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The (New) World of Darkness

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1 The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 10:34 pm

Hi, folks. So, I mentioned in the nuclear Icebreaker thread that I'm a huge fan of the New World of Darkness line of RPGs, and of the Storyteller mechanics they pioneered. So, I figured I might as well nerd out and give you a brief overview of the various games because...well, I like talking about this, and everyone I've explained these to have found one or two interesting. So, without further ado:

The New World of Darkness
Published by Onyx Path Publishing (formerly White Wolf publishing...it involves CCP and a failed MMO and it's complicated), the nWoD is an urban fantasy franchise based on but unconnected to the original, or old, World of Darkness games. You're probably familiar with Vampire: the Masquerade which had the fortune to be the subject of the fantastic Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (which statistically at least one of you is going to re-install now) and the misfortune of being one of the higher profile games along with DnD during the late 80s anti-RPG moral panic. Many of the gamelines in the oWoD were resurrected for the nWoD, which I'll mention as applicable, but the important thing to know is that the oWoD had a metaplot regarding the end of the world; the nWoD has none, and this is the first point to make and something they did brilliantly. Every gameline in the nWoD is modular and specifically designed to work with each other, but there's no single plotline and the Storyteller (nee Gamemaster) is free to mix and match to their hearts content. Want a universe where there are Sin-Eaters and Vampires but no werewolves? No problem, easy to do. I mention this now because otherwise the World of Darkness can seem pretty crowded.

So what is the titular World of Darkness? It's our world, but darker. The shadows are deeper and hide true malice, supernatural beings with their claws in the world's course. The World of Darkness shares our history, all our major events, all the major players on the stage of the world, but behind the scenes lurk monsters and conspiracies. Every year, there are a few more unsolved disappearances, a few more explosions of violence, a few more bad cops and a few more mysterious burnings. Dark relics and artifacts are subject to shadow wars and hold real power, and behind it all something or somethings are turning the wheels to their own ends.

The World of Darkness is a gothic world. The Old World of Darkness was very goth in it's presentation (and client base, of which my black-clad ass is a proud member); the new World of Darkness is much more a gothic world than a goth one, though. THe darkness in mankind's heart twists the mind and body. In the World of Darkness, not only is madness borne of genetics and accident like our world, but also from depravity, evil, and exposure to the supernatural. Humans exist, but not alone, and our shadows hide eyes and claws.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.

Side note: one of the subtler trends throughout the gamelines is the nature of the soul, and every supernatural "breed" has a particular quality of soul. I'm going to include these despite being small details that rarely come up because they tend to give a quick at-a-glance. And before you ask, if you have any supernatural template, you're locked out from the others because your soul is altered as such. It IS possible for a few supernatural breeds to "change breed," (such as a Mage dying and rising as a Sin-Eater) but this invariably means losing all benefits from the old soul type. So no, you can't stack templates.

Core Game
The core game refers to the World of Darkness rulebook, without any of the other gamelines or supplement books. Therein, you have all the rules for human characters, ghosts, and a truly well-written exploration of low-level RPG storytelling. And that's really the thing to emphasize here: where DnD is a game that's arguably about high fantasy, combat, gear, and clear progression, and generally shows its history as a variant of a war game even today, WoD is much, much more about collective storytelling from the ground up. Characters aren't exactly fragile, but a mortal human is definitely at a disadvantage against the unknown horrors that lurk in the darkness. Rather than Lord of the Rings, WoD games' stereotypical fiction is closer to Buffy the Vampire slayer, rewarding in-game researching, social maneuvering, and careful consideration. And this is triply true for mortals.

But as we'll see, mortals very humanness is a significant advantage over many supernaturals. And they always have the potential advantage of numbers.

Hunter: The Vigil

One other advantage humans have? They have Hunters. By and large, most hunters are normal mortals, barring some...exceptions. But they're all aware. The scales have lifted from these few eyes, and they are aware at least that something inhuman is at work. They may be woefully misinformed but resourceful or members of an ancient conspiracy; church militants or scions of the Inferno, but one way or another, they are united in their cause: face the darkness and find a way to hurt it.

Hunters can run up against any other facet of the World of Darkness. They may seek out daysleeping vampires with a wooden stake, try desperately to hunt werewolves without becoming the hunted, try to find the weaknesses and ambush witches and mages, deal warily with changelings, or any number of other horrors...but Hunters invariably lose some of themselves in the Vigil, and there is a dark mirror for these would-be saviors of mankind.

Slashers. Serial killers in the World of Darkness can become infused with the death energy they cause and become their own legends, terrifying killer supremes that live for the hunt and kill in a literal way that our own world's killers can scarcely dream of. And so, so many Hunters verge so close to that precipice, losing themselves to the Hunt until it becomes the Kill...

