“I started playing Vampire: the Eternal Struggle in the early ‘00s. I’d been playing Magic: the Gathering and a bunch of D&D at Unlimited Hobbies in Sydney. I am pretty sure there was Marty Collins, Vega, Basto, and maybe Rophail, just there for a social game one night when I dropped in. I borrowed a deck, which might have been Marty’s Nosferatu Thrown Junk deck, and played a bit. I came back to it later after grabbing some Brujah starters and that was that.
By the time I started getting into V:TES, I’d basically stopped playing Magic: the Gathering at tournaments because I got tired of feeling like it was a game of scissors-paper-rock with a lot of card shuffling; I was into the less competitive, silly mass player games that were getting played after the tournament ended through to midnight or 1am anyway. So I figured, why not just start playing a game that was already multiplayer, and the people were always playing until midnight or 1am?
The Sydney scene has changed a lot. Now, at least for me, it’s is a bunch of dads getting back into playing now that their family life allows a little more time to do their own thing. It’s a circle of working parents going week by week to organise a game. I am a fan of face-to-face Vampire. Lackey never really worked for me personally. I used to do more games on JOL, but the best times for JOL basically overlap with the best times to do my RPG writing or advertise on social media.
My exposure to the World of Darkness is mainly through V:TES, although I’ve gotten hold of the VtM: Bloodlines computer RPG. My RPG passion has been Dungeons & Dragons – I’ve been playing and GMing D&D for almost 20 years. We ran monthly games at Unlimited Hobbies, with up to 40 players and 5-6 GMs running games. About three years ago I found Roll20 and started an online home game for myself, my wife, and friends who were also D&D-deprived by kids and life. Then after learning Roll20, I asked a few artists if they would split revenue with me if I released that home game on Roll20, and kept writing more and more. I’m also writing some other long campaigns I am writing, and a bunch of shorter stuff on Drive Thru RPG. It’s become something of a side income for now but maybe if it comes good, it might become a main income.
As part of all this, I was planning to do some cyberpunk material with a friend, Sara Avery and just found the major games in the genre were super noodly mechanically while portraying a sort of action/pulp feel. So I sat down and started creating a system that would be fairly flexible, wasn’t very noodly, wasn’t a d20 system (because that wouldn’t do that kind of action/pulp), and created the core of what is now Beta Maxx X. That game is basically ‘The Fifth Element’, ‘Star Trek Beyond’, Elves and Orcs and Dwarves, and 80s action movies. After getting the Ashcan Edition of that finished I figured the system could do a slasher horror and maybe a cosmic horror sort of game too. I got stuck, but mechanicaly solved both at the same time and from there Beta Maxxthulhu and Beta Maxx Death were born. I’ve got design work happening now for an urban heist supernatural version of the engine – kind of like ‘Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels’ but if ghosts and mutants were real – and pencilled in some ideas for an urban supernatural detective version, in the space of ‘The X-Files’, ‘Angel’, ‘Millennium’ and ‘Supernatural’.
In terms of my play style for V:TES, I like playing Brujah, and I do like more trick pony decks. My more successful decks have usually been more toolboxes though. The most successful ones were things like Nosferatu Princes Hate You All which used G2-3 Nosferatu and was a toolbox using a mix of strokes to keep pressing in combat for the wall element, while using Hospitality and votes to keep myself alive and ticking forwards.
What I like about Vampire is that the decisions you make in the moment are just as important as the decisions made building the deck. The state of play can change in a big way from small decisions. And it’s also a game of imperfect knowledge, so a small decision can have an outcome far bigger than you expect. 1 blood here, 1 pool there, one card used earlier… the difference between a VP or a loss might be as small as a single +1 stealth card, or losing a blood off that minion, or whether your prey has a Wake.
I enjoy the chance to play at tournaments and championships, as everyone tends to play a much sharper game. With the environment comes a greater desire to compete, and that brings the big diminishing resources tension of V:TES into sharper focus. It’s a more tiring form of play, but I think that is true for a competitive version of anything.”