Breathing the Same Shadow

We have received many questioning or critical emails and comments over the last few days about Vampire: The Masquerade – We Eat Blood. Some of these are in relation to game writer and artist Zak Sabbath, others are about the content of the game. We continue to read them all; we welcome all feedback, and value this ongoing dialogue.

First, we recognize that we need to clarify the wording of our blog post from last week. We realise now that it could be interpreted as a dismissal of people’s experiences, and that was never our intention. Nor did we intend to imply that we think anyone was being actively dishonest, and we are very sorry if that’s how it seemed. We understand how hurtful that could seem, and we regret it.

Naturally we are aware that Zak Sabbath is a controversial figure. Before deciding to work with Sarah Horrocks and Zak Sabbath on We Eat Blood, we read as deeply as we could about the historical conflicts around him. These issues seemed to be several years old, were debated exhaustively online, and were very complex.

Our reading and the conversations we had with people in the industry who have interacted with him in the past did not unearth any new or factual evidence in regards to the more serious allegations periodically made against him. It is however clear that Zak Sabbath is often abrasive, and sometimes his behavior has been perceived as hurtful or offensive. Going forward, we expect him not to engage in any such behaviors, and he has agreed.

The collaboration between Sarah Horrocks and Zak Sabbath brings a unique aesthetic to this work, and we felt Zak Sabbath’s participation would contribute more to the game than allegations about his past private behavior would detract from it.

This brings us to the second point of criticism. Both We Eat Blood and Karin Tidbeck’s Mage: The Ascension – Refuge feature personal experiences and social commentary as the authors explore themes of class, gender, and rising intolerance. Our choice to focus on these themes has led to some critical voices. This is criticism we are proud to receive. Relevant works in any medium are part of a global discourse and we welcome healthy and well-informed debate on these issues. We have said repeatedly that our games will examine contemporary issues through the lens of the World of Darkness, and we do not plan to shy away from this vision.

In addition to this blanket criticism of engagement with contemporary issues, there has been some concern about the inclusion of two transgender vampire characters in We Eat Blood. Given the history of transgender representation in popular culture, we are sensitive to these concerns. So is the game’s co-writer Sarah Horrocks, a noted comic artist and horror blogger, who is also a transgender woman. She writes about her views on her blog: http://mercurialblonde.tumblr.com/post/157431573538.

The criticized character, Avery, is perhaps the most helpful and kick-ass vampire in the game. She saves your ass and is (spoiler alert!) one of two main allies at the conclusion. Like Horrocks and Sabbath, we believe this character positively broadens the range of transgender portrayal in games. Naturally, she will not be the last transgender character in a White Wolf game, as we continue work with designers, writers and artists from a wide range of backgrounds.

White Wolf are dedicated to making games that feature mature, contemporary storytelling. We are already engaged with a network of partners from all over the world, of all genders and backgrounds, and we are working every day to increase that reach and diversity. We do that because we strongly believe that diversity results in the best stories, and that without representation across intersections those stories will not reflect the world we live in.

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A howl for our bloody writer-artists!

White Wolf Entertainment is proud to have Zak S and Sarah Horrocks join the pack as the artists and main authors of Vampire The Masquerade: We Eat Blood.

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A Yale graduate, Zak Smith (aka. Sabbath) is an American artist known for his portrait, drawings, abstract art, comic books, and roleplaying games. His art has been featured in the MOMA, Whitney, Heller, and other world-class galleries. Zak is one of the foremost creative minds in the roleplaying game community, with multiple published books for some of the biggest publishers in the in the genre including Dungeons & Dragons and his own award-winning independent works based off his D&D campaign, including Red and Pleasant Land and Maze of the Blue Medusa. He recently illustrated The Worst Breakfast by award-winning novelist China Mieville.

 

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Sarah Horrocks is an artist, writer, cartoonist and critic currently residing in Oklahoma. Her comics include Hecate Snake Diaries and The Leopard. She has done cover work for various Image Comics, and Boom Studios comics.  She has done critical writing about comics for Fantagraphics, ComicsAlliance, Study Group Magazine, and The Comics Journal. and she forms one-half of the Trash Twins podcast.


