A friend of mine was looking for summaries of the core new World of Darkness games that he could share with someone he was persuading to play in the Isles of Darkness. There was a dearth of responses, so I wrote something for him to use. They’re not brilliant – they’re written from one person’s perspective and my memory for exactly how everything works isn’t best when I have the books in front of me, but they do the job I think.
Vampire: the Requiem is a game based around blood. The blood-thirst of the Kindred extends to all aspects of their life from their food to their politics and religion. Blood sustains their unlife, blood fuels their supernatural abilities, blood ties the Kindred together and tears them apart. Despite that, Vampire: the Requiem is not an intrinsically violent game. Immortal yet fragile, the Kindred know all too well where violence can lead. Careful plots that lead to the downfall of your foes is the de-facto means of resolving grievances amongst the undead, and their meetings are bound by strict tradition and rules to prevent altercations.
The Kindred are split by Clan and Covenant. Your Clan is the line of vampires to which you have been embraced; it affects your curse, and your affinities for supernatural abilities. Your Covenant is a choice you make based on political/religious leanings and you can choose not to join one at all. The Invictus are usually traditionalist autocrats, the Carthians are mostly liberal politicos, the Lancea et Sanctum is a vampire church founded on Abrahamic principles, the Circle of the Crone is a vampire religion based around the worship of goddesses, and the Ordo Dracul seek to understand and transcend the nature of the vampiric condition. Those who do not join a Covenant are known as the Unaligned.
Werewolf: the Forsaken is a game of territories. For werewolves, joining a pack and defending your claimed territory are second-nature. You weren’t always a werewolf – one day, after a period of tumultuous events you Changed for the first time, becoming a werewolf and inheriting spiritual power you may not even have been aware existed before. This experience can be set off in any number of ways, and the moon under which you change defines your Auspice – the role Mother Luna has determined for you. Werewolves inhabit both the real world with which you are familiar, and the spiritual world which is akin to a mirror world distorted by societal perception and inhabited by animistic spirits of animals, objects, emotions, and concepts.
Werewolves are split into two main camps: the Forsaken, and the Pure. The Forsaken are favoured by Mother Luna, and the Pure reject her. The game is focused on the Forsaken tribes, of which there are five: the Blood Talons are the warriors, defenders, and tacticians; the Bone Shadows are the mystics, ritualists, and spiritual experts; the Hunters in Darkness are concerned with the health of the spirit world and the environment; the Iron Masters master technology and the urban territories of cities; and the Storm Lords inspire and lead. Someone who does not join a tribe is known as a Ghost Wolf. The Forsaken also have Auspices, which the Pure do not. The five Auspices are: Rahu (Full Moon) who are warriors and tacticians; Cahalith (Gibbous Moon) who are storytellers and tale-singers; Elodoth (Half Moon) who are the judges and lawkeepers; Ithaeur (Crescent Moon) who are mystics and spirit-guides; and the Irraka (New Moon) who are scouts and assassins.
Mage: the Awakening is a game based on magic. The Awakened are those who have seen past the Lie that pervades all of reality and grasped some measure of the way things truly are. How this happens is different for each mage, but each finds themselves with the ability to work wonders with their will after signing their name to a Watchtower. The Awakened have their own society hidden from the Sleepers, with their own factions – each of which has their own ways of using magic.
The Pentacle is an alliance of five Awakened Orders, four of which draw their origins from the Awakened city of Atlantis, and the fifth of which was founded at the beginning of the 20th century. The Adamantine Arrow are the military might of the Pentacles, drawing upon traditions akin to that of Buddhist monks to master themselves and their magic through physical training; the Guardians of the Veil protect the Sleepers from the hubris of mages, covering up the consequences of vulgar magic and taking it upon themselves to police mage society; the Mysterium collect knowledge in all forms, and have centuries of lore available for a price; the Silver Ladder are lawyers, leaders, and politicians who wish to create an Awakened nation; the Free Council is the newest and most haphazard of the Pentacle Orders, and tends to focus on radical new ways of government, technological development, and generally new ways of thinking about magic. Opposing the Pentacle Orders are the Seers of the Throne, mages sworn to archmasters trying to make the world into the reality they wish it to be so they can control it and rule over it. Those who join no order are known as Apostates.
The manner in which each mage Awakens defines their Path – the type of Mage they are. This influences the magic they have an innate talent for learning, and which supernal realm they are tied to.
The Isles of Darkness version of the game from this chronicle is slightly different from the society described in the rulebooks due to the addition of a magical tradition within Britain that does thing in a different way from other Awakened groups. The Brilu follow a celtic/pictish mythology which defines their version of Awakened society and how they view the use of magic. Each of the Paths is aligned with a god/goddess and has a defined role within Brilu society.
Changeling: the Lost is a game of grim fairy tales. At some point in the past, you were stolen by the Fae and taken to their private realm within Arcadia. There, you were shaped into something other – whether by the intention of your captor or a consequence of the environment – and kept as property, plaything, furniture, or pet by your Fae captor. Somehow you managed to escape and return to the real world, but nothing is the same as it was when you left. You have been touched by Fae magicks and are no longer quite human, and you can call upon magic by binding yourself to concepts by the use of Contracts. You may have been gone six days or sixty years, and experienced lifetimes on the other side. You find that you were replaced by a magical construct of the Fae composed of sticks and fairy dust – indistinguishable to others, your mirror image.
Whether you were made into a beast, a giant, a lamp, a fire, or any other strange thing the Fae could conceive, people don’t notice that about you. The Glamour of the Fae gives you a Mask which lets you appear human to those that can’t perceive through it. Other Changelings can see through it, and nothing can hide your true self in the Hedge – the twisted realm of thorns between the real world and Arcadia.
Changelings of all kinds band together in Courts and Freeholds to protect themselves from re-capture by the Fae. Freeholds are societies, people bound together in a location. Courts are groups of changelings bound to a Concept which provides magic and protection. Freeholds are usually ruled by a succession of local Court leaders. Most changelings are bound to one of the Seasonal Courts, which usually rotate leadership based on the season of the year. The Spring Court is focused on Desire, and the fulfilment of desires no matter what they are; the Summer Court is focused on Wrath, and use their anger to fight the enemies of the Free Lost; the Autumn Court is focused on Fear, and study magic in all its forms; and the Winter Court is focused on Sorrow, and keep secrets close to protect themselves and others.