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  • Saikou
    started a topic Going Forward with Darkness

    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 World 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.

    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.

  • Ur-Than
    replied
    From what I've read, it'll be a minus for you OP, but I rather like the absence of Metaplot, especially for Vampires. I like the Masquarade, the Sabbat and all, but the very idea that Abrahamic God is real rubbed me the wrong way from the start. I find it invalidate a lot of setting's other splat, because by essence this One God can't be subservient to another power - or even its equal - without stopping to being, well, God.

    I find CoD to be a lot more flexible. You can create your own metaplot in each line (Vampire's the one I know best, so it's my example, but if you really want to play with it, you can have the Strix be the creators of the Vampires, with everything it entails being derived from that single fact, and you can even build several chronicles from this premise but by developping it differently, you'll have a lot of story potential).

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  • reaperfrost8
    replied
    I am unsure if this works but the new gameline Deviant the renegade could also pull a sort of pull a Pentex thing. Basically a web of conspiracies that is quite vast which can also include evil corporation could fill that niche I think.

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  • Cleverest of Things
    replied
    One benefit CofD has is replayability. The problem with the OWoD was that you'll largely only be changing characters, but the world itseld stays the same. Vampires descend from Caine and the Antediluvians. Western ghosts serve Stygia. Changelings know where home is. The CofD does require more work but you can tell so many DIFFERENT stories with the rules. Are vampires a disease? Aliens? What about ghosts? Every city has different power Dynamics and npcs, and overlap between one time you play a game and another time is up to the storyteller.
    I'll add to some of the translation ideas you've mentioned, because I had to awkwardly retcon my long running game group from OWoD to CofD.

    Wraith doesn't exist per se, but make no mistake, Sin Eaters are ghosts. They're the equivalent of the Risen. You still have unfinished business and a shadow (your Burden and your Geist,sorta). The difference is that you have more agency. You have a body. You can not only finish your business, but also help other ghosts who weren't so lucky. While Stygia as a vast empire doesn't exist, Cemetary Towns, River Cities, and Dead Dominions exist in most areas that function as the Small, Medium, and Large version of Stygia's Extra Large. The Labyrinth and the Tempest have been sorta fused into the whole of the Underworld, a vast series of tubes with weather and ecosystems that end in a vast ocean of nothingness. I personally have Stygia as a dying Dead Dominion with satelitte cities in the upper reaches of the Underworld, complete with Reaper Legionnaires, and I even brought back the Fishers as a sineater krewe.

    The Weaver? Got a promotion. It's now GOD. The God Machine is even cooler in my opinion, because it's flexible and sly. It's angels are the pattern spiders. In my game, it works with the Seers of the Throne sometimes, so there is your Technocracy. Together, the God Machine and the Thrones maintain our current reality, and spirits, vampires,and everything else unaware of them just keep the status quo intact.

    The Umbra, as some mages call the Shadow,is a rich and complicated diverse ecosystem. Gaia may or may not exist as a singular being, just as it's possible Helios and Luna may not be singular,but rather how beings on Gaia react to such vast forces from other world's, but werewolves certainly believe that Luna and Helios are very real. Whether they are the sum of their parts, nobody knows. Totems certainly still exist, and it makes sense that werewolves have tribe wide totems that are.. wolves.

    The equivalent of OWoD Changeling is a HELL of a lot darker--its Beast. Creatures who are the incarnation of Nightmares and Fear, kinda like those monsters introduced towards the end of Dreaming. They could be the eldest of supernaturals, related to the rest. Or they may just be very crazy with enough imagination to enforce their stories onto the world.

    Meanwhile, the Lost is just.. awesome lol. Dark, and heavily moddable. You can definitely play some LotR stuff with it, and replicate Chimeric Reality in visuals and essence (though I still stand by the idea that Beast is where you want to go if you're looking for dreams and myths).

