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Behind the Lines: Changes A'Comin' (#39) - The White Wolf LiveJournal Community
Much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Behind the Lines: Changes A'Comin' (#39)
Some people say that gamers are inherently conservative. Others say that people are inherently conservative, and gamers are just a subset thereof. Now, this isn't talk about politics, mind: it's a discussion of that big mess of psychology that deals with how we approach things we ran into at a formative stage and stuff that changes the material of our formative stage. Consider, for example, any 200X adaptation of any 198X cartoon, comic book or toyline. You'll find some people who absolutely love every single change, some who say "YOU'RE RUINING EVERYTHING," and pretty much a great slew of reactions in between. Anyone who was a kid and owned a Transformer in the '80s probably has an opinion on the latest movie, for instance, and can probably think of someone who has the exact opposite opinion.

Me, I think that people have two particular classifications for things that give us pleasure: the comforting and familiar, and the exciting and new. There's a reason sometimes you want to try a new restaurant that sounds great, and sometimes you want plain old comfort food from your favorite joint. Sometimes you're sick of sequels, sometimes a sequel is the most-anticipated movie of the year. And, of course, movies try to capitalize on both at once by giving us "exciting and new" adaptations of the "comforting and familiar." So do other works, of course. And heck, you could probably argue that sex is a fusion of both at once (if you're doing it right), at least after the first time or so.

I bring this up because last week I went down and got a look at some of the changes that are in store for the site. You may have noticed the sticky about the changeover to the web forums, for instance. That's part of it. They're good changes, and some of them are very exciting. Stuff that I probably can't talk about, but suffice to say there's the desire to have people want to hang out at our site more, and have more cool stuff to see and do there. And it's a strong enough argument for the implementation coming that us employees are starting to feel the same way: looking forward to the new site, and how to muck around with it ourselves. Good stuff a'coming.

And, of course, there's the whole business of game design. I could probably go on for some time about the shift between Worlds of Darkness, and the desire to fuse comfortable and familiar with new and exciting. In fact, I think everyone has their own opinion about that, but honestly, let's draw back out a bit. Because it goes deeper than that.

I'm a strong proponent of the school of thought that novelty is not in and of itself a virtue. If you have something completely new, completely unlike anything seen before, you have no real frame of reference for a viewer. Vampire: The Masquerade was chock-full of new and exciting twists on an old, familiar theme: honest-to-goodness Halloween vampires. If you had tried to do a game of Personal Horror that went dramatically away from the familiar, it would be harder to make the horror personal, as there'd be fewer points of connection with the audience. It would be a neat read — though perhaps reliant on a reader's hunger for "new and exciting' — but really hard to play. And I think every Storyteller out there is well aware of how tricky it is to be able to surprise your players and give them new things they haven't seen before while still maintaining their connection to the setting. You want them to have a sense of the world before something new about it surprises them.

Why, yes. This line of thought is informing Geist: The [edit: Not yet, sorry! — Kelley]. New and exciting? Well, there's a reason it's got a name we've never used before. And there's a pretty critical rule we're bending (breaking, even) that we haven't done yet in any game, I think. But is there comforting and familiar stuff there? Yes. I daresay you'll run across things that you've had in the back of your mind for years and years. That's the foundation we lay, and the rest of the crazy messed-up stuff we build can sprout out from there.

As long as I'm here, I'll selfishly ask for feedback. What are your favorite examples of stuff that changed that you liked best? Where did you find your expectations strangely subverted, only to find that the aspect of change also threw a familiar kernel of an idea into relief? I mean, this can be about anything if you like (even, yes, "His truck form is different but it's still Peter Cullen!"), but obviously the World of Darkness examples help me out the absolute most. And stories about revelation and what you find exciting tend to be good ones. We like good stories, right?

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phoenix_down711 From: phoenix_down711 Date: February 4th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was a big fan of the old Mage: The Ascension game. However, I never played it. Well, except for a short-lived play by post game.

I am currently storytelling a game of Mage: The Awakening. See, my gaming group typically plays D&D and it's difficult to imagine them going from such a crunchy, simple playing style with it's uncomplicated base narrative to a system which was so lofty and obtuse and difficult to grasp as Ascension. I am fairly certain my group looked at ascension a time or two and thought to themselves "I don't get this" that it pretty much killed any chance of playing it.

