It is almost thirty years since the birth of the popular World of Darkness. Indeed, MdT was born in 1991 with the publication of the game Vampire: La Mascarada. But what exactly is World of Darkness ?
Mundo de Tinieblas, or World of Darkness in English, is the name given to the setting where the role-playing games of the American publisher White Wolf take place. It is a world much like ours, only much darker and more corrupt. Finally and most importantly, it is a world where there are supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves or ghosts.
Vampire: The Evolution of Role
If after more than 25 years we continue to talk about MdT, it is thanks to the role-playing game Vampiro: La Mascarada , and this game revolutionized the market , positioning its publisher, the then small White Wolf , as one of the largest and influential.
But what did Vampire have ? To begin with, Vampire was a game aimed at a more adult audience. Since RPGs were created in the 1970s, it is no wonder that by the early 1990s many players were tired of exploring dungeons and discovering treasure (an adventure typical of early RPGs).
Vampire was defined as a narrative game of personal horror . For its creator, Mark Rein ∙ Hagen , the rules were not the most important thing, and for that reason they had to be simple, and even dice could be avoided if the player made a good interpretation. In addition, he advised playing some scenes by performing them live. This was already a big change, and that is that there were games with a large number of rules eager to simulate any aspect of reality.
But this was not the most striking, but the adult treatment of the issues. The most important thing was not that the players were playing vampires, a monster that in most games meant an enemy to be eliminated, but the complexity of the character and the stories to be told (no longer played). Indeed, if in the binomial “game” of “role” most role-playing games were more “game”, Vampiro was more “role”, “interpretation”.
Mark Rein ∙ Hagen gave everything a twist. To begin with, the creation of the character to be played by the player was long and detailed. He recommended spending an entire session creating the character (there were games, such as Star Wars , where this task took five minutes). The mortal life of the character had to be created and then taken from him in the most cruel way. Thus, the player experienced the tragedy of becoming a monster. From now on you were immortal, but in return you had lost all your previous life.
A character-type could be a loving family man excited about the birth of his daughter. Suddenly he became a bloodthirsty animal. The scion had to face his new non-life, but he still harbored some feelings, remnants of humanity … Mark Rein. Hagen insisted that Vampire was a game that worked better with few players at the table, three at most, and even in many cases one it was ideal.
Beside this, it is normal that many players already found the adventures of medieval-fantasy environment a bit childish where they had to fight orcs, find traps and level up. Level up. In Vampiro it was rather the opposite: the characters know that each time they are getting closer to the end and that it is irremediable; ” We are monsters, so we do not become monsters ” was an emblematic phrase of the game that very well summed up that attempt to maintain the little humanity that remained in the character.
I find the words of a Spanish editor very significant, as early as 1994. This was commented after reporting on the latest news from Mundo de Tinieblas : “After writing this entire section, I can only ask myself if I play role-playing for fun, to escape or to ask myself moral dilemmas ” (Dosdediez nº 5).
Another great innovation from Vampiro was his Advanced Storytelling techniques. As had happened with literature during the sixties, it breaks with the linear story. These techniques were recommended for experienced players and were looking to “create special effects in your stories.” With Retrospective, for example, the action stopped and players played a part of the past of one of their characters, which obviously had something to do with the current story.
There were several techniques (Parallel Story, Foreshadowing, Dream Sequence, Symbolism, etc.) but they all had in common to enhance the player’s immersion in a character, be it his own, a victim (to experience the horror of killing him) or the same antagonist from the story to understand his motivation. The revolution was total and, it is evident, that with these techniques Vampiro gave more priority to the interpretation than to the fun.
All this more adult content was accompanied by a tailor-made aesthetic and there Tim Bradstreet plays a fundamental role , one of the first illustrators whose work impacted as much as the game. The details were taken care of even on the cover, where the fans expected, as was normal in the games of the time, a couple of vampires fighting or something like that. Nothing of that. A green marble background and a rose … Indeed, the book did not look like an RPG, rather it looked like a work of art, pure poetry …
But, did they accompany the sales? You are right. In 1993, the Vampire manual was placed in the first position of the best sellers in the US, ousting the untouchable AD&D Player’s Manual , according to data from the distributor Capital City Distributions (Dosdediez magazine No. 1).
World of darkness grows
White Wolf had the secret of success, and he set about exploiting it. With Mark Rein ∙ Hagen and Stewart Wieck at the helm, Lisa Stevens, Bill Bridges, Andrew Greenberg and the rest of the design team set out to publish a new RPG every year. These games would focus on a supernatural creature, they would share the game system, the so-called “Narrative System”, and all would be set in the World of Darkness started with Vampire .