Hunters usually have mortal souls. Some, like the Lucifuge (the aforementioned scions of the Inferno) have obviously different souls, but the overwhelming majority of Hunter souls are human...unless they become Slashers, which house dark, grim things that can barely be called souls anymore.

Vampire: The Requiem

The successor to Vampire: the Masquerade. If you've played Bloodlines, you can assume that the same general feel holds true. If not, vampires, the undead. Vastly darker than it's oWoD predecessor, Requiem casts you as one of the Kindred, turned into a vampire by your sire and dragged into the predatory, parasitic unlife of the self-proclaimed lords of the night.

You are a vampire. This isn't Twilight or even Dracula (who hasn't been seen in decades and makes other Kindred nervous for many reasons). Rising into the night by the blood of your sire, your nature is determined by their Clan. This determines whether you're a sultry, seductive Daeva, a powerfully feral Gangrel, hideous, Orlockian Nosferatu, or other broad "type" of vampire. This is your birthright into undeath. But vampiric society is ancient and terrifyingly volatile, and neonate Kindred are well served by joining a Covenant, one of the many different ideological organizations debating and unliving out what it means to be a vampire, from the idealistic and new-to-the-scene Carpathians to the cult of mysteries of the Circle of the Crone to the old blood, ancient oligarchy of the Invictus.

But while the Covenants argue the high concepts of vampirism each night, often violently, night to night, you must survive. And you must feed. Vampires in the World of Darkness are incredibly powerful, with tremendous powers over mortals and the ability to work many, many kinds of dark blood magic, but they must feed, and feed often. Just to rise each night requires Vitae, the potent magic borne of stolen blood, let alone any of the more powerful magics. And humans have only so much blood. It's no wonder that vampires dominate the nightlife and are very, very territorial about their blood dolls and resources, and it's into this cauldron of ancient monsters, dark sexuality, and inhuman hunger that you've been brought. All under the cover of night, fearing fire and the sun as your truest enemies. But if you're smart enough, vicious enough, connected enough, or lucky enough, you have eternity to master the Danse Macabre.

Vampiric souls are hollowed-out, withered things. They maintain their old selves, but most of the vital core of the self is replaced with the profane power of Vitae, and the undead soul is an all-but-inert shell of its former self.

Werewolf: The Forsaken

You were mostly normal for your life. Coincidences surrounded you, odd happenings. Maybe you were apparently lucky or cursed, and lord knows you had a hard time holding your temper at times, but you were just human. Right?

Wrong. VeryWrong. One day, post puberty and probably triggered by some massive stress, you changed. Your body warped and twisted painfully, your mind reeled, and things whispered to you, taunted you, laughed at you, filled your ears with secrets.

You changed. You underwent the First Change, and before long you were approached by others, others who wore the human and the wolf and everything between, and they made you understand. You aren't human. You never were. You are Uratha a werewolf, a perfect dualistic blend of mortal flesh and spirit-wolf. And your birthright is violence, born into a genocidal shadow war stretching back to the time of legend.

This story is true: eons ago, the worlds were one, Pangea, unified flesh and spirit, and Urfarah, Father-Wolf, presided over it all. He patrolled Pangea and kept beast, man, and spirit in their places as the god of hunters. But Father-Wolf grew old in time, and weak, and five of his eight children rose up and slew him to take his place. This sundered the world, dividing the mortal realm and the Hisil, the Shadow, the Spirit World, in two divided by the boundary of the Gauntlet. And the children of Father-Wolf were likewise divided in a vicious war; the five who rose up to take his place became the forebearers of the Forsaken, dedicated to policing the nightmare of worlds both Spirit and Mortal...while the three who refused became the Pure, infused with hatred and superiority and dedicating themselves to the Forsaken's destruction.

You are of the Forsaken. The moon determined your Auspice, the gift of Mother Luna to those who took up her slain lover's cause, be you warrior or archivist or slinking shadow or other, and as a werewolf you also have the option to join one of the tribes, following the paths of the forebear Wolf-children of Father-Wolf as a sociopolitical body. Your inborn task is to bring to heel whatever might upset the balance between the worlds, whether it's too-curious mages or ever-hungry spirits...and survive as the Pure hunt you. For they hold the wild lands, and they outnumber the Forsaken nearly two to one, and their culture of viciousness, savagery, and hatred has won them many powerful spirits who resent your presumptions as alpha predators. You have the blessing of Gifts, powerful abilities fueled by the raw Essence of the spirits and taught to you by the same...often for dread price. But you are, and this must not be forgotten, the most potent predator alive, master of five separate shapes and able to heal from most any injury faster than anything else alive. Only silver owns your fear, a remnant of Luna's anger at your kind.

