Matthew Dawkins is a UK-based freelance author, an in-house developer at Onyx Path Publishing and the eponymous gentleman for the popular YouTube channel The Gentleman Gamer.
Dawkins has been writing for Onyx Path Publishing since 2013, and has written for several classic World of Darkness lines including Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Wraith: the Oblivion and Changeling: the Dreaming. Dawkins is also the creator behind They Came From Beneath The Sea!, a sci-fi roleplaying game that encompasses the wonder, horror, thrills and hilarity of 1950’s B-movies.
For World of Darkness fans, Dawkins straddles the line between the old- and new-school faces of Vampire. He is the lead author and developer of the most ambitious book ever released for Vampire, 2018’s ‘Beckett’s Jyhad Diary’. The Diary is a love letter to the game that synthesises 25-odd years of sourcebooks and metaplot into a cohesive and compelling narrative, whilst moving Vampire’s setting forward into the modern nights. Clocking in at over 550 pages, it’s full to bursting with story hooks – and Easter eggs for fans of the lore. At the same time, his work as author and developer of the recently-Kickstarted ‘Chicago by Night’ for Vampire: the Masquerade’s Fifth Edition places Dawkins as one of the key visionaries shaping the future of the game.
Needless to say, the views and opinions here are Dawkins’ own, and do not necessarily reflect those of White Wolf Interactive or Onyx Path Publishing.
B: Let’s start at the start. What was your entrance to the World of Darkness, Vampire: the Masquerade and Vampire:the Eternal Struggle?
MD: I first discovered the World of Darkness by spying the iconic cover of Vampire: The Masquerade in a games store and picking up a copy of the game along with ‘Clanbook: Ravnos’, of all things. I fell in love with Vampire and many of the other World of Darkness games. VtES followed soon after, as another game store I regularly visited used to display VtES cards in a cabinet at the counter. Wanting to expand into different parts of the World of Darkness, I decided to pick up a few starter decks and got myself and a couple of friends playing. It was my first real card game. I didn’t come to Magic: the Gathering, or other games, until much later.
I’ve been following VtES since, through its ups and downs, and continue to play as regularly as I can – though not being much of a “pick up and play” game, this can be tricky.
B: What does a Matthew Dawkins VtES deck look like?
MD: My preferred style is vote or heavy bleed decks, though lately I’ve been having a lot of fun mixing some of the Setites from Lords of the Night with Baali from Heirs to the Blood, making for a nasty corruption / bleed style. Their shared Obfuscate and Presence allow for a nice amount of damage to be avoided and dealt, while Serpentis and Daimoinon add a lovely flavour to proceedings. I’m also partial to building a small army of minions around the Unnamed or Marcus Vitel.
B: When I was reading ‘Beckett’s Jyhad Diary’, I was struck by the number of VtES references. Antonio Delgado, Walter Nash and other ‘90s-era minions make an appearance – before I knew you were a fan of the card game, I had assumed that I’d missed their earlier canon entries in Vampire! Are there other characters too?
MD: I’ve enjoyed following the storylines that have formed as a result of VtES tournaments, and have incorporated many plots and characters from VtES into my work writing on both Vampire: the Masquerade and other World of Darkness titles, mainly through winks and nods. Strohmann, the Nosferatu antitribu introduced in one of the recent VEKN sets, makes his debut appearance in ‘Beckett’s Jyhad Diary’. Also, Serenna the White is a pretty important character in the book who’d only ever appeared in Heirs of the Blood before now. The Shaal Fragment is also brought into the lore for the first time, as is Wanklers Bank – only referenced in a piece of art on a VtES card for which I always forget the name.
B: You’ve added quite a lot of VtES into Vampire; are there particular pieces of Vampire that you’d love to see make their way into VtES?
MD: It’ll interest me to see how much of V5 ends up in VtES! Obviously the Discipline changes may cause issues, but I’d love to see some cards relating to House Carna, the Second Inquisition, and the Lasombra defection. [Editor’s Note: Vampire 5th Edition provides a number of updates to both the naming conventions and effects within Disciplines; as an example, Necromancy and Obtenebration are now two variations on a single Discipline, Oblivion. A new mortal Inquisition has arisen that imperils vampiric society, and the old clan-sect divisions have been overhauled. Anarch Tremere rally to Carna’s name, while a significant number of Lasombra have joined the Camarilla. The re-imagined Lasombra will be covered in detail in the upcoming ‘Chicago by Night’, in a chapter written by Dawkins].
B: How do you find VtES represents the broader world of Vampire: the Masquerade, and what keeps you coming back to the game?
MD: While the card game of course lacks some of the nuance of roleplay, the table talk in VtES can be excellent and really sets the mood. I enjoy VtES for its accurate simulation of what it is to play a Methuselah (or even an Antediluvian) with an army of vampires unknowingly serving you on your battlefield. You might be controlling vampires from the Fourth Generation through to nameless Anarchs of minimal power, but they’re all serving you and the game you choose to play. And, you can easily tell the stories of specific characters and events by elaborating from thecontents of the cards. Some of the crypt cards – Marcus Vitel, for instance – have powers and weaknesses that directly reflect their intentions and subterfuge in the tabletop game’s metaplot.
What I always come back to with VtES is the table talk, the diplomacy, and the deals so swiftly broken and reforged. It’s a game perfect in its imbalance. It feels different every time, and I love that.