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Vampire Retrospective: Kelley Barnes

Posted on December 1, 2011 by Flames

The Vampire Retrospective Project continues today with an essay from Kelley Barnes, who has been onvolved with Vampire a number of different ways over the years ranging from Camarilla Club Director to White Wolf’s Marketing Director and contributing author on Paths of Storytelling: Vampire and so much more. Kelley tells us about her experiences with LARP, the Gehenna announcement and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire.

I’ll tell you a story…

    Anton knelt by the pit. It was easily four feet wide, and he was near – far too close – to the flames of a dying fire. My back was to him, as I stared out into the forest weeping and trembling at the same time.

    It took all my self-control to be even that close. I dreaded finding Mikalos, but we were resolved, not to let another night pass without taking action. He knew us so well. Knew what we would be forced to do given the depth of his crime and the traditions of our people. This then was the final gift of our teacher -to spare us from being his killers, to end his existence and free the souls he’d trapped by committing diablerie.

    I wiped the blood tears from my face, listening as Anton shoveled dirt over embers, until we were left alone in the black of a moonless night, our work done and our hearts broken.

    The memory of this scene has stayed with me for over a decade. It was 3 AM on a Saturday night, in a hotel ballroom in Pittsburgh, July 2001. There were five people in the room: a storyteller, two observers and two players. This was five years after I first was exposed to Vampire: The Masquerade. I had been a table-top player, but this particular scene unfolded in a LARP setting, at a convention called Neglect, hosted by White Wolf’s official fan club, The Camarilla.

    Portraying my Ravnos character, Lucia, for seven years in this ongoing World of Darkness global chronicle was like being a cast member one of those afternoon soaps I’d watch between classes in college with wild storylines like Days of Our Lives. Only this show was taking place at night and with much darker themes being explored along with the fact that if your character died here, it was permanent. You were written out but could always return in a new role/with a new character.

    White Wolf gave the fans an immersive setting and big beats in the form of Metaplot that was revealed in each new supplement. I bought these religiously and loved the Metaplot. In fact, when I started buying game lines and supplements from other companies – I was confused when they did not include portions of an ongoing storyline or revelations of big gameline secrets. Since Vampire was my first ‘more-than-one-session’ exposure to traditional gaming, I just assumed it was standard practice to link everything together, even loosely.

    Metaplot was a blessing to me as a novice storyteller. I learned from reading the Vampire clanbooks and “Year of” books how to think in big picture terms about story arcs and how to pace plotlines so that the mystery, danger and romance of Vampire would keep my players engaged and waiting eagerly for the next session.

    A few years pass, I remain a devotee of Vampire and happen to be present in a large ballroom at Gencon 2003, working as a volunteer, when this video starts and Mike Tinney is telling the crowd that The World of Darkness was coming to an end. The announcement takes everyone by surprise – and I mean everyone. I heard gasps from the audience. Threads start that day on and on the White Wolf forums.

    As subsequent books are published, I read about the Red Sign, the Withering, thin blooded Daywalkers and devour the Metaplot write-up for Ravnos: the Week of Nightmares – where the clan’s Antediluvian wakes from Torpor and starts to devour his childer and descendants – the start of the Final Nights. My character, Lucia gets to experience this and survives it only by killing two other members of her clan. Oh, the horror and the angst!

    When I held the final book – Gehenna, in my hands I was excited and sad. The writers did not disappoint. They provided four different scenarios suggesting now to bring an end to the Kindred, suggestions for customizing and tailoring the events to best fit your game. It took me six days to read and absorb it. They had figured out how to bring closure to a product line that started twelve years earlier and do so while respecting their fans. I couldn’t wait to play out the events of this book. But, at the same time I wondered what it would be like to play in a post Final Nights world as one of only a few Kindred who survive. (Never got around to exploring that concept in a game session. Shucks!) I didn’t want my favorite escape from reality to come to an end.

    Opening that book to the credits page as I sit here writing this, there are names of people I am lucky enough to call friends and co-workers: Justin Achilli – Developer, Rich Thomas – Art Direction, Mike Chaney – Layout. About 18 months after Gehenna was released, I joined the company as White Wolf’s Marketing Director. I was too late to be part of the team when the Classic World of Darkness was live, but it meant when the decision to celebrate the 20th anniversary with a new book was finalized, I was one of the first people to know and for days was giddy with excitement. Waiting for the official announcement to go out was torture.

    There is a lack of Metaplot in V20 but that can be forgiven, because White Wolf is releasing more books coming in the Classic Vampire setting and that’s good enough for me. I will be waiting like I did before – impatient to see what comes next. There are some things you never outgrow.

    The Vampire I came to love lives again and there is comfort in that, akin to sipping a glass of tawny port while sitting before a crackling fire. I found those notes I had put aside about a kindred after the Final Nights. Take a seat beside me, have a drink and I’ll tell you a story…

    Kelley Barnes – 2011

    If you are interested in submitting an essay for the Vampire Retrospective Project please review the Submission Guidelines and let us know if you have any questions.

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