My interview on the horror genre for the Flagons and Dragons podcast is now online. Carl was a wonderful host, and I had a great time talking about horror, therapy, why Werewolf is a different kind of awesome from Vampire, and my shameful appreciation of Stephen King.
You can listen for yourself at the Flagons and Dragons website: http://flagonsanddragons.com/interview-with-eddy-webb-game-designer-and-author/
After I got back from The Grand Masquerade, I had to catch up on work I missed during the show, as well as new opportunities and ideas that came from the show. Then I helped to get the Vampire 20th PDF sorted, fixed, and out to people. And just when I thought I was getting caught up, I got hit with a nasty headcold/flu that has been knocking me down all week. Which is, of course, perfect timing, as I had planned to get stuff done after the Vampire 20th/GenCon/Grand Masquerade run.
Tour de Holmes: I missed last week again, which is doubly irritating because the story is “The Three Garridebs,” and I don’t have much to say aside from “it’s The Red Headed League with a couple of interesting additional bits.” Since my essay on it was so short (I just finished it up), I’m going to see if I can get two out this week, and then make a serious push to get the last six stories read, researched, and written. My hope is to get this wrapped up by Thanksgiving (end of November for my non-US readers), take a break from it over December, and then approach it in January with a fresh eye towards turning it into a proper manuscript.
Far West: I recently got the setting bible for Far Westso I can start working on a short story for in the upcoming Tales of the Far West. The draft is also due by the end of November. I have a half-pitch in to Gareth, but I need to dig into some parts of the setting a bit and see if the story takes shape.
Personal Projects: I have a personal project that I’ve been working with a publishing on for a few months now. A lot of higher-priority things have taken priority (on both sides), but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to announce something soon about that. I’ve also had an itch recently to take a crowbar to my old Whitechapel drafts and turn that into a proper novel, but at this rate it’ll be at least December before I can even think about that.
Gaming: I’ve started up two new tabletop games – a weekly game over lunch at work (a homebrew fantasy game of my own creation that’s getting its first test run), and a biweekly-ish Sunday night Vampire 20th game over Skype between some folks in the office and our new friends from Machinima Realm over in LA. The one game needs some polish (as I’m reworking the rules as we play), and the other requires some maintenance writing in order to communicate information more easily over the Internet, which mean both games also qualify as “writing projects” on some level. I’m also getting back into playing in both the local Sabbat and Camarilla LARPs as well, which knocks out one day a month (although that’s so much better than two nights a month), as well as increasing my email RP a bit, but I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping my bandwidth on those reasonable.
Work: And this is all on top of working on the outline for Victorian Lost, organizing and working on the development of Mummy and Werewolf 20th, finishing up work on Strange, Dead Love and Dust to Dust, keeping my podcast up to date, starting up a new blog, and the other three zillion projects I have going on over on the White Wolf/CCP side of things. Although my interview on Machinima.com did come out recently:
This Blog: I do have some ideas queued up for this blog as well, including a couple more “What I Learned” essays. I fully admit, however, that this blog is one of the lower priorities in my writing. Once the Tour de Holmes wraps up, though, I do need to think of another weekly feature to take its place (ideally one with a lot less research needed). We’ll see, we’ll see.
While I’ve been hammering away at Vampire: The Masquerade — 20th Anniversary Edition, a few other things have fallen into place recently in my non-vampiric life.
Recently, Gareth Skarka announced that I’ve been signed up to work on his fiction anthology, Tales of the Far West. We’re still sorting out details, which I’ll share once I have them.
Further, I’m in the process of getting paperwork and signing documents with a publisher for another project of mine. I’m hoping I’ll have information relatively soon on that front.
I’m getting close to wrapping up the Tour de Holmes (which will get a proper title, I swear). After the last essay, I’ll compile and expand the essays into a full manuscript. At least two publishers have expressed interest in that as well, but worse comes to worse, I’ll probably self-publish it (possibly using a Kickstarter campaign to raise the starting capital for an editor and artist).
Finally, I’ve got a couple of RPG remix designs I’m kicking around. I may be able to get one into a state to be playtested stage in a few months.
