(Last modification: 11/28/99)
In case you hadn't seen it elsewhere on my pages, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are not the author of a potential submission, do not send it to me unless you have the creator's explicit permission to do so. Also, if you have based your creation on the work of someone else, make sure you give credit where it is due!
What I do and don't include in my archive
Mainly because of space and time concerns, I can't include everything in my archive. What follows are the categories of items that are appropriate and inappropriate for my archive. Neither list is complete and both are subject to change. Ask me if you are unsure.
- Bloodlines and vampiric organizations
- Tribes and shifter camps
- Traditions and Awakened groups
- Kiths, noble houses, dooms and other fae associations
- Guilds and other groups of wraiths and or spectres
- Mundane organizations
- Miscellaneous supernatural creatures/creations
- Disciplines and thaumaturgy
- Gifts and rites
- Arts, realms and agendas
- Talismans, fetishes, talens, artifacts, enchanted items, treasures, etc.
- Paths of Enlightenment
- Miscellaneous powers
- Revisions of or additions to existing bloodlines, tribes, kiths, etc. (or even revisions of entire categories of beings)
- Translations of table-top critters to MET
- Paradigm Pages
- Merits and Flaws*
- Talents, Knowledges and Skills*
- Miscellaneous Rules Modifications (I'm a lot more picky about these)*
- Web links
- NPCs (or PCs for that matter)
- Cabals, Coteries, Packs, Septs, Oath Circles, Parties, Motleys, Freeholds, Caerns, Nodes, Chantries, Realms (as in the Umbral kind)
- Rotes (unless they are included in another entry)
- Bunks (unless they are included in another entry)
- Rage, V:TE (Jyhad) or Arcadia related (I hate CCGs)
- Video game related
- Character sheets (unless they come with another kind of entry)
- Computer programs of any kind
- Images (i.e. gifs, jpegs, tiffs, xbms, etc.)
- Anything grossly offensive**
*If included in another submission, these items will not be separated into their own entries. Except in highly unusual circumstances, I will only include these in the archive if they are sent to me directly (i.e., I won't collect them from the discussion lists and newsgroups).
**Let me clarify. If you want to create a new species of egomaniacal, hateful, xenophobic, delusional, destructive, and/or incredibly offensive beings for the World of Darkness, I'll post it without batting an eye. However, if I think you are egomaniacal, hateful, xenophobic, delusional, destructive and/or incredibly offensive and more importantly, if it shows in your work, I reserve the right to not include something you send me. Real life example: some idiot sent me a "World of Darkness: The Jewish Conspiracy." Basically it was about how Jews were bane-like things who made up the Holocaust, were trying to taint the white race and destroy the world. Needless to say I tossed the thing. I'm all for free expression but I do have my limits. If you have something like that, post it on your own web page (but don't ask me to link to it).
The Mailing Lists and Newsgroups
Don't just send your entries to me. Post them on the mailing lists and newsgroups. The advantage of posting to the lists and groups is that you will receive more feedback from other players. Be prepared to accept criticism! When it's constructive it will only help you improve your creation; never take it personally. Of course, you should also send a copy to me directly because I don't always see the ones in the mailing lists and newsgroups.
The mailing lists are also great for creations that aren't appropriate for my web site. If you have chronicle information or NPCs I suggest you post them to email@example.com. For rules discussions of specific games I suggest vampire-l, werewolf-l, mage-l, wraith-l or changeling-l, depending on the game. For cross-over stuff, I suggest wod-l. For information about subscribing to these lists, see my Mailing List section on my Links page. DON'T SEND MAIL TO THE ADDRESSES ABOVE IF YOU ARE TRYING TO SUBSCRIBE!!! It makes you look like a major dork.
You will tend to get less feedback from the newsgroups, but they are less invasive. If you don't like having a lot of mail cluttering your inbox, then consider posting to alt.games.whitewolf or rec.games.frp.storyteller.
The technical aspects of sending entries to me depends on what kind of computer you have, how you are connected to the internet, what communications program you are using and how you digitized the entry in the first place. I won't go into the finer details of uploading, downloading and sending your entries, though I suggest taking a look at Indiana University's UITS Knowledge Base. It contains 5000 answers to commonly asked questions. Admittedly, it is geared toward the audience at IU, but enough of the information is general enough to be of some help.
