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Vampire Retrospective: Pauline Benney

Posted on October 24, 2011 by Flames

The Vampire Retrospective Project continues with a little something from Pauline Benney, former designer at White Wolf and now at DriveThruRPG. Pauline tells us how she started playing Vampire and how she started working at White Wolf.

The Book of Nod will be the death of me…

    I first encountered Vampire: The Masquerade in 1993…But to tell this correctly, I should give a little background. I had gotten my certificate in Graphic Design and had completed school just as digital design started taking root. Most of the practical knowledge I had acquired at school was not in practice anymore by the time I graduated. In January 1992 I moved to Florida for no good reasons. After a couple of months, I got a job and made friends. One of them, Jinx, asked a group of us to play a new tabletop RPG with him. I had not role played since I was quite young…I didn’t want to spend hours rolling dice and reading charts just to make a character before we could even get started…I had flashbacks of my dad and brother trying to explain to me why my wizard could not carry a sword. After some pestering and promises that it wouldn’t be like that because “this system is sooo different,” I agreed.

    It wasn’t a disappointment! Jinx, was a great storyteller and made it fun, crazy and even a little silly. We all had a great time and completed the game quickly. It wasn’t the same RPG, at all. It was easy, interesting and we had fun. The next week at the comic book store, I found my self looking at clanbooks instead of indy comics. We played another game, this time it lasted about a week, and it was apparent that the storyteller could make all the difference. This time it was complicated, but still interesting. Again on comic book day I found myself looking at White Wolf books. This time the new book on the shelf was Book of Nod. It was intriguing, creepy and mostly impossible to read. With my limited design background I remember saying to a friend, “It’s obvious there was no press proof for this book. They should hire me to fix this stuff.” There was no way of knowing the weight of what was said and how it would haunt me for years to come.

    In 1995 I moved to Atlanta, GA and in late 1997 was introduced to an art director at White Wolf. We made a deal to update each other’s skill sets. He wanted to learn photography, and I needed an update in digital design. I helped him with a photo shoot (and met Courtney King, is one of my best friends still) and started work at White Wolf as an intern. Not what I had really expected, but it was an opportunity. I joked with friends about the comment made years ago. We thought it ironic.

    After my second week interning, one of the designers gave his notice. I was invited to take the place as low man on the totem pole. It was a pay cut, and I still did not have my skills in shape, but bit the bullet and started working as a designer for White Wolf in January 1998. Again, I remembered the comment and shared it with friends and laughed. At the time I thought that was the last time I’d be reminded of it, that its irony had run the course.

    I loved my time at White Wolf. I made friends that were so close they will always be considered family. I still call Richard Thomas dad and email Brian Glass just to annoy him as he is my little brother. Justin Achilli will always understand me (and judge me jokingly). I don’t think there are many people more huggable then Richard Dansky (who would “fix” my computer by placing the Necronomicon on it) or anyone as compassionate as Ed Hall…except maybe Fred Yelk Woodruff or William (lets leave his name out of this) respectively. Or anyone as protective as Rebecca Schaeffer or Arron Voss, who would disable you if they felt you threatening to anyone they cared for. I could go on for days listing those I love and think of daily (Mr. Brownsocks). It was wonderful, I was constantly challenged and grew as a designer.

    In 2003 I was asked to take on the redesign of Vampire, or was it 2002, it’s all a blur. I giggled as I remembered what I had said all those years ago. The redesign was the biggest challenge of my life…I wasn’t quite up for it as my personal life was in ruin at the time. But with the constant support, prodding and advice of my family and some serious help from Matt Milberger and Richard Thomas, it got done. I can’t take much credit for that book or that line—at the end of the day I was just the conduit for the entire company—but I learned so much about design and myself in the process.

    I left the company in 2006. I remained close with many of the artists I worked with and most all of my friends at White Wolf. I remember those days (and nights at 686, Velvet Room, Masquerade, etc.) fondly. It was an amazing trip and even can be credited in part for me living in Costa Rica with the man of my dreams, who I met at White Wolf, but didn’t fall head over heals for until after I left the company.

    Vampire: The Masquerade started the snowball rolling for me. One that I never expected or could have imagined. Book of Nod specifically changed my life many times. I still look back at the young arrogant me thinking I had a chance to redesign anything to do with Vampire. I’m so thankful for Vampire, White Wolf, my friends/family and my sweetheart. It’s amazing what one book can start.

    As a side note, it’s only fair for anyone reading this to know that I currently work for Steve Wieck (one of the founders of White Wolf) and my life continues to be influenced by Book of Nod. I’m Manager of Art and Digital Design at DriveThruRPG, and am currently problem solving a way to resurrect the old digital files for Book of Nod to correct and prep for print. It never ceases to amaze me how something said so long ago could carry so much weight.

    Pauline Benney – 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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