Awakening was far more grounded and I liked that change. Having the spell list gave them something to hold on to, and as we progress, they become more and more familiar with the system and are really enjoying themselves.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 4th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really liked the Requiem Chronicler's Guide and I wished there were more books like it. I liked how it intentionally drew away from the familiar rules and setting, but everything was clearly totally optional. That way, the players could choose how much of the old and familiar they wanted and how much of the new and novel they wanted.

Along those lines, I really wish WW would put out some optional books that throw caution (i.e., game balance) to the wind and just have some sensational fun. I wish there was a Mage book that had a "turn vampire into a lawnchair" rote or level 9 arcana powers listed. Or an Exalted book that lays out some stats for the Unconquered Sun. I feel the book supplements outside of a core WoD game book are somewhat vanilla. i think it would be cool to have more books that give options on ways to go way outside of the scope of the core book. Stuff that would shake things up. WoD Inferno is a good example of a book that isn't totally vanilla. It shook things up a bit and I really liked it for that.

Not that i don't think the core rules are good and well thought out. I understand why they are there. But I believe I have read many times that the WoD is written as a tool box approach that is there to give inspiration for GMs and players to use in their games. I think having some supplements (they don't even have to be books) that give some out-there optional rules would be really refreshing without scaring people away from the old and familiar.

Also, while I am laying out my wish-list: it would be cool to have a supernatural that doesn't use the standard linear list of powers that sequentially rank in power.
earthdragon From: earthdragon Date: February 5th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Have you checked out "Dreams of the First Age" for Exalted?

From: (Anonymous) Date: February 5th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Good reminder! Yes, i have Dreams of the First Age. I probably should have mentioned it as i really liked the way it took a big step beyond the original game. I would really like more things like it, especially if there was some sort of WoD equivalent.
earthdragon From: earthdragon Date: February 5th, 2009 07:57 am (UTC) (Link)
It was extra neat in that it was usable as its own thing, or as something to cast shadows on the core game.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 5th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly! It was totally optional, but gave players ideas on how to take their games in a totally different direction. I know a lot of forum posters griped about some of the content, but I see that as a good sign. It didn't hold back and it made people think.
digitalraven From: digitalraven Date: February 4th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Peter Cullen. Who cares what kind of truck he is, he's still Optimus Prime.

Heh. Not a fan at all, me.

Game-wise, Aberrant remains a strong contender. It was pretty much the first supers game built from the ground up to reflect the Iron Age of comics, all grit and moral questionability and Liefeld art, but without the Liefeld art. It's pretty recognizably a superhero game, but it's taking a look strongly informed by the comics of the 80s and 90s far more than the four-colour games that came before.
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digitalraven From: digitalraven Date: February 5th, 2009 12:02 am (UTC) (Link)
That is a truly awesome icon.

You also remind me to rewrite an old Trinity hack to do "Cybertron by Nights"
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digitalraven From: digitalraven Date: February 5th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Soon as I finish [REDACTED by the NDA weasels] I'll get right on it.
count_nemo From: count_nemo Date: February 5th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
*cough* http://rpgbooks.wikia.com *cough*

Don't forget, you were also going to do up the Victorian Technocracy splats. ;)
digitalraven From: digitalraven Date: February 5th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
In my copious free time. ;)
From: eskemp Date: February 5th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I knew that by making a Transformers reference I would draw out Eddy. I had not counted on getting Stew first.
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digitalraven From: digitalraven Date: February 5th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
What can I say? I'm a master of surprise.
gausshawk From: gausshawk Date: February 5th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know about that. Some of the aberrations make the novas that have them look as though they were drawn by Liefield.
digitalraven From: digitalraven Date: February 5th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Taint mutation: Aberrant Chest!
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zephrin From: zephrin Date: February 4th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Vampire: the Requiem

I was a very diehard, blow-hard, "The OWoD was so much beeeeeeeeetter!" for a long time. Let's face it, I had a quillion OWoD books memorized and ready to debate any bit of world minutae...as did a lot of gamers at that time. I cracked VtR and was like, piff, this is just old vampire but lousy.

However, as more suppliment books came out, I came to appriciate the complexity of VtR. Before, you had an ironclad metaplot...now, not so much. The covenants added a facet to the game that had been missing before; in VtM there was much more focus on clan unity, but the old Cam vs Sabbat vs (occasionally) Anarchs got old quickly. We were all just basicly sitting around and waiting for Gehenna.

