In 1991 the world of role playing games changed. The World of Darkness had seen first light. World of Darkness was a game changer with its world in which Vampires, Werewolves, Mages and more not only shared a collective world but Vied for power over it. The World of Darkness was a whole new world, a basic D10 system but what was unique was the Storyteller Aspect. In Storyteller speaking was more important than dice rolls and rules were lighter, when you were rolling dice something had happened. In Storyteller, Social Combat, and Social interactions Were a huge aspect of the game. Sure a Vampire could rip your throat out or a Werewolf could rip your arm off, but there were consequences to your actions, Major ones. The Cool thing about the Storyteller World of Darkness was it had so many things going on. I have mentioned Vampires, Werewolves and Mages but those are just parts of what is going on in the World of Darkness. With over 250 books!! (Source books, City Books, Clan books, And Rule books) The World of Darkness had one of the Richest and most fulfilling Story worlds I have ever played in. I am only going to cover some things and try not to go into super detail over everything some surprises are good.
Vampire The Masquerade was the first and most well known in the World Of Darkness. The original came out in 1991 and captured the hearts of many a Role player with its simple cover (1st, 2nd, 20th anniversary covers and Revised pictured above looked simplicity the same), but inside was a world of wonder like of which no one had ever seen. You actually played Vampires which was a first in RPG’s because Vampires were seen as evil but in this world you were trying to hold on to your humanity and not succumb to the beast within you. This was the first game that I ever played that was political as well. With a Prince to the city, a ruling court and so on. With people vying for power of the city, over each other and over their clans. This game if played correctly can be Alien to new and old rpg players alike because it is a rules lite system with a huge political system. I mean if you are playing a young new vampire, hopefully your sire taught you the rules. In most cases you are introduced at Court to other Vampires and you mind your P’s and Q’s or you may get you or your sire in trouble and possibly killed. And a straightforward attack is a last ditch effort, this game is string pulling, you pull a string and don’t see the effects until down the line and hopefully you pulled the right one. I played in a game where a friend was paid by an unknown group to demolish a building, he did…unbeknownst to him that was the site of a new Casino for clan Brujah..with the destruction of the building everything was set back for months and he became an enemy of an entire clan. He never did find out who made him a patsy because well he is at the bottom of a river encased in concrete. And that ladies and gentlemen is Vampire the Masquerade.
Now the In Depth parts of Vampire. It runs on the Storyteller system which is D10’s you make a pool (usually Stat plus skill) vs a target number and if you beat it you win. All Storyteller games use this same system. But like I said it is very rules lite so you usually talk first. You belong to a Clan of vampires in the majority, Bloodlines (very rare) or Antitribue or Sabbat clans (numbers almost equal to the normal clans). In Vampire, your most common enemy was other vampires. Sure there were werewolves, mages, the inquisition and shadowy governments but still the strings were usually pulled by other vampires, or in some cases yourself.
There is the Sabbat which believes humans are food and should be ruled over, The Camarillia Which believes we should hide among the humans or behind the Masquerade so to say and Rule from there.. The Anarch movement believes that the power structure should be balanced and not left to the older vampires, and finally the Independents who are too small to fit into the above.
Now since this a Review of mainly 1st and 2nd edition (though revises and 20th keep the same story line) i’m going to use the clan info and such from those. And I’m only using the Camarillia Clans because if you want to go sabbat that’s a different story.
Brujah: In the old days were free thinkers, philosophers and warrior poets as time past they became more militant and more Proactive. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. would be Brujah standing up against the tide of oppression.
Gangrel: Forest dwelling shape shifters who rather live in the wilds of the forest instead of the concrete jungle. Most leave politics behind.
Malkavian: This clan is known as Lunatics, even though they are crazy there is a Brilliance within. They see patterns where others can’t, they always have help from the voices in their heads and they stay sane within the maelstrom of insanity.
Nosferatu: This clan is cursed by looks, looking monstrous even the most stoic can be shocked by the looks of a Nosferatu’s true form, and because of this most live in the sewers in an underworld of their own.
