Tag Archives: White Wolf

An Interview with Chuck Wendig

Freelance Penmonkey logo care of Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.Update: The Critical Table isn’t dead, Courtney informed me today that he has been having trouble with his hosting, and lost a lot of data, but he’s redesigning the site and it should be up “in the next month or so.” Good to hear!

Seeing as The Critical Table appears to now be… defunct, I decided to repost this interview I did with Chuck Wendig over there on here. His answers are quite insightful and interesting.

The theme of the interview is gaming, and writing for a gaming company (in this case, White Wolf Publishing). Chuck Wendig has worked on a variety of their World of Darkness books, specifically as the main developer for Hunter: the Vigil. You can visit Wendig’s site at terribleminds, or pre-order his new book Double Dead which comes out November 15th. I appreciate Wendig taking time out of his busy schedule of writing, blogging, and slavery to his new overlord baby, to do this interview. Originally posted in August, 2011, at The Critical Table.

IEM: How did you get into writing for White-Wolf Publishing? I know you worked on the Hunter series, as well as others in the World of Darkness game, but did you start on Hunter, or did you start off on another project?
CW: A long time ago, in a double-wide trailer far away… I read on the Internet about a writer’s all-call they were putting out for Hunter: The Reckoning. They meaning, Ken Cliffe and Bruce Baugh. I answered with a pretentious 1000-word essay on the loci of fear. Somehow, my bullshit got in their eyes and convinced them to hire me.

IEM: How much work really goes into putting together a source book? As the Developer on the Hunter: The Vigil book, how much time did you spend going over all the material other people put into it, vs. working on the material you wrote for the book?
Chuck WendigCW: Quite a lot of work, though a lot more work for a core like H:tV. Bibles and outlines and hiring writers and tons of emails and first drafts and second drafts and art notes and so forth. The material I wrote for the book came after the other material hit my inbox — I filled in gaps at the end of the process. I don’t know how long, exactly — with some writers, minimal work, with others, a lot of work.

IEM: How much time do you spend re-writing material after it goes to the play testers? Is it kind of a back and forth “This doesn’t work? – Okay try it now” thing, or is it more of a “Here’s everything we found that we think needs improvement. – Okay it’s fixed, book is done” thing?
CW: In H:tV’s case, not a ton of rewriting was necessary. Lots of tweaking, but nothing severe. No hacked chapters or lost systems or anything. Mostly it’s just a case of red flags going up.

IEM: In “Old” World of Darkness each game was more or less standalone. Mage’s didn’t mix well with Vampires, etc. etc. Can you give us any insight into why that was changed in “New” World of Darkness? It seems like an effort was made to make it possible to play any type of character in any game – balancing out the abilities of all the different types, and making them work better together – as opposed to being enemies (I’m thinking of Vampires and Werewolves from oWoD specifically).
CW: I don’t know if the goal was really to balance them against one another, exactly. But I do think the goal was to make a more unified world, and certainly a more unified system.

IEM: Are you yourself a gamer, or do you just work on awesome games? And if you do play any, which tabletop games do you play? World of Darkness?
CW: I’ve been a gamer for a long time, though regrettably the last year or so has seen my gaming drop to essentially non-existent levels. I’ll play anything put in front of me, though I’ll usually only run WOD stuff.

IEM: As the developer for Hunter: The Vigil, were some of your ideas the driving force behind the game and it’s mechanics, or was your role more as a writer than mechanics designer?
CW: With Hunter I definitely helped lay the brickwork for the mechanics — mechanics are kind of added that way, one brick at a time, I think. Writers are instrumental in that, too, not just developers.

WoD Hunter: the Vigil

IEM: Do you play video games, and did you work on any of the Vampire PC games that were produced? And if so, in what capacity?
CW: I do play video games. I am right now getting so much pleasure from Borderlands it should be made illegal. That said, I did not work on any WW PC games. I did do some writing work for the WOD MMO, though I don’t know how much of that writing will survive the years-long process of bringing an MMO to the world.