As far as format is concerned, I strongly recommend you send your entries to me in ASCII (text) format. Note than a text document and a word processed document are worlds apart. Text means that you can view it in an e-mail message on any e-mail program without it looking like a bunch of garbage. Note: Even the most primitive word processors have the option to export documents as text; check your manual for details. If you are so computer illiterate that you don't know how to send your document as text, then I will accept entries in other formats. However, it will take a whole lot longer for me to add your submissions. Furthermore, I use Macintoshes exclusively so if you do send me a document written in an obscure DOS-only word processor, not only will I not be happy with you, your entry will take a very long time to get in the archive (if it ever does). If you wish, you may also send your text to me in HTML, but it's not necessary.
Also, when you send your submissions to me, make sure you identify yourself with something other than your e-mail address! You AOLers are especially bad about this! If you include a by-line, then there will be no doubt of your creation's authorship. To be honest, I'd prefer if you included your real name rather than a handle. I know they are wicked kewl and all, but handles are like e-mail addresses: they come and go. On the other hand, your real name, at least in some form, is probably going to stay with you for a while. Besides, do you have any idea how many people use "Caine," "Malkav" and "Lord [whatever]" for their nicknames?! Not only are they pretentious, they're downright ubiquitous!
People frequently ask if I have any opinions about what makes a good submission. Sure I do! I am a gamer, so you should expect nothing less. I have even clearer ideas about what makes a bad one, though. Some themes cause in me an agony not unlike fingernails scraping across a blackboard. So, reader beware: I'm taking this opportunity to vent my spleen and rant like a madman. If I offend, let it be your consolation that these are just my opinions.
- I don't think I can possibly emphasize enough the importance of game balance. Whenever you add an aspect, whether it's a new rule, being, item or power, it is absolutely essential that it doesn't disrupt the game. There are NO exceptions to this rule. Ever. Unfortunately, balance is easier to talk about than implement. A good rule of thumb is if you can describe your submission as "wicked" or "kewl," it's time to go back to the drawing board. Likewise, if you've designed something so you can "kick ass," throw it away and start over. If possible, playtest your creations; that'll give you the opportunity to fix any balance problems that arise.
- Keep the mechanics as simple as possible -- even if it sacrifices realism. This isn't Rolemaster, after all, so you should not be spending 90% of your time reaching for the dice. On the other hand, skimping on the rules too much can be almost as confusing. White Wolf itself has been guilty in both directions, thus the need for 2nd and 3rd editions. Getting the rules right is obviously a tricky business. Again, playtesting helps a lot here.
- Considering the age demographics for gamers, I know I'm going to offend a mess of folks by saying this, but it happens so often I feel something needs to be said. If you are teen-aged or younger, particularly (though by no means exclusively) if you are male, the chances are very good that your creation is unbalanced. "Munchkin" used to be a blanket term for all young gamers. I went through the power gamer stage myself -- denying it all the while, of course -- so I know what's going on in your heads. By this point, most of you are shaking your heads, saying, "Not me!" About all I can do is smirk obnoxiously and roll my eyes. What you think is boring, isn't, and all that |<@@1 stuph is actually really lame. That's not to say you can't cook up some interesting stuff -- it's just that balance issues don't come as naturally to you as it does to us old farts [sic].
- Remember, to some extent, everyone in the World of Darkness is misinformed and ignorant. Nobody is 100% right nor are they 100% wrong. Everyone's definition of good and bad is different. It is important that you preserve this state of affairs by not letting your creations know too much. Just remember that there are no absolutes in the World of Darkness. Everyone has her own perspective, and it is how these myriad points of view clash and interweave that make the setting as interesting as it is.
- Nobody is all powerful. Nobody. Not Caine. Not the Malfeans. Not the Wyrm. Not the Souleaters. Definitely not the True Hand. Absolutely not your creation. If there are beings on the threshold of crushing the world beneath their iron heels, they are better left to rumor and legend, not game mechanics. With that in mind, your creation just won't fit most people's vision of the World of Darkness if it possesses godlike power. That's not what this game is about. So, if you are thinking about something along the lines of a being that has access to True Magick, yet is immune to Paradox, STOP! If you are absolutely dying for power like that, go back to RIFTS fer chrissakes.
- There are enough Secret Masters. Feel free not to make any more.
- I just don't get the whole, "give in to your dark side and gain superpowers" schtick. I really don't. I think people have been reading too much Spawn or something. I mean, our prisons are chock full of folks who have embraced the "lofty" concepts of self-interest and over-indulgence. Nothing special about them. They're painfully common, actually.
