Sunday, February 3, 2013

Paying homage where homage is due

I just realized something that has been entirely missed in this whole Dark Phoenix Publishing trainwreck, and I think it's something important.

White Wolf, for all intents and purposes, fully realized and popularized the genre of "personal horror" where the player plays the monster. Prior to Vampire, there was one rpg I know of dedicated to the players being the monsters - Nightlife - and that game came out a scant year or two before Vampire: the Masquerade did. In every other contemporary rpg at the time, the types of monsters seen in White Wolf games were not playable options. They were monsters to be defeated for XP or treasure. It was one of the reasons that, for example, AD&D used the term "monster" even for benign creatures. Some games may have had a structure or rules to allow for monsters to be played as PCs, but it still wasn't the focus of the game, it was an add-on. I recall game designers at the time actively scoffing at the idea of monsters being playable. PCs are, after all, "the heroes", and the advice in the original Dungeon Master's Guide was along the lines of  "player character races are the best choices, and we won't help you if you want to allow other races".

Does this mean any game where the characters are vampires is automatically a White Wolf ripoff? Nope. But does it mean that such a game likely owes a big debt to White Wolf for popularizing the genre? The answer there is "Yes." The same way that most roleplaying games owe a debt to Dungeons and Dragons, for at least popularizing roleplaying, if nothing else. Any game publisher that chooses to put out games that line up almost exactly to White Wolf's product lines owes White Wolf that debt in spades.