Mind’s Eye Theatre – History

Mind’s Eye Theatre – History

Back in the early days of the roleplaying hobby, the mention of live action roleplaying – or LARP for short – probably summoned up connotations of running around in a field or woodland, dressed in homemade medieval(ish) gear, whilst swinging at other people with foam weapons and yelling out numbers or the names of spells.  

These games tended to fit the standard fantasy RPG mould, with groups of adventurers made up of most of the standard fantasy races and classes doing battle against various monsters. Or, in this case, other people in makeup made to look like orcs and goblins.  Funnily enough, most monsters in LARP were humanoid…. Over time, this branch of the hobby became more and more popular, with various organisations and societies springing up to run games, but although it became large, it was never really became part of the mainstream hobby.  

From personal experience, I knew one or two LARPers in my immediate circle.  I’ll be brutally honest and say that it never really appealed to me, mainly because every time one of my LARPer friends tried to explain how amazing it was, it always came across as faintly ridiculous.  Therefore, if you had told me that Live Action Role-play was going to become a major part of my gaming life throughout the nineties and early two thousands, I’d probably have laughed.

However, in 1993, a game was released the changed my perception – and the perception of millions of others – about LARPing for ever.

That game was “The Masquerade” – released by White Wolf as part of their “Mind’s Eye Theatre” line.  Packaged as a boxed set – similar to the popular murder mystery party games that were big back in the early 90s – “The Masquerade” took the setting from the best selling tabletop RPG “Vampire: The Masquerade” and said “What if we made this a LARP?”  

Not a single foam sword in sight

I won’t go into Vampire’s setting in any detail here – we’ve got a whole separate episode on that if you’re interested! – but in hindsight, releasing it as a LARP seemed like a stupidly obvious move.  After all, Vampire is an inherently social setting, and it’s therefore preferable to have a whole group of people playing the ensemble cast rather than having one frantic GM trying to do everything on their own – but at the time, this was revolutionary.

I mentioned earlier that it was boxed up in a similar format to a murder mystery and, believe it or not, “The Masquerade” was initially touted as a party game!  In fact, the back of the box describes it as “…a party game like you’ve never seen before”.  The initial set up seemed very much like that – an introductory story, complete with briefing cards – everything you needed to get started with the game.

Now, I’m not sure if White Wolf understood what they had on their hands when they released The Masquerade, or if they were just trying something different, but the popularity of this game no doubt exceeded their wildest expectations.

It was a knockout success, and White Wolf – arguably – had just created THE most successful live-action RPG of all time.

Despite dressing like an early 90s party game, “The Masquerade” was very much an RPG.  Sure, it came with a sample story and characters you could parcel out like one of the innumerable Agatha Christie style whodunnit games out there, but reading the other books in the box you could see that this was a fully fledged RPG.

That being said, because it was a LARP, it didn’t use the Storyteller system created by White Wolf for their tabletop games.  It was clear that the creators clearly had immersion front of mind when designing “The Masquerade” and nothing is more immersion breaking than hauling out a fistful of dice and trying to find somewhere to roll them every time a challenge needed to be resolved!  Indeed, “The Masquerade” even came with a clutch of hand gestures that players could make to indicate they were taking various actions without breaking character and saying things like “I’m spending blood to boost my physical traits”.  

However, in this case I think the intent was better than the execution.  Not only were players being expected to learn over a dozen or so hand gestures that all meant various things, they were also expected to be able to keep an eye out for them too.  Ironically, these gestures were meant to be subtle, so they were sometimes overlooked, leading to a jarring breakdown in the flow of the game, as the party who had been trying to frantically indicate something was forced to break character and saying something like “Dude – I was trying to use dominate.  We have to make a challenge…”  

Truth be told, in over a decade of playing these games I don’t think I ever saw a player use any gesture except the thumb up for “heightened senses” or “hands folded across chest” to indicate invisibility.  Which, in fairness, is a LOT less immersion breaking than having to say to people “Yeah, just kid on I’m not here” when they awkwardly stop their private conversation you were having prior to you slinking over.

