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Sivosten webZine :: World of Darkness
World of Darkness

Author: Alexander Dobrev, Tuesday, 13 November 2007.

In Articles :: Games

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Night had covered the city with its filthy and damp veil long ago, but the city was still far from any sleep. And who could blame it? Certainly not I. I wasn't at home, warm and cosy, far from the disgusting autumn air, was I? Yes, that air, that anyone who has ever breathed it in, has never forgotten it - damp and lead. As if it's trying to suffocate you, to crawl deep into your lungs, wrap tight around them and start squeezing until you're dead. And with every breath you take in more and more of that wretched air, making it even stronger. But that fleshless monster isn't satisfied by just making you struggle for your every breath. No, it takes away your every other sense as well. You know what I mean. When the stinky damp becomes so thick, that you get the feeling you're making your way through some cold and gluey soup, right at the edge where the fog is forming, colors begin to fade, distances are twisted and all sounds become dull. That's when the sky brings you to your knees and the only thing that cuts through the clouds is the dull shining of the full moon. But right then, in your darkest, depressing moment, you realize that very moment's dark magic. You start seeing the surrounding reality in another way and the grotesque beauty of the moment gives you strength and determination to dive even deeper in the surrounding sticky filth, which even though trying to kill you, by doing so, frees you. It breaks the chains of your everyday logical and skeptical world and sets ajar, even though for a second, the door to something alien, hostile and dangerous, but yet something that hides in all of us. That's the very moment that even though for a second you've touched the World of Darkness.

For a decade World Of Darkness has been one of the most popular settings in the world, stepping back only for D&D and White wolf's other creation - Exalted. It's dark, filled with tension and mysticism atmosphere and the fact that action often takes place not in some fairytale plane of existence, but in a twisted copy of our own world, are a great opportunity for players to dive in a mature game with full-blooded characters. In 2004 White wolf started publishing the setting's second version, offering to it's readers' attention four core books - "World of darkness", "Mage: The awakening", "Werewolf: The Forsaken" and "Vampire: The Requiem", covering up the most common characteristics of the world and the system and providing specific information on mages, werewolves and vampires. One of the new things was that the first book covered gaming with mortal characters which added a whole new element to World Of Darkness. In fact character creation always starts from a mortal, and the supernatural creatures are put to action with templates that are applied to the already created ordinary human just the way The Awakening or The First Change come upon him in his world. That's of great help when structuring a campaign's creation and realization, starting from the characters' mortal life and throwing them into the unknown world of darkness and horrors.

Actually it's questionable whether playing with humans isn't the greatest challenge since vampires, werewolves and mages have great sources of mystical powers but humans are most often helpless and almost always - absolutely unaware of the horrors lurking about. A sole gaffling (the weakest of spirits) is fully capable of slaying a whole group of well-trained mortals and this disbalance in the end leads campaigns either to an unfair struggle for survival, or to the overbold attempt of a few humans to win over that they do not understand. In both cases lethal endings are quite a realistic possibility.

Compared to the old World of Darkness the system has become simpler but less flexible. Attributes have changed slightly but are now differentiated with the help of a new sign - Might, Finesse, Manipulation. For example mental might is intelligence and physical finesse is dexterity. Not that it's a big deal, but it sheds light on some things and finds its place in the system realization of spirits (for example) by simplifying statistics.

Moreover, difficulty is fixed - 8, all positive or negative factors add up or subtract dice, a critical failure is possible with a chance roll, when the dicepool drops down to or bellow zero. If that's good is hard to say because practically the success chance can't drop bellow 10%. Fixed difficulty itself is a questionable facilitation when bringing in a mechanics with variation for dice rerolling. Rerolling 9s and even 8s is not that uncommon. The result of such a roll is still almost impossible to calculate if not done by someone with mathematical background, although this is the scourge of all dicepool systems.

Another characteristic of the new system is the fixed defense and the direct conversion of attack successes into damage. That saves us muscle pain by decreasing the amount of dice rolled in a battle by half, but it's as well saving us that risky attacks that if hit will turn the opponent to dust, but whether they'll hit... After all - it's all a question of personal preferences.

After being shocked at first that the new stuff isn't quite as the old World of Darkness, the fans would probably appreciate the setting's good sides. Those who thought that the old atmosphere was too dark and not intuitive enough, would find it a pleasant surprise that the system has made a slight turn in their direction. As a whole this is a series of products from which we can expect a life at least as long as its predecessor's.

Commentary topic: http://www.sivosten.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=193173#p193173

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