    Mummy is actually not VASTLY different from it's ORIGINAL WoD iteration (it's hardcover full game line is most definitely Geist), but I like it better than both, especially in second edition, as it addresses all forms of immortality, and even has metaplot if you miss the game developers setting up it for you.
    The coolest part about the game is it's subversion. You start at Max level, a powerful, godlike being at the top of a food chain with servants and minions and ene is, but almost NO backstory. Character growth is about the storyline, not levelling up and getting new powers. Toss in the fact that they crash around through time and flashbacks can be realtime for them, and prophecies cam be their history.. .

    When OWoD demon came out, it had such a vastly different cosmology that it upset my long term players. Is worked in consensual reality and the Umbra, and even Hunter echoed with Exalted at least. Demon the Fallen was a wtf train crash. The CofD version fits much better and covers an angle that hadn't been strictly part of the CofD yet (the Matrix angle that OWoD's Mage had). You can still have giant winged horned red sides with pierced body parts and spewing fire. It also hits me in the Blade Runner feels, something I had tried to do with the Weaver in the past WoD. The fact it's so different is so fascinating. "Be not afraid", because it's GOOD.

    Like you said, Promethean is definitely a new ballgame. It's hard to fit cosmologically into a comprehensive crossover, but if God is the Weaver, the Principle is the Wyld. It's raw potential, that humans have learned to harness to do the impossible, including create life. I will warn, it's a very tragic game, as befits it's inspiration. However it's also very easy to do in a small play group, and the fact that their powers change as their character grows means that even an individual character almost plays as more than one. As they learn and grow they can solidify powers they like and otherwise just figure out who they are.

    All in all, it's easy to create your OWN story in CofD easily. I've never used a published NPC from the CofD, while by the apocalypse of the owod felt pressured to name drop every Antedeluvian, Charon, King David, etc. It took focus away from the characters, who were existing in a DC comics based universe. Now, it's the opposite. My major NPCs are from the setting, and the rules are flexible enough I've found ways to interpret almost all of them (Green Lantern was hard XD).

    So that's why I switched to CofD, but still use OWoD as inspiration, mostly as Z Splats, alternative terms, or local phenomena.

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  • lbeaumanior
    replied
    To make it short: I love (most of) the "fluff" of the OWOD, hate (most of) the "crunch".
    • Love having a metaplot and fleshed out NPCs.
    • Dislike the system inconsistencies and incompatibilities, and it shows that it was done by bunch of writers that had not really much world knowledge at the time.
    • Dislike that the generations in VtM make no mathematical sense (15 generations only nowadays?).
    • HATE with passion consensual reality for mages, it makes no sense, if you know anything about behavioral economics, world history, and plain of human interaction; most people do not believe in science, let alone understand it... But somehow that is the consensus right now?
      Consensual reality was great a postmodern idea, badly implemented. Compare to Unknown Armies, where 333 specific individuals ascend (HA!) and they define reality, you can plan on being one of those 333, so the next universe aligns to your standards.

    CofD is a better overall system, IMHO.

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  • Tessie
    replied
    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    The books are current and new material is frequently being produced
    I wouldn't quite say that. Onyx Path has succumbed to the same glacial pace that the entire RPG industry is plagued by. There's also a few gamelines that have no scheduled supplements. But overall, books do still continue to come out.


    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    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?"
    Mortal games are actually really fun, and they are really easy to get started once everyone has read the rules. Absolutely no prior knowledge of any lore is required.


    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    The books fit together so much better.
    They do, but I still wouldn't recommend a mixed group game. If your table focuses the dramatical themes of the games, you'll most likely end up diluting them by having mixed PCs. If your table focuses on the crunchy bits of the games, you'll most likely find that the different games aren't balanced to each other. That said, there actually are products (Contagion Chronicle and it's companion Player's Guide pamphlet) that are all about mixed groups.

    But they are absolutely compatible, ruleswise. You can just sprinkle in whatever you want from any of the games into whatever game you're playing. If you're playing Beast or Mage in particular, I absolutely recommend including NPCs, weird entities, or stranger things, from the other games.


    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    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
    Demon, just like Beast and Deviant, was created with the Revised Storytelling System (aka the 2e rules). It's the very first game with that system and was created while OPP didn't get to call the new rules a new edition so there's some weirdness around that. A second edition of Demon won't arrive until OPP decides Vampire/Werewolf/Mage etc needs a third edition.


