Praise for Twisted Tales Events
'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell
‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill
Monday, 30 March 2015
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
Brad Falchuck and Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story aired in 2011 and played out to both criticism and critical acclaim. While Murder House exhibited an astonishing range of horror ingredients from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Shining to Rosemary’s Baby, likewise, the eagerly awaited second instalment to the American Horror Story anthology, Asylum, plunders from American anti-convent mythology and paranoid conspiracy narratives. There is no doubt that American Horror Story is a masterful lesson in American fictions that make monsters. Yet, the show’s monstrosity is not merely a fictional projection. Instead, it offers demonstration after demonstration of the making of real contemporary monstrosity: gimps, lunatic ex-girlfriends, phantom pregnancies, evangelical scientists, suicides, rapists, Nazis, rednecks, calculating and cruel clergy, maniacal mothers, corrupt fathers, child abductors and serial killers abound.
The unarguable popularity of American Horror Story shows us that television has come to serve as a convenient vehicle for the articulation of what American society finds truly monstrous in the twenty-first century. Asylum is set in Briarcliff Manor, a sanatorium set up by the Catholic Church for the criminally insane and continues to pose questions of the ‘monsters’ that American culture creates. This includes holding a mirror up to the audience’s voyeurism and seemingly obsessive appetite for the monstrous. Asylum initially opens in the present day and focuses on a couple of sexy, young newly-weds called Teresa and Leo (Jenna Dewan Tatum and Adam Levine) as they honeymoon on horror. In the opening shots, these thrill seekers venture into the abandoned sanatorium and, with much heavy panting and dirty-talk, get-off on the building’s gruesome past. Teresa, reading from a history book, reveals that one of the more notorious inhabitants was a serial killer called ‘Bloody Face’. A diabolic murderer of women so named because he likes to skin and then wear his victims’ faces. The couple are obviously thrilled by the building’s history of violence and mayhem, that is, until fantasy becomes a reality and a psychotic masked killer begins to stalk them through the asylum, ripping them limb from limb.
How, according to Asylum, did a dubious taste in foreplay, manage to get the hapless young couple violently dismembered? Well, as with all things in American Horror Story, the answer is bound up in the dark, dark past. Subsequently, the series explores the historical events of Briarcliff Manor. Beginning in the 1960s, it follows the stories of several misfits employed by the institution along with the inmates committed to its labyrinthine wards for crimes against normality. The fierce Sister Jude (Jessica Lang) and her sweet-tempered novice, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), are charged with the everyday running and maintenance of the institution and with upholding the religious standards set out by its founder Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes). While the nuns attend to the patients’ spiritual health, their mental and physical care is the domain of Psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) and scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). Briarcliff’s latest patient, Kit Walker, aka ‘Bloodyface’ (Evan Peters), is an alleged serial killer and mutilator of women. Walker has been sent to the asylum deemed unfit for trial due to his apparent insanity after claiming that aliens committed the crimes he is accused of.
Kit’s insane alibi aside, Asylum gives clear indication of his innocence early on and, instead, sets him up to be the focal point through which we experience the fear and injustices perpetrated by institutions of mental health during the 1960s. Yet, despite this Asylum is very much a women’s horror story. As David Simmons pointed out in his review of the first season, ‘American Horror Story places an unusual degree of emphasis on its female characters’. The second season continues this trend, reprising key roles for many of season one’s central female actors, including Lange, Rabe and the queen of weird TV, Frances Conroy, as the angel of death. It also introduces a new cast of female monsters and madwomen whose alleged mental disturbances and past crimes are the means through which the series explores a number of social issues related to what we fear. At Briarcliff, Walker meets many other patients with allegedly violent and twisted backgrounds including Pepper (Naomi Grossman), a microcephalic woman who killed her sister’s baby and cut its ears off, Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) a diagnosed nymphomaniac, and Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) an axe-murderer. The standout female performance, however, goes to Sarah Paulson whose vague and unconvincing role as a clairvoyant-for-hire in season one is more than redeemed by her new role in Asylum as ambitious lesbian journalist Lana Winters. Winters infiltrates the formidable Briarcliff determined to expose the wrongdoings being carried out inside its walls. However, when her relationship with a female school teacher is uncovered by Sister Jude, Lana finds herself incarcerated as a patient and referred to Dr. Thredson for help with her ‘affliction’.
As in the first series, a dominant theme of Asylum is the twisted morals and psychosexual disorders underpinning definitions of normative identity. Along with staple horror figures, the series examines public figures as diverse as the psychiatrist, the doctor, and the priest, representing them as authorised predators at their most imperious, ambitious, and downright evil. As the series progresses, the professional and personal lives of its authority figures are revealed to be adventures in sadism, masochism, self-hatred and perversion. Cue scenes of prolific cruelty including electroshock treatment, ice baths, emotional and physical abuse all delivered with a barely concealed sexual tension. Sister Jude harbours a secret lust for Monsignor Timothy and enjoys punishing the angelic Kit by bending him over a desk and caning his naked backside. Dr. Arden is a Nazi Eugenicist with an obsessive hatred of impurity; particularly it seems of the female sex. This fear guides his mysterious experiments in the basements of Briarcliff and his own dark desires for the innocent and chaste Sister Eunice.
Asylum preempts the accusations made by some critics that American Horror Story is a ridiculous pileup of mindless sex and cruelty, hard to stomach. From the season’s credit sequence, a montage of strapped-down bodies, heaving bosoms and tear-soaked faces, to the introduction of sex and horror tourists Leo and Teresa, to Kit Walker’s ‘probing’ by ETs, it unashamedly points out that the theme of scary and deviant sex is the series’ dominant metaphor for horror. In pursuit of these ends, Asylum continues to push the boundaries of what is acceptable to air on television. There are horrors upon horrors, brutality upon brutality, humiliation upon humiliation and every twist and turn is set up to both shock and shamelessly titillate. Nonetheless, there is also a deftness with which Asylum pursues some of the seemingly conflicted but entangled cultures that form modern American identity, including its voyeuristic embrace of celebrity, psychiatry, and fundamentalist religion.
