Interview with Kenneth Hite (Table Top Game Designer)

Kenneth Hite Photo

About once per year, at least, I will replay and become engrossed in either The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (VTMB) so once I had a platform I was able to talk about both of those games. You can in fact check out my review of VTMB by clicking here. Since I had such affection for the game I decided that I would go deeper, I was aware that it had started off as a tabletop game back in 1991, and it had grown massively since then, expanding into a whole ‘World of Darkness’, but anyway to find out more about it’s tabletop origins I reached out to veteran tabletop game designer Kenneth Hite, who was the lead game designer on the 5th edition of the Vampire: the Masquerade which is scheduled for release in 2018, you can check that out below. I also did another companion piece to my VTMB review, where I interviewed Werner Spahl (also known as Wesp5) who has been instrumental in the post release support of VTMB due to the dissolution of Troika Games, the developer of the game. You can check that out here. Okay that’s me done with the introduction, here’s the interview.

So what made you decide to get involved with this new edition of the game?
The initial decision was White Wolf’s, based (I think) on my previous game Night’s Black Agents, a vampire spy thriller RPG in which you play burned spies hunting down a vampire conspiracy. Since I’d done the “other side” of Vampire, they thought I might be right for the new edition — and since they asked nicely, I agreed with them!

If you’re allowed to tell me, are their any changes for this new version?
There are a number of changes for the new edition, which basically amount to creating a game for 21st century roleplayers, using the best elements of all four previous versions. The biggest change we’ve revealed is the new Hunger mechanic, which turns the old Blood mechanic on its head to provide roleplaying juice and urgency, centering the vampiric state in play.

What do you think has people coming back to tabletop games with developments in video games?
Video games aren’t going anywhere, but tabletop still has more freedom — nobody has to spend a year coding something you decide you want to do. Also, the experience of playing face to face is different from, and I think superior to, playing with only a screen to look at. That said, there are some great tabletop online platforms such as Roll20 that help you get as close to a pure tabletop experience as possible.

Speaking of video games, what’s your opinion of the video games based on the Vampire: The Masquerade universe?
I haven’t played any of them, so I don’t really have an intelligent opinion on them.

I’ve played tabletop games but I don’t know much about the development so could you share a little about the process of developing one?
Developing a tabletop RPG can go any number of ways, but by and large you begin with a core mechanic and a core play experience and try to make those two things work together as smoothly or evocatively as possible. Playtest that as much as you can while working on subsystems that feed into that core mechanic, playtest those, and so on. Eventually, you have a tabletop game that does what you need it to and you can then turn to making it elegant, more fun to play, and/or clearer to the players. And usually, to writing enough setting material for players to have lots of storytelling choices at the table.

If you’ve played Vampire: The Masquerade before do you have a favourite clan and/or sect you enjoy playing with?
I was always partial to Tremere, although so much of that was Keith Herber’s amazing work on the first edition clanbook. I think from a story perspective the Nosferatu are perhaps the most interesting, because they play against so many of the game’s default assumptions.

What is your favourite aspect of the Vampire: The Masquerade game? And what is your least favourite?
They’re kind of the same aspect — I love the richness and the involvement of the World of Darkness story, and how many great horrors you can summon up with it. But it can feel like a barrier to new players coming in — “we have to read how much stuff before we can play?” — and that’s never a good idea.

Have there been any issues in the development process and how did you manage to get past them?
Everyone has agreed that I am correct in all things, so the process works perfectly.

What’s your favourite Tabletop game?
Call of Cthulhu, designed by the legendary Sandy Petersen in 1981. Still the greatest tabletop RPG of all time.

Finally do you have anything you’d like to say to the tabletop gaming community?
“You know me, I know you, let’s play some vampires.”


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