    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    The Spirit world seems fairly underdeveloped compares to the richness that was the umbra, (correct me if I've misunderstood though)
    As far as I can tell, the Umbra consists of several layers that each work differently and is mostly only relevant to a specific oWoD game or two. CofD did away with the whole Umbra by making each layer a separate realm. This means each individual realm was designed according to the needs of a particular game without having to conform to any sort of consistency (or fail to conform to one).
    The Astral Realms should be mentioned specifically because they're a collection of different realms that correspond to the minds of individual people, realms that describe all human concepts/ideas, and a singular (but massive, if space were a thing) realm for all worldly concepts that aren't based on human ideas.


    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    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)
    I'm not as knowledgeable about oWoD, but I think a lot of these are present in CofD in new forms. Nephandi and Marauders sounds like Banishers and Scelesti, respectively (though the similarities could only be superficial; I very briefly skimmed through their pages on the white wolf wiki). Stygian and the tempest should be the Underworld and the Ocean of Fragments. All werewolf packs are bound to a totem spirit (or, in very rare cases, something else that takes the same role), as well as tribal totems (unless they're Ghost Wolves who avoid the tribes) which may be more on the same power level as WtA totem spirits. I don't know anything about the pattern spiders, but the Azlu (spider Host) from Werewolf: The Forsaken might fill the same role.

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  • nofather
    replied
    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    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.
    The way releases have been going, and Promethean's fit as a line, you can probably safely invest in the entirety of lines you're interested in, without having to cut off entire gamelines. So far nothing else has been announced to come out for Promethean, and there's two books on the horizon for Changeling, while nothing for Wraith. If your investments mean finding older books, generally used book stores (and even used books on Amazon) can sell them for incredibly low prices. This is mostly providing you're willing to read via PDF rather than premium hardcover, or live in one of the many places hit hard by transportation cost hikes.

    But even then, if you're only getting one book a year you should be able to follow your interests.

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  • Heavy Arms
    replied
    I'll post on this one because ultimately my bias is towards the CofD. I love the WoD, it was my second RPG and first RPG love, and I still play it to this day. But I play it out of nostalgia and having fun with my grognard friends, not necessarily because I'd pick them first.

    Of course, that means I play both, at the same time, regularly. One of the benefits from the transition to CofD 2e, is that the CofD stepped much farther out of its predecessor's shadow. Requiem, Forsaken, and Awakening 1es were all hampered by the idea that they had to do things to appeal to WoD fans by keeping elements. After Lost was the first 1e game to really fun in a completely different direction from its WoD counterpart the CofD has been steadily stepping up as its own unique take on things.

    A general observation about your impressions: while there are direct comparisons between games with the game monster type (such as Apocalypse vs. Forsaken), the best comparisons are frequently not along those lines. For example, Geist is for sure a very different game from Wraith. But an interesting comparison is actually Geist to Dreaming. The warmth and joy in Geist isn't just an equal to the light hearted surface impressions of Dreaming, it's an active statement of what it means to be a Sin-Eater. They know exactly how dark the dark is in these worlds, and they know how much ever little positive ray of light matters. So when you see that a theme didn't survive from the WoD version of a monster to the CofD version of a monster, it doesn't always mean those themes aren't there any more. They might have just found a different host.

    To address a few points from the big list that stand out to me:

    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    .There is nothing quite like Shadowguiding in Chronicles
    While this is true, there's plenty of places where this mode of play can be introduced to the CofD if you want. The relationship of Geister to their Sin-Eaters, and Horrors to their Begotten aren't the same as a Wraith's shadow, but they have an existence as their own entities that could be played up. A Lost's Fetch is a separate entity completely, but there's a lot of deep RP that can come out of Lost-Fetch relationships that aren't just the Lost trying to kill their Fetch on sight (or at least that failing and resolution taking a larger stage in the story).

