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Going Forward with Darkness

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  • Going Forward with Darkness

    I have read a number of the World of Darkness books predominately from playing a number of Mage the Ascension games. I adore the flexible magic system and fell in love with the umbra and its endless permutations. I particularly love the idea that no matter what you believe, there is an element of truth to it somewhere out there (a bit problematic in today's post-truth society, but then that's not the worst thing that's aged badly from these books).

    I sort of feel like I am at a crossroads when it comes to investing time and money into these games, especially in regards to which line would give me the most of what I am looking for. I'll be posting this both here and in the Chronicles of Darkness so that I can get both biases in the responses. Respond to whichever thread you think most fits.

    So, my background is Mage, and for my game I read a lot of Werewolf lore and a great deal of Wraith in order to learn as much as I could about aspects of the Umbra and get a good idea of what the spirits are all about for the Spirit mages. I understand a decent amount of metaplot from both, but because I was introduced in 2005 to the games, I never really felt the impact of the evolving meta-narrative. To me it was all a bunch of history that may or may not be applied. Sort of how 20th edition handled everything.

    My first ever ST was a real OG WoD player. They knew the lore inside and out and I think because of them I had developed a deep bias against even considering Awakening. I especially didn't like the whole "Everyone is from Atlantis" thing that they had enforced. But very recently, I've started to read second ed Promethean. The premise of promethean always intrigued me since it was the first to be very much unlike any of the old WoD games, but now it's interested my SO enough to run a game for me, I had the opportunity to dive in.

    In short, I have yet to play a game but I am already very impressed with it. I love the beat system which makes experience inherently linked with story mechanics. I appreciate how eliminating difficulty and botches can make for a much more satisfying experience, while at the same time incentivising "voluntary botches" for experience could lead to some very interesting situations. Promethean itself intrigues me to no end. I love that there is a game within the game of trying to figure out what the storyteller wants your promethean to do. It's a little bit like the potential that an Avatar has in M:tAs regarding seekings, but fleshed out and mechanically pinned down.

    In short, I cannot wait to actually play this game, but it is caused me to wonder about which line to further invest in.

    I would like to start running games again. I never could get into V:tM because the meta-plot was just far too dense to even know where to begin, though I hear V20 compiles it in a more manageable way. Werewolf I wouldn't mind trying to run a game of, but my major interest are in trying to run Changeling or Wraith. Changeling especially because I love the idea of running a game that starts light and fizzy but slowly descends into a constant struggle which is doomed to failure.

    However, this experience with Promethean has made me reconsider whether it wouldn't be more interesting to get into the Chronicles of Darkness instead. C:tL is an incredible premise, and while it doesn't have the same light and fizzy I seek, I hear that the contract mechanics are just as cleverly woven into the game as the pilgrimage is for Promethean. Similarly I have heard that the 2ed M:tAw is an immense improvement over not only 1e, but of Ascension as well.

    So this is currently where I stand:

    Reasons to stick with old WoD:
    • I already understand the core systems very well
    • Knowledge of Mage means I can easily incorporate mages into whichever setting I end up playing (most likely changeling and wraith)
    • The great wealth of meta-narrative offers a lot of opportunities for story hooks, in many ways all the world-building has been done for me.
    • There is nothing quite like Shadowguiding in Chronicles
    • I already have a wealth of previous edition material
    • the 20th editions are dense but a pretty great way to get into the systems and history without needing much research.
    • In fact, 20th edition Changeling and Wraith addressed a lot of the problems with these games, making them more playable generally, never been a better time to play them.
    Problems with WoD:
    • While simple compared to games like DnD 3.5, the system is a bit clunky by modern standards, making it a bit of a pain to teach.
    • Character Creation requires a lot of in-universe lore to do properly
    • Vampire the Masquerade lore can feel nigh impenetrable
    • The books famously do not work well together, something made worse with 20th edition. Crossovers just don't function well without some serious retooling
    • These days, there's a lot of things in WoD which might seem a bit insensitive, such as the cultural appropriation of eastern practices.
    • Wraith is a REALY hard sell on top of all of this. Not many people want to play a game so focused on emotional rawness, and I really need to trust my players to allow proper shadowguides.
    • The games are more or less done. It's very unlikely we will get another line, let alone another revision in a timely manner. We might get a 5e for werewolf and mage, but I don't see this happening for a long time, and certainly not for Wraith or Changeling.
    Reasons to move to CoD:
    • The books are current and new material is frequently being produced
    • They seem to be a lot closer to the core concept of the characters. M:tAs is about fighting for what you believe in (literally) and trying to preserve your culture, M:tAw is more about delving into the mysteries of reality and trying to unlock the secrets of what is really going on behind the scenes.
    • You can viably play as mortals. I am a bit interested in running a "X-files" style campaign, where every story centres on a different splatbook. Could be a cool way to introduce the creatures to new players, and once it's done I can ask "So, which of these guys would you like to be for the next chronicle?"
    • The themes seem to be much better incorporated into the mechanics. You'll need to tell me whether or not my impression is right on this.
    • The books fit together so much better.
    • C:tL legitimately interests me as a concept, as much as I want to play Dreaming at some point.
    • V:tR looks a lot less intimidating than V:tM. Good for me, and for new players.
    • I've also heard that generally speaking Mummy and Demon is a huge improvement over their predecessors, but I await 2e versions of them before I look into them in detail
    Problems with CoD:
    • My WoD experience may count against me. Getting confused between Sphere's and Arcana for example, I can imagine being a bit of a problem.
    • The Spirit world seems fairly underdeveloped compares to the richness that was the umbra, (correct me if I've misunderstood though)
    • Giest straight up is not Wraith. I don't think there is a single Chronicles line that recaptures what intrigues me so much about Wraith
    • Some of my favourite things from Mage go away. Goodbye technocracy, so long Society of Ether, fare well hidden chantries on Mars, I'll even miss the nephandi and the marauders.
    • Same goes for other elements of meta-plot, gone is Stygia, the tempest, and the labyrinth, gone is the courts of arcadia and the concept of chimeric reality, and the near dreaming. Gone is the totem spirits and gone is the Weaver and her pattern spiders (my favourite spirits)
    • In many ways, embracing CoD feels a bit like saying goodbye to an old friend.
    I post this because I want to hear thoughts on this list, whether my impressions are correct, or whether I have made assumptions which make this decision more complicated than it really is.

