World of Darkness

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World of Darkness
WoD logo.png
RPG published by
White Wolf / Onyx Path
Rule System Storyteller System / Storytelling System
First Publication 1991 / 2004

The World of Darkness is two different lines of RPGs published by White Wolf and later Onyx Path (and later still by both of them at once, it's complicated) that focus on deep role-playing and, depending on the specific sub-game, the horror genre. The setting can only be described as the modern world, but worse in every aspect. Every creeping suspicion you have is probably true, and the world is as dirty and corrupt as it often seems to be. In the old World of Darkness, each game was meant to be played separately; as a result the games often had conflicting metaplots and, despite using the same basic "Storyteller System", were incompatible when it came to various supernatural powers. The release of a new World of Darkness (with an updated ruleset, the "Storytelling System") features a core book that contains the basic rules for all the games, and focuses on normal human beings in horrific situations that may or may not be supernatural in nature. The new games interact in a modular fashion and also have little established fluff, making it more malleable for Storytellers (the in-game term for GM; abbreviated as ST). The new line has also been trying to avoid the old Gothic feel for which it was known (specifically with Vampire: The Masquerade) in favor of a slightly more traditional form of horror. As of December 2015 it has been renamed Chronicles of Darkness to allow its setting to exist separately from that of the setting of the relaunched oWoD (which is itself now called Classic World of Darkness or cWoD).

The System[edit]

The basic system in both the new and old World of Darkness revolves around a dicepool of d10's. Your dice pool consists of a number of dice equal to your relevant ability score plus your skill and other relevant modifiers.

In oWoD/cWoD, the Storyteller sets the difficulty for each roll depending on the circumstances, with the default being a difficulty of 7. A success is a roll of that difficulty or higher (7 or above, on most rolls). A roll of 1 is called a botch. If any number of 1's are rolled, they cancel out a single success. No more than one success can be cancelled out in this way, so critical failures (A botch with zero successes) are relatively rare. The net number of successes determines how well you succeed, with one success meaning that you are barely able and a greater number indicating better achievement. When you get zero net successes (if you get no successes or if your 1s cancel out your successes, or if you get at least one success and more ones than successes), you fail the roll. When you get zero successes and at least one 1, you botch-- a critical and spectacular failure. If you have a specialty in either your attribute or ability that is relevant on the roll, you may reroll all 10s to gain extra successes, and rolls of 1 on these rerolls do not count.

In nWoD/CoD, a success is an 8, 9, or 10, and 10s explode. A critical success is made when you get five or more successes. Instead of altering the target number of the roll, difficulty and circumstances increase or reduce the number of dice in the pool. When your dice pool is reduced to zero or less, you get a chance die. You roll the die normally, but only succeed on a ten (which still explodes) and if you get a one you get a critical failure. All other rolls are called simple failures, although any simple failure can be turned into a critical failure by the player in return for bonus Beats (basically XP).

Short Summary of Game Lines[edit]

  • Vampire: You're the bad guy. Your friends are also villains.
  • Werewolf: You're fighting a war, and you're losing.
  • Mage: You're fighting a war you already lost.
  • Wraith: You lost, you died, and now you're trying to avoid a fate worse than death.
  • Changeling: You're fighting a war you already lost and nobody is taking you seriously.
  • Hunter: You're fighting a war where everyone's bigger than you and trying to kill you.
  • Mummy: You're immortal... that's it.
  • Demon: You're fighting a cold war with mixed results.
  • Orpheus: You're mortal and dying temporarily is part of your job.

Old World of Darkness/Classic World of Darkness (oWoD/cWoD)[edit]

