It was about this time in 1990 that I first heard about the game that would become Vampire: the Masquerade. Having seen the writing on the wall for RPGs at Games Workshop, I was planning to leave, so I was looking around for freelance work. Ken Rolston put me in touch with a young game designer called Mark Rein-Hagen, and we had a series of transatlantic phone conversatons about his idea for a game where all the players would be vampires.
This was a revolutionary concept at the time, and very much in tune with the 90s zeigeist. A new wave of Goth and Gothpunk was starting up. Though I wasn’t a part of it – I preferred Rainbow and Pink Floyd to the Sisters of Mercy – I had been weaned on Hammer horror before graduating to Augustin Calmet and Montague Summers, and I knew quite a bit about vampires. I was commissioned to write and introduction for the core rulebook, and I also got to see and comment on early drafts of the rules.
My introduction – framed as a letter from Dracula to Mina Harker after the events of Stoker’s novel – was popular, and it was reprinted in various places over the following years. I worked as a writer and editor on almost every release during the game’s first couple of years, and I attended my first GenCon in 1991 as a guest of White Wolf publishing. In addition to working on Vampire, I wrote introductions for both editions of Wraith. My last job for White Wolf was co-writing the second edition of A World of Darkness: Mummy with James Estes, with whom I shared an office at a multimedia startup at the time. It got very good reviews, and when White Wolf released Mummy: the Resurrection as a full game, Jim and I received a “based on” credit.
Vampire was always the flagship brand of the World of Darkness, going on to spawn a disappointing TV series titled Kindred: the Embraced and World of Darkness Online, an ambitious MMORPG that failed to set the world on fire. Initially billed as “a storytelling game of personal horror,” it ended up glossing over the psychological aspects of surviving as a vampire and focused instead on vampire society and politics. Its post-punk take on the children of the night can be said to have inspired movies like the Underworld series and TV series like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, as well as a lot of urban fantasy fiction. It was also one of the first tabletop RPGs to have a significant appeal for female gamers. I look back on it with great affection.
Wraith: the Oblivion¸ second edition (1998) – introduction
Mummy, Second Edition (1997) – co-author
Book of the Kindred (1996) – contributor (reprint)
Clanbook: Assamite (1995) – author
Wraith: the Oblivion (1994) – introduction
Vampire Storyteller’s Screen (1993) – insert booklet
A World of Darkness (1992) – contributor: Britain
The Succubus Club (1991) – contributor: “Annabelle’s Party”
Chicago by Night (1991) – editor
The Storyteller’s Handbook (1992) – contributor
The Players’ Guide (1991) – contributor
Vampire: the Masquerade (1991) – introduction
“Bloodlines,” Adventures Unlimited #6, Summer 1996
“Purgatory,” White Wolf Magazine #28, Aug/Sept 1991
Other Bibliography Posts
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)
My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)
The latest Bundle of Holding features seven titles from Osprey’s Osprey Adventures line: just $16.95 gets you all seven PDF ebooks with a retail value of $104.00. A couple of them are mine, and I’m in some very good company, including Chris Pramas, Phil Masters, and series chief Joseph A. McCullough. Here’s a link: take a look and I think you’ll be impressed.
Thor: Viking God of Thunder retells the Norse myths and covers Thor’s history from 6th-century Germany through the Viking Age to Marvel’s Avengers. Here’s a link to some of the great reviews it’s received.
Knights Templar: A Secret History is a roundup of history, rumor, and conspiracy theory surrounding the Templars and the Holy Grail. It even includes a brand new conspiracy theory that I made up, based on actual events and relationships, that could provide a great setting for all kinds of games. You can read more about it here: scroll down to the comments for links to reviews.
The Osprey Adventures line includes a lot of well-researched titles that are ideal as systemless sourcebooks for games. Take a look: you won’t be disappointed.
The Slann are long gone from Warhammer: I think the last time they were seen was in 3rd edition, back in the 80s. Still, this may be of interest to any Oldhammer fans who have a Slann army.
I’ve known about the Central American atlatl, or spear-thrower, for some time. Basically it’s a stick that slots into the base of a spear-sized, feathered dart and gives the throwing action more force. Just recently, though, I found out a little more thanks to an SCA demonstration, and I was impressed by what this very simple weapon can do. As far as I’ve been able to find out, Citadel never released any Slann atlatl troops, and that’s a shame: from what I’ve learned, they could be quite effective on the battlefield, as well as adding to the Mesoamerican look and feel of a Slann force.
Here are the notes I took at the time, slightly tidied up. I haven’t attempted to derive game stats for Warhammer or WFRP, preferring to leave that to those who are better at such things. Still, I hope you Oldhammer gamers and modelers find this information inspiring, or at least interesting.
In Aztec society, the atlatl was considered a “weapon of the gods.” The troops who used it, called Cuachicque or “shorn ones” (presumably from a distinctive haircut?) were elite warriors who had already captured at least six enemies on the battlefield.
Atlatl darts look like oversized arrows, 4-7 feet long and fletched. The atlatl gives these darts surprising range and hitting power. According to the World Atlatl Association forums, effective range is 10-15 yards/meters but a missile thrown in a high arc can reach as far as 50 yards. This may not sound like much considering that the current Olympic javelin record is almost 100 meters, but the atlatl only needs a one-step run-up and the Olympic javelin is thrown for distance without much regard for accuracy. Experiments have shown that an atlatl dart has significant range and hitting power. Though it cannot pierce a steel breastplate, it could wreak havoc on lightly-armored troops. Here’s a link to an actual test.
Has anyone converted or used Slann atlatl troops in a game? How did they work out? If you have rules for them, please add a link in the comments section. Or maybe we can crowdsource some workable rules right here.