The dead ride fast

On April 22:nd, after four years as Lead Storyteller, brand designer and creative director of World of Darkness and White Wolf Entertainment, I worked my last day at Paradox.

My departure is a complex affair, but I think it’s fair to say it’s a consequence of the decision to dissolve and restructure White Wolf as a part of Paradox internal Brand Management and Licensing unit in November of 2018. Organizations evolve, intentions are misunderstood, goals change, drama happens and that’s life I guess.

I’m immensely proud of what we achieved in three years. When I took the job I promised myself to spend 5 years on WoD if it turned out to be constant struggle and drama, 10 to life if it went smoothly.

Needless to say it was not an easy or quietly creative job. New obstacles appeared every week and friends tell me I’ve aged ten years. I still wish I had 10 more years to develop every WoD line as intended.

According to my own plans I should feel satisfied with my part in building the base for a transmedia future for WoD and move on. But as hard as it was I started to see the extent of what we could achieve, and how it could change gaming culture for the better.

White Wolf Entertainment was created as a separate company from Paradox. It was a small, well- funded, independent startup that allowed us to take the kind of creative risks we needed to take, at least if we were going to do it the way I was planning to.

Launched in 1991, Vampire was a one-of-a-kind game. It created its own pop cultural myth, cultlike groups of fans, inspired a really intense take on roleplaying and new forms of play (Minds Eye Theatre) and it reached audiences that wouldn’t touch D&D with a pole. It had women and clubbers and smart people in black playing it. It was different and wether you loved it or hated it, you had an opinion about it.

I wanted to make something as different and real as the punk visions of the original creation.

I’m kind of surprised that despite having my reign cut after the restructuring of WW, I still don’t feel like I’m done with telling stories inside the WoD.

I’m slowly returning to my existence as an active freelance writer and designer. I suspect Paradox may need some help on the further development of the bibles at some point, licencees may need someone who can write for WoD5 in his sleep, and since the creative center of WW is now with the developers of individual projects, that’s where I think I’ll be the most useful. I think I’ll try to be a Consulting Storyteller for a while. Hit me up if you think I could add something to your WoD5 product, or invite me over and I’ll hold an updated development workshop like the ones I ran before the books ate all my energy and focus.

But before I start the next WoD projects I’m taking some much needed time off to enjoy a Swedish summer fully, for the first time in years. Maybe help out a bit at the Bronx Sauna Club; we’ve talked about running a “End of the Line”- style V5 larp there sometime during late summer. I want to try reading things other than WW books and I hope to be able to share some cut material and design thinking from V5 and the two setting books Camarilla and Anarch and maybe the work of other writers right here.

This will be my humble new home on the webs for a Wolfless future.

I’m calling it Black Dog Blues.

www.blackdogblues.net.

If you want to know how I run the Word on Darkness and who I am as a Storyteller, please check out the podcast V5 Chronicle “No Man Is An Island” that I currently run with Red Moon and my old writer-designer friend Anna – Karin Linder as players. The prelude where three very different London cops are screened and selected by the Second Inquisition, begins today with Francis, a forensics scientist about to learn just how little the light of reason has revealed over the course of a domestic terror investigation in London a decade ago. Before the fall of London.

https://www.redmoonroleplaying.com/podcast

In future posts I hope to share some insight into the thinking and choices I made during my time on the throne of darkness. For now, allow me to just say that my brand work and subject matter choices always intended to bring WoD uncomfortably close to reality, letting us explore the worst parts of our world by mixing real horrors with metaphorical ones. I wanted to use WoD as a vehicle for awareness building and human rights advocacy. I wanted to show real evils by placing them next to fictitious ones. I wanted to weave myth and history so tightly that it becomes difficult to know where one ends and the other begins, make players untangle them for themselves, learning in the process. I wanted to transcend the genre with fresh darkness drawn from the filthiest wells of the commercialized internet menacing zeitgeist.

I wanted to become known for making the darkest shit using the best tricks for playing on serious subjects from the progressive Nordic larp scene and as opposed to censoring, ignoring, simplifying or romanticizing our real world material. I wanted us to be known as the company that treated our players as competent adult individuals, fully capable of enjoying a satirical vision of our own world, where everything is tainted and nothing is what it seems.