Hand gestures that would put your average mason to shame aside, the system underpinning “The Masquerade” was fairly straight forward.  Rules from “Vampire: the Masquerade” were simplified – most disciplines were broken out into basic, intermediate and advanced powers, and the system of attributes and abilities were replaced with traits.  In tabletop “Vampire”, a character’s physical pool would be made up of strength, dexterity and stamina, with numerical values in each.  In “The Masquerade” – and other subsequent Mind’s Eye Theatre publications – characters would be defined by descriptive adjectives.  For example, a table top “Vampire” character might have strength 3, dexterity 2 and stamina 2, whereas a MET vampire might be brawny, strong, dextrous and sturdy.

A quick run down of MET’s system

Rather than roll dice, the idea here was that if you were competing against someone else, you’d challenge them and start bidding traits against your opponent.  This goes back and forth until either someone backs down, or you both end up drawing at the same amount of traits, and then you have to make a test, which is a game of rock, paper scissors, with the ties going to the defender.

The idea here was elegant – the book describes the challenges as a game of brinkmanship – much like poker – where you didn’t necessarily know if you had more traits than your opponent, and as a result there was a risk that you’d run out of traits before they did.  In addition, to make sure it wasn’t just a game of numbers, you were only allowed to bid appropriate traits.

What happened in practice was rather odd conversations along the lines of “Well, I’m swift enough to hit you.  Oh yeah, well I’m dextrous enough to avoid you.  Really?  Well, I’m so energetic that I can catch you!  Doesn’t matter, I’m resilient enough that even if you do I’ll shrug off the blow.”

If this is reminding you of a game of soldiers from when you were a kid and those exchanges of “I got you!  You’re dead!  No I’m not!  I got you first!” then don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

White Wolf probably foresaw this as they included an optional rule to allow all traits to be bid at once, and in later editions they did away with the bidding element all together, and just made it a straight test, with ties going to the person with the most traits.

While the idea of having descriptive adjectives rather than numbers was a fun one, again – in practice – this very rarely happened.  Because traits only ever came in in the event of a draw, most of the time they weren’t mentioned and, when there was a tie, the conversations were much more along the lines of “I’ve got five physical traits, how many do you have?” rather than any elegant word play around how adjective X was so much better than adjective Y.

People were also meant to role-play their traits but, again, this rarely happened.  Myself and Jason had an incident at a LARP that we ran once when one character made an earth-shaking speech in the “No – I’m Spartacus!” mould, and we actually had to call a time out and point out to everyone that not only did this character have a measly three social traits – the lowest allowed in game – he also had three NEGATIVE social traits, so what they heard, probably came out IN-CHARACTER as garbled nonsense…

I know what you’re thinking.  The system sounds pretty awful, right?  Why then was this game such a big hit?  

The answer to that is simple.  

The reason that “The Masquerade” worked so well, and the reason White Wolf saw sales sky rocket, was because of the setting.  Vampire is a social game – despite the fact that the players all take the roles of apex predators who are literally ruled by a raging hunger, they crave the company of others of their kind, primarily because they spend the rest of their time hiding their true natures from the masses around them.  The society in which they move is social and political, and a good Vampire game is about building influence, allies and pawns who can be used when you make your move to try and step up a rung in society.  There’s comparatively little combat, and much more of a focus on in-character interaction.

Still one of the best books ever made for Vampire

A source book for the first edition of the tabletop game, “Chicago by Night”,  did an excellent job of showing what a vampiric society might look like, but one of the problems faced by GMs was “How do you bring this to life at the tabletop?”  The answer was – with difficulty!  However, with the advent of “The Masquerade” you suddenly had the ability to drop over a dozen players into those roles and not feel like you had to sit and have conversations with yourself in front of your players as you tried to emulate the squabblings of the city’s Primogen Council.  