Regarding the recent accusations made against our freelancers: White Wolf was aware of and investigated the previous accusations against Zak before contracting him to write and illustrate the game script. Fortunately, these accusations all pertained to alleged online behavior: each accusation is connected to an online discussion, and the digital records of these discussions can be located and reviewed. White Wolf’s investigation concluded that the accusations are false, and that Zak did not engage in the alleged behavior. We have full faith in Zak and Sarah and are excited to see their great work with the World of Darkness spread!

Prelude to a World of Darkness

Today, the first digital stories set in the World of Darkness since Bloodlines (in 2004!!!) are set to launch on app-stores and Steam. How will you face the future in our made-for-mobile WoD Preludes?

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Vampire The Masquerade: We Eat Blood. A twisted nighttime journey by writer-artists Zak Sabbath and Sarah Horrocks, told as an intimate messenger conversation where you make the big decisions. 

Mage The Ascension: RefugeSweden, a small country on the edge of the world. A young woman awakens to Magick in the middle of the Syrian refugee crisis. Are these new arrivals friends or enemies? Bend reality to your will using tech or arcane mysteries. A surreal adventure by weird-fiction author Karin Tidbeck. 

The word ”Prelude” has a long history in our games and books as a term for the very first story you tell about your supernatural character. In a Prelude you experience your first traumatic nights as a bloodsucker, your dizzying awakening to true Magick or the terror of the first change into a fearsome Werewolf.

We chose this format to express that there has never been a better time to come back to the World of Darkness, or to introduce it to new friends.

The second reason is that we know you’ve been waiting for a long, long time.We didn’t want you to have wait two or more years to see anything from us. Naming them Preludes should give just the right expectations, and make sure they’re not confused with (insert your most anticipated WoD title here.)

It was a crazy idea. But it worked. One year later we have two gripping and stylish story-games ready to launch, penned by some of our favourite writers and artists and solidly informed by our new directions for the setting.

So yeah, this is it. The wait is over. The Preludes mark the beginning of the end of silence and teasing hints. From here on out we invite you to explore the darkest aspects of our world with us.

Be warned, it’s a fucked-up and ugly place. But it’s ok. Because in this story, you will become the monster!

Blood and Souls!

Links to the games:

Touching the Shadow

“…the real essence is this: when the bass rolls over the gathering and dancing becomes rhythmic communion, something happens. It can’t be described. It has to be lived. You escape your boring existence and become hip, tribal royalty for a few hours.” 

 

Vampire: The Masquerade is easily the most popular setting for live-action roleplaying in the world. For 25 years troupes from Seoul to Seattle to Stockholm have slid fangs over canines, perfected a pallid complexion and descended on nightclubs, community halls, pubs and abandoned mental health facilities (that one’s on me) to embody the living dead in the flesh. The official rules-system for these improvised dramas is called Mind’s Eye Theatre and debuted in the 1994 box-set “The Masquerade” and has been released in several editions as “Laws of The Night” and later as “Mind’s Eye Theatre – Vampire: The Masquerade, “. All these editions share the same balanced system, faithful to the original Storyteller tabletop roleplaying rules. Since the books are meant to be picked up and played by anyone, anywhere, the rules include a very early version of we today call a “code of conduct”, a rules system that forbids touching, grappling, kissing, running and general assholery. All in all, Mind’s Eye Theatre is designed to be a low impact, Player-versus-Player game. Chronicles (a series of interconnected game sessions) can run for years and characters grow in power and prestige according to their deeds. You can literally travel from Berlin to New York as your character and take part in one of the venerable global chronicles that have been operated by independent fan-clubs for decades without the rules changing much. And the stringent codes of conduct makes sure the games by default maintain a comfortable distance from your physical self. Recent moves from fan organizations are intended to make sure the game remains as comfortable and non threatening as any interaction between relative strangers can be.