oWoD 1st edition cover
The original World of Darkness game. Covers playing vampire characters in the modern day World of Darkness. It gains its title from "The Masquerade", an in-game set of rules and guidelines dictated by the Camarilla sect in an attempt to keep the mortal populace unaware of vampires and their influence on society. This is also basically the only thing you can get more than one sect of vampires to agree on, and a lot of the game revolves around the resulting political intrigue.
It is heavily influenced by gothic imagery and by a variety of different vampire mythos, including the romanticized version of the vampire popularized by Anne Rice.
Second game to be released set in the World of Darkness. The game covers playing werewolf characters known as Garou. It gains its title from one of the major antagonistic themes in the game where supernatural forces of corruption are attempting to bring about the Apocalypse. The game tended to degenerate into hack-and-slash, mainly as it is an author tract whose authors had conflicting messages.
Player characters in this game come from a variety of backgrounds, both mortal and immortal and are unified by the fact that they all practice magic of one form or another. Magic is defined by the game as a force that can shape reality with the willpower, belief or special magical techniques of the user. Had a pretty sweet metaplot/setting, but was hamstrung by the extreme clumsiness of its mechanical system.
You're dead, and now you're a ghost. Either move on by severing what anchors you have to this world, or stay and have a good time making scary noises. And oh, try not to fall into hell. Lots of ideas that sound good on paper but ruin friendships in execution, like making each player also roleplay another player's manifested personal demons.
The characters are fairy souls 'trapped' in human bodies to survive in the cold banal world. The game's theme centered heavily on the concept of Chimera, where things weren't magical or mundane, but both at once. So the real world would see an old butterknife, and it would be - but in the realm of faerie, it would also be a mystical longsword. The concept of Banality is unfortunately somewhat awkwardly implemented and requires some work by the Storyteller to appropriately function. The series was cut short, and a number of expansions that were announced were never released. This game is and was massively popular with otherkin since its premise is their delusion, and if you know anybody post-2012 who still plays it; your friends almost certainly believe themselves to be elves. It was recently renewed in the One World of Darkness 20th anniversary gameline.
Based on hong-kong legends, the "Kindred of the east", internally called Cathayans or Kuei-Jin, are vampire-like in appearance and in certain behaviors, but instead of being a mortal inflicted with a curse that make them thirst for blood and burn in the sun, the Kuei-Jin are mortal-ish descendants of god-like heroes who betrayed the mandate of heaven and was cursed to thirst for blood and Rot in the sun. The game was built more as an extension to Vampire: The Masquerade, rather than its own game, in the same way Mummy: The Resurrection was an extension of Mage: the Ascension, and was meant to be played specifically in the far east, in the same way that Mummy: The Resurrection was made to specifically be played in the middle-east and northern africa.
Mortals are imbued with weird powers by mysterious forces in a last-ditch effort to keep the world from circling the drain. Played according to the writing, it's Call of Cthulhu in the World of Darkness- a bunch of scared people who are going to die very horribly unless they're very cautious and paranoid. Played according to the art, it's, well, the licensed H:tR video games.
You play a mummy. Which has been resurrected. And has access to a third-level power (out of five) that levels the town you're in. The game was almost universally met with a directly hostile response, and even reminding a WoD player of it will make him rage. Do it.
The gates of the Hell that the fallen angels have been trapped in for millennia crack open, and the fallen find human hosts and servitors for their various ends.
It's like Flatliners meets Ghostbusters; focusing on teams that use cryogenics and astral projection to become semi-ghosts, all funded by a corporation called the Orpheus Group. And if you thought The Underworld from WtO couldn't get more grimdark...

Fan Games[edit]

A crossover with the cartoon Gargoyles, there's work underway to convert it to GMC nWoD rules here.
A short fan-expansion from 1997, has three different types of aliens.
Holy shit this is a fan-made supplement where life doesn't suck! You're immortal and extremely powerful, but still human. It's kill or be killed, though. So once The Gathering comes around you have to kill most of the friends you've made through the ages. Also has a neat custom sword fight system. If you've seen Highlander, you'll love it. If not, see Highlander 2 and The Source. There's also a LARP version called Highlander: The Quickening made by different authors exists.
A fan-game from the 90's that is a parody of Sailor Moon and the old WoD. Remember how Mages can bend reality to their whim? Well, now imagine a bunch of 90s anime nerds Ascending... "The Technocracy is STILL trying to cover up the 'Tokyo-3' disaster."
oWoD meets Starship Troopers, has some parallels in the Mirrors: Infinite Macabre supplement for the nWoD.
A Fan-made expansion from 2001. Brai-i-ins and grimderp ensue.

New World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness (nWoD/CoD)[edit]