At this point, I can honestly say that while I'll never get sick of running WtA and CtD (although I do LOVE Lost) as small tabletops, I can't really say I'd go back to playing VtM. Just my 2 cents.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 4th, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
The best change to nWoD from old is Vampire the Requiem's mechanic of lessening vampires when they enter torpor. That fully enabled the move away from "finding the biggest baddest oldest vampire" that all vampire stories conceived in Hollywood degenerated into, so that the game could be about the politics, intrigue and preying on humans, which is what Vampire always did best.
innocent_man From: innocent_man Date: February 4th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of changes from OWoD to NWoD that I like best is that NWoD is more objective. That is, the fact I believe in [whatever] doesn't make a lick of difference, except insofar as it might lead me to discover the occult secrets of [whatever]. Belief doesn't influence reality, and in a horror game, I think that's pretty important. Otherwise you take the Dorothy route and wish yourself home, yeah?
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kmagefyre From: kmagefyre Date: February 4th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
The death of "Generation" in Vampire. If ever there was a hot button issue from the old game, this was it.
mythicfox From: mythicfox Date: February 5th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
This. A thousand times this.
sorceror From: sorceror Date: February 5th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes. And each of the OWoD games had something similar (Pure Breed, Arrete, what have you).
mordicai From: mordicai Date: February 5th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes.
theliel From: theliel Date: February 5th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Multiple attacks need to DIAF but sadly, like jason, they survived. a bit.
gausshawk From: gausshawk Date: February 5th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Forsaken vs Apocalypse: I never really did get to play the latter that much (and still haven't gotten to play the former), but an elaborate drama involving being drawn into Changing Breeds to see what it was like and then being absolutely enraged by it (to the point of wanting many times to throw the book against the wall) led to my giving Forsaken a second chance, particularly with regard to War Against The Pure.

You see, Rokea got me into Apocalypse. I spent five years waiting for little trickles of info to come out before the breed book was released. As such, the lack of weresharks that one at first found in Forsaken meant that there was nothing to really draw me in, but after taking a closer look, I discovered that not only were there now Bith Balag, but that ther Uratha themselves had a culture that made what I read in Rokea so appealing - the wide-scale purging of most human cultural and ethnic influences in favor of more alien shapeshifting half-spirit monsters with cultures unique to their own existence. This also holds true of the other shifters - though the Suthanthu-Sua may turn into housecats, their purpose and means of "reproduction" are awesome.

I suppose Exalted Second Edition can also count. Specifically, and overshadowing much else, MoEP: Lunars.
sindaran_ainu From: sindaran_ainu Date: February 5th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)
The Nosferatu in Requiem. They went from Ugly Sewer Rats to Scary as Fuck Boogeymen.

Requiem, as a whole, for the reasons listed.

Mage became a more cautious game of magical powermongering. Also, ABYSS.

White Wolf's take on Frankenstein & other Created Beings has to take the cake, though. I never expected Promethean to have "What makes us human?" as a theme, and to include so many seemingly disparaging concepts into a single, cohesive whole that runs deeper than it looks. Fucking genius.
caesarsalad77 From: caesarsalad77 Date: February 5th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I remember scanning Changeling: The Dreaming, and being interested, vaguely, in the idea of a darker world of fairies. But the whole thing still felt so...fluffy and otherkin.

Changeling: The Lost hit all the right notes for me. I feel like it's been informed, partially, by the work that was done on Exalted: The Fair Folk and no doubt vice versa. In fact, I'm curious to know how much cross pollination in game ideas there is between the Exalted and WoD lines. The more oblique hints that The Age of Sorrows would/could lead into the World of Darkness seem to be gone these days, but the two still feel like parts of the same coin, somehow.
hollow_01 From: hollow_01 Date: February 5th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)
When Dreaming came out, I enjoyed it. However, what I liked most about it was the "alien, but very fae things that masqueraded as humans" theme expanded upon in The Shadow Court. That was the Changeling game I was waiting for.

What you saw though, was that metaplot demanded these Shadow Court -inspired things be evil. They kicked puppies and ate babies because their dark lords demanded it.

