Paradox reins in White Wolf after offensive passages in Vampire: The Masquerade RPG

White Wolf Publishing

Heads are rolling at White Wolf, the company behind the classic Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop role-playing setting. Leadership changes are underway, after the studio used the imprisonment, torture, and murder of Chechnya’s LGBTQ community as the backdrop for a major plot point in that game.

For the last several years, an independent team at White Wolf, owned by Paradox Interactive, has been working to refresh the tabletop RPG for a modern audience with a fifth edition. Even before the launch of that ruleset in August, however, White Wolf was already courting controversy. A series of unforced errors prompted statements disavowing perceived links to neo-Nazi and white-supremacist ideology in its game materials.

In the past few weeks, it expanded on that launch by releasing several new sourcebooks, among them Camarilla and Anarchs. Unfortunately, those books made reference to the murder of gay Chechens in a context that used the ongoing human right violations in that country as fodder for their in-fiction narrative.

“In the Chechnya chapter of the V5 Camarilla book, we lost sight of this,” wrote Paradox’s vice president of business development, Shams Jorjani, in a statement. “The result was a chapter that dealt with a real-world, ongoing tragedy in a crude and disrespectful way. We should have identified this either during the creative process or in editing. This did not happen, and for this we apologize.”

Jorjani said that sales of digital versions of Camarilla and Anarch, as well as the ongoing production of physical copies of those books, will be suspended effective immediately. Sections on Chechnya will be removed in their entirety over the course of the next three weeks; shipping will be delayed as a result.

It’s clear that Paradox is taking the steps needed to rein in White Wolf. Shams Jorjani has now assumed the role of interim manager, and Paradox will have greater oversight of White Wolf’s projects.

“In practical terms, White Wolf will no longer function as a separate entity,” Jorjani said. “The White Wolf team will be restructured and integrated directly into Paradox Interactive, and I will be temporarily managing things during this process. We are recruiting new leadership to guide White Wolf both creatively and commercially into the future, a process that has been ongoing since September.”

Paradox, traditionally known for publishing lavish strategy video games, purchased White Wolf from Eve Online creator CCP Games in 2015. The move made sense, since its marquee property, Vampire: The Masquerade, is also the source material for several well-regarded digital games, including Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines. At the time, then-CEO Fredrik Wester said that his organization had “great respect for White Wolf’s gaming worlds” and that he saw “big opportunities for their expansion in the future.”

Following the sourcebook dilemma, White Wolf will “no longer develop and publish” products in the World of Darkness universe, which was shared by the Vampire line as well as several other RPG products. Instead, those duties will be handled by licensees, with White Wolf overseeing the brand’s lore.

“This has always been the intended goal for White Wolf as a company,” Jorjani said, “and it is now time to enact it.”

Jorjani concluded the post with an apology, which we’ve included here in full.

The World of Darkness has always been about horror, and horror is about exploring the darkest parts of our society, our culture, and ourselves. Horror should not be afraid to explore difficult or sensitive topics, but it should never do so without understanding who those topics are about and what it means to them. Real evil does exist in the world, and we can’t ever excuse its real perpetrators or cheapen the suffering of its real victims.

Comments

Looks like NuWhiteWolf rolled a 1, 4, 8, and 8 on a difficulty 9 Stay in Business roll.

Shame. Should have put more points in Social.

Gotta love that cut and paste (of totally wrong info) from the last WW story.

Following the sourcebook dilemma, White Wolf will "no longer develop and publish" products in the World of Darkness universe, which was shared by the Vampire line as well as several other RPG products. Instead, those duties will be handled by licensees…

So they’re not actually fixing anything, just building a firewall between themselves and the people doing the shitty stuff. Publish nazi garbage? "Blame the people we licensed it to, not us."

And of course, zero mention of firing the people they need to fire.

I don’t think that’s quite true, White Wolf had been developing this stuff internally. Yes they were using contractors but they didn’t sub-license the properties. What they are saying is they are going to end internal publication and all material will be outsourced (similar to what some of the Warhammer 40k stuff does) with internal White Wolf acting as an editorial control board with, from the sounds of it, the entire staff being shuffled to remove those from power who let this happen to start with.

Yeah, this reads as moving forward World of Darkness would be with someone like Onyx Path Publishing.

Yeah, this reads as moving forward World of Darkness would be with someone like Onyx Path Publishing.

Yeah, that was my point. They’re building a wall between themselves and the people putting stuff out, so that when they fuck up, they can blame the licensee. But none of this does anything to ensure they won’t continue to fuck up.

Except the people who have been fucking up are no longer doing anything, and entirely different people are? This is them basically admitting they aren’t good at writing games and are hiring people who are instead. I don’t see what else they could do that would be more positive than this.

Except the people who have been fucking up are no longer doing anything, and entirely different people are?

Not sure where ya’ll are getting this idea from. You might want to take a closer look at who’s still there.

I mean, it sounds like they’re still transition so we don’t know who is going to have a job when all is said and done. But as KilroyWasHere1 says below, they had a group writing games and now they’re not going to anymore—that implies that most likely people are getting low. Even they don’t, they aren’t going to be writing games anymore. Pretty much the only way they could mess this up is if the few people who make the transition are the same ones who made the bad calls in the first place.

Read between the lines. If they weren’t gonna cut ties with the people involved what’s the point of doing this at all? Your interpretation is a stretch of the imagination.

The firing of pretty much everyone involved in the fuck-up and removal of all the talent who performed the fuck-up (their in house content creators) would speak to them actually changing that. I understand your skepticism but it just reads quite the opposite.

Paradox are moving the control directly in house, this will no longer be arms length. Further they are replacing the individuals who had been running the studio and changing the management structure. Yes there are firewalls but these are firewalls that give them arms length editorial control.

Their licensee’s aren’t the same as the internal group that was "White Wolf Publishing".

Not really, this means "White Wolf" as a publishing entity is no more. Onyx Path and/or other licensees will move forward and Paradox will have a small team (read: 1-2 people more than likely) who ensure consistency for the brand and lore.

This means the entire team responsible for the V5 product is basically out of a job.

It’s a real shame that they blew this opportunity, I don’t blame Paradox for taking this action and there were some good people involved in the project (friends of friends and people friends knew professionally) but they just were profoundly off base with how they handled this material. I’m not entirely shocked, every iteration subsequent to the first got less and less elegant in how it handled real world issues.

When it came out in 1991 and I was in high school it was speaking directly to the very real issues going on in the world around me. It spoke to actual concerns that LGBTQ+ teens had especially given the horrors of the AIDS plague and it did so in a way they felt included and able to tell their stories to one another with. I have more than a few queer friends (and my own questions around sexuality) felt really positive with this game. Each iteration and non-Vampire instalment seemed to dilute that talent and focus.

I was hoping that they’d be able to recapture that when they started up again, the first scandal was a bit of a cluster fuck but it was a communication cluster fuck that ultimately proved to be a kernel of truth with a bunch of mixed assumptions. They cleaned house there but to stumble at this point, especially given the good will that the game had with many gay teens who were now gay or queer identifying adults looking forward to the game is truly sad.

Yeah I’ll admit the thing that really stood out to me was that the game in general has always been associated with groups with strong LGBTQ+ and ally presences. Maybe something was lost in communication when the narrative design shifted to a Eurocentric placement but yeah…

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