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

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Stew Wilson interviewed by David McWilliam about 'Werewolf: The Apocalypse'

A freelance writer and game designer, Stew got his start with White Wolf on Lore of the Forsaken. He has worked on most of the new World of Darkness games, but finally got to sink his teeth into his first love with Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition. In addition to being a writer on the core book, he took up the developer’s mantle for supplemental books like Changing Breeds 20, Rage Across the World, and Book of the Wyrm 20. Werewolf has given him more opportunities to branch out into new fields, including the comic for Changing Breeds, and the W20 Cookbook.

In addition to his work for White Wolf and Onyx Path Publishing, Stew has contributed to EVE Online, Maschine Zeit, and the upcoming setting anthology for Apotheosis Drive X. He has also self-published a number of games including BLACK SEVEN, the stealth-action RPG, and Æternal Legends, the game of modern fantasy heroes.

For more information, visit Stew's website.

DM: How did you become a World of Darkness games designer?
SW: I was a regular on the old, old White Wolf forums, starting back in 1999. It’s through them that I met existing freelance designers like Matt McFarland and Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and got to know Ethan Skemp. I expressed a desire to work on Werewolf, but as the line was drawing to a close that didn't happen. In 2004, Ethan offered me a chance to work on Lore of the Forsaken. I didn’t look back.

After we finished writing Werewolf 20, Ethan passed the developer’s hat to me. I never thought I’d get a chance to develop Werewolf: The Apocalypse when I started writing professionally; by then the Time of Judgment had hit and the classic World of Darkness ended. The 20th Anniversary Edition let me work on Werewolf again, and taking on the developer’s role really lets me put my mark on the game.

DM: What are the core concepts behind Werewolf: The Apocalypse? What can players expect from the game?
SW: Werewolf is a game about getting mad at the state of the world and having the power to do something about it. You know the truth of the world — that the three great cosmological forces of Wyld, Weaver, and Wyrm are massively out of balance. The Weaver wants to cocoon the universe in a calcified web where nothing changes. The Wyrm wants to corrupt all that is, poisoning its very soul. They've forced the Wyld, the wellspring of creation, onto the back foot. Now, they're coming for Gaia ― She who is the world and the soul of the world. If the Weaver or the Wyrm is victorious, it's the end of everything.

Gaia isn't defenseless. Æons ago, She made shapeshifting warriors to defend Her. Chief among them are the Garou, werewolves with the holy duty of defending the world. Empowered by Luna, spirit of the Moon, and driven by rage at the state of the world, they may not survive the Wyrm's assault, but they'll tear it apart from the inside to save Gaia.

DM: How do the Garou differ from other werewolves?
SW: At the time Werewolf: The Apocalypse was published, werewolves in fiction were monsters. Inspired by Hollywood, werewolves changed under the full moon into ravening beasts that had to be killed with a silver bullet.

The Garou go beyond that, redefining the werewolf as we know it. The Garou don't change under the full moon, but can shapeshift whenever they like into any of five forms ― including a bulked out human, normal and monstrous wolves, and the terrifying Crinos war-form, a hybrid of wolf and human. They're born, rather than being made into monsters with a bite, and organize into tribes based around their attitudes to how best to confront the Apocalypse. Their shapeshifting blessings come from Luna, the spirit of the moon, who also gives each one an Auspice ― a role in werewolf society dependent on the moon-phase in which the werewolf was born.

The Garou are also half-spirit, and thus keenly aware of the animistic nature of the world. They can step into the Umbra, the spiritual reflection of the world, and gain power from those spirits that serve Gaia. They can try to strike at Her enemies long before they manifest in the physical world. Others use spiritual short-cuts to travel between different places in the physical world, fighting battles at flashpoints around the globe.

DM: The Deluxe W20 Book of the Wyrm, which is being Kickstarted at the moment, details the forces of the principle antagonist in the game. What is the Wyrm and why do so many choose to serve it?
SW: The Wyrm is one part of the Triat, the three cosmological forces that underpin reality. Long ago, the Weaver ― another part of the Triat ― wanted to control everything. Though she was not successful, she snared the Wyrm in her web and drove it insane. Far from being the cosmological force of destruction, it is now the force of corruption. Destroying the world would be easy; the Wyrm wants to turn it into a twisted hellhole; a reflection of its own perverted nature, where the only things that live worship it.

The Wyrm isn't behind every evil act ― saying that every abusive spouse or drug pusher is being manipulated by a force of corruption implicitly absolves them of their crimes. Instead, it feeds on the negative spiritual resonance produced by their actions. In the case of prolific serial killers, torturers, and other monsters who feed it repeatedly, the Wyrm may reward them with signs of its favor. While frequently disturbing or disgusting, these blessings grant supernatural power.

Other creatures serve the Corruptor. While many spirits come from Gaia herself, each of the Triat has spirit-servants of their own. These Banes are formidable enemies on their own, but some go one further by possessing people to create the twisted fomori. A whole tribe of werewolves took it upon themselves to try to kill the Wyrm in its lair two thousand years ago. Now, they serve it as the Black Spiral Dancers. Some people join cults or organizations that worship the Wyrm, hoping for rewards in exchange for furthering its agenda.

For creatures with free will like humans, serving the Wyrm is putting short-term interests ahead of long-term. In ten years' time, the Wyrm will rise and devour the world, leaving a radioactive wasteland where only twisted fomori can survive. But until then, you've got both money and power ― and all the trappings that come with them.

