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Interview with Sam Chupp

Posted on April 28, 2004 by Flames

How did you get into gaming?

I was 8, and I had some friends invite me over to their house and I played for the first time that day. Later on in the day, they got bored of the game and I said, “But I want to play more!” And they said, “Well, you could DM” and so I said, “What’s that?”

Well, I didn’t really know what to do, but I took my stab at it, and was hooked for life, running games.

To this day, I’m a terrible player-of-roleplaying-games. I can’t stop myself from internally kibbitzing, which makes me a distracted gamer, and I can’t ever relax and just play “in character.”

What has been your most challenging work in the RPG industry?

The design, development and writing work on Wraith: the Oblivion. It was hell. Jennifer Hartshorn and I spent days and days at her house writing it. The design process was something akin to the digestive tract of an insane non-Euclidean leviathan god from the bottom of the ocean: complicated, messy, disgusting, painful, and ultimately amounting to a pile of horrific crap. It’s amazing to me that Wraith stayed around as long as it did, given its genesis. But, I suppose if you look at the genesis of other games made around the same time, it’s pretty much on par with them.

What has been your most rewarding work in the RPG industry?

Non-writing wise, I’d say that starting the Internship program at White Wolf was the most rewarding work. That program brought in brilliant people and started many RPG careers: people like Brian Campbell, William Spencer Hale, Kathy Ryan, Jennifer Hartshorn, Aileen Miles, and many others since then. The idea of bringing people in to be Interns and then hiring them later was something I brought to the company. Until that time, we were just disregarding the mass of talent that was out there, just because those people also happened to be White Wolf fans.

Writing wise, I’m still proud of The Book of Nod, as it’s really stood the test of time. It’s the one I always get requests about.

Do you consider Horror a mood or a genre? Why?

It’s both. Certainly there are horrific elements to fantasy and science fiction, as everyone who’s ever read fairy tales or watched the movie Alien can attest. And yet there are many stories that are truly focused on horror as a genre. I think that most psychological horror, or terror is a mood: the mood of a movie like Brazil by Terry Gilliam, for example. Physical or supernatural horror is more in the realm of Genre Horror.

What makes for a good night of Horror gaming?

As a Storyteller, I always look for the “oh, SHIT!” moment. “Oh Shit” is what I live for. If I can’t get to the “Oh Shit” moment, then I’m more than willing to push buttons until I do. I once had a friend of mine tell me that my GM’ing style is, “Run your players up a tree and throw rocks at them.”

How do you accomplish the “Oh Shit” Moment? Well, really, the only way to do that is to know your players well and tailor the story to the things that get to them.

For example, my friend Brenda was roleplaying a Get of Fenris Ahroun female who was the de-facto Pack Leader. She had run afoul of one of the most powerful vampires in the city when she interupted one of that vampire’s plots. The vampire swore that she and her pack would all be wearing her collar by years’ end, and that started a many-session-long rivalry between the two. It was rather like David meets Goliath remade as a supernatural vampire-werewolf lesbian romantic tragedy. I got an “Oh Shit” moment because I knew Brenda loved the song “Lovesong for a Vampire,” and I began to play it in the background, describing a dream her character, Andraste, was having. The dream was of her grandmother (a figure who was basically her mother in the story) giving her a bath as a wolf and helping her learn how to change into a human. At the very end of the song, I finished the description of the bath and had her internal eye look up and see that it wasn’t her grandmother bathing her at all, it was the vampire bathing her, a symbol of her future possession by that vampire. I used several different buttons I knew about Brenda: the slow sensual description of the bath made her relaxed too, the song made her feel even more sensual and relaxed. The idea of her revisiting her cubhood was enough to send her deeper in, to have her “buy” that this was happening to her character. It all set her up for the “Oh Shit” moment when I revealed the true face of the one who was “bathing” her in
her dream.

What RPGs are you currently playing? if any?

I play Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 for the most part these days, although I have an In Nomine game that I run for teenagers and I run a horror game with a lover of mine who is long-distance from me. The game is called “Dawn Rises, Night Falls” and it’s a free-form, but vaguely set in the World of Darkness. I went into it with very little preconceived notions about “what game” I would be playing, so far there’s not been hardly any supernatural occurrences in the story, and I’m trying to keep it as “real” as possible. But the nightmares she’s been having are really screwed up, I gotta say. Any time little old ladies who are nice and sweet start cursing, you’ve got a horrific situation.

What keeps you busy when you’re not gaming?

Being a good step-dad to my step-daughter Katie, being a good partner to my love Cynthia, and working full-time as an administrative assistant (the only job I can really work that a.) pays the rent and b.) leaves me with enough time in the evening to write). Lately my two bio-kids, Genevieve (12) and Rowan (15) have moved out to California as part of a massive individuation project. I miss them, but I understand their need to hang with their mom.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a novel which is pure escapist fantasy fiction, I’m learning PHP / MySQL, getting interested in pottery, and looking forward to helping my chosen sister Alice with her new baby when it arrives.

For more information on Sam Chupp, visit his website at www.samchupp.com.

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