White Wolf: The Dirge

Roll Me
CCP has abandoned the White Wolf World of Darkness MMO.

I don’t know what this means for the larger WOD brand, or what happens to the ragged tatters of the company that has been frayed and shredded over the years since the EVE Online developer bought the pen-and-paper company. I know it means layoffs, so, fuck. I also know that, at present, Onyx Path continues to roll out its gleaming obsidian walkway of horror-fantasy gaming delights, acting as the spiritual and also literal successor to the White Wolf voodoo — and according to Rich at Onyx Path, everything shall continue apace.

It’s worth taking a moment, maybe, to note that White Wolf is part of my DNA. I grew up reading D&D, but I grew up playing White Wolf games. My first Vampire: the Masquerade character was a pre-made Nosferatu named “Sewer Billy.” (I still have his character sheet around somewhere.)

I loved those games so much that I knew as I got older if I was going to continue playing them while maintaining the illusion of being an adult, I had to monetize that experience, which I did by writing for the company. I worked writing some free stuff online in coordination with sites like Ex Libris Nocturnis and Shadownessence. Then later I answered a writer’s all-call from the company and was lucky enough to get the gig; I started off writing Hunter: the Reckoning, and wrote games for them all the way through to me acting as line developer for Hunter: The Vigil and even into Geist: The Sin-Eaters. The games always amazed me and as I worked more and more with them in a freelance capacity, I got to see exactly why they amazed me — because some truly amazing people were making these goddamn games. Fellow freelancers and developers: Ken Cliffe, Justin Achilli, Ethan Skemp, Aileen Miles, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Eddy Webb, Mur Lafferty, Will Hindmarch, Matt McFarland, Jess Hartley, Rose Bailey, Mike Lee, Patrick O’Duffy, Travis Stout, David, Filamena Young, scads more. So many of folks I count as friends even still.

I learned to write better during my time freelancing. I learned discipline with deadlines. I found out what appealed to me about games, story, character, and horror. Really fundamental stuff.

When they got bought by CCP I was hopeful, you know — more money for them, plus hey, who didn’t dream about a World of Darkness MMO? Turns out, it wasn’t to be. I don’t know why, really. From the outside, it’s easy to suggest that it was fumbled and mishandled — and, actually, even from my limited glimpses inside it looked that way, at times. But I also know that not everything works out and sometimes, shit happens, so who knows? What I know is it’s sad to see good people let go, and sad that the dream of a WOD game is now shriveled up and going dusty like a sun-cooked vampire. Eve was never a game I could really understand, but I loved how player-driven it was, and hoped to see the same here.

Alas.

Onward and upward.

What I will say is, White Wolf has left an enduring legacy behind — the last couple days I was up in Erie, at Penn State, where students read my book, Blackbirds as part of a women’s studies / female superheroes unit (whee!). And while there, I had people still want to talk to me about gaming. I had one professor show me his first edition copy of Wraith. I had one student — college-age! — want me to sign several White Wolf books for her gaming group. Exciting stuff, and makes me proud to have been a part of all that.

*pours a cup of d10s on the curb for the World of Darkness MMO and White Wolf in general*

To those gone: best of luck to you going forward.

To those who still play the games: fuck yes.

To Onyx Path: keep on kicking ass.

41 comments

  • Some of the best times of my lives involved White Wolf games (and parties) at Gen Con in Milwaukee. I kept all of my old original Vampire books even though I’m a so-called grown up doing allegedly respectable work these days.

    Side note: Back In The Day, White Wolf publishing published my all-time favorite series of short story anthologies called Borderlands. I’ve never read anything like them since.

  • I remember becoming friends through that one Hunter book – The Infernal, I think it was? My story was set in New Hope, and I got a message from you asking if I lived there, because all the little details were right. And now here we are, how many years later? :)

  • We at Onyx Path can do no less than our best to live up to the White Wolf legacy. I hope everyone digs what we’ve been doing so far, and is looking forward to the years to come.

  • Looking back on it, even though I’d played a lot of different games growing up, the WoD games appeared on the scene right when I was starting high school, and so they were a huge formative part of both my gaming and my larger narrative learning experiences. They were refreshing and challenging in ways that other games (and media in general) are still trying to emulate.

    As cool as a WoD MMO sounded on paper, the actual mechanics of it always seemed like it just wasn’t going to work out, not if it was going to look anything like the MMOs we currently have. We kind of already had our WoD ‘MMOs’ back in the day of text-based MUSHes (Texas Twilight and Miami by Night represent!), and you really needed that medium to explore those settings to their fullest.

    I’m glad Onyx Path is still churning right along, though. Just backed their Mage 20th KS not long ago, really looking forward to that.

    • I will always have a soft spot in my blackened heart for WW and their game lines. Werewolf the Apocalypse pretty much got me through all of my suburban white kid rage in high school. They really were excellent ways to explore (in the safety of your basement) a lot of really serious shit. I still daydream about booting up another chronicle.

