World of Darkness

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The World of Darkness (or WoD) is the name given to three related but distinct fictional universes. The first was conceived by Mark Rein-Hagen, while the second was designed by several people at White Wolf Gaming Studio, which Rein-Hagen helped to found. The first two World of Darkness settings have been used for several horror fiction-themed role-playing games that make use of the Storytelling System. The third, Monte Cook's World of Darkness, includes only a single product.


[edit] Old World of Darkness (oWoD)

[edit] Background

The first setting was created in 1991 with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade; support for it subsequently ended in 2004 with the release of Time of Judgment. The theme of the old World of Darkness is described as "Gothic-Punk" by the developers.

The World of Darkness resembles the contemporary world, but darker, more devious, more conspiratorial. Humanity is losing hope as it is secretly preyed upon and controlled by supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and wraiths. One facet that sets the World of Darkness apart from most other horror fiction is that these creatures are not solitary predators to be hunted down and destroyed, but they are numerous and intelligent; enough so to form secret societies, develop various factions and allegiances, and use humans as pawns in power struggles and murderous games often lasting centuries or millennia.

However, the rising power and strength of human civilization has started to restrict their power, and an atmosphere of gloom resides over many of the games as once-almighty supernatural beings, the dark Princes and Lords of previous eras, in their turn face the bleak and unbearable prospect of a future spent struggling and shrinking under the ever-more powerful gaze and control of a world-wide technocratic cabal, which intends to stamp out mysticism - and their supernatural rivals in the same course - by making reason and science paramount. In the meantime, normal humanity, tool or prey of all factions, is oppressed and hounded in this hidden, all-encompassing conflict, barely capable of fighting and for the majority not even aware of their enemies.

Interlocking conspiracies, some mirroring those said to exist in our own world, some unique, can be found throughout the setting. Cabals of powerful mages, coteries of cunning vampires, and other, stranger powers vie within their own cultures and with each other for control of the world. The dichotomy between rich and poor, influential and weak, powerful and powerless, is much more pronounced than in our world. Decadence is common and corruption is everywhere. This dark reflection is seen everywhere: gargoyles and gothic construction influence architecture, while the leather look and punk atmosphere crowd the streets. Everything is as gloomy in the WoD as the most pessimistic tabloid headlines present it.

The game uses both historical (Wild West & Dark Ages) as well as a modern setting. Any games played in modern settings use the world we know, but with an underlying supernaturals influencing it. While the game is fictional, players should be aware that the game takes place in the "real world" Real world consequences will follow if you break the human's laws, also humans will respond in the way they would normally. The game does not rewrite human society, rather it uses human society as the backdrop for the secret lives of the supernaturals.

[edit] History and playability

Though each game line is its own self-contained universe, as time passed, more and more obvious connections between the settings were made in the canonical, published material. This was not planned from the beginning, so the World of Darkness was riddled with discrepancies and sometimes contradictions in the cosmologies of each system. Many of the later game supplements have optional rules suggesting how to handle interactions between different types of supernatural beings, and in some cases, present rules that attempt to allow discrepancies to exist between settings. It is also explained that the discrepancies may represent various factions actually changing reality to their own beliefs (especially within the 'Changeling' and 'Mage' sub-settings - see below).

The rules were increasingly streamlined and standardized, and the templates of all the different system started to look more similar with each edition. The downside of this was that, with each step towards a common ground for the systems, the rules, terms, and templates underwent dramatic and backwards-incompatible changes. During all this, Wraith: The Oblivion was discontinued and even at the end of the third edition of Vampire, Werewolf and Mage, the bumps had still not been smoothed out.

In the end it was left up to each individual Storyteller (the term in the World of Darkness games for the gamemaster) to interpret the rules and try to combine the systems that were used.