nWoD cover
  • The Storytelling System Rulebook
    The core rulebook unifies the rule systems of the other game lines, as well as provides a basic system with which to play as mortal humans, and some barebones ghosts rules that are added onto in nearly every publication where ghosts are relevant. The second edition update is available as a free pdf online and it replaces the old "Victorian" morality system with one that's more modern, and also includes most of the improvements from the God Machine Chronicle (see below).
    • God Machine Chronicle
      Essentially the second edition of the core rulebook. Brings in a new morality system, "Integrity", with breaking points instead of the hierarchy of sins. Along with systems of conditions and "beats". If you don't mind the notion of God being a celestial laptop or the increased micro-management of the system, it's worth looking at as it's a big update over the old version. For better or worse depends on how you look at it.
    • Immortals
      Not an actual gameline as such but a supplement that was released for Immortal characters that follow different ideas of Immortality. Except out of the 3 Immortals in the book, the first jumps off the karma meter so fast its unplayable, primarily because its Immortality is powered by bathing in a LOT of blood, preferably virgin but any human will do. The second, the Body Thief, is almost playable but again the karma meter gets in the way of anything involving the whole body swapping thing, resulting in the character becoming unplayable again. The third Immortal lives off some sort of mystic Chi/Kai stuff and is basically powered by Feng Shui. It's the only one that could be considered playable, and the authors must have realized this because its much better worked then the others which seem to have been intended as pure NPCs initially and then left as they are now.
    • Inferno
      Rules for old-fashioned demons (or angels) almost completely different from the fallen angels of the God Machine. As it was one of the earlier supplements, it is horribly incompatible with the GMC rules update, being focused on one half of the old morality system.
    • Innocents
      An add-on for the core book, you're just a normie who has to deal with the realities of the world revealing themselves to you. If you survive you'll most likely either be institutionalized, a Hunter, or a serial killer. Or more than one. Or a monster, that works too.
    • The Mirrors supplements and Translation Guides
      Modifications for the Storytelling System itself as well as hints on adapting it for different genres (the former) while the latter guides allowed mix-and-match rules from the three main game-lines of oWoD and nWoD. It's notable that the Guides not only go through the crunch but also have chapters with suggestions of how you might fluffwise justify having one nWoD Mage order here or an cWoD tribe of Werewolves there for both New and Classic World of Darkness games. So if you for example really miss Clan Tzimisce in Vampire: The Requiem or think Requiem did the Nosferatu better but you still wanna run Vampire: The Masquerade, have a look in the Vampire Translation Guide and you'll get separate chapters covering both the fluff and the crunch for porting them over from Masquerade into Requiem or vice versa.

Principal Games[edit]

13 Clans with fleshed out, restricting histories become 5 clans with vague, open-ended histories and multiple Bloodlines (sub-clans). The Camarilla becomes 5 Covenants with mutually exclusive goals. The Sabbat becomes VII, the Infernalists become the more sporadic, less-organized Belial's Brood. Arguably the biggest difference is that you can't just make someone a Vampire by draining them and feeding them your blood, now you have to permanently spend a dot of Willpower to do it. An alternate setting in ancient Rome also exists, which contains a history of the Carmarilla (and how it collapsed with the rest of the Roman Empire). Additionally, a new set of antagonists in the form of the Strix, which are demonic owl-like creatures bent on purging every last trace of Humanity from vampire society (to the point where even a Humanity 0 vampire is too human for them) and can possess corpses and vampires to lash out at mortals and undead alike.
A slightly more "balanced" version of Werewolf. You can't run around in 8-foot tall invincible war-form all the time, and you see humans as a flock of idiotic sheep that you have to protect from malicious spirits due to a vow sworn by your ancient ancestors as punishment for divine patricide. The "adjustments" resulted, possibly intentionally, in the average werewolf no longer being a match for the average vampire, a criticism invariably met with statements regarding the relative level of coordination between werewolf packs and vampire coteries. An example of a well run Werewolf: the Forsaken game is Detroit Rock City. It is written in novel format for ease of reading, played over Skype.
Mechanically simplified and involving more magic usage than M:tAsc, M:tA's biggest criticism is that it doesn't have as compelling a plot — specifically, the revised political landscape is the most frequent target of attack.

Limited Release Games[edit]

