Monday, May 8, 2017

The Games We Play Part 2: World of Darkness.

Oh the World of Darkness. My first contact with tabletop role play was through the World of Darkness games, specifically Vampire the Masquerade. Picture it if you will; 1998, a high school kid obsessed with the whole goth thing, and in particular vampires. By sheer fate, he stumbles upon a game, no, a world that held boundless potential for imaginative exploration; White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade.

This game was nothing short of mind blowing. Players took on the roles of, yep you guessed it, Rodeo Clowns.

No, just kidding, you played the roles of vampires, namely young inexperienced and often (under their elders influence) manipulated vampires existing in a dark reflection of our own modern world. These characters tried to carve a niche for themselves in the secret Machiavellian society of the undead. There were rival clans of vampires gathered in rival sects governed by rival ideologies. Despite all this fierce predatory tension within this secret society, a set of ancient traditions and etiquette kept civility among monsters. Or at least attempted to.

"Vampire" is truly an amazing game, but only one of a group set in a wider world of darkness. There were Mages, who struggled with the forces of magic. Werewolves who were the protectors of the natural world against the steel and concrete monster of "progress." There were Wraiths that could not let go of the horrors that brought about their deaths; even Fey that held their own mystical court on the periphery of mortal senses. The World of Darkness would later go through a re-imagining of the older games from the ground up, separating the game series into Old World and New World. That though, is another discussion for another time.

Skill Check
Vampires and werewolves and mages oh my! Whereas D&D cast the players in the role of hero's and adventurers (yeah you could play villains I know), World of Darkness is a game system where the players took on the role of monsters in a hopeless, cruel and morally ambiguous world. Hey, the tag line for the series was "Games for Mature Minds" for a reason. As with The Games We Play Part 1,
its time to take a look at the strong points of World of Darkness as a teaching tool for Skill Centric Role Play

  • Oh the humanity!!!: A central concept in the World of Darkness game series, Vampire in particular, is morality. These games are designed to give players difficult choices that are often without any truly positive solutions. In Vampire a morality roll is made when a character chooses or is driven to do an inhuman act. Failing the roll makes the character less human and if morality ever reaches a 0 out of 10, that character is no longer playable. This creates an amazing opportunity for players to examine decision making and the impact of consequence on both self and the world around them.

  • The first rule of Monster Club...: There are no such things as monsters. In the World of Darkness, a large responsibility of all supernatural entities is maintaining the illusion of a world free of stalking monsters. Discretion is paramount. Mindfulness and general awareness can be key to surviving the night; skills readily explored in the World of Darkness series.

  • Tradition: As with games like Dungeons and Dragons, the World of Darkness if full of groups and factions that exist outside the human experience. Vampires for instance are broken into ancient bloodlines called clans, each with tradition and protocol dating back to ancient times. By introducing these elements into a game, players can explore ideas related to tradition and divergent values. When are traditions enriching? When are they cumbersome...when are they dangerous?  

In closing I would say that The World of Darkness series are fantastic for exploring the human condition by means of contrast and comparison. They seek to emphasize the beauty and tragedy of what it means to be a person by examining what its like to no longer be. As the tag line says "Games for Mature Minds."