The World of Darkness
The “World of Darkness” is essentially a parallel universe to the one we live in. In this universe, the supernatural is very real and often very relevant to most people's’ lives, even if they themselves do not know it. The population of the World of Darkness is larger than that of our reality. The cities are bigger, dirtier, meaner. It is easier to get lost in this reality, both in crowds and all by yourself. The reality of the World of Darkness is very much shaped by that darkness inherent in every person. Even the most noble of monsters has a dark side that one cannot help but see as the darkness within.
This reality, the World of Darkness, began when a creator being spoke it into existence. Or molded it from primordial matter. Or created it from its own essence. Or all of those options and many more. In the Demon the Fallen books, we see that all creation myths were true, simultaneously. We do know that there were angels and that they served a god, and that at some point, a being called Lucifer was ejected from the divine with a horde of supporters, who became the Demons. At the same time, we also know that the Weaver, the Wyrm and the Wyld created the world as it is known, and through their work, Gaia, Luna, the Incarna, and all other great spirits came into being as well.
The reason all of this is possible is discussed in the Mage books. Reality conforms to those living within it. As beings begin to believe in a thing, they give it life and power. The more beings that believe a thing, the stronger that thing becomes. In Prehistory, this meant that reality was extremely malleable. People could easily change reality using magic, and these ancient will workers laid the foundations of some of our world’s most enduring mythologies. In the modern period, the world is much more connected and clearly defined, and there is a stronger shared understanding of what is “real.” This defines reality in such a strong way that trying to change reality by will alone, by doing magic, creates tension with the agreed upon understanding of reality, the shared consensus.
The World of Darkness has all manner of monsters and beasts, ranging from the primordial beings of creation (angels, totems, spirits, etc.) to new life forms developed and grown entirely in the internet. Within that broad swathe of creation, we find the player accessible character classes: Shifters, Spirits, Vampires, and Wraiths. Each of these large types of creatures have numerous subgroups, and their cultures are broad and diverse. There are other places in this Wiki that will discuss the types and their subgroups.
Broadly speaking, there are two general categories of shape shifters: Garou (werewolves) and the Fera (all other still living kinds of shifting breeds).
The Garou are made up of many tribes and many auspices, and they all firmly believe that they are the teeth and claws of Gaia. It is their sacred duty to be as strong as they possibly can, so that they can protect the world from those who would do it harm. This belief lead to two great massacres in the past, the Impergium and the First War of Rage. In the Impergium, the garou went about trying to cull humanity. They felt that the species had grown too quickly, spread too fast, and was too tainted (by either the weaver or the wyrm, depending on which garou you ask). As a Nation, the garou participated in the wholesale slaughter of humans. This is why humans have the Delirium. Something deep in their soul remembers what it means to see a garou in Crinos; it means death. When Delirium hits a person, some cower in fear, others flee mindlessly, and still others take up whatever arms they can to attack the garou. The only humans born without the Delirium in their souls are the kinfolk of the Shifting folk.
The second great massacre caused by the Garou was the War of Rage. There are many different tales about what started the war, but some elements can be agreed upon: 1. The Fera had gifts given to them by Gaia and the Spirits, and they refused to give those gifts to the Garou. 2. The Garou hunted down and killed every full blooded shifter from the Grondr and Apis Breeds, and then spent generations breeding the shifting genes out of their kinfolk. 3. The Gurahl and Mokole were also hunted with extreme prejudice. The former because they would not give over the gift of True Resurrection, and the latter because in their war form, they strongly resemble the Wyrm. 4. The only Changing Breed (Fera) to escape the War with minimal damage done was the Corax, who acted as scouts and messengers for both sides of the War.
The Fera is a single word that describes a very wide array of creatures. A better term for them is “The Changing Breeds.” This group includes the survivors of the War of Rage, ranging from the many tribes of Bastet, through the bizarre and alien Ananasi. All told, there are the Corax, the Bastest, the Gurahl, the Ratkin, the Mokole, the Nagah, and the Ananasi. The Nagah never reveal themselves to the other Shifting Breeds (especially not the garou), and the Mokole and Ananasi are only slightly less secretive.
Within the World of Darkness, there are many Realms that make up perceived reality. Most people of whatever type, exist in the same Realm. Above and Below it are other Realms that have more exotic denizens. Above the Realm is the Umbra, which is itself broken into the Low, Middle and High Umbras. Spirits comes from this realm. In the High Umbra, you have more abstract conceptually based Spirits, which are often difficult to interact with and require specialized training to find. Lower in the Umbra, and closer to the Realm, you will find Gaian Spirits. These spirits are tied to more concrete concepts, like the elements or different kinds of animals. Most spirits exist within a hierarchy, with a Totem or powerful spirit having a Brood of spirits under them.
These Gaian Spirits often have close ties with the Garou and the Changing Breeds. Gaia, the Sun, Luna, and the other planets have spiritual avatars that are incredibly powerful spirits. Below them are Totems and Jamak, which are spirits that have taken on a special relationship with one or more shifters. Powerful Totems serve as the Spiritual Patron of entire tribes, while smaller spirits serve as guides for packs and individual shifters. Spirits at this level are usually classified as Jagglings, and while they are defined by their nature and their purpose in reality, these spirits are capable of independent thought and action.
The smallest of the Gaian spirits are gafflings, and these are usually the most simple in nature. A single spirit of a flame, or a prey spirit. These are the most numerous of the spirits, and are the ones shifters are most likely to encounter, but they are often very single-minded, focused on their purpose for existing. Some of these spirits will be incapable of speech or communication, simply existing.
