The World of Darkness

The World of Darkness (or WoD) is the name given to three related but distinct fictional universes. The first was conceived by Mark Rein-Hagen, while the second was designed by several people at White Wolf Gaming Studio, which Rein-Hagen helped to found. The first two World of Darkness settings are also called 'Old World of Darkness', and have been used for several horror fiction-themed role-playing games that make use of the Storytelling System. The third, Monte Cook's World of Darkness, includes only a single product.

Old World of Darkness (oWoD)


The first setting was created in 1991 with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade; support for it subsequently ended in 2004 with the release of Time of Judgment. The theme of the old World of Darkness is described as "Gothic-Punk" by the developers.

The World of Darkness resembles the contemporary world, but darker, more devious, more conspiratorial. Humanity is losing hope as it is secretly preyed upon and controlled by supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and wraiths. One facet that sets the World of Darkness apart from most other horror fiction is that these creatures are not solitary predators to be hunted down and destroyed, but they are numerous and intelligent; enough so to form secret societies, develop various factions and allegiances, and use humans as pawns in power struggles and murderous games often lasting centuries or millennia.

However, the rising power and strength of human civilization has started to restrict their power, and an atmosphere of gloom resides over many of the games as once-almighty supernatural beings, the dark Princes and Lords of previous eras, in their turn face the bleak and unbearable prospect of a future spent struggling and shrinking under the ever-more powerful gaze and control of a worldwide technocratic cabal, which intends to stamp out mysticism - and their supernatural rivals in the same course - by making reason and science paramount. In the meantime, normal humanity, tool or prey of all factions, is oppressed and hounded in this hidden, all-encompassing conflict, barely capable of fighting and for the majority not even aware of their enemies.

Interlocking conspiracies, some mirroring those said to exist in our own world, some unique, can be found throughout the setting. Cabals of powerful mages, coteries of cunning vampires, and other, stranger powers vie within their own cultures and with each other for control of the world. The dichotomy between rich and poor, influential and weak, powerful and powerless, is much more pronounced than in our world. Decadence is common and corruption is everywhere. This dark reflection is seen everywhere: gargoyles and gothic construction influence architecture, while the leather look and punk atmosphere crowd the streets. Everything is as gloomy in the WoD as the most pessimistic tabloid headlines present it.

The game uses both historical (Wild West & Dark Ages) as well as a modern setting. Any games played in modern settings use the world we know, but with an underlying supernaturals influencing it. While the game is fictional, players should be aware that the game takes place in the "real world" Real world consequences will follow if you break the human's laws, also humans will respond in the way they would normally. The game does not rewrite human society, rather it uses human society as the backdrop for the secret lives of the supernaturals.

History and playability

At first there was little connection between the different settings, and as time passed, more and more obvious connections were made in the canonical published material. This was planned from the beginning[1], though there was originally little in the way of oversight between settings and the World of Darkness became riddled with discrepancies and contradictions in the cosmologies of each system. This changed with the introduced of Revised in 1999[2]. Many of the later game supplements have optional rules suggesting how to handle interactions between different types of supernatural beings, and in some cases, present rules that attempt to allow discrepancies to exist between settings. It is also explained that the discrepancies may represent various factions actually changing reality to their own beliefs (especially within the 'Changeling' and 'Mage' sub-settings - see below).

The rules were increasingly streamlined and standardized, and the different systems began to look more similar with each new edition. The downside of this was that, with each step towards a common ground for the systems, the rules, terms, and templates underwent dramatic and backwards-incompatible changes. During all this, Wraith: The Oblivion was discontinued and even at the end of the third edition of Vampire, Werewolf and Mage, the bumps had still not been smoothed out.

In the end it was left up to each individual Storyteller (the term in the World of Darkness games for the gamemaster) to interpret the rules and try to combine the systems that were used.

Publication (settings)

White Wolf developed the following game sets in the old World of Darkness between 1991 and 2003:

  • Vampire: The Masquerade
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse
  • Mage: The Ascension
  • Wraith: The Oblivion
  • Changeling: The Dreaming
  • Kindred of the East
  • Hunter: The Reckoning
  • Mummy: The Resurrection
  • Demon: The Fallen
  • Orpheus

These all represent a Rulebook and a varying number of Sourcebook supplementals on anything from specific clans and tribes to gadgets and entire citybooks describing all the supernatural denizens. In parallel to these settings, White Wolf has developed historical settings for their major product lines.

End of oWoD (Time of Judgment)

In late 2003, White Wolf announced it would stop publishing new books for the line, bringing the published history of the setting to an end with a series called The Time of Judgment. This event is described from different supernatural perspectives in four Sourcebooks: Gehenna (for Vampire: the Masquerade); Apocalypse (for Werewolf: the Apocalypse); Ascension (for Mage: the Ascension); and Time of Judgment (covering of White Wolf's less-established product lines: Demon: The Fallen, Changeling: The Dreaming, Kindred of the East, Mummy: Resurrection and Hunter: The Reckoning ).

The publishers stated that in doing so, they followed up on a promise that has existed in the World of Darkness since the first edition of Vampire, with the concept of Gehenna, and in Werewolf, with the Apocalypse, as well as some elements of some of the published material that pertain to 'end of the world' themes in other games. Fiction novels from each of the three major gaming lines concluded the official storyline.

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