Obviously, you still had to find players but, as it turned out, that wasn’t going to be difficult. One of the phenomenal things about Vampire, and about “The Masquerade” in particular, was that it suddenly started attracting people to the hobby who wouldn’t traditionally be thought of as role-players.  If Wizards of the Coast and “Critical Role” made Dungeons and Dragons mainstream, White Wolf managed something similar decades before when they attracted groups of people to the hobby of roleplaying who probably didn’t give two hoots about high fantasy, but who absolutely could get with the notion of taking on the role of a vampire.  While the tabletop Vampire game was already breaking grounds in this respect, “The Masquerade” busted open the flood gates, and the game sold like wildfire to audiences that wouldn’t have previously considered owning an RPG.

I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for the brainstorming session that decided this book’s title…

Before I move on from the first edition of the game, special mention must be given to the “Story Book” that came in the box.  This fairly innocuously named book came with some fantastic advice for fledgling storytellers…

…ah, you’ll notice that I didn’t use the word “games master” or any other RPG specific word, because White Wolf were extremely intentional in avoiding that vocabulary. I don’t believe for a minute that this was in any way done to disrespect Vampire’s roots in gaming, but instead I believe they did this because they knew that there were people who were going to buy “The Masquerade” that didn’t come from a gaming background, and they didn’t want to have them think of this game as “D&D with fangs”.  

Anyway, terminology aside, this book offers some excellent advice, from finding a location, to using music and lighting, and even guidance on using makeup and props.  There’s some excellent advice on crafting a story, a lot of which today’s gamers could do well to heed.  One of the most common arguments you see nowadays on RPG Twitter is the question over whether an RPG is a “game” or a “story game”.  Unfortunately, most of the really bitter arguments seem to erupt between those at the extreme ends of the spectrum – the folks who want to treat tabletop RPGs like simulationist war-games, and the frustrated authors who “want to tell a story” and see their players as merely extras in the extravagant railroad they have planned.

“The Masquerade” has a lot to say about writing stories, but the most pertinent piece of advice – and one that will serve anyone who is writing a plot for a game, regardless of whether it’s a Vampire game or not – is not to shove YOUR STORY down the throat of the players.  Instead, you want to create a dynamic environment with things can happen depending on what the players do, but to ultimately focus everything on the player characters, their backgrounds and the stories they want to explore.  What they do and what they want to achieve is often far more interesting than anything you can write.  As someone who has run many Vampire LARPs I can attest to the validity of this advice!

Anyone who has ever run a Vampire LARP has had to contend with the player who’s concept was Edgelord McDark – Prince of the Night

There’s more great nuggets of wisdom to by mined from this book, from what you should be focusing on when you run the game, what pre-game tasks you should perform, how to use narrators – MET’s term for NPC characters – and even a section on what to do if everything starts going wrong and how to deal with problem players.  This last piece is so very, very relevant for anyone running a LARP.  Indeed, in all my years of gaming, LARPing is the only area where I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across true problem players, so this advice for new storytellers is very, very welcome.

One final piece to mention, and one that I wished more LARP players had paid attention to, was that of “not making a nuisance of yourself in public”.  There’s an entire section that essentially says “You probably shouldn’t be playing this game in public, but if you do, please, please, please don’t make an arse of yourself doing what you think are cool vampiric things.  They’re probably not, and you’ll just give the rest of us a bad name.” 

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it, and sadly it’s something that not every LARPer paid attention to.  I know of a few stories of people going from their gaming venue to the pub, and deciding to carry on their game antics, only to receive withering stares from those around them – or worse being asked to leave – and tarring the rest of us who play at the same venue with the same brush of “weirdo troublemakers”.

So, with “The Masquerade” out there selling like hot cakes, White Wolf did what any good gaming company would do, and cashed in on it by releasing more books.  Interestingly, they initially started producing a lot of LARP specific books – “The Book of the Damned” came out the same year as “The Masquerade” and was essentially a lot of the content from the main “Vampire: The Masquerade” book, paired down into a LARP specific book. This was followed by “The Book of Props” and “The Masquerade Players’ Kit” the following year.

