Certified ginger holding down the fort in Cincinnati, Ohio. The banker day job pays the bills, but the nerdy night job keeps the blood pumping. Lover of cats, baseball, anything Blizzard spits out and yellow question marks.
During this year’s Gen Con, in it’s 51st year of rocking gamers’ worlds, I got to sit down with Jason Carl and Martin Ericsson to talk the release of Vampire: The Masquerade. The 5th edition of the book debuted at the convention and patrons gathered around the White Wolf booth, dying to get a piece of that sweet, new vampiric adventure. The guys spilled a bit about their new literary baby, what it takes to actually bring a book to life, and the stunning artwork showcased in V5:
Fresh Mana: We are here sitting at the awesome White Wolf booth, celebrating the release of the brand
new Vampire: The Masquerade book. With me is Jason Carl… tell me a bit about what you do, Jason.
Jason Carl: I am the producer for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition. Being a producer is a
complicated role that includes project and financial management, photography direction and
resourcing. It’s essentially a position that sits between creative and business, making sure both parts of
the project are always talking to each other as well as being respectful [of the other]. Sometimes a
creative goals and business goals need reconciliation and that’s a part of my job, too.
FM: To make sure that they all talk, and get in the same line.
JC: Yes, to make sure everyone is communicating and everyone understands what the goals are.
Everyone respects each other’s needs and we get to solve all the problems as a team.
FM: It sounds very fluid, I like it.
JC: It’s a lot like being a producer in film or TV or video games.
FM: Excellent. Vampire: The Masquerade overall has been out for a while now, but how long have you
been working specifically on the 5th edition?
JC: About 18 months. I came on board about 18 months ago as the producer, when we first started
talking about what a new version of the game would look like. The very first thing we talked about
wasn’t rules, it wasn’t story, or even the art. What we talked about the very first meeting I had, which
was with lead storyteller Martin Ericsson, was about how do we want the game to make you feel when
you play it. What should it feel like when you play a vampire in 2018, and how you hide in the night
when everyone has a cell phone with a camera, or the circuit TVs that are everywhere, or when the
government is an organized and capable institution. How does that change what it feels like to be a
vampire, and that’s where we started.
FM: That’s pretty cool, and that’s a really good point; usually when people think vampires, they think old
1700 to 1800s timeline. Back then vampires didn’t have things watching them 24/7. Even since the last
edition of VTM, which came out in 1998, things have really changed.
JC: Yes, the revised edition of the game. There is also the 20th edition that came out a few years ago as
FM: What sparked the idea 18 months ago that VTM needs a face-lift, an update?
JC: At the heart of it we wanted to make White Wolf a real trans-media company. What that means is
that there are so many great stories to tell in the World of Darkness and there are many ways to tell
them. The tabletop roleplaying game is one way; that’s a very fun way to tell all sorts of great vampire
stories. But there are also video games, and board games, and trading card games, and comic books,
and who knows what else! Stories can move across different kinds of media and products. We see it
with a lot of companies who are big story companies these days – you don’t have to play the RPG to
enjoy VTM. Maybe you’ll want to play a computer game or the trading card game. So we had to start
somewhere, and we decided that the tabletop game is the heart and soul of the empire; it’s where the
story really lives and begins, so we decided to do that first.
FM: In that case, I know there were Vampire video games made back in the day, is that something
coming down the road?
JC: Our very first video game that we just announced is about Werewolf the Apocalypse. It’s from
Focus Home Entertainment and Cyanide, a triple-A game on both console and PC. You’ll see that in
roughly a year or so from them, and you can go online to check that out. Are there other video games
in development? Sure, but we’re only going to talk about them when it’s time.
FM: I understand, you got to protect them while they’re still under development.
JC: I know, I wish I could tell you more but that’s all I can say right now!
FM: It’s something to look forward to, it’s like that nice little tease. Plus we have this brand new book in
front of us right here and now. Speaking of, it’s hard to tell during an interview, being unable to see it,
but I have to say that the book is just stunning.
JC: Thank you!
FM: The artwork that’s in it, was it done in-house?
