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Author Topic: The Problem with White Wolf  (Read 2607 times)

RPGPundit

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The Problem with White Wolf
« on: September 02, 2006, 03:28:32 PM »
From my blog:

Its amazing how many of the Swine still vehemently try to pretend that WW didn't shoot itself in the foot and forever kill any chance of plausible deniability on the issue of pretentiousness and general ass-hattery when they released the New World of Darkness core book with the long since infamous and longer since lame "role-playing not roll-playing" invective.
The defenders of that particular spin try to claim that the section was actually put there to tell WW fans NOT to look upon us mere mortal gamers with contempt.  This apparently presumes that the typical WW fan is enough of a self-absorbed twit that he WILL look down on other gamers and needs to be lectured on the matter; I don't see anyone debating that, which amuses me to no end.
But the actual "advice" in the nWoD corebook stop at saying that the WW fanboys shouldn't look down on other gamers; it goes on to say, basically, that WW fanboys should pity regular gamers, and try to convert them to their superior form of "storytelling".
 
Speaking of which, that's we get to the crux of the matter.  All the claims of superiority could just be arrogance without pretense if the WW storytelling line really WAS superior. You see, if something really is superior, its ok for it to be arrogant. I'm arrogant all the time, for ex.
 
The problem is when you have absolutely nothing to be arrogant about. And that's where WW is at. Just about the only thing they're "superior" at is looking down on the rest of the hobby.  Their concepts and philosophies of gaming are what nearly brought the industry to ruin, things like "metaplot" and "splatbooks" and the entire "story-based" concept of gaming were responsible for adding a few goths to the gaming fold (most of whom were only really interested in WW games, often even there only in Vampire), and causing a mass exodus of far more generalized gamers in the nineties; without even getting into the possible millions who could have become gamers, but never did because the entire industry in that decade was too busy licking White Wolf's phoney-absinthe-slathered story-based ass to bother drawing in the more stable kind of young gamers who didn't enjoy wearing black 24/7.
 
Their settings are nothing more than adolescent angst-sessions with all the intellectual sophistication of a 15 year old artsy-kid's second-rate poetry about why cheerleaders don't like him and how much he hates his dad. WW knows how to use a lot of latin words (well, actually they don't, witness the unbelievably blunderous translation of "lancea sanctum" as "sacred lance"), but the settings lack any real profundity. They have all the gravitas of an Avril Levigne song: good at making self-marginalized people feel better about how "misunderstood" they are (while allowing them to ignore the fact that nothing has marginalized them other than their own social retardation) and a nice fantasy of being a "superpowered reject" who could have the power to do what they want and get revenge on the "normal" world, but rarely touching on any truly sophisticated human issues.  Now, there are relatively few other RPGs that do, either, but see, the other RPGs don't usually claim they do (not even the ones that might have a better claim at it).
 
Even in the rare cases where WW games touch on human issues deeper than "people gave me a wedgie in high school so now i feel like a vampire", it's in the most sophomoric and infantile ways possible. The assertions made at several points throughout the WW line, for example, that western civilization or science are Just Plain Evil, that primitivism is a nobler and less corrupt state, or the implied assertion that a certain elite have the right to govern not by the merit of their works but by an inherent merit of superiority (Exaltedness as a kind of metaphor for art-nerds thinking they should be respected just because they know how to dress like bad imitations of "The Crow" and listen to obscure german bands, rather than for any actual accomplishments or contributions to society).   I mean, really: even Blue Rose, for all I've ragged on it, at least presents a setting ideology  that's got a little more sophistication than the typical WW "I think I'm a genius but the jocks beat me up and I work at a Dairy Queen where they make me take my piercings off" school of setting design.
 
And, finally, we get to the system. This is where it all comes down to the brass balls: everything else would be forgiveable, all of WW's claims to grandeur would be more than just delusions, if the system was designed in such a way that it was actually more suitable to "storytelling" than D&D or GURPS. Sadly, its not. In fact, by being a poorly designed system done half-assedly by people who clearly cared more about getting their goth-card punched than actually designing something workeable, it does a poorer job of being able to smoothly role-play without the rolls getting in the way.
 
That was the golden egg the great white wolf never quite managed to lay. There are certainly situations with systems like D&D, D20, GURPS, et al. where the rolls can get in the way of what would make for a cooler story; and it wouldn't be particularly hard to design a system where this is less likely to happen (Amber does it, so does Over the Edge), but White Wolf didn't do that. If they had put one-tenth of the energy they put into looking dark and angsty into actually having a system that didn't suck ass, they would be unimpeachable on the charge of pretentiousness. The most fundamental basis for the charge, more than just taking a quick glance at the fandom in almost any context, more than their interminable statements of superiority, more than the badly-written latin, more than the face-rippingly childish emotionality of the settings, is in the fact that their system is just another rpg system, with nothing special about it to warrant any claim of being able to do the job of roleplaying better than any other system, and often doing it worse.