From the dawn of time, there have been creatures that stalk the night. Some call them cainites, named for their mythological (and biblical) progenitor, while others call them kindred. Most humans just call them Vampires.
Vampires come in a wide variety. While all of the types share the same general strengths and weaknesses, each Clan has their own unique flaws and a combination of Disciplines that their clan favors. Some of the legends you might have heard are true, some are false, and some are somewhere in between. Vampires do feed on blood, and they are nocturnal. Their servants, bound to them by blood, are called Setting:Ghouls.
There are two major sects in Vampiric Society at this time, and a small number of independent groups. The Primary sects are the Camarilla and the Sabbat. The Camarilla has its roots in the late medieval period, after the first Anarch Revolution, when members of the founding clans came together and established The Traditions, which borrowed heavily from the Laws of Caine. The Camarilla very firmly believes that the best course of action is whichever course maintains the Masquerade. Anything that reveals vampires or their actions to mortal kind is considered a breach of the Masquerade, and can be punished by as little as a public apology or as much as the perpetrator's Final Death. The Masquerade is about blending in with humanity. Anyone who cannot blend in must hide themselves. Anyone who will not blend in will be killed or driven out.
Within Camarilla Domains, each territory is ruled by a Prince, who appoints officers of his/her court as they see fit. Under them are a council of Primogen, usually consisting of elder members of the Domain’s prominent Clans. Each Clan has its own internal leadership and authority. Camarilla Domains often have a formal Elysium at specific times and places, where all kindred are allowed to be present, so long as they abide by the traditions.
The Sabbat is a more anarchist, energetic sect. The sect was founded by members of the Lasombra and Tzimisce clans, and as such, is strongly molded to the way of thinking espoused by those clans. Strength and Dominance matter more than most things in the Sabbat. If you are strong enough, you can seize anything. If you can keep it, it belongs to you. This goes for everything from a herd of humans through to Domain and Territory, up to even committing Diablerie on your Elders.
The Sabbat is broken down into individual packs, usually of four to ten individuals, these packs share a common blood bond to each other, called the Vaulderie. This means that each member of the pack is strongly tied to each other member, and that they will all work to protect and benefit each other. Leaders of the Sabbat encourage packs to have a diversity amongst them, so that members gain strength from being close to vampires who are different than themselves.
On an organizational level, the Sabbat mirrors the mortal church. Regions have Arch-Bishops, each large city has at least one Bishop, and smaller, yet still significant, outposts have an Abbot. Each pack has a Priest as well.
While the Sabbat has a reputation for chaos and violence, there are many deeply religious individuals within this sect. Other members of the sect include individuals who cannot fit within the humanity oriented confines of the Camarilla. You will find individuals on the Paths of Morality here, as well as members of the more hideous bloodlines.
The third major supernatural society in the World of Darkness is that belonging to the Wraiths, the restless dead. Not to be confused with “ghosts,” wraiths are complex beings that conform to many of our world’s myths about ghosts but are also entirely distinct.
In Europe and, at the point in History when Dark Prospects is set, the Americas wraiths belong to a civilization known as The Dark Kingdom of Iron. There was a different Kingdom in the Americas, called the Dark Kingdom of Obsidian, but with the invasion of the Europeans and their dead, that Kingdom was destroyed, and the Empire of Stygia absorbed the New World. There are still remnants of the Dark Kingdom of Obsidian around, and their wraiths fight off the dead invaders just as much as the living native populations in the New World attempt to repel the European invaders.
Each Wraith is sorted in two ways, upon being claimed into their undeath. First, the method of their death. How a person dies determines which Legion they are assigned. There is no way to change your Legion. If you are claimed by the Grim Legion (Death by Violence), but later discover that the man who murdered you was insane, you cannot switch to the Penitent Legion (Death by Madness). The largest Legions are the Grim and the Skeletal, and the smallest are the Fated and the Silent.
Stygia has entered its decline at this point. The Legions rule and the Guilds have been outlawed. Members of the powerful or necessary guilds are allowed to continue operating as they had before, but without the status of having a Guild.
Humans come in infinite variety. The bulk of humanity are plain and completely normal. They live their lives knowing nothing about the hidden supernatural world. These people are the teeming masses, and they are the reason most supernatural factions have a policy about keeping their existence hidden. While there are no firm statistics, there are approximately 1,000 humans for every supernatural. Every vampire remembers the nights of the Inquisition, when humans stormed havens and dragged kindred into the sunlight to meet an angry God. The garou hide their activities behind The Veil, keeping humanity unaware of their existence for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that humanity as a whole remember the Impergium and react with terror and rage when they see a shifter in a monstrous form. The wraith have laws against crossing the Shroud, against revealing the existence of the dead, and against setting themselves up as a god among men.
A small percentage of humanity is aware of the supernatural for one reason or another. Usually, this awareness comes from being related to one of the supernatural factions. The Shifters have their kinfolk, the vampires have ghoul servants, and the wraith occasionally mark deathwalkers among the living.
That said there are humans who are not related to inhuman supernaturals who have discovered the world around them. Some are paranormalists, who look for Mediums to host seances. Others are full blown Hunters, who are aware of the supernaturals, and seek to kill them. Some mortals have found their own paths to power. One kind, known as Hedge Mages, bend reality using rituals and items infused with magical energy. Another, the Faithful, petition deific entities to grant them strengths. Finally, some few simply manifest a power directly from within - these psychics and mediums draw on their innate power to affect themselves and others.
Article by JonoH