[edit] Publication (settings)

White Wolf developed the following game sets in the old World of Darkness between 1991 and 2003:

These all represent a Rulebook and a varying number of Sourcebook supplementals on anything from specific clans and tribes to gadgets and entire citybooks describing all the supernatural denizens. In parallel to these settings, White Wolf has developed historical settings for their major product lines. They include:

Additionally, while owning the rights to Ars Magica, White Wolf made additions to that game's setting to bring it into the World of Darkness timeline. Atlas Games would later acquire Ars Magica and remove these alterations however, and the connection between Ars Magica and the old World of Darkness is no longer considered canonical. Early advertisement to the Exalted game established it as the pre-historic age of the World of Darkness. Although many elements of Exalted correspond with the WoD to some degree, the two gamelines were not connected in the end.

Later in publication history, each new year had a theme at White Wolf Game Studios and the books published in that year were focused on the theme. This brought about the new sets of Hunters, Demons and Mummies, but more importantly it dictated the focus of all the sourcebooks for every system that were published that year. For instance, Vampire and Werewolf were given sourcebooks with an Eastern theme in the Year of the Lotus cycle, and the books concerned the Asian variety of these creatures.

A World of Darkness sourcebook was published in two editions as well and provided general guidelines for story creation on every continent as well as outlining the differences between, for instance African Werecreatures and North American ones. There was also a similar title for Werewolf entitled 'A World of Rage'.

[edit] Annual Themes

The old World of Darkness had several years tied to a specific theme. During this year some game supplementals to the various gamelines were published that were tied to this theme. The logo of the theme in question was also printed on the products.

Year Name of the year Theme
1996 Year of the Hunter Groups of Mortals trying to take back the night.
1997 Year of the Ally Mortal allies to the supernatural being.
1998 Year of the Lotus Supernatural beings from eastern Asia.
1999 Year of the Reckoning Start of Hunter: the Reckoning game line. Revised Edition published.
2000 Year of the Revelation Secrets of the ancient period. (Related to Exalted Game line.)
2001 Year of the Scarab Restart of Mummy as Mummy: Resurrection game.
2002 Year of the Damned Start of Demon: The Fallen as game.
2004 Time of Judgment End of the game line.

[edit] End of oWoD (Time of Judgment)

In late 2003, White Wolf announced it would stop publishing new books for the line, bringing the published history of the setting to an end with a series called The Time of Judgment. This event is described from different supernatural perspectives in four Sourcebooks: Gehenna (for Vampire: the Masquerade); Apocalypse (for Werewolf: the Apocalypse); Ascension (for Mage: the Ascension); and Time of Judgment (covering of White Wolf's less-established product lines: Demon: The Fallen, Changeling: The Dreaming, Kindred of the East, Mummy: Resurrection and Hunter: The Reckoning ).

The publishers stated that in doing so, they followed up on a promise that has existed in the World of Darkness since the first edition of Vampire, with the concept of Gehenna, and in Werewolf, with the Apocalypse, as well as some elements of some of the published material that pertain to 'end of the world' themes in other games. Fiction novels from each of the three major gaming lines concluded the official storyline.

[edit] Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (Card game)

One of the earliest collectible card games (CCG) Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (formerly called Jyhad) is also based on the original World of Darkness, staying very true to the setting. As one of the longest-running CCGs in existence, it is the only WoD product that has not been discontinued - the Gehenna-theme (end of the old WoD Vampire setting) was featured in one expansion, but further expansions have been produced, without any reboot of the franchise.

[edit] World of Darkness (WoD) or (nWoD)

A non-canon interpretation of the new World of Darkness cosmology that speculates on some of the relationships of the planes of existence seen in the books.

[edit] Background

On August 21, 2004, White Wolf launched a new World of Darkness line, sometimes referred to as nWoD or new World of Darkness (where as the previous version came to be referred to as "oWoD" or "old World of Darkness"). While the rebooted setting is superficially very similar, the overall theme is one of "dark mystery", with an emphasis on the unknown and the personal. The apocalyptic theme present in oWoD has been removed from nWoD, as have the gothic and punk aspects of the world setting.

Many details of the setting, especially in regards to its history, are left vague or otherwise have multiple explanations. This may be a response to criticism of the old games: so much material had been published that Storytellers found it difficult to surprise their players, who knew every supposed "mystery" of the setting. Additionally, "end of the world" themes were noticeably absent from the new World of Darkness games, leading many to conclude that White Wolf does not intend to end the new WoD in the same manner as it did the old.