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A mortal and a vampire in a tense scene at End of the Line

But what if you DO want to grapple, kiss and scream at the top of your lungs in someone’s face? What if you want to dive deep into problematic issues or play in a game that tackles important but disturbing subjects like sexism and racism head-on? What if you DO want to feel hot “blood” running down your neck? What if you want to play a game that is about the collective creation of a horrifying tragedy, where your final death is as meaningful and rewarding as your ascension to Princedom?

Fear not. You’re not alone. In fact this is the style in which Vampire and other Live Action Roleplaying games have been played in most of Europe for decades. Its a style that’s gaining popularity in the US as well, with events like “New World Magischola“, “Dystopia Rising” and “Just a Little Lovin” and others leading the charge. This style of live-action roleplaying is called “Collaborative Style” or “Nordic Style“, simply because some of the most famous examples of the genre come from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. We like the term Collaborative better, because it actually describes the foundation of the style.

In March 2016 White Wolf commissioned and co-designed its first official collaborative style Vampire LARP in Helsinki Finland. For six hours the eighty participants became predators and prey at an illegal hard-edged techno club. In sharp contrast to most Mind’s Eye Theatre games only 15 of the participants were vampires and a handful more their blood-addicted ghoul servants. The Masquerade (the tradition that Vampires must never, ever reveal themselves to mortals) was in full effect. The monsters were hidden among us, the deep pounding of the base drowning out their whispered conversations about clan, kin and that fat kid with blood so good everybody wants a taste. It’s dirty, grimy, street-level Vampire the way we seldom see it portrayed in live action.

All things considered the game went exceptionally well. While some players did experience strong feelings of discomfort, horror, sorrow and disgust this was all intentional, and a marketed core aspect of the game. In a game like this, players agree to a certain level of risky subject matter and have mechanics that allow them to opt in and out of challenging scenes. It works pretty much like interactions at a BDSM club. Everyone knows there will be action, but no one is ever forced to take part and any interaction is easy to opt out of with a simple safe-word. Some American players were uncomfortable with the widely varied power-level of the characters but the vast majority were more than excited to try a new challenging style of roleplaying – one that requires more guts than brains, more dancing that posing and more visceral horror and debauchery than power-games and betrayal. If you want to know more – please read Sarah Lynn Bowmans deep analysis of the game right here.

So why harp on about a game run in Finland months ago? Because it’s happening again! In New Orleans at the 25th anniversary of Vampire, at the Grand Masquerade! The game is being remixed for a new location (a decadent hotel rave) and a new city (New Orleans) by the original game creators Odyseé with help from By Night Studios, the current Mind’s Eye Theatre license holders and the organizer of the lavish celebratory event. If you don’t have your tickets for Grand Masquerade; get them here!

Does “End of the Line” sound like your kind of gritty, realistic blood-fest? Read more here and get your tickets as they release next week. Be warned, they may sell out fast. The last game sold out in 2 minutes. Not kidding.

So what if lavish, perfectly propped and highly physical games sound great, but you prefer a more classic high-powered and political setting? Convention of Thorns has you covered. What we wanted to create a period game set in the age of Inquisition – a period of great tragedy in Kindred society mirroring the contemporary “Second Inquisition” that stands as a core theme of new editions of Vampire, we contacted Claus Raastedt, the creator of the hit “College of Wizardry” series of games. Convention of Thorns sold out in less than 2 hours! The setting is the infamous Convention in rural Britain where the Camarillas power is formalized and the Sabbat is born in the plots of the most wicked, powerful and inhuman Cainites ever to walk the shadows of God’s creation. The game showcases another aspect of “Collaborative style” – beauty and immersion. Games in Europe have the advantage of being set in real-world historical castles and feature costumes that are often intricate recreations of historical fashion, made by the participants by hand from period art or archeological findings. Or rented. Or found. Or borrowed. But authenticity is not the core point – immersion is. By taking beauty and physical appearance very seriously Convention of Thorns promises to be a feast for all the senses and allow you to drink in the dark majesty of those decisive nights in 1493. If you are very, very lucky, you may be able to catch a seat on the waiting list and perhaps get a cancellation. But fear not, if the game works out well – the result is a mix of the game design, production and the efforts of the players – Claus has told us he will run it again!

