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We had very few submissions for this issue's forum, unfortunately. But what we did get was pretty impressive. Seems a few people were somewhat inflamed by last issue's forum. If you missed it, it might clarify things if you checked it out first. And remember, if you have anything to say about the hobby or your experiences in it, just jot it down in an email, and send it off to us!

In your third issue, Justin Bacon wrote "Andrew Rilstone has made a serious mistake". Similarly, Mr Bacon has made quite a few serious and idiotic mistakes of his own in his interpretation of Andrew's rather brilliant article.

First off, Justin accuses Andrew of trying to dictate his experience to everyone, saying that Andrew's use of the word "I" falls off and he "begins to extend his claims into broad-based, universal maxims". Er, did you read the TITLE by any chance? The title, hinting to a situation where a person sees only what they want to see, makes it absolutely clear that this is a purely personal piece. Andrew not only freely admits to this, he mocks himself about it. Yes, he stops tempering his sentence with qualifiers about his personal feelings, but that's because he doesn't need to - it is implicit through the entire article.

Another point Justin seems to miss completely is Andrew's use of a rhetorical question. When Andrew asks when "story-telling" replaced "role-playing", Justin responds with an answer about the White Wolf StoryTeller Games. Somehow, I think Andrew just might have heard of them. In fact, his question was actually to attack this game and others like it for making the ludicrous assertion that role-playing is subsidary to story-telling. By answering his question, you've only underlined his point.

The next mistake Justin makes is when he takes issue with Andrew's subsequent rhetorical question about "role-playing" being called "acting". Again, Justin answers the question and thus proves Andrew's point. Justin says "role-playing is acting" - now who's applying their claims to universal maxims?

Role-playing is similar to acting in some ways, but they are quite different in some critical aspects, like the presence of a script, or an audience. They are hardly equivalent. Likewise story telling is an important part of role-playing, but hardly the chief focus, since a role-playing game can exist without a story.

But these are just minor asides that Andrew makes while building to his main point. This is that role-playing has immense potential, but rarely reaches that potential, usually degenerating into a bunch of bad jokes and dull dice-rolls. The reason for this degeneration is a loss of focus on the real point of role-playing: "playing knights in armour".

However, as Andrew and Justin point out, not everyone thinks that this is the real focus of role-playing, and that the game isn't "one thing for all people". And that's fine. Those people who just want to roll dice can go do that, and shouldn't worry about what Andrew Rilstone has to say, since it doesn't apply to them anyway. Those people who think gaming can be so much more can read his words, start dreaming again, and be inspired to take their weekly games to incredible new heights, towards that ultimate role-playing experience.

When I first read Nick Smith's "emotional" dissection of White Wolf's roleplaying system and corporate ethics, I had to say I was more than a little amused. If this had been a newsgroup, by now I would have replied with a string of witticisms (or attempted ones), rebutting his points, whittling down his ego and shrivelling his manhood. Or at least that's the theory. But, seeing as this is a magazine, I thought that a more rational response would be in order, rather than rabid disinformation. I'll address Nick's points in the closest I can reach to a chronological order.

  1. A simple system. I'd have to say that White Wolf certainly has one of the least cluttered systems that I've seen in a roleplaying game, short of something like FUDGE, where you start throwing realism out the window completely. Take an attribute from the top, combine it with an ability from the bottom. Roll dice, and in the case of a contested action, your opponent does the same. Most amount of successes wins... this simple mechanism is used for next to everything in the White Wolf games I've been exposed to. No pointless derived statistics to keep track of, like THAC0 and AC.

    Sure, you whack five werewolves and five vampires in a combat, and it will slow down to the consistency of treacle. But can you name me a system, Chris, where ten people being involved in a combat doesn't bring things to a standstill? I'm not sure how simple you want a rules system to be, but you can't really break it down further than this, seeing as you also want...

  2. A realistic system. Without going into the statistics of your example, it does help to know the rules when talking about examples. As far as I know, mortals cannot soak either edged weapon damage or gunshots in Storyteller systems. That means that a shot from a good person with a good gun _will_ leave most mortals in a crumpled, wimpering heap. And that's without using optional rules from some of the more interesting sourcebooks.