    I want to know whether all the chronicles games are as cleverly designed as Promethean, if they contain game within game elements like the pilgrimage, and whether or not you have experienced difficulty getting new people in to WoD vs CoD. And how viable it is to play both game systems concurrently without getting mixed up.

    Any and all thoughts are valuable.

    Again, I'll post this in both Chronicles and World threads to avoid system bias, by all means respond to which ever thread you think is more appropriate to your response.

    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running FINALE: Chapter 39: Green Fairy

  • #2
    MtAw has (basically) Nephandi in the form of the Scelesti (mages who serve the Abyss, though it’s actually more complicated than that). And the Rapt are similar to Marauders from MtAs.
    Last edited by Amethyst; 09-13-2021, 10:37 AM.


    • #3
      One thing to keep in mind about both settings, especially the WoD, is that you can include as much or as little as you like. When I first got V:tM, there was no Werewolf or Mage games, there was no Guide to the Sabbat. We had just seven Camarilla Clans, the struggle between young and old, and the struggle between humanity and the beast. It was a great game and as new books came out, we incorporated new Clans and setting elements, but only what we liked.

      So don’t think that if you play, for example, Vampire: the Masquerade that you need to know all about the Wyrm, Technocracy, True Black Hand, or Stygia. Include what you like, what is convenient, exclude what is inconvenient or that you don’t like.

      Also, keep in mind that setting elements that players don’t know about aren’t disadvantages, they aren’t homework assignments that players need to complete, they are advantages that allow players to experience the same sense of mystery as their characters do when they encounter things that they don’t know about.


      • #4
        Most of your impressions are true, but I really think you overthought the difficulty in playing both without mixing things up.

        Seriously, you won't. They're both amazing settings, but very distinct ones, even more so since CoD 2nd ed. So many things are distinct that even with similar splats you'll hardly mix things by accident. The difference in rules help in this regard. So I would say you can play both, choosing accordingly with your goals for a given chronicle, as it would be with any other RPG.

        Now, some practical comments on your lists:

        - WoD's greatest asset is undoubtedly the metaplot. You don't need by far to use everything in a game, but the less you use, the more switching to CoD pays off.

        - CoD's greatest asset in the same vein is the rules. Since 2nd ed they are superior in every way. No few people use the Translation Guides to ditch WoD's rules.

        - WoD is designed against crossover, CoD is designed for crossover. It isn't required in any and is possible in both, but CoD gives you the best pay-off by far if you do.

        Above all, they're not the same games, really. Vampire is the only one where you really have similar concepts at play. You'll lose a lot of things and gain a lot of others if you switch out and there is no telling if this will be for the better or worse. The spirit worlds are well developed in CoD, but they're not the Umbra. The Forsaken have similar base mechanics, but they're not Garou, they don't fight the same fights, for the same reasons, with the same techniques and philosophies or the same allies. The Awakened have similar powers, but deal with a cosmology entirely distinct from the Ascension. Nothing outside Vampire will be the same, or even try to be the same, regardless of similar names on the surface.

        I personally play both. I've been in VtM since 1st ed, and I've been in nWoD since the first blue book, before VtR. There's a lot of good things for both.