Instead of reprinting a full ruleset with each major title, tweaked and modified for each game, the new setting uses one core system for all games, a streamlined and redesigned version of the old rule system renamed the "Storytelling System". A core rule book, simply titled The World of Darkness, has full rules for human characters and ghosts; though it has no specific setting material, it establishes a tone and mood for games featuring human protagonists. This is another contrast to the old games, where so many different types of supernatural creature had been defined that normal humans often seemed unimportant. (Players often joked that "mortals" were a minority in the setting, far rarer than vampires or werewolves; in actuality Vampire had initially stated that the vampires numbered roughly 1 to every 100,000 humans and it was implied elsewhere that other supernatural races were of similar rarity.) The old setting also made humans a minor threat to the supernatural races, but the new rules make it possible for humans to be powerful opponents to the things in the night. The World of Darkness core book was well received, and won the Origins Gamers' Choice Award for 2004.

[edit] New rule system

The new WoD rules are much more streamlined than the previous system. The Failure rules have changed and the "10-again" rule has been added, in that a "10" indicates a re-roll and the "10" still counts as a success (this rule was present in the original WoD only for Traits ranked at least 4 out of the usual maximum of 5, and then only for a "specialty" or particular sub-field of the trait's application). If another "10" is rolled, this step is repeated until anything but a "10" is rolled. Exceptional Successes are indicated by having five or more successes on the action, and can be regulated by the Storyteller. Dramatic Failures are now only possible on "chance" die rolls; when a dice pool is reduced by penalties to zero or less, a single chance die is rolled. If a 10 is rolled, it is a success (and as before, rerolled), if the result is less than 10 but not 1, then it is a simple failure. On a chance die, if the roll is a 1, then it is a Dramatic Failure, which is usually worse than a normal failure of the action, and is regulated by the Storyteller (although examples of Dramatic Failures in certain situations are occasionally given).

The game also features a much simplified combat system. In the old system each attack made during a combat scene could easily involve 4 separate rolls and in many cases required more due to supernatural abilities possessed by the characters. Combat scenes involving large numbers of combatants could take a very long time to resolve. The new system requires only one roll which is adjusted by the defensive abilities of the person being attacked and represents both the success and failure of the attack and the damage inflicted because of it, (indicated by number of successes).

The nature and demeanor rules which represented the personality of the characters and were common in the old games have also been removed. In the new system characters have a virtue and a vice trait which not only represents the personality of the characters, depending on how well a role player the person playing that trait is, but also represents actions that the character can take in order to regain willpower points that have been spent during the course of play. The vices are the same as the deadly sins, while the virtues resemble the heavenly virtues. (Charity, Faith, Justice, etc, for Virtues, and Envy, Wrath, Lust, etc., for Vices). Storytellers and Players are encouraged to invent new ones as seen fit.

The morality stat represents the moral outlook of the character and the notion that as a character takes more and more morally questionable actions she or he will eventually stop feeling bad about it. A character with a high morality would be more moral and saintly while a person with a low morality would be able to take more questionable actions. As a person’s morality falls they run the increasing risk of becoming mentally unstable.

For example, a vampire kills a mortal cultist who has been trying to kill him. Since she attacked him, it's not murder, it's manslaughter, which is represented as "4" on morality. The vampire's current morality stat is "6". He fails his roll and thus drops to morality "5". In addition, he must now make a second roll to resist gaining a derangement (a trait that affects characters' rolls & actions).

There is some version of morality in each of the game lines which represent internal struggles of the characters.

There are also specific action bonuses which can be attached to the Skills. These give modifiers to whatever the person is doing. There is also a "no dice chance" rule, where the person attempts to do something he wouldn't normally be able to do, they have to roll a "10" to succeed.

