Interview with Matthew Dawkins IV - Let the Streets Run Red

Interview with Matthew Dawkins IV - Let the Streets Run Red

Write on: Tue, 08 Sep 2020 by  in Blog Read 12906

Hey folks,

I'm very pleased to have conducted another interview with Onyx Path Publishing developer Matthew Dawkins. The writer of books like Beckett's Jyhad Diary and They Came From Beneath the Sea, he is here to talk about a new book coming out called Let the Streets Run Red for Vampire: The Masquerade's Chicago by Night setting.

Let the Streets Run Red is a chronicle book, containing four lengthy adventures that players will be able to get a number of sessions out of. Perhaps even enough to do an entire character's unlife from. All of these adventures are set within the American Midwest within driving distance of Chicago, IL. Each contains a different flavor of horror and while the player characters are monsters, they may not be the worst things out there.

It will be coming out this year, going first to backers of the original Chicago by Night 5th Edition Kickstarter.

Now let's talk about its contents!

1. So, Let the Streets Run Red is a chronicle book for Chicago by Night 5th Edition. What inspired OPP to do a book of adventure modules?

We’re always keen to find ways of getting new groups playing, or bring established groups back to Vampire, and pre-written stories are an effective way of doing that. We provide the tools needed to run a game straight out of the book, and aim to hit a different theme and tone from each one. The stories in Let the Streets Run Red can be played as individual tales or strung together as a lengthy chronicle with minimal effort.

2. You could you give us a one or two sentence rundown on what each of the chronicles is about?

Power Prey is a story concerning what happens when a mortal with a hunger for vengeance discovers the player characters are Kindred, and has the utilities at his disposal to make their loved ones suffer and conceal his own identity.

The Dying Fields is a story about Kindred visiting an isolated domain where the resident vampires and kine all belong to the same twisted cult. This one stirs feelings of paranoia and suspense, evoking the feel of The Wicker Man or Children of the Corn.

Innocence in Blood tells a tale of two wildly opposite cities and tracing a missing vampire from one to the other, allowing the player characters to experience clashing political systems, their respective corruptions, and brave the dangers of travel.

Rusted Jungle tells a political story in which the player characters are integral players as rival sects compete for a fallen domain, fighting with far more ferocity and lethality than any rational person would deem necessary for such a paltry scrap of land. It talks about what vampires are prepared to sacrifice for territory.

3. Will the chronicles be of a similar length to the well-received "The Sacrifice"?

Yes, most are the same length or slightly longer. Expect to play each of them over the course of three four-hour sessions, adding more if your group invests heavily in the characters and side plots.

4. What is the hardest part about writing a chronicle for a social game like Vampire: The Masquerade?

Hooking the players is a big challenge. A question I’m often asked is “what could keep a group of selfish vampires together?” The coterie mechanics in V5 help address this, but a pre-written scenario needs to find a way to feel personally relevant to the characters, which is hard when you don’t know what or who the players will be playing. This extends to the social aspect of the game, where Vampire (and other WoD games) rarely just set you up to fight a gang of goblins, bypass a trap, kill a bigger goblin (a boglin, maybe), solve a puzzle, then kill the end boss before she can finish her speech. Social games go all kinds of directions based on the characters in play, making linearity an impossibility without really harming a story’s fidelity or rendering half of the published scenario useless.

5. White Wolf has published some successful chronicles in the past like Transylvania By Night, The Giovanni Chronicles, and Under a Blood Red Moon. Do you have any favorites or least favorites of those?

My favourite of the classic Vampire chronicles was The Ventrue Chronicle, stretching across multiple eras and taking the rare stance of encouraging everyone to play the same Camarilla clan. It’s often overlooked as it was released late into the Revised edition era, but it’s so well-written with a lot of room for character choice and flexibility.

6. One of the chronicles updates the setting of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, obviously the basis for Milwaukee by Night. You used this setting for the basis of some metaplot changes in Beckett's Jyhad Diary. What appeals to you about the place or characters?

A part of it’s nostalgia, as Milwaukee by Night was the first city sourcebook I owned for Vampire. More than that, though, is Milwaukee’s position as a Rust Belt city with an interesting history, geographical location, and locale for industries fallen and thriving, such as automobiles and brewing, respectively. Milwaukee is a city with a sense of character, and I always enjoy visiting it in person and as a Storyteller.