    Character Creation requires a lot of in-universe lore to do properly
    I think this gets overstated. Lore hounds in any game can make char-gen feel overly dense by insisting on all these details that sound like big deals... but might never actually come up; even the CofD games. I think you might be a bit biased because Ascension is probably the game that does put the most stress on a decent level of setting mastery even at just trying to make a standard core book PC. But the amount you need to know to jump into a game of either Vampire is fairly comparable and not that bad as far as RPGs with dedicated settings go.

    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.
    Generally. There are times where the efforts to do so fall short in some fashion though. The CofD certainly has moments where the incorporation of themes and mechanics is obviously more thorough, but not necessarily more fun in use.

    The books fit together so much better.
    While true, it is important to remember that this doesn't mean crossover is easy, just easier. The unified core mortal rules and attention to some baseline crossover standards mean you can drop a Promethean in a Mummy game and not tear your hair out, but that doesn't mean it will be smooth without a decent amount of work. The CofD developers have repeatedly reminded people that they do not write the splats to be balanced with each other.

    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
    A minor informational point: Demon (and the games that follow it such as Beast and Deviant) are 2e era games even if they don't have a 1e book. While fans of Demon are hoping for a proper 2e core book (that is, one that can be run stand-alone instead of needing to reference the 1e-to-2e transition material), it's really the first 2e book so it could be along time until it gets a new edition.

    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.
    This obviously depends on the game, but yes it can be a problem. Vampire is usually worse about these things because Masquerade and Requiem are the closest in base concepts and share a lot of terminology.

    The Spirit world seems fairly underdeveloped compares to the richness that was the umbra, (correct me if I've misunderstood though)
    This is mostly a difference in approach. In the WoD everything outside of Earth is one giant spiritual universe in the Umbra. In the CofD the Earth is attached to a large number of alternate Realms that may or may not also connect to each other. This is part of the modular aspect of the CofD. Rather than trying to make everything fit into the one box of the Umbra, the games where an alternate realm to go into matter generally have their own that exists independently of the rest. This means each Realm serves a stronger narrative role by being oriented around one game line's themes, and you don't have to explain why the can have wildly different metaphysics.

    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)
    Not really as much as you think. Again, there's my advice about looking for themes in different places. One of the best analogs to the Technocrats-as-baddies are actually the Angels that Demons fight. Demon is a technognostic espionage thriller, where Angels that glitch out of their programming become Unchained and are now free agents in the CofD world... but Angels that are still part of the system don't just sit back and tolerate such errors. And serious woe for anything else that pisses the Angels off. If you like your Technocrats like the Agents from The Matrix franchise... that's Demon for you.

    But Awakening doesn't really have a problem with Scientist! characters who have a natural home in the Free Council, and there's direct analogs of the Nephandi and Marauders in Awakening.

    The Underworld of the CofD is, at least to me, a far more diverse one than the Dark Umbra of Stygia and the other dead kingdoms. It's a giant rabbit hole of deeper and deeper mysteries that get more and more dangerous in far less predictable ways. Lost lets you create you own Courts rather than be stuck with two, and the Hedge is still a whole land of fairy tale adventures to risk exploring. Totems are still a thing in Forsaken, even if the Tribal Totems are a more set theme. Etc.

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  • 21C Hermit
    replied
    I think there was some folks (in this forum too) playing primarily WoD with CoD elements (both mechanics and setting lore) fit in — maybe you could look for those posts too?

    For CoD you’ll also want to look at 1st Edition books, i.e. the ‘nWoD’ books. A lot of the world-building’s been done there already (which is part of the reason why CoD prints may feel slow, even worryingly so according to some people around here). Book of Spirits and Book of the Dead comes to mind. Of course, 2E materials take precedence still (like Unihar being silently removed in Forsaken, and the Atlantis stuff being MUCH more downplayed for Awakening).

    You don’t even have to ‘fully’ cross over to CoD; Promethean and mortal (core/Hunter) games interest you the most, yes? Good - you can do just that. Especially since there isn’t a WoD game that maps exactly to those two.
    Last edited by 21C Hermit; 09-13-2021, 07:28 AM.

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