Before we get into the interview below, please come by and check out www.hlgcon.com We are running this convention in Atlantic City, NJ October 12-14th 2018. We’ll be running a Blood and Betrayal Chronicle larp, as well as a ton of other cool games, including V5!
For those of you that have been following our site for some time you know that I (Josh Heath, our humble COO) is deeply involved in the World of Darkness as a gamer and as a community member. So, I have been following the development of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition (V5) very closely. There have been ups and downs and twists and turns as this project has come to the world but I wanted to speak with some of the folks at White Wolf involved with the production of this game to get their views and to hear some more about where the game is going as we are so close to its release. We are joined by Matthew Dawkins (Senior Community Director at White Wolf and a writer on V5) and Jason Carl (V5 Producer, CEO of By Night Studios, and Executive VP of Community Development at White Wolf).
Gentlemen, can you tell us, in two sentences what V5 is and why it is important?
V5 is the newest edition of one of the greatest RPGs ever created, Vampire: The Masquerade. This edition is important as it delves deeper into the nuances, the tragedies, and horror of playing vampires in a modern world.
How does this book balance the darkness of the World of Darkness against the troubles we see around us in our real world?
Matthew: It's a fine balance, with some elements of the Second Inquisition coming from real-world agencies and paramilitary groups, and some elements of the Vampire saga made from wholly new imaginings. We mix the mundane with the supernatural. We do need to be careful to always punch upward, highlighting the struggle of neonate vampires (outsider to begin with rendered even moreso by an elder-run, elitist society) and condemn groups in need of such treatment. Undoubtedly, real world situations such as the resurgence of the far right, street protests, corrupt banks and economies, and the abandonment of society in exchange for "me and mine" thinking are reflected in some aspects of Vampire, as they always have been. We need to tackle such issues with care and a mature attitude, and give the tools to players to do the same thing.
Jason: While crafting V5 we saw Vampire: The Masquerade first edition as our touchstone, both in tone and message. Vampire's original creative mission was to encourage us to explore the nature of evil in many forms, including personal, cultural, and institutional, and to do so through the lens of the monstrous vampires. That hasn't changed and we try to be as thoughtful and conscientious about it as were the writers in whose footsteps we follow. We see ourselves as stewards and custodians of their legacy, and we want to be as thought-provoking as they were in portraying real-world evils as problems in the game, without ever being gratuitous.
How are you ensuring player safety, consent, and engagement with a product that tackles dark horrific storylines?
We've tackled this in a few ways. There's very little egregious material in the core book. While we have some material some readers may find offensive, we attempt to couch it in mature context. We have a strong foreword covering the subject of consent, adult material, and how to play the game responsibly. We also have a several pages long appendix in the core book that handles matters such as consent, controversial and offensive elements in games, mature conduct, and similar. We hired Jacqueline Bryk to write it after she co-wrote similar guidelines for Changeling: The Lost Second Edition and after I hired her to do the same on an upcoming sourcebook for Kult: Divinity Lost. Jax is an excellent writer with a real expertise in the subject matter of handling traumatic material in roleplaying games, and her contribution has been fantastic.
What is updated? Why should I buy this if I already have 27 years of books sitting on my bookshelf, right now, calling to me?
The setting has gone through some changes in the last couple of decades, many of which were alluded to in Beckett's Jyhad Diary! A lot of elders and Methuselahs have been "Beckoned" to North Africa and the Middle East by someone or somethings; the Sabbat have in large part pursued them in what they call the "Gehenna Crusade," leaving many domains scarcely populated with Kindred; London and Vienna have been targeted by the Second Inquisition, a new body of hunters; the Tremere are splintered into factions; some clans have switched sects; we have exciting new mechanics for Blood Potency, Hunger, creating your own Disciplines via Blood Alchemy, and so much more.
Tell us about the most radical mechanical change that this edition of the game is bringing to the table?
Matthew: For me, it's Hunger. At first I was on the fence regarding this one, but seeing it in play and running games including it really emphasised the vampiric need to feed. In the past, it was a bean counting exercise. In V5, Hunger is ever-present. It doesn't disable the game or make your character a drooling beast, but it does add an air of danger to an already tense situation. I'm also a big fan of Memoriam, allowing characters to indulge in flashbacks to answer questions and solve conundrums, as well as providing fun elder play.
Jason: (in addition to the above) For me one of the best and fundamental mechanical changes is that creating characters and coteries is now a group activity by default. You can still create a character in isolation, but the rules for making characters and coteries as a player group are so fun and engaging that it's easily my favorite new mechanic in the entire game. Roleplaying should always be a fun, collaborative activity, and these new rules support that idea very strongly.
What is staying largely the same?
