So, you may have heard White Wolf Entertainment has been folded into Paradox Interactive. My childhood of Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Mage: The Ascension had been a big influence on my formative years. The reasons for the end of this venerable institution related to the controversial Chechnya chapter in The Camarilla sourcebook. I also played a small role in the end of my favorite gaming company, though it was more Greek chorus than active participant. How DID White Wolf end up destroying itself?
If you want to know my perspective on the whole business, I wrote a relatively scathing review of THE CAMARILLA after an extremely positive series of ones for the main book, BECKETT'S JYHAD DIARY, and THE ANARCH (sourcebook). It was very critical of Chechnya's chapter and the presentation of gay persecution there. The actions of the government were presented as the work of literal vampires with its leader being a sun-walking "Thin Blood."
I didn't just want to criticize the chapter, though, because I saw the Chechnya chapter had a chance to do something far worse than be a bad RPG supplement. The criticism of White Wolf had been that 5E had been catering to the Far Right and/or showing extreme tone deafness in handling of sensitive issues. Given it was founded in the counterculture of Atlanta, Georgia and played such a huge role in my becoming woke to LGBTQ Rights (I work hard for inclusion in my Straight Outta Fangton and Bright Falls Mysteries novels), I was disturbed by this and made a petition for the chapters removal.
|The book that started it all.|
I was uncomfortable with the hatred on display when the story about the chapter broke. Writers were immediately harassed for their role in the book. Simultaneously, I was accused of censorship and being a totalitarian for my petition to have the chapter removed. White Wolf Entertainment delivered an a public apology and I took down my petition as a result, it having barely gotten off the ground.
Still, I was curious so I decided to simply ask what the original author thought of it and what his intentions were. I got in touch with him via social media. I am not mentioning his name because, well, while it's not hard to figure out who wrote the chapter if you do some basic fact-checking--he asked me not to. It turned out that the chapter on the page was not the chapter he created. Unfortunately, it was still a poor taste work aimed at exposing the evils of the Chechen government by making its ruler as well into literal monsters. However, it was originally written from the perspective of a Low Humanity Banu Haqim (Assamite) vampire supremacist i.e. a monster. The in-universe fiction would have him be in a conversation with a high humanity Brujah homosexual.
|The crappy text as is.|
I took down my petition after White Wolf's initial apology for the content and decided to spread this information while keeping the author's identity secret. It's, honestly, not that hard to figure out who the author of the piece is (some basic fact checking will reveal it). However, he was actually scared for both his friend and himself. The issue became national news in the Russian Federation. If their plan was to prevent the story about Chechen persecution of homosexuals from getting attention, it backfired horribly.
I was contacted by multiple media outlets and my review was quoted in several national newspapers. I maintain my positions it's inappropriate to handle an real-life tragedy with magical creatures but that Vampire: The Masquerade has a history of social satire. Respect for the victims of the Chechen government should be paramount. I've even been quoted in a few places (see the bottom of the article).
The real life government, itself, reacted poorly. I was even told they threatened the distributors of White Wolf products in the Russian Federation with jail time. In public, they had a less severe "we're going to sue your ass." I actually offered to pay for the author's friend to get out of the country. I don't think there's any danger anymore, though but did my best to keep in touch. I've also reassured the author that, having verified his story by going over the text that it was horribly mangled and seeing the original, that he was trying to do a good thing that went horribly wrong. I don't think the original text was appropriate but I don't fault his motives.
|The standard for respectful treatment of RL horror.|
The real irony of all this was the Chechen government's overreaction made sure the author's intentions were redeemed. The government brought international attention to what would normally have passed under the radar and probably be considered to be a poor taste satire. Instead, they showed the world just what they were worried about. If nothing else, millions of people more know about the situation in their country for queer citizens.
One good thing to come of this was the Rainbow Railroad and other LGBTQ charities have received donations from gamers who have been informed of the crisis in Chechnya as a result of the book. So yeah, it's been a crazy experience. Here's a link for those who want to contribute something good to the cause this Christmas.