JC: We did everything in-house; the illustrating and photography as well as all the writing and editing
and layout. We had a great team though! The art director, Mary Lee, worked with Martin’s vision and he
would say ‘I want it to look like this’, and Mary would make it happen. She’d come to me and say, ‘I
need a set, models, photographers because this is what I got to have… make it happen’. I’d produce the
photo shoots for her and she would direct them on the set to make them look exactly like what Martin
told us he needed. Then we have our illustrators, digital artists and graphic designers on our internal
We really wanted it to look sleek and modern, showing what vampires would look like tonight. In 1991,
when Vampires first arrived, it looked absolutely nothing like we had ever seen in RPGs. Tim Bradstreet’s
illustrations looked like real people – you didn’t see any fangs or opera capes. They looked like anyone
you could meet in the night, and that was the whole point, you wouldn’t know who they really were.
FM: I think it’s a very interesting direction to have real life photos alongside illustrations as well.
JC: We know that the fans of World of Darkness love all kinds of art, just like they all love different ways
to play the game, so we wanted to make sure we had a good mix of photography and illustrations.
FM: Alright, with the launch aside, I have a couple of fun questions for you…
JC: Fire away!
FM: First off, is this your first time at Gen Con?
JC: No, I’ve been coming to Gen Con every year for about… 26 years.
As Jason answered the question, lead storyteller Martin Ericsson sits down with us.
FM: We were just discussing the beauty of the book.
JC: We were talking about the process of you setting the tone and the art direction with Mary Lee, how
we made that a reality.
ME: Yeah, you [Jason] have been a part of a lot of the shoots as well.
JC: Yeah, talking about how those came together, but also talking about how the different styles of
illustration and digital art, and even sketches all kind of work together to make it a very modern-looking
FM: Martin… with storytelling… what is the story you want to tell?
ME: I want to tell a story with vampires in the here and now. You’ve got the most interesting corners of
our world, and how the vampires will adapt. In a lot of ways, it harkens back to the first editions, and so
everyone who loves vampires should find their niche in this game. We’re continuing that grand story,
seeing how vampires affect the world now.
FM: And how they’re adapting, evolving.
JC: The world has changed a lot since the last time we looked at vampires in this game. They have to
react to those changes, whether they like it or not.
FM: Alright, another fun question. I want you to pick a clan… what clan is your favorite? Actually no, I’m
going to change it up here. Pick a clan your least favorite clan that you would play and why you’d choose
them, to branch out from your comfort zone.
JC: Wow, okay! I’ll tell you, my least favorite clan… and there is something to love about all of them…
has always been the Tremere. I just didn’t like their story, it didn’t speak to me, but now in 5th edition I
cannot wait to create my first Tremere character. Their story has evolved to the point where they are
now they are one of the most interesting clans to me. A lot of the story position they they occupied has
been turned on its head; they are no longer a smug, self-sufficient clan of wizards that have every
magical spell at their command, or a strong hierarchy. Now things are hard for them and they have to
change. They clan has been split into different factions, and they have lost some of their magic. It’s
almost like every blood wizard for himself. I have never played a Tremere in all my time playing Vampire
and I cannot wait to try it.
ME: That’s a good choice! I want to play the Banu Haqim, who were earlier known as Assamites. I have a
lot of friends from the Middle East, primarily from Palestine and Morocco and I always thought that the
Assamites were always a bit too stereotyped towards a not-so-nice portrayal of Middle East culture.
We have it outright now in the hands of 7 or 8 people who are from the Middle East, and they’re going through the
book to make sure it’s respectful and cool. I’m really looking forward to a portrayal of Muslim culture as
it is, not as it is portrayed in media.
FM: Very cool, that’ll be a fun addition in the near future. Looking around here though, you’ve got the 5th
edition out on the tables, with plenty of people eyeballing them for their collections. I hope you don’t
run out, it is only Thursday!
JC: I’m starting to worry that maybe I didn’t bring enough [laughs]. The only way to get more would be
to drive to Fort Wayne and pick up a load there.
FM: It’s only a two hour drive, it’s fine!
