Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New World of Darkness

World of Darkness was the first setting I ever played, so it's got a bit of a special place in my heart, it always has. It only seemed fitting that it should be the first system I review on here.  Never fear though, I refuse to let nostalgia get in the way of a fair review.

First off, a bit of background about the system. World of Darkness is kind of an oversystem/setting for a group of supernatural type systems. You have Vampire the Requiem, Mage the Awakening, Changeling the Lost, Werewolf the Forsaken, Promethean the Created, Hunter the Vigil, and Mortals. All of these coexist in the same setting, and all of them, even mortals, can be deadly dangerous.

In theory, parties can mix and match character types to have a party comprised of all different types-though mostly races keep to themselves unless given a good reason to do otherwise. In practice, an unwary DM can find mixed parties an absolute clusterfuck that interferes with each other and/or actively tries to kill each other.

The good news

The setting is beautifully done and immensely detailed, each race has enough options for the diversity a true race needs. Each individual race's system is big enough to easily run in without bringing in other races or indeed needing to know anything about their rules or setting. The storytelling focus of the system means that character interactions are brought to the forefront and are just as smooth to play out as combat.
Character creation is quick and easy, a player familiar with the system can easily make a detailed character sheet in five-ten minutes
The books themselves are the most fun of any of the manuals I've ever read to just sit down and read-the story seeds scattered throughout are thought provoking and entertaining. Even the published adventures are open ended, offering a specific setting, NPCs and a hook without railroading you or your players into taking a certain path. If you are a creative GM, this system is exactly what you need to get going.

The Bad News

A side effect of the storytelling focus is a preoccupation with the politics of each group . It's good that there's a detailed society for everyone, it's bad when following it to the letter means spending a lot of your players' time dealing with racial politics instead of getting on with the story.
The systems do not fit together as well as they are supposed to, and without watching very carefully you may find that some party members are way overpowering others and have to be balanced for. In addition, all of the races are built to more or less hate each other on sight-which isn't unrealistic, but is somewhat of a pain to deal with.
The books are beautifully written but White Wolf is NOTORIOUSLY BAD at indexing, which makes finding anything specific in the books a huge headache.
The open endedness of the system is great if you're a creative DM who likes doing everything by hand. If you're not as creatively inclined, running WoD is a headache and a half. In addition, without mad improv skills running last minute one shots or having to run with something unexpected your characters have just done is a nightmare.

Really, though, NWoD has it's problems, but it's a great system for roleplay lovers. This is my go to system for new campaigns or convention games.

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