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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?

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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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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.
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.
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