Darkness Begins – Getting Started In The World of Darkness

May 27, 2016 by crew

The World of Darkness, and the world of Chronicles of Darkness, are dark and intimidating places. Numerous supernatural creatures lurk in the night, preying on people, drinking their blood, sacrificing them to dark gods, stealing souls, and rending them apart. Many different game lines make up these two worlds and for a new games master – the Storyteller – it is important to know where to start and just how they might go about it.

Step Into The World Of Darkness

The World of Darkness is best known for the three games; Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, and Mage the Ascension. As has been previously established, at the centre of these three games are the same core rules, but with each game comes specific differences and, of course, some games are notorious for being more difficult to run than others. And that makes the choice of which book to start with all the more important.

Vampire the Masquerade is perhaps the most accessible of the three, given that the idea of a secret society of vampires has been embraced in media, and the DNA of the game can be seen in the like of TV series such as True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and films such as Blade and Underworld.

Vampire the Masquerade has also been the source of two computer games and a short lived TV show – even a WWE wrestler was named after one of the clans.

Gangrel

Since the game first came out, there have been three editions, plus the most recent 20th anniversary edition. However, that final book serves more as a final definitive version of the game, offering only subtle rules tweaks, while also providing, in a massive book, a compilation of a large amount of information on the various bloodlines in the game, and the extra factions and powers that appeared in expansion books.

Vampire 20th Anniversary

Given the subtlety of the rules changes, and the vast amount of extra information provided in that book, it is perhaps too much, and too intimidating for a new Storyteller. It could be then argued that the best place to start is the Vampire the Masquerade Revised edition book.

Vampire the Masquerade Revised Edition

Similarly, the same assessment can be made for Werewolf and Mage. With respect to all the games, the 20th anniversary editions do make changes to the clans of vampires, or tribes of werewolves, or the traditions of mages, in order to modernize the games, and present these groups less as stereotypes, thus making them more broad and, in some cases, described without the use of racist caricatures.

Werewolf the Apocalypse Revised Edition

In the case of Mage, however, it is perhaps best to start with the 20th anniversary book, because of the amount of rules clarifications that have been done, especially given that the game relies on the renowned freeform magic system.

Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition

One of the books for that game, released as part of the 20th anniversary, is a book that really delves into that magic system and gives a lot of insight into how it is used and firm examples of things that can be done and can’t be done.

How Do You Do That

This is perhaps a good point at which to note that if you wish to explore the world of Vampire the Masquerade, but in the historical setting of the 4th crusade, then Dark Ages Vampire has also had a 20th anniversary release, and again, has benefited from a modernization in the writing and treatment of the cultural and historical aspects of that game.

Vampire the Dark Ages 20th Anniversary

You can find each of the books recommended here over at DriveThruRPG:

Weave Your Chronicle

Chronicles of Darkness is slowly converting all the game lines into the 2nd edition rules system. This means not all the games have transitioned yet, or will not for some time. Notably, Geist the Sin-Eaters and Mummy the Curse will not use the 2nd edition rules for a number of years yet.

Geist

Chronicles of Darkness is different from the World of Darkness as the base game book for the system allows you to play humans and, as those characters, face the ghosts, spirits and monsters that stalk the world. The Chronicles of Darkness core book acts then as both an entry to the game and as an in depth rules guide for all games that use the Chronicles of Darkness.

This game book also includes rules for antagonists, such as ghosts and other monsters, but in a manner where it is possible to design your own ghost or monster so that it fits the story you wish to play through.

The Chronicles of Darkness core book also contains the “God Machine Chronicle”, which introduces us to the eldritch power known as the God Machine, and the techno-occult way that it manipulates the world, and the Angels that is uses to do its bidding. The chronicle is presented in a way that there are multiple story seeds and examples on their use, and how they can be connected together to tell a larger chronicle.

Chronicles of Darkness

Vampire the Requiem, Werewolf the Forsaken, and Mage the Awakening are the three main monster lines for this setting, and all of the 2nd edition rule books contain the core rules, though not in as much detail as the Chronicles of Darkness core book, given that space has to be given over to the specific rules of those monsters.

So while the Chronicles of Darkness core book is not required, it is a help, and gives you the extra rules for mortals in general, as well as for ghost and other monsters, which means you can diversify the antagonists your vampires and mages must face.

Mage the Awakening

If you were interested in the games Geist the Sin-Eaters, or Mummy the Curse, things are slightly different, as you require the core book for that game, and the previous edition “World of Darkness” (back when Chronicles of Darkness was the New World of Darkness) core book a.k.a. the “blue book”.

That blue book had all the core rules for that edition for playing the game, playing humans, and ghostly antagonists. So just be aware of that, but also that the old core book is now cheap to buy as pdf.

You can also find all these at DriveThruRPG:

So there you have it. Two worlds of darkness, two ways of running chronicles, and each with differing ease of getting started.

DriveThruRPG also have free to download quickstart booklets available for a lot of these games, so if you want to give them a try before choosing which game you want to dive into fully, be sure to check them out.

Chris Handley

Are you going to start any of these games? What are your tips for running or playing games in the World of Darkness?

"Vampire the Masquerade is perhaps the most accessible of the three, given that the idea of a secret society of vampires has been embraced in media..."

"So while the Chronicles of Darkness core book is not required, it is a help, and gives you the extra rules for mortals in general, as well as for ghost and other monsters, which means you can diversify the antagonists your vampires and mages must face..."