Frankenstein: The RPG. You're a scorned mockery of humanity, most likely abandoned by your creator, left to fend for yourself in a world that wants you dead. You're perpetually dazed and confused, always trying to pick up the ways of humans, but that's not happening because you have a disquieting aura that makes every sentient being in the world eventually hate you and the places you stay in will turn into an uninhabitable hellhole if you linger too long, so you can never make real friends and have to live as a nomad. Only five books long, but it pretty much covers all the bases. Surprisingly, it's actually rather optimistic since in theory you can make like Pinocchio and become a true human under the right circumstances.
No longer are the Changelings faeries, but humans kidnapped by the True Fae and twisted into something not quite mortal. Managed to do the exact opposite of its predecessor and sell enough copies that they extended the series instead of cutting it short. It completed its run with nine books and a long-awaited web enhancement.
Hunter, without the ridiculously overpowered gifts. You're just an average Joe with more information than other people, and on occasion ties to people with some special toys that let you use powers that can border on the supernatural themselves. For instance, you might channel the power of your demonic heritage to smite people with hellfire, you might have bullets that are extra-effective against vampires, or you might have access to religious rites that bless your weapons with the power to hurt ghosts. That, and you can break every conceivable human moral code without going insane, provided you can justify it in light of your "Vigil." Though, of course, this slowly makes you inhuman. Well-known for its antagonists - Slashers - who are the World of Darkness take on serial killers. Once again had "lite" versions of all the other supernaturals, which tended to be more singularly powerful than the real thing, but not as versatile (or player-character-friendly). See what happens when Hunter: The Vigil meets Harry Potter here.
People who die and have ghosts decide to resurrect them, getting stuck with said ghost riding shotgun to said person's body and giving them all manner of powers depending on the way the first party died, all to accomplish the ghost's goals. Instead of humanity, you have "synergy" which is how in sync you are with your spirit. When you die, someone else is forced to die in your place and you lose 1/5 of your maximum possible synergy, stunting your abilities permanently and ultimately making you a slave to your spirit "partner", who often has some rather unusual ideas about what to do with its new body. The Underworld is finally fleshed out, but somehow far more foreboding than expected.
You're a slave of Irem of the Pillars (Yes, the one in the Rub-Al Khali). But the city is dead and gone, and the Sorcerers who made you into what you are now live in the lands of the dead and tell you what to do. A reversal of normal "You're young and weak, they're old and powerful", Mummies wake up with a power trait of *10*...and lose it quickly, because it drops over time as the magic animating your undying body begins to fade. Most Arisen remain active for about four months, at best. And then they have to come back to life and do it all over again.
Remember the God Machine? From the God Machine Chronicle, and the start of the core book? Yeah, turns out it has robo-angels. Sometimes, one of them decides it doesn't particularly enjoy its function. Or it fails to perform. Or ends up getting saddled with an order it can't actually carry out. Instead of returning they go on the lam, becoming 'demons'. The God Machine sends its angels looking. You don't want to go back, so you become a robot secret agent, pretending as hard as you can to be human while ruining the occult plans of the Divine Calculator; luckily, you retain the ability to hack reality thanks to your former connection to the God Machine. The angels are still Cthulhu-robots in service to the...thing that is in total control of the World of Darkness, and they would really like you to come back so they can erase your personality and replace it with a new, more compliant one. Fortunately Demons are very good at hiding their true identities- so good that even supernatural beings (and other demons, at that matter) can't see through their disguises if they don't want to reveal themselves.
The most recently publised game, and another one with absolutely no tie to the Old World of Darkness. You play as a Beast, a living embodiment of primal fear running around in a meat-suit, and driven by the need to feed on fear, either passively by hanging out with your "kinfolk" (most every other monster in the WoD) or actively by going out and terrorizing folks. Pretty strongly panned, many consider it the absolute worst gameline in the New World of Darkness because it combines CtD's "otherkin" appeal with some rather hazy moral trappings.
The next announced gameline, not much is known other than that its themes are basically "low-power tier" and "body horror". You play as a Deviant, some poor sap caught by a mad scientist or a black ops bio-corp or a twisted cult or somesuch and twisted into something not wholely human.

Fan Games[edit]

A fan-built WoD set, Genius allows players to gorge themselves on Venture Brothers level superscience while drinking deep from the cup of mundane failure. While Inspiration allows a mad scientist to channel Mania into impossible inventions, their Obligation to humanity gradually gives way to that alien brilliance. If a scientist falls too far off the straight and narrow, they become Unmada, unable or unwilling to accept that they are crazy, that their ideas are true regardless of Mania. Without help or restraint, they become Illuminated. Think Hannibal Lecter in a lab coat and a fascination with altering the DNA of pregnant women. (Also don't even think of trying to get rich off your mad science; your inventions basically break the laws of physics through sheer force of will on your part and tend to malfunction explosively if the mundanes get their grubby hands on them.)
Another fan-made WoD gameline, in which you are a Giant.
A mutant is you.
Sailor Moon? ha ha no, try Sailor Nothing, or late-season Madoka Magica. Pretty dresses won't help you fight despair, but sometimes that's all you got.

Notable Differences[edit]

Even without getting into the specifics of each game's interpretation of one archetype (say, Masquerade vs. Requiem for vampires), the two games are very different beasts.