IEM: Many Storytellers will take systems like World of Darkness and pull strongly from other influences (such as H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos) to alter the world and sometimes the mechanics of the system. Have you ever tried anything like that, and do you have any advice for people who want to experiment but may not want to design their own system from the ground up?
CW: I don’t generally do too much major world-shifting with the WOD — my advice to any who want to play with the system and the setting is to look into a book called WOD: Mirrors. I developed that and you just nailed the whole purpose behind that book.

IEM: On the other hand, do you think there is a point where a Storyteller changes a system so much that they should just design their own? Do you have any words of advice or caution for people interested in taking this plunge? (Not necessarily trying to publish it, but simply designing their own system at all)
CW: That’s up to each Storyteller — designing a system from the ground up is tough stuff, but also incredibly fun. Just make sure they have the time and the energy for it.

IEM: How difficult is it to contribute new ideas when writing supplements for these books, while balancing the fact that there is 20 or so years of work in the same “world,” as well as not trampling on the creative process for the Storytellers making up their own stories for their games?
CW: I don’t know that it’s so important to bring “new” to the table as it is to seek new arrangements of old ideas. Everything is a remix in its own weird way.

IEM: When watching movies (like say… Underworld) that get accused of “ripping off” World of Darkness, do you see similarities to the work you’ve done, and does it bother you?
CW: I didn’t do any work that would’ve made its way into Underworld, so, at present I don’t feel particularly ripped off. 🙂

WoD Logo

IEM: What ideas, either in film, fiction, music, or anything else really, influence/inspire you in your work with World of Darkness?
CW: The world around us is inspiration enough. From banking crises to serial murderers to WWII code-crackers, you have no end of horror and weirdness to choose from.

The Updates! I can reveal them!

TyperwriterSo I can finally give some links for these shenanigans! For those of you who don’t know already, I’m now a freelance writer for Technology Review (online), which is a MIT publication. My first article, which is on the augmented reality/GPS navigation Android app Wikitude Drive, went live today. And I’m currently working on a second article. Good times!

Additionally, I’m a staff writer for the gaming/geek culture website The Critical Table, which I have mentioned before. My first interview went up today. It’s with Chuck Wendig, freelance “penmonkey,” and game developer for White Wolf Publishing. For those of you who know my gaming background, I’m a big World of Darkness fan (White Wolf’s main line). Specifically Vampire and Hunter, the latter of which is the game that Chuck was the main developer for. So this was exciting for me on two fronts.

These are my big two announcements this month. Feels good to know that I’m getting somewhere with this writing nonsense… 😉 I’m also cracking down on another project, but I won’t be talking much about that on here till it’s completed (probably towards the end of the year). This one’s an even bigger secret… Shhhhhh…. So look forward to that.

Not much else to say today, working on a few things and trying to get myself organized for my trip this weekend. I will be flying out to California on Saturday, then driving cross-country back to Delaware. Looking forward to that, I love traveling.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned tomorrow, when I’ll get something solid up.

A gaming we will go…

Tabletop Gaming at PAXHello, my name is Ian, and I’m a geek. I’ve been gaming since I was young, probably since I was old enough to talk. My mother and I used to play board games and card games all the time. I was brought up on games, books, and music far more than television (hell, I don’t think we even had cable till I was in 8th grade…). Besides the usual suspects of Uno, Clue, and Scrabble, we played Backgammon, Checkers (also known as Draughts), Milles Bornes (a French card game), and Mancala, a game my mother learned where she grew up – Africa (and a game I used to know as “the bean game”). Now don’t get me wrong, I spent plenty of time outdoors also, I used to love playing in the woods, climbing trees, riding my bike, and swimming. But playing games with my mom is probably my fondest childhood memory, next to reading.
And then, probably a few years after its release, I got a Super Nintendo. Tons of fun, some of my favorite games of all time are from that console. Final Fantasy VI will forever remain the penultimate gaming experience for me… laughing at Gau’s antics, shedding a tear during the Opera scene… ah, the wonders that game introduced to me. And let’s not forget Mario, of course… ah Mario… the howls of laughter at watching my mother consistently drive backwards around the track in Mario Kart (and this is the person who taught me how to drive… frightening). And of course… Lord of the Rings. For Super Nintendo, this game was particularly frustrating, because not only was it almost impossible to figure out how to beat on your own, but many of the copies of the game were released bugged, so you couldn’tbeat the game. I was never able to figure out if ours was the bugged version or not… by the time we got the internet and I was able to look the game up I never got around to playing it again…
D&DAnd then… Middle School. A harrowing time for many boys just hitting puberty. School didn’t worry me. I made friends, I had fun. But this was the year it happened. I was placed in the high school band because I play trombone, and they needed a good trombone player. Here I met a guy named Kyle. Kyle discovered that I was pretty knowledgeable about computers, and told me about an issue he was having with a game he had bought. So after school that day I went over and showed him how to fix the issue he was having. And he showed me his Advanced Dungeons and DragonsPlayers Handbook. I was entranced. A version of Final Fantasy I could play with friends? Where I controlled my character? Where the story could go on forever, and I could change things far more directly through my actions than in any video game (at the time…)? Yes! Sign me up!