[edit] Publication

[edit] The Core setting

Each new game setting now consists of a rule book which includes only those rules specific to the type of protagonist portrayed, leaving more room for specifics of that aspect of the World of Darkness. This has also vastly improved compatibility between games, particularly as all characters are created as normal humans and thus have the same basic traits. Supernatural traits still vary for each character type, but their interactions with each other are governed largely by a single, simple mechanic. The playable supernatural types generally follow similar rules in terms of game mechanics, including:

  • 5-6 inherent "sub-races," to which every character belongs based on the circumstances of his/her transformation into a supernatural being (5 Vampire Clans; 5 Werewolf Auspices; 5 Mage Paths; 5 Promethean Lineages; 6 Changeling Seemings).
  • 4-5 chosen "factions," to which a character may belong based on his/her beliefs; a character does not usually need to belong to any of these groups (5 Vampire Covenants; 5 Werewolf Tribes; 5 Mage Orders; 5 Promethean Refinements; 4 Changeling Courts).
  • Power level trait (often generically referred to as "Supernatural Advantage"), rated 1-10 (Vampires = Blood Potency; Werewolves = Primal Urge; Mages = Gnosis; Prometheans = Azoth; Changelings = Wyrd). High levels of this trait often limit the character's ability to interact with the world.
  • Energy trait, consisting of temporary "points" used to fuel various powers with capacity and spending ability based on the "power level trait" (Vampire = Vitae; Werewolf = Essence; Mage = Mana; Promethean = Pyros; Changeling = Glamour).
  • Learned powers arranged in traits rated 1-5, capable of rising higher when "power level trait" exceeds 5 (Vampire = Disciplines; Werewolf = Gifts; Mage = Arcana; Promethean = Transmutations; Changeling = Contracts).

The three core games are as follows:

[edit] Limited Series setting

In addition to the main three games, there is an additional game each year. Like Orpheus for the old World of Darkness, each of these "fourth games" will have a limited series of approximately six books, including the core rulebook.[1] The first such game is Promethean: The Created for August, 2006, based largely on Frankenstein and similar stories of giving the unliving life through alchemy. The second game is Changeling: The Lost, and was released in August, 2007. It is a game based around characters that were taken and enslaved by Fairies similar to those of European folk tales, who managed to escape to find they were no longer human themselves, and must find a new place in life. Due to overwhelming positive response to Changeling, White Wolf has continued publishing material for it, although it is not quite a "Core" series. The third game, Hunter: The Vigil, was released in 2008. At the end of Hunter is an ad showing blurred human skulls and the text "GEIST: Summer 2009". Geist's full name, Geist: The Sin-Eaters, was revealed on 2nd March 2009.

[edit] Publication history

  • World of Darkness (August 2004)
  • Ghost Stories (November 2004)
  • Antagonists (December 2004)
  • Mysterious Places (June 2005)
  • Chicago (December 2005)
  • Armory (January 2006)
  • Second Sight (April 2006)
  • Shadows of the UK (June 2006)
  • Skinchangers (July 2006)
  • Tales from the 13th Precinct (July 2006)
  • Shadows of Mexico (October 2006)
  • Urban Legends (April 2007)
  • Book of Spirits (May 2007)
  • Monte Cook's World of Darkness (August 2007)
  • Asylum (August 2007)
  • Reliquary (September 2007)
  • Changing Breeds (October 2007)
  • Chicago Workings (PDF Only) (January, 2008)
  • Midnight Roads (February 2008)
  • Innocents (April 2008)
  • Innocents, The New Kid (May, 2008)
  • Dogs of War (June 2008)
  • Inferno (January 2009)

[edit] WoD MMORPG

A merger between Crowd Control Productions and White Wolf, Inc. was announced at the annual Eve Online fanfest in Reykjavík, Iceland, in November 2006. As part of the deal, it was announced that White Wolf would be adapting the Eve Online intellectual property into a RPG, and CCP explicitly stated "There will be a World of Darkness Online", referring to a MMORPG version of the game. According to the latest news, work has already begun on the WoD MMORPG and full time production is to commence within the year and launch in 4-5 years.[1]

Full production of the WoD MMORPG will start March 2009 after the Eve Online expansion is finished according to CCP. [2]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Razorwire : news (10 February 2007)
  2. ^ WoDOnlineNews : news (5 January 2008)

[edit] External links

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