What Was Written In Changing Ways Is Not Okay
By Vida Wenokur
Hedged In: a Changeling Story is about three people trying to make their way through a very hostile world. It is a fantasy story, but part of its conflict comes from issues that affect our society, interacted with both through metaphor and directly. In making a podcast that dives into real world issues, we knew that there would be times when we had to stop and reflect on our actions. Mostly we expected that we’d be the ones to mess up. I can easily say that I was not expecting to be scrolling through forum posts at 7am while on the bus trying to understand what was going on and why werewolves apparently couldn’t have abortions.
To explain: in December, 2017, Onyx Path Publishing published a new book for White Wolf’s system, Werewolf: the Apocalypse. This book, Changing Ways, is about the life of werewolves, and contains worldbuilding that is deeply transphobic, homophobic, and sexist. What's more, we can’t dismiss these messages as incompetence and lack of any queer people on staff: these messages were intentionally included (source).
(For more information about what precisely is going on, scroll down to the bottom of this article. I give an in-depth explanation there.)
In light of this we knew we had to spread the word, and then we had a choice to make. Should we keep using Changeling: the Lost, or should we find a different system?
World of Darkness was originally about telling the stories of the downtrodden and the strange. The potential to tell a story of beauty and desperation, to tell a story about people who are in-between definitions (not human and not fey), but are different and lost in a turbulent world, this is what drew us to Changeling: the Lost. And it hurts that the creators are trying to push queer people out of it.
We have decided that we are not going to be pushed. We see what is happening, and we are going to tell the queerest fucking story that we can.
Of course, we were already doing that, but now it is important that we talk about it. We are aware that this podcast is basically free advertising for the system we’re playing in, so it is crucial that we are honest about what is in the rules, and what is going on behind the scenes.
We hope that loudly disagreeing with White Wolf’s politics is enough. We have a responsibility to do what is right, but it is hard to know what precisely that is. If you have anything you’d like to say, we would love to hear from you. Any requests for more information, complaints about rules, thoughts on the ethics of our decision, and suggestions on systems we should consider switching to are all welcome. Keep in mind that we record far in advance and any changes we make will take a while to appear on the show. You can contact us over twitter and tumblr, or email us at email@example.com.
Thank you so much for reading!
Now here’s the lowdown:
For those who aren’t familiar with the companies involved, here’s a bit of background. White Wolf Publishing created a number of ttrpg systems. Generally it is best known for Vampire: the Masquerade, but there have been many successful systems beyond that. It 2006 it merged with a video game company, a merger that did not in the end work out (source). In the meantime, many former writers of White Wolf created Onyx Path Publishing (source). While Onyx Path is now the publisher of all World of Darkness, Chronicles of Darkness, and Exalted books, the licenses to these games and their worlds are owned by a company called Paradox Interactive (often referred to as nuWW), who bought White Wolf in 2015 (source). Onyx Path writes and publishes these books, but they do so under supervision of Paradox/White Wolf (source).
This is pertinent because the way their publishing agreement works allows nuWW to demand any cut, inclusion, and edit that they want, and they can cut pay/funding if their demands are not followed (source). This is what happened with the bigoted inclusions in Changing Ways.
The specifics of what was included is that werewolves cannot have abortions, werewolf culture is very homophobic so that gay werewolves would not be accepted, and that trans werewolves would not be accepted because “gaia doesn’t make mistakes” (source, source). No matter what in-universe explanations are given for these decisions, no explanation would make them okay. A thing about fiction is that it is all made up. There is no real werewolf society that this is based off of. NuWW included these things because they don’t want stories about gay werewolves to be told, or at least not stories about gay werewolves that get to be happy. They think it’s logical that a culture would believe that transness goes against the will of nature. And why would they ever even mention abortion, unless they wanted to make some political statement about it?
Of course we can all hope that good Story Tellers will ignore these statements. It is after all, your game. However, bigots will find shelter in these rules. These rules can be used to push queer people out of the community, to pressure people playing female characters into uncomfortable situations, and to spread these ideals to others. None of these things are acceptable.