“The Book of Props” was exactly what it said it was – guides to costuming, makeup, props and sets, whilst “The Masquerade Players’ Kit” expanded on the options for characters, much like its tabletop cousin’s Players’ Guide did.

I said it was “interesting” that White Wolf produced these LARP specific books, because in all my years of running and playing Vampire LARPs, all the players I knew simply bought the latest tabletop books if they wanted to know the latest and great about their favourite game line and had zero expectations that a LARP friendly version be established.

1994 also saw the release of “The Apocalypse” which was LARP rules for playing “Werewolf: The Apocalypse” – one of Vampire’s sister games.  This allowed for MET players to take on the roles of big furry threshing machines if they so desired.  Although I’ve known people who played and enjoyed Werwolf, the lack of a setting so suited to social intrigues like Vampire’s meant that it never became as popular as it’s pale, velvet-clad sibling.

This year also saw the stuttering start, then disillusion, then reforming of the Camarilla – White Wolf’s official fan club.  This organisation quickly grew to become a global LARP organisation, with the aim of running a world-spanning chronicle; with the idea that a player in a Camarilla LARP in city X could go to city Y, play in an official Camarilla game there, have everything about their character carry over and take part in a story which would be related to the story in their home city.  That way, if they made friends in city Y, those friends could come to city X to visit and take part in the story there.

Sadly, theory and practice often differ.  

I won’t dwell too long on this subject – and I’ll slap a massive “your mileage may vary” sticker on this part of the blog – but, the Camarilla always came across as a boiling, festering hive of cronyism, nepotism and all the other bad isms smooshed together in a chain reaction of awfulness.  Again, I’m basing this purely on my personal experience, and the anecdotal experience of others, so I’m well aware that there are probably many other folks out there who had a grand old time at Camarilla LARPs.  

However, my experience of the Camarilla was that it was ultimately underpinned by a mechanism called “Membership Class” that was probably originally designed with very good intent – to reward people who helped out the society – but which soon grew into some kind of pay to win old boys club.  Basically, the better your membership class, the better the characters you got to play.  Again, I’m not going to go into the specifics, but this type of set up led to the following types of scenarios being possible:

  • New storyteller sets up a brand new game in their city and invites their friends
  • New storyteller applies for their game to become part of the Camarilla
  • Camarilla oks this, but provides certain plots and restrictions that the new ST has to adhere to
  • Camarilla advertises the new game
  • New game starts and the new ST is suddenly faced with not just the players they had invited, but a boat load of high MC players whose new characters have been approved by people higher up the chain that the ST doesn’t know
  • “New” high MC characters go on the rampage and attempt to make this new game and everyone at it their own

Delightful.

I had the “pleasure” of going along to a supposedly new Camarilla game once.  My self and a group of friends spent a great deal of time putting together our characters and ensuring that our backgrounds and concepts made sense together.  We turn up at the game excited because this was supposedly virgin territory where anything was possible…and promptly find that we’re pretty much at the bottom of the pecking order because there are a bunch of high MC characters checking out this game with “new” characters.  I spent most of the game unable to do anything because one of these mooks used some ridiculously powerful mind power on me (for chuckles), and then most of us sat out the rest of the game as it became a four hour combat between several of these high MC individuals…

As I said – your mileage may have varied. 

Regardless, the Camarilla started falling out with White Wolf in the late 90s over trademark disputes, and this eventually boiled over into lawsuits in 2002 after which White Wolf took control of the organisation and it dissolved.

Ahem…

Right – that felt like a bit of a rant, back to the game…

Where was I…

Yeah, 1994 and “The Masquerade” is going strong, so strong in fact that a second edition is released.  Unlike the first edition, this is not a boxed set, but is instead released as a standard format RPG book.  As expected, it sells very well.