        She/her pronouns


        • #5
          Both lines have their strengths like said above. WoD can offer somethings CoD cannot and vise versa. Wraith for example has no equal in either line and it alone is worth staying with WoD. Personally I go with both CoD and WoD. Rules wise it is a matter of opinion thing, I like CoD 2nd ed rules but disliked 1st ed and converted what I wanted from (back then nWoD) to WoD system.

          Metaplot as said above is a strength, and weakness, of WoD but the games are just as good even with minimal metaplot involvement, I tend to only use it as background and history for example.

          CoD’s strength is that it focused on individual pc’s more with it’s mechanics for Pilgrimage (Promethean), Cypher (Demon) Etc. But this can also be it’s weakness in that it does require a lot of effort from the ST who has to design custom powers and mechanics for each player.

          It is the same problem as with Exalted 3rd editions Artifacts where you have to design whole custom Charm trees to make full use of them.

          Personally I think that both lines work nicely with crossovers, I have never had any trouble with WoD crossovers, but like said CoD is built with crossovers in mind, especially Beast which is intentionally made to work well with the other lines.

          I couldn’t choose between them which is why I play both WoD and CoD depending on what I want from my current game. Since even the Vampires similar as they are offer a different experience and both lines have games that offer unique experiences that the other line doesn’t cater to.


          • #6
            The only thing I'd add as far as comparing the two sets of games, which dovetails a little with what monteparnas said about crossover, is the issue of power balance. It's very important to some groups; less so to others. In short, if you play M:tAw, you can expect the various spheres to do more or less the same thing (within their respective thematic wheelhouses) at whatever level--the first Rank of every sphere is (to my knowledge) going to give you some sensory abilities. In essence, no Rank 1 is going to be vastly more useful than any other Rank 1; ditto Ranks 2s, 3s, etc. However, while there is clearly a common template for what Spheres do at different Ranks in M:tAs, there are some notable exceptions--like the first Rank of Mind in Ascension allows you to empower your own mind in a bunch of useful, cool, and pretty powerful ways (e.g., the creation of mind shields) But when you get into a game like Vampire, those elder Disciplines are all over the place, inasmuch as some Level 6 or 7 powers look to be vastly more valuable or powerful than others--and what's more, there isn't always an agreement about what's better or worse, because the capabilities very quickly become totally incomparable to one another, so it's basically impossible to do an apples-to-apples. It's also a frequent topic of discussion whether, or the extent to which Thaumaturgy and Blood Magic is more powerful to almost every other discipline. But regardless of which side of any given power scaling discussion someone falls on, I think there's a general consensus that when WoD games were made, 'game balance' was not given the same level priority as it might have been in something like d20 games, Shadowrun, etc.

            I've played with people who don't care about this, others who hate it (and just won't play WoD at this point,) and some who actually like the imbalance. I tend to fall into the last category, inasmuch as I've come to see the (sometimes quite sharp) power imbalance as almost a feature of the game, and more than a little charming. Having said that, I can't begrudge anyone the desire to play a fair game, and I caution people who haven't played WoD before about this, because the last thing they want is to get through character, and get through a story or two, only to realize that they inadvertently put themselves behind the eight ball. So, you know, caveat emptor.



            • #7
              Originally posted by Saikou View Post
              [*]The games are more or less done. It's very unlikely we will get another line, let alone another revision in a timely manner. We might get a 5e for werewolf and mage, but I don't see this happening for a long time, and certainly not for Wraith or Changeling.
              This is not a reason to switch. If you want new content in the world you are already familiar with, generate it yourself. I wouldn't trade Ascension's Umbra for anything. I have played without dice or books when I lacked these things. I took a deck of cards, removed the jacks, kings and queens, shuffled it and used it to produce the die rolls. It was an excellent session. That was twenty years ago.

              I am currently running Ascension for two other people. I have considered getting into Awakening for the purpose of importing its best features into Ascension. One of my players has a character who is from a parallel timeline. It would fit the chronicle to have characters from the Fallen World from competing factions make their way to my WoD in pursuit of something. I did a post over at Awakening, asking about the Seers of the Throne. I have yet to update that specific post, but my takeaway is that Awakening has an element that Ascension lacks. Someone explained that Pentacle Mages are dealing with forces that would take a sledge-hammer to the human mind if observed directly, requiring them to approach these things with great caution or to deal with them indirectly. In Ascension, players point their Sphere Perceptions at everything, something I want to inhibit just a little.

              My book budget is limited, like most other people. Mage The Podcast is a really good place to get an idea about what a book contains and the discussions are usually over an hour. Occultists Anonymous has MtA chronicles. That is an alternative way to learn about Awakening.

              As for crossover not porting well between WoD game-lines, I agree and made the same choice you did about what to include; Wraith and Changeling. I hope this is helpful.