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Hastur T. Fannon

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2006, 06:17:12 PM »
I enjoyed playing Vampire when I was much younger, but I wouldn't play it again.  Same with Mage, but I occasionally pull the books out and think about another campaign.  Maybe with the new system.  I've always loved the way the possibilities of the game were so endless

As for the system, it's one our group keeps coming back to.  I really like the new version - there's still buckets of dice, but at least you only roll them once now
 

GRIM

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2006, 07:04:25 PM »
I have a massive amount of pent up bile about White Wolf which I shall spew forth here when I have more time.  I've had to directly deal with the asshats more often than I would have wished and their contempt for their fanbase if pretty strong.

Not being even allowed to discuss White Wolf (positively or negatively) on RPGnet really grips my shit.
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cnath.rm

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2006, 08:55:46 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
WW knows how to use a lot of latin words (well, actually they don't, witness the unbelievably blunderous translation of "lancea sanctum" as "sacred lance")
What would be the correct translation offhand?  and is an online bablefish style translater of latin even possible offhand?

Quote from: GRIM
I have a massive amount of pent up bile about White Wolf which I shall spew forth here when I have more time.  I've had to directly deal with the asshats more often than I would have wished and their contempt for their fanbase if pretty strong.

Not being even allowed to discuss White Wolf (positively or negatively) on RPGnet really grips my shit.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts/experiences if you ever write them up. About the only stuff they put out that I deal with at this point is the Necromancer Games stuff that they do the publishing/distro for.

Why can't you talk about WW on rpg.net? Topic ban or somesuch?
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arminius

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2006, 11:11:37 PM »
An online babelfish translator for Latin should be about as easy any other language, possibly easier because latin syntax is very logical, but babelfish is generally pretty bad.

Anyway, correct rendering of "sacred lance" would "lancea sancta". Arguably "lancea sanctum" is grammatical since the -um ending is an acceptible alternative to the standard -orum, but it would then have to be translated as "lance of the holy (ones)" or "lance of the saints".

GRIM

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2006, 03:18:49 AM »
Quote from: cnath.rm
Why can't you talk about WW on rpg.net? Topic ban or somesuch?


Topic ban.

Put it this way, I was in The Camarilla for almost ten years and I was not sparing with my contempt for the nWoD or their handling of their fanbase. I also ended up sparring with Achilli a few times and dealing with the mod hypocrisy around gaming 'celebrities'.
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Lawbag

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2006, 01:59:07 PM »
What also annoys me about WW is the way that the game dictates game play/style.

Every game that is released is written to be played, (or I should hope so, but considering what some Forgites pass as games these days, I would question that goal), but rarely does it appear that thought or space is ever given to the style of play or how you should play. Often left at the back as an afterword or brief introduction, most games can be played in any number of styles or genres. There are several books that show a GM how to better understand his players, as well as a few books for players as well. But the idea of looking at playing styles is vastly different from popular gaming theory. So what styles of gaming exist?

For all its faults, mainly the entire dice resolution mechanic and the static gameworld, the WOD games gave some thought and good ideas on adding narration, flashbacks and other cinematic/novel ideas to playing and running the game, but they left massive voids in what a player should actually do. By making the games more narrative the game is heaping much more work on the GM. By eliminating game crunch (the way in which specific rules are applied to a Fireball spell for example) means the "power" is under the control of the GM, leaving the player as the passenger in the GM's story. Because WOD is so crunch free, whatever the players attempt really is decided not by themselves but by the GM, so their involvement and contribution to the game becomes less and less.

A 5th level wizard casting a fireball spell ALWAYS does 3D6 damage, whereas a power in WOD is left open to total interpretation to the GM. So there is always the room for inconsistency. What worked last time doesn't work this time because I forgot what happened last time. It leaves too much in the air and at the feet of the GM. Or maybe it doesn't work the same way this time because I don't want it to. This kind of style is counter productive, and either the GM better be something fucking special or he'll never be allowed to run a game again.

It only takes a room full of Werewolves all pulling their special powers out to play for the GM to say fuck all this. With a crunchier game 90% of the work is done for the GM. Running a game is hard enough as it is, without having to interpret several ingame effects at the same time.

But do games vary in the amount of control a player has over the situation dictate their playing style, their role-playing style and the amount of effort a GM has to inject?

WOD games require too much interpretation on the effects of the character's powers, the system and background require the players to be spoonfeed constantly.

Other games put the ball squarely in the hands of the players and frees the GM to be the impartial moderator and to actually enjoy running their games rather than worrying if a Dominante discipline over powers Celerity in combat.

It is a delicate balance, but I feel the game should allow the players and GM to decide where THEY want the balance to lie. It should be a joint subconscious decision rather than being realised as the game begins.

Pretentious arty games have no place in a gamer's library let alone actually being read and played, and I doubt they make better players despite introducing new styles of playing.
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Levi Kornelsen

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2006, 02:38:45 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
And, finally, we get to the system. This is where it all comes down to the brass balls: everything else would be forgiveable, all of WW's claims to grandeur would be more than just delusions, if the system was designed in such a way that it was actually more suitable to "storytelling" than D&D or GURPS. Sadly, its not.


Bingo.

I could quibble minor points here with you all day, but this strikes me as plain fact.  The "storyteller system" is in no way especially good at making stories.

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2006, 03:38:28 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
...actually more suitable to "storytelling" than D&D or GURPS. Sadly, its not.

While I too agree with that statement, I also say that the system does indeed make it easier to worry about the story rather than the rules, however. I find the system easy to use with improvisation, and this is one element that helps with storytelling. That said, yes, the rules don't specifically encourage storytelling, but neither is it any poorer than d20 which needs a rule for characters to take a leak. So what if the GM has to make up a difficulty for a task? Why does it have to be consistent? It's better to be different every time - the players will learn to do things in-story/character rather than things they can win at.

I still enjoy the original Vampire, Mage, and Changeling games (when I say original, I mean the 2nd editions rather than the beta-version 1st editions). Too many editions came along and that totally killed it for me. I already spent enough money on the supplements and they want me to spend more on the same core books and now new and reorganized core books? What?

But... I really don't get all the hate for White Wolf over their games (I'm not talking about policies or anything else, just the pure hatred for the games themselves).
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Sojourner Judas

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2006, 11:03:58 AM »
Quote from: Lawbag
A 5th level wizard casting a fireball spell ALWAYS does 3D6 damage, whereas a power in WOD is left open to total interpretation to the GM. So there is always the room for inconsistency. What worked last time doesn't work this time because I forgot what happened last time. It leaves too much in the air and at the feet of the GM. Or maybe it doesn't work the same way this time because I don't want it to. This kind of style is counter productive, and either the GM better be something fucking special or he'll never be allowed to run a game again.
Not sure where you're getting this. Powers that cause a direct effect or damage upon another character or NPC are fairly cut-and-dry in what they can do. Especially regarding damage. Perhaps you've had a bad GM, but even in Mage which is one of the most dizzyingly weaselish games about powers a fireball is a fireball is a fireball the way the mechanics go down. You see if you hit, you allocate dice to damage, the other character sees if he's tough enough to take it.
 

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2006, 11:25:40 AM »
Yeah, I have no particular liking of WW.

Justin Achilli was a total jackass most of the time. He is the only person in the gaming industry that I have met or interacted with directly that I think is a complete jerk.

I think Justin's attitude is easily seen in WW and their games.

Not that he was the only one over there to have this sort of mind set, but the only one I interacted with.

Lawbag

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2006, 11:33:55 AM »
Quote from: Sojourner Judas
Not sure where you're getting this. Powers that cause a direct effect or damage upon another character or NPC are fairly cut-and-dry in what they can do. Especially regarding damage. Perhaps you've had a bad GM, but even in Mage which is one of the most dizzyingly weaselish games about powers a fireball is a fireball is a fireball the way the mechanics go down. You see if you hit, you allocate dice to damage, the other character sees if he's tough enough to take it.

Sorry, I was specifically aiming at the Vampire and Werewolf powers wherein the Storyteller has to interpret the results based on his story. There are basic mechanics, but often they are vague which leaves them open to interpretation, abuse and inconsistency.
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Sojourner Judas

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2006, 11:36:54 AM »
I think a lot of folks didn't like Justin Achilli primarily because he took Vampire a lot less seriously than the fanbase, and made no bones about refusing to treat people as special snowflakes.

All told, he presided over one of the most rules-sound and setting-sane periods in Vampire's revision history, and beat a lot of the stupid straight out of that game. It's a trend that followed pretty directly into nWoD's interpretation of the game, due in no small part to the fact that he was developer on the corebook before he left. All-in-all I think it's made for a leaner, meaner game without all the cruft that had accumulated.

That said, I seriously think a fair amount of people don't realize quite how much Achilli said with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
 

The Yann Waters

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2006, 11:40:01 AM »
Quote from: Sojourner Judas
Perhaps you've had a bad GM, but even in Mage which is one of the most dizzyingly weaselish games about powers a fireball is a fireball is a fireball the way the mechanics go down.
Absolutely true. For example, in Mage 2e a fireball hurled successfully as a Forces 3 effect by someone with Arete 3 would deal damage equal to either two health levels (if only a single success is rolled) or twice the total number of successes (if there's more than one).
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Sojourner Judas

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The Problem with White Wolf
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2006, 11:46:32 AM »
Quote from: GrimGent
Absolutely true. For example, in Mage 2e a fireball hurled successfully as a Forces 3 effect by someone with Arete 3 would deal damage equal to either two health levels (if only a single success is rolled) or twice the total number of successes (if there's more than one).
I think with Mage it almost had to be that way. Given the dizzying array of different methods a character can toss "a fireball," both in-character and ruleswise, it just makes sense that it all boils down to "roll to hit, apply successes to damage, soak if applicable."