Lana’s story is, in part, about the plight of gay people who historically have been ‘treated’ through medicine and psychiatry in a way that amounts to physical and mental torture. Instead of Thredson ‘curing’ Lana of her lesbianism, he subjects her to a cruel bout of aversion/conversion therapy that involves administering fellatio to an awkward but willing male volunteer as the psychiatrist looks on. As if this upsetting scene were not enough, the plot thickens when Lana becomes the object of Thredson’s own obsessive love disorder causing him to lock her in a basement/dungeon under his house. In one of many plot twists, the handsome and progressive psychiatrist is revealed to be more dangerous than simply a misguided practitioner; he is none other than the serial killer ‘Bloody Face’. In Thredson’s dungeon, we witness him taunt Lana with the dismembered head of her dead lover before enduring queasy scenes of her subjection to violence, rape and the enforced suckling of a grown man. Eventually, Lana escapes only to find she has been impregnated by her sadistic captor.
There is no doubt that Asylum tackles issues of homophobia, sexism, racism, and disability with a signature heavy-handedness that will not redeem it with outraged moralists. Nevertheless, the premise of the entire American Horror Story anthology is to test the limits of horror and morality by pushing every situation or relationship, real or unreal, to its absolutely worst-case scenario. Others will not fail to see through the layers of violence and horror and recognise the irony of a mummy-fixated psychiatrist or the underlying social commentary about a career driven, homosexual woman enduring the horror of misguided psychiatry and enforced motherhood. Like Lana, all of Asylum’s characters are monstrous, in that they are burdened with behaviours that are deemed to threaten society. However, as the series unfolds within the confines of the asylum walls, it digs into the pasts of patients and employees, making the audience question what monstrosity is. Is Shelley’s excessive lust really a sign of insanity or is she, as she claims, a gendered victim of double standards? Did Grace slaughter her father and stepmother because she is criminally and irredeemably violent, or was it really the desperate act of an abused child? Does Sister Jude really believe that all sex is sin, or is she merely acting out an absolution of her own guilty past? The further the series delves into the origins of its characters’ monstrosity, the more it appears that it is the product of other evils.
The berserk and vaguely satirical attitude of the series allows Murphy and Falchuk to slip other cultural controversies under the radar and develop sympathetic bonds with the monstrous, often capturing the humanity of those characters that inflict the worse kinds of cruelties. Monsters, in American Horror Story, are very human. Furthermore, they act as mirrors to our own cultural obsessions with the monstrous. As Sister Jude warns ‘if you look in the face of evil, evil is gonna look right back at you’. At the heart of this is a commentary on the grotesquery of our own fascination with violence and monstrosity, a commentary that began with Leo and Teresa but surely finds its antithesis in Lana’s reinvention at the end of the series. Lana more than survives her ordeal; it makes her a star. In 1969 we revisit Lana a year after her escape and witness her reinvention as a celebrity author, peddling in sensationalised and salacious versions of her own heroism and victimisation. As she entertains her fans at a reading of her acclaimed book Maniac: One Woman’s Story of Survival, the camera pans the audience as they sit like evangelicals at a Revival, communing with Lana and her trauma as well as devouring every morbid detail. We cannot help but notice the self-conscious allusion to our own macabre fascination with horror; the same fascination that keeps us glued to our seats throughout American Horror Story and seen the show garner several Emmys, a People’s Choice Award and, for one of its returning actresses, Lange, a Golden Globe. Rather than a criticism of its audience, Lana’s narrative is an exploitation of the public and social ceremony of monstrosity that offers an accomplished and insightful response to the outrage and affront aimed at it by some critics. Horror, it suggests, is an extreme form of art but it is also something from which we take comfort as well as fear, re-evaluate meaning and shape the boundaries of morality.
Eleanor is Television Editor for Twisted Tales and recently completed her doctoral thesis in English Literature at Lancaster University. Her research concerns the conjunction of Catholicism and sexuality in Gothic fiction and horror film and focuses on its trans-national and contemporary contexts. She is especially interested in the post-secular theologies of transgressive texts and their relationship to history, nationalism, politics and gender theory. Eleanor has published on the topics of religion, female sexuality, cinema and spectacle in relation to postmodern Gothic writing and has previously held the post of postgraduate representative on the editorial board for Gothic Studies.
Saturday, 25 October 2014
V20: Dark Ages is currently on Kickstarter.
DM: What is V20: Dark Ages and how does it relate to Vampire: The Masquerade?
DH: V20: Dark Ages is a spinoff of Vampire: The Masquerade, and Vampire: 20th Anniversary Edition in specific. It's a complete, standalone game set in the mid-thirteenth century. You're playing at a time of impending upheaval and change. In Dark Ages, we're looking over the hills ahead to the Anarch Revolt and the events that cause the formation of the Camarilla and Sabbat. In the modern nights, the Camarilla represents a sort of cultured, ‘proper’ order, whereas the Sabbat represents fanaticism and chaos. The Camarilla is a conspiracy to deny the existence of the impending end of the world. The Sabbat fights that impending end with fire and fury. Without those inherent structures, Dark Ages characters have a lot more room for individual interpretation of our world. We're in a time that redefines what it means to be a vampire clan, because old clans are falling, and new ones are rising.
1243 is a good time to be a vampire. Of course there are no cell phones or mirrorshades, but the lack of modern forensics and mass media empower vampires to make really hard choices. V20: Dark Ages isn't about whether or not you can kill those that cause you problems; you can. But should you?
DM: Does this create a sense of impunity with regards to the treatment of mortals? For instance, can vampires openly rule cities and raise armies with which to wage war?
DH: It can mean that. What it really means though is, humanity is able to shepherd itself. If you do something egregious and obvious, you’d better have the might to back it up, because there’s always someone ready to knock you down. Maybe it’s a rival vampire. Maybe it’s a witch hunting organization. Maybe it’s just an unruly mob. So yes, some vampires openly rule. But those are typically exceptions, and typically very temporary. The human spirit does not like being broken.
DM: How did you become the developer for the new Dark Ages line?
DH: I've been working with White Wolf/CCP/Onyx Path as a freelancer for about eight years now. I got my start with Werewolf: The Forsaken. Over the years, I've developed a few books, edited a few, and written a ton. There's not much of a grand story behind how I became V20: Dark Ages developer. I've just always had a passion for Dark Ages Vampire, and for Vampire: The Masquerade. When our annual pitch session came up a couple of years ago, I put together a pitch document explaining my vision for a relaunched Dark Ages line. The powers-that-be liked it enough to put me at the helm of the project.
DM: Does the historical setting fundamentally alter the ways in which vampiric society sees itself?
