Saturday, July 9, 2016

An Overview of the Original World of Darkness (Part 3)

(continued from part 2)

Other games in the original World of Darkness

I never played any of the games that came after Changeling. The first, Hunter: The Reckoning, went against everything I loved about the first five games. Mummy: The Resurrection was a reworking of an earlier supplement, and I felt that it ruined everything that was wonderful about the original version. Demon: The Fallen brought into the World of Darkness a religious aspect that had been absent from previous games, and I was very disappointed by that fact, so I never looked into it. And although I owned a copy of Kindred of the East, I never got to play it. In fact, I never got to read it, primarily because I knew I wasn't likely to get to play it.

They did also release historical versions of most of the original five. It began in 1996 with the release of Vampire: The Dark Ages. It was essentially the same as the original Vampire: The Masquerade, but it was set in 1197 CE. The primary vampiric sects (the Camarilla and the Sabbat) had not been created yet, and there were some other differences reflecting the state of the vampires at that time. The following year saw the release of Werewolf: The Wild West. As with Dark Ages, it reflected the state of the Garou in the late 1800s. The next year, they released Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade. It had more changes than the other historical versions, as the mages had changed far more in their history than the vampires or werewolves. But it still reflected the state of the mages in the year 1466 CE. The year after that, they released Wraith: The Great War. This game reflected the status of the dead in the wake of World War I. It was the first of the historical games that was not a stand-alone game. It did not include all the rules needed to play; new players would have to already know the rules if they didn't want to buy another core rulebook in the World of Darkness line.
At first, Changeling did not get its own historical book. However, the Vampire: The Dark Ages line was renamed to Dark Ages: Vampire, which served as the core rulebook on which the supplements Dark Ages: Werewolf and Dark Ages: Mage were both based. Finally, in 2004, the same year that Time of Judgement was released, White Wolf published Dark Ages: Fae, which allowed players to play true fae in the Dark Ages setting.

The End of the World of Darkness

The very first World of Darkness book, the first edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, included references to Gehenna, the end times in which the elder vampires would rise up and slaughter all those of lower generations. This trend of prophecy continued in the later games; Werewolf made frequent reference to the Apocalypse, when the Wyrm and/or Weaver would emerge triumphant, and the Garou would be eliminated from the world. Mage was not as overt in mentioning an end times scenario, but everyone knew that there would likely come a time when one of the factions (most likely the Technocracy) would be victorious in the war for reality. Likewise, Wraith didn't often mention the end times. Changeling, however, often spoke of Endless Winter, when Banality would wipe out all traces of the fae.

The Wraith line ended in 1999, with the Year of the Reckoning supplement which detailed the return of Charon and the Sixth Great Maelstrom. Then, in 2004, the end time prophecies all came true, with the release of Gehenna for Vampire, Apocalypse for Werewolf, Ascension for Mage, and Time of Judgement for all the remaining game lines.

After that, they began releasing new versions of the games, with the core rule book (called World of Darkness) describing the rules for humans and ghosts, and each game line released as a supplementary rule book. But I no longer had any interest in the new setting. From what I had seen of the new version of the WoD, I was not impressed.

My thoughts on the World of Darkness

I really enjoyed playing Vampire when it first came out. The character development possibilities were very enjoyable, and the focus on storytelling strongly appealed to me as well. I resisted playing Werewolf for a long time, because it seemed to me to be so strongly focussed on combat. But I finally gave it a shot, and found that I was able to create a dynamic spiritualist character that I still remember fondly. Mage was a lot of fun for me as well, with some interesting metaphysical concepts. Alas, many others felt that it was overpowered, and I didn't often get to play. By the time Wraith was released, most of the people in my circle of friends had no interest in playing anything other than their chosen favourites (normally Vampire or Werewolf). 

But once Changeling was released, I became a full-time devotee. I loved the expansive universe. I had been a fan of faerie mythology for some time before that, so the idea of playing a game based on the faeries was a massive draw for me.

Alas, I was one of the few. Most fans of the original WoD were drawn to the angsty darkness of Vampire, the easy violence of Werewolf, or the free-wheeling nature of Mage. They felt that Changeling was the 'fluffy bunny' of the WoD, that it was not dark enough, that it was too happy and not sufficiently gritty. And to an extent, that's true. But it's also the most creative of the games.

Obviously, I love Changeling. When White Wolf began to have financial troubles in 1999, their less successful games began to get less attention. Changeling was one of those. The supplements slowed, and eventually waned in quality. But I was still a devoted fan and consumer. In 2002, the game stopped releasing supplements entirely, despite the fact that two highly-anticipated books (Keys to the Kingdom and Book of Glamour) were nearly ready for publishing, and the final kithbook (describing the various 'races' of fae) had not been released. Then, when Time of Judgement ended the series entirely, all hope of completing the series was lost.

Until now.

Five years ago, a 20th Anniversary edition of Vampire was released. The following year saw the 20th anniversary of Werewolf, followed by 20th anniversary editions of Mage and Wraith. And the 20th anniversary edition of Changeling is scheduled for release later this year.

Needless to say, I'm excited.

Anyway, I think that's quite enough of this series. Next week, another board game review, then back to my normal schedule of random game postings. Until then, don't forget to

Game on!

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