Uratha have souls that are obviously nonhuman, dualistic and fiercely intense.

Mage: The Awakening

You had a dream. In that dream you traveled far, far from mundanity into the Supernal realms, esoteric places of power defined by axioms of magic. And in the one you found yourself, you found a place, a lighthouse-like Watchtower, and there you inscribed your truename.

You Awakened. Awakened with fantastic powers into a much wider world, but one full of so many more horrors than you ever imagined.

Mages are defined by which Supernal Realm they visited, which defines the circles of magic they command. You are heir to a powerful, wonderful legacy...one that has been shattered utterly. For you Awoke to but one aspect of magic, defined by your Watchtower, be it the Fate magic of Arcadia, the Necromancy of Moros, the Augury of Pandemonium, or others, but the Supernal realm, the eternal goal of all Mages, was once unified, the mythical Atlantis, hidden not under the waves but deep behind the mind of humankind. And powerful mages were nearly there...before the magical warfare sundered the world and gave rise to the Abyss. The Abyss hungers and consumes, it is primordial destruction and un-making, eradicating things from existence so utterly they cannot even be said to have existed in the first place, and mages are beacons to it. Bait for it.

And for those that did reach Atlantis. The Exarchs, arch-magi who reached this ultimate realm, and were driven mad by it. Your Awakened soul draws them surely, for you are mere pawns in their godlike games, just as surely as it draws the demons of the Abyss. You have true power in your hands, the ability to warp reality on fundamental levels, but so too are your adversaries unthinkably powerful and alien...and that same heritage of hubris that sundered the supernal and gave rise to both the Abyss and the Exarchs is hardly gone these days...

Mages have brilliant souls shining like a star. This sheer overflow of power directly fuels their magic, and both makes them so powerful and so vulnerable in equal measure.

Promethean: The Created

You're not human.

Not yet.

The Created are aberrations, crafted of human corpses and animated with a perverse blend of primal energy, all of creation rejects them. They are forced to wander, their very nature befouling the earth and turning man and beast against them equally the longer they spend in a given place.

Their lot is terrible and painful, but the Prometheans have one thing no other supernatural breed in the World of Darkness has: a chance. Vampires are forever undead, Werewolves were never human and are bound to a life of spiritual violence, Magi would never see themselves diminished...but the Created can finish their Pilgrimage and truly become human, which is their true desire. Each one walks a path, alone or with a throng of fellow Created, seeking Milestones to further their understanding of humanity and to take another step to shedding their hateful, agonizing existence in exchange for another.

Each Promethean is crafted by another, and there are scant few Lineages. Among them are the Frankensteins, crafted from a ramshackle mix of corpse parts; the Galateans, animated from only the most beautiful and flawless dead, and the Tammuz, corpses reborn in the Earth and animated by a divine word. And each walks a different Refinement at any given time, each a mental and physical guideline to a specific path of humanity...except for those who give in to the Refinement of Centimani, of Flux, who give up on their Pilgrimage and seek only to cause chaotic, destructive change.

But as mentioned, each Promethean is born from the work of another...and this does not always succeed. From these many, many failures come the Pandorans, monsters of truly alien aspects who are activated by the Promethean's presence and are the closest thing Centimani has to true agents. And on the side, sometimes aiding, sometimes hindering, oftentimes simply being, are the angels, the Quashmalim...and that the misfortunate Prometheans are the only supernatural who can hope to enter the court of such beings is slim comfort.

Personal note: Promethean is commonly regarded as both the most fascinating game in the nWoD and the single hardest to actually play. I know of at least three other fans of the game who have never managed to get a game off the ground just because it's such a hard subject to tackle, but by god is it a gameline that gets in your head.

Prometheans have no souls. What they have instead is the Divine Fire, Azoth, which is a poor substitute but serves well enough for the purposes of the Pilgrimage, and can, with supreme luck and effort, be refined into a true human soul.

Changeling: The Lost

You were perfectly normal human...and you were taken.

The reasons for your abduction are varied, many and oft nonsensical, but you were stolen away, whether as child or adult. All you knew at first was the pain of thorns tearing at you, tearing into you far beyond the physical, and then...

You were a servant of one of the Others. The Gentry. The Fair Ones.

You were a fairy servant in Arcadia, and you were whatever your Lord or Lady or other master demanded you to be, whether soldier or lover or slave or stone or beast or more besides. Arcadia, a world where there are no laws of reality except what obeys your Keeper's decrees and thus agrees to be such. A realm of madness and godlike power...and you escaped this beautiful, mad hell. Maybe you slipped away, or slew your Keeper, or bargained for your freedom, or were simply forgotten -- or maybe you never escaped at all -- but you made your way back, through the Hedge that separates Arcadia from our world...only to find that you were displaced in time and likely not missed. The Fae are mad, but they are canny. A Fetch holds your place in life, a simulacra made of detritus and fae magic and a torn shard of your soul, a near-perfect copy of you living your life, identical save for one or two missing pieces, be they missing virtue or flaw.

