Saturday Morning Gaming: The World Of Darkness and Non-combat Centered Gaming
The World of Darkness setting is one of the most interesting settings for Tabletop games, if you ask me. From Vampire: The Masquerade (sit around, discuss nihilism) to Mage: The Ascension (sit around, discuss philosophy) to Werewolf: The Apocalypse (sit around, discuss evolution and deep ecology), the games are about more than merely throwing dice at various monsters in dungeon crawls.
I’ve talked about Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines a dozen times on the site and the main flaw of the game is that there’s way too much combat. The game is at its best when it’s about the conversations you’re having with different characters around the town and having you figure out how to resolve conflicts without violence than when it has you get in a fight with, say, The Final Boss at the end.
I mean, there’s one storyline that involves being sent on a quest to a remote house to pick up a package for your boss’s lackey. It’s possible to get in and out with a minimum of violence but if the player chooses to get in a fight, the fight is exceptionally lopsided. Like, shark versus sea bass lopsided. Same for combat at the tabletop. Sharks aren’t built to eat sharks. When the game gets involved with vampires fighting vampires, it’s at its worst. (Remember the interminable sewers? The sheriff? Ugh.) When the game has you figure out a way through the problem without having to fight is when the game is absolutely at its best.
Same for the games like Mage: The Ascension and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The point of the game is not to get in fights. I mean, they happen… but the game is at its best when it involves just sitting around and talking.
Which is what makes video games set in the World of Darkness somewhat disappointing at the edges. Video games tend to gravitate towards action and that means that your characters will be getting in fights at points and, of course, the fights have to be “challenging”. And that means that your shark is going to be trying to eat other sharks.
But, occasionally, some World of Darkness games don’t make that mistake.
Coteries of New York, Shadows of New York, and Heart of the Forest (a *WEREWOLF* game!) are interactive fiction that get deep down into the *STORY*. Now, the downsides of Choose Your Own Adventure books is that they tend to offer choices like “I do A” versus “I do B” and you’re sitting there asking “What about D? What about C?!?!?” and action video games don’t really have you asking that. “Blunt weapons vs. Bladed vs. Firearms” rather than “Is there not enough violence in the world already?”, but these games do a good job of thinking about things before the fact to have C be an option, even if D isn’t.
Additionally, this is an interactive story that has different potential starting points for you. You can be a vampire in this clan or in that one. When you’re playing Werewolf, you have to deal with stats like Rage and Willpower. When you’re maxed out on a stat, different options are available to you than when you’re empty. (Which makes the choices you’re making meaningful… do I want to try to be friendly instead of angry? I might need that willpower later!)
And it’s nice to have a game where fights are resolved by making choices rather than by getting the timing just right.
(And since Bloodlines 2 got bumped from Early 2020 to Early 2021, this is the World of Darkness content that we’re stuck waiting for… at least until the VR Wraith: The Oblivion game comes out.)
So… what are you playing?