Categorized | Features, Game Designers, Interviews

Discussing Faith Among the Dead with Onyx Path

Posted on December 27, 2019 by Flames

V5 CultsWhen you have already experienced death, why have faith?
If you accept that you and everyone like you is cursed by God, why cling to His word?
When you return from the other side as a blood-drinking monster, what purpose serves belief?

Cults of the Blood Gods is a new style of sourcebook for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition from Onyx Path Publishing that introduces the pernicious horror of twisted beliefs. Currently funding on, we managed to get a few questions to some of the design team during the holiday break.

Matthew Dawkins is an in-house developer at Onyx Path Publishing and has been writing for them for six years now, contributing to pretty much every World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness line as a writer or developer.

John Burke has been in the freelance writing game for a few years now, contributing to such games as Mummy: The Curse, They Came from Beneath the Sea!, Werewolf: The Forsaken, Vampire: The Masquerade, and more! He puts the romance in necromancer.

Rachel Wilkinson is a freelance writer and larpwright from Houston, Texas who starting writing for Onyx Path Publishing in 2018.

Jacob Burgess, along with being an accomplished Voice Actor and the Community Manager for Ysbyrd Games, has written for several tabletop lines and video games such as Pathfinder, Trinity Continuum, Exalted, Wraith: the Oblivion, Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms and, of course, Vampire the Masquerade.

Cults of the Blood Gods explores religion and faith among the dead. What were some of the inspirations for that part of the book?

    John Burke: I tried to rely firstly on my own experience of religion and also researched various cults and their modus operandi. I think the overarching discovery was that religion of all sorts seems to be a comfort to its adherents, something that allows them to make sense of the things they see around them that are out of their control. For beings that have seen the supernatural up close and whose lives have been changed irrevocably by forces thought to be myths, such tales become even more powerful. Why wouldn’t you believe in angels, or demons, or gods? Especially when you yourself are a creature of legend with abilities which are seemingly magical. Believing in other beings more powerful than yourself is just a next step, and the idea that your predicament is part of some master plan or that you are part of something bigger than your own horrific situation would likely appeal to people in the position of being embraced. For the forces which control Kindred society, and the Methuselae, this would represent a great opportunity. Especially as they are beings who have witnessed history first hand.

    Rachel Wilkinson: Ancestral worship is a human universality. From the earliest ancient civilizations to modern-day, we have honored our dead and looked to the wisdom of those who have come before us. So, to me, it felt entirely credible and natural for modern vampires to build ancestral cults around their most revered immortals. But it was also important to incorporate the influence the Enlightenment has had on our culture. This push to get away from the will of gods and instead embrace the worship of ideas. My inspiration was to make room for both approaches and give players enough material and tools to create their own religions. Because whether it’s a blood god or an ideological mandate, dogma is dogma, and zealots can be dangerous.

    Jacob Burgess: The Rise of the Methuselah Cults chapter was a challenge, but a welcome one. Essentially, the task was writing in-world artifacts and texts for the cults found in the book, to support and ground the Cults in an in-world way. It wasn’t just writing on one topic, it was switching into different styles, feeling, and tone. The research involved in order to hit those notes lead me down some rabbit holes of the techniques and recruitment tactics used by real world cults of different types and cultures. How faith and desire, the natural and noble inclination to find a sense of belonging and self can be perverted and twisted. The examples I encountered were an inspiration to make everything fit and feel grounded in a World of Darkness. However, some of what I found had to be seriously toned down for the book.

    Who are the Hecata? How are they different from previous “Death Clans” in past editions of Vampire?

      John Burke: The Hecata is different things to different people inside their ranks. I suppose the people in charge of it would say it is what the Clan of Death was always supposed to be. A reunification, a rebranding of the project. Where before there were many disparate bloodlines that branched off from the broken Cappadocian tree, the Hecata represents the sum of those parts, coming together for common protection and endeavour. The difference from previous editions was that the Clan of Death always felt like a beast that was trying to eat itself. Now the beast has eaten those parts it didn’t like and is a much sleeker, meaner animal. Their situation also makes them more willing to instigate themselves into the nightlife of a city than before. I feel the Hecata will impose themselves more on the political scene than even a Giovanni presence alone would. Especially since their various bloodlines now open the door to working basically anywhere in the world.

      Jacob Burgess: The Hecata are who they have always been. Death, Rot, Rebirth have always been a part of the cycle of death and it’s no different for the Clan of Death. It is a name unearthed from ages past, given new life. The Hecata honor the past while moving toward the future. They are a clan, a family, and a business conglomerate.

      To my mind, the Hecata are a whole made from many, each part still distinct, but with an identity of a whole. The clan honors each part, each branch of the tree, but understands it’s is something born from the mistakes, tragedies, horrors, curses, and successes of every part that came before, and something ready to meet the future as one of the 13 Great Clans. Because they have to. They have no choice.

      The kickstarter mentions walking corpses and ghosts as story hooks. What can you tell us about those?

        John Burke: You couldn’t have a book which introduced the Clan of Death without an introduction to the denizens of the Shadowlands and the idea of corpses raised to do the bidding of necromancers. In the new edition, the hope is to give more clear guidance on how those powers can impact on a game and why Hecata Kindred would be among the most feared and reviled, as well as respected, among any city. The story hooks give interesting ways of introducing necromantic vampires to your game more generally, but also provide good ideas for one playing a member of the Clan of Death to flex their muscles and utilise their unique ceremonies and discipline powers.

        The book includes a story set in Munich with ready-made characters, what is the hook and what can you tell us about those characters?