JC: That could happen, actually.
ME: Oh, the timing to get these made for Gen Con though, it was insane.
JC: It was a race to get them done. There was a good chance right up until the last moment that we
wouldn’t make it.
ME: It was last week when one pick-up failed and we were like, “Holy shit, we’re not going to make it!”
It’s funny, you don’t think about the time the books need to sit.
JC: They have to compress. A book right off the printing press is a little damp, a little wavy, so they have
to sit or they don’t look good.
FM: I had no idea.
ME: Yeah, me either [laughs]. We learned it real quick like, “Whoa, that’s two weeks extra then.” But
sometimes you do see people launch and you do see the wavy books.
JC: You don’t think about the little things like that when you do a project schedule.
ME: But that’s all about this guy [points to Jason], who tells us all these things because he’s done a
bunch of books before.
JC: This book, by far, was both the best and hardest to do.
FM: Okay… I have to ask why.
JC: Well the best simply because it speaks to me emotionally the most out of all the books I’ve ever
done. Vampire changed my life as a role player and I think in some ways it changed my life, period. But
definitely… it was the most challenging, because no-one has ever done this before.
FM: That’s what I find intriguing about it. You’ve got your Pathfinder and your D&D where it’s
fantastical with orcs and elves and all that. Then you’ve got vampire. This is kind of that seedy
underbelly that you want to dig into.
JC: Definitely, it’s like Casablanca with blood on it. A neo-noir approach.
ME: You’ve made a really good point though; with D&D and all the adventure stories, they are just that…
adventure stories. Even Call of Cthulhu; you go on an adventure and you grow as a person while you’re
out doing things. But this about networks of people. It’s a blood opera. It’s a dark soap opera. This is
about people and relationships.
FM: Yes, not just killing the thing, looting the item. It’s the intricacies of people.
JC: [flips to a page in the book] Let me show you something here. This is what Vampire is really about,
this is the character creation relationship chart. It shows several characters and how they feel about
each other, how they feel about the humans who make their lives interesting and keep them connected
to their humanity. It has some of the narrative plot beats of what is going on.
FM: Like who hates who.
ME: I think that’s why Vampire was so important; it spoke a new audience who wanted to role play.
FM: It has that familiar role play feel, but it gave you a different avenue to go down.
JC: Yes, it was still a role playing game, but a role playing game unlike anyone had ever seen. We hope
that’ll be true with 5th edition!
FM: The way gaming is evolving, it’s really cool to see what is out there. I’ve only been playing tabletop
games for about three years now, so I’m still new to it. I see all this cool stuff and I wonder what else can
I get my hands into. There’s new audiences coming in, and bringing their friends into it as well.
ME: Right, and with D&D leading the charge into a new era of role playing, it’s amazing. It’s always been
them, and then there is us. It’s a good time to launch. It’s like hey, if you like that [D&D] but you like
vampires, you’re going to love what we have. If you love fashion, lifestyle, music, art, we’ve got what
JC: Another cool thing is that because of the day and age, this is really easy to play online as well. There
should be good support on places like Roll20.
ME: And if I may, I think this is great for smaller groups. It does depend on the style of play you’re doing,
but if you like the personal horror then a small group is the best way to go.
FM: Are you eventually going to have things like minis for people to cherish between sessions?
JC: We have a lot of different products in development and we can’t talk about them all yet. Miniatures
would not be out of the question if that was something we think the fans would want to have. It’s more
about finding the right partners to work with.
FM: That sounds great! I wanted to thank you, I appreciate you two taking the time out of your crazy
Gen Con to talk with me.
JC & ME: Of course, thank you!
If you’re dying for a piece of the action, head on over to the Modiphius website and get your copy today! Be sure to also pop into the World of Darkness website for more V5 news, a very cool tool to find the nearest Troupe neat you, as well as character sheets to bring your ultimate V5 story to life. You can also catch the action on Geek and Sundry’s Twitch channel every Friday night at 8pm PDT, with the eternally cool Jason Carl hosting; be sure to follow along on twitter with hashtag #LAByNight.