When Lost came out about 10 years later, it took the theme that I loved the most and made it playable. Yes, you were twisted by your evil master into an inhuman thing. But you're free now, as far as you know.

Lost took something familiar that I liked, and gave me enough balanced mechanics to do whatever I wanted to with it.

It can be a story of uplifting happiness, a celebration of freedom from slavery. Or, it can be a crushing noir story where, in the real world, you're never as free you think.

And best of all, it can be both at the same time, because what my Winter Courtier feels is not Truth compared to someone else's Spring Courtier. They can both exist in the same world without contradicting each other on a fundamental level of the game.
damien_mocata From: damien_mocata Date: February 5th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)
V:TR. The whole idea of moving away from clans as monolithic bodies and two factions into a world where clans were family and you can change covenant without sudden and immediate execution. Finally there's more to being undead than "we must hide from mortals" or "we must conquer the mortals".

Promethean. The whole thing is just the greatest twist ever on WoD. Creatures that want to become human because they've never been human at all. Running it now, and it still takes my players for a twist when they react to something and I can go "but how do you know that, you've never been human to know it by experience?"

Changeling. I hated the dreaming. Hated it completely. I just thought it was far too much a "day-glo" WoD. I love the idea of the Lost. That you're humans who have been taken by the fae and you've escaped. Living in fear in case your own memories are just an elaborate lie, having to deal with something that's taken your place, and the genuine strangeness that wouldnt be out of place in a Grimm's fairy tale.

Mage. I dont like the idea that everything ties to atlantis, but that can be changed to suit. Otherwise I sort of miss the idea of the Technocracy. I always ran Technocracy games because I loved that element of magical science. Of course, it was possible to do that with other paths, but there was the whole "cracks in the perfect system" idea within the technocracy.
sorceror From: sorceror Date: February 5th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)

The biggest, most positive change? The game engine. The mechanics are much, much better than when I started playing Storyteller games. They're better than the Revised versions were. Somebody above mentions the Generation background, which is an element of this: but it's much, much more than that. The whole character creation and dice system is much more internally consistent and cleaner.

As for individual games, I only have Requiem myself (though I look forward to grabbing Lost one of these days). I very much like the idea of covenants. The old Sabbat vs Camarilla didn't really make much sense, but having several (non-clan) factions vying for power and influence introduces a whole bunch of possibilities.

Of course, there are also some changes I *don't* like so much... but since you didn't ask about those, I'll save 'em for another post. O :-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 5th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
TV/Media-wise - Battlestar Galactica. I was a fan of the old kitchy BG complete with Boxey and the Daggit, toaster cylons, Felgercarb, Egyptian costumes and its very positive outlook for a rag-tag fugitive fleet. But the new one just blew me away. I can't watch the other series now. It just doesn't compute.

Gamewise: I played Mage the Ascension and GM'ed it, but never utilized everything because some of it just didn't click. The new Mage: the Awakened was such a change, I immediately began a year and half long campaign and will be starting another one later this year. In between, I found Changeling the Lost. I never played the Dreaming even though I had a few of the books. It was just too (excuse the pun) airy-fairy to me. The Lost is fantastic and I can't wait to GM it again with the right group. It rivals Mage as my favorite of the new WoD. It may even surpass it slightly.
sorceror From: sorceror Date: February 5th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I've been watching both versions of BSG over the past few months, and I have to agree. Nostalgia just isn't enough to make the old series palatable any more.

[I even met Helo over Christmas, and my fellow BSG fans here are insanely jealous. ^_^ ]

On the other hand, Star Wars has aged gracefully.
eryx_uk From: eryx_uk Date: February 5th, 2009 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked the changs to the WoD rules under the new system. The scaling down of Vampire from the 13 clans was a good idea that I liked too.

Something I don't like, the lack of metaplot.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 5th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

nWoD and game-gamer relationships

I think questions of taste are personal because they interact with so much biography.

In my opinion the nWoD cores are often and almost necessarily a bit better thought though than the oWoD ones.

I liked reading most changes and believe I appreciate their worth and potential, at least in theory.

The new books seemed less lively at first, less capable to draw me in (although I also found some new all-time favorites like the description of the Tamers of the Caves).

However I was 18 when I first noticed WW products and now I’m thirty. I think that difference is an important aspect when comparing by-gone favorites with their modern incarna.

You yourself change too, maybe more than the products.


