Will playing a monster make you a monster?
Written By Daniel Pike
Monster: The Monstering. Any who are familiar with the World of Darkness setting or system understand. With titles like Vampire: The Requiem, Werewolf: The Forsaken or Mage: The Awakening you should know what you are getting into from the start. The World of Darkness series of roleplaying settings all group together into a dark shadow of our world. One which allows the players to play various monsters that interact with other creatures that go bump in the night.
Now called “The Chronicles of Darkness” by the new owning company Paradox Interactive, the series boasts three core titles (listed above), as well as eight (or more) additional monster types (or splats). Each has its own view on the setting, and style or branch of the horror roleplaying game genre.
The Chronicles of Darkness is the main core book, it allows players to create human characters in the chilling dark. It also gives any prospective Storytellers (Gamemasters in many other systems) the basic sets of rules. How things work and the give and take of the dice. From the main core are the separate splats books. A Storyteller can choose one and have each of the players make a character from one of the settings. Vampire for example.
With Vampire: The Requiem, all the players can create vampires that exist with and “embrace” the political intrigue of the vampire courts. Werewolf: The Forsaken allows the players to play werewolves in the darkened world who work to put to rest spirits that run and ruin civilian lives. Mage: The Awakening shows the players how to build mages or wizards that can bend the universe to their will, while hiding the truth from the “Sleepers” or mere mortals. While each of the books allows the players to all play the same “type” of monster, with numerous options within each template, since each of the different monster types is all based on the same system, an ambitious Storyteller could allow players to choose any of the monster types that the players wish to try, creating a melting pot of the different types. This is not suggest for new Storytellers, however, as it can get overwhelming fairly quickly.
Each monster type has its own powers, its own abilities, and as these are what make each monster type unique, it also means that the players and the Storyteller need to know how the system works, and there has to be a level of trust that neither party takes advantage of.
Discussing the system for a moment, it is a highly narrative system. In a recent series of my game, the players (who are used to more heavy-combat games) were quite surprised that in three sessions, we hadn’t been in combat once. I, as the storyteller, spent more time working on the story, working on how the characters see and interact with the world. This isn’t always the case, I have seen some Chronicles of Darkness games that have embraced combat fully, I don’t believe this is what the system was built for though. I believe through this system, one can tell a story of horror, redemption, hunger, depravity, and revenge. If a narrative horror game sounds right for you and/or your group, maybe this one is right for you.
As a note, this is NOT a game for children. Much of the fluff (story stuff, which is quite excellent) covers very dark (and sometimes visceral) subject matter. There is nudity in some of the images presented.
On to the books themselves. There are many, many books. Each has stories and backgrounds, and game mechanics that open up more options for Storytellers and characters. The artwork in many of the books is well created. One issue many have found is in the actual layouts of the books. Some are written and edited well, with effective and efficient indexes and tables of contents. Most of the books are not this well made, however. Many suffer from fluff-overload. These are great to read, but don’t have much in the way of system mechanics, and how the information presented actually applies to the game system as a whole.
In the end, the Chronicles of Darkness system is well worth the price for those interested. As long as you are up for mature gameplay and narrative stories, this could be the system for you.
There are things in the shadows, dark hungry things that feed on the simple. They feed on the mundane and slip back into their hidden dens. Slip back into ‘the between’ with their prey. The Chronicles of Darkness gives you the chance to fight against those denizens of the dark…or become them.