DH: Our historical setting, as I noted, is different in that it redefines clans and sects. It's a time of flux and upheaval. You don't have a Camarilla and Sabbat. We're not entirely sure what clan means, or what it's going to mean. Instead of huge, world-spanning conspiracies, vampires are held together by "Roads", which are religions or philosophies that help them stave off their deeper monstrosity. For example, characters following the Road of Kings believe vampires are better than humans, and that hierarchy is the only true way to order and reason. They believe some vampires are followers, and some are leaders. They just believe they are the natural leaders. Characters following the Road of the Beast are their polar opposite. They believe structure is a way to keep down the spirit, and oppress the perfect predator within every vampire’s heart. So they eschew law and order on principle. Then we get vampires on the Road of Heaven, who believe vampirism comes from divinity, and that every vampire has a higher purpose in their god’s great plan.
Another big difference is, there's no New York. There's no Chicago. London had less than 40,000 people at the time. Half the major cities in Europe were in the Italian peninsula. This means you can't have vast cities with 200 vampires. Everything's very personal, very visceral. You can't have a gang of ten vampires hating you, because that probably means the entire city is against you. There's also a sense of wonder and exploration we can't really experience in the modern world. V20: Dark Ages is set primarily around Europe. But new trade routes are opening, and with them, new parts of the world open to our vampires. We see vampires coming in from places unknown, bringing their own customs and exciting stories.
DM: To what extent will the core V20: Dark Ages book support storytellers and players who find the setting appealing but are largely unfamiliar with the historical period? Do you recommend any history books for those who really want to immerse themselves in the Dark Ages?
DH: We actually provided some tools for building a believable, authentic-feeling world. As well, I’d consider one of our chief inspirations, Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones’s Medieval Lives and The Crusades. They did a great job of showing what night to night, day to day life in the medieval world was like for the random person, not just for the romanticized nobility.
DM: Given the centrality of Christianity to European culture during the Dark Ages, does religion play a greater role in terms of threats and the mythology of the World of Darkness in that era?
DH: Christianity is a very important element in Vampire: The Dark Ages. The church sometimes acts as a balancing force against the vampires. Sometimes, vampires wield the unknowing church as a weapon. The Crusades are particularly hard on vampires, because there’s a lot of fire, and a lot of daytime fighting. Vampires are urban creatures, and the Crusades destroyed cities. For example, the vampires of Constantinople aren’t that lucky in this era.
Then again, we want to express that while Christianity is a dominant force in this time and place, it’s not the beginning or end of vampiric existence. After all, many vampires in this era are old enough to remember a time before Christianity. Many have seen stark changes in church doctrine, so they view mortal religion with a cynical eye. We also have influence from pagan cultures, Celtic witchcraft, Slavic animism, classic Egyptian mythology, Islam, and numerous other topics.
DM: Does vampiric magic play a greater role in a period when belief in the supernatural was far more prevalent than modern nights?
DH: Remarkably bigger. In fact, our section on blood magic is huge, and in the Kickstarter, we’ve been able to nearly double that space into a whole glut of sorcery. If you’re interested in magic of all stripes, you can get it in the Dark Ages. From strange Egyptian rituals, to rituals for digging up the unholy blackness of the abyss, to demon summoning, to spells to mitigate problems with medieval travel.
DM: What are the unique horror role-playing experiences that V20: Dark Ages will offer players and storytellers?
DH: This book asks questions which evoke horror. And in places, different questions than your classic Vampire game. What does it mean to be immensely, frighteningly powerful? What does it mean to be alien and withdrawn from the world? What does it mean to be able to end a life the way a normal person could cut a rope? What does it mean to live without consequence? The questions we’re asking with V20: Dark Ages are all about immersing yourself in this terrifying body that you are both in awe of, and feel sorry for.
DM: How has the release of work-in-progress chapters from V20: Dark Ages through the Onyx Path website influenced your design process?
DH: It’s been wonderful. While sometimes it can be challenging to navigate signal through noise, it changes the process entirely. Usually when you develop a game, it’s a one-way street. You write, design, write, design, edit, and publish, and hand this product out to the world. With this method, it’s a back and forth process. You can gauge thematic elements and really feel out what people are interested in.
DM: What are your plans for the V20: Dark Ages Kickstarter? How would you like to develop the line beyond the core book?
DH: What we’re doing is building two companion books. The Tome of Secrets is basically a companion volume of rules and new material for the game. Right now, it features a ton of new sorcery, rules for mass combat, words on vampire knightly orders, and other weirdness. It also features letters in the game universe between characters, showing off the era and setting. The other companion volume is a fiction anthology. Every stretch goal we hit either adds a story to the anthology, or more rules content to the Tome of Secrets. Right now, every backer on the Kickstarter gets whatever they pledged for, as well as the Tome of Secrets and fiction anthology. So it’s a great buy-in, you get at least three books if you even just spring for the PDF level.
Beyond the Kickstarter, I’d really like to see Dark Ages grow into a full line. I have ideas for setting guides and more material for Asian and African vampires. I’d also like to build on the world with a Dark Ages Werewolf book, Changeling book, maybe Mage and Inquisitor, and other stuff. But that all depends on how successful we are. This Kickstarter’s the first real hand out to the community to find out just how viable a Dark Ages line might be.
Monday, 8 September 2014
Join us for readings by authors from Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease, a horror anthology for our hard times, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. Co-editor of Horror Uncut, Tom Johnstone, claims this anthology ushers in a ‘new era of socially engaged but entertaining and darkly funny horror fiction, which may not change the world but will, I hope, change the way we look at it’. From supernatural body horror to systemic acts of cruelty, this event will both challenge and entertain.
After reading stories about the dismantling of the NHS by the late Joel Lane in the magazine Black Static and The Fourth Black Book of Horror, Tom Johnstone suggested they collaborate on an austerity-themed anthology. The result was Horror Uncut (Gray Friar Press), the first book Tom has worked on as an editor. Tom will be reading the story that inspired the anthology, Joel’s ‘A Cry for Help’, which offers a darkly satirical representation of someone complicit in the privatization of the NHS.
Laura Mauro’s ‘Ptichka’ offers insight into the devastating consequences of anti-immigrant rhetoric, tying the isolation and alienation created by government policy to a very intimate tale of pregnancy and body horror.