- Here's a line I never like to see: "I know this may seem too powerful, but..." Okay, there are NO "buts". If you recognized that a rule was unbalanced then why on earth didn't you fix it?!
- Don't feel the need to start out your piece with an introductory story about how skilled your creation is at kicking ass. It's been done far too often.
- Here's a tired plot device I'd suggest avoiding: "The young vampire, abused and misunderstood, achieves power and founds his own bloodline after committing Diablerie on a powerful elder." Aigh! Every other bloodline I see has this origin. Booooring.
- The Tremere have enough implacable enemies, okay? The "bloodline wronged by those evil warlocks" theme has been done to the Final Death. This holds true for any of the other factions people just love to hate.
- If your creation's origin sounds like it came straight from the pages of a 1950s comic book, please start over. In other words, nothing along the lines of radioactive spider bites, lightning strikes, nuclear fallout, etc. "Lazy" is about as charitably as I can describe that kind of plot device. This profound lack of thought especially plagues the bloodlines designed primarily to showcase cool new powers. Here's a hint: Forget the bloodline. Just submit the discipline.
- Just because your creation is intended for NPCs only doesn't mean you can just toss balance out the window. It's infuriating how often people try to use that excuse! Look, players pay close attention to what your NPCs can and can't do. As soon as you introduce your unbalanced monstrosities to the game, they are going to want to know how they can emulate them. "What, that's a first level power?! Cool! I want to learn it!" Your response, naturally, is a horrified, "No way!" Your player goes, "But why? What if I diablerize him?" Sure, some players are above this, but are you willing to chance it? Take my advice: create NPCs with balanced rules and if you want to make them powerful, load 'em up with smarts, experience points, resources and allies.
- A related argument I hear, often from players, is: "Well, yeah it's unbalanced. But who said life was fair?" My answer to that is, "Life isn't fair, but all experience points were created equal." If you get to have some gawd-awful power just by spending a couple of points, then clearly you've broken that rule. Of course, as min-maxers are fond of demonstrating, by exploiting the loopholes, you can get a lot of bang from your buck. However, shouldn't you be designing rules that discourage twinkishness rather than extolling its virtues?
- To avoid wrecking game balance, think long and hard before you considering giving new advantages and powers to existing WoD denizens. For example, in a number of chronicles I've participated in, Storytellers have tried to turn Thaumaturgy into a strictly Tremere-only discipline. I think that's very bad policy. Thaumaturgy is simply too powerful to deliver into the hands of one and only one clan. Though it is true they should have much better access to it than other vampires, sole access completely unbalances the Tremere. The Tremere undoubtedly try their hardest to corner the Thaumaturgy market, but that doesn't mean they should be completely successful.
- Nobody, and I mean nobody, can work True Magick on earth without having to worry about Paradox in some form or another. This is another one of those, "absolutely no exceptions" rules. Even resistance to it must come at great cost. Afterall, not even the Marauders, who seem to flaunt reality with few direct consequences, are left unscathed. Like it or not, the dominant Paradigm on earth is the Technocratic one, and only those who follow it can alter reality with little fear of Paradox. They pay for this freedom by the rigid nature of their methods and foci.
- Don't make your character immune to mind control or influence unless you have an extremely good reason. The chances are very remote you have one. Note that, "I'm sick of pansy Tremere and Ventrue taking over my mind when I'm trying to beat their asses" isn't even in the same ballpark as a good reason. That is just one of the consequences of sinking all your points into physical abilities.
- About Difficulty 10. Don't use it. Well, at least only use it for something that should only be accomplished by the extremely lucky as opposed to the very talented. That's because no matter how many dice you have in your pool, with a target difficulty of ten, your chance of making the roll is always the same. Think about it! Your chance of botching is the same as your chance of succeeding! Now, if you're saying to yourself, "Well, the only beings that would have a chance against my creation are the extremely lucky," then it's twinkish and you need to rethink a few things.
- If the Stereotypes section takes up half the length of your document, it's way too long. It's just not necessary to include every single World of Darkness being in your creations' outlook on life. After all, the chances are slim they've heard of the Samedi, Rokea or Selkies. Hell, it's far from a sure bet they'll even know what the Camarilla, Hierarchy, Technocracy and Pentex are.