I haven’t done this in a long time (at least several months), but I’m going to have to skip my Tour de Holmes post this week. I’m in the last stretch of revisions on the layout of Vampire: The Masquerade — 20th Anniversary Edition, and it’s taking more than I expected out of me. I’m hoping that, if all goes well, I’ll be able to do two stories in an upcoming week and get caught up (as well as, you know, maybe blogging about something besides Sherlock Holmes), but I’m crunching a lot of hours on the book right now, and I need to keep my head clear where I can.
I’ve been working on Vampire or things involving Vampire for over three years now. Every time it comes up (especially recently with the discussion around Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition), there’s been a lot of fond remembrances and half-serious jokes made about goths and goth culture. Black eyeliner, clove cigarettes, and The Cure inevitably come up in conversations.
And yet, that was never Vampire for me.
Since the first edition of Vampire, the world was always described as “Gothic-Punk,” and it was the “punk” part that always grabbed me. While some folks were dying their hair black, listening to Sisters of Mercy and wearing black trenchcoats, I was dying my hair blue, listening to Black Flag and… well, wearing a black trenchcoat, but at least it was covered in patches and pins. Even worse than being a punk in a goth world, though, I was a skater punk, sporting Vans and riding my board while the hardcore punks shook their heads and scoffed. But through my late teenage and early adult years, my social DNA always had more punk than anything else.
Now, I’m reaching middle age. I have a mortgage and stock options. I’m about as far from a young rebel as I could be. And yet, while some folks think back to the times where they wore white makeup and ratty top hats, I still remember wearing a beat-up leather jacket and high-tops and telling the entire Brujah clan that I would be happy to beat their asses one at a time or all at once.1 That will always be my Vampire, a world that was always a little more punk than gothic.
A few quotes from various editions of Vampire: The Masquerade:
First Edition: “The Punk is described in the way people live. The gangs rule the streets and the Mafia has never been reined in. You’ve got to be tough to survive, and even tougher to get anywhere. The world is more corrupt, more decadent, and less humane than our world.”
Second Edition: “Rock, punk and rap are even more of an escape and release, and rebellion is codified in styles of dress and speech. All in all, the world is more corrupt, more decadent and less humane than any suburbanite would like to believe.”
Revised Edition: “In order to give their lives meaning, they rebel, crashing themselves against the crags of power. Music is louder, faster, more violent or hypnotically monotonous, and supported by masses who find salvation in its escape. Speech is coarser, fashion is bolder, art is more shocking, and technology brings it all to everyone at the click of a button.”
I was actually playing a Malkavian at the time with three Physical traits, but the Brujah didn’t need to know that. ↩
I am such a nerd that when I’m not writing about vampires for my job, I’m writing about vampires for my own entertainment.
Specifically, I’m currently playing a Bishop in our local Sabbat LARP.1 At our game this past weekend, my character, Dottore Balanzone, decided to give a Sermon of Caine. Instead of doing the usual kind of sermon, though, I rewrote an old Egyptian myth specifically to insult the Followers of Set (whom our characters are currently fighting with). The Setite elder who walked into our game right before I started was just the icing on the cake.
To be clear, not much of this is original – it’s lots of pieces of translated Egyptian stores that have been summarized, boiled down, rewritten, and added to. I kept the original cadence of these stories at the beginning and the end specifically to evoke the original myths, instead of the more typical pseudo-Catholic cadence you get in Sabbat sermons.
And no, it’s not an official White Wolf anything – just a bit of geekery that a couple folks at the game liked, so I’m sharing it more widely.
My brothers and my sisters, gather around that I may tell a tale. This is not a tale of Caine, our Dark Father, but the time that came after, of the petty false gods that walked the earth after him.
In those days, not as ancient as the land of Nod, but still ages before our reckoning, there was one known as Osiris. He was the great-grandson of Ra and the first Pharaoh of Egypt. His Queen, Isis, was the first Queen. They ruled for many ages together, for the world was still young and the kine lived longer than they do now.
Osiris had a brother called Set. Set was proud and noble, but he coveted the throne of Osiris. He coveted Isis. He coveted the power of the throne, and he desired to take it from his brother. He tricked Osiris into being trapped in a magic box, which Set hurled into the Nile. He claimed Isis as his Queen, and the other false gods cowered before Set.