Rosanne Rabinowitz’s ‘Pieces of Ourselves’ starts with a demonstration against austerity that builds to violent kettling by the police. One activist escapes with a light wound, but his growing anxiety manifests in the transmogrifying skin that peels away from it.
Sunday, 7 September 2014
For more information, visit the Darker Days Radio website.
DM: How did you become presenters on Darker Days Radio?
CH: My involvement with Darker Days started initially with the forums, suggesting various ideas for WoD games, and ideas for the Secret Frequency segment. One of note was the Devil Dog myth that is attached to my home town, and is also the origin of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. When the show was undergoing some changes in host line up I contributed a number of recordings of ‘Rapid Fire Game Summaries’ which covered almost all of the nWoD games. I was going to record one for the Ghouls book for Vampire: The Requiem, but it was deemed easier if I just be a guest on the show to talk about that book. And that was the start of my own regular appearances. Since then, Mike and I have shared responsibilities with regards to recording the show, editing, and managing the social media aspects of the podcast. And, when time permits, I've done some video editing for the show, and edit the fanzine.
BP: I've been a listener to the podcast since episode 3 or 4, following a post on a White Wolf fan forum by then-host Vince. After Mike and Chris took it over, I started pestering Mike about the show needing someone with a stronger focus on the cWoD lines. Eventually, he agreed and they asked me to join as the voice of the cWoD.
DM: In what ways has the podcast evolved over the past five years?
MA: We've evolved primarily through experimentation and a lot of it has actually worked! The two most successful experiments have been the introduction of Forgotten Lore, a WoD ezine, and our foray into actual play episodes. Intriguingly, actual plays are role-playing game sessions released as downloadable podcasts - a format that Chris and I both dislike. However, the two actual plays we've released have been noticeably more popular than our normal episodes, so listeners can expect a few more of those in Season 6.
BP: Darker Days has grown from a tightly-focused podcast covering the cWoD and nWoD game lines to a broader and more diverse - both in terms of topics as well as guests and presenters - outlet covering gaming of all types through the various Darklings we produce while still managing to remain the premiere WoD podcast on the main show.
DM: What are your views on the state of the horror role-playing scene in 2014?
MA: Horror role-playing games are quite strong and will continue to be. Games like Vampire and Call of Cthulhu highlight the benefits of a tabletop role-playing format compared to video games, movies, and novels by providing an experience tailored to the players. Other static formats can't compete with a good storyteller out to scare his players.
BP: We live in something of a golden age for role-playing games, both in general and in the horror sub-genre. Divorcing RPGs from the ‘kick in the door, kill the monster, loot the tomb’ of several decades ago (something White Wolf pioneered) and focusing more on the story aspects of gaming has lead to some major innovations in the community. The vampires in, for example, Night's Black Agents are far more horrifying and complex than the 8HD undead from AD&D’s Monster Manual.
DM: Do you think that the rise of Onyx Path has shaken up the World of Darkness property or has it just marked the resurrection of a popular formula?
MA: Yes and yes. The nWoD game line is being spiced up with the God-Machine Chronicle rules release, leading to more player agency in the game through Condition and Beat mechanics. But on the other hand, Onyx Path has resurrected the cWoD games, retaining the game structure that took role-playing by storm in 1991. This two-pronged approach has been very well accepted by WoD fans, allowing classic players to play as they always have, but also providing a modern game approach for story gamers.
CH: Onyx Path certainly has pushed on a lot of changes, both in terms of how the writers interact with the fans, and with the way settings are approached. Onyx Path is clearly not afraid of trying out new gaming concepts, and re-examining old and tired tropes in their settings in order to modernize them. I think this can be seen both in the V20 and Requiem lines, which now more than ever are distinct settings. CWoD and nWoD could have simply just trundled on with more and more supplements, or simple reprinting of old content. But what we have instead are new treatments of the settings, while still respecting that which has gone before.
BP: Onyx Path has definitely shaken things up. To use a topic I'm familiar with from the past few episodes of
Darker Days, they've taken what could have been a dull and much-gone-over-before concept like demons and made them into a supernatural espionage game of spy-versus-spy-versus-nigh-omnipotent-entity. Nobody else in the industry has had such inventive interpretations and it's a testament to the company's creativity that I look forward to each new release with such excitement nearly 20 years after picking up my first WoD book.
DM: How does Darker Days link up to the growing online community supporting horror role-playing?
CH: We are also more than happy to discuss other horror games, and people can drop off reviews for different games, highlight interesting Kickstarter campaigns, and show off other interesting horror-related media (I paint lots of toy soldiers, mainly for Privateer Press' Warmachine/Hordes war games and associated Iron Kingdoms RPG, plus minis for the defunct Rackham game Hybrid - these games having a lot of horror content).
BP: Like Chris said, we're happy to discuss other games in the horror genre or even other non-horror games (and maybe how to add a touch of horror to them), but I think we'll always want to keep our focus on the WoD game lines. That being said, personally I've begun playing a miniature skirmish game called Malifaux that incorporates a bit of horror along with steampunk, fantasy and wuxia elements into it's setting and minis.
DM: What are your plans for Season 6 and beyond?
MA: Darker Days is pushing for more diversity in the upcoming season. That means interviewing more of the writers and developers (given that there is another nWoD game announced at Gencon this year, plus loads of other products), while not treading much of the same ground with the same men. If we can get the right team together (because there is never enough time for just us to do these things!) it would be great to get out another issue of our fanzine, Forgotten Lore. It's a great opportunity for gamers to show off their ideas, writing, and also to have a go at layout and editing.
CM: Darker Days has added a new Darkling series called 'Gossip Ghouls', which is a show with content and opinions that covers horror media in general. 'Gossip Ghouls' is also different because the hosts are not the normal group of guys. That show is fronted by Samantha Handley (budding writer, role-player and my wife) and Michelle Flamm (larper, cosplayer and computer game designer).
And personally, because I have a vested interest, I would hope to do some more Darklings about Fading Suns (a space opera RPG with a good dash of horror that I am a freelance writer for) given it is essentially a kissing cousin of WoD. I have worked on material for upcoming Fading Suns books that focus on the Merchant Guild, and on the darker elements of the setting (psychics, demons, cults, etc).
BP: More Darklings, new segments in the main show, more guests from Onyx Path and other places, more everything, really!
