Seriously. Why? Those Onyx Path chaps are sitting on a goldmine. Right here, right now, I can’t walk into a branch of Waterstone’s without seeing fourteen shelves headed ‘Paranormal Romance’ and another twelve headed ‘Horror’. The Onyx Path, as inheritors of White Wolf’s former glory, produce ‘storytelling games of personal horror’ and, frankly, are a byword for tales of sexy vampires and the mortals who love them. Ghouls and dolls (that sounds like a musical – I should write that down!) are pretty important concepts within the game and with a bit of foregrounding, fleshing them out into viable and equal character types, there’d be an RPG which aligns perfectly with this literary trend. The World of Darkness has families – sorry, packs – of werewolves and covens of witches and whateverments of fairies too, all embedded in a universe and mechanic which allows them to ‘interact’ (if you know what I mean and I’m sure that you do), and – on paper, at least – a commitment to ‘storytelling’ rather than ‘go down the dungeon-like environment and bang some heads together).
I’m sure someone’s reading this and cringing at the thought of The Hobby being profaned by the presence of squeeing tweenage Tumblrinas in their Team Whoever T-shirts. Someone, I have some bad news for you.
One: I could say the same thing about having The Hobby being profaned by the presence of spoddy, acne-ridden perma-virgins in ghastly three wolf moon T-shirts, and I bet, Someone, that you would be the first to piss and moan about how that’s a stereotype and so unfair and how dare I demonise the geek community like that. And I would laugh, call you a hypocrite, and possibly stun you with a well-aimed Poppy Z. Brite novel before making my escape. Let’s assume for a second that there are people out there who a) like paranormal romance and b) aren’t a complete waste of oxygen. After all, I spend my entire geeking life giving the same benefit of the doubt to the sort of tosspots who’ll buy any old guff if it has a dragon or a six-breasted green-skinned space babe on the front…
(For the record, I haven’t read a word of Twilight or seen more than a trailer’s worth of footage. I know when something is Not For Me, and I’d rather read/watch trash that I think I might like rather than trash I know I probably won’t. The point is, we have more in common with the Twilight fanciers than we might perhaps like to admit.)
Two: Vampire surged into its original, brief run of popularity – the one that Onyx Path seem to think is their One True Source Of Value – off the back of an overwrought, overwritten series of novels about pretty undead boys. No, really. The very term ‘World of Darkness’ is pulled straight out of The Vampire Lestat, for goodness’ sake! You can trace the seven Camarilla clans directly to archetypes and characters featured in the first three of Rice’s books (the ones predating the publication of Vampire), and much of the Sabbat’s goings-on are purloined from the small-s sabbats who are Lestat’s antagonists and disappointing contemporaries right through the first two books, and if the imminent rise of the antediluvian founder who’s going to bring about a reign of blood and darkness for all eternity doesn’t make you think of Queen of the Damned, you’ve either not read it or you were scarred for life by the appalling straw feminism and that bloody awful film and have chosen to forget that it was ever a thing at all.
(For the record, again: I have read about two thirds of Anne Rice’s novels and am in no position to defend my younger self’s piss-poor taste in vampire fiction any more than I already have. I’ll even admit that I read The Vampire Lestat again the other day and didn’t hate it, which puts me on very dodgy ground as an arbiter of literary taste…)
And yet they dwell in print-on-demand land, hawking an anniversary edition of their most popular game to the nostalgia crowd (and no, I’m not just bitter because I can’t afford a copy of V20, although if anyone did have any spare dosh in their stocking filler fund, I know what I want for Festivus this year). They could be riding the wave of the next big tabletop gaming breakout, something on par with the availability and non-spoddy status of D&D during the glory years of TSR, and yet they’re not. Join me (and probably Hark) as we try to work out why.