Come 1995, and White Wolf decides to introduce some of their “Year of the Hunter” materials into the LARP scene.  Again, we’ve got a whole other podcast on Vampire, so I won’t touch on this too deeply, but from 1995 onwards White Wolf started designating every year “Year of the Something” to make their supplements for their various game lines thematically consistent.  1995 saw a focus on those organisations that hunted the various supernaturals of the World of Darkness.  While the individual tabletop games received “hunter” books suitable to their theme – with Vampire’s entry being about the Inquisition for example – a book was released for “The Masquerade” called “Antagonists”.  Rather than focus on one type of well, antagonists, this book drew on material from “The Hunters Hunted”, “Mummy”, “The Inquisition” AND “Project Twilight” – the latter being Werewolf’s X-Files-esque “hunter” book.

It was also notable for being the first LARP supplement to include rules for Sabbat vampires, but because this was the Sabbat pre-revised edition, they were much more in the mould of “let’s murder everyone and summon demons for chuckles” rather than the crusading army of vampiric fundamentalists that they became in later editions.

This year also saw a book released call “The Elder’s Revenge” that is notable for being the first – and only – “adventure” released for MET.  This story focuses on a a play, which is written by one of the characters in the story, and which it is intended to be put on as part of the game.  I’ve never played through this scenario, so I can’t comment from personal experience, but it feels a bit too am-dram for my liking.

Come 1996, it was time to give “The Masquerade” a facelift, and it was re-released as “Laws of the Night”.  As well as bundling together the various rules changes, updates and errata that had appeared over the last three years, Laws of the Night is notable for the fact that it published the book in a much smaller, A5 format, rather than the traditional A4 format used by tabletop RPG books.  This was an incredibly sensible decision, as the LARP books were much more likely to hauled from location to location than their tabletop cousins who got to stay in the same nice comfy home week in week out.  Given the amount of amount of times I had to carry LARP books back and forth from various venues and games, I know I for one was grateful for this size – and weight! – change.  It also meant that the rules were much easier to peruse on the fly mid game than if you had to haul out a huge weighty tome.

At the same time as “Laws of the Night” was being released, White Wolf also released “Oblivion” – or rules for playing wraiths in LARP.  I’ve never played in a wraith LARP, nor have I ever met anyone else who did, but as a long time storyteller for the tabletop game I can only assume it would have been an absolute nightmare to run.  Wraith is a very intimate, personal game, and it is complicated enough to manage for a small group of players around a table.  I can only imagine doing the same for twenty or so people would be a feat of difficulty several orders of magnitude greater!  Plus, a HUGE part of wraith is its introspective nature, and balancing that feeling of nihilistic bleakness with small seeds of hope.  Again – very hard to do for a small circle of players.  On a larger scale, this would be nigh on impossible, and if the intention is simply to “re-create vampire but with ghosts” then you’ve lost that quintessential something that makes the game what it is.

1997 was the year of the ally, so naturally a book featuring rules for ghouls in LARP was released.  White Wolf also gave “The Apocalypse” the “Laws of the…” treatment in the form of “Laws of the Wild”.  There were also rules for playing medieval vampires published in the form of “The Long Night”.  More a grab bag of new clans and disciplines with a tiny sprinkling of setting, “The Long Night” didn’t really add a lot to the overall Mind’s Eye Theatre scene – an ST with a copy of “Laws of the Night” and “Vampire: The Dark Ages” could undoubtedly run a 12th century Vampire game without recourse to this book.  All that said, one of the most fun Vampire LARPs I ever played in was a run from these rules, so maybe there was some secret sauce in there after all.

By 1998 we had rules for playing elder vampires, in the form of Laws of Elysium.  Most STs I knew who possessed copies of this book generally used the rules within for creating narrator characters – the power level described was generally far beyond that of most PCs.  