Thus, a year later, in 1992 came Werewolf: The Apocalypse . In this second narrative game, players play werewolves who fight to save Gaia (Mother Nature) from the excesses of humans and other supernatural agents. The problem of the environment was introduced as a topic for the first time in an RPG. But the end of time, the Apocalypse, was hopelessly approaching. That was the tragedy of the lupines, who knew deep down that no matter how much they fought they could not avoid disaster. That is why an uncontrollable rage frequently takes hold of them …
World of Darkness was being completed each year with a new game: Wizard: Ascension (1993), where players played magicians, Wraith: Oblivion (1994), whose protagonists are spirits trapped in the world of the living, or Changeling : El Ensueño (1995), with fairies as the main character. The latter was presented as a game with a lighter and less dark tone than the previous ones: in reality, the game was a great metaphor for childhood, growth and loss of innocence.
On the other hand, in 1996 Vampire: Dark Age was published . If previous World of Darkness games were set today , this new game focuses on the Middle Ages. The rest of the lines (Werewolf, Wizard) will also receive games set in times other than the current one. In addition, since 1993 Theater of the Mind: La Mascarada , the manual for playing live role-playing games with Vampire, was already available .
According to Shannon Appelcline, WW’s live role-playing manuals did not reach the number of sales that the tabletop manuals, but “they had great success, becoming the only publishing line of successful live role-playing games, also providing an incentive attract new players, especially women ”.
The history of White Wolf
The White Wolf in question, the creator of Mundo de Tinieblas , was born in 1990 from the merger between White Wolf Magazine (Stewart Wieck) and Lion Rampant publishing house (Mark Rein ∙ Hagen, Ars Magica ). Thus White Wolf Game Studio was born , and Stewart Wieck and Mark Rein ∙ Hagen became the co-owners of the new publishing house. A year later Vampiro: La Mascarada is published and with it Mundo de Tinieblas is born .
In all this time some of the original equipment has gone and, of course, new blood has also been added. Thus, for example, already in 1993 Lisa Stevens left the vice-presidency of White Wolf to direct WotC ( Leader magazine no. 35). Around 1995-96 the company ran into some financial problems, leading to a confrontation between Wieck and Rein ∙ Hagen, resulting in the latter leaving White Wolf in 1997.
For his part, Stewart left White Wolf in 2010, subsequently creating the Nocturnal Media society , which has published, among others, several Spanish games in the US such as Aventuras en la Marca del Este and Aquelarre . For his part, Mark Rein ∙ Hagen (who has been retired from the RPG world for many years) has returned to the fore by founding the publisher Make Believe Games and creating a new game, I Am Zombie (December 2015).
In I Am Zombie, players play Toxic, a kind of zombie that has not yet lost their minds. Vampire is very reminded of the idea of fighting not to become Skags, zombies without humanity that only seek to feed. The game presents a very seductive aesthetic and the novelty of being played with a deck of cards. There is an article by Shannon Appelcline that tells in great detail much of the White Wolf story. There is a translation of Magus that you can find on the Dark Secrets blog.
A new form of leisure
White Wolf was doing great, but something was changing in the RPG world. Since 1993 a new form of leisure threatened their prominence. Indeed, we are talking about collectible card games and, especially, Magic: The Gathering . Although Magic was born with the intention of entertaining role players between games, it soon became a mass phenomenon.
RPG publishers will launch card games in imitation of Magic , though most with little luck. Collectible card games from World of Darkness were also created : we have Jyhad (1994), based on Vampire (later it would change its name to Vampire: TES ), or Rage (1995), in Werewolf.
But the craze for card games sent the RPG industry reeling. Many publishers closed and many others had financial problems, such as the giant TSR ( Dungeons & Dragons ), which was finally acquired by Wizard of the Coast (the publisher that created Magic: The Gathering ). However, the MdT games made White Wolf resist the onslaught.
The same thing happened in Spain. Along with many small publishing houses, the two big ones (Joc Internacional and Zinco) also closed. Practically only La Factoría survived , which was precisely the publisher that translated MdT’s games, and thanks to them it became the leader in the sector.
World of Darkness even in coffee
Indeed, World of Darkness games had become a fad. Already in 1993 the famous company Steve Jackson Games negotiated with White Wolf to adapt Vampiro to its generic role-playing game GURPS . This is how GURPS Vampire was born . We have already mentioned how in 1994 the Jyhad card game was born from the hand of Wizards of the Coast.
