Martin Elricsson, Lead Storyteller and Brand Architect at the newly Swedish White Wolf (recently acquired by Paradox Interactive) kindly took the time for a brief Q&A with Imagonem about upcoming plans.
Which game lines do you plan to revive, and when?
We prefer the term ”rise from torpor”. An elder awakening from a century of slumber is starving and hungry for fresh blood. So are we. Initial plans include products based on all of the ”classic” World of Darkness lines. It may be a while before we get to Mummy: The Resurrection tho :) Our launch plan will always be a secret until it’s not. I love the speculation and mystery surrounding future releases we saw in the 90’s, so we will definitely play with that aspect. Hints and clues to what will come next will appear in future products and WW communiques. There are actually a few of them out there already.
Will you prioritize computer games, or will we see pen-and-paper soon?
Short answer is that the economic centre of the company will be computer games. Unless something weird happens and people start buying roleplaying books, WoD novels and comics like they were Harry Potter. As things are now tabletop publishing hardly breaks even. Spiritually the core will always be tabletop rpg and larp. The Bibles we’re working on for computer games are written as if they were texts for a new tabletop edition, and will most likely be released in that format. Combined launches of digital and tabletop also games seem to make a lot of sense. In the last few years, focused and easy-to-use products like Mutant: Year Zero and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are selling unexpectedly well. Their brevity and low threshold makes them perfect for introducing new players to the hobby, while the monumental classic-WW-style books generally sell poorly and are more read than played. If future editions of WoD are actively used rather than collected we have done our job.
What form will the computer game take? MMO? Are you able to bring over content from CCP’s “World of Darkness”?
All releases will be announced when we feel confident they will release on time, reach our very high bar of quality and have enough material to be discussed by the community in a meaningful way. We own all assets connected to WoD, including the CCP content that they kindly gave us as a bonus when we made the purchase of the IP. I for one intend to make sure those 8 years of work by a hundred exceptionally talented creators doesn’t entirely go to waste.
You have mentioned larp plans. Will this be a new international “Camarilla”? How will the campaigns work, and what kind of system will you use?
We hope to be a resource to local Mind’s Eye Theatre troupes, not a dictatorial central committee. Plans for some tools for communities and global character tracking are underway but way to early to talk specifics. What we can say is that MET will not be the only larp in town. Official White Wolf larps will not use Minds Eye Theatre rules but be organized more like Monitor Celestra or College of Wizardry.
Could you explain a little about the deal you’ve made with Onyx Path? What will be the main difference between “The Chronicles of Darkness” and “The World of Darkness”?
There is only one WoD. Chronicles of Darkness is a sandbox tabletop setting featuring the same broad creature types as the World of Darkness, but it is not the same world. It will not be spun off into computer games, novels, TV or anything else. It’s our specific brand for great metaplot-less, flexible, table-driven tabletop rpg. With the 2nd editions CoD has really found a separate identity from WoD and will continue to become even more of it’s own thing. We still own it but it’s Onyx Path’s baby. I love CoD and find that is a much more playable game with a more vague and unsettling aesthetic than WoD ever had. Too bad it never sold for shit and that old players hated it. It lacked the epic scope and the punk passion of the classic WoD. Had it done even remotely as well as the classic WoD things would be very different.
Onyx Path also have a license to produce nostalgia books for the classic WoD settings. These are official but set in the same nebulous ”eternal nineties”, using the old-school buckets-of-dice-system featured in the original lines. Future editions will move the setting, mythos, metaplot and mechanics almost 15 years forward into present day. It’s the same world, but a lot has changed. It’s useful to see the Classic and Anniversary books as highly subjective. The ultimate truth can’t be found in the books, but we can glimpse it through the multiplicity of perspectives presented. For instance Humanity is a mechanic presented from the Camarilla point of view, while Paths of Enlightenment give us the Sabbat perspective on the subject of morality. None of them are True. Both are models and simplifications.