And you? Look at you. Humans see another human, though the astute see a human badly haunted, abused, insane...but you see the horns, the hooves, the skin like quicksilver or like smoking embers, the clockwork heart or veins made of ice. You are a Changeling, one of the Lost, and you will never be the same.

Regardless of if a Lost can reclaim their mortal lives or not, every one of them is changed forever, warped with faestuff and magic into Beasts, shadowy Darklings, or the Fairest of them All, and all too many of them are hunted by their former captors. Against this, the Lost band together into Freeholds, and observe complex cycles of power to confuse the Gentry. In the Western Hemisphere, power cycles with the Season, each season dominating a different ideology and tactic against the Keepers, whether ignoring their dread influence as Spring does or sharpening blades in preparation to repay the goddamn fuckers as Summer hopes, the Freeholds bind the Lost together...though every Lost is broken and mad in some way, and invariably, duels are declared and the Hedge is fed in blood.

Assuming you ever got out in the first place.

Changeling Souls are tatterdemalion things, fragments of the original person (if you're lucky) bound to hedgestuff and magic with fae thread and held together with whatever holds the changeling's physical body together. They are at once truly magical souls beyond even the Mages and pitiable, broken things.

Geist: The Sin-Eaters

You died.

And you made a deal. A Bargain. Because you refused to stay dead, and in that eternal instant after you slid out of the mortal coil, you were approached by a thing that offered you a return to life in exchange for power over life and death and a second change...and possibly a third, fourth, and fifth chance.

Oh, and it's tagging along with you.

You rise again as a Sin-Eater, and you are bound to a Geist. Truly ancient ghosts who have blended with or become or somehow otherwise joined with conceptual-death spirits, Geister are insane, powerful entities that embody the way they died and little else, and seek out those who have a particular spark for life but have died regardless. And now you exist as a supernatural hybrid, with the Geist bonded to your soul and a true purpose in your new life. You are alive, and having been on the other side, you know how much that fucking means.

It also means you're a veritable beacon for ghosts, both the relatively sane new dead and the insane, violent old, and everything between. You are a shepherd for the dead if you choose to be so, or a reaper for the living. Because that's the thing: you know what happens when you die. Hell, you can visit the Underworld, and often may for many reasons, whether to make sure a ghost gets on toward the ultimate afterlife or to bargain with the alien Kerberos who rule the Domains of the Dead...killing your foes doesn't have the same moral quandary.

Though you may come to realize that keeping your enemies alive is more handy. Knowing the mysteries of Death is peculiar like that. Assuming you CAN kill your foes. For the irony of the fates has claws even here, and the dearest foes of the Sin-Eaters are those who will not die, the Ab-mortals, who have found dark ways to shunt death's energy aside. Slashers are sustained by the legacy of their kills, but here you have a foe literally kept immortal by its killings...and quite a foe they make.

Personal Note: Geist is the successor of sorts to Wraith: the Oblivion, which is bar none the single bleakest, darkest thing White Wolf EVER published. It's fascinating stuff, but almost impossibly grim and hard to run. Geist is much more about celebrating life and death, and is one of my personal favorites, but it has the unique trait of being overly celebrant and light-hearted until it isn't. Horrifying tragic, painful deaths are part and parcel to the setting as a ghost-heavy game.

Demon: The Descent

You...weren't human, exactly. You probably appeared as one. Acted as one. Maybe for a few hours, maybe for decades. You acted in accordance with a far greater plan, though. HOwever human you appeared, you were something else, part of the plan, part of the Infrastructure of the universe. You were an Angel in service to and directly connected to the God-Machine.

Then you fell. Maybe from a small rebellion -- turning left when the Plan had you turn right. Or maybe you were sent to kill a human at a given time, but spent too long around them and couldn't bring yourself to do it. Or maybe you were assigned to guard a particular location for years and years...and suddenly replaced. And unable to cope.

Regardless of your Catalyst, you fell. You became a Demon, one of the Unchained. And now you have entered into a realm of espionage and subterfuge that makes the Cold War look like child's play. As a Demon, you exist in two parts. Or more. One part of you is your human shell. This is not you, exactly, but it is the shape, the form, the existence you inhabit to keep your true self, the techgnostic body of a demon hidden from the Angels. You have an Incarnation, the purpose for which the God-Machine made you, and now it is yours to do with as you will, be you Destroyer, Guardian, Messenger, or besides. And you follow your Agenda, which binds you both to other Demons -- warily, for as Demons you are perfect liars -- and to a view of both your own purpose and that of the God-Machine. Perhaps your Agenda is to sabotage the God-Machine's infrastructure however you can, or perhaps you wish to rejoin the God-Machine's choirs of Angels, but on your terms.