      And while I will surely be castigated for this, I’ll take the mechanical tightness of the reboot over the meta-narrative of the old system any day of the week. Now that I spend a good deal of professional time developing simulations for complex scenarios designed for non-gamers, I understand how hard it is to elegantly balance all of the crunch.

      That being said, I’m not-so-secretly glad that the MMO is kaput. The WoD was always about a certain kind of intimacy, about knowing that while other people were going through some crazy stuff, it was your collective story, and no jocks or bullies or shitty parents could ever take that away from you. I think something crucial would have been lost when you have a thousand vampires crawling around at once and people spamming the global chat with l33tspeak.

      Still, I’m gonna toss one back for the old days. Here’s to hoping that I can eventually Shanghai enough willing dupes to step into the void once more.

  • It seemed to have been a long time since any WoD MMO information had come out, and so I had a suspicion things had gone this way.

    My first World of Darkness character was a hunter of the Avenger flavor. The character we tell stories about, though, is Eleanor the Malkavian.

    We do so love White Wolf in my house (and own most of the nWoD books, and many many of the old WoD as well), but we do not love the God Machine Chronicles material which has been coming out.

    We also love D&D, but have taken the Pathfinder system as our table system; 4th edition D&D was not to our taste either.

    Golly gamers are a particular bunch, aren’t we?

  • There is a good reason that you didn’t get Eve; you are not/ do not:
    -active military
    -a hard scifi nut
    -speak multiple languages.
    Now, none of this is a knock on you. It’s just that I’ve played Eve on and off over the years and those are the core characteristics of anyone who really GOT the game.
    You see it when you are talking on corp chat with your corpmates late at night, half of which is in five different languages (i still can read a little Russian as a result) and listening to people talk about active ops.
    These guys were playing in freaking Iraq and Afghanistan!

    I just found a bunch of WoD material that popped up online and was wondering what it was all about.
    I’m planning on rolling it out soon at our table (currently AD&D, Pathfinder, Gamma World, and a few board games like Axis and Allies).
    Thanks for writing about this: I like to know the history of RPGs as I find them.

  • I played remixed versions of Vampire: The Masqueade back in the early internet days of the mid-late 90s.

    By remixed, I mean we took the game and made it our own online, through old-style webchat, email and instant messenger. Met some great people that way.

  • Sad, but not entirely unexpected. While not an online gamer, the promise sounded nice when CCP first acquired WW, but as the years stretched on, I seriously doubted it would ever see the light of day (dark of night?). Now, it has come to pass. Sad.

    However, in a way, that simply preserves my own great memories of the old WoD, without bastardizing it with online animations and stuff. The WoD, as a non-computerized game, remains limited only by the creative capacity of its players, not some computer algorithm and application. Nice.

    Finally, like you Chuck, writing for WW was my entree into the world of professional writing, etc. Enjoyed the books I did for Vampire: the Masquerade and glad I was able to play an integral part in the creation of Vampire: the Requiem with another bunch of tomes. Co-writers like you and the rest you mentioned had a big influence on me, also, and glad to see many have moved on to more work they love.

    If my life was not entirely consumed with “grown up” and “domestic” duties — career, bills, home, wife, daughter — I would love to pick up the old WoD books, craft a new chronicle, gather friends, and dive in again. Alas, I cannot, but I can always cherish the memories.

  • VtM is still my go-to game. I’ve played RPGs for a few years now, and I always come back to White Wolf. In college, White Wolf was what we played, old-school WW, and that wasn’t too long ago. The best game campaign I’ve ever been in regardless of the system had just two players, two Tremere, tracking down pages from the Book of Nod.

    I still play and am currently in two WOD campaigns.

    It’s very sad news, both for the layoffs, and because I was really looking forward to that game.

    Yeah. Onward and upward, I guess.

  • God I loved WW games. We used to play them all. I used to run a Metis from the Get of Fenris that would tear stuff up. Aside from old school D&D books, the WW sourcebooks were my favorite to just sit and read.

  • I started with VtM when I was 11 years old… which is way too young to be playing that kind of setting, but whatever, we didn’t know what we were doing. And we loved it.

    Years later, I still play. I’m a Changeling: The Lost girl at heart, and I want to thank you for the work you did on that line, Chuck. Your (and the other mentioned folks among so many others) contributions to the World of Darkness continue to entertain gamers and will for years to come.

    Hasta luego, White Wolf. I still remember when you actually published novels, and I will miss you most for that.

    For the rest of us, keep on writing. :)

  • Mage is still my favorite WoD game. We played the crap out of that one, though we tried them all at some point. It remains my third favorite game of all time (only beaten by Call of Cthulhu and Shadowrun). The quality of all the WoD stuff was among the best in the RPG field. I really had not been following the development of the MMO, but I’m not surprised it never went anywhere, as I always thought their ideas were going to be very difficult to pull off. I feel bad for those involved, having been in game development at one point in my career, so I know what it’s like to see your job go away. Here’s hoping they all get new and exciting projects to work on, and that there’s a future for WoD somewhere.

