Category Archives: Storyteller

A Message From White Wolf

Three days ago the interim manager at White Wolf Publishing posted the following on their official website:

Hello everyone,

My name is Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development at Paradox Interactive and interim manager at White Wolf Publishing. I wanted to inform you of some changes that will be implemented at White Wolf, starting immediately.

Sales and printing of the V5 Camarilla and Anarch books will be temporarily suspended. The section on Chechnya will be removed in both the print and PDF versions of the Camarilla book. We anticipate that this will require about three weeks. This means shipping will be delayed; if you have pre-ordered a copy of Camarilla or Anarchs, further information will follow via e-mail.

In practical terms, White Wolf will no longer function as a separate entity. The White Wolf team will be restructured and integrated directly into Paradox Interactive, and I will be temporarily managing things during this process. We are recruiting new leadership to guide White Wolf both creatively and commercially into the future, a process that has been ongoing since September.

Going forward, White Wolf will focus on brand management. This means White Wolf will develop the guiding principles for its vision of the World of Darkness, and give licensees the tools they need to create new, excellent products in this story world. White Wolf will no longer develop and publish these products internally. This has always been the intended goal for White Wolf as a company, and it is now time to enact it.

The World of Darkness has always been about horror, and horror is about exploring the darkest parts of our society, our culture, and ourselves. Horror should not be afraid to explore difficult or sensitive topics, but it should never do so without understanding who those topics are about and what it means to them. Real evil does exist in the world, and we can’t ever excuse its real perpetrators or cheapen the suffering of its real victims.

In the Chechnya chapter of the V5 Camarilla book, we lost sight of this. The result was a chapter that dealt with a real-world, ongoing tragedy in a crude and disrespectful way. We should have identified this either during the creative process or in editing. This did not happen, and for this we apologize.

We ask for your patience while we implement these changes. In the meantime, let’s keep talking. I’m available for any and all thoughts, comments and feedback, on shams.jorjani@paradoxinteractive.com.

This is huge. This effectively means that Paradox Interactive, the company who bought WW a while ago, is fed up with fixing the mess the people at White Wolf have been causing. Even before its release Vampire 5th Edition and other products released under the purview of the new White Wolf were surrounded by controversy.

Claims were made that the people running the show were trying to cater to Nazis, that they tried to be edgy for edginess’ sake and that they were openly discriminating against minorities. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the latest Camarilla sourcebook for V5 which trivialized terrible real world events in Chechnya.

Again and again the new White Wolf has shown to be at least extremely tone-deaf. There are sections in recent books which are misogynic, transphobic and homophobic, real life events are trivialized, people being murdered is basically turned into a bad joke. One could say that they are merely describing the World of Darkness, which is a dark place after all, but that’s IMHO just a cop-out.

Vampire and the other World of Darkness games have been quite revolutionary back in the 90s. In a time when roleplaying games were mostly dominated by D&D, it became a highly successful alternative which also opened gaming to a lot of groups who felt marginalized in the roleplaying community and in society. But now the same people who were attracted to WW games in the past felt let down by the company they supported for so long, and under attack by some of WW’s newfound fans from GamerGate and Alt-right communities.

Paradox’ decision to basically close down WW as a publishing and design company and to focus on licensing out the properties is probably for the best. Of course a lot depends on who these licensees will be, but I guess Onyx Path will be among them, and they have a much better track record when it comes to WW products than the new WW themselves.

White Wolf: The Edginess

Currently an article is discussed all over social media which claims that White Wolf Publishing is actively marketing towards a new audience: Nazis and the alt-right. On first glance some of the points brought up in the post seem to make sense. But some of the claims made are obviously pure conjecture or obvious lies. After talking with a few friends and following several threads by people who have actually worked with White Wolf in the past, I decided that the article itself is not worth anyone’s time. It’s mostly bullshit. But there are some issues with that company.

If you haven’t been following the development you might probably not know that the current White Wolf is not the same company that was formed in the early ‘90s. Back in 2006 it was bought by CCP Games, which is mainly known for EVE Online. There were plans to create a Vampire MMO, but this game was eventually cancelled. So in 2015 Paradox Interactive bought White Wolf from CCP Games. In 2012 Onyx Path Publishing entered the picture. Since at that time CCP Games was not interested in pen & paper roleplaying games they licensed WW’s properties to Onyx Path (aside from Scion and the Trinity universe which they fully own) which has been developing the various game lines at least until Paradox took over. To sum it up in a few words: it’s complicated and it’s a mess.

Since there are so many players involved and since White Wolf changed hands several times, it sometimes becomes unclear who did what and who really is responsible for questionable decisions and content when it comes to games like Vampire.  For the most part I would say that the old White Wolf was trying to be “edgy” but still managed to be highly inclusive for the time. Remember that the 1990s were a much different time compared to 2018. They had a few missteps like their treatment of minorities like the Roma people, but overall I don’t remember any huge scandals. Please correct me, if I got that wrong.

