Thursday, January 15, 2004

And with a whisper, it dies...

Last Words from Antartica: The crew of the American Antartic coastal station has vanished shortly after a desperate email was dispatched to Washington, D.C. The text of the e-mail was simply. "The blood gods are here." Communication with Palmer coastal station has been similarly silent.

Dear Fellow Resident of the WoD,

You’ve been following the countdown clock and the tickertape news releases, so you know about the Time of Judgment that begins today. If you care that the ToJ has arrived, then you’re the person to whom I’m writing, the person I’m thanking.

Thank you for participating in the World of Darkness. Whether it’s been for only a year or will be for all 13 years (1991-2004) or even if it was just one year in 1994 or whenever that you played or read about this world, then I sincerely want to thank you for being among what I consider the best fans in gaming. A lot of fabulous horror stories were told this past decade, and thanks for telling them in the World of Darkness. For our part, the reward has been in providing you the storytelling tools, and even by the standards of today’s media-saturated world, the fact that we’ve gotten to do this for 13 years is pretty incredible.

And look at the change we’ve wrought. In 1991 White Wolf was a small game company that almost went out of business because of a naked faerie on the cover of one of our books. If only they knew what was coming! All of our money (not to mention our parents’ and even grandparents’ money) was riding on the belief that there were others who felt roleplaying games had an unrealized potential and these players would see vampires (and werewolves and mages, etc) as metaphors and use them as cornerstones for profound storytelling. We met the mood of the times head-on and perhaps even drove it a bit. We did not shrink from dealing with difficult subjects, like the ghosts of millions of dead in Nazi Germany or modern Bosnia. Or, yikes, that stuff we did in our Black Dog Games books.

Not all change is good change, but the frank look we’ve all taken at the world through our WoD stories — from exploring both the moral ambiguity of violence in entertainment to the ghettoized portrayal of sex in media — is change I count for the better, and we were all involved.

Of course, maybe we didn’t truly change anything, but perhaps among the hundreds of thousands of fans who for a time dwelt within the World of Darkness there’s a number, or even one, who will create lasting change. There’s no doubt that in equal measure your response to our books changed us. You gave us the confidence as well as the means to continue this work.

There have always been charges that a certain pretentiousness pervades our work. Ok, sure, it’s there. It’s been there since 1991. We’re proud of our work and think lots of people should read it and believe that lots of people could learn something about themselves or the world by playing it. But our pretension is not an affectation, it’s more an arrogance. The same sense you have that your Chronicle is better than that other Chronicle. It’s a sense that we’re doing something artful, something worthwhile, something worth the digression (transgression?) of those to whom we’ve offered the games.

Don’t doubt it, though, we stand on the shoulders of giants.(*)

So why, then, have we “canceled” the World of Darkness? At least that’s how some people are translating what we’re doing. Either that or this is a gimmick to make money and then everything will go back to being exactly the same. I won’t deny that the ToJ makes both artistic and business sense, but though it’s been to our detriment many times in the past, the artistic usually wins out at White Wolf just as it does for you. Numbers have a place because White Wolf is now a “real” business with about 40 employees and many of those with families, but mainly, it’s irrefutable that the WoD has been leading to its own demise. It’s always been true that the thing that makes the best artistic sense for the legacy of the World of Darkness is that it end. As storytellers, if we don’t deliver on this fundamental promise, then what kind of integrity do we have in the future? None.

And what’s artistry without integrity? Nothing. Then we really would be nothing but pretentious posers.

Finally, in addition to you and all the other fans of the WoD, I’d like to thank White Wolf employees and freelancers past and present. Absolutely phenomenal work, folks. The ingenuity that’s sprouted from the seeds planted in 1991 is awesome. The current crew at WW is fabulous, the best ever, I think, and it seems like every couple months someone is celebrating 10 years with WW. The talented group of employees now in Stone Mountain (and in a few fortunate cities around the US and Canada) is very anxious to show just what we’ve done to your World of Darkness, and then afterwards, oh boy afterwards…! That’s some great stuff too. It’s what we would have done 13 years ago if we’d have been capable of it.

Thanks again. Really. Enjoy the “times” head. It’s your reward for caring about the WoD.

Best regards,
Stewart Wieck

Co-founder, White Wolf, Inc.
Co-creator, World of Darkness
Co-designer, Vampire : The Masquerade & Mage: The Ascension

(*) Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson for creating the rpg industry. Greg Stafford, the great shaman himself, and the whole crew of 1980’s Chaosium for creating the first art in rpgs. Tracy Hickman for bringing story to the medium.

To White-Wolf, THANK YOU for giving me wonderful stories to tell, wonderful games to play and most of all, a lot of good memories, cherished moments and tears.

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