White Wolf, who publish live action RPGs (LARPs), have changed their
policy so that anyone who runs a game where fees are collected have get
permission in the form of a $20 per-player-per-year license from White
Wolf (White Wolf also wants you to take this license in exchange for
the right to print t-shirts and other schwag with the name of your own troupe on it).
Serious LARPers who love and promote the hobby (and
have therefore kept White Wolf in business) often go to great personal
expense to organize games: renting halls, making props, printing and
photocopying materials, etc, and they ask their players to pay fees to
recoup those costs — indeed, it's hard to imagine LARPing as a viable
hobby without this practice, since it would practically limit play to
those willing to buy a pig in a poke by investing in their own props
and such before they've played their first game.
These LARPing evangelists are being treated by White
Wolf as infringers (though WW generously allows that the infringement
might have been unintentional) and White Wolf requires that these
pirates pay a fee to get legit.>
When I was a kid playing RPGs in Toronto, I'd spend
every Saturday at a rented hall in the Harbourfront complex, where
every RPG imaginable was on offer. I paid a modest fee ($2?) to help
cover the cost of the rental. If the organizers had had to get licenses
from all the game publishers whose wares were in play at those events,
it would have been impossible to manage.
I spent fortunes on gaming crap as a result of those
Harbourfront games, pouring all my discretionary cash into the
industry. The games I played the most were the games I spent the most
money on. The way I got to play those games was by being introduced to
them by GMs who were charging fees.
White Wolf is cutting its own throat, treating its
super-recommender customers like thieves, and demanding that the entire
world of LARPing rearrange itself to White Wolf's increased convenience
and profitability. This isn't running a business, it's crybaby
capitalism, the hysterical terror that someone, somewhere is turning a
dime without cutting you in for a nickel. Nice going WW. See you on the
scrapheap of history.
In brief, White Wolf is requesting that those who wish
to charge players to play White Wolf games (beyond standard fees at a
convention) obtain a license to do so from us. We request this both in
order to ensure we can provide a consistent level of support and play
experience to those fans looking to play our games and in order to
protect our rights in terms of trademark and so forth. Yes, our games
are meant to be played and we encourage everyone to do so — but
charging players is stepping into a commercial arena and license
agreements then come into play. Our vehicle for granting this license
is membership in the Camarilla.
I do understand that there is going to be resistance
to this policy. Many people have run or played in a wide variety of
pay-for-play games (especially live-action games) using a White Wolf
setting or system without any intention of infringing our rights. I
hope that our efforts to support the various licensed games (listing on
our website, promotion on mailing lists and in newsletters, promotional
giveaways and prize support, etc.) will ultimately outweigh what may
feel at first like an effort to stifle fan enthusiasm.
Update: Garrett points to a site where they are collecting instances of White Wolf advising people to charge for games, and to put up promotional materials:
Rearrange furniture, set up lighting and sound equipment if you have
any and otherwise prepare the environment. If parts of the play area
are going to represent different locations or be designated as
out-of-game, make sure they are clearly marked so that players aren’t
confused about where they are in-game. If you provide refreshments,
make sure they are set up in a convenient location, and don’t feel shy
about passing around the hat to offset the expense — most players will
gladly chip in a few bucks to have drinks and snacks on hand for the
Unless you are running a private game or one with a limited number
of players, don’t hesitate to advertise with flyers or other
promotional materials, and be sure to tape up signs or have Narrators
waiting to help make sure your players can find the game location.