But you are hunted. Angels will seek to bring you in, whether because they cared about you before or because they are tasked with bringing you in. And as a Demon you are cut from the virtual all-knowledge of the God-Machine...but you still have the ability to warp the very programming of reality. And if you're smart, you will cultivate many other existences as many other humans...even taking their existence wholly, if you have the stomach for it and can lure them into the right Demonic Pact...

Demons have peculiar souls, in that to see their soul is to glimpse their true form. Thus each is unique and most are either spectacularly beautiful or Geigeresque techno-organic nightmares...but all are clearly one part to a larger function that they are now divorced from.

------------


Whew. That's the main gamelines to date. There are two others, Mummy: the Curse and the upcoming Beast: the Primordial, but I have little experience with either. There are also a ton of side options, including various shapeshifters, immortals, and many, many others that don't have whole gamelines but are some of the most interesting stuff in the setting.

More to come if you guys want more!


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2 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 10:57 pm

Kiyoko

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Hey you, you should publish a novel, because hot damn your writing is fantastic.


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3 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:15 pm

*Fans self* Oh, I know, darling. I'm just waiting for a subject of proper gravitas and poignancy to catch my attention. M'yes.


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4 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:20 pm

Omg...omg this smells so good more please. ; m ;


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5 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:22 pm

I plan to touch on the smaller parts of the game tomorrow, including blatantly shilling my favorite parts. But glad to hear it!


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6 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:24 pm

I'm super interested about the mages and geister in particular but I feel like pretty much everything is gonna be cool. * A *


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7 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:26 pm

Kiyoko

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Should add a mechanics rundown at some point, too! After you finish doing an overview of the splats.


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8 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:35 pm

What do you want to know about Mages? I own the book, but admittedly it's been one of the ones that hasn't held my attention (and based on sales, I'm not alone.)

Geister are...interesting. As mentioned, they blend ghosts and spirits, which by the rules are very similar but are still separate. Meaning, mechanically they operate on the same rules (simplified attributes, Numia as powers, etc.) except that Geister usually have no stats. And they're usually up to the player to design as is fitting with the Sin-Eater in question. They're also rare: both Uratha and Mages deal with Spirits often, and some Mages and Changelings deal with ghosts with some proficiency, but none of them are usually aware that Geister even exist, let alone anything about them. But the realms of the Dead run deep and are convoluted, and only ghosts and spirits near the mortal realm are "visible," so that's not unusual.

In terms of crafting Geister, it comes down to "what do you want to do with your Sin-Eater?" Geister usually have a lot at stake in their Sin-Eaters; it's rare enough to find a suitable dead person that'll take a bargain, so they have a vested interest in not screwing them over terribly. However, there are Geister that ARE truly insane or simply get more out of driving their hosts mad than doing much else; Onyx Path published a story about exactly that, where a Geist drove its poor Sin-Eater to such lengths that she committed suicide multiple times just to get it to shut up...and that's one of the darker elements of Sin-Eater. Sin-Eaters are hard to kill, as you'd imagine emissaries of death to be, and can resurrect as much as the Geist wishes, but each time they lose significant parts of their soul. Mechanically, a Sin-Eater can resurrect five times before they're reduced to little more than a meat puppet for the Geist, and it wants to have some fun.

Most Geister are elemental death spirits in a way, defined by their manner of death. And they are thus attracted to would-be Sin-Eaters with similar deaths. One of my Sin-Eaters was a Forgotten (Death by Chance) who died from a freak firework accident that caused a multiple car pile-up, and attracted Burning Fingers, a Geist so called because that was the main way it communicated with her, a burning sensation in her fingers indicating it wanted something. It manifested as a charred corpse with, of course, its fingers alit.


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9 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:44 pm

Please also talk more about your characters as well holy wow. ; w ;


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10 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:02 am

The Storyteller system is, in my humble opinion, a masterstroke of mechanics in that it's a brilliantly streamlined system where everything is logically integrated and avoids needing much in the way of looking up rules on the spot.

Well, that set the bar nice and high. Let me explain how it works.

The Storyteller system utilizes ten-sided dice, or d10s. The basic rules are: a 1-7 is a failure, and a 8-10 is a success; 10s are also re-rolled, potentially for more successes. Characters are divided up into different aspects, but they're all on a 1-5 dot scale, each dot representing a die. Ergo, the number of dots in a specific roll equals the number of dice rolled, and thus the number of chances for successes.

