An Interview with Steffie de Vaan

Steffie is the newest member of our AHP hamster horde <3. Since you may not know her, we thought it would be a cool idea to sit down and do an interview so you can get to know her a bit better.

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Liz: Hey Steffie! Welcome to the team! Can you tell everyone a little about yourself?

Steffie: I’m Dutch. A roleplayer. And a writer. Not necessarily in that order. I started roleplaying – as in, seriously obsessively playing – during my university days. Started with Dragonlance (still one of my favorite games) and moved on to Vampire the Masquerade later. That last game had a huge impact on me – it expressed so much of what I felt, hoped, and dreaded back then. I’ve played a ton of other games since then, but mostly I’ve been the designated Storyteller of my group. My longest running campaigns were set in the World of Darkness (it’s a toss-up between Vampire Dark Ages and Werewolf the Apocalypse, both of which lasted about eight years), my favourite game to run was Exalted, and my current campaign is Pathfinder. The list of games I still want to play is too long to detail completely, but Seventh Sea, WITCH, and Mage the Awakening are at the top.

I’m also an intersectional feminist and that’s a pretty huge part of my personality. I rarely use sexism, racism, or transphobia in my game writing, because games should be interesting, suspenseful, and fun. Sexism isn’t fun, at least not to those of us who’ve been on the receiving end. I’ve never been on the receiving end of racism and transphobia, but I would venture those aren’t fun either. That demon gunning for your character’s soul is fun. That game master or fellow gamer misgendering your character because she was born assigned male, is an asshole. I’ve no use for that in my writing, and no patience for it at my table.

Liz: That’s awesome! Our gaming loves align perfectly, you’re a lady of good tastes :D. I have noticed one thing you’re missing from your bio though – the insanely awesome resume you have. You have a lot of amazing writing credits under your belt. Can you tell me a favourite project you’ve worked on? 

Steffie: I kinda love all of them – I’ve been fortunate enough so far that I’ve only worked on projects and with people I liked. My developers have all been insanely good too, so I always come away feeling like I learned something new – like I’m a better writer than I was before.

But here’s some of my favs: Cavaliers of Mars (not out yet), Changeling the Lost 2nd Edition (not out yet), Chill 3rd Edition, Era: The Resistance (also not out yet), 7th Sea: Heroes & Villains,  V20 Anthology, V20 Beckett’s Jyhad Diary (kickstarted), V20 Dark Ages, and VtR Secrets of the Covenants

Cavaliers of Mars stands out because it’s a brand new game. Cavaliers is the brainchild of Rose Bailey and she’s amazing. She let me channel my love for all things Jack Vance, and let me play around in her world. We had an outline, but she let us fill in the blank spaces – trusted the writers that they got her vision, and could contribute to make it even better. That was amazing and I loved it.

Beckett’s Jyhad Diary really gets into the metaplot of Vampire the Masquerade. Because of the huge impact that game had on my in my twenties it will always feel like coming ‘home’. Admittedly it’s a home filled with bloodthirsty monsters, but still. We got to advance the metaplot, figure out what exactly happened with ‘Gehenna’ and where the world went from there. The people at new White Wolf are taking Beckett’s Jyhad Diary as the first piece of their canon, to bridge the time between earlier editions and V5, so that’s very cool. Props to Matthew Dawkins and Neall Raemonn Price for developing the book, because it had a lot of different strings to pull together.

I also loved working with Matthew McFarland on Chill 3rd Edition. McFarland was actually my very first dev – he hired me for Promethean the Created, another amazing game – and I’ve learned so much from him. I had a little more experience by the time he hired me for Chill, and he assigned me the ‘what happened since we left SAVE at the end of the 2nd edition’ section. I really like starting with a solid foundation, a jump-off point, and then just flying into the unknown – filing in the gaps and making up new mythology.

Last on the shortlist is Heroes & Villains, which you developed. That story also goes back to my earliest roleplaying games. The local game shop sold a magazine called InQuest, which was all about card and roleplaying games. In addition to Vampire articles, they also featured Legend of the Five Rings and Seventh Sea heavily. Neither of which I ever got to play, sadly, because I didn’t know any DMs running them and I wasn’t (yet) confident enough to just DM new games myself. So that’s two games I read so much about and longed to play, but never got the chance to. Very tragic, I know. But then John Wick Presents kickstarted the new edition of Seventh Sea and I got to work on one of the books! Which was every bit as awesome as I thought – I love Théah, and would definitely do it again.

Liz: I love what you said about writing for Beckett’s Jyhad Diary feeling like you we’re ‘coming home’, that’s a lovely sentiment. I noticed you like writing about a lot of dark fantasy – is that because those are the kind of jobs you fell into or is it more by design? What’s the draw for you?  

Steffie: I’ve always loved fantasy, horror and sci-fi. The defining authors for me growing up were Jack Vance (I LOVE Tschai, Planet of Adventure), Roger Zelazny (I won’t even tell you how many hours I spent trying to ‘shadow walk’ to Amber – though admittedly I was a lot younger then), Tanith Lee (Birthgrave changed my life – although not as much as hers, I surmise), Robert E Howard, and Stephen King. Top that off with Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion saga. So that’s what I write – horror with an esoteric bent, fantasy with a dreadful edge, and scifi with a mystical component. Or a mix of all three. I’m just really lucky that’s also what people hire me for.

Liz: Dune! Yes, that is for sure one of my favourites as well! Last question – you know a bit about the upcoming projects we’re working on. Do you have a line you are particularly excited to work on? 

Steffie: I’m very drawn to WITCH. The Fated traded their future for the present – and that’s a deal easily made when the ‘now’ seems all-encompassing, but much harder to swallow when the future becomes more imminent. So on the one hand Fated get to explore this amazing new world full of magic and life, and on the one hand there’s this demon waiting for them at the end of the line. That’s a very cool duality.

Afterlife is another game I’m itching to contribute to. I think, but I’m sure you can correct me if I’m wrong, that the book isn’t 100% done yet. Which means we have some uncharted waters left, and I love those. We briefly discussed a cult that serves the void for what they think are noble reasons, and I’d love to contribute new Mirages and Limbos. Plus the starting premise of ‘you’re dead and in the afterlife – just not your afterlife’ has dark irony that I really like.

Thanks so much for the interview Steffie! Can’t wait to see what you’re gonna create for use!

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