Paradox Interactive has announced they will be fully integrating tabletop RPG developers White Wolf, acquired back in 2015. This decision was made after White Wolf released a sourcebook for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition which used the suffering of the LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya as the backdrop for a major plot point.
CW: Violent homophobia and transphobia, both real and fictional.
A vampiric history
Vampire: The Masquerade is a long-running tabletop RPG featuring a wide variety of vampires divided into clans. The clans are based on vampires with similar features and traits. Among these are ones like the monstrous Nosferatu, the literally insane Malkavians, and the artsy and passionate Toreador. The last edition of the tabletop RPG was made back in 2011 as a 20th Anniversary edition. However, White Wolf has been working on a new 5th edition, which released in August. Unfortunately, it had to deal with accusations over perceived links to neo-Nazis and white supremacist ideology around its release. Not claims you ever want to see associated with your game.
A more concrete controversy erupted with the release of some sourcebooks. One of these focuses on the Camarilla. They’re the status quo power holders who emphasize secrecy (the titular Masquerade) and indirectly controlling the human world. The book makes reference to the ongoing human rights crisis in Chechnya as fodder for their in-world narrative. Reports and graphic testimonies claim Chechnya has arrested and tortured hundreds of gay/bisexual men, with an unknown number dying in what have been described as concentration camps. Chechen officials denied these reports, claiming “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic”. Master class, there.
When horror gets too dark
In the Camarilla sourcebook, one of the chapters devoted to modern day Russia. A visit to Chechnya describes the Russian republic as being secretly run by vampires. This Chechnya is led by Sultan Ramzan, who shares his name with real-life Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The passage that’s got people up in arms reads:
The recurring international controversy over the persecution of homosexuals is a clever media manipulation designed to keep the focus on Sharia law, away from the true inner workings of the republic. While homosexuals are indeed held in detention facilities for days, and humiliated, starved, tortured, and eventually fed upon and killed, this is not the point. The point is to distract from the truth of what Chechnya has become. That said, even among the Kindred any kind of “homosexual behavior” is punished harshly.
Unsurprisingly, this upset people, including Chechen officials. Alvi Karimov, Spokesperson for the Head of the Chechen Republic, said “This is a continuation of the campaign to slander Russia and Chechnya … I am sure that the same organization that claimed about the persecution of sexual minorities stands behind it.”
Paradox Interactive released a statement on the White Wolf website. The writer is Shams Jorjani, Paradox’s VP of business development and current interim manager at White Wolf. He said:
The World of Darkness has always been about horror, and horror is about exploring the darkest parts of our society, our culture, and ourselves. Horror should not be afraid to explore difficult or sensitive topics, but it should never do so without understanding who those topics are about and what it means to them. Real evil does exist in the world, and we can’t ever excuse its real perpetrators or cheapen the suffering of its real victims.In the Chechnya chapter of the V5 Camarilla book, we lost sight of this. The result was a chapter that dealt with a real-world, ongoing tragedy in a crude and disrespectful way. We should have identified this either during the creative process or in editing. This did not happen, and for this we apologize.
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