With Vampire: The Masquerade celebrating twenty years of perpetual darkness, a second Grand Masquerade event quickly approaching, and the World of Darkness MMORPG making considerable progress behind tightly sealed doors, we felt it was the perfect time to check in with White Wolf's Shane DeFreest again to see where the Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition book stands and what sort of debauchery we're going to be participating in on the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter this year.
GB: It's hard to believe that it's already been 20 years since Vampire: The Masquerade was released. How would you define the last two decades for White Wolf, and in what ways has the company and its products changed over the years?
Shane: It is hard to believe if not somewhat unbelievable that it’s been twenty years. It does seem like a long time but to many of us it seems only yesterday that Vampire was just hitting the shelves. To try and define the last two decades for White Wolf is in many ways to try and define Vampire itself. In many, many ways a considerable amount of the common mythology we now culturally associate with the Vampire mythos were really things Vampire: The Masquerade pioneered. Over the years the company and how it has developed has evolved, but that’s part and parcel with any entertainment business I suspect. But to directly answer the question I can say that I would define the first two decades as an amazing success and a very wild ride. We’ve been playing in the dark now for quite a while, and at long last the world seems to be appreciating things that go bump in the night as much as we have all along. For as much as Vampire and the larger World of Darkness has gone through different iterations, revisions and reimagined versions the best thing about what we are doing right now is taking it all back to where it started with the Vampire: the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition book. It’s really a homecoming of sorts for both our staff and the fans. But to really grasp the full scope of what the project is people should check out vampirethemasquerade.com because that’s where we are crowd sourcing the book as its being developed and where we are working on it together WITH the fans and that’s extremely exciting for both us and them.
GB: In what ways has Vampire's success inspired the direction White Wolf has taken with Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, Hunter: The Reckoning, and some of their other popular RPG titles?
Shane: Much like anything that’s an unexpected runaway hit Vampire sort of set the tone, feel and format of things to come after it. The ideas of “Clans” of vampires obviously inspired “Tribes” of Werewolves and things of that nature. Vampire also helped carve out the form and feel as to how the other different games would be in terms of style. Vampire was a very social game because Vampires are social creatures. By way of comparison Werewolf was a very physical and more action oriented game and Mage was more of an esoteric and meant to challenge the mind. Vampire was always the standard that everything was compared to and bounced off of first. It’s always been at the center of the World of Darkness and the other game lines have reflected that to varying degrees.
GB: The first twenty years of Vampire have obviously been very successful for White Wolf. Where do you anticipate taking the franchise in the future? Will there be any major releases or events that we'll be talking about at the 30-year anniversary?
Shane: It’s really hard to answer this question because if you had asked me ten years ago where we would be today I would have not had a clue what to tell you. But Vampire and the World of Darkness are in something of a time of transition and new entertainment mediums are coming to fruition every day. For example I think few people could have predicted how revolutionary the iPad and the whole tablet phenomenon would take hold. Between new emerging technologies like the ipad and the constantly evolving new electronic mediums in the MMO/virtual world area Vampires future is very bright even if the franchise itself is not.
GB: When did you first come up with the idea of doing a 20th anniversary edition of V:tM, and what sort of ideas did you kick around before making the decision to only release a limited number of "print-to-order" copies along with a Grand Masquerade-exclusive version of the book?
Shane: We have been wanting to do something special for the 20th Anniversary of Vampire for a while and it came down to the decision to either do an art book or a commemorative version of the original game. So instead of picking one over the other we basically decided to do both and do a very high end prestige book that’s one part coffee table book and one part ultimate gaming compendium. Initially we were going to do a book with just the 13 original clans and then we decided we wanted to do a version that included all the rare bloodlines and it just sort of grew at that point to be this massive volume with virtually everything in it. In regards to the print-to-order idea, we have been constantly evolving how we directly interact with our fans for some time so this seemed like a great time do something directly from us to them. But fans need to act quickly because if they don’t purchase it by July 1 then they won’t get it at all. That’s the cutoff date for us to send the order to the printer and when it's done, it's done.
GB: Over 400 pages of content are packed into the 20th anniversary edition. Do you feel that these pages encompass everything an enthusiast could ask for in a single book? Is there additional content that you would have liked to add to it, but chose not to in an effort to keep it from becoming unwieldy?
Shane: Actually at this point it looks to be over 500 pages. It keeps growing in leaps and bounds. This book will absolutely encompass everything a longtime fan who really wants all the most important and significant content or from the game line over the last two decades. We have included things from over 20 different books and it keeps growing. But like you say we need to cut it off somewhere and where we really decided to draw the line was probably with things of a historical nature. While we include all the clans and bloodlines that have ever been included in the Vampire franchise the book is distinctly the modern version. We have added some things here and there from the Victorian and Dark Ages versions of the game but those are few and far between. So untimely where we drew the line was the need to keep the game modern with rules and a setting for modern Vampires. Some of the other era’s that the game takes place in are briefly mentioned but they are not the focus.
GB: What does the 20th anniversary edition offer to someone who is completely new to the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG? Does the book cover the game's basics in their entirety, or will an understanding of its mechanics be required or at least beneficial prior to cracking open its cover?
Shane: Overall the Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition is tailored towards the experienced fan. Just so much as that we make certain assumptions in that most people understand at this day and age what a “story themed” RPG is. Back when Vampire was originally released, RPGs were very much designed under a different mindset. To say gaming was more along the lines of kill the ork, get the gold, go up a level, then repeat is fairly accurate. Vampire really changed the idea that the game was more about being part of an interactive storytelling experience than just something you “win”. We don’t believe that we need to educate people like we used to about things like that. Today’s gamers understand story and emotion and the desire to have depth to their games. So lots of the traditional long winded “let me tell you how to run a game” types of content has been removed in favor of adding in more setting material. For new people that might just be getting into Vampire with this book my recommendation would be to get online and find someone experienced to play it with you. Vampire has always been a game we believe people “graduate” to when they are ready for a more mature, intense, edgy adult experience and that’s definitely still the case with the 20th Anniversary Edition.