    As to being difficult to explain, the only thing I can attribute that to would be a difficulty with the English language, as it seems fairly simple to lay out to me. Storyteller's combat system seems relatively realistic, too. Get holes blown in you, and you start getting penalties on actions, unlike AD&D where you can dance a merry jig on one hit point, which is a stone's throw away from having your intestines spill out onto the floor.

    All in all, it's not fair to criticise a rules system for not being fair enough on one hand, and not being simple enough on the other, as these are mutually exclusive goals. But then again, Nick didn't seem to be interested in fairness or logic, just ripping the shit out of White Wolf for whatever personal reasons apply.

  3. Cluttered mythology. Yes, the shadowy corners of White Wolf's gothic-punk setting are littered with a wide variety of creatures. But, have a look at any country's mythology, and you'll find equivalents of all the creatures in White Wolf's games in existence. Spirits of the dead. Creatures of the night. Shape-changers. The little people. Mages. They're all there. So, if it seems cluttered, perhaps that's the fault of the storyteller for not providing adequate focus on the appropriate areas of the World of Darkness.

    Nick also mentions that White Wolf's gaming material contains contradictions in its world-view from game to game. Yes, that's right. Storyteller games are mature games for mature readers, and as a mature game, it doesn't provide simple "this is how the world works" answers, because they don't exist. Walk up to an African man and ask him what kind of country America is. Walk up to an American and ask her the same question. I'd be surprised if you got the same answer. Very surprised.

  4. Accessories. (Before I begin here, it's interesting to note that Nick, until Werewolf pops up, believes that Vampire is a "very cool" game. Suddenly, when the Garou enter the scene, the game loses focus for him somehow...) Accessories are a conundrum in any system. The "Do I need this?" question, once applied, tends to be a negative response in almost every case. Then again, do you need your big toe, or two arms? No. Do you like having them? Yes.

    I'm not quite sure what Nick wants out of an accessory, but White Wolf, in my experience at least, are good with their products. They sketch out everything in the game world to a level of detail, and should you want more, you can buy the supplement and examine an aspect of the game in more detail. To run a chronicle, as opposed to a "module", all I've really needed is a city sourcebook, a player's guide and (my favourite) a storyteller's handbook, which only really contains information on better storytelling. (always a plus) Note that I could, should I wish, do without everything but the player's guide. I'd just have to do more work.

    Don't like, don't buy. Simple.

  5. Black Dog. There's not too much point in arguing this, because neither of us are White Wolf employees, but lack of a reason has never stopped me before.

    Does anyone really believe that White Wolf "hide" behind Black Dog to avoid bad press? Sure, the stuff that the subsidiary churns out is pretty extreme, but White Wolf's standard material is confrontational enough to begin with to get the conservative media riled up. Not only that, but the fact that Black Dog is a subsidiary of White Wolf is a well-known fact. Well enough to have any backlash on Black Dog fall upon White Wolf as well.

    If you don't like their stuff, then fine. Don't buy it. But I have to say that I found Freak Legion, a Black Dog Werewolf product, one of the best gaming reads I've had in a long time. I don't think that the label is a PR stunt, either. I've always seen it as a convenient way of letting the gamer know that this product is going to cross the imaginary line in the sand that White Wolf have drawn. Sure, that sort of thing will always draw certain types of player, just like "R" movies drawn fifteen-year-olds, but that isn't the fault of the company.

In Closing : I enjoy White Wolf's material, both to play and to read. I find that they are one of the few companies publishing at present willing to cater to a gamer wanting a more "mature" style of product. Sure, some people choke on the epigrams and convoluted prose, but I guess it's horses for courses. Me, I can't stand the sight of Elminster, but that's another story.
Laughing Wolf

I was glad to see you print my complaints about White Wolf in the Readers Forum. Having it placed there makes it available for more people to read, and gets my message through to people. I'm not totally against WW's games I just think they do a lot of stuff they shouldn't. I would actually applaud them on some points for making such an engrossing gaming world, I still play the game in it's various forms, just slightly modified.

