Categorized | Features, Game Designers, Interviews

V20 Companion Interview with Rich Thomas and Justin Achilli

Posted on February 24, 2012 by Flames

Recently White Wolf launched a Kickstarter project for the V20 Companion, which is a supplement to Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition. This is the first Kickstarter project for White Wolf and it looks like the V20 Companion is going to be a very cool book. We wanted to know a little more about it and posted an open call to fans to submit their questions.

We’ve compiled the submitted questions and added a few of our own. Rich Thomas and Justin Achilli have taken the time to answer them for us here.

Can be taken as an indication that White Wolf will (assuming this book is successful) be embracing the Kickstarter project model for other products and lines?

    RT: An indication? No. Is it possible that the reaction to this experiment will inform decisions for how we bring books to the fans? Absolutely.

    JA: I think it really depends, title by title. There’s actually a lot of work that goes into setting up and managing a Kickstarter project, and every week spent putting together the Kickstarter interface is a week spent not writing or illustrating a book.

    Is development going to be in many ways open and gathering feedback from fans as V20 was?

      RT: In the future or in general? We’ve really liked the way the Open Dev process works and certainly the Classic World of Darkness books will continue to use it, but I don’t think every single book will- at least for now.

      JA: That’s the plan! I actually want more engagement with the players than I’ve been able to devote my attention to over the past three months or so.

      RT: Well, you did move from France and start a new job and all that during that time period. But yeah, It’s a great way to create our products and our preference, but some books might have less interaction during their creation than others.

      How are Rich, Justin and the others going to celebrate when the kickstarter project goes WAY over goal, which is a point it should reach by the time the next article is published?

        RT: I’ll be really glad when it reaches goal, but don’t forget that means I’ll be scrambling to get the book to the printer then. But I will be really glad we could find a way to get a Deluxe edition out to the fans- that’s a great feeling. So I’m thinking I’ll find a local bar that makes a Sazerac and enjoy a fine cocktail.

        JA: I’ll probably flip a rollercoaster into the street and wrestle thirty cobras and then maybe have a cocktail or a High Life. Something pretty sedate.

        RT: Ladies and gentlemen: Justin Achilli!

        How has developing and writing supplements for RPGs changed in the last 20 years? Is it easier getting an RPG book published now as opposed to then?

          JA: I think the ability to publish an RPG has become much more accessible, but the actual making of games is just as difficult. On the plus side, communication between the designer and the players or playtesters is much easier to facilitate, so I think better games are coming out, and faster, and much more focused toward the exact end the designer wants to evoke.

          RT: I think Justin is pointing out that the creative process is still all about doing your best work- the people part of that doesn’t change, just the tools. And with those tools it’s really easy to get a book out for sale- but who are you reaching and how many folks is really a new frontier. That’s where venues like Kickstarter really enable projects to get noticed.

          I’m more curious about how long a book this is going to be. I’d hate to pledge $50 for a deluxe edition of a 50-page splatbook…

            RT: Somewhere near 80 pages. Hard to pin it down until we actually add in all the extra pages for credits alone! Having read it, there’s a lot of info and ideas there- Justin doesn’t write to fill space, so the text is tight. This is a Companion volume to V20, not V20 Part 2: Electric Boogaloo. It’s not 500 + pages but I think you’ll find there’s a lot in there to enjoy.

            What can you tell us about the “terrifying locations” covered in this book?

              JA: This was actually one of the triumphs of the Open Dev process. Originally, this was supposed to be a short chapter, but the player response was so overwhelmingly positive, and we had so much, “Ooh! Awesome! Now do [location x]!” that we budgeted more word count for the chapter. As to specific locations, I don’t want to spill the beans, but you can see a few of them on the V20 Companion blog site.

              RT: Oh come on, how about an exclusive for the Flames Rising gang?

              JA: Okay, let me see what I can wrestle from the text docs.

              Gamla Stan (Stockholm, Sweden)

              For too long, the Ventrue and Toreador Princes of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden ignored the Anarch threat, attributing the rising violence to refugee Kindred fleeing from the Baba Yaga in Russia and the incomprehensible Finns. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the eminent Kindred of the region hoped the troublesome Anarchs would just go away so that they could resume their nights of bloody luxury. Sweden, in particular had, in the words of a Sabbat provocateur, “an Anarch problem.”