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
DM: In his foreword to Burnt Black Suns, Laird Barron claims that the new millennium heralded ‘the dawn of a new golden age of dark literature’. Do you agree and, if so, why do you think there has been such a resurgence in weird fiction?
SS: It’s not that I don’t believe this, it’s that I think it’s premature to name this as a new golden age. That’s the sort of thing best left to historians looking back on the genre. But I’ll admit we’ve had an influx of great writers over the last decade or so, and the best of them bring something new to the table, all the while mining a history that extends back further than the decade previous, and stretch outward beyond the Horror aisle of the book shop. The boom years nearly killed the genre for a number of reasons, but the biggest might be the influx of writers looking to score big producing retreads of books only a few years old. For a generation of writers, the advice was to take influence from the current bestsellers. It led to a subsequent generation who either abandoned horror for a quick buck elsewhere, or who lacked knowledge of the genre’s history. It couldn’t have been easy to rectify, either, as the past masters were out of print and no one was inspired to change that. A dead generation later, things changed dramatically. Small presses appeared to give a voice to those new voices, but also to resurrect those past voices. Suddenly, readers could see what Machen and Blackwood and all the rest were about. The proliferation of the small press gave them a home, and the internet allowed them to spread. Horror’s return has been very much a grass-roots effort, and where it will go remains anyone’s guess. I keep hoping, with the transition to electronic devices, we’ll see horror return to the mainstream. But only time will tell.
DM: China Miéville claims that Lovecraft is preeminent 'among those writers of fantastic fiction for whom plot is simply not the point. The point is the weird'. Do you situate yourself within this tradition?
SS: For me, plot is a very important aspect of storytelling (although I’ll grant that I often obfuscate that plot when it suits the story or my mood) but it’s true it’s not the point of my strange or weird stories. However, rather than the weird being the point, my stories are intended to comment on our existence, and on our personal journey through it. The weird is simply a tool to do so, a way of abstracting the trials we face simply by being alive so a story can be told about them. Ultimately, I think a lot of fiction, Lovecraftian or not, treats plot and the trappings of the genre the same way. I know very few writers whose primary goal from a story is simply be weird.
DM: Do you think that the personal journey involved in the weird is linked to the prevalence of introversion and madness in the genre?
SS: I’m not so sure madness is all that prevalent in the genre. At least, not any more so than in any other mode of writing. But writers who struggle with introversion and mental illness no doubt find much about the weird that’s comforting. The weird celebrates a paranoiac’s world view, and gives an explanation for much that can afflict a troubled mind. But I also don’t believe only those with issues can enjoy the weird, or even that they are the ideal audience. I simply think it’s attractive to them in a way other genres are not. After all, the horror protagonist tends to be an outsider, both blessed and cursed with the ability to see what others can’t. On some level, the only difference between a super-hero story and a horror story is this first ends in successfully harnessing that sight, the second in succumbing to it.
DM: When writing weird fiction, how do you balance the wonder of cosmic horror with the nihilism embedded in the genre?
SS: I think wonder and awe are vitally important tools in a horror writer’s toolbox—perhaps even more important than fear. We can all imagine the threat of physical violence against us, but we’ve all experienced that occasional sense of displacement in our world, being out of sync with it, especially when confronted with something almost impossibly beautiful. Horror taps into that space, creating a waking dream for the reader to experience, a place where the fantastic can happen, and the rules that were once immutable can no longer be trusted. Nowhere is this more evident than in cosmic horror, where we are often expected to consider the greatest “other” of the cosmos and rationalize its effect against us. It seems only natural to me that this Other be viewed through a nihilistic lens. An indifferent universe is the greatest horror imaginable to any of us, one where our lives are insignificant against it. The fact that this horror is the ultimate truth is shocking to consider, and so impossible that we fail even trying to grasp it. For me, the balance of wonder and nihilism in cosmic horror is precisely the point of cosmic horror.
DM: This notion of an ‘indifferent universe’ seems to find expression in the landscape of your stories; as Barron notes, your ‘wilderness doesn’t discriminate’ when destroying those who explore it. How important is creating a sense of place in anchoring your cosmic horror to the world around us?
SS: A sense of place is always important. My work is often about that interstitial area between planes of existence, those soft spots where one world presses in on another. In order to convincingly convey this sense of terror at the invasion of the alien, one must first convincingly convey the verisimilitude of the world being invaded. So, yes, the environment must ring true, as must those who inhabit it. Only then can we fully relate to the impossible things that are happening to them, and buy into the notions that something else has its malignant eye on its inhabitants.
DM: The monsters in Burnt Black Suns are eclectic and imaginative. Do you see them as forming a loose mythos, or are they created to serve the specific needs of a story?
SS: I know some contemporary authors link their tales together to form their own mythos, and I can see how it’s a tool that can help amplify certain effects and aspects of the work, adding an extra level of complexity to the stories. Peter Straub’s “Blue Rose” trilogy (and short stories) certain worked in this way, where one book, Mystery, reflected upon its follow-up, The Throat, adding unique resonances. That said, my own work does not tie together in any way beyond perhaps the exploration of common concerns and peccadilloes. Each monster in my stories is designed primarily to highlight aspects of the emotional core of the story being told, and in that sense can be viewed more as fantastical projections of those particular characters’ turmoil, a sort of reckoning that they know is coming, but flail against nonetheless.
DM: Burnt Black Suns is your fourth collection of short stories. Do you think that weird fiction especially lends itself to the short form and, if so, why?
SS: I’d say that horror and the weird rely heavily on mood, atmosphere, and emotion. It’s a heady brew and one that’s virtually impossible to sustain for an extended length. At least, not without cutting it with another genre. This is why most horror novels read like other novels with a horror element grafted on. The mystery, the thriller, the science-fiction adventure, these are all common partners for horror, and depending on the focus, can produce work that skews one way or the other. But the short story? The short story doesn’t need to sustain itself with multiple narratives and points of view. The short story is singular, focused, an art form that celebrates minimalism and efficiency—which doesn’t mean that short stories must be minimal and efficient, rather that they need to have a strong destination in mind. All of these things suit horror well, and stories that focus purely on the terrifying and horrific are possible in ways that almost never sustain themselves at novel length. In essence, to appreciate the weird or horrific, a mood must be set and a spell cast. Works that cannot be read in one sitting are subjected to the inference of life, and when life gets involved, those tenuous threads of atmosphere so delicately woven tend to break.