7. How has Milwaukee's vampire scene changed from 1992 to 2020?

It’s changed in pretty major ways. Decker became Prince as of Clanbook: Gangrel Revised, and we see some of the domain’s other changes in Beckett’s Jyhad Diary, such as their increased war footing. In the last ten years, Decker dissolved the Primogen Council, outlawed the Anarch Movement, obliges every Kindred resident to participate in the domain’s defence against Lupines, and imposes other strict laws such as gathering no larger than a handful of vampires, appointing domain judges and an executioner, and so on. Milwaukee is the police state domain.

8. Indianapolis is apparently both a Ministry (artists formerly known as the Followers of Set) and Anarch city. Will this give us any insight into how the two are combined in V5?

Very much so. Vampire has never portrayed a Setite / Ministry-run domain before, with even Cairo by Night ostensibly Camarilla with an Anarch Prince, so it was important to me to do two things: 1.) To give the Ministry a city, and 2.) Show how they run it, the positives and negatives of a Setite theocracy, and how they work well as an Anarch clan. It has a feel of “you’re free to fuck up, but if you do, don’t expect a safety net from us.”

9. You've described one of the chronicles as "folk horror." Could you describe what that means?

Absolutely. The Dying Fields is a folk horror story in that it has that sense of creeping dread, isolation from urbanity, and removal from the typical Kindred society norms. For all the player characters know, every mortal in this domain is watching them on behalf of a vampire master, or something even worse living in the fields. Folk horror is a genre typified by colloquial rituals, mounting suspense, and unsettling individuals, all of which would lead to folk legends about this area and why you shouldn’t visit.

10. The final chronicle of the book is set in the OG vampire setting, Gary, Indiana. What is the appeal of that city that it keeps coming back every edition?

As with Milwaukee, there’s the nostalgia factor, but there’s the addition of it being a domain with a deep cultural diversity, a real sense of urban degradation, and the pettiness surrounding the Kindred who cling to their domains within its limits, as if they mean something to anyone else.

11. Could you describe some changes that have happened to one or two of the NPCs from Gary?

I can certainly describe that as of the start of this story, Juggler and Modius (perennial favourites) are no longer present in the domain, at least not so far as the other Kindred know. Is someone behind their disappearance? Are they manipulating things from the shadows? How are their childer, Evelyn and Allicia (respectively) going to act to fill the gap? All questions in need of answering, and controllable by the players.

12. Do you have any favorite new characters from the chronicles?

My favourite is “Coach” Tyrone Soros, a motivational speaker Minister from the Indianapolis section of Innocence in Blood. I wrote him up and based him unashamedly on Coach Genghis from The Austere Academy, though Ty is arguably more sincere and less committed to killing children and stealing their fortune. Writing dialogue for characters like that, which we only do briefly because it’s rarely helpful to prescribe lines for a Storyteller to read aloud, is always fun. I’m particularly keen on his bizarre evangelical diatribe that reads as follows:

“Do you know how you spell recovery? I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you there’s no “I” in that word. You need mentorship, companionship, and God’s own ship, his ark, your ark, to cross that Nile!"

“I was once a no-hoper. A loser. I drank. I smoked. I took drugs. Do you know what lifted me from my funk? Was it therapy? No! Was it television? No! Was it antidepressants? Heck, no! It was God! It was God — and I call that big fella Sutekh, because he came to me and told me in a dream that was his name — who told me ‘stop being a loser, Ty, and start winning!’ Now I’m giving you that same message! The message Sutekh gave me! Start winning by believing in yourself!

“I met a girl the other night. She was lost. She was broken. She ran away from a terrible home situation with an abusive daddy. It made Ty shed a tear, yes it did. Did I send her to some shelter to get counselling and then get sent back home? That would have been stupid. A loser thing to do. Did I send her to a hospital to get patched up and hit with a medical bill that might bankrupt her? That would have been irresponsible. No, I brought her into the flock. Our flock. Your flock. She is one of you now. She is your sister, your daughter, your niece, your girl next door. The world turned its back on her, but we will not!”

13. Are you looking forward to Twitch streamers and YouTubers taking on any of these?

Definitely! It’s an excellent compliment I know myself and the other writers on this book truly appreciate when Storytellers and players take the content we’ve written and make it their own. "The Sacrifice" from Chicago by Night has seen a lot of play online, and I understand Styx and Bones from Cults of the Blood Gods has an actual play coming soon. I’ll be interested to see which Let the Streets Run Red story gets an actual play first.

Thank you, Matthew.

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 October 2020 19:02
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.