But for all my sorrow for leaving, I’m happy that almost all of the amazing work that Karim and I did with the V5 team is intact. I’m glad to have had Freja look at every text and idea with fresh eyes, and the biz dev and licensing teams skills, the Paradox Producers and employees know their shit, as well as the new stars of the show, the licencees did continues to evolve. V5 and Bloodlines 2 is quickly gathering recognition and exposure on the epic scale I always dreamed of. I’m confident that the courage and passion we tried to instill in everyone that worked alongside us (even if it sometimes scared the hell out of them) will be evident in the projects that were developed during my time as Lead Storyteller and for a long time to come.

It’s been real.

Blood and Souls!

P.S. If you want to do something small to help my transition to freelancer, please consider writing some supportive words about me and what you like about WoD5 and the return of the World of Darkness. Writing here is nice for me and all that, but please do it where you discuss Vampire or gamer culture. D.S.

21 thoughts on “The dead ride fast

  1. I’ll give you and your work the best compliment I can give it: you forced me to change my creative plans. I’ve been putting together a home studio to record and broadcast my RPGs, something I’ve pivoted to after the shine went off my involvement in Southeastern American Boffer LARPS, and I had a pretty clear blueprint of what games I would be running and how I’d be running them. When I got the V5 Corebook in my hands, and when I saw the impact V5 was starting to make, I knew I couldn’t ignore it. I added a V5 game to my roster, and it became the first game I started to run on Twitch, well before the game I was planning to ‘premiere’ with (Onyx Paths Trinity Continuum: Aeon, BTW.) I’ve been having an absolute blast with it, and my love of Vampire and the World of Darkness has been reignited by you and your co-conspirators work. You’ve done a great job, and I look forward to seeing what you get your hands bloody with in the future.

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  2. You’re a flaming piece of garbage and you left nothing but ruin and smug neo-nazis in your wake. You have poisoned everything you touched – every White Wolf product, the TTRPG community, and the hobby as a whole. Fade into obscurity with the rest of your kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “I wanted to show real evils by placing them next to fictitious ones. I wanted to weave myth and history so tightly that it becomes difficult to know where one ends and the other begins, make players untangle them for themselves, learning in the process.”

    First: I’m not calling you a bad person. I see your intent.

    Second: I look around at the world today. I see countless people taken in by the transparently false Q-Anon movement. I see Alex Jones conning people out of their money by lying about gun violence. I see a world in which people have hopelessly confused “fake news” with “personal opinion.”

    I gently submit that you can’t make players untangle anything. If you mix myth and history, real evil and fictional evil… you may wind up being one of the people blurring the lines and confusing issues.

    You can’t choose the people who play your game. You want your players to be “competent adult individuals, fully capable of enjoying a satirical vision of our own world,” sure. But what is your responsibility to the players who *don’t* get the difference between satire and reality? Because they will be there too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As an adult, I am thankful when treated as one. Adults should be treated that way as default.

      If people can’t get the difference between satire and reality, they should grow up. If you are having them at the table, then is up to you to make sure they understand it.

      But do not lower the level to the rest of us.

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  4. Despite surrounding yourself with people who admire what you do, you should know that patting yourself on the back after the shitshow you did is honestly laughable. Everyone other than your clique is happy you’re gone. Perhaps now the WOD will be again welcoming to lgbt+ and women, now you’re not here to abuse them. Leave our fandom, you and your 8chan fans.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lol did you get fired?
    You should just organize your live actions as a regular player and stop trying to drape yourself in such a full of yourself blog post.
    Please just leave quietly. U done enough harm already

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s been an absolute blast working with you and I believe strongly that the open-mindedness you have brought to V5 is for the better. Let anyone play whoever they want, leave nothing unexplored and let’s all become better people from it. ❤

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  7. I absolutely adore the work that you have done for V5 and World of Darkness. You have set a fantastic foundation and the metaplot feels interesting and different in a very fresh and relevant way. I’m certain you will have great success in the future and look forward to following your work!

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  8. I do believe that your work to do good with games should be lauded, and I can only hope that you will get the opportunity again. V5 was bold, and rightly so. I genuinely believe that you have your heart in the right place.

