blog being his. He can talk about what he wants. That's his right. But it pisses me off when he unfairly scolds his audience, gamers that did nothing wrong - like the one I linked to in the blog post.

      And it's my right to condemn Erik's misplaced anger, is it not? Don't I have the right to say, "Hey, Erik, you're kind of being an asshole all the while you're pretending that you're this lovable, humble bartender with a lily-white reputation."

      I didn't fail to mention that a third individual was included. If you re-read my blog post, you'll notice that I said there was a third person involved - even though I didn't specifically mention that all three of us were talking about the OSR awards project together.

      BTW, thanks for not telling me back then. At least I got some closure 18 months later. That was shitty of you to just leave me hanging, as well as, Erik who considered "not throwing you under the bus" more important than being transparent with a potential business partner and friend. And why would it be so terrible for you to walk away? If you didn't feel comfortable, then A) maybe mention that ahead of time until waiting after weeks of discussion, and B) at least have the common decency to mention it once that news was a foregone conclusion.

      I didn't need a whole explanation, maybe just a, "Sorry, VS, but for reasons that don't have anything to do with you, I don't think it's going to happen." That would have been fine.

      If my image/persona/brand was a problem for Erik before Discord, then why did they create a publisher channel for me that I didn't even want without asking me?

      If the Tenkar Empire didn't want to be associated with me or Kort'thalis Publishing, that's fine. Then keep your distance. Don't try to court me one minute and then act all offended kicking me out the next. That's some two-faced bullshit. Especially, when I wasn't trying to be offensive!

      I'll say this again for everyone who didn't pick up on it the first few times, I intentionally came out as an alien humanoid (za'akier) during Trans-Awareness Week because it was Trans-Awareness Week and I wanted people to be aware of my new trans status! I consider myself transhuman. Still humanlike in many ways, just with green skin, tentacles, and originating from another planet.

      While I knew there might not be broad support for my decision, I wrongly assumed that many of my friends, fans, and colleagues would be able to look passed their own narrow-minded biases and bigotry. Oh well, you live and learn.

      Like I said, if Erik hadn't hammered down on that poor guy, that lowly subject within Tenkar's sprawling Empire, I wouldn't have written that blog post. I hate it when people who don't deserve it are bullied and harassed. But that's just me.

      One last thing, you're trying to doxx me at the end there will not intimidate me. I will continue to speak my mind and be myself, no matter you people throw at me. But if things take a turn for the worse, know that I will prosecute deserving individuals to the full extent of the law.

    2. Doxxing is defined as "searching for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent."

      I am doing nothing but referencing your publishing persona, your published commercial content, and your own public statements regarding personal identity.

      Attempts to threaten me with legal action based on an ill-informed understanding of the exact definition of new liguistic terms and buzz words is inadvisible, as I retain the services of legal council both professionally and personally.

      Therefore, I recommend that unless you have actionable evidence that can be brought to legal proceeding that you keep your threats to yourelf.

    3. Purposefully using my legal name instead of my preferred internet handle / nom de plume is considered doxxing by many. Why didn't you use "Venger"?

      I didn't threaten you personally, James. However, I'm simply reminding everyone who happens to read this that I will defend myself against any illegal activity (your actions were in poor taste, James, but I do not consider them illegal) against me, my family, my business interests, etc.

      For instance, if a supporter of Tenkar's Tavern (unbeknownst to Erik or yourself) physically assaulted me at GaryCon (which is now easier to accomplish since they can read my real name in your comment), I would most definitely press charges and have my lawyer pursue the matter.

      That happened to Jeremy Hambly at GenCon, and there's a possibility that something similar may befall me. Again, I'm only protecting myself, my family, and my business interests.