DM: The relationship between the weird and scientific discovery is examined in the collection through the disastrous consequences for those who seek to fathom the secrets of the universe. Do you consider cosmic horror to be in some ways antithetical to science fiction?
SS: That’s an interesting thought, one I’ve not considered before. I’ve often wondered if each genre could be boiled down to a single primal emotion. Obviously, Horror would boil down to horror, and Romance to romance, but what of the others? If science fiction could be boiled down (and let’s agree that by its very description this entire idea is so reductionist as to almost lose meaning) then I imagine it would be to hope. Hope for the future, for what humanity is capable of. Even the dystopian stories have their starting point in hope, albeit failed hope. Cosmic Horror is less about the absence of hope—or, rather, despair—and more about insignificance in the presence of reality. Superficially, I can see how one might view cosmic horror as the other side of the science fiction coin, but I don’t think it necessarily stands up to scrutiny. Instead, we must divorce science from Science Fiction in this case and realize that science’s quest for knowledge is instead the perfect vessel for tales of cosmic horror.
DM: Barron claims that with Burnt Black Suns you continue ‘a trajectory into deeper darkness like that probe sailing out of the solar system into the gulf of night’. Where do you see your writing taking you next? Are there further depths to explore?
SS: I appreciate what Laird Barron had to say in the flattering introduction he gave the book. I think, though, his comments reflect mostly my slow and steady transition from a writer of strange fiction to a writer of weird fiction. I’ll leave it to others to judge how large or insignificant a loss or gain this is, but it seems clear that my fiction has shifted weirder and more cosmic since I began publishing, and along with this mutation it seems only natural that my fiction will take a darker turn. But I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking the human soul doesn’t have plenty of pitch dark depths to plum, and I grow increasingly excited, year after year, to see how far into that tar pit I can sink.
Burnt Black Suns was a book wholly interested in exploring weird, cosmic fiction, and having now done so I’m eager to branch off into another direction for a while. Horror is such a vast and boundless genre that it will take me a lifetime to explore even a fraction of it. I’m elbow deep now in a novella that I believe will make readers forget all those I’ve previously written, and I hope to supplement it with more material that’s its equal. I can’t promise what will come next from me will be cosmic—I like to believe it won’t fit any such label so easily—but what I can promise is that I will do my best to surprise readers with what I can do. I honestly believe they haven’t seen anything yet.
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Matthew has recently entered the realm of writing for RPGs, having contributed to the Book of the Wyrm 20th Anniversary edition for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Sothis Ascends for Mummy: The Curse.
DM: What attracted you to horror role-playing games and what sustains your interest in the genre?
MD: I've enjoyed horror in both literature and cinema since far too young an age. It's the genre that stimulates my imagination more than any other. In role-playing, fear is an emotion I love to evoke from players for their characters. When a player genuinely feels concern for the fate or well-being of their character, or NPCs connected to the character, I believe something wonderful has been achieved. With that being the case, horror role-playing is the gift that keeps on giving. I run horror campaigns, one-shots and convention sessions, but don't limit myself to it. Ultimately, I love to get a reaction from players, and horror, whether body horror, psychological torment, gore or suspense, can really produce the desired expressions and exclamations.
DM: How did you come to review games on Youtube? Why adopt the persona of the Gentleman Gamer?
MD: I was looking for an RPG review of a game called SLA Industries (an excellent setting by Dave Allsop) and rather than the usual search engine link that would point me towards rpg.net, I was instead directed towards a review video by a vlogger calling himself Cpt. Machine. The review was decent enough, and provoked me to look for other vloggers. I could only find two more. Tetsubo57, who mixes his RPG videos with a wild variety of other videos, and Kurt Wiegel, whose videos I found to be far too short to provide me with an adequate review. I therefore resolved to make my own channel, with my first video being an introduction, my second being a video about in-character vs. out-of-character conflict, and my third being a review, although I can't recall the game I reviewed. In any case, those videos were awful. They were also removed by YouTube due to a copyright infringement or two (I made liberal use of music in videos back then), but my earliest material was then re-uploaded onto dailymotion, should any masochists wish to watch them.
As for the Gentleman Gamer - I dubbed my channel The Gentleman's Guide to Gaming as I never wanted to talk in anger about a game. I'd seen too many shows based around angry reviews that really took games apart for the sake of cheap laughs. My philosophy (such as it was) was that every review I did would be of a game I enjoyed, and focus on the positives of those games. If a game was truly bad, I just wouldn't review it. Why destroy a game someone has spent months or years creating, when I could just omit it from my channel entirely? Tetsubo57 was one of the first subscribers to my channel and a constant commentator. He was the first person to refer to me as The Gentleman Gamer, and the nickname stuck.
DM: Do you think that contemporary technology is changing the way people play RPGs?
MD: Definitely. I belong to a Facebook and YouTube group called the YouTube RPG Brigade (the name of which is another story entirely and has had its share of controversies since it was founded). The vloggers, viewers and commentators who post in these groups very often get together for campaigns and one-shots via Google+. I often run games via Google+ or Skype (I'm currently running A Song of Ice & Fire for a player in the USA and another in Finland) due to the ease of use and sheer range of players you can reach through those channels.
A year ago I established the Vampire: The Masquerade YouTube Experiment, which was in essence an attempt to create a "Living City" for Vampire via Google+ Hangouts, with footage from all character videos going onto YouTube and being added to a blog. The proposal for the Experiment alone drew over 100 players in the first week from all over the world. Some had never role-played before, but they had webcams, a willingness to learn and a real enthusiasm for the setting. Through this, players got a chance to play for the first time and fantastic plots have played out in what is essentially a cross between a LARP and a tabletop game using the internet as our playground.
The Experiment has waxed and waned in popularity, and my hope is that it lasts for a long time. I still appear in it occasionally, as the player-base there is excellent. There have since been numerous offshoots such as Living World of Darkness, another such game set in Westeros, others specifically devoted to Mage, Pathfinder and more. I see this as strong evidence that while tabletop is still going strong (you only need to see how many people attend the UK Games Expo and GenCon every year for proof) people are no longer limited by geography or the lack of a local store, as once they were.
DM: This last point is important, as there are regular claims that role-playing is a dying hobby. How do you attempt to broaden its appeal and bring in new players?