One of many…

The various “hunter” books also got the “Laws of the…” treatment and were repackaged as “Laws of the Hunt”.  Changeling also got its own MET game in the form of “The Shining Host” which meant that girls with cat ears, neon hair ribbons and stripy tights everywhere could now LARP away to their hearts content.   Sarcasm aside, “The Shining Host” proved to be extremely popular, so that shows what little I know about game design or the appeal of certain themes.  Oh, and if you are a cat-ear-wearing, stripy-tight-clad Changeling fan then more power to you – much as I don’t like Changeling I’m not going to think for a minute to dictate to you what is and isn’t fun!

1999 was White Wolf’s “Year of the Reckoning”, where the canonical World of Darkness experienced the metaphysical equivalent of a car crash that changed most games for ever.  Change game to MET too, but mainly in the form of yet another revision to “Laws of the Night”.  This might have also marked the beginning of my obsession with faux-leatherette covers, because the version of “Laws of the Night” that I chose to pick up was – of course – the limited edition one that came with the faux leatherette cover.  All joking aside, it also came with two cloth book marks which proved utterly invaluable for when I was running games of my own!  

It also had silver edging to its pages too don’t you know.  Sadly, twenty three years later, these have largely worn off.  However, the special edition of “Laws of the Night” ranks up there as one of the sturdiest books I’ve ever owned.  Between the years of 1999 and 2008 I was playing or running a Vampire LARP at least once a month, and for the games I was running there were biweekly meetings of the staff, so this old book was constantly being shoved in a bag and shipped from place to place and, despite having a beer spilled over it on at least three occasions, is still perfectly bound, with not a loose page to speak off.  Compare this to other – more modern – RPG products that literally fall from their binding when you stare at them too hard, and you know that those extra pennies on the deluxe edition were well spent!

‘cos why not?

At the same time as “Laws of the Night” was getting a revision, “Laws of the Hunt” got “The Players Guide to Laws of the Hunt”.  I’m going to take a pause here and ask “Why?”  In all my years of being involved with MET games, I have NEVER played in a “Laws of the Hunt” game, and have NEVER known anyone who has played in one.  Despite this fact, at this point, “Laws of the Hunt” has had more releases than Werewolf and just as many as Vampire.  Maybe there were a whole subculture of arcanum, inquisition or FBI LARPs that I was never aware of?

The millennium saw several releases for MET, but one book stood out for me – the Guide to the Sabbat.  Now, I’ve talked about this on previous podcasts – there’s a third hint to go and download our “Vampire: the Masquerade” episode if you haven’t already – but early portrayals of the Sabbat in Vampire were problematic.  Not because they were inappropriate or offensive, but because they tried to be shocking in the same way that a twelve year old swearing in front of his parents is shocking.  

Want a feel for the vibe?  It went something like:

The bad old days…

Look at these EVIL vampires!  They like killing people!  Look!  They just treat humans like cattle!  Oh no!  They’ve murdered someone else!  And look at how many of them worship devils!  Haven’t we created something shocking and evil?  You’re shocked, right?  Oh, and they’re out to kill the antediluvians but don’t worry – they’ll be spending most their time murdering hookers and bums.  Aren’t they just EVIL?

If you ever take a creative writing class on horror, you’ll learn that the actual “horror” component – which is to say the blood, the gore and the monsters – should only show up after all the other components of the story build in that direction.  Without the signposts and foreshadowing, the horror component might briefly shock the reader before it just becomes noise, and before you know it you’re back to the literary equivalent of the twelve year old desperately trying to shock his parents by coming out with more creative uses of vulgarity.  Like that self-same twelve year old, the writer is on to a loser, as the initial shock has passed, and the audience is probably just becoming more and more irritated with the repeated attempts to get a reaction.

That’s what the old Sabbat guides were like.

