Brace yourselves for a brief and very abridged history lesson. Back in 1991 an American roleplaying game and book publisher emerged on the scene named White Wolf. White Wolf was responsible for the creation of several different tabletop roleplaying game franchises, and most notably the World of Darkness (WoD) series. The game lines gained a dedicated cult following which spurred the growth of many different titles and multiple editions over the last two decades. Eventually, White Wolf decided to try and break their WoD game line into the realm of digital media and merged with Icelandic video game development company CCP (Crowd Control Productions). Put simply, it was not a very successful endeavor and as a result CCP has been holding onto the rights to the White Wolf game lines, but allowed other publishers to license the properties. For years this allowed a company named Onyx Path Publishing to maintain and even update the WoD tabletop game lines, thanks to a committed fan base and the funding capabilities of Kickstarter. However, in October of last year fans were hit with some big news, CCP finally sold the rights to White Wolf to a PC-based strategy game publisher called Paradox Interactive.
Since then press releases have been made, CEO’s have provided statements, and fans were appeased that their favorite series wasn’t going away. Paradox Interactive has been publishing video games since 1999, and have pretty much exclusively stuck to deeply strategic titles, ideal perhaps for games based off well-established and deeply developed settings like those found in the WoD. As a long-time fan and follower of White Wolf, Onyx Path Publishing, and the WoD, it was with no small amount of interest that I pursued the CEO of the new White Wolf Publishing Tobias Sjögren, and Lead Story Writer of White Wolf Publishing Martin Ericcson, to ask my own questions about what the future looks like for one of my favorite franchises.
Jesse Tannous: Have you ever played any of the World of Darkness tabletop role playing games? If so, can you tell me about your experience or anything that made your game memorable to you?
Martin Ericsson: “Fallen Angels” was really a Vampire module for the Swedish RPG Kult. I ran it as a mash up of the original game’s gnostic terror and the personal horror of the World of Darkness. We were very serious teens filled with strange attraction and huge ideas, breaking taboos and scaring each other shitless. At that time my place was decorated with black plastic on the walls, Goetic seals and massive industrial hooks and chains, Hellraiser-style. The climax of the chronicle was played as a LARP [Live Action Role Play] I staged in an abandoned children’s mental hospital. I remember using the player’s darkest fears to drive them bonkers, locking the claustrophobic in a closet. A lot of screaming tears were spilled and furniture smashed. Almost burned the place down in the process. Discovered Sisters of Mercy and fell in love as well. It was pretty damn formative. And then there’s “The Last Seasons,” my unfinished Ars Magica/Mage chronicle that ended with me actually battling the Demiurge on the top of Monsegur fortress in the Languedoc. Acid and Magick was involved.
JT: What do you believe to be the top 5 WoD game lines (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, etc.) that have the most potential for growth into video games or other media types under Paradox Interactive? Why?
ME: Potential. Hmmm. Vampire and Hunter are obvious because they already have great digital games and Vampire is, well, it’s Vampire and huge compared to the other lines. Wraith didn’t quite click as a tabletop franchise but I believe it would be a great foundation for indie-flavored, Planescape-inspired metaphysical exploration on some digital platform. Demon is exceptional as the “keep it simple” distillation of WoD and its’ questions about the role of religion feels very right-this-moment. Werewolf is a no-brainer for a heart and flesh-rending action title set in the age of climate catastrophe and mass extinction. Mage is a great work, but I think translating its’ insightful philosophy and free-form Magick to a digital game will be a bit of a challenge. Perhaps a series of novels would be better. Or a TV-series.
JT: Oynx Path Publishing, Kickstarter, and a passionate community have appeared to be integral for the continued interest in the White Wolf game lines for some time now. Even so, these games have been hidden in the background, not quite penetrating the main stream. With this acquisition imaginations are running wild in both positive and maybe even negative ways. What are some of the realities this purchase means for the long-time fans, creators, and supporters of White Wolf and specifically, WoD?
Tobias Sjögren: We purchased this portfolio of IPs for several reasons and to draw it out in two extremes. It is firstly because we love the IP’s and like to work with it ourselves as it is a creative challenge we greatly enjoy. And secondly we do believe we can make money for ourselves and others working with this. What this means for the fans and creators is that there will be dedicated and passionate people working with the development of the WoD IP’s, and that there should be money to be made which ensures the longevity of all the existing content and build a ground for new types of WoD entertainment to be created. So in short, we will have great fun doing our very best creating more great World of Darkness experiences!
JT: Is there any possibility of certain gaming lines being discontinued or going unsupported entirely?
ME: Discontinued, no. The way I see it all of the WoD monsters are hiding among us right now. Some of the creatures have been forced to radically change the way they operate in this age of surveillance and fanaticism. We will learn much more about what makes them tick and how they get away with the shit they do. I’m no big fan of “and then all the Ravnos exploded” – style metaplot events. Every shade of darkness has a role to play, but it may be a while until you learn the fate of esoteric critters like the Roeka or Kitsune. Our World of Darkness is all about asking terrifying questions about the human condition. We use the creatures and settings that help us do that and leave the rest in the shadows for our players to explore and invent for themselves.
JT: At this point does Paradox Interactive have any plans to utilize Kickstarter to fund White Wolf focused projects like video games, additional books, or other products?
TS: So even though White Wolf is owned by Paradox we’ll operate this as two businesses to ensure that White Wolf can do whatever kind of content and work with anyone necessary to create great WoD content. So it is hard for me as CEO of White Wolf to respond on how Paradox will possibly finance and market products in the future, but generally I can say that I really like Kickstarter from many different aspects and would happily support any of our partners who want to utilize that way of getting to market with an idea.
JT: What, can you tell us about the World of Darkness 25th Anniversary event being held in New Orleans this year? Does White Wolf plan on holding other similar events celebrating the WoD game lines?
TS: We will certainly be there! We had a blast being in the area this fall over Halloween and we already look forward to the upcoming event. We will defiantly try to support more kinds of events like it and work with how this can complement the games aspect of WoD. For example we are working on securing some European style LARP’s during 2016, the first one will be played in an abandoned mental hospital in Helsinki. Martin – try not to burn it to the ground.
ME: Awkay :). See you there! Blood and Souls!
It certainly sounds like the new leaders behind the reins of White Wolf Publishing are dedicated fans of the franchise, which hopefully means nothing but good things for the long-time fans, and potential newcomers to the World of Darkness.