That's the core mechanic. If you've got that, everything else is just a variation of that. No complex math to worry about or terribly esoteric rules like d20. (I don't HATE d20, but I can explain Storyteller in seconds, while d20 requires a significantly longer investment).

In WoD, your character is divided up into three main sections. Attributes are your core, the things that define your character's innate abilities. These are divided up on a 3x3 grid, each an intersection of Mental/Physical/Social and Power/Finesse/Resilience. So Power + Mental = Intelligence, while Finesse + Mental = Wits, and so on. You also have your skills, likewise divided into Mental/Physical/Social. The overwhelming majority of the time, your basic roll is Relevant Attribute + Relevant SKill +/- modifiers, like environmental obstacles, equipment, etc. You also have Merits, also divided into Mental/Physical/Social, which are more rule adjustements into themselves and are explained individually.

That's it. Attribute + Skill + Relevant modifiers. Right there, that's the core of the game. If you can understand that, you're set to play World of Darkness Core. The longest part of these games is usually the non-rule aspects, all the fluff and narrative to digest to get into the setting. The rules are deliberately ad-hoc and all the numbers are kept very small to make for fast, organic gameplay.

Though I will say this; the books REALLY could use with a master reference table for a few things. Editing seems to be their main weakness.

---------


As for my characters...hoo boy. There's a lot. I tend to Storytell more than operate as a player, so my characters are mostly NPCs, but I've a few that stand out in either case.

Changeling is my personal favorite gameline, and most of them come from that. Chief among them is Alice McClintock, AKA Red Autumn. She's a Beast in Seeming (the term for the broad categories of Changeling), with her Kiths (sub-category within Seeming) being Venombite and Steepscrambler -- she's half monkey and half venomous bird, and given the hints as to the nature of her Keeper, she suspects she, along with many others, were experiments. She's a member of the Autumn Court, the Court of Fear, albeit reluctantly and only under some social pressure, since she's in love with one of the Autumn Courtiers. She's also a very violent sort, with a volatile temper that too often hampers her sharp intellect, and she labors under a fae curse that renders her mute during the day. The fact that she's stumbled into a position of import in the Freehold is largely accidental, since most of the Courts either fear or hate her, and despite being in a position to curry a lot of favor, I've been roleplaying her consistently as a prickly, reclusive sort who only begrudgingly accepts the potential of her station. She's also coping with the fallout from killing her Fetch, a vicious woman nearly thirty years her senior, who continues to haunt her dreams.

On the Uratha side, there's Regel Osen, who's currently not actually an Uratha since the game that Tiki and I wrote that involved him is one we're trying to work into an independent intellectual property. But his original incarnation was an Irraka, the auspice of the New Moon, and an Iron Master, the Tribe most interested in assimilating with humanity and technology. In short, he was a gearhead and mechanic, able to wriggle into the tightest spaces despite being a giant viking of a man. He was also dealing with the fallout of a very, very complex and brutal relationship with another Uratha and ended up being drawn into Changeling politics, so as you might imagine, his normal good humor gave way at times to the savage wolf within, and even with our homerule variations on Uratha (I never liked the idea of the hybrid form being bigger than either the human or wolf form, so it's smaller and faster in our games), he's terrifyingly dangerous when pushed too far. Beware the nice ones.


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11 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:50 am

Kiyoko wrote:Hey you, you should publish a novel, because hot damn your writing is fantastic.

I forget the exact number, but Jaiser an I played a 1 PC Changeling game that nearly reached 800 pages on Google Drive,

Does that count?

Edit: Jaiser, how could you!? Talking about your delightful characters without sharing any of the equally delightful art you've drawn for them.

For shame!

Edit: Okay. I guess you did link to a sketch of Alice. Oops...:D



Last edited by Tiki The Troll on Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:49 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Chastisement)


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12 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:26 pm

Okay, I'm bored, which means you lucky sods get to hear more gushing about lovely dark urban fantasy RPGs.

World of Darkness is divided up into gamelines, each separate supernatural breed having its own (invariably thick) book that explains what the breed is, details how they're different from mortals, provides variant rules on the basic Storyteller system as applicable, and so on. But the bulk of the pages are pure, delicious, well-crafted lore. One of the beautiful things of WoD is that they do their homework and really think things through. This can make their books a bit of a nightmare to reference at times, since unlike most d20 games they take as much space as it takes to make something clear rather than try to fit everything into neat but arbitrary page lengths (*cough4eMonsterManualcough*), but by god if you read all of that will you will be able to look at the world through an inhuman perspective.

