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The World of Darkness RPG Overview
The World of Darkness is a dark, shadowy world filled with creatures that live within the night. But unlike other roleplaying games, in World of Darkness (or WoD) you are not hunting the monsters. You are the monsters. WoD is a classic storytelling game about vampires, werewolves, witches, and warlocks. It is about a world of horror that lives in a veil right next to our world. Most of mankind is unaware that the supernatural world actually exists. That is, until the come face to face with it.
WoD was first introduced back in 1991 with the core rulebook Vampire: The Masquerade. It was published by White Wolf Publishing and the game dealt with what it would be like to exist as a vampire. You had to deal with your immortality, other vampire clans, and your own hungering thirst. It was a dark game with “gothic punk” influences. Later, other rulebooks followed, including Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, and Changeling: The Dreaming. Each book used the WoD Storytelling System. In 2003, the core rules system got an overhaul to make each game more compatible. Other than the core rulebook, titled World of Darkness, the new supplement books are Vampire: The Requiem, Werewolf: The Forsaken, Mage: The Awakening, Changeling: The Lost, Hunter: The Vigil, and Promethean: The Created.
The World of Darkness setting basically takes place in the modern world. Instead of outlining and defining every possible aspect of the world, the game leaves a lot of information vague and unspecified. Why? Probably so players cannot know everything about the game world. There are still surprises to be found. The main core rulebook gives a broad outline about the WoD’s shadowy side. The outlook and atmosphere of the world is a bleak and cynical one. There are hints and clues to legends such as Big Foot, vampires, werewolves, and everything else that fits with the horror or supernatural genre. In the main rulebook, players can start out as humans who are investigating the dark supernatural side of the modern world. They are trying to solve mysteries but only end up uncovering more questions. Other than mortals, players can also create one of the main character types from one of the supplement game books. Each character type, from vampires to changelings, has to deal with their own weaknesses and existence. The horror element can be very personal as your character struggles to control themselves. Vampires have to struggle against their thirst while werewolves fight to control their inner beast.
A group of players is called a troupe and the Game Master is known as the Storyteller. Game play consists of chapters or acts like those in a play. Every chapter consists of several scenes which can be played through in one gaming session. The main emphasis in the game is mood and atmosphere. This is what White Wolf is really best at. They excel at creating background stories and fluff to give players and the Storyteller something to work with. There is stuff such as journal entries and short stories that really add a lot of flavor to the game.
World of Darkness uses the White Wolf Storytelling System which utilizes the 10-sided dice. It is very streamlined and easy for beginning players. Characters traits are made up of Attributes, Skills, Merits, Willpower, Health and Morality. Each of these traits is measured in dots and has anywhere from one to five dots. These dots represent the level or proficiency of each trait. A character’s Attributes are divided into subcategories such as mental, physical, and social.
Characters also have Vices and Virtues that help to determine character personalities and motivating factors. Vices are all made up of the seven deadly sins such as greed or lust. Virtues are made up of saintly traits such as justice and charity.
To use a skill or perform a task, a character must roll using their dice pool. This dice pool is made up of a number of dice equal to the sum of the values of a character’s traits that are used to perform the task. Each 10-sided die that rolls an 8 or more is counted as a success. The more success you roll means the better you perform a task. If you should get five or more successes then you gain additional bonuses in completing the task. Rolling a “10” counts as an immediate success and the player gets to re-roll again. If they get another “10” they can continue to re-roll until a different number comes up.
Sometimes a character will not have a dice pool to use for a task. If this should occur, they may roll a chance die. This is one 10-sided die that is rolled. If a “10” comes up, the character succeeds. Any other number but a “1” is a failure. However, if a “1” comes up, the character fails dramatically and suffers consequences.
Combat in WoD is simple and also uses the characters traits to determine success. Characters only have to roll once and successes are adjusted depending on an opponent’s defensive capabilities. Damage is also determined by that one roll depending on the number of successes that occur.
Storytelling is stressed more than dice rolling. The dice are there to quickly determine actions and decisions of the players without slowing down gameplay. Like every game system that emphasizes storytelling, the key to making the game really work is to have the right players and the right Storyteller.
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