Two years later the fashion for World of Darkness gets Aaron Spelling (Sense of Living) interested and creates a television series: Kindred: the Embraced (Sect of Blood). Thus we come to 1997, where “after the TSR stumble” White Wolf is placed “at the top of sales in the US” (Dosdediez No. 1, 1997).
The company dedicated itself to exploiting the Mundo de Tinieblas brand to the best of its ability. A whole line of merchandising was created : from the exclusive dice for each game to the typical T-shirts or coffee mugs, through pins, pendants, brooches, earrings, necklaces, rings, sweatshirts … Interest grew and the White Wolf catalogs 2000 show us that there were even lighters, hip flasks, candles, temporary tattoos, stickers, chess sets and even license plates for cars!
Of course, in addition to the aforementioned card games, novels were also created (the Masquerade of the Red Death trilogy or clan novels to name a few), video games such as Vampire: The Masquerade Redemption (Activision, 2000), which will have sequel in 2021 and even a CD with background music.
World Of Darkness: Everything has an end
In all World of Darkness games there was reference to the end of the world being near. This end of the world had its own name for each game: Gehenna in Vampire , Apocalypse in Werewolf , Ascension in Magician , etc. In 2004 White Wolf decides to put this end of the world into practice with a series of supplements for each game called The Hour of Judgment . Interestingly, this takes place thirteen years after the birth of MdT and Vampiro . How could it be otherwise, the first published end of the world was that of Vampire , Gehenna , published on January 13, precisely Tuesday… (Dosdediez magazine nº 27).
Although many did not like the idea of ending the official setting, this book caused so much excitement that before it came out it was already out of print, thus setting Vampiro a new record never seen in role-playing games. With these supplements the different lines are closed, which will not receive any more expansions. And what about the fan? Well, White Wolf started a New World of Darkness. To do this, this time he published a generic manual with the rules, also called World of Darkness , and different games, each with its own setting.
They were thus born Vampire: The Requiem (2004), Werewolf: The Exile (2005) or Wizard: The Awakening (2005). The rules of this New World of Darkness underwent a new revision and the atmosphere also changed. For example, in Vampire: The Requiem the clans are very different from those in The Masquerade . This did not like a large part of the fans, although on the other hand, there are also many players who prefer the rules of this New World of Darkness.
The closure of the classic Mundo de Tineblas made a good part of the fans remain faithful to the old MoT, such as La Biblioteca de la Hermandad , a page that collects material in Castilian only and exclusively from the classic MoT.
Although nothing had been published for Vampire: The Masquerade since 2004 , 2011 marked the 20th anniversary of the classic World of Darkness . Thus, to commemorate this twentieth anniversary, former White Wolf employees proposed to CCP (the company that had the rights to MdT) to publish a new edition. This edition was a vast compilation of everything that had been published throughout the history of Vampiro in numerous manuals. There were all the Clans and the Bloodlines, the Disciplines (the powers of vampires) up to level 9, the Merits and Flaws, etc. The community was also consulted and a slight revision of the rules was made.
As for the format, it was a completely color book that brought together classic illustrations along with new ones made for the occasion (the great Tim Bradstreet was drawing again for Vampire ). The supervisor of this edition was Justin Achilli, who had already been in charge of the previous edition, the third (for more information on the different editions of Vampiro you can visit my article in Rol de los 90 ).
The new edition was a success. In Spain, the publishing house that had been publishing MdT, La Factoría , had abandoned role-playing games at that time, so it was difficult to see this 20th anniversary edition in Spanish. In 2013, with Dhaunae De Vir at the helm, the We Want the V20 page was created on Facebook, published on paper and in Spanish (currently the Dark Library page ). The support of the fans is so great that it becomes feasible to organize a crowdfunding . In May 2014 Nosolorol publishing house and Biblioteca Oscura organized the patronage. And madness breaks out.
The Spanish-speaking fans take to the streets and word of mouth raises almost 180,000 euros, something never seen before in a role-playing game in Spanish. In addition, after seeing the results of the remaining crowdfunding that have been carried out for MdT, Werewolf and Vampire: Dark Ages , everything suggests that this impressive number will never be exceeded.
The success achieved by the patronage has led to the release of no more and no less than twelve extras, ranging from the classic bookmarks and T-shirt to a party in Madrid with Justin Achilli or the commitment to publish Mago 20th anniversary . Such is the passion of fans for MdT that many come to pay 300, 500 and up to 1,000 euros for exclusive levels of patronage. Today it can be said that World of Darkness is alive again.
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