I first heard Brendan’s name in the early 2000s, around the time that folks from my corner of Australia began to travel more for interstate V:tES. Brendan and I traded emails throughout 2019 to put together his entry for the Jyhad Diary. We only scratched the surface of his experience with the game, but I’m glad to say that our conversation triggered Brendan to dig out his old cards and begin playing once more!
“I turned 26 in 1994. My life was genre-obsessed up to that point, working at Galaxy Bookshop at the time, well-versed in the World of Darkness from its first edition. The World of Darkness mined the burgeoning pop sub-genre of Dark Fantasy that melded the tropes of fantasy and horror in a modern milieu inspired by everything that it could be, from Gaiman to Rice with every every film that was ever tagged as ‘horror’ plus an alternative punked-up gothy-rock/broody-classical soundtrack. Their game supplements’ ‘reading lists’ of fiction, music, comics or whatever other media they would reference were profoundly useful. White Wolf’s Storyteller system was my gateway drug – not just as a player but as a reader that had been starved for an engaging alternative to generic fantasy settings. White Wolf’s setting was drawn from the genre fiction of the day but I consumed their releases as non-fiction, their game world’s millennia-spanning backdrops and contradicting histories developed into a shambling, super-cool meta-plot, delightfully exciting and filled with cool, weird shit and wild stories.
In Sydney, back-in-the-day, Galaxy Books was on Castlereagh Street just down from the Scientology building with Kings Comics across (and under) the road at an entrance to Museum Station. Ventura, Sydney’s major game distributor, opened a retail outlet to help clear their wares on the same block on Pitt Street. They ordered Jyhad like it was going to be a bigger, badder Magic but the truth was it was much easier for a punter to find one opponent rather than another 3-4 to play – something which has been true of CCGs since.
Jyhad was a more social and intense gaming experience that reflected the millennial schemes of battling Methuselahs. It required 4-5 players and a game could easily take 2+ hours so it was always going to attract a niche… but man, that niche is solid. When Jyhad didn’t take off as people expected, Ventura cleared those starters and boosters they had so, at least for a while, it was very easy to get people tooled up to play. This got a small but dedicated scene drawn from different player groups to follow up White Wolf’s organised play, especially with the WWW (that box with the red flashing light…) kicking in. I remember we had Salem in Canberra who was as connected to the international scene as anyone with his Jyhad site. My first dabbling into ‘the scene’ was travelling south likely around 1995 (the Nats?) before Wizards of the Coast dropped the game which became Vampire: The Eternal Struggle the next year (I was actually contacted by the Federal Police while helping organise a ‘Jyhad‘ game with Shane Schneider, in Indonesia, via email but that’s another story…). Wizards’ change of time happened , ironically, at a time when play started to kick in and the game was getting recognition. The Canberra scene was steady-as, Merto was rocking it in Newcastle and Eugene became the Prince of Sydney – three Princes with weekly/regular social games, all running events within the state of New South Wales, players travelling to attend them. From what I am aware of, similar activity was ongoing both North and South of us. I would sincerely call this the Golden Age of V:tES and I was very much hooked.”