    4. "I intentionally came out as an alien humanoid (za'akier) during Trans-Awareness Week because it was Trans-Awareness Week"

      The fate of Rachel Dolezal ought to have been instructive. The Narrative says you can change Gender (ie Sex with Benefits). You certainly can't change Race. I guess thanks to the Otherkin you may be allowed to identify as a non-humanoid animal, and possibly a dragon, but you're not allowed to identify as a fictional tentacled humanoid entity. I don't make the rules; that's just how it is.

    5. (to continue)

      One problem you have Venger is that you operate within a magical thinking paradigm where belief and reality are intertwined in a way that is incomprehensible to the people you make angry. They operate within an Enlightenment-Scientific object-oriented mode of thinking. For you, you can in some sense be 'genuinely' a Za'akier in a way that makes sense to you. For them, you are either (a) a Za'akier or (b) not a Za'akier - and they plump for (b), then decide you must have been joking, and likely mocking their deeply held, quasi-religious belief in Transgenderism.

    6. I had to google who Rachel Dolezal was, but yeah I get it.

      As Alyssa Milano helpfully pointed out on twitter, I can also be transgender, black, latino, asian, jewish, gay, handicapped, and all those other things if I wish to empathize with those groups and their struggles.

      This is where intersectionality meets good will and common sense. Meaning, the whole thing eventually breaks down. The mentality of victimhood is a disease, just like socialism.

      As to your second comment, yes. I agree that my paradigm is most likely incomprehensible to the average person. Oh well, they'll just have to adjust... for the Aeon of Dread Cthulhu is at hand (or tentacle)!

    7. This from a guy who slaps his name all over a game written by someone else 45 years ago. Very rich. No surprise coming from Tenkar's shill-partner.

  5. Your name is a matter of public record, Darrick. Seeing as you had no problem blanketing Facebook with Friend Requests a few months back using and it is fairly well known in the OSR anyway, its not a matter of concern.

    This is grandstanding and playing the vicitim at its most obvious. Your face and voice are all over the internet and you cultivate a distinctive style. Easily found with a simple search of publicly accessable info and media platforms like YouTube.

    So unless someone taps you on the shoulder asks to see your ID and then goes "YEAH! THAT'S THE GUY! GET 'EM!" then I'm not too worried.

    1. Yeah, that's what people who doxx say. "The internet makes it so easy, why shouldn't I?"

      Ok, then I'll continue to worry about my safety and you can go about your business, James. In future, please refer to me as Venger, VS, or Venger Satanis.

      But really, your contention of this point seems like a distraction because you can't effectively argue my other points. I think everyone reading has a pretty good picture of what's happening.

  6. Must admit I had an hard time (though comments helped) understanding why this Tenkar post would be " the straw that broke the camel's back"... given the current atmosphere I see in the community (if only I'd kept to just reading the wonderful stuff you guys produce...) I understand he'd feel the need to defend his integrity, though it was most likely needless, if not counterproductive (kind of feeding the troll if it had been one), to make a blog post in addition to the comment reply.

    Now, I definitely understand even less why your trans-humanist post would trigger flames, and do feel disapointed too by what you relate of Eric reaction.... yet it rather makes sense (again due to said atmosphere): looking at his blog, in particular comparing the Mentzer and Zak coverage, where he seems to only posts/forward news with little/no comment, his position possibly only hinted at by what he does choose to forward... I'd mostly take it as a defensive measure, to avoid being dragged in a war that would most likely "damage his Tavern" and cost him energy he'd rather spend on other thing, like promoting products he likes.

    Sure "The neutral ground of today may become the golden calf of tomorrow", and being new around here, I might well be wrong. . . yet the very fact he decided to remove your channel to avoid flames seems an indication he might not feeling like such a powerful "centralized power", nor willing to assume this role for now.

    1. I could have just relied on ye olde faithful Your Dungeon Is Suck (an irreverent take-down blog that services the politically incorrect RPG / OSR crowd). Maybe I should have bided my time... that was a painfully awkward wait at the omelet bar this past GaryCon. ;)

    2. When Tenkar gets some integrity it'll be real news.