White Wolf cuts own throat with "licensing fees" for game organizers

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.


(Thanks, Garrett!)

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 game…

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.