This was of course only one of many new games I encountered over the years. From AD&D I discovered White Wolf’s World of Darkness, specifically Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and from there Vampire: the Masquerade… Now, Vampire was I game I could get into. The mix of darkness (and by this point I was a teenager in high school, so I thought my life was pretty dark…), political intrigue, history, and ripping people’s faces off? I was there. I immediately devoured all the material on this game I could and started running a game with my friends. A game that I ran for four years straight. Now… those of you not familiar with gaming might not think much of that, but those of you who are familiar will know that four years is a damn long time to run a game. But I did, almost every weekend. For four years. And it was glorious.

Then came college. I changed a lot in college, as I’m sure most people would say. A lot. For one thing, I stopped gaming. I knew I wanted to do well in school, and focused on my grades. Well… I tried to anyway. Or at least I started focusing on my grades after I changed my major twice… but that’s another story. I stopped gaming. Sure I played the occasional computer game, a little Counter-Strike, but it stopped being the center of my free time. I hung out with people, did a lot of new things. I really dove head first into the whole college experience. Then a friend introduced me to World of Warcraft (thanks Will…). And I was, once again, immersed. A free-form RPG that I play online with thousands of other people? Wow (pun intended). Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games… $15 dollars a month starts to add up… and by the time I had moved off campus and delved into my final choice in major (Philosophy), I was done with WoW. Enough of the late night gaming sessions and wasted hours farming materials for crafting. No more!

And then my best friend, and roommate at the time, Brandon asked me if I wanted to come to his Sunday D&D sessions with him. A new version of Dungeons and Dragons (3.5) and a 10th level rogue/shadowdancer later… I was back in the game.

Now that I’ve graduated, moved away from Boston (for now), and jumped into the “real world,” I still game. Of course there’s XBox 360, and Wii, and PC games still… And I still run a World of Darkness game, or play D&D with friends. And once again I’ve discovered the joys of board games… now that I’m older I’ve discovered all the “adult” board/card games… Dominion, Munchkin, “We Didn’t Playtest This At All,” Catan… But when I look back over the years the thing I remember best is the thrill of a new game, a new character, a new adventure. In an age where children are brought up on television, watered down educations, and books like Twilight, it’s no wonder that geeks are the ones leading the way in innovation. When you think of the most important aspects of the last ten, twenty… even thirty years, what comes to mind? The internet… smart phones, GPS, CERN and their Large Hadron Collider. And who are the people behind these inventions? The guys and girls that grew up rolling dice and slaying dragons in their parents’ basements… in their college dorms. The kids that spent hours jumping on mushroom guys and turtles till three in the morning when they had school the next day. The teenagers who would have rather been learning the rules to that new board game than swinging a bat or throwing a ball.

Don't worry... this isn't mine.

Lately I’ve wondered what my life would have been like without games. Even if you leave the board games there, but take out the Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering cards… Would I be the same person? I couldn’t tell you, because I don’t see how my life could have gone any other way. Would I still want to be a writer? Who knows… I don’t care.

As a final note… take a look over at Critical Table. Soon you’ll start seeing some articles written by me floating around on the site. I recently struck a deal with Courtney, the creator and owner, and I’m really looking forward to joining the team over there and writing for them. And if you’re looking for any advice on new games to try out, feel free to ask. I’m always looking to let someone know about that awesome card game I played last week…