Thursday, June 24, 2010

White Wolf Through the Decades

This is a post for the White Wolf fans out there. The rest of you can probably just ditch. Tomorrow's post, I promise, will have nothing to do with White Wolf.

If you've been following White Wolf's new lines, you've probably already heard about New Wave Requiem, A Vampire: the Requiem supplement that takes on the blood, sex, glitz, and corruption of America's 1980s. Well, a couple of days ago, the Abigail and I decided to pass the time by deciding when in the last few decades to set the rest of the new White Wolf canon.

The rules were simple; each game gets a decade and no game can share a decade. This has a resulted in a few less-than-perfect pairings, but I think we did a good job optimizing. By the way, I can't recall which ideas were the Abigail's and which were mine, so I'm going to just present the whole thing as our idea.

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1920s - Werewolf: the Howling 20s

This one is almost a joke, but there's something to be said for werewolves, with their overwhelming dark and violent passions, attempting to navigate the postwar enthusiasm of the 1920s. This was an era of mixed mores, with a high society that combined some conservative values with growing social liberalism. All those passions, barely contained, are going to spawn lots of spirits, and for the Uratha, more spirits means more problems.

For other values of "spirits," the 1920s were also the decades of prohibition. With prohibition came organized crime, which is a world I imagine the werewolves would take to very well, Iron Masters, Storm Lords, and Ivory Claws especially.

In the meantime, America was significantly less urbanized in the 1920s, with numerous small towns and rural communities for the less citified tribes to play in.

There are definitely other good matches for Werewolf: the Forsaken. Werewolves and the noir 50s, for example, would match pretty well. However, only the 1920s provide the fascinating mix of propriety, passion, crime, and abundant rural settings

1930s - Promethean: Wasteland

In my opinion, the 1930s are the perfect historical setting for Promethean: the Created. The entirety of America was infected, sick unto death with depression and drought. Promethean drifters would find themselves entirely at home among the numerous ordinary humans forced to leave homes that don't belong to them anymore and farms reduced to so much dust. In fact, a great deal of the hobo culture that the writers of Promethean drew on to create promethean culture was born at this time, which leads us to ask another fascinating question: what were the prometheans like before they adopted hobo culture?

There are clues in the books, of course, but it would be neat to see it laid out.

The 1930s force prometheans to answer difficult questions as they search for humanity. What's the point of becoming human in a place and time when humans survive by living like animals or sitting, inhumanly aloof, with their surviving fortunes? What is the best way to use your promethean powers to help the people around you without turning them against you, and should you even try? Is the dustbowl all your fault?

1940s - Geist: Ghosts of Europe

World War II is a great setting for Geist: the Sin Eaters. The 1940s were an era of death for the whole world. Young men (and some young women) left home to fight and die on foreign soil. Living humans made themselves into monsters, and - the metaphysics of the World of Darkness dictate - made monsters of the ghosts of their victims. Whole peoples were wiped out by a madman's vision. And war has secondary victims as well: many die of disease, industrial accident, and heartbreak.

All that passion, all those principles, mingling with the spirits of the unjustly dead, spawning a generation of geists eager for hosts, eager to return to the world before it's too late to stop - or encourage - the slaughter.

I know this is a good pairing because I already have character concepts. One of the Bound's geist is a waterlogged shade of a sailor who died and was never recovered. He travels back and forth between the killing fields of Europe and the cities and towns of America, bringing ghosts home to their families so they can have a chance of moving on. A Jewish partisan, escaped from a death camp, is haunted by a black cloud that smells of burning human flesh, speaks in a cacophony of screaming voices, and urges him to find men and women wearing the twisted cross of the Nazi regime and hurt them. He's not sure he wants to resist.

It sends chills up and down my spine. I want to run this so bad I can taste it.

1950s - Hunter: Noir

The paranoia and conservativeness of the 1950s are make it fertile ground for Hunter: the Reckoning stories. This was an era of intrigue and shameful secrets. Hunters can be loyal Americans hunting down red spies who are also vampires and witches... or red spies, eager to do their best for the Motherland, who stumble into a conspiracy of monsters in the government they are supposed to be infiltrating. Private detectives ply their trade on rain slicked streets - and somehow, it's always night - and enter the vigil when they discover that a client's daughter isn't dead, but she isn't alive, either.

As you can see, I think applying a noir feel - not just a neo-noir feel, which you can do quite easily in any World of Darkness game, but a real, genuine, temporally accurate noir feel - would be great.

This is also an interesting time in Hunter's secret histories. This is when the scattered scholars who accidentally helped create the Nazi party would gather to become the Loyalists of Thule. This is when Null Mysteriis were only a decade old, still feeling their way into the World of Darkness. We'd also get to see compacts and conspiracies to replace the Long Night, Network Zero, and the Union, who either didn't exist yet or weren't formally organized... and we'd get hints of why these organizations don't exist in the modern World of Darkness.

It would be awesome. I'd set it in D.C.

1960s - Awakening Aquarius

The 1960s in America would be a fascinating time to be a mage. The humans thought they were close to achieving universal enlightenment... and maybe they were right. The Free Council would revel in an environment of psychodelic experimentation and social exploration. The Guardians of the Veil and the Seers of the Throne would find this time period very challenging, though for different reasons. All the other orders would have to deal with an influx of new recruits with a very different idea of what magic means and what they should do with. How would the Mysterium deal with undisciplined hippies who come to their order with a genuine love of learning and no respect for authority? Would the Silver Ladder find itself divided between reactionary social conservatives and serious but reform-minded young politicians? Would some Guardians break away, certain that the Age of Aquarius means the advent of the Hieromagus and the end of the Fallen World? Mages aren't immune to racism, so how does their society react to the civil rights struggles of the 60s?

I don't know, but I'd love to find out.

The 60s were a time of social upheaval and cultural transformation. It's a time when many segments of humanity started reaching towards Truth - towards the Supernal - and I can see great stories coming from mages finding themselves caught up in that rush.

1970s - Changeling Nights

And to bring us full circle, we're back to another pairing that's almost a joke. Changelings often come back from Arcadia looking ridiculous and frightening... and disco is ridiculous and frightening. It's a match made in Philadelphia.

More seriously, I see a lot of opportunities in the drug, dance, and club cultures of the 1970s for changelings to explore, discover, and destroy themselves. The fey have always loved music, and the 1970s were an area defined by its music. It's all the more fitting that it be an aggressively modern form of music. Between the Watergate scandal and the Jim Jones mass suicide, the 70s were an era of corruption and madness. It was also an era of economic and scientific growth and opportunity. Corrruption, madness, and opportunity - that's Changeling, right there.

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I hope you enjoyed my efforts to shoehorn White Wolf's games into the last few decades. Please feel free to comment.

And if you happen to be a White Wolf developer, well... I've worked for you before, and I could always use more work. You know where to find me.


Nick Pilon said...

The '70s also works nicely for the Changelings due to the decline of literal interpretation of cultural and artistic works during that period. The rise of symbolic interpretation plays very nicely into the themes of Clarity.

I would totally play in any of these games, and would buy supplements detailing these settings further.

christian said...

I love the 70s Changeling idea, too. That is a very intriguing idea.

Anonymous said...

Wow, and I though 70s Changeling was one of the weaker pairings. Neat!