X1: The Panel of Dread

I wish I could say I dread moments like these.

If you haven’t seen it, basically:

  • We’re at a convention. Player asks a designer why an NPC’s position in a novel isn’t reflected in-game.
  • Designer responds that he thought the character was dead.
  • Player provides supplementary information. NPC is not dead.
  • Designer says they’ll fix it.
  • Crowd applauds wildly.
  • Internet cites video as evidence that either the player is an undesirable or the designers don’t know their own game.

I’ve been in the… what do you even call it… professional mythology business… for five years now. I worked on EVE Online, the world’s second-biggest MMO. I’ve been in charge of what I think is the world’s most complex vampire property.

And… yeah, I’ve probably given a wrong answer at a convention at some point. It’s not that big a deal, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, continuity gets mussed. Dozens of writers, a half-dozen designers, small mistakes get made. We don’t like that, but it happens. I’m told Star Wars has employees devoted entirely to continuity, and they still have mistakes and inconsistencies. We mess things up, and we have to fix them later. Or we change them, because we’ve got a compelling reason.1 I object to bad retcons, but not to retcons generally.2

Second, your game designer has to keep everything in their head and notes at once. Whereas a player asking a question is capable of considerably more focus on a specific question. I don’t have all of Vampire memorized: I look things up when I don’t remember them. At a con, I don’t have that luxury. It’s quite possible that someone will ask me a question about, say, the Akhud, at Gen Con, and I won’t get it right.

Mistakes frustrate me sometimes. I remember one, in particular, in a Requiem book. No one’s caught it so far, but it bugs the hell out of me. If it comes up in a future book? I might well contradict myself. I’m certainly not going to shoot the setting in the foot to keep it consistent with something I did wrong in the first place. Any more than I let rules that I wrote poorly dictate the path of new rules I’m doing right.

Should players be mocked for being so into things? For having that focus? Not generally. This guy was polite, reasonable, and apparently had spotted an actual error. Nothing wrong with that. Hell, I’m pretty sure I could ask Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns a really tough question if I cornered him in a public restroom.

So, no, I generally don’t dread getting asked a question I fumble. When you work on big settings, it’s just the kind of thing that happens. You move on, fix mistakes, explain ambiguities, or, sometimes, leave well enough alone.

It’s a day in the life. Have a no-prize.

  1. Or something looks inconsistent, but it’s supposed to — it’s a clue for later.
  2. An example: some EVE characters got name simplifications at one point because their names were too difficult for most people to pronounce.

3 thoughts on “X1: The Panel of Dread

  1. Geoff Johns would probably answer by ripping you limb from limb, of course. 😉

    Cheap cracks aside, it’s far from the worst panel canon query I’ve seen, so the reaction is rather puzzling.

  2. Actors from big sci-fi properties get much worse, asked questions only their characters would know about. This is a small blip on the scale, but I’m glad to know you don’t sweat the small stuff and fix things where you can.

    I have to say I’ve never come across an inconsistency in any version of Vampire – or any of the other WoD stuff – that I couldn’t just make a decision on myself, i.e. this is the proper version in my game, the other one is (or in some cases all of them are) rumour/conspiracy theory/unreliable testimony etc. This sort of thing is especially easy in the current WoD, since most things are not set in concrete and there’s a lot more mystery.

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