  • April 15, 2014 at 4:40 PM // Reply

    Didn’t realise you wrote for Hunter: The Reckoning. That was the only WoD game I ever truly fell in love with. Had some great games of the others, but Hunter…. I love the fiction, the splatbooks, the whole damned doomed feel of the thing. Ironically, never actually played it, but have a pretty much full collection of the books.

  • You made me the writer I am through our work on White Wolf’s books, Chuck. And now I’m trying to do the same to the freelancers I hire.

    Just without the drugs, y’know? I’m keeping the drugs.

    • I TOLD YOU TO SHARE THE DRUGS okay ha ha ha don’t share the drugs I never did.

      And thanks, Stew! You’re an authorial bad-ass, and it was a pleasure to work with you. You were always one of those I WILL HIRE YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN authors.

  • Wow – having played DnD since the early 80’s I snapped up the First Eds of Vampire and Werewolf – then the second, third. I played Wraith, Mage, Hunter,the fan-based Highlander rules. Of all the WW RPG’s my favourite will always be H.O.L. (Human Occupied Landfill – please tell me I’m not alone here?)
    That game (and it’s expansions) exhibited a particularly perverse kind of genius.

    The meta-arc story had come to an end. There were examples of the end times for each of the core character archetypes and then some money grubbing prick decided to re-vamp (hahaha) the core system and it was a pale imitation.

    God I hated the reboot.

    So I still play WoD on a daily basis – blending it with a range of different story ideas and settings that make it a strange hybrid world. But I play old-school WoD. An MMO based on the original game concept would have been fantastic.

    I’ve heard Eve described as an Excel spread sheet, with better graphics. Not what you want in a game where STORYTELLING is the key driver. Most sessions I run now don’t even use dice. If the player makes a great piece of story – then they are more likely to succeed than if they just screw around.

  • April 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM // Reply

    I KNEW I kept that blackberry moonshine for something. My husband and I met online in the early 90’s in a couple of WoD-style MUSHes.

  • It’s a pity we never got to work on more WW books together, Chuck. (Just the one: Night Horrors: Grim Fears).

  • I loved V:tM so much. I owned so many of the books, so much of the merch, so much Tim Bradstreet imagery. The one thing I lacked was a solid group of people to play with. I probably played the game only about a dozen times. But the amount of time I spend THINKING about the world was immense.

    Also, burned into my brain is the execrable TV adaptation, Kindred: The Embraced. I’ll never forget the moment, early on, when it became clear just how badly the show had missed the mark. It was a single line of dialogue that will never be able to forget, to my everlasting chagrin:

    “Something’s wrong. The Brujah didn’t bring their women.”

    GAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The stupid, IT BURNS!

    Some day, this error must be rectified. The scales must be balanced.

    Hrm, I wonder who I’d need to talk to about the rights to make a transmedia web series…

      • Misrepresenting the Nosferatu only signified that they made a creative choice that didn’t work – that happens all the time. But by marginalizing half (more than half, by my personal experience) of the WoD audience to the sidelines of the action with a single, off-handed comment that served no real purpose betrayed a tone-deafness that clearly showed they had no idea how to deal with the material.

  • I never get a good feeling when a big company takes over a smaller one. Big companies do that with only one thing in mind – making money. Trouble is, what THEY mean by ‘money’ tends to be ‘as much freakin’ money as we can possibly stuff in our bank accounts.’ Little companies like to make money too – but not at the expense of imagination and providing a quality product. It must hurt them so deeply to see everything they’ve created slowly chewed up and spat out by the corporate accountants of the new Big Bosses.

    I hope White Wolf can rise like a phoenix from the ashes. I loved Vampire: The Masquerade (aaah, back in the days when vampires were BADASS, not sparkly boyband emos.) I refuse to believe they will just die, because… YOU CAN’T KILL GREATNESS!*

    *I’m sure that’s probably a line from a movie somewhere – possibly yelled by Mel Gibson (before all the anti-semetic/sexist/raving lunatic shit, obviously.)

  • I fell in love with the WoD back in the 90s. The VtM setting and history was incredible. We did something with it similar to the Storium idea, in that we had a guild in Neverwinter Nights in the old AOL Gold Box game called The Camarilla. We enforced roll play by writing in character each week on a forum that we had control of. You had to write in order to stay in the guild. It was wonderful stuff.

    One of my favorite tie-in novels was Masquerade of the Red Death Trilogy by Robert Weinberg.

    Good memories. I still have all my VtM books.

  • Exalted and Vampire the Masquerade remain my favorite gaming systems of all time. I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent outside of game reading settings books and doing research to flesh out my characters. I still have a huge collection of the game books and the novels that went with them – we were just running a VtM game about a month ago. How did I not know you wrote for them?

  • April 24, 2014 at 6:59 PM // Reply

    Huh. I never realized you were on Shadownessence, back then. {… course, I didn’t know who you were at that point, so I guess that’s why ^_^} Do you by any chance remember someone there by the name of Xemiel? I ran the Werewolf fora for a time.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds