Categorized | Game Designers, Interviews

Matt-M-McElroy

Interview with Hunter: the Vigil Developer, Chuck Wendig

Posted on June 10, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy

Chuck Wendig has contributed to over sixty books for White Wolf Game Studios. His short fiction has infiltrated Whispers From the Shattered Forum, Not One of Us, and an upcoming Carnifex Press anthology.

In this interview Chuck tells us about how got his start at White Wolf Game Studios. He also tells us a bit about working on the previous World of Darkness, Requiem for Rome and, of course, Hunter: the Vigil.

How did you get your start at White Wolf?

Way back when, in the Summer of Nineteen Dickety-Two, Ken Cliffe and Bruce Baugh put out a “writer’s all-call” for Hunter. Write ’em a cool thousand words on the subject of Hunter, and bam, catch some freelance work. I did it (a little piece about external and internal loci of control), and I guess it did the trick, or they were drunk or something. Because, boom, freelance word count feel in my lap. First Wayward, then the Storytellers’ Handbook.

You also had the chance to work on other game lines a bit before the Time of Judgment and the launch of the new World of Darkness, what can you tell us about that?

Good times all around. I have particular love in my heart for both Hunter: The Reckoning and Demon: The Fallen, still. Though, I met Ethan Skemp when he graciously allowed me to work on the Revised Stargazer Tribebook all by my lonesome. The first White Wolf game I ever ran was Werewolf: The Apocalypse (and ran countless games of it afterward), so it was nice to get some work in on that line before it all went kablooey.

What are your favorite elements of the World of Darkness?

I assume we’re talking the current iteration? I was a wee bit younger when the “old” World of Darkness was around, but then, you know, as life would have it, I started to grow up. The current iteration of the World of Darkness feels like it grew up with me. The horror is a bit more mature, and not in a “This Mutant Vagina Has Teeth!” way, but in that it’s more subtle, more sinister, more occulted. I also like that I have seemingly limitless options. Getting together at the gaming table is way more fun this go-around because the story possibilities are basically endless.

What were some of your inspirations for “Dust to Dust” in World of Darkness: Ghost Stories?

That is a fine, fine question. Let’s see if I can actually remember that one (I write so much and so often that stuff will come up in books and I’ll wonder if I wrote it or if someone else did that part). Dust to Dust, if I recall, was in part because I’d spent a little time out West, and also had used that general set-up for a combination Hunter-Demon game I ran at the time (one hunter was extremist, and it bound to a demon known as Lamashtu, a demon that shows up in one of the Dark Ages books, I think…). A lot of the stuff I write comes from some game or another; I don’t really understand how people can write these games without playing them semi-regularly.

What can you tell us about working on Requiem for Rome?

For both that book and Fall of the Camarilla, I got the cake-walk work in that I was to supply the fiction for both books, and tie them together somewhat. Rome was a grand experiment with a great deal of committed people, and it turned out beautifully. One person who probably doesn’t get enough credit (we know that Will and Ray developed them, and developed them well) is Wood (Howard Wood Ingham, of the Welsh Inghams). The guy pretty much eats Roman History for breakfast, so it was the perfect time for him to regurgitate all he’s consumed onto the page for all of you to read.

As a Chronicle book, Fall of the Camarilla is a huge project. What were the challenges of putting that book together?

The challenges? Too many to name, really. Russell Bailey was involved, and he’s pretty much goofed up on PCP for 20 hours of the day, so he’s notoriously difficult to work with. Then you have Wood, who’s the smartest person you’ve ever met, except he’s just full of unrivaled hate. Every day or two, we’d all get emails from him, and he’d tell us how much he loathed us, how he despised our very mothers and our mothers’ mothers and our mothers’ mothers’ dogs, and it all got very troublesome. We eventually had to stage an intervention. Tasers were involved. But then we had cake, which is inferior to pie, but superior to most cookies. Other than that, no real challenges. Just pure, unmitigated fun.

