World of Darkness
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World of Darkness are three related but distinct fictional universes created as settings for supernatural horror themed role-playing games. 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-themed role-playing games that make use of White Wolf's storyteller/storytelling system, as well as Mind's Eye Theatre, a live action role-playing game based on the core games. The third, Monte Cook's World of Darkness, created by Monte Cook based on the first two World of Darkness settings, includes only a single product.
Terminology and themes
In order to avoid confusing the two product lines, players refer to the most recent version of the World of Darkness line, released on August 21, 2004, as "New World of Darkness", and the previous version as "Classic World of Darkness". Prior to the re-release of cWoD it was often referred to as "oWoD" for "Original" or "Old" World of Darkness.
While the newer setting is superficially very similar, the overall theme is one of "dark mystery", with an emphasis on the unknown and personal horror. The apocalyptic theme present in cWoD has been removed from nWoD, as have the "Gothic-Punk" aspects of the world setting.
After White Wolf was purchased by Paradox Interactive in October 2015, the franchise was re-branded in December 2015. The "new World of Darkness" was renamed "Chronicles of Darkness", while the "Classic World of Darkness" has retained the name "World of Darkness".
One World of Darkness (formerly Classic World of Darkness)
Sometimes also referred to as "Original World of Darkness" or "Old World of Darkness". The original World of Darkness line was created in 1991 with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade. Support for it ended in 2004 with the release of Time of Judgment. The theme of the Classic World of Darkness is described as "Gothic-Punk" by the developers.
The World of Darkness resembles the contemporary world, but it is darker, more devious and more conspiratorial. The dichotomy between rich and poor, influential and weak, powerful and powerless, is much more pronounced than in the real world. Decadence, cynicism and corruption are common. Humans are unwitting victims or pawns of vast secret organizations of supernatural creatures. Vampires, werewolves and wraiths—among others—struggle with internal factionalism and against other species in secret wars of intrigue for control of reality. The battles in these wars may last centuries, beyond the realization or comprehension of ordinary humans. This status quo is recently threatened by the rise of a global Technocratic cabal (and/or an animistic spirit of stasis and control) intent on monopolizing the power of belief and destroying all traditional supernatural societies. The mystical abilities of these non-human entities and their ability to alter reality at will are restricted by the rise of reason and disbelief in the supernatural and they are forced to rely on more mundane methods in their struggles for supremacy.
The darkness of the setting is reflected everywhere: architecture is dominated by Gothic styling and fashion and personal style embrace Goth, Punk and fetishistic elements. The game uses both historical (Wild West, Dark Ages, and Victorian) milieus as well as modern settings. Despite the fantasy elements, the game emphasizes that any action has real world consequences, and abilities beyond what is considered normal by mainstream society will draw unwanted attention and potentially disastrous results.
White Wolf Publishing developed the following game sets in the Classic World of Darkness between 1991 and 2003:
- Vampire: The Masquerade
- Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom (not a distinct game-line, but a sort of spin-off of Masquerade)
- Kindred of the East (this, conversely, was essentially a distinct game-line, although it required Masquerade for a few basic rules of play and thus was not completely standalone)
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse
- Mage: The Ascension
- Wraith: The Oblivion
- Changeling: The Dreaming
- Hunter: The Reckoning
- Mummy: The Resurrection (like Kindred of the East, this was not entirely playable without access to a base rules system such as Vampire)
- Demon: The Fallen
Each consists of a Rulebook and a number of supplemental Sourcebooks, detailing specific clans and tribes, specific gadgets, and entire cities including descriptions of all the supernatural denizens. White Wolf Publishing also developed historical settings for their major product lines. These include:
- Vampire: The Victorian Age (set in the late 19th century)
- Werewolf: The Wild West (set in the 19th century)
- Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade (set in the late 15th century)
- Wraith: The Great War (set during and immediately after World War I)
- Vampire: The Dark Ages (12th century version that was later reworked into the Dark Ages product line)
- Dark Ages (13th century Middle Ages) versions of the settings:
After White Wolf Publishing acquired the rights to Ars Magica, additions were made 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, and the connection between Ars Magica and the Classic World of Darkness is no longer considered canonical. Early advertisements for the Exalted game established it in a pre-historic age of the World of Darkness. Although many elements of Exalted correspond with the WoD, the two game lines were divorced after the classic WoD was brought to a conclusion.
A World of Darkness sourcebook was published in two editions as well and provided general guidelines for story creation on any continent and in any milieu. These outlined the differences between African therianthropes and North American ones, for example. There was also a similar title for Werewolf entitled A World of Rage.