              The Anarch presence in Stockholm doubled during the late 1990s and then doubled again within another 10 years. Stockholm — with a population only large enough to sustain perhaps 20 vampires in comparatively safe Masquerade — swelled its Kindred ranks to over a hundred.

              Eventually, the Scandinavian Anarchs realized what power they had in numbers and threw down the Prince’s Praxis. For over a year, the Anarch Movement held sway in Stockholm, deposing the Prince claiming the old town of Gamla Stan as its center of resistance against elder oppression.

              The Camarilla quietly nursed its wounds after the embarrassing loss. Ivory Tower Kindred stole into the secret tombs of the elder Ventrue beneath Riddarholm Church, waiting for the right moment to topple the nascent Anarch caucus. Promising forgiveness for past transgressions, the Camarilla also offered a “fresh start” in Stockholm for Kindred exiled from other domains, provided they upheld the Traditions and rooted out the Anarchs. A contingent of Brunhilde’s valkyries even approached the city, though they broke off negotiations with the besieged Anarchs, rather than plunge the city into Masquerade-threatening bloodshed. It worked, to an extent.

              Tonight, Praxis lies in a dangerous detente between Camarilla stalwarts and the relentless Anarchs. Compounding issues is the worry that the Anarchs have granted an amnesty to the Methuselah Louhi, an ancient terror from Finland whose knowledge of Thaumaturgy challenges Tremere supremacy in that Discipline. If the Scandinavian Anarchs truly have such a potent ally hidden among them, something dire is surely in the domain’s future.

              Who else is working on the book and what are they writing? What about artists?

                JA: I wrote the whole thing from the ground up. One of my great joys in working on V20 has been the chance to get back into some directed writing again, as opposed to the open-ended material that keeps me busy most of the time.

                RT: For art, we have Christopher Shy, Ken Meyer, Jr, Vince Locke, Michael Gaydos, and Mark Jackson doing the Caitiff two-page spread piece. We also have an evocative cover by illustration legend Steven Stahlberg of a Tzimisce feeding within the Cathedral of Flesh, but that won’t be on the Deluxe version as that will be bound in the same material as V20 (although the piece might be in there somewhere). I’ll also be hand selecting more of the finest classic illustrations from our many Masquerade books through the years as I did in V20 itself.

                What are the benefits of using Kickstarter for the limited edition?

                  JA: The gambling aspect of publishing goes away. We print exactly as many as we need to get them to the players who want them, and we don’t have to eat costs on print overrun, warehousing, or returns. We can also ship directly to the people who buy the book, so the books get into the players’ hands faster than they would using the traditional distribution model.

                  RT: Certainly faster than some of our efforts previously. For me, the social network aspect of the KS community can’t be overstated. People point at the money (and Justin covers that part) but you really need to look at what that represents. Folks are excited to be involved, to be in communication with the creators- this is wonderful.

                  What kind of time-frame will there be between the end of the Kickstarter and the delivery of the books?

                    RT: We’ll need to use KS to determine the number of books we need, place that order with our printer and then wait until they get the black leather material shipped to them before the books can print. A couple of weeks from then to get the books to our new shipper, and then the books can roll out. 2-3 months at a guess.

                    What can you tell us about the annotated PDF?

                      JA: As yet, we don’t have a plan for it, but I imagine it would take the form of a post-mortem, into which we can describe the process, append art sketches, talk about how the finished project changed from the initial outline, and I can put in creepy pictures of Rich doing that weird thing he does with his antlers.

                      RT: Always with the antlers. It’s not like I mention your urine-filled boots every time we talk. Actually, I always try to mention that.

                      …and on that note, to find out more about the V20 Companion and the project visit

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                        2 Responses to “V20 Companion Interview with Rich Thomas and Justin Achilli”

                        1. MrGone says:

                          Very cool interview! Thanks!

                        2. Trollkjeft says:

                          As a Gothenburger (Sweden), hearing it will cover Scandinavia brings forth… awe and terror! I’ll sign upp for it! Great news!

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