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Paradox brings Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop game development back in-house

The move follows a tumultuous launch of the game’s 5th edition in 2018

artwork of a vampire with her third eye open, rendered in blue, in Vampire: The Masquerade Image: Paradox Interactive
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Paradox Interactive is bringing the development of the Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop role-playing game in-house, the company announced Thursday. The news was accompanied by a video introducing the team. The move follows the tumultuous launch of the game’s 5th edition in 2018, which culminated with the dissolution of the game’s old development team.

Paradox purchased White Wolf Publishing in 2015, and with it rights to Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and other settings in the World of Darkness universe. Several years later, in 2018, Vampire v5 launched. But, even before the game came out, its development team — which operated as an independent entity apart from the larger Paradox organization — was courting multiple controversies, including links to neo-Nazism.

Early playtest materials for the game had contained dog whistles for those who sympathize with a specific brand of virulent white supremacy, and a preview version encouraged players to take on the role of a neo-Nazi parading as a member of the so-called alt-right. While Vampire is well known for its dark themes, the situation prompted White Wolf to issue a formal video apology.

The final straw came post-launch, when a sourcebook used the imprisonment, torture, and murder of Chechnya’s LGBTQ community as fodder for its world-building. In November 2018, Paradox cleaned house. Later, vice president Shams Jorjani would admit to Polygon that “Paradox had no oversight into the day-to-day operations of how White Wolf was run.”

For a time, Paradox licensed out the development of the tabletop game to the capable team at Modiphius Entertainment (which also works on multiple licensed titles in worlds like Star Trek, Conan, The Elder Scrolls, Homeworld, and Dune). Now Paradox has made the decision to bring that work back in-house. The company did not mention the name White Wolf in its news release, instead deferring to the World of Darkness brand name.

Paradox’s publishing partner will be Renegade Game Studios going forward.

The new team has plenty of experience with the material, and even includes v5’s original producer, Jason Carl. But the video is a clear attempt to distance this group from the one that came before, and to reassure fans that there is a steady hand at the tiller. The developers also mention that Paradox is working with diversity consultants and diversity readers in order to vet what has traditionally been the game’s very mature content.

Cover art for Vampire: The Masquerade Companion Image: Paradox Interactive
A ravnos vampire in a city setting. It’s claws reach out from an alleyway. Image: Paradox Interactive

The new team’s first offering will be a free supplement that’s scheduled to be released in December. It’s called Vampire: The Masquerade Companion, and the description makes it sound like a significant addition to the core game. It will introduce three new vampire clans: the avaricious Tzimisce, the trickster Ravnos, and the exceedingly rare and powerful Salubri — which can be recognized by their third eye. It will also add more meat to the human and ghoul character classes.

This change is not expected to impact the ongoing development of Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2, the role-playing video game that was recently delayed into 2021. Writers tell Polygon that they took inspiration from the tabletop universe, but that their interpretation was wholly unique.

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