MD: That's a good question. I'm proudest of my channel when someone who has never role-played before sends me a message or leaves a comment saying "this motivated me to pick up an RPG, form a group and run a game." If there's a point to the channel, it's to get people to do that very thing. With this in mind, I attempt to review games across a broad spectrum but I also make videos of live play and recaps of games I've run before. Sometimes the obstacle preventing someone from investing in gaming is primarily their not knowing how fun and simple it can be. My in-game recordings serve the purpose of allowing people to see what games can be like.
My hope is that people will post the videos widely and that occasionally someone new to gaming will stumble across them. If these things are happening, I'm confident that my presentation style is enthusiastic and interesting enough to sink a hook into the occasional potential gamer. Then I just have to reel that prospective new role-player in with videos going into greater depth on game settings, such as my Vampire and Werewolf guides.
DM: Your reviews cover a range of games, but you seem to be at your most inspired when talking about the World of Darkness (both classic and new). What do you think they offer that other lines do not?
MD: I'm not sure what it was that first drew me to the World of Darkness, but whatever it was, it's what's kept me involved in it all these years later. Perhaps it's the aesthetic - the art oftentimes being incredibly evocative. Similarly, it may be the fiction, the metaplot of classic World of Darkness or the sheer freedom of new World of Darkness. In terms of why I run so many games set in the World of Darkness and make so many videos about the same, I think it's likely due to my interests outside of the sphere of role-playing gelling so well with the games. I come up with more ideas for each World of Darkness RPG than I do for any other game, and that's often just through reading the title of a book! This isn't some attempt at a boast; I genuinely believe the World of Darkness is, for the most part, the richest setting tonally and in terms of mood-inspiring qualities.
I'm not sure if I'm dancing around the question though. In the end I suppose I find that World of Darkness games offer a storytelling experience where protagonists are more than just travellers on a predefined path. The story is about the characters in the best World of Darkness games, and I have rarely found other games that so grab the players and make them want to tell stories about their characters’ hopes, dreams, fears and motivations.
DM: Aside from World of Darkness, can you name some of your other favourite games and settings? What do they offer that is unique and/or innovative?
MD: Godlike is a favourite of mine. It's a superhero game set in the Second World War. Combat is as dangerous to your characters as it should be in order to evoke the correct mood, but your superpowers can give you a slight edge. What a particularly enjoy about Godlike is the sense of realism imposed on to a superhero game. Sure you can fly - but a bullet can still kill you in one hit. Yes, you're invulnerable to kinetic energy attacks - but watch out for that guy with the flamethrower. The emphasis on the horrors of war, the reduction of mental stability and so on, really makes it stand out for me.
I've recently become a big fan of Numenera, for its simplicity in character design and its expansive world still fit for exploration. It's post-apocalyptic but is drenched with optimism. How many other games do you get where your characters' contributions can lead to the rebuilding of civilisation, the discovery of new technology and life and the exploration of history and unknown locations? There's this feeling of awe that comes with Numenera. I haven't felt it in many other games.
DM: How did you make the transition from reviewer to writer? Do you think that this provides you with a different approach to games design?
MD: I was one of the Consulting Developers on the Book of the Wyrm 20th Anniversary edition and volunteered to write up the Board of Directors while in the position. Stew Wilson reviewed my submission, approved it, and it was added to the book. Around the same time, I submitted some fiction to C. A. Suleiman, as I fell in love with Mummy: The Curse as soon as I finished reading the first chapter. He was kind enough to give me my first big writing break on a chapter of Sothis Ascends.
Now that I've seen "how the sausage machine works," I definitely reappraise some reviews I've produced. I have special admiration and respect for those who work diligently on systems for months on end. I'm far more confident as a writer of setting and storytelling tools than I am one of powers, rules and the like. This new freelance role (long may it continue) does of course put me in something of a position regarding World of Darkness book reviews. I really enjoyed reading and running Blood & Smoke for instance, but can I now positively review it without viewers accusing me of bias towards a company who are paying me for work? That's an interesting quandary, and one I've not yet surmounted. The same would apply in the unlikely event I fervently disliked a product by Onyx Path. While I don't typically produce negative reviews of any games, to do one about a game written by people I may ultimately work with would perhaps be unprofessional, or potentially make relationships frosty.
DM: Having now established a foothold in game design, where do you see your writing taking you? Would you consider working on a major project, such as developing a full supplement or even game line?
MD: I'd love to one day develop my own game line, but I'm conscious that I'm new to this and should take baby steps. I want to hone my writing before I take on a full game, take on feedback and criticism from my fellow writers as well as readers, and generally get more practice. My hope is that I will continue to freelance for Onyx Path for the foreseeable future. They're a fine and friendly company with a real talent for producing high-quality role-playing material. I'm happy just where I am for now, but in the future...? Who knows?
Monday, 23 June 2014
For more information, visit Richard’s website.
DM: As a GM and/or player, what horror games do you most admire? Can you name any that influenced the way you approach game design?
RD: I think the best horror games - and there are a great many of them - remember that horror is about the response to the monster, not the monster. What that response is can vary - it’s a very different approach in Call of Cthulhu than it is in Don’t Rest Your Head than it is in Vampire - but as long as it’s about the character, not the critter and its stats and treasure type and percent in lair, then you’ve got the makings of good horror. And I’m very happy to see the ongoing trend in making interesting, challenging horror games that picks up the torch from classics like CoC and Chill - a world where we’re constantly seeing new games like Night’s Black Agents is one where it’s good to be a fan of horror games.
DM: What would your pitch be to convince someone who has never played a World of Darkness game to try Wraith: The Oblivion?
RD: “How’d you like to bust the Ghostbusters?” More seriously, during the years I was developing Wraith, there was something that would happen at every convention I went to. Someone would walk up to the booth, explain how they loved Wraith but couldn’t find anyone to play it with, and then walk off. Fifteen minutes later, the same thing would happen, and so on, all weekend. So I think the idea that Wraith is this distant, untouchable star of a game is wrong and it always has been wrong - it’s a question of getting the people who want to play in touch with people who are willing to give it a shot. Which brings us around to the original question. To that, I say it’s a game where you’re taking care of unfinished business from life while learning how to survive in the lands of death, where your dark side is your own worst enemy and an empire of the dead stands against monsters from before the dawn of time.
DM: How did you first become involved with Wraith? What drew you to the line?
