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Eddy Webb, White Wolf Freelancer Interview
Posted By Flames On September 22, 2007 @ 11:25 pm In Game Designers,Interviews | 1 Comment
I’ve been a member of the Camarilla for over a decade now, although it never seems like it’s been that long. I’ve held a variety of positions, mostly as a Storyteller, and last year I was named International Member of the Year, which was a surprising honor. I’ve been running various Awakening LARPs for the past year with the Camarilla, but most of my time nowadays is focused on my freelance career.
It was a total surprise to me. Someone nominated me behind my back, and the decision was made at our international convention (ICC) in October 2006. I was actually one of two members named that year, but it totally came out of the blue. I was stunned and pleased that the members of the Camarilla thought me worthy of such an honor.
There’s a variety of things — logistics, setting the mood, quick and concise rules arbitration, and so on. However, I think the most important thing is to establish a sense of joint ownership between the players and the Storytellers. Due to the nature of live-action gaming, a lot more of the world-building and role-play development moves to the players, and if the players and Storytellers aren’t on the same page, it can lead to a lot of frustration on both sides.
When I first got the assignment, I sat down with Bill Bridges and talk about some of the core aspects of Mage: The Awakening, but otherwise I was getting a pretty free hand in how it developed. We exchanged some emails talking over some finer points of the world, and from there I started compiling a list of concerns — not only errata from the original material, but also aspects that needed to be changed or tweaked to assist in live-action roleplay.
The biggest concern for development that I had is best explained by stealing a term from online gaming: most World of Darkness chronicles default to player vs. environment (PvE), while most Mind’s Eye Theatre chronicles default to player vs. player (PvP). This changes the emphasis of the rules, and it was a challenge to go through such an intricate system like Mage and analyze every element of it. I also tried to make the book smaller than the original M:tA, so while I was revising and developing new rules, I also had to trim material where I could while keeping as much of the original flavor and nuance of the game as I could, as well as making sure that my own voice was present in the text. On top of all of that, I wanted to give players and Storytellers a chance to develop their chronicle the way they wanted to, whether it was through a variety of optional rules to the ability to use material from the original Mage line.
It was a complicated balancing act, and I’m my own worst critic. I’m always thinking “I should have kept that” or “Why did I leave that in there? I could have used that space to write up more on that section over there.” In the end, though, I put out the best book I could. While we were running a demo of the game and after the book got published, there have been a few people who weren’t at all interested in Mage now excited about starting or playing in their own chronicles. I’m always extremely flattered when I hear that. I really couldn’t ask for a better compliment.
I admit we didn’t do any specific playtesting regarding crossover, but I did put in a variety of references to combining it with MET: Requiem  play, and even a few references to Werewolf, even though there isn’t an MET version of that game. Luckily the original material was written with other World of Darkness games in mind, and I was lucky enough to have access to some material in the Tome of Mysteries that went into further detail about crossover rules, which I was able to reference and helped influence some of my decisions.
I think the time frame was probably the most challenging. In a Storytelling game, time is extremely fluid, and a story that takes you several weeks to play can last a day inside the game. In a LARP, several weeks are really several weeks, and a lot of the assumptions of the game rules have to change to accommodate that. Luckily the core Mind’s Eye Theatre rules already had some work done on so-called “narrative time” as opposed to literal time, so I was able to draw on that and convert a lot of the references to days and weeks to more flexible time units that could work for the troupe’s schedule.
One thing I knew I wanted to do right away was to keep the playtests from being as Camarilla-centric as possible. It’s easy to do that when you have so many eager LARP players and Storytellers on hand, but the Camarilla has a completely unique chronicle, and the needs it has aren’t the same as the needs of other LARP chronicles. I specifically went to a variety of online forums to try to get people who were running their own non-Camarilla games, and ran over a dozen different groups through two rounds of playtesting. I also wrote up a small document detailing what I considered to be good and useful playtesting that gave me information I needed — so often I’ve seen playtesters generate reports that aren’t very useful to the developers at all, and I wanted to make sure that with such a large playtest base I was getting as much information as I could.
In the end, it worked out well. The list of playtesters in MET: Awakening is very long, and the product simply wouldn’t be as good as it is without their hard work.
Initially the book was intended as an ebook or PDF release exclusively. To be honest, the Mind’s Eye Theatre line isn’t one of the best-selling lines White Wolf has, and I had some conversations with Kelley (the Marketing and Camarilla Club Director) about the future of the line back in the summer of 2006 regarding that. We came up with the idea of using alternative publishing avenues to continue the MET line, but right after the contract was signed I was an advocate of a supporting print-on-demand run. I had seen some of my indie RPG friends produce some incredible books with POD, and I thought that it was a viable and economical way to print a smaller game line like MET. Kelley and I pitched the idea during the course of Awakening’s development, and originally it was decided to do a limited print run to see how it went before committing to a regular POD run. So I was surprised when I heard right before GenCon that they negotiated with Lulu.com  and got a regular POD run of Awakening and skipped the limited edition run. I’m interested to see how well it does, and how that will shape future MET and POD releases.
I just finished an Storytelling Adventure System story for Requiem called “The First Tradition” (although the title might change — I’ve never been happy with it). It’s currently slated for release in September. Beyond that, there are a lot of projects and possibilities being discussed with White Wolf, but nothing’s firm yet. I’m expecting that things might get really busy for me, so at the moment I’m enjoying the post-GenCon lull.
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