Toreador: This Clan is also cursed by looks, looking so beautiful that it can be hypnotic to others of their clan. Mostly known for their hedonistic views and arts the Toreador is a clan of Artists in one way or another.
Tremere: This is the Clan of Sorcerers. Using Blood Magic and such to hold power over others the Tremere are a feared clan.
Venture: This is the Clan of Kings, Aristocrats and leaders, the Ventrue still carry that weight on their shoulders leading cities, and countries around the world. Though one of the most dangerous to belong to because someone is always vying for power over others and someone has to be on the bottom.
Werewolf the Apocalypse was the 2nd rulebook to come out (with 1st, 2nd pictured above, revised and 20th anniversary sharing similar covers, I couldn’t help but run my fingers through the gashes on the cover). Same Storyteller system but different Ideals Werewolves wanted to save a world from the brink of destruction. SImilar to Vampire, Werewolf had Tribes instead of clans. I will go over clans in a minute. First some info about the World of Werewolf. The werewolves worship Gaia The Nature Spirit of the world. There are 3 lesser spirit deities of the world, the Wyld, the Weaver, and the Wyrm. I’m not going into the full story but these lesser deities are tearing Gaia apart because of their war with each other. The Wyrm is truly seeking out the drustriction of Gaia and it is pure corruption and taints anything it touches. And thanks to the Wyrm Black Spiral Dancers have become the true enemy of Werewolves (that is a sad tale in it’s own)
Werewolves have 5 shapes. Homid or human form, Galbro or near human form, Crinos or the werewolf form we all know and love, Hispo or dire wolf form and finally Lupus or wolf form. Now here are the tribes of Werewolves or Garou (what they call themselves).
The Black Furies: The Tribe of all female Garou,
The Bone Gnawers: These Garou live in the slums of cities and live with the dregs of society.
The Children of Gaia: Pacifist Garou who believes in a more spiritual way.
The Fiannia: The Garou who have ties with the Fairy Folk
The Get of Fenris: Garou who believe in Strength and power
The Glass Walkers: These Garou use technology that is usually shunned by others and delve in human society.
The Red Talons: Garou who believe Humans are the destroyer of the world and wish to destroy them.
The Shadow Lords: Garou who wishes to rule over other Garou.
The Silent Striders: Garou who were exiled from their own lands of Egypt by vampires.
The SIlver Fangs: Garou who rule over other Garou and because of hereditary Rule have succumbed to inbreeding to keep their rule.
The Stargazers: Garou Hindi Astrologers.
The Uktena: Native American Garou considered the “Older Brother”
The Wendigo: Another Native American Garou Tribe considered the “Younger Brother”
Now Werewolf is run just like Vampire it has Some differences Vampire doesn’t really have unless well werewolves are in it and that is the Umbral or Spirit world in which the Garou visit and travel through moon bridges and such. It is a big part of the game when Traveling around the world instantly.
Now besides Vampires, Black Spiral Dancers and governments and other evil creatures there is Pentex the Mega-Corporation that is out to corrupt and destroy Gaia and does it so sneakly you don’t even realize your helping until it is too late.
Whew Hold on to your Potatoes Dr. Jones. Mage is probably one of the strangest settings out there for the World of Darkness. I may need a drink for this one. If you can’t tell, the game deals with Magic, not just blood magic like the Tremere in Vampire, or Spirit magic like in Werewolf but Even more weird and wild magic. Lol I don’t know where to begin. Ok first Mages are called Magi and/or their Avatars for awakened folk (seems sleepers are people who can’t do magic, awakened can). A Mage tries to cast a spell, if it is coincidental or unobtrusive (a.k.a. Not vulgar and against the laws of perceived reality) it’s cool and life goes on, if it is Vulgar and people see it and it is against their perceived laws of reality it causes paradox. Paradox is bad, very bad, magic goes wild as the laws of reality try to fix things and well some cases undo the problem causer. In Mage the game asks you to use your mind and think of ways to use the magic, Each Game, each player and each storyteller is different.