Each subsequent year of publication had a different theme. This brought about new sets of character types, but more importantly it dictated the focus of all the sourcebooks published that year. For instance, Vampire and Werewolf produced sourcebooks in the Year of the Lotus cycle concerning a variety of Asian themed creatures and expansions.
|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 and semi-mortal allies to the supernatural beings.|
|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 revelations||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.|
End of cWoD (Time of Judgment)
In late 2003, White Wolf Publishing 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 Judgement (covering the rest of White Wolf's less-established product lines: Demon: The Fallen, Changeling: The Dreaming, Kindred of the East, Mummy: the 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.
In 2011, a 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, also called V20, was released, and a series of further books for the cWoD were announced. Those books include conversion rules between some cWoD games and their nWoD counterparts, as well as material that was planned but not published before the End of the cWoD, as well as additional material for V20 and a 20th Anniversary book based on Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
For V20, as well as the upcoming V20 Companion and the 20th Anniversary Werewolf: the Apocalypse White Wolf Publishing used an Open Development approach, where readers and gamers could give feedback to the authors. At GenCon 2012, it was announced that Onyx Path Publishing will produce material to the new and classic World of Darkness as licensee. In November 2012, it was announced by Onyx Path Publishing that due to the resounding success of the W20 Kickstarter, which reached over 400% of its target funds goal, a 20th Anniversary Mage: the Ascension would be launched for 2013.
At GenCon 2012, the 2013 release schedule was outlined, including 2 new game settings, Mummy: The Curse and Demon: The Descent. Onyx Path also announced that 2013 would feature a Revised World of Darkness 1.5 core rules update titled The God-Machine Chronicle (for New World of Darkness) and The Strix Chronicle (for Vampire: the Requiem).
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.
In 1996, there was also a short lived TV series set in the WoD called Kindred: The Embraced that was produced by Spelling Television and broadcast by Fox. The show was based on the game Vampire: The Masquerade. It was canceled in the U.S. after only eight episodes. The possibility of a Canadian television station picking the show up was pre-empted by the death of Mark Frankel, one of the stars of the show.
Chronicles of Darkness (formerly New World of Darkness)
Many details of the setting, especially in regards to its history, are left vague or otherwise have multiple explanations. The first editions of the New World of Darkness games left the core rules to a central rulebook, The World of Darkness, which was well received and won the Origins Gamers' Choice Award for 2004. This book established core rules and a tone and mood for games featuring human protagonists. 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. In order to play other supernatural entities (such as Vampires or Mages), both the World of Darkness core and the specific book detailing the rules for that character type were required.
The second edition of rules was released in a companion volume for the core World of Darkness book called The God-Machine Chronicle, and Vampire: the Requiem was given an unofficial second edition in Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle, which contained complete rules for the Vampire characters, including the core system that had previously only been found in the World of Darkness core book.
As White Wolf Publishing attempted to keep the original World of Darkness separate, the new World of Darkness was rebranded as the Chronicles of Darkness, releasing a new core book with the God-Machine Chronicle errata folded in. Blood and Smoke received minimal changes to be re-released as Vampire: the Requiem 2nd edition, and other games previously part of the New World of Darkness began work on their own second editions.
New rule system
The Chronicles of Darkness rules are much more streamlined than the previous system. One 10-sided die is rolled for any 'dot' possessed in Attributes and Skills, and 1 success is achieved for every die showing a result of 8 or higher. 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 5 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 0 or less, a single Chance die is rolled. If a 10 is rolled, it is a success (and, as mentioned above, is re-rolled). 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 Simple Failure of the action and is regulated by the Storyteller (although examples of Dramatic Failures in certain situations are frequently given).
The game also features a much more 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 1 roll which is adjusted by the defensive abilities of the character being attacked and represents both the success and failure of the attack, as well as the damage inflicted (indicated by number of successes).
The nature and demeanor rules which represented the personality of the characters that were common in the old games have also been removed. In the new system, characters have a virtue and a vice trait that not only represents the personality of the characters, depending on how well the player role-played the trait, 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 (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride), while the virtues correspond to the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, courage) and three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity). In the game's second edition, players do not select virtues or vices from a list. Instead, they may select any lofty ideal to be their Virtue, and any guilty pleasure to be their Vice.
The morality stat represents the moral outlook of the character and the notion that, as a character takes more and more morally questionable actions, he/she 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 dubious actions. As a person's morality falls, they run the increasing risk of becoming mentally unstable. This, too, was changed in the second edition. Morality was replaced entirely by an "integrity" stat which reflects a character's mental stability. Integrity can be lowered not only by performing questionable actions, but by witnessing or being subjected to the horrors, supernatural or otherwise, that occur in the setting.