What does all this mean? Are the days of Mind’s Eye Theatre numbered now that hardcore physical larping is becoming the thing? Not at all. At Grand Masquerade the epic Chronicles of the big fan associations continue, with a thousand passionate players compared to the tiny EOTL or CoT. White Wolf has worked intimately with BNS to make the next edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mind’s Eye Theatre into a bridging product, hinting at many of the metaplot developments to come in future editions of that game, as well as secret projects designed to assist and support both Storytellers and players of MET in running games and chronicles for many years to come.

The point is this: Mind’s Eye Theatre is as different from Collaborative Style as it is from tabletop roleplaying using the Storyteller System. We have seen how Collaborative, rules light and highly physical games have become more and more popular over the last years. These games are often designed and run by people who were introduced to larp through Mind’s Eye Theatre, and who still have a deep love for Vampire. We want to give something awesome back to the community by sponsoring and backing ambitious and beautiful games for all our fans to enjoy, just not those that happen to be living in Sweden or Germany. We hope you appreciate this old but new way of entering our favorite universe.

What other Collaborative Style games would you like to see? Werewolf campout combat games with makeup and padded Glaives / claws vs soft-airgun wielding First Teams? Victorian society balls oozing with forbidden lust? A blood-soaked Sabbat Palla Grande in the middle of Black Rock Desert? A city wide game where ghosts and demons possess the bodies of the living and no one knows who is a player and who is not?

And as a bonus, here’s Lola Zaza (a.k.a Ossian Reynold’s) relentless industrial techno set from End of The Line. More about him next time as we talk a bit about music in the World of Darkness, past and future.

Blood and Souls!

 

 

New Dark Pack Guidelines Coming Soon!

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Dear Concerned Fans,

As many of you know, we are in the process of waking White Wolf from is long torpor. Recently, a situation has come to light that we feel obligated to comment on for the sake of providing clarity to the community as there is a significant amount of misinformation being circulated right now as to what we are doing in regards to policing our content on the internet.

Recently, we were contacted by one of our partners in regards to the community website subnet due to the fact that it has been re-posting large amounts of our published back catalog content that is still easily accessible and readily available for purchase. While we are supporters of community fan pages that help facilitate the enjoyment of our games and brands, White Wolf has always maintained a standard set amount of reasonable guidelines for said fan-sites to follow (The Dark Spiral/Dark Pack) that don’t infringe on our rights or the rights of our partners. White Wolf and its partners have been pioneers to bringing RPG products to the digital medium and making them available in a number of formats. We will continue to do this and you should expect to see more announcements on this in the near future. We want you, the community to know that your voice in desiring to have convenient access to our content in multiple forms has been heard.

We understand that the last few years have been difficult ones for the community and that there lacks a level of clarity as to which set of guidelines one should follow. However, at no point has any incarnation of White Wolf ever authorized its products to be reproduced in full for mass distribution without very specific written consent. So while we don’t want to be in a position where we have to get lawyers involved, and especially not with fans, there are times where we must protect our copyrights, unfortunately. We are NOT engaged in a massive internet crackdown or witch hunt. However, when something is serious enough to having been brought to our attention that compromises both our own business and the financial well being of our partners, at that point we need to act, and we did. It’s always been our hope that we can settle these types of situations when they arise amiably and with as little stress involved to all parties as possible. Ideally, we would like subnet and fan-sites like subnet to continue to be a resource to help fans have fun with our brands, but not a replacement for services that we and our partners actively offer as part of our business, as those products and services are vital in helping finance the future development of the brand.

In an effort to minimize these types of situations in the future and help provide clarity on this issue, we want the community to know that we are actively in the process of revising the “Dark Pack” fan site guidelines for the community to use and those will be available for the public very soon.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of the World of Darkness.

-The White Wolf Team