19 June 2016

An Overview of the Original World of Darkness (part 1)

In 1991, Mark Rein•Hagen's game Vampire: The Masquerade was released. This game took the roleplaying community by storm, and soon was one of the most prominent RPGs in the hobby. It was the first of five games planned by Rein•hagen, who intended to release a game about werewolves next, followed by one about wizards, one about faeries, and one about ghosts.

The order and specifics changed a bit; the game about wizards came to be known as Mage: The Ascension, the one about ghosts was named Wraith: The Oblivion and was moved up to be released before the one about faeries, and that final one came to be known as Changeling: The Dreaming. But all five of those games were released:
  • Vampire: The Masquerade (1st edition 1991; 2nd edition 1992)
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse (1st edition 1992; 2nd edition 1994)
  • Mage: The Ascension (1st edition 1993; 2nd edition 1995)
  • Wraith: The Oblivion (1st edition 1994; 2nd edition 1996)
  • Changeling: The Dreaming (1st edition 1995; 2nd edition 1997)
All five of these games were set in the same world, known as the World of Darkness. It was a 'gothic-punk' version of the real world; similar, but a little bit darker, a little bit more hopeless, a little bit grittier. With the publication of the first edition of Changeling, Rein•Hagen left White Wolf Game Studios. The company then started releasing new game lines set in the same World of Darkness:
  • Kindred of the East (1998)
  • Hunter: The Reckoning (1999)
  • Mummy: The Resurrection (2002)
  • Demon: The Fallen (2003)

Vampire: The Masquerade

Players take on the role of a vampire. The first vampire was Caine, who slew his brother Abel and was cursed by God. Caine learned to make new vampires, by draining a human of his blood and then giving him some of his own. Caine was amazingly powerful, but his childer were slightly less so. Each generation removed from Caine made a vampire less potent, leading to those of the 14th generation being so weak that they were in many ways less powerful than the humans they had been before being embraced.

An important aspect of the game is that characters (who, for the most part, are between 8th and 13th generations) have an inner 'Beast' against which they must struggle. In much the same way as humans have their id (the base impulses of desire and anger, usually generating from the more primitive portions of the brain) which is often at odds with their superego (the loftier part of the psyche, striving for noble goals like peace and beauty, from the neocortex), vampires have their Beast and their Humanity. If a vampire loses control of himself too often (succumbing to fear, bloodlust, or otherwise 'becoming an animal'), he would eventually become a mindless monster, incapable of advanced cognition or communication. To counteract this, most vampires strive to hold on to their Humanity as best they can, whilst acknowledging that they must commit inhumane acts (drinking blood, often resulting in the death of their victims) merely to survive. One sect of vampires, however, known as the Sabbat, rejects this view of immortality, choosing instead to revel in their monstrous nature. They eschew their Humanity, but they do need to maintain some sort of mental discipline in order to avoid succumbing to the Beast Within; to this end, they have established a series of 'Paths of Enlightenment,' such as the Path of Cathari, the Path of Caine, the Path of Power and the Inner Voice, and the Path of Honorable Accord. Each path has a list of 'sins,' which must be avoided, and ideals towards which adherents strive, in order to stave off the loss of mental control.

In short, it's a game about playing inhuman monsters who struggle to rise above their monstrosity, at least to a certain degree.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse

Players take on the role of a werewolf: a race of beings that can take the form of a man, a wolf, or several shapes in between. These creatures reproduce with either humans or wolves (and, occasionally, with each other, but any such offspring are sterile and have some sort of deformity, so such cross-breeding is forbidden, though it does happen on occasion). The Garou, as they are known, are warriors fighting on behalf of Gaia, the Earth-Mother, trying to protect her from the powerful spirit beings known as the Wyrm (the force of corruption and decay, symbolised by toxic waste dumps and similar places) and the Weaver (the force of stasis, calcification, and stagnation, symbolised by overly-developed cities with no soul). However, the Garou (as a result of fighting a two-front war and often being at odds with one another, as well as their tendency to try to fight in a literal, physical sense against beings that are purely spiritual) are losing this battle, and the Apocalypse is a near certainty.

Although the Garou are able to enter the spirit world and interact with spirits, they are largely combat monsters, as every one of them has the inherent ability to shift into an eight-foot tall wolf-man form, with massive bonuses to their strength, claws and fangs, and an adverse psychological effect on any humans that may see them.

To Be Continued...

This post is growing longer than I expected. I shall finish it up in two weeks, after next week's normal board game review. Please try to be patient until then. ☺️ In the meantime, go out, play more games, have some fun, and remember as always to

Game on!

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