Mein Interview mit Vampire the Masquerade-Erfinder Mark Rein*Hagen zu I am Zombie

Mark Rein Hagen

Als mich neulich ein Pressekotakt fragte, ob ich Lust hätte, das neue RPG I Am Zombie von Mark Rein*Hagen vorzustellen, entfuhr mir zunächst nur ein gelangweiltes Zischen, so als ob ich mich auf das dicke Kissen eines alten Ledersessels geworfen hätte. Mark Rein… wer? Weiterhin ohne nennenswerte Dopamin-Ausschüttung googelte ich den Namen.

HOLY COW! DER Mark Rein*Hagen! Das Genie, dem wir die gesamte World of Darkness im RPG zu verdanken haben. Der Mitbegründer des US-Verlags White Wolf Publishing™, der uns in den 90ern mit Games wie Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Changeling: The Dreaming oder Wraith: The Oblivion beglückte. Aber für mich insbesondere der Mann, der das Bild der Vampire mit Vampire the Masquerade revolutionierte, indem er sie, zusammen mit anderen Monstern, erstmals zu spielbaren, tragischen Helden von Pen & Paper Rollenspielen machte.

Ich bin großer Fan von Marks Blutsaugern, die er in einer wunderbar dystopischen Welt des „Gothic Punk“ inszenierte und mir damit wohlige Schauer und philosophische Denkanstöße gleichermaßen bescherte. Sowohl das Pen & Paper, als auch das evergreen PC Game Bloodlines, sowie das Kartenspiel Vampire – the Eternal Struggle gehören zu meinen schönsten Erinnerungen, wenn es um Vampire geht.

Nun, Zwanzig Jahre später, im Zeitalter von True Blood und The Walking Dead, ist Mark zurück und möchte nun auch dem Zombie neues Leben einhauchen. Sein neues Pen & Paper I Am Zombie soll die untoten Hirnfresser revolutionieren und wie einst die Vampire zu tragischen Sympathieträgern machen. Seine „Toxic“ scheinen auf den ersten Blick auch alles andere zu sein als die stöhnenden Idioten, die viele von uns vielleicht noch vor Augen haben.

Als ich nun hörte, dass es im Rahmen der Vorstellung seines neuen „Babys“ auch die Möglichkeit gäbe ihn zu interviewen, war ich natürlich sofort Feuer, Rötschreck und Flamme! Da ich jedoch nicht wirklich Vblogger, sondern eher Oldschool-Schreiberling bin, entschied ich mich gegen einen Google Hangout und für einen Fragenkatalog, den Mark so nett war, trotz seines Pressestresses die letzten Tage, zügig und ausführlich zu beantworten. Tausend Dank dafür, Mark!

Natürlich wollte ich es mir nicht nehmen lassen, ihn auch über mein Lieblingsthema Vampire ein wenig auszuquetschen und bin deshalb erst im zweiten Teil auf sein neues Projekt eingegangen. Ich denke, ich habe halbwegs interessante Fragen gefunden und ihr habt Spaß beim Lesen. Allerdings bin ich deutlich zu faul das ganze Interview jetzt nochmal ins Deutsche zu übertragen, weshalb ab hier die sprachlich weniger versierte Spreu vom Englisch-bevorzugenden Weizen getrennt wird. Have fun:

10 Questions for the incredible Mark Rein*Hagen

Thilo: Hi Mark, it’s an incredible honor to have this interview with you. I am a huge fan of the world of darkness, especially Vampire: The Masquerade. Back in the 90s the game fascinated me and shaped my conception about vampires in a way that, nowadays, I still subconsciously assign the clan names like Toreador, Nosferatu, Gangrel etc. to all vampires that I encounter in new games or movies. Clearly, without you (and Ann Rice) pop culture would still solely consist of Dracula and some minor mindless bloodsuckers. So, first of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for spicing up my life with a new vampire myth that is multifaceted, the right kind of gothic, sexy and full of pathos.

And now, lest the pampering escalates any further, I would love you to answer the following questions. I cannot help but start out with a few fanboy-ish Vampire-related questions, but I will ask away about your new zombie-baby in no time:

vampire the masquerade buch1. Thilo: Do you remember the moment when it first crossed your mind to revamp vamps (no pun intended)? What was the promethean spark that made you do Vampire the Masquerade? Was there a main inspiration/drive?