Matthew: The Camarilla, the Anarchs, and the Sabbat are all still around, even if they've undergone tweaks. No clans have been annihilated. Vampires still can't daywalk. And Mithras will rule London forever, in whatever form he takes.
Jason: In terms of play experience the game is as flexible as ever. Moreso, really: V5 can be played as a sweeping, international blood opera of deep political conspiracies, or as a super-gritty, hyper-realistic street drama of intensely individual stories, and everything in between.
The book is being printed, right now, the PDF is due on 2nd August to pre-order backers, that includes myself. Tell us about the one thing we should read first?
Matthew: I always tell players to read the "splats" — the clans — first and foremost. People want to know their playable options and I've seen new players read these ones when we've done playtests, and immediately come up with a character concept and ideas for their role in a chronicle. It's been great to see.
Jason: I like to encourage players to browse the clans first because they provide the best overview of what kinds of stories you'll tell in V5, but also check out the Coterie Types for inspirations about how your characters will all interact together.
This setting has a large community, some might call it fractious and be close to accurate. Can you tell us more about how White Wolf is moving forward with community engagement?
Matthew: White Wolf definitely made some mis-steps at first by not engaging the community more closely. Now myself and Jason have taken the lead on this, we're rolling out the Gentleman's Guide to Vampires series (and look at the comments on those videos if you want to see something uplifting), clan teaser videos, regular posts on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and the White Wolf website has undergone a major overhaul. This is just the start of reaching out to the community, finding out what our fans wants, and responding to their concerns. We are also hiring several community managers to help with this task. We hope to see live streams, AMAs, interviews, and gaming advice to come!
Jason: (in addition to the above) We are planning better convention and event support, including a volunteer Storyteller demo program.
Why would someone want to be a community manager for White Wolf?
Matthew: You mentioned we have a fractious community and you're correct. Being a community manager wouldn't be entirely peaceful. That said, it will be interesting, challenging, and exciting to work for the company responsible for developing Vampire: The Masquerade. The role gives you a look into our direction, helps you engage and enervate the community, and puts you in a position where you can assist all our fans.
Jason: We have an incredible number of fans who are extraordinarily passionate about this story world and its games. Becoming a community manager is one of the best ways to share this passion, to channel it into activities that can grow and strengthen the community, and invite even more people to share it with us.
What can we expect next as far as books?
We aim for the Camarilla and Anarch books to come out before the end of 2018, and hope to get the Sabbat book out by close of 2019. There will also be a quickstart chronicle (already written) available for download from worldofdarkness.com. As for the rest? You may just have to wait and see....
How does the Larp management of Blood and Betrayal Chronicle tie into this release? Does it?
The Blood and Betrayal Mind's Eye Theatre chronicle is still in development. We realized that, as eager as we are to make it happen, we needed to focus on completing V5 and getting it out into the world. Now that V5 is a reality, we can give some love again to this LARP chronicle concept.
If a person that is reading this hasn't pre-ordered the book, where should they go to pick up a copy?
V5 will start appearing on the shelves at your local hobby game retailer in mid-to-late August, depending on where you live. If your local retailer doesn't carry it, you can ask them to order it from their usual distributors. You can also order it directly from Modiphius, our distribution partner, online at https://www.modiphius.net/collections/vampire-the-masquerade. If you'd like to buy just the PDF, you can get that online at worldofdarkness.com, starting on 2 August.
What, if anything, can you tease about Werewolf: The Apocalypse 5th Edition?
Matthew: We have been listening to our community, what they want, what they don't want, and are determined to deliver a product that does not court controversy for controversy's sake. It's always tricky when creating a new edition of a game not to be entirely swayed by shouting fans, but as long as the creative vision is mature and responsible, as well as exciting and engaging, we're confident people will love it. The next edition will be fast, desperate, and as rage-filled as the Werewolf you've come to know.
Jason: Werewolf: The Apocalypse has a fan community that is intensely passionate about the Garou and their story, and we want to take their opinions into account as we craft this new version of the game. As with Vampire, the setting will be updated to the modern day, and that means looking hard and realistically at many of the environmental and ecological problems of the world--and their causes--through the eyes and actions of the werewolves.
What is the last thought you'd want to leave someone with after reading this interview?
Matthew: Thank you so much for your interest in V5! We really want you to pick it up, run it for your friends in person or online, and tell us (and everyone else!) about the good time you've had. RPGs should bring people together, and we hope to do that with all our games.
Jason: We hope that you'll enjoy V5--if you're not sure about it yet, get the free Quickstart, round up a few friends, and see how it plays. Then tell us what you experienced. And if you are playing V5, we want to hear from you about what you like and what you think could be improved. We especially want to hear about the stories that you and your friends are telling together!
Josh is the Chief Operations Officer at High Level Games. He is also the madman in charge of www.hlgcon.com please come by and purchase some tickets and come play games with him.
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