- There are some people who think it is cool to be unrelentingly dark all the time. I'm not one of them. In my opinion, Marilyn Manson is every bit as annoying as those blasted Spice Girls. It's the spectrum in between indefatigable cheerfulness and eternal depression that I find interesting. The World of Darkness leans towards the latter, of course, but it's not as lopsidedly negative as you might think. I'm not telling you to start working on "A Very Brady Vampire" or anything like that. Just keep in mind that even Shakespeare's blackest tragedies had comic relief.
- Warning: I recognize this one is completely a personal beef. Like I said, I'm venting, so cut me some slack. Anyway, unlike a lot of gamers, I am not at all into comics, especially the ones with pumped-up idiots in spandex. These games just aren't about saving the world in multi-colored tights. For that reason, I really don't like superhero rules for the WoD. I have similar feelings about giant robot video games and anime. I was quite peeved at White Wolf when I found out about Streetfighter, let me tell you! Of course, the fact that WoD superhero rules are quite popular indicates to me that I hold a minority opinion.
- This'll be another controversial one, I'm sure. I'm personally uncomfortable with entries that shoehorn the World of Darkness mythology into the beliefs of real-world religions (Christianity, Wicca, Islam, etc.). I know some gamers are deeply religious, but in the World of Darkness, your faith is not The Truth. For those who have a problem with this, think about it this way: maybe the WoD's sorry state of affairs is due to its a lack of Divine Truth. If you can't deal with that, it makes me wonder why you even chose this game.
- To be at all interesting, you must have a raison d'etre, a reason for being. That's why creatures built for the sole purpose of showcasing neat-o powers rarely are. See my comment above about things that are "wicked kewl." Though it has become a cliché, it's important that you put yourself in the mind of your creation and ask yourself, "What's my motivation?" Background, personality, culture, attitude, belief, origin, place in the world: all of these are important. The most crucial, of course, is: "Will it add something to my game?" As a rule of thumb, spend at least as much time working on narrative and background as you do on mechanics.
- While a good storyline is important, don't go overboard. When the narrative is so convoluted that it resembles a soap opera, you should give it a good pruning. You don't have to have all the elements of the World of Darkness elbowing for space in your background. A humble, average -- even obscure -- beginning is every bit as noteworthy as a ridiculously overdrawn ubermensch with five Antediluvians, Charon, a White Howler legacy, the key to the Shattering, and a Progenitor cloning vat lurking in his background. I mean, think about all those celebrity-laden disaster flicks from 1970s and ask yourself whether people remember them or Star Wars, which had a cast of mostly unknowns. A straightforward, but well-wrought story is far more appealing than a mishmash of glam.
- As you may have noticed if you've looked through the archive, certain things have been done to death. Highlander-style immortals, dragons, gargoyles, superheroes, flying vampires, remnant White Howlers, honorable badasses, super-ninja, werewolf butt-kickers, all-knowing-all-seeing benevolent beings, equally omniscient evil beings, over-powered movie-to-WoD conversions, garou-loving vampires, nigh-invulnerable super-races, Abominations -- the list goes on. I am NOT saying you can't send me any more of these. Some have been extremely well done and those weren't always from the first people who took a crack at them. On the other hand, if your time can be better spent figuring out how to travel faster than the speed of light, you probably shouldn't bother wasting it reinventing the wheel.
- It's important to be coherent when you write. Nothing is harder to read than a sloppily-written, poorly-constructed document. Content is irrelevant if you can't express yourself in a clear manner. For more thoughts on this matter, continue to the next section.
- Check out White Wolf's Writer's Guidelines. You'll notice a few of the line developers were clearly in vent mode when they wrote their commentaries. They do make some good points, so I'd suggest at least looking at them. However, the tips on grammar, punctuation, etc. are what's really great about this document. Naturally, I don't want you to use the Publisher's formatting they describe, but do pay attention to the stylistic rules they've nicely outlined. Note that because the Web is still an ASCII world, avoid bullets, emdashes and similar characters. Never use curly (aka "smart") quotes!
- "They" is not a gender neutral form of "he or she." It is plural, so unless you are talking about more than one person, don't use it. Similarly, "themself" is not a word! Unfortunately, English doesn't have a gender neutral, singular pronoun that can be used to describe a person. "He/she" and "he or she" aren't good options either because they sound awkward. If you want to be egalitarian, switch between the gender-specific pronouns when indicating a gender neutral. Alternately, it is possible to be gender non-specific by writing in the plural.
- Don't indent. It's just not HTML-friendly. Just leave an empty line in between the paragraphs instead. Please, do not use tabs anywhere in your documents!
- The line lengths in your document should be no longer than 80 characters and preferably somewhere in the range of 72 to 76.