          Rachel Wilkinson: I wanted to pay homage to the original Giovanni Chronicles, so I opened the story with a family dinner the player characters attend. Only, instead of a night of embraces, the player characters witness the Hecata welcome a new minor family into the clan in an attempt to heal old wounds. But when the coterie learns there have been some occult killings threatening the fragile peace among the families of the Hecata as well as the understanding the clan has with Munich’s ruling Camarilla, they are tasked with tracking down the cause of this heinous bloodshed.

          A new generation of Hecata and their allies comprise the small coterie of ready-made characters. They’re characters for the 21st century, young and eager to prove themselves. And this story gives them the opportunity to take their first big step toward building a reputation.

          The Kickstarter funded in under and hour and some stretch goals have been announced. How did you come with the ideas for Trail of Bone and Ashes and what is that supplement?

            Matthew Dawkins: This project funded with remarkable speed, which I think stands as testament to the excellent fans, hungry for new Vampire books. When I pitched the Trail of Bone and Ash, my thinking was surrounding new playable chronicles in the same vein as Let the Streets Run Red (a Chicago by Night stretch goal currently having its art commissioned) and older books like the Succubus Club and Ashes to Ashes. I’m a big fan of stories that aren’t linear and ones that explore the range of themes present in Vampire, and this book will be exploring a whole slew of cultish offerings, expanding the content from Cults of the Blood Gods while standing along as its own adventure compendium.

            How does Cults of the Blood Gods connect to other Vampire books such as Chicago by Night?

              John Burke: It connects to every book, the information contained in Cults of the Blood Goods can be brought to bear in any chronicle. Specifically, in Chicago, there was a character present, Rabbi Michalis Basaras, who is a member of one of the featured cults in the book, so the seeds of their presence has already been planted in the wider plot. Not to mention that larger and more well known and storied cults, such as the Church of Caine or Bahari are already omnipresent in Kindred society as a whole. I believe that the Mithraic cult also features heavily in the recently released Fall of London chronicle and their lore is expanded in this book.

              What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

                John Burke: For me, it was dialing down my enthusiasm. As a long time player of Vampire: the Masquerade, and someone who holds Clan Giovanni in high regard as a player and Storyteller, I was very excited with the prospect of bringing them to unlife for 5th edition. The important thing to remember was that there was a whole team whose passion for the subject matter was just as strong and who had a load of brilliant perspectives and ideas that never occurred to me in my personal headcanon. Taking time to listen and not just running off with the million ideas I had for cool things featuring the Clan of Death was tough, but rewarding. I feel the book is far better for the variety and diversity of perspectives it includes. It gives the reader many different views of these cults and the Hecata and asks them which they prefer, and which they wish to include in their game.

                Rachel Wilkinson: Honestly, it was knowing that whatever I wrote fans would compare it against 25 years of Masquerade history. No pressure or anything!

                I wanted to strike a balance between honoring the past without repeating it. In the 21st century, Vampire: The Masquerade needs to reflect our modern sensibilities. So, my goal was to do what I could to get rid of old tropes and outdated standpoints so the material would resonate with new fans while also providing familiarity and nuance I hope veteran Vampire players will enjoy.

                Kickstarter backers can get manuscript previews right away, how are you incorporating their feedback during your process?

                  Matthew Dawkins: I take notes of all pertinent feedback that I feel might help us after the Kickstarter concludes. The World of Darkness 5th Edition Discord is an excellent community for submitting considered, intelligent feedback in that regard. Releasing the manuscript piece by piece has proven to be a very effective way to encourage fan engagement and responses.

                  Anything else you would like to add while the Kickstarter is running?

                    Matthew Dawkins: This book is the first of its kind for Vampire, exploring undead religions in playable, interesting ways. I think all Vampire players will find something new and exciting in Cults of the Blood Gods. I’m incredibly grateful to the fans for their enthusiastic feedback and discussion surrounding the book, and can honestly say it’s been a delight to develop this book from beginning to end.

                    John Burke: This project was a labour of love for every single person who worked on it. The excitement and enthusiasm for the Kickstarter has justified that passion many times over and we’re so grateful to everyone who has backed the project so far. Please continue to share it far and wide to anyone and everyone. The Blood Gods demand their conversion!

                    Rachel Wilkinson: The generosity of backers has been overwhelmingly wonderful. With the time, interest, and money they’ve pledged to this project, I’m truly humbled to have been part of the writing team. It really is the best feeling in the world to see so many people excited about this book. And, I’m not gonna lie. I’m tickled to my undead toes that I had the honor of adding Munich to the list of cities corrupted by vampires.

                    Jacob Burgess: A thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone reading this. This has been exceptionally gratifying. I have a deep, personal connection to Vampire and the Clan of Death, in any form, has always been my favorite aspect of the world of Vampire. To be a part of a book like this, to get to help shape, and craft, and care take Vampire: the Masquerade and the Hecata in specific, is an honor and a delight. Getting to work with my fellow writers, (with a special shout out to Steffie De-Vaan, John Burke, and Matthew Dawkins), has been one of the most gratifying and satisfying experiences of my life. For my small part, thank you for your trust. If you haven’t backed the book, and are a fan of Vampire, I hope you strongly consider buying into the Kickstarter. At the risk of sounding immodest on behalf of all of us, it’s well worth your time.

                    As of this writing there are 20 days left to go in the Kickstarter. More stretch goals are planned and backers get access to the manuscript right away. Find out more information at the Kickstarter page.

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                        One Response to “Discussing Faith Among the Dead with Onyx Path”

                        1. CT Phipps says:

                          Fangtastic interview guys. I’m even more excited about the book now.

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