The core setting
The Chronicles of Darkness rules have improved compatibility between games; 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:
- 4–6 inherent "sub-races", to which every character belongs based on the circumstances of his/her transformation into a supernatural being (five Vampire Clans; five Werewolf Auspices; five Mage Paths; five Promethean Lineages; six Changeling Seemings; five Sin-Eater Thresholds (Sin-Eater Burdens in 2nd edition); five Mummy Decrees; four Demon Incarnations; five Beast Families).
- 4–8 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 (five Vampire Covenants; five Werewolf Tribes; five Mage Orders; five Promethean Refinements (in 2nd edition there are 5 basic refinements and 5 complex refinements); four Changeling Courts; eight Sin-Eater Archetypes (5 Sin-Eater Archetypes in 2nd edition); five Mummy Guilds; four Demon Agendas; five Beast Hungers).
- Power level trait (often generically referred to as "Supernatural Tolerance"), rated 1–10 (Vampires: Blood Potency; Werewolves: Primal Urge; Mages: Arete; Prometheans: Azoth; Changelings: Wyrd; Sin-Eaters: Synergy (Psyche in first edition, Synergy in second edition); Mummies: Sekhem; Demons: Primum; Beasts: Lair). High levels of this trait often limit the character's ability to interact with the world. Mummy: The Curse is the only World of Darkness game in which players begin at rating 10 and progressively become weaker (called the Descent).
- Morality/Integrity trait, on a scale of 0 to 10 (Vampire: Humanity; Werewolf: Harmony; Mage: Wisdom; Promethean: Humanity (Pilgrimage in 2nd edition); Changeling: Clarity; Sin-Eaters: Synergy; Mummy: Memory; Demon: Cover; Beast: Satiety). Falling to 0 typically results in complete insanity and loss of control of the character.
- 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; Sin-Eaters: Plasm; Mummy: Pillars; Demon: Aether; Beast: Satiety).
- Learned powers, often arranged in traits rated 1–5 (Vampire: Disciplines; Werewolf: Gifts; Mage: Arcana; Promethean: Transmutations; Changeling: Contracts; Sin-Eaters: Manifestations (Haunts in 2nd edition); Mummy: Affinities; Demon: Embeds and Exploits; Hunters (if part of a conspiracy) have access to similar powers/technologies known as endowments; Beast: Atavisms and Nightmares).
The three core games are as follows:
- Vampire: The Requiem (released August 21, 2004 alongside The World of Darkness core book)
- Werewolf: The Forsaken (released March 14, 2005)
- Mage: The Awakening (released August 29, 2005)
Limited series setting
In addition to the main three games, there are also additional limited series games. Like Orpheus for the Classic World of Darkness, each of these "fourth games" will have a limited series of approximately six books, including the core rulebook. 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 Publishing has continued publishing material for it, although it is not recognized as a Core series. The third game, Hunter: The Vigil, was released in 2008, dealing with humans who decide to confront the supernatural. The fourth game, Geist: The Sin-Eaters, came out in 2009. The game concerns characters known as sin-eaters who, at the point of death, bonded with one of the strange entities known as geists. They returned to life, and are now able to journey into the Underworld. No additional games were released in 2010 or 2011, but at the 2011 Gen Con, it was announced that a new Mummy game would be released in August 2012. It was announced at the Los Angeles By Night Convention that the newest World of Darkness game is Demon: The Descent. At the 2014 Gen Con, Onyx Path announced that their next line would be Beast: The Primordial. At the 2015 Gen Con, Onyx Path announced that Deviant: The Renegades would follow.
- Promethean: The Created (released August 11, 2006)
- Changeling: The Lost (released August 16, 2007)
- Hunter: The Vigil (released August 15, 2008)
- Geist: The Sin-Eaters (released August 19, 2009)
- Mummy: The Curse (released March 27, 2013)
- Demon: The Descent (released May, 2014)
- Beast: The Primordial (released March 30, 2016)
- Deviant: The Renegades
- 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)
- Asylum (August 2007)
- Reliquary (September 2007)
- Changing Breeds (October 2007)
- Chicago Workings[a] (PDF only) (January 2008), inspired by Chicago
- Midnight Roads (February 2008)
- The Harvesters[a] (PDF only) (February 2008) inspired by Midnight Roads
- Innocents (April 2008)
- The New Kid[a] (PDF only) (May, 2008) inspired by Innocents
- Dogs of War (June 2008)
- Ruins of Ur[a] (PDF only) (July 2008) inspired by Dogs of War
- Slasher (2008)—initially for Hunter: The Vigil, later made into a general nWoD book.