- Remember "I before E, except after C." It's usually right! The most notable exceptions are "their," "deity" and "weird." What kind of God would go on a diet? Weird is well, weird. "Receive" is the one most people mess up.
- "Loose" is the opposite of tight. To "lose" means to be missing something or to not win. Similarly, know the differences between choose and chose. "Choosen" is not a word; neither is choses. Just say them out loud. You'll feel like an idiot for misspelling them then. (Remember Bill Murray talking to Gozer in Ghostbusters?)
- People often use "then" when they should be using "than". Incorrect: I am a bigger geek then you. Correct: I am a bigger geek than you.
- Real peeve here: Et cetera is abbreviated etc., NOT ect. or ext. If you're pronouncing it "eksetera," you need to be beaten anyway. Oh yeah, you only need ONE etc (i.e., don't write "etc. etc. etc.").
- The correct spelling for the attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Manipulation, Charisma, Appearance, Intelligence, Perception, Wits
- The letter "i" appears NOWHERE in the word "aggravated." It's A-G-G-R-A-V-A-T-E-D. On a related note, it's A-S-S-A-M-I-T-E
- The correct spelling of Tzimisce is: T-Z-I-M-I-S-C-E. Don't ask me how to pronounce it.
- S-U-C-C-E-S-S[-E-S]. Enough said.
- A player is someone who rolls dice and spends his life savings on gaming supplies. A character consists of imagination and lots of little dots on a piece of paper. Know the difference! Example: The player makes the Appearance + Firearms roll while the character seduces the HIT Mark.
- WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS ANNOYING.
- Don't use accented characters (i.e., letters with acute accents, tildes, etc.) unless you use the equivalent HTML escape code (e.g., to make an "é," use the code "é").
- Spell check! Spell check! Spell check! It only takes a few minutes. Then make sure you check the context. You can easily misspell a word by using the correct spelling of another one. Your spell checker won't catch those.
- Capitalize where you're supposed to but don't over-capitalize. Always capitalize sentences. ALWAYS. This is prose, not poetry, so you don't get to be ee cummings. Occasionally, it may not be clear what does and doesn't need to be capitalized, but try to be consistent.
- With a few obvious exceptions, punctuation marks should ALWAYS be followed by a space. In other words, don't send me texts that look like: "My spacebar(you know,the big,long key)is ugly.I don't like to push it,so I don't."
- Here's a big problem I have: leaving out words. Unfortunately, our brains move faster than our fingers! I've found that reading things aloud, preferably to someone else, helps a lot.
- "Its" indicates possession. Use "it's" as a contraction of "it is."
- A "role" is a part you play. A "roll" is a pastry or something you do with dice. Thus, "role-playing" is considered desirable behavior, while "roll playing" is not.
- Don't use archaic speech unless you know how. It just looks silly when you use a "thee" where a "thou" should be. Of course, if you are going for a campy, pseudo-Medieval style then that's a different story.
- Use punctuation and use it correctly. I confess that I can be bad about this myself, especially with commas, but some guidelines are easier to remember than others. Use a semi-colon to join two complete sentences into one; never use a comma for the same thing. Avoid using semi-colons too often though. To those of you who think you can leave off the periods from the ends of your sentences, one of these days I'm going to hunt you down and do something very unpleasant to you! I don't know what yet, but I think it will involve rubbing alcohol and paper cuts.
- Don't put an ellipsis ("...") at the end of every sentence. They're for indicating that not only are you leaving something unsaid, you want to draw attention to it. You're not to use them just because you can't think of a good way to end a sentence. If you use them too often (say, more than once every four or five paragraphs), they become meaningless and silly. On a related note, an ellipsis has three and ONLY three dots. However, just because you've put an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, doesn't mean you get to leave out the period . . . .
- Be concise without being terse. Unnecessary words and sentences, more often than not, obscure your meaning rather than elucidating it. There's a big difference between incoherence and extravagant, so the rule still holds even when you're going for a flowery style.
- Don't write the way you talk. Even when it's a quote or a testimonial, you have to be aware that there are nuances of verbal communication that are impossible to translate to the written word.
- Avoid run-ons and sentence fragments. Sometimes you can get away with them, but most of the time you can't. I've gotten entries that had no sentence breaks while others had absolutely no verbs. That's not prose; it's gibberish. Have someone else read your creation aloud. If you see a look of confusion on her face or it sounds bad when you hear it, you didn't get away with it.