World of Darkness takes place in a "Gothic Earth". Which basically amounts to an 80s-style (at least in 1e) grimdark interpretation of the world; monstrous conspiracies are involved in most major events (except World War 2, for some reason), the "Neo-Gothic" art style is popular so there's lots of gargoyles and stuff everywhere, all forms of crimes are up, and the world is just generally a very shitty sort of place to live. Humans are generally unimportant; sheep to be fed on by vampires, slaughtered by werewolves, pushed around by mages... generally, if you don't have powers, you're pretty much everybody's bitch. Even Hunters are only viable as a threat because they have some supernatural patron giving them all kinds of nifty powers specifically to fight monsters. Lore is generally very detailed and fleshed out, but not exactly crossover compatible, at least on the meta level; one of the more prominent examples is that, in Masquerade, vampires owe their origins explicitly to a Judaeo-Christian metaphysicality (being spiritual children of Caine), whilst in Apocalypse, the world is controlled by Paganistic/Animistic spirit-gods, with the most powerful being the Wyld (Creation), Weaver (Order) and Wyrm (Destruction) and werewolves have every reason to believe that the Abrahamic "God" is just some bullshit that humanity came up with and has swallowed.

Chronicles of Darkness, meanwhile take place in "Earth, but with deeper shadows". So the world is basically like it is when you look out your window or look at the news, just a little creepier and more mysterious. Humanity is special, both on a crunch level (mortals are a lot beefier than in WoD) and on a metaphysical level; Hunter: The Vigil is often held up as literally Humanity Fuck Yeah the RPG, where you can face down and, if you're doing it right, curbstomp any and every monster out there. Alright, except maybe mages if you don't one-shot them, but that's just because it's a little hard to take on some asshole who can dick around with the laws of reality. Lore is much vaguer and more nebulous, but also drastically more crossover friendly.

Video Games[edit]

There were a number of video games made (and cancelled) for the oWoD:

  • Hunter: The Reckoning series
A linear series on three different consoles. If you were interested in the plot, you had to own a GameCube, PS2, and Xbox in that order. But they were also all multiplayer hack-&-slash beat-em-ups so the plot probably wasn't what their target audience was looking for.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption
Third-person RPG from Nihilistic Software with a horrible(/hilariously bad) single-player campaign and oddly customizable multiplayer.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
First-person RPG from Troika Games that used an early version of Valve's Source engine, it requires the fan-patches; but is otherwise an entertaining single-player game.
  • World of Darkness: Preludes
Two "interactive experience" non-games released by Paradox Interactive in February of 2017. Let's just let the press release speak for itself.
  • Vampire The Masquerade: We Eat Blood
In Vampire The Masquerade: We Eat Blood you’re a young artist who wakes up at night to find you’re no longer human…but exactly what are you and why are you so ravenously hungry for blood?!? Told entirely through an innovate mobile messaging perspective, We Eat Blood is a sharp, mature, and terrifying story about your first nights as unwilling predator and prey. Will you join ancient vampire conspiracies, or will you turn the tables on oppressive authority and seek your own future? The temptation is real. The game is written and illustrated by Zak Sabbath and Sarah Horrocks.
  • Mage The Ascension: Refuge
In Mage The Ascension: Refuge you play a volunteer at a European camp for Syrian refugees, and suddenly you discover that magic is real, you can use it, and you’re in the middle of a secret magical war for the fate of the world. The game lets you experience today’s social and political upheavals while learning that you can shape reality itself through sheer force of belief. Your actions and choices will have profound consequences on the world and people around you. Safety or sacrifice? Let them in or build the wall? The choice is yours. The game is written by noted Swedish author Karin Tidbeck.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse
An RPG that is currently being made by Cyanide Studio. Little else is known of the game, least of all a release date.

Cancelled[edit]

  • Vampire the Masquerade MMORPG
Used to be in the works of CCP, the studio that made EVE Online, but it was cancelled in 2014.
  • Werewolf: the Apocalypse - Heart of Gaia
Another cancelled oWoD game, 27 minutes of it have been salvaged.

See Also[edit]

The games of the World of Darkness
Old World of Darkness New World of Darkness
Vampire: The Masquerade Vampire: The Requiem
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Werewolf: The Forsaken
Mage: The Ascension Mage: The Awakening
Wraith: The Oblivion Promethean: The Created
Changeling: The Dreaming Changeling: The Lost
Hunter: The Reckoning Hunter: The Vigil
Kindred of the East Geist: The Sin-Eaters
Mummy: The Resurrection Mummy: The Curse
Demon: The Fallen Demon: The Descent
Orpheus Beast: The Primordial
Deviant: The Renegades
Fan-made games
Highlander: The Gathering Genius: The Transgression
Zombie: The Coil Giant: The Perfidious
Mutant: The Aberration
Princess: The Hopeful
Sovereign: The Autonomy
Roleplaying games made by White Wolf
Exalted - Human Occupied Landfill - Scarred Lands - Scion - Trinity
World of Darkness - World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game