Now if you are a Mage you belong to one of the nine traditions of mages (those who believe in magic), Technocratic Union (those who believe in technology in the real world), Marauders (completely insane chaos mages) or Nephandi (Evil Pure and Simple).
The Nine Traditions of Mages
Akashic Brotherhood: Monkly and Martial Artists Magi These casters Master the Sphere of the Mind.
Celestial Chorus: Pious believers in a supreme being that encompasses all Gods ever worshipped. These casters Master the Sphere of Prime.
Cult of Ecstasy: Mage hippies that believe in mind expanding techniques and meditation, These casters are the Masters of the Sphere of Time.
Dreamspeakers: emissaries of the spirit world, These casters Master the Sphere of Spirit.
Euthanatos: Killers drawing form a legacy of death-cults; These casters master the sphere of Entropy.
Order of Hermes: Sorcerers, Alchemists and mist drawing from classical occult practices, These casters master the sphere of Forces
Sons of Ether: Masters of Alternative Science and fringe theories, These casters master the sphere of Matter.
Verbena: blood mages, healers, and old timey witches and warlocks, These casters master the sphere of Life.
Virtual Adepts: Mages of the future and technologies, These casters master the sphere of Correspondence.
The Technocratic Union
Even though The Technocratic union is likewise divided into groups, they share a single paradigm and instead divide themselves upon areas of expertise and methodologies.
Technocrats of Iteration X: Experts of Mechanical and robotic advancement, the physical sciences.
Technocrats of Progenitors: Experts of genetic engineering, the biological sciences.
Technocrats of the New World Order: Experts of what the masses think and take action by directing what they learn and see.
Technocrats of the Syndicate: Experts of money and power.
Technocrats of the Void Engineers are Explorers of the unknown worlds and dimensions.
Marauders are groups of insane chaos mages. They have write up’s in several of the books across the World of Darkness. Mage: The Ascension, Changeling: the Lost, Changing Breeds, Vampire: the Masquerade and more. And Each one explains them a little differently because of the chaos and insanity.
Nephandi are the last part of the 4 way power struggle in Mage the Ascension. Mages are reborn over and over when they die, well every once in a while they come back evil, pure and simple. Their moral compass is changed and their outlook is skewed.
If it isn’t obvious Wraith is a game about ghosts and you playing them. It was one of White Wolf’s least favorite games. It’s guessed that it is the least commercial game in the repertoire due to artistically consistent depiction of the afterlife and a strong emotional theme. Basically you play the spirit of a dead person who is seaking transcendence or true passing into the afterlife.
Now instead of Clans, Tribes, or Traditions, Wraith deals with Guilds,and the guilds are as follows.
Inhabit: The ability and art of possessing inanimate objects, a skill of the Artificers’ Guild.
Keening: The ability and art of inducing emotion through song, a skill of the Chanteurs’ Guild.
Argos: The ability and art of Underworld Travel, especially in the Tempest, A skill of the Harbingers’ Guild
Pandemonium: The ability and art of causing chaos in the traditional “Ghostly” manner, a skill of the Haunters’ Guild.
Moliate: The ability and art of bodily transfiguration, a skill of the Masquers’ Guild.
Lifeweb: The ability and art of manipulating Fetters and their connections to the Wraiths who possess them, a skill of the Monitors’ Guild
Fatalism: The ability and art of reading a Wraith’s past, present and future, a skill of the Oracles’ Guild.
Castigate: The ability and art of taming the Shadows of other Wraiths, a skill of the Pardoners’ Guild
Embody: The ability and art of manifesting in the mortal world, a skill of the Proctors’ Guild
Puppetry: The ability and art of possessing mortals, a skill of the Puppeteers’ Guild
Phantasm: The ability and art of interacting with the dreams of mortals, a skill of the Sandmans’ guild
Outrage: The ability and art of using telekinetic force, usually manifesting as traditional “poltergeist” activity, a skill of the Spooks’ Guild
Usury: The ability and art of manipulating and drawing on the emotional power of Pathos, a skill of the Usurers’ Guild.
