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SF Interviews

Interview with Kraig Blackwelder

by James Maliszewski

October 12, 1999

With the success of its Trinity roleplaying game, White Wolf has decided to produce another game set in that universe. Called Aberrant, the game takes place over a hundred years before Trinity during the time when superpowered beings called "novas" were viewed as the saviors of humanity. Aberrant's developer, Kraig Blackwelder, consented to answer a few questions about the game, set for a July release.
In as concise a wording as you can, how would you describe Aberrant? What is its subject matter?
Aberrant is, at its core, a wacky post-modern game about people who suddenly find that they have an amazing amount of power. Some can fly. Some can control the weather.  Some can shoot bolts of energy from their fists. Some of these people are idealistic and want to make the world a better place. Others want to make a quick buck.  Regardless of the novas' motivations, the media are fascinated. In that sense, nova's are like Brad Pitt, Michael Jordan and Ricky Martin all rolled into one.   they're rich, beautiful and powerful, and everybody loves them. Well, almost everybody....
White Wolf seems to have planned Aberrant as a separate game from Trinity quite early. Is this correct? If so, why was this decided?
The World of Darkness fills one market niche, the Aberrant/Trinity universe fills another.
What I meant by my last question was this: the initial release of Trinity in 1997 included an ad for Aberrant at the back of the book. This suggests that White Wolf knew they wanted to produce this game from the beginning. Why was that? What sparked the decision to produce a second game
in the "Trinityverse?"
The World of Darkness was made of five games that worked together, and the sum effect worked pretty well, so White Wolf wanted to put together another world for people to play in. With the Trinity/Aberrant universe, it was just given more consideration beforehand.
One could call Aberrant a "Trinity historical game," much as Vampire: The Dark Ages is a Vampire historical game. Do you agree with this assessment? If not, why not? Does this perspective on the game make it easier or harder to design?
I strongly disagree with that assessment, actually, and it does make it much harder to design.  The tone of Aberrant is radically different from the tone of Trinity.  None of the historical games differs from its parent game as much as Aberrant differs from Trinityy.  The down side to the Trinity connection is that Aberrant can't go certain places I'd really like it to go.
Do you then expect it to be difficult to get people to accept Aberrant on its own terms and not as an "add-on" to Trinity? How do you intend to go about doing this?
I don't think it'll be a problem. The fact of the matter is, the games are at opposite ends of the spectrum, in tone, power levels and myriad other ways. I expect Aberrant to attract a lot of people whom Trinity never appealed to
Andrew Bates has repeatedly stated that he doesn't consider Trinity a superhero game. Does the release of Aberrant have any bearing on this position? Do you view Trinity as a superhero game?
I view Trinity as an action/adventure science fiction game.
Speaking of superheroes, you've mentioned elsewhere some of the literary influences on Aberrant. Would you care to mention them again here?
The literary influences on Aberrant are many and varied. Don Delillo's "Dog Soldiers" is one. Tom Clancy's work will have an impact a little further down the road. Any sort of post-modern literature you care to think of, from American Psycho to Vineland, has probably contributed to Aberrant in one way or another. It was even influenced by comic books.
I take it then that you don't view comic books to have had more of an influence on Aberrant than any other literature?
Mythology and literature made more of a contribution than comic books. I'm not a big fan of copying things, it's a sign of decadence. I don't like things that are overly derivative, and it's hard enough to stake new territory in this genre as it is.  
One of the things that has struck me about Trinity is that it's probably one of the most hopeful of White Wolf's games. Do you consider Aberrant to be a "dark game?" If not, why not?
Ostensibly, Aberrant is the brightest game White Wolf has ever done. It's about a Golden Age when there are heroes. Problems go away. Diseases are cured. Only those who really want to focus on the Trinity timeline and the Aberrant war that starts about 40 years later will be thinking of Aberrant as a dark game at this point.
Does this mean that Aberrant will focus strongly on the early days of the novas, well before they become the threats they are in Trinity?
Aberrant starts out in 2008, 10 years after the first real wave of novas and 40 years before the Aberrant war.
Does Aberrant employ the same modified version of the Storyteller System as Trinity? Where there any further alterations to the game system to accommodate the abilities of Aberrants?
It's basically the Trinity system with a little tweak here and there.
Will Aberrant have a meta-plot like Trinity and White Wolf's other game lines? If so, what can you tell us about it?
There will be a meta-plot, but after the initial flurry of Aberrant releases, I plan on downplaying the meta-plot so that it's much less obvious than in Trinity (or Vampire, for that matter). 
What are some of the initial products that will be released to support Aberrant? What can we expect to see in the future?
After the main Aberrant book you'll see the Aberrant Screen, which rocks in a big happy way. The stuff in the Aberrant Screen is some really good background into the Aberrant era, not to mention an interesting launching adventure, some really good cultural criticism and vicious satire. After that you'll have Expose: Aberrants, which furthers the meta-plot and gives some good info on one of the major factions in the game. Then it's time for the Project Utopia book, which is the book all the on Trinity fans will want to keep an eye out for. Following Project Utopia will be the Teragen Sourcebook, full of sweet, creamy weirdness.
Do you enjoy being a game designer? Is it a pleasant way to make a living?
Being the Aberrant Developer is decidedly more interesting than being the assistant editor on a developmental math textbook, which is what I was doing three months ago. It's creative work, my co-workers are very ... interesting folks, and I don't feel my neurons dropping off one by one. Those are all good things. 

Thank you,
James Maliszewski

What do you think?

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