World of Darkness
World of Darkness is the name given to three related but distinct fictional universes created as settings for supernatural horror themed role-playing games. It is also the name of role-playing games in the second and third settings. 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 roleplaying 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.
- 1 Terminology and themes
- 2 New World of Darkness
- 3 Classic World of Darkness
- 4 Monte Cook's World of Darkness
- 5 World of Darkness Online
- 6 Now in Print
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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.
New World of Darkness
Many details of the setting, especially in regards to its history, are left vague or otherwise have multiple explanations. Instead of reprinting a full rule-set 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. 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.
New rule system
The new World 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 occasionally 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). 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, 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 (and of drawing the horror and disgust from those with higher moral standards, friend and enemy alike).
For example, a hunter kills a mortal cultist who has been trying to kill him. Since she attacked him, it is not murder; it is manslaughter, which is represented as "4" on morality. The hunter'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 and 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.
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:
- 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; 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; four Changeling Courts; eight Sin-Eater Archetypes; five Mummy Guilds; four Demon Agendas; five Beast Hungers).
- 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; Sin-Eaters: Psyche; 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).
- 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 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; Sin-Eaters: Manifestations; Mummy: Affinities; Demon: Embeds; Hunters (if part of a conspiracy) have access to similar powers/technologies known as endowments; Beast: 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 (subtitle not yet announced) 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 (scheduled to release in 2015)
- Deviant (subtitle to be announced).
- 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* (PDF only) (January 2008), inspired by Chicago
- Midnight Roads (February 2008)
- The Harvesters* (PDF only) (February 2008) inspired by Midnight Roads
- Innocents (April 2008)
- The New Kid* (PDF only) (May, 2008) inspired by Innocents
- Dogs of War (June 2008)
- Ruins of Ur* (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)*
- Falling Scales (SAS** August 2012)
- The God-Machine Chronicle Anthology (April 2013)*
- The God-Machine Chronicle (August 2013)
* This is not a gamebook but a novel first serialized on the White Wolf website.
** Uses the Storytelling Adventure System.
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 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 and in their fight against the Technocracy.
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.
History and playability
The various games of the classic WoD were developed separately by different teams of designers. At first there was little connection between the different games, and as time passed, more and more obvious connections were made in the canonical published material. This was planned from the beginning, though there was originally little in the way of oversight between individual games, and the World of Darkness became riddled with discrepancies and contradictions in the cosmologies of each game. This changed with the introduction of the Revised Editions in 1999. 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 games—see below) or the differing views each group has about the world.
The rules were increasingly streamlined and standardized, and the different systems began to look more similar with each new 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. Even after the release of the third edition of the "core" games (Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage), the various parts of the whole did not fit together cleanly. In the end, it was left up to each individual Storyteller to interpret the rules and bridge the games when used together.
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.
The Onyx Path
Main article: Onyx Path Publishing
In 2011 a 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade was released, also called V20, 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 is a new company by White Wolf Creative Director Richard Thomas, that 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 announced its 2013 Release Schedule, which will feature New World of Darkness and Classic World of Darkness products—including 2 brand new game settings for the best-selling New World of Darkness table-top game line: Mummy: The Curse and Demon: The Descent. Onyx Path also announced that 2013 would feature a newly 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.
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. (Monte Cook has since then returned to RPG.)
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, who 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 explicitly stated "There will be a World of Darkness Online", referring to a 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.
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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- The Onyx Path website Current publishers of all White Wolf Games Studios products
- Database of classic World of Darkness products
- Database of new World of Darkness products