Come Revised (or, in the case of MET, Third Edition) the Sabbat got a much needed makeover.  Instead of a roving mob of murderhobbos who were evil for evil’s sake, the Sword of Caine were a fanatical, fundamentalist army out to save the world from the antediluvians – the ancient progenitors of the vampire clans who were prophesied to wake up and bring about the end of the world.  They were organised like an army, and they had rituals – not because they wanted to freak out the normies – but because they used them to keep discipline and adhere to their spiritual codes of conduct.  Sure, they still held mankind in contempt, but they also grudgingly acknowledged that mankind was much more heavily armed and capable than they had ever been before.  Individual mortals might just be “juice bags” or “cattle” but a squad of them armed with automatic weapons could make a smug, self-righteous vampire’s unlife very short indeed.  Therefore, the image of the Sabbat as a group who murdered humans for funsies was quickly retconned as Camarilla propaganda.

The Sabbat guide for MET took this new image for the Sabbat and gave you rules for running a whole chronicle based around the sect.  Due to its military-like structure and the underlying intrigue, the Sabbat was a sect was just as well suited – if not better – for a political LARP than it’s opposite number in the Camarilla.  Not long after getting this book, I proposed to my co-host Jason that we run a Sabbat LARP, and this was one of the best decisions I ever made in gaming!

As well as my beloved Sabbat guide, the year 2000 also saw a Camarilla guide released for “Laws of the Night” and the core game “Laws of the East” for Kindred of the East, allowing STs to run games focused on the Kuei-jin, or eastern vampires.

When 2001 rolled about, the printing presses were set to get a work out, as White Wolf had their busiest MET year yet.  “Laws of the Night” got a Storyteller’s Guide and well as a book called “Dark Epics”.  Now, this book was touted as a MET publication, but the vampire-esque cover and the content suggested that there may have been one game line in particular that White Wolf had in mind when they released this thing.  

A lot of the content is very reminiscent of the “Story Book” found all the way back in “The Masquerade” first edition, but it delves deeper into the art of administering long-running games.  There’s tips on location, managing the community that will build up around your game, communication, staffing a game and even how to run a convention game. 

Amusingly, there’s also a section on running a “network game” – that is to say a regional or global chronicle similar to those offered by the Camarilla.  Given that this book was released before the great split between the Cam and White Wolf, one can only assume that the writing was on the wall at this point, otherwise why would an official publication not be suggesting that prospective storytellers simply sign up to their official fan-club’s network game?

There’s also an interesting section on character creation, with the caveat of “You don’t have to accept every piece of nonsense that a player asks to play, you know…” something that I think any prospective storyteller should have had to read.  The amount of times I had seen someone given permission to play “last of a dying race” because if they didn’t they’d walk…

There’s also a brilliant section on “influence endeavours”.  One thing that “Laws of the Night” always did really well was allow players to have that feel of being undead puppet masters through the use of the “influence” background – a trait that covered all sorts of fields from academic to the underworld.  While the basic system provided a menu of things that you could use your influence to accomplish, “Dark Epics” turned influenced into a multi-layered mini game.  The rules were great, but given the release date of this book, I’m not sure many LARPS – most of which would have been running for many years before this came out – would have taken advantage of them.

Overall, it’s an interesting book, with a lot of good material in it, but it sadly probably didn’t get the exposure it deserved.

“Laws of the Wild” got a new edition in 2001, along with more “Changing Breeds” books – the supplements that allowed you to play were-things-other-than-werewolves – and “The Books of the Wyrm” for those games that wanted to focus on the truly vile and evil things in the Werewolf cosmology.  Mage also got its first LARP – “Laws of Ascension”, and “The Shining Host” got a players guide.  There were also a couple of card decks released for things like disciplines, and the last issue of “The Mind’s Eye Journal” – a periodical focusing on all things MET that had been running on and off for the last few years.

Why? WHY?

2002 arrived and – guess what? – “Laws of the Hunt” got a revised edition… You know how there are sometimes those guys who don’t seem to have anything going on for them, yet they always end up with a stunning girlfriend?  Yup – “Laws of the Hunt” is that guy.  Again, I could be wrong, and maybe there were gazillions of “Laws of the Hunt” LARPs out there, and I was simply not cool enough to get invited to them, but this continual need to revise and re-release what seems like a really niche product seems baffling.