DM: What is Malfeas and will the Book of the Wyrm expand on it as a playable setting?
SW: The spirit world of Werewolf: The Apocalypse isn’t just a reflection of our own world. It also contains Realms, self-contained places that don’t correspond to a location on Earth. Malfeas is one of those Realms, and is the Wyrm’s foothold in the spiritual world. You can’t destroy it — a Realm is a cosmological constant — but you can travel to Malfeas to beard the Wyrm in its lair.

Malfeas is the home of the Maeljin Incarna, immensely powerful spirit-servants of the Wyrm that reflect hatred, anger, despair, and the Wyrm’s twisted forms of the elements. The majority of Malfeas is made up of a vast cityscape containing the nightmarish factories that produce everything from horrific poisons to Pentex’s stranger products. It’s also home to the Labyrinth where Black Spiral Dancers perform their most blasphemous rites.

Malfeas isn’t easy to get in to and is even harder to survive in. That said, while it looks impossible we’ve left ways for clever players to infiltrate the Wyrm’s lair. If they’re lucky or powerful enough, they can destroy factories, seal off the Black Spiral Labyrinth, or even kill one of the Maeljin Incarna, reducing the influence of cruelty, hatred, or despair throughout the whole world. Attacking the Wyrm’s forces like that is very hard, but doing so would weaken the Wyrm immensely.

DM: Given the increasing anxieties about climate change, deforestation and pollution of natural habitats, do you think that Werewolf: The Apocalypse has become more relevant over 20 years since it was first released?
SW: Definitely. At the time it was first released, Werewolf: The Apocalypse presented a world that was darker than our own. Since then, the world has changed in ways that nobody could have predicted. An environmental message that was seen as doom-saying twenty years ago looks naive in light of modern developments. We're seeing the beginning of the effects of climate change now. Events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill show that we're just as capable of creating environmental disasters now as we were then. The increased use of fracking to extract shale gas is both environmentally destructive, and propagates dependency on fossil fuels.

While people have become more aware of environmental issues over the last twenty years, humanity hasn't done enough to address them on a sufficiently large scale to make an impact. As individuals, we don't have much that we can do beyond trying to lobby politicians. As Garou, these problems are made manifest in the world, and we can take out our anger on them directly.

DM: The shadowy Pentex corporation is one of the Wyrm's most potent servants in the game, with tendrils of control reaching across the globe and hastening the corruption of all life. Bands like Rage Against the Machine were warning the public about corporate greed in the early nineties. Do you think that countercultural alt-rock had an impact on Werewolf: The Apocalypse when it was first conceived? Or were they both simply responding to the growth of corporate might in the wake of the neoliberal revolutions of Thatcher and Reagan?
SW: While I can’t say for certain what influenced the original design team, personally I think that they spring from the same source. Neoliberal economics enshrined the idea that greed is good; that if you make more by breaking the law and paying a fine, your only moral duty is to break the law. It encouraged a whole new wave of corporate malfeasance that we’re still seeing today. People see that, and get angry. Anger leads to artistic expression, whether that's in the form of music or games. Different kinds of art complement one another when they come from the same source ― Rage Against the Machine and Holy Bible-era Manic Street Preachers make for a fitting soundtrack to Werewolf: The Apocalypse.

DM: It seems as though the Kickstarter campaign will actually affect the content of Book of the Wyrm. How does this change the design process?
SW: Sometimes, it means that we can do things with the book that we couldn’t otherwise. For example, in Changing Breeds we were able to provide an introductory comic as a stretch goal. Other times, it means we can include material that we otherwise wouldn’t have room for. Especially with Book of the Wyrm, we’re letting people vote on what some of the stretch goals open up. This way, we can see what makes people excited and give them more of that.

We can’t start off designing around stretch goals. If something goes wrong and the book isn’t Kickstarted, then we don’t hit any stretch goals. What I tend to do is identify places in the book that could benefit from more information. It’s a tricky process — everything in the book could benefit from more ideas, more examples, and more story hooks — but it’s easier to identify “packages” of enhancements around some topics. With Book of the Wyrm, we wanted to add more on the Fallen Changing Breeds, more information on how normally Gaian Garou fall and become Black Spiral Dancers, and more information on the humans and fomori that make up First Teams — anti-werewolf hit squads. We have more of these “packets” in the pipeline.

Each stretch goal is part-designed before it goes out — I have an idea of what’s going in to the section. Once we hit it, I start working on the design process proper, and when the Kickstarter wraps we’re in a position to get the new material into the book with as few delays as possible. That said, creating new stuff for the book does take time to write, edit, and lay out, but we’ve factored that in to our deadlines where we can.

DM: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
SW: Lots of them! When this Kickstarter wraps I should be in a position to send the next Werewolf: The Apocalypse book to editing. For the new World of Darkness I’m designing the Idigam Chronicle, a chronicle book that does for Werewolf: The Forsaken what Blood & Smoke: The Strix Chronicle did for Vampire: The Requiem. I’m also involved in upcoming books for Mage: The Awakening and Promethean: The Created, and I’m part of the system design team for Trinity and Scion. Finally, I’m hopeful that I can get another self-published game out at some point this year, but that depends how busy I get.

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