Dirty Secrets

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Like, say, in another edition.”

So, the preview/advance PDF for V20 Black Hand dropped. It’s my first book for Vampire: The Masquerade. (There’s more coming.) A preview means that it hasn’t been through a final editing pass, but has been released for general consumption and error-spotting.

This book is the successor to Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, a bizarre yet engaging book from classic Vampire that was filled with mad ideas but was absolutely awful from the point of view of developing a big setting.

(Incidentally, as someone who worked on other White Wolf games way back before all the Murders and Executions, it’s strange to be writing for Green Vampire now. Nothing on the way things are now, but I would have enjoyed getting an Achilli-era Very Smarmy Redline.)

For this one, my approach was to do all the stuff that you’re not supposed to do in Vampire games: crossover, big action and high, lurid conspiracy. What parts did I do?

  • Everything to do with mages (I prefer “sorcerers” to avoid certain baggage) in the Hand.
  • The Idran cult and the Nagaraja vampire bloodline (between this and Dark Eras I’ve now done two versions of the Nagaraja). The great thing about this is that I got to revisit ideas I’d been hacking around as far back as Tradition Book: Euthanatos 14 years ago.
  • The Cult of Lilith, or Bahari (though not the writings later on in the chapter).
  • Asakku: a supernatural malady folks may find familiar from previous treatments of the “True Hand.”

I ended up doing a significant chunk of the book. It wasn’t always going to be that way, but as someone who’s been in the game for a while I often pick up extra work when emergencies come up. I also collected and added a number of concepts that I’d been playing with from way freelancing for classic Atlanta-era White Wolf. I was given a fair degree of freedom, which usually works out for everyone involved.

The other notable thing about this book is that partway through development the new White Wolf’s intellectual property changed hands, which triggered some last minute cuts and editing. I don’t have much to say about this beyond noting that this is part of working in someone else’s sandbox. I do however have certain opinions about how RPGs should be harnessed as part of big cross-media, which I’ll take up in another post. And in yet another post, I’ll to tackle some popular notions about what freelance writers do.

No book is perfect. I felt pretty comfortable with the writing, but even though everyone goes on and on about how great working in a flow state is, the lack of impediments indulge you, bringing out your bad habits. I see a few stylistic gremlins I’d rather be rid of, and places where it could be tightened up. On the other hand, I’m pretty pleased with the systems I worked on. People are quite fond of the Archaic Sorcery rules in the book.




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