Isis, however, did not give up on her husband. She searched the Nile for the box. Upon finding it, she tore it open and wept over the lifeless body of Osiris. She carried the box back to Egypt and cast a spell. The spirit of dead Osiris entered her and she did conceive and bear a son whose destiny it would be to avenge his father. She called the child Horus, and hid him on an island far away from the gaze of his uncle Set.
Over the years, Horus grew to manhood and strength. Set sent many serpents and demons to kill Horus, but he defeated them. When he was ready, his mother Isis gave him great magic to use against Set, and Thoth (a cheap magician the Egyptians claimed as the master of knowledge) gave him a magic knife.
Horus sought out Set and challenged him for the throne. Set and Horus fought for many days, but in the end Horus defeated Set and castrated him. He threw his flaccid cock to the Nile, where it was eaten by a crocodile.
But Horus was weak, and would not kill Set. Both men pressed their claim for the throne of Osiris. The false gods picked their sides, supporting one or the other, and soon they were plunged into war. Eventually Horus’ claim was seen as the correct one, and Set was cast into the darkness, where he lives to this day.
Osiris could not defeat Set. Horus cut the balls from Set, but would not finish what he has started. It falls to the children of Caine, those who understand murder and righteous vengeance, to set right what the petty and false gods could not do on their own.
Lo, this is my tale. Keep it in your hearts and give it to others, as I gave it to you.
The picture above is actually not my current character, but the Lasombra Cardinal (and later Regent) that I played back in 2001. But you get the idea. ↩
For once, the picture on this blog post is actually relevant to what I’m talking about. The guy in the center is me ten years (and probably forty pounds) ago, playing my Brujah Anarch at the International Camarilla Conclave. More importantly, that’s me ten years ago playing in Vampire: The Masquerade, a part of the World of Darkness. Now, I’m the World of Darkness developer for the new WoD RPGs. One of the many things that means is that I’m helping to make more game material so that more people can make more memories like that for themselves.
But that LARP isn’t some isolated incident in the past, a wistful look back to the time when I used to game. Last night I played in a Sabbat-focused Masquerade LARP. Last weekend I made a character for a Dark Ages: Vampire game. The weekend before that I played in a different Masquerade LARP (this one centered around the Camarilla and the independent clans). I may be making the games, but I’m still a fan and still a player. I love Masquerade and Requiem (and all the other games) with different levels of passion and intensity, but I do love them.
A couple of weeks ago, Mike Mearls posted on the Internet about Dungeons & Dragons. Now, many people post about D&D on the Internet, but Mike is the Group Manager for the D&D Research and Development team, which is probably a title roughly analogous to my own. He posted his love of the various editions of D&D, and some of the sentiment he expressed mirrored a lot of my own thoughts about editions wars, so I didn’t think much of it except for giving Mike a mental fist bump before moving on.
There are, however, those who doubt Mike’s sincerity. He’s just making nice for the Pathfinder players, they say, in order to lure them insidiously into his brand-new gingerbread house D&D products. The ones that look like candy, but are soaked in cyanide. And WoWcraft.
There’s more, and I suggest you read it, but Russell’s zeroed in on a point that’s bugged me for a while: folks like us don’t get to be in charge of projects like this without having a shit-ton of passion for these games specifically, or for games in general. We’re not corporate drones designed to kill everything that’s awesome in gaming. Quite the opposite: in every interview for a game design position I’ve given or received, at some point there’s the question of “what games do you play?”
And it’s not just Mike and Russell and me. I play D&D with my boss once in a while. The president of CCP North America has an ongoing game. Our CEO once chatted with me about the best way to go about becoming the Prince of Reykjavik. Every time a new video game launches, the office will be full of people talking about it the next day. Some of the guys in the kitchen staff have a Requiem tabletop game. Even people we’ve hired from outside the game industry who don’t game seem to become gamers before too long.
So it’s hard for me to look at something that someone like Mike Mearls wrote and find any malicious design behind such a passionate love letter. It’s hard for me to attribute negative corporate decisions to faceless “suits,” because there aren’t many in most of the game companies I know. Granted, there are more and more businessmen in the video game industry as it continues to make (and spend) a staggering amount of money, but more often than not someone who works for a game company probably owns a set of polyhedral dice or a video game console and uses them.
Game companies might be more chaotic than we should be at times, but we’re probably not as evil as some folks think we are.