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New World of Darkness: Core Rulebook

New World of Darkness Core Rulebook

After the tumultuous winding-up of the 'old' World of Darkness storylines, White Wolf has begun a rebirth, a renewal of the entire concept. On the face of it, little has changed. OK, so the 'Storyteller' system is now the 'Storytelling' system, but you still throw handfuls of d10s at each problem, you still get to be a werewolf or a vampire or whatever, the emphasis is still on role-playing rather than bigger weapons than the next guy...

But – despite my local group who to a man said they'd stick with the old system they knew and loved – there are genuine changes and improvements. To begin with, rather than having a core rulebook for each subset of the World of Darkness – Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Demon: The Fallen and so on and so forth – which were each different although cross-compatible, we now have a single core rulebook that contains the general rules under which the game is played. Then, of course, you can go down different paths as you please, purchasing appropriate supplements about vampires, mages or whatever takes your fancy. The idea is that now you are playing a 'Storytelling System' chronicle, in which vampires, werewolves and mages (and so on) can appear as NPCs or player-characters. The compatibility is total so that if you can find a way to stop them bickering – or biting each other! – you could have a player-character werewolf and a player-character vampire in the same game.

Over the years, White Wolf have honed a distinctive style of presentation, and continue in a similar manner as before. The 'Core' books – and it's not just this rulebook, but a line of cross-system books that like it can be used whatever precise setting you are playing – are done in black, with an overall impression of damp and lonely back streets. This captures the essential flavour of the World of Darkness – it's our everyday world but with a darker edge. The stories that have made us look nervously over our shoulders for generations around the campfire or curled up on a winter’s evening are real... and here... and now. The stories about immortal unliving creatures that can bite you, or part-man part-beast beings which change form at the rise of a moon if not a drop of a hat are all real in this world. Dark, maybe, but not utterly despairing – hope is still there.

In the World of Darkness as presented in this book, characters are ordinary men and women who suspect that there is something out there, and who begin to search for it (or, depending on the Storyteller's whim, maybe it comes searching for them). Mystery and horror are the watchwords. Perhaps the story may develop into one in which such as vampires, werewolves or modern mages feature – perhaps these ordinary characters themselves will become themselves such beings of legend. But if it suits, you can continue to play as ordinary people looking at a not completely ordinary world – in other words, the system presented here provides a workable contemporary game system, with a dark slant of course, which could be used to play virtually any style of game set in the modern world.

The actual core game mechanic is similar but not quite the same as the old-style one – which may be a bit confusing until you get used to it. As before, you roll a number of d10s equivalent to the 'dots' you have in the most appropriate attribute and skill for whatever it is you are trying to do. However, rather than the target you are attempting to roll above being set by the Storyteller based on the circumstances, now you aim for 8 or above – but will be given positive or negative modifiers based on how difficult the Storyteller deems the task you are undertaking to be. The kind of modifiers that can be applied are explained clearly, enabling the Storyteller to apply a consistent approach – yet are flexible enough to be adapted to just about any situation you can possibly imagine. The possession of appropriate equipment (a set of lockpicks, say, or the right tools for the repair job you are attempting) can also give you a bonus. Despite the size of the book, the rules are summarised in all of two pages.

There are plenty of snippets of 'flavour fiction' scattered through the book, and some atmospheric art work, but most of the book is solid rules-based material. While the core mechanic is simple to sum up, there are a whole mass of examples and elaborations. For example, each skill is described with likely uses, the modifiers that can be applied and when they will be appropriate, which attribute(s) work best and when and even likely outcomes of both successful and failed attempts to use that skill.

General equipment is also covered, vehicle use, the specifics of combat and how to run it and all the rest of the usual sort of things you’d expect in a core rulebook.

Overall, this is an excellent rationalisation and maturation of a familiar system.

Return to New World of Darkness Core Rulebook page.

Reviewed: 3 January 2007