It’s been months since my last entry in this series, since the last time I dedicated serious mental space to the topic of vampires and to the game that began to emerge from these ruminations. I am here to put the proverbial nail in the coffin, or more appropriate, the stake in the undead heart. Sunrise has come; this series is now over.
When I started what would eventually turn into the Rebuilding Vampire series, I was simply gushing enthusiastically about a game that still holds a special place in my heart, Vampire: The Masquerade. From there, I went on to deconstruct certain elements of the vampire myth that I felt VtM was underserving and found myself designing the beginning of a new game, one centered on the issues of the vampire’s story that I found most appealing, namely: the struggle with the beast within, the certainty of the fall into the abyss, and the struggle of how to best live during the inevitable fall. I can tell you that those are still items that are of essential interest to me and to my enjoyment of the vampire myth.
The problem, as it were, lies in what this developing game latched onto within me as I worked on it. In 2009 I lost my mother to cancer, and it affected me in ways which I refused to acknowledge, even as they drove me down into a deep dark pit and affected every other relationship in my life. Working on the vampire game, this game that I eventually came to call When The Fall, became a way to tap into that darkness within towards some productive goal. It worked, it focused the pain I felt and helped it move out of me, but at a great mental and spiritual cost at times. If use the word drained please don’t think it’s merely a clever pun.
Gen Con 2010 showed me that, while I had an idea, I did not have a game by any stretch of the imagination. The Fall semester at school demanded my full attention and that meant the game, and all associated with it, had to be shelved. Along the way these past few months, I made good improvements in my physical, mental and spiritual well-being; after some rough times, yes, but I emerged better at the other side of the raging river.
That means that when, during the winter school break, I went back to my notes, it was like reading a journal entry from years ago: I recognized the me who wrote it, but it’s a me that lives in the past during a situation that is not relevant any more. As I tried to compile my notes and feedback into something I could reference whenever work on the new draft of the game started, I realized that I could not do this anymore, not like this. The vampire game that I began to design was an exorcism ritual, but the demon it was meant to banish does not live here anymore. I recognize the runes, but there’s no magic left in them.
To work on that game I would have to tap into a reservoir of darkness I always have within me, but it isn’t something I wish to do at the moment. I feel well, and there always a danger of letting loose something that may not want to stay in its cage or go back in when its usefulness is done with. No, this game that was born out me examining the vampire myth, this game that was born out me trying to find a way to make sense of my mother’s death, this game that was born out me seeking a way to deal with the abyss that consumed me inside, this game is done for. My well-being is not worth a roleplaying game.
Thank you for having stuck around while I did this exercise. Though I have always tinkered with the games I play and own, this was my first true attempt at designing a new game from scratch, and it taught me valuable lessons which I will treasure and use for my next project.
And yes, there is a next project. Because as much as When The Fall is not the game I can write now, it still birthed the idea for the game that I do want to write at some point. No, it’s not about vampires (though it can be); it’s about stories of people whose worst enemy comes from within. That is still something I wish to explore at some point in the future.
Again, thanks for having helped me rebuild vampire out of these words and musings. It was a good journey to have taken.