But I would like to bring up another point here, which I never included in my original rant. The reason I wrote that is because of a friend of mine, who from time to time GM's in Vampire. He was the one who got me started. This friend of mine, we'll call him Joe for simplicity's sake, bought Vampire a few years back. And before your mind goes on a wild trip, this is not some weird way of trying to say that it was me that bought it. It was a friend of mine, by now you'll probably be saying, "yeah right, sure it was", but that isn't the point.

Anyway he bought Vampire, and was very happy with it, and had also played a few times before. At that moment he set himself a task. His task was to buy and collect all the books White Wolf had published for Vampire. He felt he needed them, and besides that, they were really cool. So he bought and read, and bought and read, and so on....

After some time, his friends started to ask Joe; "When are we gonna play this game, we know you've got a lot of cool books, but when are we gonna play?" Joe said "Now, we'll play it now, I haven't got all the books, but we can play now" So they used the main Vampire book, Players guide, and Joe used another book called Chicago Chronicles. Using all these things they felt they had decent characters, and started to play. They had a blast, and played for a few months, then the players bought a clanbook each, describing their own different clans. Joe didn't like this, cause he was gonna buy everything, and he got mad and didn't play for a while. The players didn't mind, they played other games in the meantime.

Now Joe got a job, and started buying more stuff for Vampire, and the products kept on coming. He had a big collection by now. They started playing again. This time, Joe who had read a lot brought up a lot of characters in Vampire that none of the others had ever heard of, and since they were so ignorant, he decided that they had to read his books. Some of the players were interested, and did just that. But the other players got tired of the domination of one game and said that there was a lot of other fun stuff to try. Joe ignored that, and for about 6 months Vampire dominated everything, it was all anybody talked about. But the stories got slightly tiresome, cause even though Joe had all this cool stuff, he just kept on rolling the dice, and when his players had been rolling dice for one encounter for over four hours one autumn evening, they got tired. They quit the game, blamed the GM, and basically left Vampire for dead. Joe was very angry and said they couldn't just quit on him like that, when he had bought all those books, now he was getting these really cool "Black Dog" books too, they couldn't just quit the game after he had spent all that money. But they did, they were sick of the system, sick of the tiresome stories, and sick of a very dominating person called Joe.

They talked to Joe a year or so later. By then it was all water under the bridge, he'd sold half of his books, and got some money for them, and together they bought Werewolf. They bought three books, and let each player decide if he wanted to buy a tribal book or not. Now we play the game, but the style's changed, without going into mechanics, I'll just say that we have devised a system that works and is easily convertible from regular White Wolf game mechanics.

The moral of this story is that, some company's spew out things to prey on the fan boys of the cool, and the fanatics who have to have it all, while ever even questioning that they're system may be a tad complicated and far to time consuming for some fun role-playing. I have talked to a lot of people about this and there doesn't seem to be a new system in the future, which reminds me a lot the AD&D system. And you don't need all the extras, the most important thing is a GM that dedicates himself to the task at hand, crafting good adventures, and being fair. Not an easy task, I know, I GM alot myself.

But the main goal is to get the most bang for the buck, without spending your life-savings on one game. I mean face it, did the last addition to your game really enhance game-play, was it really necessary? Spend your money wisely, and concentrate on making your fun instead of buying it. Or you may end up a as a Joe. And though it may sound pretentious and over-bearing, this is a true story, and I do have a friend who made this mistake, that is part of the reason why I bitch about White Wolf a lot.

I haven't really had a lot of encounters with TSR, as I only played the original D&D for a few years, and couldn't really get a hold of anything else for AD&D. But I will put in a last remark here in the plus department of TSR, I recently bought the Dragonlance Fifth Age game, and I think it has one of the best systems I have seen so far. It's easy and focuses on the acting in roleplaying games, it does have some flaws but I won't take the time to write any of that now, just wanted to say that, in my corner of the world, TSR gaming has been a positive thing.

This turned out to be quite a big thing, and I never intended it to be, me being lazy and all, but I think it was an addition I needed to explain the why's of my previous rantings. I hope you can muster the strength to read through this too. C-ya later.
Nick Smith

The Forum is your page; it is entirely up to you what you fill it with, or even if you fill it at all. So get on your soapbox and send your spiel to

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