mr_pandakun (mr_pandakun) wrote,

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Goodbye, WhiteWolf

I was first introduced to White Wolf with Werewolf. I had no idea Vampire existed, except - of course - it did, before Werewolf went to print. Trekking into Berkeley on a Saturday mid-morning (likely after a 'til 3am game on Friday night), I picked up a copy at Games of Berkeley. The first edition was still entirely in flimsy paper-back, but still had all the touches of a 1st edition. Somewhat sloppy copy editing, references to famous people at the time (Performance of 5's example was Lars Ulric!), and concept sketches in the back - along with some of the writer's takes on developing the product.

At home, I read it all day. Cover to cover. That weekend, I read it twice. I could not conceive of such a magnificent story telling of Werewolves - I was on fire to create characters, run a game, something! Anything! I had to get right into this game and watch it go. My first character was a run-away Black Fury Philodox, and I yearned to play. Decorating one's book covers at school was a thing to do, so I grabbed a few of the Piedmont "spirit" sheets - i.e. a glossy 80# sheet with the school's crest printed in purple ... on one side, totally blank on the other - flipped them and covered three of my text books with them. Next, I picked up some carbon copy and tracing paper from the art supply store, and over the next two weeks *painstakingly* traced the artwork from within the book on to my covers. Specifically the fight between the Black Fury and Silverfang, both in Crinos form. Fine-tipped black ballpoint pen for the outlines, red pen for the blood, and a number of black ballpoints for the Fury's fur.

Truly they were a sight to behold. People kept asking me if I drew them, and I was honest - no, I only traced them. I did other graphic art-type things in the past, like take a giant 24x36 technical blueprint of the mechs from Battletech and reduce them to 8.5x11... anyway. I was so proud of those covers, I kept them in as good of a condition I could. I repaired them, re-inked some faded parts, and transferred them to new books when the year switched.

My first attempt at running the game was with my cousins in Grass Valley, and although I don't remember any of the sessions, they checked out the book too and were totally sold on it. Later, when my cousin bought the Vampire book, I read that cover-to-cover too - surely this new gaming company was on a roll - but I just wasn't as impressed with it. I did, however, LOVE the Timothy Bradstreet art. I was a total unabashed fan. I ran into the comic store to snag the Red Sky Diaries T-Shirt, done by Timothy Bradstreet, and buy it. I had no idea what the Red Sky Diaries was, but it had to be mine. I photocopied all the really excellent chapter art in the Guide to the Sabbat book and put it in a collage (along with Cerebus) that I would take to my dorm at HSU.

A few years later, I left high school and took my Werewolf game to college - we tried all sorts of stuff there, delving into the mass of material now published by White Wolf. Trying to figure out the origins of the WoD creatures, arguing about how they came about, which tribes were really on top of things, what the next book would do with the Kitsune (whooohoo, Japan!), etc. While I was on my everything-Asian kick (especially Japan), I took a gleam to Kindred of the East. I loved the philosophy and mythology of it all, tied in nicely... minus the anime-themed art, which was unfortunate.

Then there was the LARPing. Oh, the LARPing! So much LARP did we have. Starting down in Berkeley during my first summer out from college (or maybe it was the last year of high school), I discovered the social wonder that LARPs were and decided to play. LARPing at this point was adapted entirely from the WoD books - no real published rules existed - and some really excellent ideas spawned from it. The Berkeley crowd wasn't really my cup of tea, but some of my other gaming friends knew people there pretty well, so it went ok. Later, while up at HSU, we decided to give this LARPing thing a try using the homebrewed rules I borrowed from Berkeley.

We had an instant hit! Under the name of Little Black Pig, we started a club on campus that would show anime videos (which we had to get permission to show), but mostly funded the LARP out of what we were able to raise. It wasn't much, but we got some props out of the deal and it felt official. The LARP grew from just 8 players, our core gaming group, to about 15 regulars, and we had some excellent games and memorable moments (the Setite high priestess and her capable ghoul, the maggot infested Nosferatu, and - of course - The Bunny) out of our time running the thing. There was lots of out-of-game drama, of course; it was Humboldt. Yet it made us focus more on the games - not just on the LARP, but the tabletop ones as well - to the point we were overdosing at 8 games a week. Twice on Sunday, yes, and most of them White-Wolf based.

We then connected our LARP with a world-wide organization, and to the LARP going on in San Francisco. That connection was a bit awkward at first - with the players in SF and the political power games in character - but it worked out fairly well on the first few visits. Not too long after, I decided to leave Humboldt and go back to the Bay Area. I was out of college and my prospects up in Eureka were very, very few and not looking very good. Lots of personal stuff was going on then, and leaving was hard. Most of my friends no longer lived in the Bay Area, and I'd grown into my adult life with the people in Humboldt. It was, however, the best possible move for my future and I would continue to LARP with the S.F. group and later form our own Werewolf LARP in the very place I started LARPing.

Times, of course, change and I haven't really played a WoD game in many years. I ran a Kindred of the East game for a little while, but I'd been so out of practice it didn't really take hold. I miss the incredible depth of Werewolf, the spirit world and all its imaginative landscapes the most, though, and long to play it again.

And what got me on this topic was this:

Not so long ago, CCP (makers of Eve Online) bought White Wolf game studio... I'm guessing to get the juicy material and develop it into a MMORPG - which, as it turns out, they did. And focusing on vampires, of course. Here's the preview: here.

Now that CCP is facing tough times, they're - basically - gutting more of the White Wolf staff's publishing arm down to a few people. Yep, just a few guys to run the website and keep it on life support.

In a nutshell, the World of Darkness - as a paper/pencil RPG is gone for good.

This makes me sad. All things, of course, eventually end and the World of Darkness was long coming after the whole change-up between oWoD and nWoD. I never really thought that it'd gasp its dying breath anytime soon, but there you have it.

On the bright-side, I have a lot of hope for the new generation of RPGs that will fill this void. I really love the FATE system, Pathfinder's really working for me on the D&D evolved front, Reign's a very interesting game that has a lot of potential, etc. Some systems I would have liked seen do better - SLA Industries and Cthulhu Tech, to name a few. WhiteWolf was the first company to call GMing "storytelling" - it certainly created quite the backdrop for it! . I hope to keep gaming into the foreseeable future, and to continue to be inspired by the stories that we weave.

Goodbye, WhiteWolf. Thank you for everything. Even the cheesy Ahroun + Lupus + Stargazer combo.
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