April 14, 2016 by crew
The World of Darkness is, perhaps, one of the most popular sets of rpg rules out there. Both its Classic and New (Chronicles) settings have extremely loyal fan bases, and the world itself has been adapted in a variety of forms, including video games and even a (short-lived) TV show.
There’s plenty on the way for these classic rpgs, with new additions to the New setting and the tantalizing promise of a One World of Darkness on the horizon. With all this going on, Chris from Darker Days Radio takes the time to tell us all about the games and their tumultuous history.
A Dark World History
It has been almost 25 years since Vampire the Masquerade upended roleplaying preconceptions and allowed players to be the monsters. This was groundbreaking in many ways. The aim was both to create a sense of modern horror, straight from the volumes of Anne Rice.
It was also a game changer with regards to live action roleplay and opened up the hobby to a far more diverse demographic, riding on the wave of the gothic subculture and the post-modern millennial fears as Y2K loomed ever closer.
However, a lot has happened in those 25 years. White Wolf, formed from White Wolf Magazine and Lion Rampant games, has come, gone, and come again. Vampire the Masquerade, and the games that along with it made up the “World of Darkness”, met their demise with their “Time of Judgment” where Gehenna, Apocalypse, and Ascension were all played out.
A new World of Darkness was created, re-envisioning the setting (not a continuation of the old lines, as they are often mistakenly described) and was met with combinations of love and loathing by the existing fan base and also new players.
White Wolf itself merged with CCP, makers of EVE, in the hopes of creating a MMO, initially based on this new World of Darkness, but due to design issues the game was reconfigured to be based on what is now referred to as the Classic World of Darkness.
Of course, the MMO never came to fruition and many more things transpired. The New World of Darkness, while a sales success (Vampire the Requiem sold out two printings and sold the most core books of any game line by WW – even during the rpg implosion that was occurring across the industry), did not gain the same cultural traction.
Rich Thomas, a core member of White Wolf, left the CCP/WWP company and formed Onyx Path Publishing as a means to continue the publishing of the World of Darkness rpg books, by licensing both Classic and New World of Darkness games from CCP, while also buying outright the game settings of Scion and Trinity.
OPP was more nimble in the new digital age, already riding the crest of the pdf rpg industry. They had learnt much from the difficult times, and grabbed Kickstarter by the horns, using it as a means to create new books without relying on the traditional printing industry.
The success of the 20th anniversary edition of Vampire the Masquerade, a massive nostalgia tome to act as a definitive edition, proved that the love for the Classic World of Darkness lived on. New World of Darkness gained new games as well, some of which have no analogue in the classic settings.
And while it could not be called it in name, the New World of Darkness moved on into a second edition, centred on the God Machine Chronicles, and incorporating more modern game mechanics into the system, borrowed from the likes of FATE and Gumshoe.
But then, Paradox Interactive bought from CCP all the rights to WWP and their assets, including those for the MMO. This new WWP has a desire to see a new, “One World of Darkness”, which initially struck fear into the existing fan base of New World of Darkness, as this One WoD would be based on Masquerade and the Classic setting.
However, it was realized that New World of Darkness was the perfect rpg for “games of personal horror, for people to play in their own World of Darkness”. Contrast this to the Classic World of Darkness, with its own metaplot that spanned all the game lines, while the New World of Darkness did not have such a metaplot, and was well respected for being much more of a toolkit system and setting.
Begin Your Chronicle
And with that, we have now the Chronicles of Darkness, the new name for the New World of Darkness. Initially, when the second editions of Vampire the Requiem etc were all but that in name, their new editions were going under the monikers of “chronicles”. Requiem had the “Strix Chronicles”, Werewolf the Forsaken had the “Idigam Chronicles”, etc.
These new books provided not just rules updates but also provided default campaigns to run. It is from those names that “Chronicles of Darkness” arose. A name that would now let “New” and “Classic” be retired as terms for describing the two settings. This was perhaps even more useful as the second editions of the games that made up Chronicles of Darkness had been pushed ever further, in terms of ideas and concepts, away from their Classic World of Darkness precursors.
As for the One World of Darkness, new editions of Vampire the Masquerade and the others will soon be appearing, with changes and modifications to make those games more fitting for our times. “Gothic punk is dead”, and that means that what was considered cool and novel in the 90s, is no longer so. The world is a gothic dystopian place and new subcultures and societies battle for relevance.
So what does this all mean to you?
The following games were part of the classic, and now One World of Darkness.
- Vampire the Masquerade
- Werewolf the Apocalypse
- Mage the Ascension
- Wraith the Oblivion
- Changeling the Dreaming
- Kindred of the East
- Mummy the Resurrection
- Hunter the Reckoning
- Demon the Fallen
The following games were part of the new World of Darkness, now known of Chronicles of Darkness.
- Vampire the Requiem
- Werewolf the Forsaken
- Mage the Awakening
- Promethean the Created
- Hunter the Vigil
- Changeling the Lost
- Geist the Sin-Eaters
- Mummy the Curse
- Demon the Descent
- Beast the Primordial.
Of course, the two settings have differences in terms of rules and settings. Some elements may be similar, but then vampires are vampires. But it is how those setting elements are used for games which is different.
Okay, what’s the conclusion?
White Wolf Publishing has had a winding path through the years, hitting highs and lows, but the games of World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness have lived on, maturing in terms of quality, game design, and social awareness. It would also be wrong not to recognise the importance each setting and set of games has had on the other, both conceptually and through providing the stability for new editions to be brought out.
Which World of Darkness game is your favourite? Do you prefer Chronicles, or the Classic? What are some of your most memorable gaming moments in this universe?
If you want to learn more about the latest goings on in the World of Darkness, be sure to follow Chris and his fellows over at Darker Days Radio.
"The aim was both to create a sense of modern horror, straight from the volumes of Anne Rice..."
"The world is a gothic dystopian place and new subcultures and societies battle for relevance..."