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  9. I’m very sad to see that when at last someones is treating roleplayers as adults he fails because of people who either had bad intentions, or they wanted to be treated as eternal babies.

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  10. I am sad to learn see that you had to part ways as I share your enthusiasm for the World of Darkness and do enjoy the V5 tremendously.

    We’ve met a few times, yet all interactions were quite nice, constructive and occassionally even inspiring. Like the “The End of the Line”-Larp in New Orleansm, where you gave a great starting speech. It was one of my first, a positively intense and to day best Larp experience that I’ve had.
    I tended to focus on pen & paper and stay away from larp, because I used to not feel secure as a single female person and of my mental health challenges, yet you’ve opened it up for me.

    I do hope that you have success with your next projects, that you’ll get the chance to continue to contribute to the V5 pen & paper as well Larps.

    I do look forward to read your writings on this blog and I started to listen to the Actual Play series. Which is the first V5 Actual Play series I’ll be following. I’ve really enjoyed the first session with the clean audio and fitting sound scape.

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  11. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to discern “who is right”. As an active witness of all things White Wolf, I fail to see all the drama behind your personal actions or influence. I can’t say I’m a fanboy; I didn’t know you before Berlin and V5, and it would be presumptuous in extreme to claim I know you.

    That being said, I was there, at the panels on V5 and the new WoD, and I saw passion. And attitude, yes. But nothing I wouldn’t expect from an artist working with a mature IP such as this. You did not come across as arrogant in the short distance, and my first LARP ever was “Enlightenment in Blood”, where you performed a great opening scene that got us all very excited. Then came V5 itself, and I can’t see all those faults. I’ve found the tone, style and direction very enticing, with great mechanics and a setting and metaplot I’m dying to learn more about.

    Yes, I read about the controversial Camarilla book Chechnya chapter , the “blood and babies” bit, etc. Hell, I could even say that perhaps some of that content might personally disturb me. That won’t prompt me to initiate a crusade against you (or anybody for that matter.) I can’t believe we have to resort to superobvious statements such as: IT IS A GAME, but I’ll write again, just like 25 years ago with V1.

    All in all, and since I can’t and won’t take part in personal shaming on topics I know nothing of, I can say that I value tremendously the work and effort put in the WoD, that you seem a bold yet decent person I was happy to meet, and that I support your artistic vision, even if at some point I may not agree with it, should the situation arise. Best of lucks, and looking forward to your future projects!

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  12. Thank you for all your hard work on this edition, Martin. I’m really grateful for the amazing game that you’ve given us. We needed somebody with heart and honesty to make Vampire relevant again and you dared tackle some of the most of disturbing horrors of our time. I for one would love to see more of your content for the WoD in the future!

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  13. When I first heard White Wolf was purchased by Paradox, I was worried. I was afraid that the property I loved would be warped and contorted by corporate types who didn’t know the first thing of what it was about.

    The minute I heard you speak at the Grand Masquerade keynote, those worries vanished. I truly believed in your vision of using WoD to root out evil in society and make the world a better place. Speaking to you face to face at GenCon, getting to hear your passion and your genuine concern at the state of the world confirmed it for me. I knew White Wolf was going to make something mind blowing.

    Well, you succeeded. You created the most visceral, grounded edition of Vampire we’ve ever had across any line. You cleaned up decades of outdated design and cut to the core of what Vampire was always meant to be.

    It grieves me that your reputation has been trashed by people who have never bothered to fact check any accusations or learn the first thing about you, content to simply ride a wave of hate born of one person’s misunderstanding. I never knew it was possible to lose a game of Telephone before, but I’ll be damned if these wingnuts didn’t teach me.

    I wish you nothing but the best. The people who don’t know you will forget you. The people who do will stick by you wherever you go. I hope to see your pen grace the WoD again. The world needs someone to cast a light into darkness, now more than ever.

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  14. I love the work you did with Vampire. It is one of my favorite universes and a big part of what brought me into RPG and i was sad for many years about how it was growing stale and old – ondt to be so happy when you started working modern thinking into the game. I think what you did was brave and needed and i hope it doesn’t stop here.

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