A quick word on changes within the nWoD as you mentioned Geist: The modular nature is a perfect license to go wild and experiment with the annual lines, see what works and what doesn’t. Above all it provides variety, increasing the width of appeal while maybe maintaining more of a comfort zone in the ongoing lines.


I for one won’t miss the old site’s look as it sometimes seemed too much of a hasty after-thought. But I enjoy design and marketing a lot - so again that impression is just as much due to biography as to the site itself.


I think we aren’t just talking about changing gamers and game lines, but about the evolving relationships between them. This is true especially in this dawning age of collaboration, so I hope the new site also models that to some extent – continuing to make relations-work (and contributions) go both ways.

Looking forward to March 1st,
little_wh0re From: little_wh0re Date: February 5th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
The change of generation to blood potency was possibly one of the best things, as it ment that Diablerie was the ONLY route upwards anymore.

Everyone has a morality score is wonderful for crossover as it means that you don't have the vamprires going "Oooooo, better not murder too much, don't want to lose control" while the humans run amock... Very perverse

The Mysterious places book. I read it and now want to include at least 3 of them in my live werewolf game... (some may be varied), the Tree with the Ghosts was one of the most evocative things I can remember reading in a gamebook outside of Nobilis

Things that I don't like

- Vampire still doesn't really play well with all the others. Vampire is written from an Abrahamic Religious point of view, even the covenants that don't really believe in it still work around it. Hell, the Circle still deforms itself a lot around the ideas of Christ & god by their denial of it. ALL the other games have the animistic/spirituality as their standpoint and it means the games don't mesh very well, plus if there is much crossover it can make Lancea Sanctum people feel that they're being stomped on by the system (What do you mean demons and angels, they're obviously just abyssal spirits)

- The Umbra/Shadow seems smaller. It was one of my favourite things in general was the ability to go an explore things that people havn't seen and to do entirely new things, and there doesn't seem the be the depth to it at the moment. Which I feel a little sad about.
theliel From: theliel Date: February 5th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Demons are in Hunter - like real 100% honest to god demons.

But most everybody who thinks they know a 'truth' gets stomped on by the world. It's part of the horror.

mordicai From: mordicai Date: February 5th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dude-- the forums reboot is so funny to me. People crying because the little number next to their name will not be as high?! The worries that usernames will get sniped I can at least sympathize with.

Amped up about Geist.

What did I like, what did I like...The way bloodlines were made a subset of clans. The way mummies were put into Promethean.
angelnomoon From: angelnomoon Date: February 6th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Gamers are Like Cats

The above is a maxim I've come to live by doing massive games. And witnessing the change over to D&D 4 on roleplayers as well as the global LARP organizations irrational hatred towards V:tR clinging to something old.

Now, I loved Vampire: the Masqurade. I even found it's mechanical faults endearing sometimes. But, at least in my thought, V:tM was more an allegory of something else. Allegory between the GenX world and the world of the Baby Boomers. Where the old - sterilized, pearl wearing women and the gender roles and the entire culture clashed with the new, late 80's early 90's culture. It's aging now, in my mind really now a days. It's no longer the 90's and a lot of what V:tM represented is now something that is somehow laughable now. Whereas V:tR, is a lot more inward looking.

Anyway, that's an aside.

I'm really excited about Geist.

Hail to the new flesh.
razorwolf From: razorwolf Date: February 7th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I like that auspice in WtF is determined by the moon phase you experience your First Change under. In WtA, it always seemed like that if you knew what role your potential-Garou offspring was destined for based on their birth moon phase, all kinfolk would receive training from a very early age. Actually, a group of kinfolk trained as warriors, mystics, etc. would make for a cool cast of NPCs.

I also like that the NWoD is more crossover friendly than the previous games.

Getting rid of the Ferra was nice too. (I think this was the case, haven't read WtF recently)

Orpheus still ranks as the king of revised lines in my book, because it didn't try to reinvent Wraith so much as introduce something different. I was pleased to find that it had more autonomy from the other lines.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 7th, 2009 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
The greatest change for me still sits firmly in oWoD. I loved the Sabbat paths of enlightenment that replaced the humanity system. For me that was the coolest system for a game I had ever encountered. Paths of enlightenment rock!
septembervirgin From: septembervirgin Date: February 13th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like that an MMO is coming of this game. That's about it.
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