The fifth edition of Vampires: The Masquerade‘s tabletop game released by White Wolf in early November, has a story that takes place in the Chechnya Republic. The story attempted to paint head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, as a tyrannous villain who was working with a secret vampire organization to kill and torture gays as a media ploy to distract from the growing presence of vampires in the Chechnya region. In the book the character is referred to as Sultan Ramzan. The book attempted to paint the fictional iteration of Kadyrov and the organization he was affiliated with as bigots and murderers, as reported by RT.com.
The site sums up the plotline, writing…
“It suggests the international outrage over the alleged persecution of homosexuals is nothing but a sophisticated media campaign meant to distract attention from the existence of Chechen vampires. Gay people are in fact being persecuted, the game stipulates – tortured, killed and fed to vampires – but “this is not the point.””
The controversy came about because this kind of persecution has allegedly been taking place in real-life Chechnya for the last couple of years.
The game book actually managed to attract the attention of the Chechen politician, whose spokesperson issued a response to the portrayal of the fictional Kadyrov, with RT.com paraphrasing what was mentioned to Kommersant…
“[The] [d]evelopers tried “to blacken Russia and Chechnya,” Kadyrov’s spokesman told Kommersant, calling the game synopsis “immoral and unscrupulous.”
This managed to garner a lot of backlash from all sides, given that one side felt that Kadyrov was being unfairly portrayed in the book, while others felt that White Wolf was trivializing the alleged persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya.
TechRaptor linked to an article over on The New Yorker, which chronicled the recent beatings, torture, and reported murders of homosexuals in Chechnya, offering testimonies of those who managed to escape from the
region under persecution of death.
The fictional story hitting so close to home caused Paradox Interactive to take drastic measures to correct course, especially with Chechnya’s own Kadyrov apparently not being pleased with the game sullying himself and Russia.
Paradox Interactive responded by making a post over on their official blog on November 16th, 2018. The post explains how they will censor the book, remove certain sections, fire the staff, and delay the release of Camarilla and the Anarch books, with Shams Jorjani, the VP of business development writing…
“I wanted to inform you of some changes that will be implemented at White Wolf, starting immediately.
Sales and printing of the V5 Camarilla and Anarch books will be temporarily suspended. The section on Chechnya will be removed in both the print and PDF versions of the Camarilla book. We anticipate that this will require about three weeks. This means shipping will be delayed; if you have pre-ordered a copy of Camarilla or Anarchs, further information will follow via e-mail.
“In practical terms, White Wolf will no longer function as a separate entity. The White Wolf team will be restructured and integrated directly into Paradox Interactive, and I will be temporarily managing things during this process. We are recruiting new leadership to guide White Wolf both creatively and commercially into the future, a process that has been ongoing since September.”
Paradox took an even bigger step by stripping White Wolf of autonomy, and now the books and games will no longer be developed internally. Paradox will be doing what Games Workshop does with the Warhammer series by outsourcing the stories and licensing the brand to interested creative parties. Paradox will also be overseeing how the brand is utilized by said parties before publishing the works.
The company only very loosely explains what happened by briefly discussing the chapter in question and why it was being removed, with Jorjani writing…
“Horror should not be afraid to explore difficult or sensitive topics, but it should never do so without understanding who those topics are about and what it means to them. Real evil does exist in the world, and we can’t ever excuse its real perpetrators or cheapen the suffering of its real victims.
“In the Chechnya chapter of the V5 Camarilla book, we lost sight of this. The result was a chapter that dealt with a real-world, ongoing tragedy in a crude and disrespectful way. We should have identified this either during the creative process or in editing. This did not happen, and for this we apologize.”
It will be interesting to see who Paradox picks to take on the World of Darkness brand and further the Vampire tabletop games and character books. But for now, White Wolf will no longer be producing the content with politically-motivated agendas working as the centerpiece of the story.
(Thanks for the news tip Phasmatis75)