- Inferno (January 2009)
- Armory Reloaded (April 2009)
- Immortals (May 2009)
- Mirrors (July 2010)
- Glimpse of the Unknown (July 2011)
- Strangeness in the Proportion (November 2011)[b]
- Falling Scales (SAS[a] August 2012)
- The God-Machine Chronicle Anthology (April 2013)[b]
- The God-Machine Chronicle (August 2013)
- The Chronicles of Darkness (January 2016)
- Dark Eras (May 2016)
- Uses the Storytelling Adventure System.
- This is not a gamebook but a novel first serialized on the White Wolf website.
Monte Cook's World of Darkness
In August 2007, White Wolf published the single volume Monte Cook's World of Darkness. It was a take on a World of Darkness-theme by veteran RPG-designer Monte Cook. It was advertised as his last RPG book, before he would shift to writing fiction. (Cook has since returned to RPGs.)
The World in this setting is an Earth that has, some time prior to the start of the game, been hit by a global catastrophe caused by extra-dimensional alien beings. These beings sought to enter reality, but have since been repelled by mankind's emotion or will. Starting with that catastrophe, several supernatural beings and phenomenon appear – some accidental, some induced by the aliens to make mankind suffer to a level that allows them to enter reality.
The game uses a d20-like system, with level-based advancement. It incorporates vampires, werewolves, mages, and demons into its setting, and has therefore some similarities to the classical/new World of Darkness. It also tries to capture certain aspects of these game worlds, like the mages' free magic system: the game offers d20 compatible rules to design spells and a magic system based on exhaustion, rather than a classic d20/D&D-like "spells per day" system.
Although sharing the "World of Darkness" title, this game is a setting in its own right.
World of Darkness Online
A merger between CCP Games and White Wolf Publishing 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 role-playing game, and CCP Games announced a World of Darkness Online massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). According to news at the time, work had already begun on a World of Darkness MMORPG and full-time production was to commence within the year and launch in four to five years.
As of January 2008[update], full production of World of Darkness Online was scheduled to start March 2009 after the EVE Online expansion was finished according to CCP. Official confirmation that the game was in development surfaced in August 2009 on the official CCP web site.
The game was to be based on Vampire: The Masquerade and would have "focus[ed] on player politics and social interaction". According to Senior Producer Chris McDonough there "is no release date" set.
In October 2011, CCP announced that they would be significantly reducing the staff for the MMORPG, choosing instead to focus on the existing EVE Online universe.
In a February 2012 interview at Ten Ton Hammer it was reported that there were still at least 60 dedicated developers on the MMO and the project was still moving forward.
In April 2013, in an interview at EVE Fanfest 2013, it was reported that the World of Darkness Online team has worked on multiple projects at CCP, and were sharing technology with the company's other titles and teams. There are 70 people working on the tools and technology that will be used to build the World of Darkness and it was stressed that the game is in pre-production. Chris McDonough said "What we're doing is building a lot of tools, and we're trying to do it in a smart way... we have to be able to use the tools to make up the ground for the number of guys we have", and he also added "Now, we'll ramp the team up when it comes time to go into actual production but, for sure, we're making phenomenal progress". It was also announced the game was to be a next-generation MMO and will work like a vampire simulator. "We're making sure this is a next-generation MMO. It's very focused on movement and motion and capturing what it's like to be a vampire. People ask about our high level designs for World of Darkness and we've called this a vampire simulator. What's it like to be a vampire. Not a super hero, but a super-powered individual. The way the characters move around the city feels very vampiric", McDonough explained. The demo showed during the World of Darkness presentation at EVE Fanfest 2013, proved this out.
On April 14, 2014, CCP announced that the World of Darkness MMORPG was cancelled.
On October 29, 2015, Paradox Interactive announced that it bought White Wolf, including World of Darkness and Vampire: The Masquerade from CCP Games. Paradox stated it planned to create "multiple digital games titles" following this acquisition. White Wolf became a self-operating subsidiary of Paradox Interactive with its own management and goals.
In January 2017, White Wolf announced its partnership with video game publisher Focus Home Interactive for the video game adaptation of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, a tabletop role-playing game set in the World of Darkness. The game will be developed by the game development studio Cyanide and released on PC and consoles.
Now in print
In 2011, White Wolf and online role playing game store DriveThruRPG.com, began offering the new and classic World of Darkness source books in a print on demand format through the DriveThruRPG website, starting with a number of formerly out of print Vampire: The Masquerade books, and gradually adding more as they were ready for print. DriveThruRPG and White Wolf have indicated that eventually all World of Darkness material will be available in this way.
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