Let me give an example from Vampire, which was the first gameline and set the standard. The clans and covenants (and the bloodlines and other social/blood subdivisions, etc.) essentially let you play as any vampire archetype you fancy from any fiction (except Twilight, which it preceeded by years...and let's leave it at that). Want to be a Carmilla expy, all tortured lesbian lover with sharp fangs, but have a thing for ancient mysterious cults? Pick the seductive, social-focused Daeva clan and the mystery cult of the Circle of the Crone. Prefer something old school, a Orlockian vampire with a face out of nightmare but a cunning mind trying to do something about it? The Nosferatu clan is always recruiting at fangpoint, and the Ordo Dracul is interested in your theories or having another agent to smuggle lab equipment. And so on and so forth. The thing is, there are a lot of vampire myths and stories, from Jiang-Shi hopping corpses to Bela Lugosi to Bram Stoker to...*sigh* yes, Twilight. And if you're thinking throwing those together in a modern city and putting some hard mechanics into play would be cause for contradictions and conflict...well. They go into that. Extensively. There are some compromises you'd have to make to your sparkly vampire, of course, but generally speaking they explore exactly what happens when you throw Kindred together despite vastly different natures, pasts, ages, etc.

They explain why immortals don't really have that great a recollection of the distant past (vampires who grow too powerful eventually fall into torpor, whether by choice to lessen their blood's potency, and thus attract less attention, or because they don't and wind up having a very bad night, and this deathlike "sleep" plays merry hell with memories over the decades), why vampires are so paradoxically automatically hostile (vampires' twisted, hollowed souls leave them with the Beast, a primal Id constantly clawing for dominance and urging primal fight or flight to keep one's unlife going even if it means turning into a dapper high society Kindred into a slavering beast after too long without blood -- and this Beast instinctively recognizes other vampires as dangerous rivals or superior predators, meaning that first meetings are always tense events), and yet why they have such a strict sort of society with rules (while Kindred are very, very powerful, they're also very vulnerable to things as mundane as fire and sunlight, and very much dependent on human numbers for their unlives; a vampire who breaks the Masquerade threatens every Kindred in the area, and you don't get to enjoy immortality without being willing to deal with stupid threats). They explain how the different clans rub shoulders and how the various ideologies of the Covenants (don't) get along, why, and so on. So by the time you've finished reading a chapter or two, you have a very solid idea of where your particular bloodsucker fits into the world.

They do this for every breed. While it's very possible to create wholly new takes on the various breeds, the established mythology and fiction traditions informed most of the development, and the games let you mimic many of the classic styles of monster horror both in how the lore is established and how the mechanics work. Even the weaker weaknesses, such as vampires being repulsed by garlic, are at least discussed even if they're explained as bunk...though there's usually a sub-faction who proves the rule to have some basis in fact.

The problem I have with this is that they sometimes can be kinda predictable in the main gamelines. It's understandable. I mean, if you pick up a book titled "Werewolf," you're going to associate it with films and books you like, and if you can't do anything close to those sources that got you interested in wolfmen in the first place, you're going to be confused and disappointed.

But it's the secondary books that I've come back to the most. Every gameline has these, essentially more in-depth looks at this or that aspect of the breed or expanding on things with new content. But these are also where the authors put in the more out there ideas and more original concepts, using the established gamelines as a springboard. Let's take Werewolf as an example. For detailing what life is like day to day as an Uratha, The Rage has your back. Love werewolves but don't feel like the Uratha exactly fit what you want in a werewolf story? Blood of the Wolf is nothing but alternative rules and lore to fill your dark little heart. Find the Pure interesting and want to know more about them, perhaps even running a game from the "bad guys" perspective? The Pure is full of everything you need. Want to focus on the vicious conflict and larger conflicts between the Forsaken and the Pure? Guess what War Against the Pure is about. No, really, guess.

Actually, that last one brings me to a few things I wanted to discuss in the first place. I am not gifted with brevity. War Against the Pure, like many of their books, ends on a chapter that's less focused on the game as written and instead provides tools for vastly different variant games. In this case, tools to create any kind of were-creature you could ask for. (Skinchangers, which isn't part of the Werewolf line but is closely related, provides rules for independent shapeshifters of a few other sorts, but War is much more about consistent breeds; there's also Changing Breeds, but that's sadly the best example that while Onyx Path is generally damn good at their job, they still fuck up, leaving us with a book that's pretty much worthless). And they provide a few examples, three of which have never stopped bouncing around in my head: the Colony, a breed of Werecats; the Brineborn, fishmen and a huge homage to Lovecraft; and my absolute favorite, the Unclean, or the Roachmen.