              He/Him... I just Love Witches. I am here for conversation rather than formal debate. My Hacks.


              • #8
                Originally posted by HorizonParty2021 View Post
                This is not a reason to switch. If you want new content in the world you are already familiar with, generate it yourself.
                I wouldn't say it in those terms, but it I surely don't see what's so important about releasing new books to play a game. I've seen the same reaction on D&D community when they shifted to 4th edition, but 3.5 just had enough published material for anyone's needs. I was baffled at people that jumped to Pathfinder only because of that when that meant they were abandoning a game that already have everything for something still in its first books.

                The 20th anniversary collection have most everything you need for most lines. And the core books are usually all you need to apply everything that came before in play. Before thinking about future releases, think about what you feel to be missing in the already existing material that would be solved by new material. I personally see very few things, I play CoD for other reasons. You want more than 25+ combined years of releases?

                She/her pronouns


                • #9
                  Interesting thread so far. I'd agree that most of your impressions regarding the pros and cons of the Old vs New WoD are correct. I do have a couple of thoughts to add to the discussion.

                  The first has to do with the tone of the different settings. Both Old and New WoD definitely involve horror elements, but Old WoD tends to focus more on grand scale cosmic horror, whereas CoD tends to focus a bit more on more mundane and subtler horrors hiding just beneath the surface of everyday life. Old WoD is also a bit more cheesy and tongue-in-cheek, IMO; I think CoD takes itself a bit more seriously.

                  The other thing I want to mention has to do with the viability of crossover between Old WoD and New WoD/CoD. CoD is better set up for crossover from a mechanical gameplay standpoint, but I would argue that they are harder to fit together on a cosmological scale. Each CoD game was built to have its own discrete cosmology that rarely, if ever, interact directly with each other, and the connections between them are kept much more nebulous, in line with the more agnostic metaplot of CoD (this may have changed more with the newer editions, as I am primarily familiar with 1E). Beast was something of an exception, but I was never really a fan of the concept.


                  • #10
                    I don't think the separate cosmologies work against crossover, but in its favor. Since they're separate, they can coexist without messing with each other assumptions. WoD made everyone use the Umbra, but have distinct assumptions about the universe, and then it was hard to play one properly without making the others wrong and look like ignorants.

                    With CoD you not only may have Sin Eaters, Mages and Werewolves in the same group, none of them have their knowledge of their thing necessarily challenged by the others, they can act as experts in their fields of exploration and the entire group may explore all realms involved as their own thing.

                    She/her pronouns


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                      I don't think the separate cosmologies work against crossover, but in its favor. Since they're separate, they can coexist without messing with each other assumptions. WoD made everyone use the Umbra, but have distinct assumptions about the universe, and then it was hard to play one properly without making the others wrong and look like ignorants.

                      With CoD you not only may have Sin Eaters, Mages and Werewolves in the same group, none of them have their knowledge of their thing necessarily challenged by the others, they can act as experts in their fields of exploration and the entire group may explore all realms involved as their own thing.
                      I definitely agree that might appeal to plenty of people, but I never liked it. It's too cut-and-dried, everything neatly divided up, when there seems good reason to think that these things would be connected to some extent. It makes more sense to me that there will be actual metaphysical crossover rather than everything fitting into its own separate box. But I'm an obsessive cosmologist when it comes to this stuff, so that's possibly my personal bias speaking. But if you're interested in trying to connect together a "big picture," you'll probably have a harder time with CoD than WoD.


                      • #12
                        I don't think it is harder, I think it is actually easier, but the work isn't done for you, a product of the game being made to be a toolbox without metaplot. The Umbra is a mess, it is stupidly hard to comprehend not just because it uses complex concepts (which it does), but because it have to unify disparate notions of what it was, notions that weren't initially created to reconcile.

                        She/her pronouns


                        • #13
                          The simple answer to a big question is that its fine to mix and match! I personally love lots about the background of WoD but find the metaplot far to complicated. But I much prefer the system of NWoD (more than CoD) and have run mage games that use MtAw rules for MtAsc setting. And I also tweaked the setting to be more to my liking (Technocracy have waned in influence and more about dealing with Nephandi) and use CtL rather than CtD, and as NWoD. This has several advantages including the fact that NWoD rules are better for (really made for) crossovers, and that such tweaking and mixing and matching and re-skinning allows me to shut down the long term players who want to insist that the metaplot in a book I haven't read must be considered cannon! So short version is that I have invested in the specific books that I need to run NWoD rules while having more OWoD material. Also NWoD has some very helpful resources to easily create antagonists from other lines without having to invest in the whole line, specifically spirits, vampires, undead, weres and mages, because the Hunter books for NWoD have a great simplified system for doing this in their antagonist books.