Onyx Path did in my humble opinion a great job with the various game lines when they were in charge. Sure, CCP always had the last word, since Onyx Path had only licensed the IPs, but I didn’t notice any meddling on their part during that time. WW switched to POD during that time, which means that even products which have been out-of-print for a long time became available again. In my opinion they also handled the various 20th Anniversary Editions very well. I definitely didn’t regret getting the anniversary editions for Vampire, Werewolf and Mage.

But when Paradox entered the picture things changed. I mostly know Paradox Interactive as a Swedish publisher of computer games. A game by their subsidiary Paradox Development Studio, Stellaris, is one of my all-time favorites. From what I’ve gathered during the last few days, Paradox might not be actively catering to certain right-wing groups, but they might have subscribed to the thought that “edgy is the new black”.

One freelancer talked on Twitter about how texts he wrote have been changed by people from White Wolf, to make the Garou (Werewolves) transphobic, and pretty much anti-vaxxers. As far as I understood, this was done above the heads of the people at Onyx Path who he was working for at the moment. He was also blocked from the Onyx Path forums preemptively. There are also quite a few changes in the vampire lore in the upcoming Vampire 5th Edition, which are highly controversial among fans. Perhaps you remember the scandal around the V5 playtest which included a pre-gen character who was a pedophile.

Things also got quite heated in parts of the White Wolf fandom when Zak Smith was hired to write for a mobile game by White Wolf. He’s highly controversial in the RPG community because he’s known to be highly aggressive in discussions which sometimes crosses into harassment. There were also claims that he asked his fans to harass his critics on social media. When they were criticized for hiring Zak, they said that they looked into the allegations and didn’t find anything, which again angered a lot of people.

At this point I am not sure what to make of all this. I don’t think they are marketing to the alt-right (or other fringe groups) on purpose. But they are trying to be soooooo edgy. The changes to the lore are obviously meant to make the game more dark, more avant-garde, more shocking, more offensive. That they are driving away a lot of their loyal customers, is seemingly of no concern. Their treatment of the one freelancer mentioned before also shows, that they might be aware that this shines a bad light on them. In other cases – when confronted – they immediately offered to make things right.

This whole affair is a damn shame, if you ask me. I actually had some high hopes for Vampire 5th Edition after reading that Kenneth Hite was lead developer, Fria Ligan was doing the layout, and Modiphius is acting as publisher. I am still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. In the best case they are just a bit tone-deaf and extremely clumsy when it comes to PR. We’ll see when Vampire 5th Edition is actually out. Perhaps things are not as bad as they seem. If they are, we can just keep playing the older editions untouched by White Wolf’s new masters, and avoid WW products in the future.

What’s your take on the whole kerfuffle? Might the new V5 be too edgy for its own good? Did I get something wrong in my research? Is my reasoning flawed? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Let’s Play Vampire

After talking to several of my players and thinking it through for a while, I came to the conclusion that I should run a short Vampire: 20th Anniversary Edition chronicle in the future. So why Vampire and not one of the other major World of Darkness games?

Vampire is – in my humble opinion – the easiest game to get into. Even though the game’s vampires are not like the ones you know from books and movies they are close enough that they don’t feel totally unfamiliar. Werewolf and Mage feature a way more complex cosmology and Mage’s magick system is powerful, but not exactly easy to grok. So Vampire it is.

Back in the day, when I first played Vampire, our chronicle was set into 1990s Chicago. I still have fond memories of this chronicle especially of the first dozen sessions or so, and I think Chicage could be an exciting city to play in. I also considered Los Angeles as presented in Troika Games’ Bloodlines computer roleplaying game, but eventually decided against it, mainly because at least one of my players is familiar with the setting.

Unfortunately Chicago has a pretty large Vampire population which is also involved in some heavy politicking. This could easily be too overwhelming for players entirely new to the game, so I decided to look into Gary, Chicago’s neighbour and rival. The city of Gary was given a pretty solid treatment in older editions of Vampire and is a good introduction to the greater Chicago area. Its Vampire population is not as large and the rivalry with Chicago’s Prince Lodin offers a lot of opportunity for the players. Do they ally with Gary’s Prince Mordius, or rather with Lodin? Do they try to stop the downfall of the once rich town or do they even speed up its demise?

Depending on the players interest it’s pretty easy to later move the focus to Chicago or to stay in Gary and introduce Kindred from Chicago if needed. What I like about Vampire is that you can treat a city like a sandbox. You don’t need GM-designed plots but the player characters should have their own agendas – and the NPCs react (or act) accordingly. Exciting times are ahead!