In short(ish), the Colony are shapeshifters who start as normal humans until they're scratched by one of the cat-changers. The werecats are one of the few "good" factions in the WoD, but in typical WoD fashion, that's a very qualified "good." Cats are killers in reality, and the werecats are no different, but they have a caveat. No matter what kind of person they are otherwise, their affliction demands they hunt and kill the wicked at regular intervals. However, their condition -- their curse -- gives them no means to weigh the souls of mankind beyond the ability to stalk as a normal cat (though they can speak in that form, for what that's worth)...and they steadily go more and more insane until they've brought a wicked soul down by their claws. If they fail and kill someone who isn't evil, the madness deepens. And cats are rather crazy to begin with, the Colony sharing another form of this madness: catscratch fever. It's what drives even the most reluctant of them to inflict the curse onto another soul. Perhaps these horrible conditions are why the Colony is called as it is, for they tend to cluster together, filling houses or apartments with up to a dozen of their number.

It's worth noting they share the mythical cat's ability to steal the breath of sleeping infants too...and that the way "evil" is measured in World of Darkness is deliberately subjective and down to how the dice behave. The "Morality" (later "Integrity" with the rules revision, but effectively the same) mechanic reflects how moral your character sees themselves, not any objective alignment. Dropping down in Morality due to sins is dependent on dice rolls, and while graver sins have much higher chances of failure...it's entirely possible for an otherwise good character who made one massive mistake to be "evil" enough to satisfy a werecat's claws, and just as possible for a spree killer to roll well and never drop their morality, still seeing themselves as just and right. It's no wonder the cats go so crazy over time.

The Brineborn are half Deep Ones from Lovecraft, and half a reworking of the Old World of Darkness Rokea, the weresharks. If thinking about how weresharks would work in practicality is proving tricky, you're not alone. White Wolf never seemed to know what to do with them, but the Brineborn are much more focused...and much more pitiable. In their own mythology, when the world was young and land and see were just beginning to settle down, Mother Ocean created the Brineborn as ambassadors to the lords of the land. But they were rebuffed, and upon returning to Mother Ocean, she too turned her back on them for their failure. Thus, the Brineborn explain why they are consigned to the coasts of the world; venturing too far inland fills their minds with thoughts of the sea to the point of crippling distraction, but spending too long in the water brings forth panicked realization that something is coming from below. The resulting unfortunates are curiously extremely potent shapeshifters whose beast forms can appear as anything from a giant, razortoothed eel to a collossal catfish to a bull shark and whose hybrid forms are amphibious nightmares...but who mostly live in small communities on the edge of the sea, quietly breeding and trying to get back into Mother Ocean's good graces or finding spiritual salvation in the pages of other scriptures. Some are just more...aggressive about that than others, and people sometimes disappear...

Finally, the Unclean. This breed is pure genius to me as it brings the horror of involuntary change back into the oft-romanticized shapeshifter, but think about it, and you'll see just how potent the abilities this nightmare confers on its sufferers. The Unclean never asked for their condition. Never did anything beyond eat or drink something that another Unclean happened to be near and had the misfortune to succumb to the resultant sickness...until they fell apart into a swarm of giant cockroaches. The Unclean are at first blush the most unfortunate creatures in the World of Darkness, and from a human point of view its hard to argue that. They have a very hard time with bright lights, forcing many to an indoors and nocturnal lifestyle, and becoming a roachman rarely does good things for the complexion. They also lack the tremendous regeneration most shapeshifters enjoy, healing no faster than when they were mortal. But roaches are fascinating creatures if you get to know them, and the Unclean are likewise. Intensely social, they band together in loose but loyal groups, commiserating and aiding each other as they eke out some form of existence...which isn't as hard as it seems, since they can survive off almost anything, never get sick, and can get just about anywhere they want given their swarm form. Many can fly, all can see in even the purest darkness, and as time goes on, they may find themselves more at peace with their horrifying nature than they ever were with their human selves, a rare thing indeed in the World of Darkness.

And many of them get so comfortable with their monstrousness that they go for broke, and Roachmen Hell Cults plague many cities. And even those that don't raise hell seem to find many strange, forgotten things in the abandoned underworlds they skitter through...


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13 Re: The (New) World of Darkness on Wed Aug 12, 2015 5:19 pm

Actually, to add a bit to this, I've picked up the 2nd edition of Werewolf: The Forsaken recently. The above description still fits pretty well, but they've actually eased up on much of what had made players less interested in it than, say, the surprise hit, Changeling: The Lost.

Oh, dangers still abound, you're still a beast on the hunt, and the stories and responsibilities of Father Wolf and co are still widely believed...but life is no longer as brutal and sort for the werewolves as it once was. On top of that, they can better integrate with human society now, even to the point of having humans in their packs.

It overall just feels a lot less daunting, hopeless, and lonely, heh.


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