Mark Rein*Hagen: I was driving up to Gen Con, the largest game convention in the world at the time, with the rest of the White Wolf team when it came to me in a flash. But a little background first. We were dead broke and we only had one RPG at the time, Ars Magica, and a few other board and card games, and we were barely making it. For over a year I knew that it was up to me to come up with something great to save the company, but everything I playtested ended in disaster. One game Inferno, where you play someone in hell, ended up blowing up every computer and phone in the house… but that’s another story. Anyway, I was very dejected that I couldn’t figure it out.
Then suddenly, while looking out the window in that car, I remembered by old partner Jonathan Tweet saying something after we saw the movie Lost Boys… “Playing a game with Vampires would be so cool, but it would be boring to just fight Vampires all the time.” And then it came to me, to flip the table, and have the players be the Vampires and have them fight each other and everyone else.
At that Gen Con I didn’t do much other than buy notebooks and fill them full of my notes. It was if the entire World of Darkness just emerged from subconsciousness in a few days. Not saying the whole world was fully formed at that point, but by the time we got home I had a general idea of what I was going to be doing for the next 6 years.

2. Thilo: When you played (playtested) Vampire the Masquerade, what was your favorite clan and why?

Mark Rein*Hagen: I can’t choose between all my children, I love them all? How can a father have a favorite?

3. Thilo: What do you think of Vampire: The Requiem? With me being a nostalgic, I kinda hated its guts, because in my perception, it took the clans and other ideas of the original books, mixed them up in confusing new ways, cut a lot of cool stuff, and created a new setting/storyline that I just could not wrap my head around as passionately as I could with the apocalyptic Gehenna storyline. Do you think it was time for a reboot? What’s your general opinion about it?

Mark Rein*Hagen: Listen, I don’t want to make a bad situation worse by commenting in detail on this. In generally I don’t think it helps gaming or roleplaying when designers criticise other designers or games. That said, I think it’s unfortunate that instead of evolving steadily over the years, that an entire series of games were turned into two separate series of games… and suddenly fans starting arguing with each other about which system is better. So in my opinion it was a mistake to make a whole new game that changed the setting (what happened to my Clans?) and bifurcated the fan base into two rival groups. I personally believe BOTH systems and settings have their advantages and disadvantages. In terms of the game system, they did a wonderful job in Requiem, truly, they streamlined and simplified the storyteller system and made it sing. Bravo for that. In terms of setting, they did a great job as well, it’s a whole new take on the Vampire thing (and all the other games), with a real World of Darkness feel, that is also new.
I do find it very interesting. However, since it divided the fanbase and may have partially contributed to White Wolf’s demise… I think it might have been a step too far, commercially if not artistically. Sometimes if you take half a step less far that you think you need too, thats the perfect distance to travel.

4. Thilo: Could you please name your top 3 Horror Films of all time? Is there a vampire movie among them?

Mark Rein*Hagen: Dawn of the Dead (nostalgia). Lost Boys (nostalgia). The Shining (classic and nostalgia). Modern day favorites would have to be…Let the Right One In, Cabin In the Woods, and the Conjuring.
So, two Vampire movies there. And… to be clear, I am pretty sure I have seen nearly every Vampire and Zombie movie out there. I devour them like popcorn and watch them in the corner of my iMac when I am working late at night. Of course Freaks has got to be one of the coolest, most subversive and TRUE movies ever made. Can’t wait to show my kids when they are older! “Gooble Gobble, one of us!”

5. Thilo: You contributed a lot more to the World of Darkness, of course, like Werewolf or Wraith. What are your top 3 Monsters in general?

Mark Rein*Hagen: I don’t really have a favorite, but if it did it would be whatever specifically I was working on at the time. As in MY version of a Vampire, Werewolf or Zombie. Monster are pretty darn boring really, unless their creator gives them a powerful impetus, personality and complex inner life.

Thilo: Ok now for a few I Am Zombie questions. I have to admit that I am not yet terribly familiar with the RPG other than what I extracted from the press material. Yeah me for going into an interview well prepared…… anyhow, the press contact promised to send me the print version for a proper review. I just love real books. So here are my uninformed questions that I hope my readers will also find interesting:

I am Zombie art6. Thilo: Zombies as intelligent protagonists? The movie „Warm Bodies“ comes to mind. It was fun and kinda worked for the comedy but ultimately zombies seem much too one-dimensional to provide for interesting role play. What did you come up with to make them interesting to play? What will I be contemplating about aside from “braaaaaiiins”?

Mark Rein*Hagen: The idea of intelligent Zombies is not new, in fact you could easily make an argument that this is something that is in the zeitgeist right now, that this is the new stage of complexity for zombies. I believe in fact that ALL monster go through this process where they start out inhuman, deranged and animalistic and then over time culture turns them more and more human, so that they gradually become a metaphor not for the savagery of nature, but the savagery of the beast within. Of the darkness of our own soul.
I agree that Warm Bodies goes part way towards the new goal, but doesn’t go far enough and certainly doesn’t do a great job with it. Screenwriters are not world builders and don’t really have the tools or expertise to create a full fleshed out society of beings (characters they are pretty darn good at however) or world and setting (but plot they are masters of).