We should probably stop tormenting folks now…

Oh, let’s not be hasty.

Hunter: the Vigil, how ’bout a teaser?

Okay, you run the risk of getting me killed. Seriously. I’ve got people watching my house. Dark sunglasses. Little earpieces. I heard one of them mutter something about something called “VALKYRIE?” No idea. I assume it’s some kind of NDA-thing.

Let’s see. What can I tell you that’ll only get me waterboarded, not executed?

I’ll just throw out some terms. You can do with these as you’d like.

“Children of the Seventh Generation.”

“The Secret Frequency.”

“Aves Minerva.”

“Field Projects Division.”

“Aegis Kai Doru.”

“Dentistry.”

What can you tell us about the creative team working on Hunter: the Vigil?

Well, we had Russell Bailey and Wood Ingham again, so, back to the PCP binges and hate-spew. Beyond those two, everybody else was on their best behavior. The writers really dug deep, embraced the spirit of the game and brought a lot of stuff to the table that wasn’t in the core bible and outline.

You get names like McFarland, Lee, Hartley, Stout, and people are going to be happy with what they see. Plus, newer writers came on board, too — Alex Greene, Marty Henley. All great. Eager. Fun to work with.

What sets Hunter: the Vigil apart from previous “hunter” products like Hunter: the Reckoning and Dark Ages: Inquisitor?

Both of those products were great, solid products. So was Hunters Hunted. Each committed its own flavor to the idea of “hunters” in the World of Darkness, and we borrowed a lot of those flavors. As a result, Vigil is certainly its own creature. The World of Darkness these days is very much about an open approach with lots of options, and Vigil doesn’t stray from that.

What was the most challenging element of developing Hunter: the Vigil?

Probably that I’d only developed one book prior to this (Tribes of the Moon — go buy!), and that suddenly I was responsible for getting an entire gameline up and running. It was sink or swim. It seems that I swam (swum? swimmed?), or, at least, floated about, buoyed by the genius of the writers.

How did the idea of making Endowments a new category of Merit, instead of a new Trait, come about in the design process of the game?

Inspiration for that came to us while dosing on Ibogaine with Pygmy archers in the Congo. An angel made of Pure Experience Points descended from a cloud of Morality and handed it to us on a gleaming pewter tray.

Or maybe I’m misremembering. Actually, I think it was in Justin Achilli’s original bible for the game. When Justin Achilli says something, you do it. Or he’ll throw a bottle at your head.

Can you tell us anything about Witchfinder, the first Hunter supplement?

Not much, or they’ll break my legs and use my kneecaps as candy dishes. I can tell you some cool people worked on it: Howard Wood Ingham (who worked on all the Hunter supplements, actually), Jess Hartley, Rick Chillot, Travis Stout, Stew Wilson. All corebook writers. Plus, Witchfinder is when we got John Newman on board, who continued to supply solid word count for other supplements. I can tell you that you do not need Awakening to use this book, and owning Awakening does not invalidate this book.

What games are you currently playing?

Table-top? Changeling, actually.

I’ve been running a non-stop Changeling game since playtesting on that book (the playtest that yielded the Fear-Maker’s Promise SAS, by the by), with periodic segues into Hunter. Two stories converging, I hope.

Outside of that, I’m playing some Grand Theft Auto IV like the rest of America.

What’s next for you?

With White Wolf, I’m booked until like, next year. Writing and developing. I do other writing, too. Have an option on a screenplay about to expire come August, so we’ll start to shop that around again, and hopefully make some more pitches for some other films, too. Work, work, more work. But good work. Advice to everybody: do what you love, because life can be unmercifully short.

– – –

In addition to his work at White Wolf Game Studios Chuck tells me He mentored with screenwriter Stephen Susco, and is currently working on more screenplays. He lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with two dogs and a recently captured wife. Find out more at his website www.terribleminds.com.

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