“Laws of Ascension” also got a Companion this year, “Laws of the Wild” got another Changing Breeds book, and Mummy received its own LARP in the form of “Laws of the Resurrection”.  There was also another Werewolf standalone game called “Hengeyokai: Way of the Beast Courts” for playing eastern shifters.

By this point, White Wolf had made the decision to kill of the World of Darkness during its Time of Judgement but, despite this, 2003 was still a strong year for the MET scene.  “Laws of the Night” got an Anarch guide, but this year also saw the release of three standalone LARP settings – “Vampire by Gaslight” for Victorian games, “Faith and Fire”, which was a revision of “The Long Night” and “Laws of the Reckoning” which provided rules for playing the Imbued from “Hunter: the Reckoning”.

I won’t go into massive details about the chronicle itself, but with “Laws of the Reckoning” I was able to conceive what – to my mind anyway – was the most satisfying LARP I’ve ever run. 

Hunter gets a TON of flak – usually from people who have never played it – and the complaints are always the same “This is just a game of superpowers, I much prefer the Hunters Hunted which was about normal people.”  This is simply untrue – Hunter’s entire focus is on normal people, who are thrust into an abnormal situation and have to deal with it.  Hunters Hunted – and its spin offs like “Laws of the Hunt” – focus on organisations that bristle with high tech weaponry, gadgets and magical powers going after the supernatural. 

When I ran a Hunter LARP, despite the name, it saw all sorts of reactions to the supernatural, all the way from “These things are evil and must be destroyed” to “We must understand and help these unfortunate souls”.  It was a very deep and nuanced story which ended up going in a very different direction from how I first envisioned, but which ended – to my mind anyway – in a very satisfying way.

Anyway, thinking about it, THESE complainers are probably the “Laws of the Hunt” fanboys who saw it getting eighty zillion revisions…

When 2004 rolled around, it was time to kill of the World of Darkness, which meant that there was only one more book left to release…

…actually…

…let me check my notes…

…no, there were two more books to release.

Did people actually play these?

Because “Laws of the Wild” needed another Changing Breeds book just before the end came.  Presumably the fan need to play were-sharks and were-snakes was reaching crisis point and White Wolf just had to act.

Selachimorphic and serpentinc needs satisfied, White Wolf went about dropping the curtain on the Mind’s Eye Theatre with the release of “Laws of Judgement”.  This book was a mishmash of the various scenarios found in the main “Time of Judgement” books released for the tabletop game lines, along with rules and tips for concluding a chronicle.

Consisting of ten chapters, these cover:

  • Laws of the Hunt – OF COURSE IT’S FIRST!
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Mage
  • Changeling
  • Hunter
  • Kindred of the East
  • Mummy
  • Wraith

…and finally, a chapter full of general “…and this is how you go about laying waste to a long running chronicle”.

I’ll be honest – the scenarios themselves were not massively useful other than in a “this is an example of how the world could end”.  If you want detail, that’s what the tabletop books will provide – this book simply tries to cover too much and therefore ends up short changing every game line. 

FAR more useful are the sections proceeding the individual scenarios, where various rules and ideas for ending the world for that chapter’s game line are explored.  

Good as these sections are, the star of the show is the final chapter the contains some honest to goodness decent advice on how to finally end that chronicle you’ve been running for years.  The content here is fantastic, and you really get the impression that whoever wrote this genuinely cared about ensuring that these long-running games got the send off that they deserved.

With the release of “Laws of Judgement” the classic Mind’s Eye Theatre line came to an end.  

Ultimately, the books reappeared in 2013 under the stewardship of “By Night Studios” and they still appear to be going strong to this day.

They’ve even got a faux-leatherette version of the latest version of Vampire in their only shop…


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