Could you explain the vision for the new setting and metaplot, and the “eastward shift” (focusing on Europe, Russia and the Middle East)?
”What if the monsters are real, hidden among us?”, is the elevator pitch for the new metaplot. Gothic-Punk is dead and buried as an aesthetic. All the Apocalypses of the classic WoD has happened. In 2001 the Gehenna-war for the graves of the Antediluvians began. In 2006 the rise of the Wyrm and the inevitability of ecological Apocalypse became publicly known. The Technocracy has won, we surrendered when we allowed machines to shape our values and minds, trapping us in the paranoid realms of our personal filter-bubbles. At the same time we are applying engineering to quantum mechanics, making magical theories manifest as Science, so all hope is not lost. In line with this we integrate dramatic real world events to feature prominently in the story. We face difficult social subjects like the rise of fascism, religious fanaticism and the death of ideology in mainstream politics, head on. This naturally leads us to focus on areas where dramatic change is happening. Also there are more books on the US of Darkness than the rest of the world combined.
When can fans expect to see the first products for these new lines from Paradox and partners?
There will be a release in 2016.
What clans do you and CEO Tobias Sjögren belong to?
I’m a Toreador, he’s a Ventrue.
Any Mage plans?
Will the Werewolves remain crypto fascist eco-terrorist?
More than they have ever been. Global Warming has released the Wyrm-tide. The end of the Impergium (ancient Werewolves hunting humans to keep their numbers manageable) seems like a terrible mistake in retrospect.
What sucks most (pun intended) about being a Vampire?
The obsession with self-deception and appearing moral or darkly glorious to their peers. Never being able to be truly proud of who you are. Even The Sabbat need to think of themselves as ”good” in their fight against the Cam oppressors and the rising Ancients. The need to play the (anti-) hero is tragic. At the end of the night they’re addicts to sex, blood and power, masking the pursuit of their next fix as part of some grand scheme or other.
Where did White Wolf “get it wrong” last time around? What are your least favorite parts of the IP?
Anything that smells of Fantasy. The attempt to create a deep mythology by linking the setting to Exalted was the worst choice ever. That was the last step in WoD’d death-march from being an artistic horror-IP to full on immature, escapist Urban Fantasy. The inability to deal with and integrate real-world events in the setting. If you can write about the Holocaust, you can write about 9/11. Fear is the death of creativity. The game was always best in the hands of storytellers who dared to place the story close to reality, often in their own cities, featuring real places and people.
And vice versa: what were your favorite games and concepts?
Too many to list. The books are shock full of profound insights, human stories and heretical interpretations of real-world mythology and subculture. My most collected and (through my and Adriana Skarpeds political game series Prosopopeia) played game is Wraith. A small selection of my favorite books include 1st ed Vampire, Fatal Addiction, Gilded Cage, Damnation City (for V:TR, but very useful for V:TM) and Love Beyond Death.
[Edit 02.16. Elricsson has asked for these clarifications to be added to the article:]
It wasn’t a painless choice revisiting the classic setting instead of NWoD. I’ve always supported that line, shamelessly ”been inspired” by it in other work and wanted it to make big waves, especially since I love it’s tonality and ground-up design thinking. But it’s hard to argue against CWoD as the setting that made the most dramatic cultural impact overall. The death of the publishing industry and lack of tabletop rpg-hype at that time combined with quite strong fan reactions never gave it a chance to go pervasive. It would have made perfect sense for us to cancel CofD entirely to direct all focus to WoD and avoid brand confusion as new players come in through future digital products. I’m happy we decided against it. Having CofD continue as it’s own thing is the closest we’ll get to confessing that it may be the better tabletop-only setting of the two. But to turn it into the centre for our transmedia-storytelling plans for the future would mean adding metaplot and characters to it, killing its identity completely. Made less sense than letting the beloved characters and myth of the dark original live on and evolve.
For more on new White Wolf’s plans for the future check out the announcement video from german WoD-con Tenebrae Noctis held before Christmas.