RD: I got involved with Wraith pretty much toward the beginning. I'd known Jennifer Hartshorn, the original developer, in college and she was well aware of my penchant for horror. So when she had some openings in the Haunts book, she was generous enough to ask me to write a couple of chapters, which became The Hanging Gardens Casino and the Tillinghast Mansion, respectively. After that, I freelanced pretty extensively until Jen moved over to Vampire, at which point I was asked to take over Wraith. And that was that, apart from a small hiatus where the estimable Edward Hall stepped in for Wraith: The Great War and World of Darkness: Tokyo.
As for what drew me to the line, well, I did a thesis on H.P. Lovecraft. My first published writing was in Lovecraft Studies and Studies in Weird Fiction, respectively. I have a collection of rare and antique horror novels, and I have multiple statues of Cthulhu in my office. So I felt a certain resonance with the material, you might say. And, looking around at the art from various Wraith books that adorns my office, I still do.
DM: It is interesting that you mention Cthulhu as, unlike most other World of Darkness lines, Wraith is not set predominantly in the world of the living. The idea of a whole other reality overlaying Earth, with the alien threat of ravenous Oblivion rising up from the darkest depths feels very Lovecraftian. Do you consider Wraith, at least in part, to be a game of cosmic horror?
RD: The defining character of cosmic horror as I understand it is the focus on the uncaring, mechanistic universe (that just happens to be populated by giant squid-faced entities from beyond space and time because that’s how evolution rolls across the endless aeons and folded dimensions). It’s the fact that there is no agency to the universe that’s so frightening, and that underpins all the tentacles and n-dimensional angles and whatnot. Wraith, on the other hand, focuses on the individual wraith’s struggle - against Oblivion and against themself. It’s a deeply personal game, and that personal conflict is what’s at the heart of things - even when that conflict is thrown into the middle of a fight against a shape-shifting malevolent entity from Oblivion’s doorstep. So, ultimately, while Wraith may be inspired by cosmic horror and may use elements familiar to fans of cosmic horror, it is not itself cosmic because even in the face of Oblivion, it always returns to the human.
DM: What difficulties did you face when writing something so melancholic with such experimental rules?
RD: Wraith was and is a fantastic challenge because so much of the interesting design happens away from combat. It’s one of the very rare games where roleplaying and mechanics are inextricably intertwined: Passions and Fetters and Pathos generation, just for starters, and who your character is, are more important in many ways than what. So any difficulties are really the meat and the fun of the job - I wouldn’t call them difficulties so much as “challenges”, and very satisfying challenges to resolve, at that.
As for the melancholy, I’ll have to disagree with you there. Yes, there is an obvious dark tone to the game, but at the same time, it’s really the most hopeful of the original WoD titles. Transcendence is real, and there is something you can do instead of fighting hopelessly against the inevitable. Wraiths get a second chance to fix what they did wrong in life, and there’s something incredibly powerful about that which really doesn’t match the doom’n’gloom stereotype. Can you tell depressing stories in Wraith? Sure. But you can also tell stories of high adventure in the Tempest, or dungeon crawls in the Labyrinth, or political stories in Stygia, or any number of other stories that are colored by emotions beyond despair.
DM: What can fans of Wraith: The Oblivion Second Edition expect from the 20th Anniversary Edition? Are there elements that you feel must be included for it to feel authentic?
RD: At the risk of sounding slightly obsessive, I’ve been mulling over Wraith in the back of my mind for nigh on 15 years now. That’s a lot of time to be pondering design and creative decisions, and to be thinking about what went right and what could have been done better. And any game designer will tell you, looking back on their work they always see things that they could have done better. Am I amazingly proud of Wraith Second Edition and all of the work that the writers, artists and other folks involved did? Absolutely. I think it’s a great game that did some wonderful things, and if you look at the list of creative folks who worked on it, it’s mind-boggling. So, there’s a lot there that I think is worth hanging onto and building on, because it’s damned good, original work. Stuff that Geoff Grabowski and Bruce Baugh did with the Labyrinth, for example. A ton of work people did with the Guilds. I could go on and on. A fan of Second Edition is absolutely going to feel comfortable in the setting, and hopefully the changes that are being made are ones that they’ll feel positive about - in part because a lot of the ones we’re looking at were sparked by feedback from and conversation with fans.
DM: Conversely, how much creative freedom do you have to alter the setting and update it for 2014?
RD: Rich Thomas has pretty much given me tremendous creative freedom to make changes, though I’ve discussed every proposed change with him. I think he and I are on the same page when it comes to what’s the real essence of Wraith and where we can make changes that will make it even better. So, no, there’s not going to be rules for all-singing, all-dancing ghost musical extravaganzas. But you will see a broader universe in the main book, and more of an emphasis on bringing players into the world cleanly.
DM: I have been impressed by your engagement with fans of Wraith on the Onyx Path forums, taking on suggestions that work for you and explaining why you reject others. How does this level of interaction during the design process shape your overall vision for the project?
RD: It’s always great to hear what the people who play the game are thinking - what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to see more of, you name it. That’s incredibly valuable feedback to have, and it serves as a great gut check. And really, why wouldn’t I want to talk to the folks who are most excited to see the game coming back? I mean, as Pollyanna as this sounds, we all share a love of the game. Maybe I’m coming at it from a slightly different angle than they are because I made the metaphorical sausage, but to be part of a community that loves you work, well, that’s a wonderful feeling. Without them we wouldn’t be doing this; it’s a pleasure to take the time to talk with them, answer whatever questions I can, and hopefully make them feel that the game they love is in good hands.
DM: What are your hopes for the Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition Kickstarter? If it is really successful, do you envision expanding on the core book with various supplements?
RD: First things first - let’s do the 20th Anniversary Edition, because that’s where all of my focus is right now. It’s such a pleasure to come back to this world, and, just as importantly, to come back to the people I worked with back in the day, that I’m just enjoying this project right now. Obviously, I’d hope it would be a tremendously successful Kickstarter, and I’d hope that people who perhaps didn’t get to play Wraith before - because they came along after Ends of Empire, or because they couldn’t find a group to play it with - would get a chance to find something they could enjoy. Beyond that, it’s all details - I just want to do something that lives up to - OK, surpasses - the expectations of the folks who’ve been loyal Wraith fans over the years, that does right by the world, and that hopefully opens things up to a whole new generation of players. If I can do that, then we’ll talk about what comes next. But let me climb the first mountain before we even start thinking about the second.