Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (2)
The undead Prince of Canada’s capital city has disappeared, and his second-in-command, Eden Corliss, wants you to find out why. You’ve been loyal to Corliss since she Embraced you and made you a vampire, but this could be your chance to take her place. Vampire: The Masquerade — Parliament of Knives is a 600,000-word interactive horror novel by Jeffrey Dean, based on “Vampire: The Masquerade” and set in the World of Darkness shared story universe.
I sat down to chat with Jeffrey about the project and his familiarity with the property. Vampire: The Masquerade — Parliament of Knives releases next Thursday, October 28th. You can play the first three chapters or wishlist it on Steam now!
This is the third World of Darkness universe game Choice of Games has published, and what I love about it is how it differs so dramatically from both Night Road and Out for Blood. Can you talk a little about why this was the Vampire: The Masquerade story you wanted to tell?
I’m absolutely fascinated by vampire politics and the nature of these creatures hidden in the dark, controlling the world’s economies and politics while fighting each other as much through social slights as physical attacks. When we were discussing pitches, I immediately gravitated to ideas more focused on a high-born vampire who would be brought low by a series of events and be given the choice of how to shape the future of the city’s Camarilla.
My past work for Choice of Games, the “Werewolves” series, is generally pretty story-heavy with less focus on stats, and I wanted to continue that style here. Because of that, Vampire: The Masquerade — Parliament of Knives differs from the other two games not only in subject matter, but in game design as well. I cut the stats to the essential 9 attributes in an effort to lean into the medium’s strengths as a story-teller while still allowing for fully customizable characters. My goal was to keep readers’ eyes on the text and not worrying about checking their character sheet before every choice for a more organic experience.
What’s your personal history with “Vampire: The Masquerade?”
My very first experience with “Vampire: the Masquerade” was during my freshman year in university. It was a very intense LARP that threw me in the deep end of a politics-heavy Camarilla campaign full of intrigue, action, and back-stabbing. It was pretty intimidating, to be honest, but they hooked me up with a core book and within a few nights I was forming alliances and backstabbing Council members like I’d been doing it my entire unlife. After that I was hopelessly hooked. In the years since, I’ve played in campaigns where I was able, and when it wasn’t, I still kept up with the material the same way one might with a favorite book series.
What surprised you most about working on a licensed property in the sense of a world you were bringing your writing to, rather than inventing yourself?
I’m not sure I’d use the word surprised, but the biggest adjustment was the additional oversight and the amount of research I ended up doing. I tend to write very off the cuff; I’m what some authors would call a ‘pantser.’ I’ve often joked that my characters tell me what they want to do and I roll with it, so I had to rein them in a little bit with this one. Canon World of Darkness material for Ottawa (and Canada in general) is pretty sparse, but it still needed to be accounted for, so I designed my characters’ back history with that in mind.
Which of the NPCs in Vampire: The Masquerade — Parliament of Knives did you most enjoy writing?
I was surprised by this one, but the Nosferatu Primogen, Michel Bouchard, was a joy to write. He’s a vulgar, irascible monster who has no hang ups about killing whoever he needs to as long as it gets him what he wants. But if you ally with him, you’ll find in the latter half of the story that he’s a more complicated and vulnerable creature than he lets on. For whatever reason, he just sprung onto the page whenever I was writing him like he knew what he was doing before I typed it.
You’re an American living in Canada, and I know Ottawa gets a bad rep even amongst Canadians as being boring, but I actually think it’s a beautiful city. What of your knowledge of the place informed the writing in the game?
Ottawa is beautiful! I don’t think I’ve heard many people up here call it boring; usually that’s reserved for Oshawa, which I’ll admit sounds pretty similar. (Sorry, Oshawa readers!) I spent a week in Ottawa with my partner not long before writing my pitch and I fell in love with it, so when I was encouraged to pick a Canadian city for my setting, I decided pretty quickly. I used a combination of my experience walking through the city, my pictures, research, and street-view for my descriptions. I used several real-world buildings, streets, parks, and suburbs for my scenes, many of which should be recognizable in real life. I also used my home city of Kitchener in one of the endings as well, which was fun to add in.
What are you working on next?
Next up is to get my butt moving on Werewolves 3: Evolution’s End, before my readers start camping outside my house with pitchforks! But seriously, I’m looking forward to delving into the werewolf side of the supernatural spectrum again!