7. Thilo: For me, and I am sure others can relate, RPG was also always a great playground for wish fulfilling fantasies. When I think about roleplaying a “creature of the night” I want to summon flames as a demon, turn into mist as a vampire or be incredibly fast and strong as a werewolf. These are all inherently cool and interesting creatures, story- AND powers-wise. What made you think that a Zombie, that most people associate with slow (sometimes fast), ugly, brainless creatures without interesting powers, could be worthwhile to roleplay when it comes to their abilities? Because for me, zombies are low level cannon fodder during the first few levels of my D&D priest 😉

Mark Rein*Hagen: I AM ZOMBIE is in some ways a bit like a World of Darkness game, you get to play the bad guy, the monsters. But in other ways it’s completely different, first of all it’s a science fiction game, not dark fantasy, secondly it has a powerful sense of humor. Historically Zombie movies and fiction have had a very dark sense of humor, and we have taken that on 100%.

8. Thilo: What setting/world did you chose for I Am Zombie? Is there a place for other supernatural creatures and events? Is there even a possibility to have a vampire-zombie-other books of yours-crossover thing happening at my table?

Mark Rein*Hagen: I AM ZOMBIE is set in OUR world. A dark and scary version of our world, a secret level of our world, but pretty much this place we live in with a few extras. This is a setup I have always loves because it makes roleplaying so much easier. When I used to try to help people run Ars Magica they used to get so frustrated because they didn’t know as much about medieval life as I did, and didn’t know how to get the details right. But if you are playing a Vampire or Zombie game in your home city… its EASY to get the details right. You game group is very like to share a lot visuals and concepts for your home town in your heads.

9. Thilo: When it comes to rules, the line “just pick 5 cards” for character creation immediately drew my interest. I value nothing more than fun and easy-to-use rules these days. That sounds kinda like my thing. Could you explain this a bit?

Mark Rein*Hagen: Every few people have as much time to INVEST in a roleplaying game as they once did. To spend an entire game session making character, as is still required in most RPG’s, seems to be me to be something I could easily correct, if I just used ID cards. This is something I have been thinking about for years, but I had a hard time, a REALLY hard time figuring out how to do it. This is the primary reason why
I AM ZOMBIE was a bit delayed, I had to get the game system right. And it is.
I think the cards work flawlessly and the game play adds a lot of elements from board game and is interesting and involving for both the storytelling and the game play crowds alike.

10. Thilo: As a huge board game fan the other thing that intrigued me was the press kit saying that you could play I Am Zombie as RPG, board game, LARP and whatnot; even changing it on the fly. How is that going to work? Or more precisely, will I have watered-down elements of each at my hands? Don’t know what to make of such a jack of all trades-approach… 🙂

Mark Rein*Hagen: The Board game is not out yet, but we will make the Ecard available online for playtesting, and you can literally use your same character and the game dice mechanics to play a board game. The rules for which were developed by legendary game designer, Kevin Wilson, who brought us Game of Thrones, Elder Sign, Descent and Civilization.
So yes, you can play the same character in a tabletop game, in a LARP, and as a card/board game. This really is what I love most about the Axiom system.

Ok. That’s it. One day, I would like to meet you in person and have some glasses of full-bodied red wine with you while passionately bitching about Twilight. It’s on my list of “things to do before I die”. So be prepared. Thank you very much for your time! All the best, Thilo

Mark Rein*Hagen: Thank you for this interview, Thilo. I appreciate your interest. Visit us on Facebook for more updates. See ´ya!


Ich weiß nicht, wie es euch geht, aber ein wenig gespannt bin ich nun doch auf das Buch. Scheint wirklich so, als hätte Mark da was sehr Durchdachtes und mit Herzblut Fabriziertes am Start. Die Atmosphäre scheint zumindest schon mal sehr gelungen durch die gesamte visuelle Aufmachung des Buches transportiert zu werden. Wenn mir der nette Pressekontakt demnächst hoffentlich ein Hardcover aus Papier und Tinte zukommen lässt, werde ich das Game mal genauer unter die Lupe nehmen. Hier könnt ihr schon mal einen ersten Blick in das I AM ZOMBIE Field Manual werfen:

I AM ZOMBIE Field Manual, First Unveiling!

Über Thilo (1200 Artikel)
Hi, ich bin der Gründer dieses bekloppten Blogs. Außerdem Realitätsflüchter, Romantiker, Rollenspieler, Gamer, Fantasynerd, Kneipenphilosoph und hochstufiger Spinner. Manchmal jogge oder schwimme ich, doch meistens trinke ich Bier.