Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not like bringing this kind of negativity into Gauntlet spaces. There are many instances where people say negative things about me or The Gauntlet, or they actively try to blacklist us from gaming events, and I simply do not respond because I value the positive energy in our spaces more than I value "setting the record straight." Also, as a public, queer PoC in the ttrpg industry, I will lose the argument if the person on the other side of it is popular and white. As the principal organizer of The Gauntlet, I have to keep all those things in mind when making decisions about when to respond to things and when to let things slide. As such, 99% of the time, I let things slide.
And so you should know this is not easy for me to write; I gave it a great deal of thought before deciding to do so.
A few days ago, Ross Cowman sent me an email expessing his concerns about a game we published in Codex. He was ostensibly concerned about copyright on his game Fall of Magic, because I had said in social media that the game was "inspired by Fall of Magic." And, indeed, the game is definitely inspired by Fall of Magic. You play characters moving across a map (cards this time, not a scroll) and you frame scenes based off a one-sentence scene prompt. However, everything else about the game is different, and the author didn't use a single passage of Ross's text, and so this was not a copyright issue–at all. To be fair, there was a little bit of misunderstanding going on: I was under the mistaken impression that Ross was aware of the game; in the past, whenever we have published hacks of or supplements for existing games that don't have clear licenses, we check in with the original author as a courtesy. That didn't happen in this case, and I completely own the fact that that was a breakdown in our normal process.
Setting aside the confusion, I felt that Ross's initial email was hostile. He could have checked-in with me in a manner that was more friendly, but instead he chose to send me something that more closely resembled a cease & desist letter (and I should know–I've written dozens of them). In fact, a very simple "Hey, can we talk about this game?" or "I have a few concerns about this game, and I wanted to run them by you" would have cleared everything up and avoided... all of this. He doesn't think his email was particularly hostile, but I do. This is a difference of opinion, but in this case, I think my opinion should be given a little more weight because I have a few really good reasons for thinking there was a lot of unspoken subtext in Ross's initial email.
And here, dear readers, is where this gets more interesting. Are you ready for the plot twist?
It is well-known that Ross has a personal feud with Mark Diaz Truman and Magpie Games. Ross has gone out of his way in the past to encourage other people not to work with Mark or feature Mark at their events. You can call that behavior whatever you want, but in my opinion, it's blacklisting. More importantly, it's blacklisting a prominent voice of color in the ttrpg industry. I'm not here to interrogate whether Ross's beef with Mark is legitimate–frankly, it's really old shit that doesn't involve me–but it is no coincidence that the same day Ross sent his email to me is the same day we announced Mark Diaz Truman and Sarah Richardson as guests at Gauntlet Con 2018.
Ross denies our announcement of Mark and Sarah as guests at Gauntlet Con had anything to do with his motivation to send me that email. I don't believe him. It is my belief this situation has nothing to do with Fall of Magic and copyright, and everything to do with The Gauntlet getting wrapped-up in Ross's feud with Magpie. I have a fair amount of evidence that Ross has always had a problem with us because of our friendliness with Magpie and that he was simply waiting for the right opportunity to come after us. I'm not going to list all those little bits of evidence here, but I will note one rather conspicuous one: I picked Fall of Magic as my Favorite Game of 2016, part of a special episode we do every year that is listened to by thousands of people; for practical purposes, it was the equivalent of naming Fall of Magic our Game of the Year. The Gauntlet never got even a single friendly comment from Ross about this–not even a miserable +1 or Like–and I'm fairly confident it's because we don't tow his line on Magpie (I should mention that Ross was loudly celebrating all the other accolades Fall of Magic got when it came out).
I'll wrap this up by saying this is the end of this situation as far as I'm concerned. I have put my position out there so people understand my point of view on this, and now I have nothing else to say about the matter. I will not be responding to any public threads or discussion about this situation, and if you come into our public Gauntlet spaces trying to make hay about this, you will get blocked and banned, period. You are free to message me privately, but I won't make any promises that I will respond.
As for Ross, I wish him the best, I truly do. I did not publish a Codex game inspired by Fall of Magic because I have a problem with Ross Cowman. Quite the opposite: I have been a fan of Ross's work for years and I thought we were celebrating that work. It honestly sucks that this is the situation we find ourselves in. But I also have to be mindful of the needs of The Gauntlet community and my own reputation. As a queer PoC in ttrpgs, I have no margin of error–people have hated on me and whispered about me for years, and for the most trifling of reasons. In this case, I felt the need to speak up in the hopes of heading some of that off at the pass.