White Wolf Publishing, the company behind Vampire: The Masquerade, a classic tabletop role-playing game, is caught up in an explosive controversy. A story widely circulated online accused White Wolf of marketing its products to consumers who align with neo-Nazi and white-supremacist ideology. White Wolf responded to strenuously deny those claims.
The episode falls on the eve of the release of Vampire’s 5th edition, referred to as V5, at this year’s Gen Con in August. In a live question and answer session today on Twitch, White Wolf’s Jason Karl, producer on V5, confronted the issue directly.
“White Wolf is a very diverse team,” Karl said in response to a question in Twitch chat, “and we feel that we are a global company and that we have a global community and that everybody is welcome in that community.
“Unless you are a Nazi,” Karl continued, “or a neo-Nazi, or a member of any other hate group that uses these disgusting philosophies to advance your hateful agendas. If you are a member of one of those groups or support those agendas we don’t want you in our community. You aren’t welcome, and if we find you spreading your hate in our community you will be shown the door. We don’t want your money. You can keep it.”
The article that sparked the controversy was published earlier this week by an individual under the pseudonym “The Dice Dog.” In it, they made several serious allegations against White Wolf, but the overall thesis was that the upcoming V5 was purposefully marketed to “the alt-right and neo-nazis.” The author’s allegations included part of White Wolf’s own pre-release version of the game that features a neo-Nazi as an example of a potential character archetype.
Vampire is a pen and paper RPG first published in 1991 known for encouraging its players to reflect on the nature of evil. In it, players take on the role of vampires and fold their characters into one of several secretive clans, each with their own particular shared set of personality traits. The V5 version of the game is set in modern times and clearly seeks to hold up a mirror to the evil present in our modern world today, as evidenced in the description of one clan, the Brujah.
From the V5 preview document, which is available at the White Wolf website:
Clan Brujah have always Embraced from the ranks of those sympathetic to counterculture and revolution. They seek out allies who question normative ideas, and recognizing the fire of the oppressed, they gravitate toward the underdog.
Common perception place punks, gang-members, maladjusted immigrants rejected by the society that should protect them, and placard-carrying and Molotov wielding rioters among the Brujah. While the clan definitely includes substantial numbers of vocal and visible outsiders, their desire for rebellion reaches as deep as the fraudster ripping off his own company, the lawyer representing the poor pro bono, the neo-Nazi claiming to be “alt-right,” and the basement-dweller downloading thousands of movies illegally for redistribution on streaming sites. Fledglings Embraced to fight and protest are commonly known as rabble.
The Brujah can be passionate fighters but also critical thinkers; the clan activists are often very different from the clan theorists. On many occasions, the latter are Embraced from former gender studies or sociology students, those who have survived near-death experiences, and people who have in other ways suffered and endured great personal loss. The philosophical Brujah, known as Hellenes, believe the best method of dismantling the establishment is to understand the social and cultural systems that allow it to exist in the first place.
“The game’s in-universe antagonists share many traits that nazis and fascists associate with their real-world enemies,” The Dice Dog argued, “meaning that readers who share that ideology will be able to easily see it as representing themselves.”
Vampire is just one of several products in White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting, which also includes games about werewolves and wraiths. All of these games were designed to run on the same sort of engine, called The Storytelling System. Fans may also remember the classic computer games set in that same universe, namely Vampire: The Masquerade — Redemption and Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines.
In 2006, White Wolf Publishing merged with CCP Games, makers of Eve Online, and began work on a massively multiplayer online game called World of Darkness. The project was ultimately cancelled in 2014. The next year, CCP sold White Wolf to Paradox Interactive, the developer behind series such as Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron and the game Stellaris. Paradox also publishes games by other developers, including Cities: Skylines and BattleTech. According to representatives at Paradox, White Wolf is a subsidiary of that company and the team operates more or less independently.
Vampire: The Masquerade’s 5th edition is expected to go on sale in the vendor hall at Gen Con in Indianapolis, which begins on Aug. 2 and continues through Aug. 5. A wider release will follow. The reference to neo-Nazis is expected to remain in this first printing.