Now remember Wraith was discontinued before all of it’s planned books were published.
Changeling the Dreaming is a bit hard to explain. You are Fae (fairies) who were reborn in human bodies as the time of magic disappeared. As you were cut off from your magical lands and stuck on Earth you had to do something and that was hide out among the humans until you reached your power or potential. You drew power from the dreaming or Glamour of humans as Science and Critical thinking progressed the Glamour of the world subsided, cutting the Fae off from their world and stuck you on Earth.
Now each Changeling has Seelie and Unseelie aspects of their being, one of which dominated a given changeling. It’s not just about good and evil but philosophies of light and shadow, law and freedom, and duty and passion.
The Seelie Code
Death before Dishonor
Love Conquers all
Beauty is life
Never Forget a Debt
Where as the Unseelie Code is
Change is good
Glamour is Free
Honor is a lie
Passion Before Duty
Changelings also have species of Fairy.
Boggan: Gnomes or fairies of the home.
Eshu: Travelling spirits
Nocker: Dwarves and Gremlins the Technological ones
Pooka: Trickers and pranksters.
Redcap: Hobgoblin murders and cannibals.
Satyr: Lovers and revellers.
Sidhe: Elves Noble lords and ladies.
Sluagh: Shadows and Bogeymen keepers of secrets.
Troll: Titans and Giants, Honour- Bound Warriors
Hunter the Reckoning, you play as humans hunting Evil and Supernatural creatures. This was the Beginning of the end. This was a storyline event that led to the closing of all the different worlds. There were Worlds and events I didn’t mention, Such as Mummy: The Resurrection, and Kindred of the East. These were smaller yet still important tie’ins to the complete story if you wanted it. But I am just talking about the Main World. There was a Click in the world of Humans minds, and they saw things now that their mind used to protect them from…That wasn’t a guy in a Sasquatch Costume, that was a Werewolf, in the shadows lurked a Vampire that wasn’t there before, and so on. Now this was the start of the end, The Masquerade started to fall apart, humans started seeing everything in the world and wanted to take their world back. This storyline continued for several years as others wrapped up and a new one came out Called Demon the Fallen, where hell came as the world fell apart. My only gripe is they made a 5th edition trying to continue on the old world of darkness saying this never happened and that didn’t go as planned and so on.
Now with everything said and done, this is a review of White Wolf’s Storyteller System, and the World of Darkness. With a simple breakdown first. Vampire you tried to rule over the Dregs of Society. Werewolf you are trying to save them, Mage you are trying to bend their reality, Wraith you are trying to escape from them, Changeling is trying to bring them back to the old world, and Hunter you are trying to protect them from everything else. The World of Darkness is a grim and dirty world, with a gothic-horror punk theme and you are a part of it. Now doing any research into the World of Darkness you see that it ended. And there is a OWOD (Old World of Darkness) and (NWOD, New World of Darkness) I talk about the OWOD because that’s the one I know and love. You can Take or leave sections but i will tell you once you get started, you will get dragged in and it’s a hell of a ride. Oh and these games are pretty much rated M for My God they did that!!!! Yes they did, that is why it is said they changed the RPG industry and flipped it on its ear, i highly recommend looking into the first 3 (Vampire the Masquerade which is the biggest showboat of them all, Werewolf the Apocalypse, and Mage the Ascension). And you can follow them to a set ending. Yes this is the first RPG i can think of that had an actual planned ending that did it and it went out with a bang. Even though it is rules lite, and not as crunchy as D&D and other games because it focuses more on a story and storytelling, give The World of Darkness a chance because it is an experience you can not miss or pass up.
If you are interested in any of the White Wolf Story teller games, you can purchase Print on demand (in some cases ) or PDF files, at DrivethruRPG https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/1/White-Wolf