The Gauntlett
Wraith: The Oblivion is One Game You Have to Play to Believe

Adam Gauntlett | 4 Dec 2014 12:00
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Gauntlett: You wrote so many of the Wraith books; what attracted you to the system in the first place?

Dansky: I've always been sort of ghoulish, shall we say ... I've always loved horror, I did my undergraduate thesis on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I collect old horror novels, and I love ghost stories. So the subject material was a perfect fit for me! On a more philosophical level, the notion that wraiths are people with unfinished business really struck a chord. It was really interesting storytelling material for me, and to take that world with these people who, okay they've died, but they still had something to do that was so important they can't let go, that opens all sorts of doors in terms of the world they inhabit, what they could be doing ... it's an incredibly rich vein of material.

Gauntlett: I think your first Wraith sale was Haunts, back in 1994.

Dansky: I had two chapters in that, the Tillinghast Mansion, and the Hanging Gardens Casino. I wrote both of those in the basement of a church in suburban Boston while I was proctoring fake SAT exams to teenagers, and sitting in furniture designed for third graders.

Gauntlett: That must have been comfortable!

Dansky: It was inspiring! There was also no air conditioning in that church, so it was really a race against the clock, for the test I was proctoring, and also against heat prostration!

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Gauntlett: Was that your first commercial sale?

Dansky: That was my first commercial writing. The first official, published writing I did was a couple academic papers in Lovecraft studies and studies in weird fiction.

Gauntlett: How did that first sale feel?

Dansky: It was incredible. There is really nothing like it, holding the book in your hand, and of course, finding the first typo ... I was living in a house in south Boston at that time, and my apartment was at the top of this incredibly narrow flight of stairs, in the dark. I got the envelope from White Wolf, ripped it open, and there was that first copy of Haunts. I was so excited I ran up the stairs, went smack into my door, and nearly fell back down again! Most people would have chalked that up to the curse ...

Gauntlett: It does seem fairly curse-like, you have to admit.

Dansky: Yes. Well, it was an old house, and there were noises in the walls, but those were largely due to squirrels!

Gauntlett: Those sinful squirrels. I've heard it said - in fact, I believe it was you saying it - that Wraith was out in the boonies as far as public opinion was concerned. Why was that?

Dansky: I think Wraith, for a lack of a better way of putting it, was the Deep Space Nine of the World of Darkness, in that the material is not quite as accessible, in some ways, as Vampire or Werewolf. I mean, in Vampire you're a dude, and you're a vampire living in the modern world, living in the city, which means 98% of the trappings are the things you're familiar with, and see every day. The same thing goes, to a certain extent, with Werewolf. These are very easy steps away from who you are, into your character. With Mage you're taking bigger steps, and with Wraith there was this whole other way of being. I guess you could call it two steps removed, as opposed to one step from your normal life, because you had the Shadow, because you had the Underworld, because you had the Tempest, the Labyrinth, and all these portions of the cosmology that were so integral to the setting, but which were so far removed from your day-to-day. You couldn't fall back into your day-to-day patterns in the way that you could with the other games. On the one hand that made it a little harder to get into, but on the other hand it gave us a tremendous breadth of material to explore. I don't want it to sound like I'm knocking any of the other games, because obviously I love those other games, I wrote for those other games, I played all those other games, I still have groaning bookshelves of all the books from those other games! I just think Wraith was the one that took two steps outside of reality as opposed to one, and that second step made a big difference.

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